written by: Diana Cooper
• edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski
• updated: 7/31/2011
Herbs that help you focus and concentrate include skullcap, ginkgo biloba, gotu kola, rooibos and chamomile. Find information on each, including actions, possible side effects, precautions and preparations.
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American skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) is a perennial plant native to North America. It belongs in the mint family, grows up to four feet high, has ridged leaves and has small flowers that come in a variety of colors. It has been traditionally used as a nerve tonic by North American Indians to reduce stress, anxiety and nervous tension. By calming nerves in the brain, a person is better able to concentrate and focus on tasks.
Skullcap is considered generally safe when taken in recommended dosages. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the recommended dose for adults is 1 to 2 g of dried herb per day. To prepare tea, pour 1 c. of boiling water over 1 tsp. of dried leaves, cover and steep for 20 to 30 minutes. Drink up to three cups per day. Skullcap is also available as capsules and liquid extracts. Buy from a reputable source and use as directed. High doses may cause giddiness, twitching, mental confusion, irregular heartbeat and seizures.
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Ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest living plant species on earth. It has been used medicinally for thousands of years and is now one of the best-selling herbs in the United States. It has been studied extensively, and has been approved for the treatment of several conditions in other countries like Germany. Ginkgo biloba increases neurotransmitter levels and improves blood flow to the brain, allowing the brain to better focus. Dietary supplements are often used to treat memory loss, and research suggests ginkgo may protect against Alzheimer's disease.
Ginkgo biloba appears to be well-tolerated in most people at recommended doses for up to six months. Reported side effects include headache and intestinal complaints. If you have a bleeding disorder or are taking drugs that increase the risk of bleeding, consult your health care provider before using. You can buy dried leaf, capsules, tablets and liquid extracts. Extracts should be standardized to 24 to 32 percent flavonglycosides and 6 to 12 percent terpene lactones. To prepare tea, pour 1 c. of boiling water over 1 tsp. of dried leaves, cover and steep for 10 minutes. Drink up to three cups per day.
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Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is a low-growing plant in the parsley family native to Central and Southeast Asia, South Africa and the southern United States. It is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine, and is highly respected for its effects on the mind. It contains a high concentration of vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) - all important vitamins needed for proper brain function. Some evidence suggests it stimulates the central nervous system, allowing people to focus better. In one study involving children with learning disorders, those who took gotu kola had significant improvement in concentration and attention span after 12 weeks of supplementation.
This herb is generally considered safe. Side effects are rare but may include stomach upset, nausea, headache, dizziness and drowsiness. High doses have been reported to raise cholesterol levels and increase blood sugar levels. To prepare tea, pour 1c. of boiling water over 1 tsp. of dried leaves, cover and steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Drink three times daily. You can also take this herb in the forms of capsules and liquid extracts.
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Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is a small shrubby bush that grows in South Africa. It contains magnesium, iron and zinc, all which help in maintaining a healthy nervous system. Iron and zinc are especially important for brain function and concentration.
Rooibos is generally considered a safe herb, with no reported side effects, contraindications or drug interactions. To prepare tea, pour 1 c. of boiling water over 1 tsp. of dried leaves, cover and steep for 2 to 3 minutes. Drink two to three cups a day.
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The chamomile plant (Matricaria recutita) has small daisy-like flowers with an apple-like scent. In the United States, it is most commonly used in low doses to relieve anxiety and higher doses to promote sleep. Because this herb soothes nervous tension and gives the mind an overall sense of calmness, it allows people to be in more control of their attention.
Chamomile is considered generally safe when taken appropriately. However, people with asthma should avoid because it may worsen the condition, and people with an allergy to ragweed, daisies, asters and chrysanthemums may also be allergic to chamomile. You can buy capsules and liquid extracts. To prepare chamomile tea, pour 1 c. of boiling water over 2 tsp. of dried flowers, cover and steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Drink up to four cups a day between meals.
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Focus Formula™ is an herbal remedy formulated by a clinical psychologist for both adults and children. This formula contains all of the above mentioned herbs, along with green oats and nettle - two other herbs that help you focus and concentrate.
If you are giving to a child, are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a medical condition or are taking medications, talk to your health care provider before using any type of herb.
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Native Remedies: Focus Formula - http://www.nativeremedies.com/products/maintain-concentration-focus-formula.html#tabs
The University of Maryland Medical Center: Skullcap - http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/skullcap-000273.htm
The University of Maryland Medical Center: Ginkgo biloba - http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/ginkgo-biloba-000247.htm
Dr. Yannick Pauli's Unritalin Solution: Gotu Kola - http://www.unritalinsolution.com/gotu_kola
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