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Looking after your Brain Ė Some Thoughts for Autumn
The winter nights begin to draw in, school/university starts and work routines return to normal; it is time to consider a few things you could do to help take care of your most important asset Ė your mind. This is especially important if you feel your mood is low or that your concentration is not as good as normal.
One of the most important things is to ensure your fluid (water) intake is adequate. Your brain loves to be hydrated, it is known that even a 2% fluid loss (as a percentage of body weight) can affect how your brain functions. Brain functions that can be affected include short-term memory, concentration and mood (Szinnai et al, 2005).
Many people will have heard that Omega 3 oils (or fats) are important for helping concentration, improving the behaviour and helping mood. The Omega 3 oils must be eaten so that your body can use them as building blocks in the body. Omega 3 oils make up one third of the weight of your brain, so you can appreciate why they are so important for its function. The oils can be obtained from plant and animal (fish) sources; however there is an advantage to the fish source as the oil is in the most appropriate form for human health. From vegetable sources (e.g. flax oil) you body converts the omega 3 oil to fish oil equivalent form using enzymes. (Omega 3 oils have also been shown to hep people live longer, especially where heart disease is a concern.) Fish oils are different from Cod Liver Oil which are lower in omega 3 oils, but high in vitamins A and D.
There are a range of herbs which can help lighten mood including passionflower (Passiflora incanarta), skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), chamomile (Matricaria recutica) and St Johnís Wort (Hypericum perfoliatum) . Finding the right herb or combination of herbs for you may take a little trial and error, but these herbs can be relatively inexpensive to try if taken as a tea or tincture. Some people find taking the herb throughout the day works best, for others taking the herb just once is enough.
Sleep can play an important role in your mood, insufficient sleep being a major issue for many people. There are a huge range of herbs, supplements and self-help techniques that can play a role in aiding short-term insomnia. If you have tried the classics (such as lavender [Lavandula angustifolia] essential oil, valerian [Valeriana officinalis], chamomile or Californian poppy [Eschscholzia californica]) with no luck, then we normally recommend seeing a professional therapist, be it a medical herbalist, acupuncturist or a hypnotherapist for help.
We hope this quick guide to ways to nourish your mind and improve your mood has been useful, feel free to pass on these tips (however remember to seek advice from your doctor or other medical professional where appropriate).
Featured Natural Remedies Ė Vitamin D3
It is now becoming recognised that lack of sunlight can increase the risk of Vitamin D deficiency, which affects a range of the bodyís functions. An important way to address vitamin D deficiency is to make sure that sunlight reaches some bare skin every day, as the action of sunlight on the skin leads to the formation of vitamin D. In studies even half an hour exposure to sunlight each day in Swedish children made a significant difference to Vitamin D levels. So remember to go for a walk at lunchtime to get some light on your face and hands. Although a healthy diet and exposure to sunlight is the best option Vitamin D is now available as a supplement in the ďD3 formĒ. Vitamin D3 is known to be better absorbed (bioavailable), than Vitamin D2 which was used in older supplements. Vitamin D3 Capsules
Herb of the Month, St Johnís Wort
St Johnís Wort (Hypericum perfoliatum) is sometimes known as ďthe sunshine herbĒ and can be appropriate for helping improve mood. It is a herb widely used in the German national health service for the treatment of mild to moderate depression. In the UK it is often used throughout winter to beat the winter blues, or simply anytime of the year when people are feeling down. St Johnís Wort is also used by herbalists for painful injuries or nerve damage, where it may be in the form of a cream or the infused oil. When used in this way it may need to be used for a period of several months depending on the condition.
St Johnís Wort is most often taken in the form of tablets or capsules, and many trials are based on 300mg standardised extracts. Other forms people use include the herbal tea or tincture. If using St Johnís Wort please be aware that it can take a number of days for the full benefits to be observed, so donít make your decision to stop taking it after only a few days, unless you are experiencing any undesired effects.
IMPORTANT NOTE St
Johnís Wort can interact with a number of pharmaceutical medicines therefore it is important that St Johnís Wort is not taken alongside prescription medicines without checking with a herbalist, Doctor or pharmacist.
References - Szinnai et al, Effect of water deprivation on cognitive-motor performance in healthy men and women, Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 2005; 289:R275-80.