Alternatively Speaking: Finding focus

Alternative medicine enthusiast Natalie Marx answers your questions: Any herbs that can help help me to concentrate?

April 16, 2012 14:37
Coping with stress

Stressed boy with head in books 370. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)


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Q. Dear Natalie, I am in my final year of law school and I am finding it hard to concentrate on my studying. Are there any herbs that can help with focusing the mind to concentrate?

A. Indeed there are some wonderful herbs which help improve our performance in tasks such as our mental concentration and focus. Both the Asian and American Ginseng are popular for their ability to improve energy and vitality especially with regard to mental focus. 

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Ginseng has been proven to improve thinking and learning levels. Many claim they have had fantastic results using ginseng for memory and when doing mental arithmetic. I recommend adults to take 200 mg of a standardized extract between 1 to 3 times per day.

There are a variety of essential oils which you can use whilst studying to help improve your mental performance and increase concentration. Try burning eucalyptus, peppermint, or rosemary as essential oils and you will find that they will provide mental stimulation. This stimulation process happens as the healing essences of the oil enter your limbic system, thereby producing vitality to the mind. You can use an oil burner as you study. 

Perhaps one of the most common and oldest natural cures for poor concentration is Gingko Biloba. Gingko is particularly known for its ability to improve cognitive function. I recommend a minimum dose of 240mg per day. For a more mild effect, you can find Gingko Biloba in many sports drinks and energy bars in any good health food store.

Many of my patients have found that not only their cognitive function, but also their mood has benefited from B vitamins. In 1996 a study made at Tufts University showed that those (males between the ages of 54 and 81) associated with a poorer memory had lower vitamin B12 and folate concentrations. Folic acid (vitamin B9) also aids in the production of red blood cells, thereby improving mental clarity. Finally, Coenzyme Q10 works to shield the nerves, speed up the metabolism and helps maintain mental health. Significant research is being made into using more Coenzyme Q10 in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.

Q. Shalom Natalie. Ever since I was made redundant (a few months ago) I have been experiencing panic attacks. Are there any natural alternatives you can offer to help? Thank you so much.


A. Many herbal supplements and vitamins can strengthen our immune systems, making our body’s stronger in times of stress. If you suffer from overwhelming panic attacks then the following herbs are specifically indicated and work to significantly reduce nervous excitability and mental over -activity.

- The root of the Kava Kava plant when diluted is commonly used to treat a combination of nervous disorders including panic attacks, insomnia and anxiety. The standard dose is 150 to 300 mg, one to three times per day. It's recommended not to take this herb for more than three months at a time.

- Valerian Root is usually taken as an aid for those battling with insomnia and when taken in high doses can help induce sleep. Therefore, I recommend taking it in lower doses for effective use against panic attacks. Valerian Root works to calm the racing mind and reduce nervous excitability. You can take Valerian Root as a tea as and when needed. 

- A less common but magical herb to consider is Lemon Balm. Used as a relaxant it calms nerves, reducing heart palpitations and even lowers blood pressure. You can take 300 to 500 mg, two-three times per day.

Lavender can be taken as a tea, spice or even inhaled as an essential oil. Lavender promotes relaxation by calming and soothing the nerves. Although I have not focused on nutrition to help relieve anxiety, it's important to mention that both Calcium and Magnesium are necessary in supporting the nervous system. They can be taken in supplement form and are found in all good health stores.

Q. Hi Natalie, I recently gave birth and have been suffering from postpartum depression; uncontrollable bouts of crying with no energy to see or speak with anyone. My family are beginning to get concerned. I do not like taking pills, therefore are there any aromatherapy oils that you can suggest that will help lift me from this depression?

A. Aromatherapy can be extremely effective at reducing postpartum depression. You can begin by enjoying a warm bath with a mix of four drops of jasmine, clary sage oil, ylang-ylang, or bergamot. As you soak in the bath for 15 to 20 minutes you will notice the essential oils begin to soothe your nerves and also uplift you.

For those days when you simply don’t have time to indulge with a bath, drop some of the essential oils onto a moist sponge and rub over your body, inhaling deeply whilst doing so. The same can be done by lighting scented candles around your home.

I have some new mothers who have placed aromatherapy sachets in their wardrobes and under their pillows at night. Other useful uplifting aromatherapy oils to note are sandalwood, lavender and citrus, each providing a calming yet positive effect. The essential oil Neroli is particularly noted for its rejuvenating and uplifting qualities. This flower from the orange tree has the ability to brighten both your mood and your home when used in an oil burner.

Why not treat yourself to an aromatherapy massage? The benefits of a massage for the mind and body are endless as it helps reduce tension in the body and peace of mind as you inhale the healing aromatherapy oils.

Someone Once Said: "He who enjoys good health is rich, though he knows it not." 
- Italian Proverb

This column is brought to you as general information only and unless stated otherwise is not medical advice nor is it based on medical experiments.

This column is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. For more information about specific problems, please contact a doctor.

Ask Natalie: If you have a health query and would like an alternative answer then email Natalie with your question at

Natalie runs a clinic both in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem offering a wide range of natural treatment. Healing is achieved using homeopathy, reflexology, massage, flower remedies and nutritional wisdom.

To make an appointment please email

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