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Grey Matter Matters: Using Herbs for Deep Nerve Tissue Support

by Prashanti de Jager

Get ready to learn how to deeply support your learning and cognitive capacity, mood stability and overall wellness by using herbs that assist your body in growing a robust and expansive nervous system!

brain.jpgWhen the internet goes down, suddenly most things get slower, less efficient and more difficult. Neural networks and computer networks have similar roles of communication and coordination, so when both the structure and function of our nerves and neural networks are compromised by stress, toxins, habits, pesticides, and oxidative stress, suddenly things at the cellular and organ levels of our body get slower, less efficient, more difficult, and just a lot less fun. Having a strong clear nervous system makes life much more rewarding, joyful, and blossoming with possibility and accomplishment. Yes, joyful! One of the side effects of focusing on supporting your nervous system, besides supporting cognitive function, is improved moods including a greater sense of upliftment.1

“Growing a robust nervous system?” one may ask. I know some people have heard the myth that nerves can’t re-grow, but I wonder just how many know that this is simply not true. I am not sure why this myth was created nor why it was propagated for so long. True, not all nerves are created equally, and have different growth dynamics depending on the nerve type and location. However, there is no doubt about the traditional use of herbs like Ashwagandha and Brahmi, and fungi like Lion’s Mane, to support the structure and function of nerve cells and neural webs, as confirmed in dozens of articles published in the western peer-reviewed scientific literature.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, used for thousands of years to support healthy nerve and cognitive function, recently has been reported to protect stress-induced neuronal loss in the hippocampus of rats.2 Withanolide A and the withanosides IV and VI enhanced normal neurite formation in rat cortical neurons. Withanolide A and withanosides IV and VI predominantly induced axons and dendrites, respectively.3 By the way, when western scientists know the actual molecules in an herb that are most responsible for the sought after support, then you know there has been a lot of successful and sequential focus on that herb to establish that fact.

Brahmi

There are two herbs known as Brahmi: Bacopa monniera and Centella asiatica (Gotu Kola). They are well known in traditional vedic science to support healthy optimization of nerve function and structure. Recent studies confirm that Asiatic acid, a triterpenoid compound found in Centella asiatica elicited a marked increase in neurite elongation (a neurite is any “arm” emanating from the main body of a nerve cell, for instance a dendrite or an axon).4



The nerve cell in “A” has been given no extra care. The nerve cell in “B” has been fed NGF (Neural Growth Factor).

The nerve cell in “C” has been given both NGF and Brahmi! Remarkable! The structure of the nerve cell in “C” appears phenomenally robust with:

  1. Greater lengths of neurites
  2. Larger caliber/diameter of axons
  3. More myelinated axons
  4. Increased neural network connectivity and integration

Of course, the optimization of the structure of an individual nerve cell then quickly allows the optimization of the function of the neural network that it is a part of as its neurites venture forth to create all the more possibilities of connection and reflection. Indeed, studies have shown that these herbs support the structure and function of entire neural networks.

Joy! Formula

Because of its proven neuroprotective properties, Shankpushpi (Convulvulus pluricaulis), is often traditionally used with Brahmi to support all facets of gray matter. In fact, some herbal experts consider Shankpushpi to be the premier herbal ally in this regard. This is one reason why Shankpushpi is a part of the Joy! Formula, a combination of four herbs that rank amongst the best for supporting mind, brain and nerves. If that was the extent of this formula it would be a great one. However, an even more remarkable and deeper gift of the Joy! Formula is that all four herbs are also powerful adaptogens, increasing system resilience to all forms of daily stress. And to end the day, the Joy! Formula supports deep sleep.

So, healthy nerves + reduced stress + rejuvenating sleep = Joy!

Tulsi (Holy Basil)

Tulsi (Holy Basil) is a neuro-protective5, an herb that supports the enduring homeostasis of nerve structure and function that is otherwise compromised by aggressive daily stressors. Research has shown that Tulsi (Holy Basil) helps nerves to maintain healthy levels of myelin and supports balanced pain response and motor coordination. Note that often it is the sciatica nerve that is used in the research of the amount of nerve support our herbal allies lend us.

Because Tulsi (Holy Basil) directly supports the nerves, Tulsi Tea then becomes an excellent “vehicle” with which to take all supplements that support nerve tissue. Of course, given that Gotu Kola is one of the best herbs for the nerves, I would recommend using 2 to 4 Tulsi Gotu Kola Tea bags per cup of tea as a vehicle to provide assimilation and amplification of the other herbs.

Turmeric

Turmeric, truly an herb for all occasions, also steps up when it comes to protecting nerve structure, giving additional testimony to just how deeply this ally can support us. Turmeric is known to offer potent protection to all tissue, including nerves, by supporting successful levels of antioxidant capacity just when and where it is most needed. Practically every facet of nerve structure, including nerve volume, total surface area, total number of nerves, nerve diameter, and the area spanned by the myelinated nerve fibers, all are supported by Turmeric to remain in optimal levels when confronted with stressors.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceous), a culinary mushroom found on beech trees in North America, is quite renown for its ability to help regenerate nerve function. Lion’s Mane promotes nerve growth factor secretion, an important substance involved in maintaining and organizing cholinergic neurons in the central nervous system.6 I would recommend buying Paul Stamet’s Lion’s Mane, which is a part of his excellent Fungi Perfecti project. You can even get kits from Paul to grow it yourself!

