The most promising of all the memory spices is turmeric, one of nature’s potent healers. The more than 1 billion people who live in India have one of the lowest incidences of Alzheimer’s in the world, and some researchers link their healthy minds to the average 6 tablespoons of turmeric they consume daily. Long known for its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric protects the brain against oxidative damage that might contribute to the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s by thwarting the development of destructive brain plaques.
Tip: Curcumin is the leading compound found in turmeric, which in turn is a key ingredient in curry powder. Turmeric is extremely pungent, and actually gets stronger when cooked. If you’re a curry novice, use it sparingly at first.
Researchers found that rosemary, a powerful antioxidant, protects neurotransmitters in the brain and thus may play a role in the prevention of Alzheimer’s. Another study indicated that just the scent of rosemary was able to improve the memories of office workers.
Tip: Rosemary is used whole, chopped and ground. The taste is reminiscent of nutmeg and camphor with a woody aftertaste. Unlike many herbs, rosemary’s strong flavor is not diminished with cooking, so use with care. It’s extremely versatile and pairs well with lamb, pork, veal and chicken.
Technically a member of the mint family, sage shows signs of supporting cognitive function in those with healthy minds as well as those with serious forms of memory loss. This savory herb also appears to work in the same ways as some medicines used to treat dementia. In addition, studies indicate that sage helps the mind stay alert and calm.
Tip: Sage is a versatile herb that combines well with thyme, rosemary and basil. It is commonly used in stuffing mixtures for roast poultry. Place whole leaves underneath the skin of a chicken or turkey before roasting. They will show through the skin when the bird is finished cooking and make an elegant presentation.