Need a mental tune-up before you meditate? You can invite nature’s subtle intelligence into your meditation practice with some of ayurveda’s mind-enhancing herbs. You may find that using these herbs will help you overcome the anxiety, lethargy, and chatter that can surface in the mind during meditation. As you consider the short list below (drawn from The Yoga of Herbs by ayurvedic experts David Frawley and Vasant Lad), choose the herb that offers you the benefits with the strongest appeal, and experiment with taking it daily. Later, you can try a combination herbal formula—herbs often have a synergistic effect when taken in concert.
The Sanskrit name brahmi is loosely translated in The Yoga of Herbs as that which “gives knowledge of Brahman, or Supreme Reality.” This herb promotes mental calm and clarity while improving memory and concentration. According to Frawley and Lad, “brahmi helps awaken the crown chakra and balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain.” Add 1/2 teaspoon of organic brahmi powder to a cup of hot water, then add honey to taste, and drink the tea just before your meditation practice.
For an anxious, agitated mind, jatamamsi can soothe your nerves. This Himalayan-native herb has similar calming properties to its relative valerian, but without the dulling effects. It’s also a powerful brain tonic and memory booster. Boil 1 teaspoon of jatamamsi in 1 cup of milk for five minutes and drink in the morning.
The Sanskrit name for hibiscus, japa, literally means “mantra repetition.” Frawley and Lad write that the delicate flowers of this plant “strengthen devotion in japa, help make mantras fruitful, and enhance attention in meditation.” Set 1/4 ounce of the organic flowers in 1 pint of cool water, and drink a cup of this refreshing summer tea to encourage devotion to your spiritual practice.
According to Frawley and Lad, shankha pushpi enhances overall intelligence and creativity by increasing circulation to the brain. The ancient treatise on ayurveda, the Cha-raka Samhita, reports that the herb promotes learning, memory, and recall, making it a favorable meditation aid. Prepare an infusion by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of the powdered organic herb in a cup of hot water.