Glossary & References

BrainBalms is backed by certified scientific research.

We understand the importance of scientific research to show if and how a plant works in the brain. Here are supporting articles, definitions and references for our research.

Glossary

 

Acetylcholine


is a key brain signal, a neurotransmitter, involved in attention, memory and consciousness itself. Acetylcholine naturally decreases as we age and it is the cholinergic system which is the main system affected in Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s made from choline which is partly gained from the diet, so increasing choline in the diet (for example soy and quinoa are choline-rich plants) may increase acetylcholine levels. There are plants that contain active ingredients that increase acetylcholine by stopping it being broken down and so hold it in the synapse (the space between neurons or brain cells) for longer. European sage, rosemary, kalonji, oregano are key plants that do this.

Adenosine


is a chemical that builds up in the brain during the day making us feel sleepy and inducing sleep. It has other important roles such as in the cardiovascular system, pain management and disease. Caffeine in our coffee blocks the action of adenosine, thereby keeping us awake. There are bioactive ingredients in, for example, valerian that are shown to increase adenosine, thereby helping us feel sleepy.

Dopamine


is a key reward and pleasure neurotransmitter in the brain and is involved in other functions like addiction, motivation, movement and memory consolidation. Dopamine together with noradrenaline and serotonin is the target of some anti-depressants (less used now) which block the enzyme monoamine oxidase (MAO) that breaks them down, and so increase their levels in the brain. There are ingredients in some plants that help boost dopamine (by blocking MOA) and so can help boost our mood.

Essential or volatile oils

are the highly concentrated aromatic portion of a plant and are volatile, which means they can enter the atmosphere. Extracted mostly naturally by steam distillation, one oil contains usually 3 to 4 main active ingredients, though they can contain up to 200 different chemicals. They contain small molecules, called terpenoids, that are small and oily and so are easily absorbed through our skin on topical application or inhaled to enter our bloodstream. Their small size also means they easily cross the blood brain barrier to enter the brain and from there work on different brain signals, receptors and ion channels to produce their effects. If you were to inhale an essential oil and then have a sample of your blood taken you would find these active molecules present in your blood. 
Terpenoids can have a range of specific effects, from calming to stimulating, but it’s their combined effect that determines the action of the whole oil. Different terpenoids can be antibiotic, anticancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, amongst other effects. But key to helping our mind and brain, they also reach the brain to act on neurotransmitters, receptors and ion channels to be calming, stimulating, sleep inducing, mood and memory boosting.
Many essential oils are given GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) status for internal use in food products (though it is important to note that some essential oils can cause allergic reaction and some are phototoxic or toxic).

GABA

is our brain’s main calming (inhibitory) neurotransmitter. It lowers or blocks neuronal activity. Boosting GABA induces feelings of calm and helps lower anxiety, stress and agitation. The benzodiazepine anti-anxiety drugs (like Prozax) work to boost GABA and so do a number calming plant medicine - they act to increase the efficiency of GABA (by modulating the GABAA receptor or channel).

Glutamate

is our main excitatory transmitter in the brain. It stimulates (enhances) neuronal activity. It is involved, among other brain signals, in learning and memory and it is also a signal to block in order to calm and sedate. Linalool, the active terpenoid ingredient in lavender and other calming plants, blocks glutamate (NMDA) receptors.

Hippocampus


This is a part of the brain best known for its role in memory formation and consolidation (though many other parts of the brain are involved in memory recall, including the amygdala (associated with emotions). The hippocampus is located in the temporal cortex and is named for its shape, where hippocampus is Greek for seahorse.

Melatonin

is the brain's main hormone involved in the sleep/wakefulness cycle and increased melatonin is associated with increased sleep. Melatonin is present in some plants such as sour (or tart) cherry, where consumption of juice of sour cherry is shown clinically to promote sleep onset and duration. There are many more brain chemicals involved in sleep including adenosine.