Herbal Intelligence + Raw Materials

The herbs and fungi may have the intelligence to assist the nerves to re-grow, triggering the right enzymes to generate the right growth factors, but these allies may not necessarily have all of the building blocks of the nervous system, most of which are fatty acids. So make sure that you take adequate building blocks which are the fatty acids found in the Omega oils, including Hemp, Flax, Evening Primrose and Borage. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and Linoleic Acid especially are important. Take 4-5 tablespoons a day of high quality fresh organic omega oils as mentioned above. I like to make salad dressings out of them or pour them into smoothies and green drinks to make them much more smooth and potent. One may think that this quantity of oil may increase their weight and strain their heart. Just realize that there is a fundamental difference between an anabolic oil, like hydrogenated fats, which certainly can cause excessive weight gain, and a metabolic oil, like ghee and flax, which stimulates metabolism, supports a healthy heart and helps you attain your optimal weight.

Prashanti's Omega Blend
I like to make my own mix of the omega oils which goes something like this:

32 oz. Barleans High Lignan Flax Oil
32 oz. Manitoba Hemp Oil
8 oz. Health From The Sun Evening Primrose Oil
8 oz. Health From The Sun Borage Oil
4 oz. Spectrum Walnut Oil
1 oz. Wheat Germ

Note that Health From The Sun products are hexane-free whereas most other manufacturers of Borage and Evening Primrose are not as it is so much cheaper to use hexane extraction. Certain essential oils, like Jyotishmati (Celestrus paniculata) and Jatamansi (Nardostachyis jatamansi) are traditionally consumed by yogis, pundits and scholars to optimize their cognitive abilities like mental acuity and the ability to see the gestalt of any given situation. These oils and some others can be added to this Omega oil blend, but at extremely small ratios, like one drop of essential oils (total) per ounce of blend.

Supporting Deep Digestion

You can have the perfect amounts of the perfect ingredients in their highest quality forms and yet, if you do not have a working oven, your cake won’t be one. In the same way we pay attention to supporting digestion at all levels with herbs like Tulsi (Holy Basil), Triphala and Katuki, the latter of which helps to ensure that all the metabolites of the Omega oils are properly formed and the former, along with Turmeric, ensures that the nutrition is carried to the right site. And because Brahmi is excellent micro-capillary flow support, we now have two reasons why to use this herb whose name literally means “creation,” and more still to come!

Anti-Stress Adaptogens

We do not want stress to attenuate our efforts during a period where we are focusing on ensuring strong nerve cells with long inquisitive neuritis. So we take adaptogens, especially those that have a pro-nerve activity, like Ashwagandha, Brahmi, Tulsi (Holy Basil), Katuki, Rhodiola and of course, the Joy! Formula.

Supporting Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

Imbalanced blood sugar can spell big trouble for the nervous system. Because metabolites of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) are known to be important in nerve membrane structure, nerve blood flow, and nerve conduction, the impaired conversion of linoleic acid to GLA has been demonstrated to play a significant role in the impairment of the structure and function of nerve cells in diabetics. Administration of GLA corrects the impaired nerve function in animal models of diabetes.

Two multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled trials in humans with diabetic neuropathy have shown significant benefits of GLA as compared with placebo in neurophysiological parameters, thermal thresholds, and clinical sensory evaluations.7

Turmeric, Tulsi (Holy Basil), Fenugreek and Bimbi in the Sugar Balance Formula support healthy blood sugar levels. As you see, over and over again, it is all about optimizing terrain, and then letting our innate cellular intelligence do what it does best.

Diet

All the specifics of how you can support grey matter health via your diet is a topic too big for this newsletter- but for a good start, eat a lot of steamed deep greens like kale, chard and collards, and cook with spices like Turmeric, Ginger and Fenugreek seeds. Eat fruits but not too many sweet ones, rather focusing on the astringent toning fruits like pomegranate. Fresh wild responsibly-harvested salmon is so good at supporting nerve health that your first indication that you need to support your nerves just may be a craving for it!

Deep Tissue Support

So whether you recently have had your severed hand re-attached by a world-class expert in microsurgery replantation or you simply want to support your nerves and grey matter to ensure your life flows with greater grace, ease, joy and productivity, this is a summary of many of your best and most easily available allies to support healthy vibrant prana-filled nerves, neurites and neural networks.

If you want to learn more about growing a strong nervous system consider looking into those healing traditions that are facets of spiritual traditions, like Ayurveda, Taoist medicine, and some Shamanic traditions. Because a strong nervous system is essential to the development of your highest potentials, monks and yogis over millennia developed the knowledge and techniques to, as my teacher would say, “Build nervous systems strong enough for the energetic decision for Freedom.”

Thank you

Prashanti

1 Nagano M, Shimizu K, Kondo R, Hayashi C, Sato D, Kitagawa K, Ohnuki K.; Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake; Biomed Res. 2010;31(4):231-7.

2 Jain S, Shukla SD, Sharma K et al. Phytother Res 15, 544–548 (2001).

3 Tomoharu Kuboyama, et al; Axon- or dendrite-predominant outgrowth induced by constituents from Ashwagandha; Neurochemistry, Vol 13 No 14 7 October 2002

4 Amala Soumyanath, Yong-Ping Zhong, Sandra A. Gold, Xiaolin Yu, Dennis R. Koop, Dennis Bourdette and Bruce G. Gold; Centella asiatica accelerates nerve regeneration upon oral administration and contains multiple active fractions increasing neurite elongation in-vitro; Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology; Volume 57, Issue 9, pages 1221–1229, September 2005

5 Mondal S, Mirdha BR, Mahapatra SC.; The science behind sacredness of Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn.). Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2009 Oct-Dec;53(4):291-306.

6 Mori K, Obara Y, Moriya T, Inatomi S, Nakahata N.; Effects of Hericium erinaceus on amyloid β(25-35) peptide-induced learning and memory deficits in mice.; Biomed Res. 2011;32(1):67-72.

7 Horrobin DF.; Essential fatty acids in the management of impaired nerve function in diabetes.; Diabetes. 1997 Sep;46 Suppl 2:S90-3.