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Published on 11/22/2020 additional information available

Coffee Alternative Boosts Mental Focus


Sometimes you need a way to clear afternoon brain fog.

Coffee can do the trick, but for many people, drinking coffee later in the day can interfere with sleep, upset the stomach, lead to a jittery feeling, and result in a later "crash."

There is an herbal alternative.

Scientists have identified a unique spearmint extract that, like coffee, helps the brain focus.

It even boosts short-term working memory. But it's stimulant-free and won't cause any of coffee's common side effects.

Available in a convenient, instant spearmint tea, this extract contains high levels of phenolics, health-promoting compounds found in plants, particularly rosmarinic acid.

And this spearmint extract goes beyond offering a mental boost.

A recent, clinical study demonstrated that it also enhances the ability to quickly initiate unplanned changes in direction or speed. This can help performance during exercise or sports, and lead to fewer falls in the elderly.

Staying Mentally Sharp

A majority of Americans are very concerned about staying mentally sharp. While many turn to coffee for a daily boost in focus, attention, and concentration, almost two-thirds of consumers report that they are trying to limit their caffeine intake.

In fact, a whopping 64% of men and women in the U.S., and 74% of those over 55, drink coffee daily, in part for the short-term increase in focus it provides.

Researchers recognized the need for a drink that enhances mental focus as quickly as coffee, while being free of caffeine and other stimulants.

Role of Memory in Mental Focus

Working memory is the part of short-term memory that stores information and allows it to be used even while you're engaged in another mental task. It plays a crucial role in other cognitive abilities that include problem solving and decision making.

If your working memory isn't in top shape, that will make it harder to focus and concentrate.

Role of Memory in Mental Focus

Add to this the fact that working memory declines about 10% per decade after age 40, and even faster after age 70.

Nutrients that boost working memory can play a crucial role in being able to focus and concentrate, especially with increasing age.

Also important to cognitive function is spatial working memory. That's the ability to recall where items are arranged in space, such as the layout of your home or how to get around town.

Researchers investigated many options, and ultimately found that spearmint extract targets all these areas of mental focus and concentration.

Supporting Mental Focus

Scientists have demonstrated in various studies that spearmint extract enhances the underlying elements of mental focus. It can:

  • Boost alertness, mood, and vigor,
  • Improve working memory and spatial working memory,
  • Improve one's ability to get to sleep at night, and
  • In animals, promote the creation of new brain neurons, protect existing neurons, and boost neurotransmitter levels.

A recent study found that spearmint extract also boosts reactive agility, the ability to react rapidly when quick, sudden changes in direction or speed are needed. This type of agility can help prevent falls in the elderly and improve participants' sports and exercise performance.

Spearmint extract's effects for cognitive support have been verified in a range of studies.

Attention, Concentration, and Brain Function

Scientists found that just a single 900 mg dose of spearmint extract led to significant improvements in attention and concentration in human subjects in as little as 2.25 hours. With longer-term use, over 30 days, they continued to show these same cognitive benefits.

In one study, 11 healthy adults who were experiencing typical age-related problems with memory took 900 mg of spearmint extract with breakfast for 30 days. The volunteers were given a battery of computerized cognition tests one hour before taking the initial dose. These tests were repeated after four hours, and again after 30 days.

Four hours after the first dose of spearmint extract, average scores showed:

  • 46% improvement on a task requiring attention and concentration,
  • 121% improvement on a second task requiring attention and concentration, and
  • 39% boost in planning ability.

Thirty days after the initial dose, average scores demonstrated:

  • 35% improvement on a test of reasoning,
  • 125% improvement on a test of attention and concentration, and
  • 48% boost in planning ability.

These findings show that supplementation with spearmint extract has both immediate and longer-term benefits for cognitive function.

Next, scientists investigated this extract's effects on a healthy, young, and active population. In a double-blind study, 142 healthy, recreationally active men and women were enlisted, who took either 900 mg of a proprietary spearmint extract each day for 90 days, or a placebo.

Improvements in sustained attention were measured at day 30 and day 90. Scores on cognitive tests requiring complex attention were improved at day seven. Response times for correct answers were also faster.

The study authors concluded that this spearmint extract enhances attention and "improves cognitive performance in a young, active population."

Improvement in Working and Spatial Working Memory

Turning to effects on memory, scientists enlisted 90 people, averaging 59.4 years of age, who had age-associated memory impairment.

Participants in this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study took either 900 mg or 600 mg of spearmint extract or a placebo every day at breakfast for 90 days. The extract was standardized to contain 24% total phenolics and 14.5% rosmarinic acid, one of spearmint's brain-protecting components.

After 90 days, the 900 mg of extract led to an improvement in working memory of approximately 15% and a 9% improvement in spatial working memory, compared to the placebo.

This suggests, "that this extract could improve working memory equivalent to that which may have diminished over a decade of life," the study's authors wrote.

What You Need to Know

  • Phenolic compounds in spearmint extract have been shown in human studies to significantly improve focus and attention, as well as concentration, plus working memory and ability to get to sleep at night.
  • Preliminary data suggest that spearmint phenolics like rosmarinic acid promote the creation of new brain cells and protect existing neurons.
  • Recent research on humans shows that spearmint extract also improves reactive agility, the ability to rapidly respond physically.
  • Spearmint extract does all this without caffeine or other stimulants, making it a natural and healthy alternative to coffee.
  • A spearmint extract delivering high phenolic levels, especially of rosmarinic acid, is now available in an instant, sugar-free spearmint herbal tea. It comes in one-cup, convenient grab-and-go packets for a quick boost in cognitive performance.

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