Autumn’s has arrived, and while that marks the end of summer, it’s also a time for exciting new beginnings. This September, you might be starting a new school year, a new career or project, or possibly even exploring post-retirement pursuits after decades in the workforce. Whatever new mental challenges lie ahead of you, Ayurveda can help you stay sharp, clear, and focused. Here are 7 Ayurvedic tips for boosting your mind and memory this fall.
1. Consider the Season
As summer’s warmth yields to autumn, we enter Vata season. The weather is cooler and drier, and you might notice Vata-related tendencies in your body, such as cold feet, dry skin, and an inability to focus.
“Fall is typically the time when people are the most susceptible to digestive issues and brain fog,” says integrative neurologist Kulreet Chaudhary, M.D. Her book, The Prime, explores the mind-gut connection and offers a systematic program for strengthening the digestion to improve mental, emotional, and physical health. “This is a time where you really begin to favor warmer foods that have been well cooked and are easier to digest. In general, it’s good to avoid raw foods and start eating more cooked foods simply because they’re easier to digest, come the fall.” Soups are great this time of year.
2. Get Enough Sleep
Staying rested is always important, but particularly during Vata season, says Dr. Chaudhary. “One really important thing which people oftentimes overlook is just making sure that they’re going to bed early enough, because it really helps to reduce Vata,” she says. “If you’re going to bed late and not getting enough rest, that aggravates Vata, which will disrupt digestion as well as increase the Vata imbalance that also aggravates neurological disease.”
3. Explore Ayurvedic Brain Tonics
One of the best ways to bolster your mind and memory is through specific herbs described as “brain tonics” in the ancient Ayurvedic literature. According to Dr. Chaudhary, brain tonics are herbs that treat the brain holistically, rather than targeting specific areas or chemicals.
“Typically, medications do not have the innate intelligence to coordinate something that results in the shift in multiple different neurotransmitters in a harmonious way,” says Dr. Chaudhary. “That’s what I think is so remarkable about some of these ancient herbs: they do exactly that.”
Dr. Chaudhary lists Ayurvedic herbs like Brahmi, Ashwagandha, Gotu Kola, Shankapushpi (or Dwarf Morning Glory), and Jatamansi as excellent mind and memory boosters. She uses them in varying combinations with people ranging from neurological patients, senior citizens, and those with a family history of dementia, to young students and career professionals striving for peak performance.
“These herbs go beyond just repairing the brain from an existing imbalance or existing neurological condition to actually promoting expansion of cognitive functions, and creativity, and memory beyond what we would even consider as normal,” says Dr. Chaudhary. “So it’s not just an attempt at normalcy; it’s really an attempt at super-normalcy. It’s beyond just the basics.”
Many of the formulas available from vpk® by Maharishi Ayurveda contain these herbs. Dr. Chaudhary also recommends Stress Free Mind, Intelligence Plus, Mind Flex, Worry Free, and Stress Free Emotions, which contain varying combinations of these herbs as well.
4. Prime Your System
Before you take any herbs, though, says Dr. Chaudhary, it’s important to strengthen your digestion for maximum absorption.
“If you have an accumulation of toxins, which is oftentimes related to weak digestion, this ama is going to clog the channels in the body, and one of those channels is responsible for mental function or cognition. You want to clear the pathways so you don’t have anything obstructing the functioning of the brain.”
Ideally, Dr. Chaudhary recommends doing the step-by-step program outlined in her book, The Prime. If you’re unable to do it at this time, Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus) is also an effective toner for the digestion. “vpk’s Triphala, named Digest Tone, is really used year-round, but for those who aren’t already using it, a great time to start would be right before the fall.”
5. Eat Healthy Fats
In today’s calorie-counting culture, fats sometimes get a bad rap. But healthy fats (think: avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds, etc.) are actually good for the brain, as opposed to unhealthy fats (like deep-fried foods). The brain is 60% fat, and it needs healthy fats to nourish its cells.
“We’ve kind of demonized fats and they’re actually extremely important for brain function,” says Dr. Chaudhary. “They’re also a good source of several vitamins and minerals that are important for brain function and also help to reduce Vata. I don’t mean eating a pint of almond butter, but a few tablespoons a day are a great go-to snack, especially when you are studying.”
6. Skip the Nighttime Snacks
Sometimes, life calls for unavoidable late-night work or cramming sessions. But generally, says Dr. Chaudhary, Ayurveda recommends not eating at night, even if you are up.
“This may not sound particularly delicious, but try adding just a little bit of ghee into some warm milk if you’re hungry at night,” she says. “Ghee in small amounts, even a half-teaspoon of ghee, helps both with fueling agni, the digestive fire in the gut, and it’s also very nourishing to the brain. Ghee has all of the healthy omega fatty acids.”
7. Visit Your Vaidya
Autumn is a great time to visit your local vaidya for a tune-up, particularly if you’re thinking of incorporating Ayurvedic “brain tonic” herbs into your regimen. “I use different doses of these herbs for different situations,” says Dr. Chaudhary. “For some people, they can be on quite high doses, whereas for others they’re on very small doses. It’s not really like a one-pill-fits-all type of approach. There are no hard-and-fast rules, and that’s the big thing we have to learn even as we are starting to plunge into integrative medicine from a Western approach. You just have to look at the whole system.”
For a personalized, in-depth ayurvedic consultation, in person, via phone, or video conference, consult one of the experts in our Ayurvedic Consultation Directory.
And with that, we wish you a happy, healthy, mentally alert autumn!
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.