Ah, that time of year again. Buy the new school clothes, books, pens and rulers, but don’t forget the supplements. Yes, there are several supplements that can be used to give a student an Herbal advantage when going back to school or college this fall. In this article, I’m going to talk about increasing mental clarity, decreasing stress, anxiety, attention deficit disorder (ADD and ADHD), and food sensitivity and their effects on academic performance.
To celebrate this time of the year, we are going to offer a special deep discount on Wild Rose College courses at the end of the article!
The first and most important rule for good academic work is often the most commonly over looked one: having a good nutritious breakfast. Probably the best food for a person going to school is either a hot cooked cereal or soft-boiled eggs. In our household we offen conbine the two; two soft pouched eggs on a bed of oatmeal with seasonings. Both of these foods can give academics a good foundation on which to build the day. The worse breakfast is no breakfast, followed by one high in sugar. This will often make a person tired and spacey with mental fog or hypoglycemic low from 3 – 6 PM.
For mental clarity, Ginkgo takes a well deserved first place. This herb has been shown in many studies to increase memory and speed of thought. It should be of a standardized process quality with 24% ginkgo flavoglycosides, and 6% terpene lactones. Ginkgo can help both short term and long-term memory. It will help blood supply to the capillary beds in the brain. It will also aid both neural transmitters and receptor sites in the brain. Usually 60 – 120 mg a day will help considerably, but I often double this dosage. We shouldn’t over look other great herbs for this though. Rhodiola, Gotu Kola, Reishi mushroom and Siberian Ginseng all give great mental support. You can find formulas made up with a combination of these herbs. This is significant, as world wide, botanical medicines are most often given in the form of formulas. Usually herbs work better in formulas than as single ingredient products.
Concentration is one of the most important aspect of academic work. If concentration is poor it might be due to three factors: systemic yeast (Candida albicans), low essential fatty acid levels or possibly ADD. To find out if a person has a yeast or sugar problem you might need to go to a practitioner or fill out some simple symptom questionnaires (www.wrc.net/questionsheets/index.htm) If this is the case a strict diet needs to be adhered to. Check to find if enough essential fatty acids are included in the diet. Most are low in this substances found in fish, spinach, flax seeds. Taking a mixed essential fatty acid product with, Krill, fish, black currant and borage oils has really helped some of our clients perform intellectually. This is especially true of the older students and adolescent students with lots of acne.
If the above is not the problem, you might want to consider if the student has some form of attention deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD). This syndrome is the inability to pay attention, concentrate, remember, and think clearly, with emotional instability and learning problems. Most of the patients I have seen with this problem are above average intelligence, but just cant do well at organized tasks. We can really divide this area down into three groups: attention deficit disorder without hyperactivity (ADD, more common in female children); attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity (ADHD, more common in male children 10:1); adult attention deficit disorder – residual type (AADD, most common as an extension of earlier problems after the 18th year).
The causes of these disorders are not completely understood, but some of the factors that contribute are: heredity, smoking or alcohol consumption during pregnancy, oxygen deprivation or trauma at birth, artificial food additives, sugar, dairy, environmental pollutants, lead poisoning, food sensitivities. Food containing dye (especial red dye), preservatives, added sugar or salicylates seem to be the biggest causes.
The most important thing to do is to concentrate on the diet. We remove all sugars, dairy and additives. This is a little bit of a problem, not only in the convenience for the food preparer, but because the person is often addicted to these foods. We have found if you cant get the person to “buy in” on the program, it is next to impossible to administer. Sometimes it is hard to remember that underneath the “little monster” there is an intelligent child who also needs self-respect.
It appears that an ADD person feels confused and uncomfortable inside. They either create a scene outside themselves, often as a mechanism to distract themselves from their inner confusion ADHD or space out into their own world. After consuming the wrong foods, they will usually get confused and not feel good. Point out that the foods they just ate are probably responsible. In fact, you might say that they seem to be allergic to those foods. I have seen athletic children lose all coordination after consuming red dye and/or sugar. ADD people are usually intelligent enough that they will try to experiment with the foods pointed out to them on their own also … just to be sure. Unfortunately with ADD, it is almost always a battle between an addiction, on the one hand, and a food sensitivity, on the other. If strong compliance to this program is achieved, good results will be possible.
Often after being off a food group for 2-4 months the child can consume it once to twice a week on “special occasions”.
Besides diet we have found the most important herb is Reishi mushroom. We often mix the Reishi with other medicinal mushrooms like Shiitake, Maitake, Cordyceps and Porio Cocos. The dosage is usually 1 – 3 capsules, twice daily depending on the size and the age. One of the bi-lines for Reishi Mushroom is – ‘to protect an academic from his own brain.’ People who are sensitive to internalize emotions, creating circular arguments in their mind. This creates background noise which almost seems like static reducing ones clarity of concentration. Reishi Mushroom helps center a person. As one patient of mine stated, it is like an extra ½ hour of meditation. Reishi is considered to calm down what in Chinese medicine is called disturbed ‘Shen Qi’ (spiritual mind). By calming down Shen Qi, one can, of course, think more clearly. Reishi will also help to regulate blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and is excellent to reduce symptoms of allergies and asthma.
Many other food sensitivities can often affect ones academic work. Probably the two most common problem foods are dairy and sugar. Both sugar and dairy can reduce mental activity in people who are not ADD. Any other food can also contribute to this problem. A simple way to tell what food(s) a person is sensitive to is by the thirst test. A person is often thirsty 30 – 90 minutes after they have consumed a food with which they are having problems. Even though coffee or other caffeine drinks can help mental alertness, they unfortunately often fall into this food sensitivity category. Supplement that can help you resist these allergies a little are flavonols, freeze dried nettles and Reishi Mushroom.
Another herb which has helped in the area of stress and anxiety is Kava Kava. It has been useful in calming and centering the person with these problems. Studies have shown that Kava can help in all areas of stress and anxiety – all too common at the beginning of the semester when meeting new friends, beginning a new course load and being thrown into completely new situations.
In summary good herbs to give you and yours an advantage at academic work are: Ginkgo supplemented with Gotu Kola and Siberian Ginseng for mental support. Essential fatty acids aid in intellectual work in some. Reishi mushroom and possibly Kava center one’s.
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