Better Brain, Better Grades:
Ayurvedic Herbs and Tips for Students
Kid's Brain, Parent's Brain: Different Brains
In the last ten years, neuroscience has focused its attention on the adolescent brain and concluded it's different from the brains of parents. Undoubtedly, parents and teens would agree.
Researchers now know that remarkable changes occur in the brain during the second decade of life. Adolescence is a time of profound brain growth and change. This recognition is contrary to long-held ideas that the brain was, for the most part, fully "formed" by the end of childhood.
During the years between childhood and adulthood, the brain's "wiring" becomes more complex and even more efficient, especially in the prefrontal cortex – one of the last areas of the brain to fully mature. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for skills such as setting priorities, organizing plans and ideas, forming strategies, controlling impulses, and allocating attention – these are still maturing during adolescence.
This means that the ability to plan, adapt to the social environment, imagine possible future consequences of actions, or gauge their emotional significance, is still developing throughout adolescence.
The developing teen brain is actually growing "circuits" – neural connections that can perform several tasks simultaneously and with ever-greater efficiency. While the adolescent brain is well suited to meet the demands of teen life, guidance from adults is essential while the decision-making circuitry is being formed.
Teens shape their own brain development through the choices they make, or are guided to make by their parents and teachers. For example, research suggests that learning and positive experiences help build complex, adaptive brains.
Tips to Make the Most of Student Life and Prepare for the Future:
Get a Good Night's Sleep
From high school students to surgeons, anyone who has pulled an all-nighter knows there is a price to be paid the next day: trouble focusing, a fuzzy memory and other cognitive impairments. Research has shown that teenagers are running up significant sleep deficits, which can affect their ability to moderate their behavior. A teen's daily rhythm changes as they enter adolescence, causing them to stay up later and require more sleep overall. But school schedules force teenagers to rise earlier than their bodies are naturally prepared to do. Distractions like the Internet and increasing homework loads add to the problem by keeping students up even later. Scientists have found that sleep helps consolidate memories, fixing them in the brain so we can retrieve them later. Now, new research is showing that sleep also seems to reorganize memories, picking out the emotional details and reconfiguring the memories to help you produce new and creative ideas.
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. Caffeine, for instance, can stay in the body for up to 12 hours. Get to bed by 10 p.m. If you have homework or study, wake up early around 6 a.m. and do it then; early morning is the best time to take in new information.
Have a cup of Organic Vata Tea, or use some Vata Aroma Oil or Worry Free Aroma Oil (whichever smells best that particular night), to help settle the teen mind and prepare to sleep. Two herbal supplements that may help one sleep are Blissful Sleep to support getting to sleep, and Deep Rest, which promotes uninterrupted sleep throughout the night.
Ayurvedic herbs support mental potential
According to Maharishi Ayurveda, there are three equally important aspects to mental performance: Dhi – learning and comprehension; Dhriti – processing and retention of knowledge; and Smriti – memory or recall.
Ayurveda places great importance on a special class of herbs called Medhya herbs. These are Ayurvedic herbs especially useful for the mind. These herbs promote learning, retention and recall individually, and also support the coordination among the three. They provide powerful nourishment for the brain. Medhya herbs available from Maharishi Ayurveda are found in special formulations. Intelligence Plus and Organic Youthful Mind are two examples. Intelligence Plus has been shown in research to increase intelligence. It is useful for anyone who has to learn new information. Organic Youthful Mind rejuvenates the mind, promoting memory and alertness. The herbs include Shankhapushpi (Aloeweed or Dwarf morning glory), Jal-Brahmi or Bacopa monniera, and Indian Pennywort (Gotu kola or Centella asiatica). All are well-known Ayurvedic herbs that support the health and functioning of the mind.
Dwarf morning glory, for example, supports memory and problem-solving ability under situations of day-to-day stress. Gotu Kola aids the memory as we age and enhances verbal articulation. In addition, Ashwagandha (Winter cherry) helps support natural resistance to stress.