References

Fruit and veg
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28329221); Feeney, Joanne; O’Leary, Neil; Moran, Rachel; O’Halloran, Aisling M.; Nolan, John M.; Beatty, Stephen et al. (2017): ‘Plasma lutein and zeaxanthin are associated with better cognitive function across multiple domains in a large population-based sample of older adults: Findings from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging.’ In The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. DOI: 10.1093/gerona/glw330.

Chinese clubmoss
Sun, Q.Q.; Xu, S.S.; Pan, J.L.; Guo, H.M.; Cao, W.Q. (1999): ‘Huperzine-A capsules enhance memory and learning performance in 34 pairs of matched adolescent students.’ In Zhongguo Yao Li Xue Bao = Acta Pharmacologica Sinica 20 (7), pp.601–3. Xing, Shu-Huai; Zhu, Chun-Xiao.

Bacopa
Kongkeaw, Chuenjid; Dilokthornsakul, Piyameth; Thanarangsarit, Phurit; Limpeanchob, Nanteetip; Norman Scholfield, C. (2014): ‘Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials on cognitive effects of Bacopa monnieri extract.’ In Journal of Ethnopharmacology 151 (1), pp.528–35. DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.11.008.

Peppermint
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12690999. Moss, Mark; Cook, Jenny; Wesnes, Keith; Duckett, Paul (2003): ‘Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults.’ In The International Journal of Neuroscience 113 (1), pp.15–38.

Black walnut
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=A+cross-sectional+study+of+the+association+between+walnut+consumption+and+cognitive+function+among+adult+US. Arab, L.; Ang, A. (2015): ‘A cross-sectional study of the association between walnut consumption and cognitive function among adult US populations represented in NHANES.’ In The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging 19 (3), pp.284–90. DOI: 10.1007/s12603-014-0569-2.

Blueberry
Whyte, Adrian R.; Schafer, Graham; Williams, Claire M. (2016): ‘Cognitive effects following acute wild blueberry supplementation in 7- to 10-year-old children.’ In European Journal of Nutrition 55 (6), pp.2151–62. DOI: 10.1007/s00394-015-1029-4.

Nigella
Bin Sayeed, Muhammad Shahdaat; Shams, Tahiatul; Fahim Hossain, Sarder; Rahman, Md Rezowanur; Mostofa, Agm; Fahim Kadir, Mohammad et al. (2014): ‘Nigella sativa L. seeds modulate mood, anxiety and cognition in healthy adolescent males.’ In Journal of Ethnopharmacology 152 (1), pp.156–62. DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.12.050.

Rosemary
Pengelly, Andrew; Snow, James; Mills, Simon Y.; Scholey, Andrew; Wesnes, Keith; Butler, Leah Reeves (2012): ‘Short-term study on the effects of rosemary on cognitive function in an elderly population.’ In Journal of Medicinal Food 15 (1), pp.10–17. DOI: 10.1089/jmf.2011.0005.

Sage
Lopresti, Adrian L. (2017): Salvia (Sage): A Review of its Potential Cognitive-Enhancing and Protective Effects. In Drugs in R&D 17 (1), pp. 53–64. DOI: 10.1007/s40268-016-0157-5.

Akhondzadeh, S.; Noroozian, M.; Mohammadi, M.; Ohadinia, S.; Jamshidi, A. H.; Khani, M. (2003): Salvia officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease: a double blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial. In Journal of clinical pharmacy and therapeutics 28 (1), pp. 53–59.

Scholey, Andrew B.; Tildesley, Nicola T. J.; Ballard, Clive G.; Wesnes, Keith A.; Tasker, Andrea; Perry, Elaine K.; Kennedy, David O. (2008): An extract of Salvia (sage) with anticholinesterase properties improves memory and attention in healthy older volunteers. In Psychopharmacology 198 (1), pp. 127–139. DOI: 10.1007/s00213-008-1101-3.

Founders sci studies on sage Perry, N. S.; Houghton, P. J.; Sampson, J.; Theobald, A. E.; Hart, S.; Lis-Balchin, M. et al. (2001): In-vitro activity of S. lavandulaefolia (Spanish sage) relevant to treatment of Alzheimer's disease. In The Journal of pharmacy and pharmacology 53 (10), pp. 1347–1356.

