Dementia: Dr Sara on benefits of being in nature
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Dementia is a looming crisis in much of the developed world, where populations are getting older. In addition to buttressing healthcare systems, there is another approach to fending off the headwind: bolstering the brain against decline. Although there are no known ways to prevent dementia, progress is afoot in understanding how the brain can be fortified.
Although it’s unclear whether it will confer protection against dementia, spearmint tea has been shown to boost working memory.
Spearmint is an aromatic herb from the mint family. It tastes similar to peppermint but is smoother and sweeter.
The finding popped out of a review which sought to evaluate three herbal teas – German chamomile, Rosehip and spearmint – and their impact on health issues of importance to women, such as sleep, anxiety and menstrual difficulties.
Commenting on the finding, GP, study co-author and guest advisor to the independent health and wellbeing group, Tea Advisory Panel (TAP), Doctor Gill Jenkins, said: “Amongst the herbal teas reviewed in this paper, spearmint in particular was found to improve memory.
According to the doc, the review “identified a study in 90 women and men with age associated memory decline and found that 900 mg daily spearmint extract improved quality of working memory by 15 percent and spatial working memory by nine percent”.
Working memory is the small amount of information that can be held in mind and used in the execution of cognitive tasks.
Spatial memory specifically relates to the storage and retrieval of information within the brain that is needed both to plan a route to a desired location and to remember where an object is located or where an event occurred.
“Trends for improved mood, alertness and behaviour were also evident in this study,” noted Doctor Jenkins.
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She continued: “A further human study using spearmint extract 900 mg daily in 142 women and men (aged 50-70 years) found that spearmint improved cognitive function.”
The finding is of particular note because, aside from the obvious implications of dementia, the pandemic has wreaked havoc upon memory function.
Doctor Jenkins explained: “Most of us have suffered from a lack of social connection over the past couple of years, and because of the dearth of new experiences, events and dates our memories may have become more muddled.”
What else did the study reveal?
According to the doc, “this new study examines several women’s health issues and finds compelling evidence that drinking herbal teas – German chamomile, Rosehip and spearmint – can boost sleep quality and in turn help memory function and low mood”.
The review identified randomised controlled trials (RCTs) from a large international database of peer reviewed research papers.
“Such trials were identified by use of specific search terms ( i.e. ‘herbal tea/infusion/tisane’, ‘chamomile tea/infusion/ tisane’, ‘peppermint/spearmint tea/infusion/ tisane’ and ‘rose hip/ rose tea/infusion/tisane’),” Doctor Jenkins explained.
She continued: “Because we wanted to evaluate mechanisms of action (i.e. how the teas might work – rather than the fact that they did work – in different health issues) we also identified studies of teas and tea extracts conducted in laboratories.
“Such studies can really drill down to how teas and their ingredients might act in parts of the body as well as the whole body.”
According to the doc, the overall findings from the review of RCTs were that chamomile can improve sleep and reduce anxiety.
“Improvement in sleep and anxiety can improve brain function (due to being better rested) so it can be concluded that chamomile tea could indirectly improve brain function, although the immediate effect of chamomile is to calm with no effect on memory straight away,” she noted.
According to Doctor Jenkins, chamomile may increase brain neurotransmitter activity (serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline) and thereby have positive effects on mood and anxiety.
“There is also evidence from laboratory studies that Rosehip improves spatial memory.”
You can buy 20 spearmint tea bags for £2.69 at hollandandbarrett.com
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