Illustration of human brain being rubbed out by an eraser


You’re not alone. And it generally gets worse as we age. In fact, about 40% of people aged 65 or older have age associated memory impairment in the United States – but only 1% of them will progress to dementia each year.

Besides aging, many other factors can be responsible for common forgetfulness. Stress, anxiety, depression, being really busy, poor sleep and even medications cause forgetfulness.

Nevertheless, having a poor memory can be frustrating. Experts in the field recommend ways to improve memory such as:

  • Consuming less sugar
  • Maintaining a healthful weight
  • Meditation
  • Improving cognitive skills through crosswords, learning new language, etc.
  • Going to bed earlier
  • Exercising more frequently

There are also medicinal plants that help curb normal forgetfulness:

Ginkgo biloba – Heading the list and best known for improving memory is Ginkgo biloba, a species of tree native to China. Studies have been generally supportive of Ginkgo biloba’s high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Ginkgo biloba might also increase blood flow and play an important role in how the brain’s neurotransmitters operate.

Ginkgo biloba is commonly available as an oral tablet, extract, capsule or tea. However, keep in mind that Ginkgo biloba may lower blood sugar, so be cautious if you have diabetes or hypoglycemia or if you take other medications or herbs that also lower blood sugar. Also, due to the potential bleeding risk, don’t use ginkgo if you’re pregnant.

Cacao – There’s considerable confusion over cacao. But it all starts with the Theobroma cacao tree, a small evergreen native to South America that produces huge, football-shaped pods. Cut a ripe pod open and find about 60 cacao seeds (beans) surrounded by a sticky, sweet-tart white pulp.

These seeds are processed in different ways to make two different types of powder: cacao powder and cocoa powder. The cocoa powder finds its way into chocolate products. Cacao powder is more bitter, more natural and has greater nutritional value.

Cacao Beans are a source of flavonoids and numerous other compounds. Extensive scientific studies report that these cacao bean flavonoids may help improve memory. This is true for both types of powder, however, the more natural cacao powder is more frequently used by those looking for the greatest health benefits.

One excellent way to consume the cacao powder is to mix it into a fruit smoothie. Cacao powder can be found online or in health food stores.

Bacopa monnieri – Bacopa monnieri is a plant that grows in wet, marshy areas throughout South Asia. It’s used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including anxiety, insomnia and memory issues.

Bacopa monnieri is a concentrated source of triterpenoid saponins, which are known as bacosides and may have brain-function-boosting effects. One review of nine studies that included 518 people found that supplementing with around 300 mg of Bacopa monnieri extract daily improved brain function, especially the speed of information processing and reaction time.

While generally considered safe, Bacopa monnieri may cause side effects like digestive issues in some people and react with certain medications.

A typical commercially available regimen is 2 oral capsules (500 mg; herbal extract of Bacopa monnieri ratio, 10:1) twice a day with water after meals.