Mind Plus is a traditional Ayurvedic syrup that is especially useful for anyone who has to learn new information (syrups are assimilated quickly). Organic Youthful Mind tablets help maintain mental clarity and memory, no matter what your age. Intelligence Plus helps enliven the ability to absorb, retain and utilize knowledge.
Research shows that IQ is a strong predictor of student academic performance. The purpose of one study was to measure the effect of an herbal food supplement, Maharishi Ayurveda Intelligence Plus, on non-verbal intelligence. The five-month study consisted of 34 third-grade students who were randomly assigned to either an experimental group or a placebo group. The Intelligence Plus group exhibited a 9.83 point increase in IQ compared to 4.88 points for the placebo group.
Maharishi Amrit Kalash Nectar Paste (MAK4) and Ambrosia Tablets (MAK5) have full-spectrum super-antioxidant power and nourish all the major body systems. Amrit Nectar enlivens the body's inner intelligence at a very fundamental level and supports all the following factors:
- The three types of mental function: acquisition, retention, and recall.
- Metabolic transformations, digestion, the emotions and their effect on heart function.
- The mind, nervous system, respiration, circulation and elimination.
- Moisture balance, physical structure and strength.
- The sequential transformation of the seven tissues, one into the other – plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow and reproductive fluid.
- The microcirculatory channels that transport nutrients and energy and can be blocked by improperly-digested impurities.
- The production of Ojas, the finest product of digestion and the master coordinator between consciousness, matter and immunity.
- The vitality and strength of the mind and body.
Maintain Good Digestion – Embrace a Good Diet
According to Ayurveda, how you eat is as important as what you eat. One key to good digestion is to eat in a settled manner. Avoid watching TV, as the distraction interferes with the ability of the body to digest food. Don't eat too fast. Chew your food well – 30 times, according to Ayurvedic experts. Ice-cold drinks should be avoided, as they disrupt agni (the digestive fire) and hinder the assimilation of nutrients by the body. Your main meal should be at mid-day, as this is the time when digestion is strongest. Never overeat, as this is one of the main causes of indigestion and formation of ama (toxins) in the body.
According to Ayurveda, it is very important to eat foods that are natural and pure (free of toxins, chemicals, pesticides, and GMO's) for their full benefit to be absorbed by the body. When foods are as close to their natural state as possible, they deliver the most valuable nutrition. From the Ayurvedic perspective, foods that have been genetically altered, processed or refined have much of their natural intelligence stripped from them, and they disturb the intellect and the coordination among the three aspects of mental prowess.
Cooking with fresh, organic ingredients can take a little more time and effort, but your brain, and indeed your entire physiology, will thank you for it and repay the effort with accelerated performance. Always think three things for a balanced meal: whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruit, and a protein. Also include some tasty spices like the Maharishi Ayurveda Vata, Pitta or Kapha Churnas.
Balanced digestion creates Ojas, the master Ayurvedic biochemical of balance and happiness that supports mental clarity. Certain foods are quickly turned into Ojasby digestion. Ayurveda recommends organic ghee (clarified butter), which is valued for its ability to transport the benefits of herbs and spices to the brain and to other parts of the body. Eat ghee in moderation. Include some dairy if you are not lactose-intolerant, such as whole organic milk and lassi made from fresh organic yogurt. Almonds and walnuts are also excellent brain foods. When you need something sweet, fruits, raisins and dates are a much better option than sugared drinks and foods. Spices are crucial additions to a brainpower-enhancing diet. Many spices enhance digestion and facilitate the clearing of toxins from the body. This means that the srotas (channels of the body), including those that serve the brain, will be clear. Traditional Ayurvedic herbs support balanced digestion and elimination – and for this they are revered in Ayurveda.
Triphala, or Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus), contains three remarkable fruits — Amalaki (Phyllanthus emblica), Haritaki (Chebulic myrobalan) and Bibhitaki (Belleric myrobalan) — and each possesses the superior rejuvenative and health-giving qualities known as a Rasayana, the most valuable class of herbal preparations in Ayurveda.
The herbal formulation Stress Free Emotions supports natural resistance to daily mental and emotional stress and fatigue.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.