Perry, N.S.L.; Menzies, R.; Hodgson, F.; Wedgewood, P.; Howes, M.J.R.; Brooker, H.J.; Wesnes K.A.; Perry, E.K.; A randomised double-blind placebo-controlled pilot trial of a combined extract of sage, rosemary and melissa, traditional herbal medicines, on the enhancement of memory in normal healthy subjects, including influence of age. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2017.08.015

Do what you enjoy. People who enjoy (Lewis, 2017 Nathan lwe Carleton uni Canada)
Exercise and the brain.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4508129/ Sleep (Nedergaard, 2013; Maiken at the Unicerys of Cpopenhagen in Denmark).

Lettuce
Yakoot, Mostafa; Helmy, Sherine; Fawal, Kamal (2011): ‘Pilot study of the efficacy and safety of lettuce seed oil in patients with sleep disorders.’ In International Journal of General Medicine 4, pp.451–6. DOI: 10.2147/IJGM.S21529.

Lotus
Yan, Ming-Zhu; Chang, Qi; Zhong, Yu; Xiao, Bing-Xin; Feng, Li; Cao, Fang-Rui et al. (2015): ‘Lotus leaf alkaloid extract displays sedative-hypnotic and anxiolytic effects through GABAA receptor.’ In Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 63 (42), pp.9277–85. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.5b04141.

Wuling
Lin, Yan; Wang, Xiao-yun; Ye, Ren; Hu, Wan-hua; Sun, Shu-chen; Jiao, Hong-juan et al. (2013): ‘Efficacy and safety of Wuling capsule, a single herbal formula, in Chinese subjects with insomnia: a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.’ In Journal of Ethnopharmacology 145 (1), pp.320–7. DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.11.009. Ni, Xiaojia; Shergis, Johannah Linda; Guo, Xinfeng; Zhang, Anthony Lin; Li, Yan; Lu, Chuanjian; Xue, Charlie Changli (2015): ‘Updated clinical evidence of Chinese herbal medicine for insomnia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.’ In Sleep Medicine 16 (12), pp.1462–81. DOI: 10.1016/j.sleep.2015.08.012.

Mexican calea
Mayagoitia, L.; Díaz, J. L.; Contreras, C.M. (1986): ‘Psychopharmacologic analysis of an alleged oneirogenic plant: Calea zacatechichi.’ In Journal of Ethnopharmacology 18 (3), pp.229–43.

Alpha-pinene
Yang, Hyejin; Woo, Junsung; Pae, Ae Nim; Um, Min Young; Cho, Nam-Chul; Park, Ki Duk et al. (2016): ‘α-Pinene, a major constituent of pine tree oils, enhances non-rapid eye movement sleep in mice through GABAA-benzodiazepine receptors.’ In Molecular Pharmacology 90 (5), pp.530–9. DOI: 10.1124/mol.116.105080.

Valerian
Fernández-San-Martin, Maria Isabel; Masa-Font, Roser; Palacios-Soler, Laura; Sancho-Gomez, Pilar; Calbo-Caldentey, Cristina; Flores-Mateo, Gemma (2010): ‘Effectiveness of valerian on insomnia: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials.’ In Sleep Medicine 11 (6), pp.505–11. DOI: 10.1016/j.sleep.2009.12.009. Poyares, Dalva R.; Guilleminault, Christian; Ohayon, Maurice M.; Tufik, Sergio (2002): ‘Can valerian improve the sleep of insomniacs after benzodiazepine withdrawal?’ In Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry 26 (3), pp.539–45.

Hop
Salter, Shanah; Brownie, Sonya (2010): ‘Treating primary insomnia – the efficacy of valerian and hops.’ In Australian Family Physician 39 (6), pp.433–7. Schmitz, M.; Jackel, M. (1998): ‘Comparative study for assessing quality of life of patients with exogenous sleep disorders (temporary sleep onset and sleep interruption disorders) treated with a hops-valerian preparation and a benzodiazepine drug.’ In Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift 148 (13), pp.291–8.

