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    Q: What is memory retention and are there any natural remedies to improve it?

    Dr Juanito Ferreira Replies: Memory retention is the ability to store information. You can sit and be alert and attentive throughout the day but if you don’t retain that information, the time invested in learning becomes worthless.

    There are many factors that can influence memory retention. An important one is the ability to focus. Focusing can be inhibited by anxiety. Managing stress is so important as most of the time we can’t eliminate stress. In today’s modern age there are so many factors that can impact children at school, students and even business people.

    Diet is very important. It’s not only foods or additives that can impair memory or concentration but also the nutrients which we lack. And often because life is so fast-paced, we don’t always have optimal nutrition and the variety of foods that we require and healthy fats, from nuts and other plant fats. The brain functions on about 20 to 25% of glucose from the diet, and therefore if a child or an adult is not eating well, the brain can’t function.

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    Tips to enhance memory retention:

    • Management of stress
    • A very nutritious diet
    • Sleep is exceptionally important
    • The use of other nutritional supplements
    • Hydration and water intake.

    The do’s and don’ts for optimal brain development

    There are many tips and many factors. It’s very important to treat everyone as an individual. We can’t put people into boxes and label them. As a parent or a teacher, being closely involved with children, you want to be able to identify what their specific concern is and how they’re coping and managing it. Then you can optimise their strengths and support their weaknesses.

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    Anxiety is one of the biggest obstacles to cure in respect of learning. You want to be able to moderate that in the best way. Anxiety can be worse at different times of the day. Diet, again, comes into play. We want to make sure that our lunchboxes are devoid not only of processed foods but also of artificial flavourants because those are essentially chemical compounds that can also bind to different receptors within the nervous system. And that’s where we see that interplay can happen, and the result is a child or an adult who isn’t able to concentrate.

    Water intake is something we take very much for granted, but without being properly hydrated you actually cannot concentrate.


    You can use supplements acutely or chronically. Often it depends on how bad the person is feeling (e.g. completely exhausted), or their ability to take in information and hold onto it. It also depends on age. A younger business person (i.e. executive-type) will have different needs to an older person. Depending on the requirements, you would decide whether supplementation should be acute or chronic, how much is required, and if it needs to be combined with something else.

    Bacopa monnieri for anxiety

    A popular extract at the moment is Bacopa monnieri. It’s gaining popularity because of the increase in clinical data on how effectively it can function as a cognitive enhancer. The reason it’s ideal for a younger person is its safety profile. You can really make a significant impact in academic or work performance without a big side-effect profile. The way it works within the nervous system is to improve focus by keeping the patient calm, a good anxiolytic effect. This works on the processes within the brain and nervous system to support and facilitate learning and memory.

    Ideally with Bacopa you get more than you bargained for, in terms of anxiety and coping with stress. If there’s a deadline, you’re writing an assessment of some sort, or you just have to sit for a long day and have to take in a lot of information, Bacopa monnieri is going to support that and optimise your cognitive performance. We see in clinical data on Bacopa that it supports rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. And REM sleep is ideal for memory consolidation – the conversion of your short- to long- term memory.

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    Bacopa is also ideal for an executive or an adult who is very busy. We tend to get anxious when there’s so much to attend to but we can’t get it done. Bacopa could calm the person so that they can attend to that list. It’s especially helpful for an A-type personality.

    Gingko biloba and Panax ginseng

    Our nervous system – without our even realising it – is continuously working. Even passive work is sensory information coming in all the time. In the case of complete mental exhaustion and fatigue, you can consider a combination of Gingko biloba and Panax ginseng. The synergistic combination of Gingko biloba and Panax ginseng can make a difference by improving physical and mental energy for individuals who are completely fatigued and feel like they can’t go on because they’re just too tired to continue.

    Fortunately, you can combine these supplements. For example, take something like Gingko to start the day and improve energy. It will start working out of the system as the day progresses. Then take your Bacopa in the late afternoon/early evening because it’ll help you to wind down.

    Editors Note:  For more information on food for your child's brain and lunch box ideas, read Healthy and Hearty Lunch Box Ideas, Lunch box staples unpacked and Feed your Child’s Brain
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