Many of us may add spices and herbs to everyday cooking without a second thought, adding curry powder to a stir-fry or lemon balm in our tea. These everyday spices may have more health benefits then we realize and work to improve our brain health and cognition. Here are just a few examples:
- Rosemary: high in antioxidants this herb has the potential to aid in memory, brain function, inflammation and more. It can be taken in multiple ways including powder, oil, tea and extracts.
- Turmeric: filled with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory resources this spice may be used to boost brain health and assist with slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s by clearing the brain of beta-amyloid, proteins that build up forming plaques and resulting in Alzheimer’s. This can be found in curry powder, coriander and cumin.
- Lemon Balm: found often in tea, this herb may be used to ease anxiety and insomnia two traits often found in those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Looking for ways to incorporate more herbs and spices into your daily life? Laurelwood at The Pinehills Avita Program Director, Alison Stockman, shares some fun activities you can try on your own!
Looking for a little something to boost your spirits? Try planting a small happy herb garden! Lemon thyme, white sage, mint, and rosemary are sure to boost your mood. Use pots, a mug or glass, be imaginative- my favorite is to plant in little kid sneakers or shoes. The Gardner’s Supply Company has a lot of options for patio planters, beds, soil and seeds. For a simple beginner option, order an Herb Garden Starter Kit from Amazon, they have a lot to choose from with options like Herbal Tea Garden Kit and Culinary Herb Garden Kit.
Growing your own herbs is a therapeutic activity, as seen when broken down into 3 parts, planning/planting, tending to and harvesting.
Planning/Planting: once you have picked the herbs you are going to grow, create herb stakes indicating their names. Next, it’s time to start planting. Working with the soil to plant the herbs is a form of horticultural therapy and provides a feeling of satisfaction.
Tending to the herbs: this activity will provide purpose and responsibility. While tending to the herbs it is easy to generate conversation and provide cognitive stimulation. Use conversation starters like, “Look the rosemary is growing so fast, what we can do with the rosemary” or “I remember my mother used to put sprigs of rosemary on the ham before putting it in the oven.”
Harvesting the herbs: gathering and harvesting the herbs to dry for future use is very rewarding. For example, if you choose to plant lavender, dry it and make lavender caches to put under your pillow to help you sleep at night.
At Laurelwood we like to put the herbs and spices in a small crockpot with water, and let it go all day filling the air with a pleasant aroma. In the Winter we use cinnamon and cloves and in the Summer, we like lavender or Rosemary.
This article was written in collaboration with Alison Stockman, Avita Program Director at Laurelwood at The Pinehills.