Herbs and Supplements for Memory and Cognitive Support During Lyme Treatment

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Memory and cognitive dysfunction from chronic Lyme disease and Lyme disease co-infections can be severe. Once the infections have invaded the brain and central nervous system, they are capable of causing numerous cognitive deficits, including short and long term memory loss, difficulty retaining new information, compromised ability to read and write, an inability to make new memories, an overall feeling that you're just not really "there," and so much more.
Throughout my journey with Lyme disease, the vast majority of my symptoms have manifested neurologically. I have faced various memory and cognitive deficits, ranging from short-term memory loss and trouble concentrating, to full-blown amnesia and a complete inability to read or write. As a result, I have searched endlessly for natural ways to boost memory and cognitive function to improve my quality of life throughout the duration of my treatment. The following are the herbs and supplements that I have found most beneficial:
Phosphatidylserine: Phosphatidylserine is supportive of a broad range of cognitive processes, including creation of both short and long term memories, memory retrieval, the ability to assimilate and recall new information, focus, concentration, problem solving abilities and more.[1] It is especially beneficial for memory and cognitive dysfunction caused by neuronal damage from Lyme disease and Lyme disease co-infections, as it replenishes the brain's supply of acetylcholine, which is a key neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for creating the neuronal connections required for encoding memories. [2]
Phosphatidylserine may also be useful for individuals with Lyme disease who suffer from insomnia. When taken at night, it helps promote healthy sleep patterns by lowering cortisol levels, thus leading to improved memory and cognitive functioning, since proper sleep cycles are essential in order to flush the glymphatic system –the part of the lymphatic system in the brain responsible for flushing toxins from the brain down the vein in the neck to the rest of the lymphatic system, a process that primarily occurs between the hours of 10:00 PM and 2:00 AM.

Gotu Kola: Gotu Kola boosts memory and cognition by reducing tissue inflammation in the brain, making it a great candidate for individuals who suffer from memory and cognitive issues due to brain swelling from Lyme disease and/or Lyme disease co-infections. It is also helpful for people with Lyme disease who have cognitive difficulties as a result of infection in the central nervous system, as it calms the central nervous system by modulating cortisol and adrenaline release. Furthermore, it promotes overall brain health by increasing cerebral circulation and oxygenated blood flow to the brain. [3]

Lion's Mane Mushroom: Lion's Mane Mushroom is one of my absolute favorite supplements for memory and cognitive support due to its profound positive impacts on the brain and central nervous system. I also find it immensely beneficial when I am feeling low on energy, whether mentally or physically, as it seems to make a noticeable difference in both my mental and physical stamina. This is no surprise, considering Lion's Mane has long been known as the "smart mushroom" because of its noticeable effects on multiple aspects of cognitive function, including memory, attention, creativity and more. [4]
The cognitive benefits of Lion's Mane can, in large part, be credited to a group of compounds it contains that provide potent neuroprotective properties and restore myelin along the axons in the brain—a process that is highly beneficial for those with Lyme disease and Lyme disease co-infections, as many of the cognitive deficits from these diseases result from the bacteria's affinity for breaking down myelin sheath in the brain. To date, Lion's Mane is the only mushroom that displays promising potential for nerve regeneration due to its ability to stimulate synthesis of nerve growth factor (NGF). [4,5]

Bacopa: Bacopa is an herb that has been used for thousands of years to enhance memory and cognition. According to research, as well as personal experience, bacopa is an exceptional herb for boosting numeric and spatial working memory, word recall and recognition, context memory recognition, and visual information processing—cognitive processes that are all crucial for proper assimilation of information from our environment, and which are thus required for learning, memory encoding and retrieval, reaction time, attention span and picture recognition. [6] Another study found that Bacopa helps alleviate the effects of brain damage, and acts as a strong neuroprotectant to prevent long-term brain damage from neurological conditions. [7]?

Rhodiola Rosea: Studies show that Rhodiola Rosea improves memory and learning.[8] From personal experience, I can attest that it is in fact profoundly effective for alleviating memory and cognitive dysfunction caused by neurological Lyme disease. I find that it not only increases memory and mental alertness, but physical stamina, as well. Since it is somewhat stimulatory in nature, I find it best to take in the morning in order to avoid interference with sleep.

Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is another excellent herb for memory and cognitive support. Numerous studies show that it enhances memory, focus, and concentration. [9] It is a great adaptogenic herb that supports the body and mind during times of extreme stress, such as those seen in chronic illnesses like Lyme disease. Many people report that Ashwagandha makes them drowsy, so it is best to take it at night the first time you take it to see how you respond.
I have personally found all of these herbs and supplements to be most useful for providing me with memory and cognitive support throughout the duration of my treatment for Lyme disease and multiple Lyme disease co-infections. However, they are but a few of many herbs and supplements known to boost memory and cognitive functioning. If you are looking for ways to boost your own memory and cognition, I strongly advise you to conduct further research on all herbs and supplements to assess which ones may be of most benefit for your particular case. As always, please consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new herbs or supplements.

1.Glade MJ, et. al. Phosphatidylserine and the human brain. Nutrition. 2015 Jun; 31(6): 781-6. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2014.10.014.
2."What is Phosphatidylserine and What are its Brain Benefits?". NOOTRIMENT. Accessed September 23, 2016 from http://m.nootriment.com/phosphatidylserine/
3. "Gotu Kola". HERBAL REALITY. Accessed September 28, 2016 from http://www.herbalreality.com/herbs/gotu-kola/
4. Burke, V. "Lion's Mane Mushroom – Unparalleled Benefits for Your Brain and Nervous System. GreenMedInfo. June 15, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.
5. Lai PL, et al.Neurotrophic properties of the Lion's mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2013;15(6):539-54.
6. Stough C, Downey LA, et. al. Examining the nootropic effects of a special extract of Bacopa monniera on human cognitive functioning: 90 day double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Phytother Res. 2008 Dec;22(12):1629-34. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2537.
7. Liu X, et al. Neuroprotective effects of bacopaside I in ischemic brain injury. Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2012 Nov 16.
8. Petkov, VD, et al. Effects of alcohol aqueous extract from Rhodiola rosea L. roots on learning and memory. Acta Physiol Pharmacol Bulg. 1986;12(1):3-16.
9. Pingali U, Pilli R, Fatima N. Effect of standardized aqueous extract of Withania somnifera on tests of cognitive and psychomotor performance in healthy human participants. Pharmacognosy Res. 2014;6(1):12-18.

Shelley M. White is trained in herbalism and nutrition, and is the author of 'Cannabis for Lyme Disease and Related Conditions: Scientific Basis and Anecdotal Evidence for Medicinal Use' (visit www.cannabisforlyme.com to learn more). She has written for various websites, including Collective Evolution, Mind Body Green, Natural News, The Mind Unleashed, and the Examiner. Her work has also appeared in print publications, such as 'The Townsend Letter', 'SKUNK Magazine', and 'Public Health Alert'.

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