Chamomile
Howrey, Bret T.; Peek, M. Kristen; McKee, Juliet M.; Raji, Mukaila A.; Ottenbacher, Kenneth J.; Markides, Kyriakos S. (2016): ‘Chamomile consumption and mortality: a prospective study of Mexican origin older adults.’ In The Gerontologist 56 (6), pp.1146–52. DOI: 10.1093/geront/gnv051. Zick, Suzanna M.; Wright, Benjamin D.; Sen, Ananda; Arnedt, J. Todd (2011): ‘Preliminary examination of the efficacy and safety of a standardized chamomile extract for chronic primary insomnia: a randomized placebo-controlled pilot study.’ In BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 11, p.78. DOI: 10.1186/1472-6882-11-78.

Jujube
Cao, Jie-Xin; Zhang, Qing-Ying; Cui, Su-Ying; Cui, Xiang-Yu; Zhang, Juan; Zhang, Yong-He et al. (2010): ‘Hypnotic effect of jujubosides from Semen Ziziphi Spinosae.’ In Journal of Ethnopharmacology 130 (1), pp.163–6. DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2010.03.023. Ma, Yuan; Han, Huishan; Eun, Jae Soon; Kim, Hyoung Chun; Hong, Jin-Tae; Oh, Ki-Wan (2007): ‘Sanjoinine A isolated from Zizyphi Spinosi Semen augments pentobarbital-induced sleeping behaviors through the modification of GABA-ergic systems.’ In Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 30 (9), pp.1748–53. Rodriguez Villanueva, Javier; Rodriguez Villanueva, Laura (2017): ‘Experimental and clinical pharmacology of Ziziphus jujuba Mill.’ In Phytotherapy Research : PTR 31 (3), pp.347–65. DOI: 10.1002/ptr.5759.

California poppy
Hanus, Michel; Lafon, Jacqueline; Mathieu, Marc (2004): ‘Double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a fixed combination containing two plant extracts (Crataegus oxyacantha and Eschscholtzia [sic] californica) and magnesium in mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders.’ In Current Medical Research and Opinion 20 (1), pp.63–71. DOI: 10.1185/030079903125002603. Rolland, A.; Fleurentin, J.; Lanhers, M.C.; Misslin, R.; Mortier, F. (2001): ‘Neurophysiological effects of an extract of Eschscholzia californica Cham. (Papaveraceae).’ In Phytotherapy Research : PTR 15 (5), pp.377–81.

Wild cherry
Garrido, M.; González-Gómez, D.; Lozano, M.; Barriga, C.; Paredes, S. D.; Rodriguez, A. B. (2013): ‘A Jerte valley cherry product provides beneficial effects on sleep quality. Influence on aging.’ In The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging 17 (6), pp.553–60. DOI: 10.1007/s12603-013-0029-4. Howatson, Glyn; Bell, Phillip G.; Tallent, Jamie; Middleton, Benita; McHugh, Malachy P.; Ellis, Jason (2012): ‘Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality.’ In European Journal of Nutrition 51 (8), pp.909–16. DOI: 10.1007/s00394-011-0263-7.

Vervain
Khan, Abdul Waheed; Khan, Arif-Ullah; Ahmed, Touqeer (2016): ‘Anticonvulsant, anxiolytic, and sedative activities of Verbena officinalis.’ In Frontiers in Pharmacology 7, p.499. DOI: 10.3389/fphar.2016.00499.

Exercises
Archontogeorgis, K.; Nena, E.; Papanas, N.; Zissimopoulos, A.; Voulgaris, A.; Xanthoudaki, M. et al. (2017): ‘Vitamin D levels in middle-aged patients with obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome.’ In Current Vascular Pharmacology. DOI: 10.2174/1570161115666170529085708. Wang, Fang; Eun-Kyoung Lee, Othelia; Feng, Fan; Vitiello, Michael V.; Wang, Weidong; Benson, Herbert et al. (2016): ‘The effect of meditative movement on sleep quality: A systematic review.’ In Sleep Medicine Reviews 30, pp.43–52. DOI: 10.1016/j.smrv.2015.12.001.