General characteristics

General characteristics

Memory is the process within the human brain of gathering, storing and subsequently retrieving information. The main types of memory are short term and long term, with short term being similar to your 'in-tray' with things to remember to do today that can then be relegated to long term memory or discarded altogether. Long term memory is more like the filing cabinet that you can go to when you need to retrieve and use older knowledge. Short term memory can also be categorised into 'immediate memory', as in your ability to recall something just heard or seen (e.g a telephone number on a screen) and 'recent memory' which is the ability to remember things from minutes, hours or days ago. Long term memory can be split into 'remote memory', such as what happened on your 5th birthday for example and 'semantic memory' which is also termed knowledge or facts, things you have learned over a lifetime. Then there is 'prospective memory', the ability to remember things planned for the near or distant future.
Many factors can affect the ability to remember including changes in hormones (menopause sometimes lessens it), ageing (though not always the case), diet, exercise, medical disorders and diseases, certain medications (eg. anti-histamines, anti-depressants, high blood pressure medicine), how often one socialises and interacts with people, mental activity (eg. reading, puzzle solving, crosswords, investigating etc), chronic pain, alcoholism, concentration and attention levels, fatigue, emotional states such as fear, depression and anxiety, your personal interest in the subject or information given and physical or emotional trauma.
It was thought until recently that nerve cells numbers are limited and that no new cells are made after adulthood but this is now understood to be untrue. Neurogenesis, the creation of new nerve cells, is constant throughout life and does not slow with age. Neurogenesis is present in the area of the brain associated with memory and learning, suggesting that in a healthy body and active mind, there is every possibility for retaining memory skills and even improving them, well into old age. Whilst our general mental processing speeds and abilities may subtly decline with increasing age, other faculties such as acquiring new knowledge and wisdom continue to increase with age.
Here is a really decent website going into detail of what memory is and how it works.
Memory is similar to a muscle in that it needs to be exercised regularly in order to stay in good health. Objectives for developing and maintaining a good working memory include eating good foods, avoiding foods that contribute to general ill health, staying fit and physically active, remaining social and engaged in life and society and regularly exercising the brain with reading, crosswords or other 'brain training' techniques.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

The herb chervil can be added to salads or cooking for its blood moving and memory promoting qualities. Other fresh herbs such as rosemary are considered excellent for strengthening the memory and other mental functions.

Kale and other cabbage type leafy vegetables contain a wealth of minerals and nutrients that help to improve blood flow to the brain and feed the nervous system, aiding memory also.

Anti-oxidants and flavanols are essential for healthy brain functions. Fortunately, all fresh fruit, green plants, herbs and vegetables contain them, especially the berry fruits and anything red, blue or green.

Essential fatty acids such as the omega oils are important in maintaining good memory and other nerve processes. Good sources include oily fish, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

Walnuts are known to help prevent memory loss and also many other neurological diseases. Eat several each day for maximum benefit.

Avoid junk foods, refined carbohydrates, sugary foods generally, processed and adulterated foods as much as possible as they gradually encourage disease processes within all systems of the body.

Foods rich in B vitamins (wholegrains, nuts, seeds etc) feed and strengthen the entire nervous system.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Ginkgo has become well known by the mainstream for its usefulness in promoting memory and many other brain functions. It maintains a good blood flow to the head and speeds up the transmission of signals between nerves which is vital for a healthy and efficient brain and memory. Take a heaped teaspoon of dried herb as a cup of tea daily or a teaspoon of tincture 3 times daily.

Gotu kola is considered a prime memory and brain herb in India and is gaining a good reputation in Britain also. It is very effective as a nervine herb, supporting the entire nervous system and the brain, strengthening the memory and improving all mental faculties. Take as a tea or tincture daily, alone or mixed with ginkgo.

Siberian ginseng improves circulation to the head, is beneficial for many nervous disturbances, speeds recovery from illness, improves sight and hearing and helps to maintain a sharp memory. This is truly a special herb that deserves a place in every home. Take capsules of powdered herb or tincture daily. Schisandra is similar in class to it and works very well for memory improvement and boosting cognitive abilities.

Ashwagandha is another fine herb for enhancing the memory and improving the functioning of the nervous system generally.

Fennel seeds can also help.

Lemon balm and other nervines such as vervain, skullcap and chamomile will help to promote a calm and clear state of mind which can help the memory in stressful times. Use in dried form as a tea.

Nettle, oatstraw and raspberry leaf tea daily can provide nutrition to the nerves and brain and may help improve memory when taken regularly.

Members of the Lamiaceae or mint family (mints, sage, thyme, oregano, rosemary, lavender, basil, catmint, selfheal and dead nettles to name a few!) tend to have a positive and protective action on memory and other mental faculties so use regularly as teas and in cooking.

Holy thistle has a reputation as a brain tonic and an aid to a sharp memory as do dandelion root and leaves and also eyebright herb.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Any physical exercise that exercises the heart (eg. running, aerobic exercise, cycling etc) is also good for the brain. The type of exercise that encourage the release of anti-stress hormones into the blood also increases cell growth (called neurogenesis) in an area of the brain associated with learning and memory (the hippocampus). Exercises that require both physical and mental co-ordination, such as ballroom dancing or dancing with a partner, give the brain and memory an even greater work out. Exercising in the morning has shown to be of greater benefit to many mental processes, including memory.
Blend the essential oils of rosemary and any other oil that you like into a bottle of carrier oil and dab on your head to sharpen concentration and enhance memory power before exams or while studying for example.
Take a teaspoon of honey and a teaspoon of cider vinegar in water each day to help improve many aspects of health, including memory.
Make sure your blood pressure isn't high as this can have a negative impact on memory.

Child watering plants




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