Scientists delving into the study of ancient herbs and how they help the body have once again proven the old saying, “Everything old is new again.”
And that certainly applies to an Asian orchid that’s been in use longer than anyone can remember. In fact, a 2,000-year-old Chinese medicinal herbal monograph describes this herb as “top grade medicine.”
Back then, the herb was used to treat headaches, vertigo, spasms, epilepsy, convulsions, numbness, strokes, amnesia and joint pain.1
None of this ancient wisdom comes as a surprise to modern scientists in Asia who’ve reviewed the research and confirmed this orchid, called Gastrodiaelata, supports a strong, healthy memory.
The root of the Gastrodiaelata orchid contains a natural phytochemical called gastrodin, a potent antioxidant that can protect cells against damage from free radicals.
Passes Through the Blood Brain Barrier
Gastrodin’s brain benefits are possible because when you consume this herb, the molecule sails right through the blood-brain barrier, a protective cellular wall that keeps many toxins, chemicals, drugs and other substances carried in the blood from entering brain tissue.
That barrier-crossing ability allows gastrodin to interact up close and personally with the brain’s neurons, which, researchers believe, is probably key to some of the remedy’s neuroprotective powers.2
Once in the brain, lab tests demonstrate that gastrodin may be able to take actions that keep neurons (along with memory) from being destroyed during Alzheimer’s disease. However, the research here is very early and this has not yet been definitively proven in people.3
An important aspect of gastrodin’s possible protective effects for the brain is its anti-inflammatory action. Researchers suspect that immune cells called microglia that are supposed to help protect brain cells may, when Alzheimer’s starts, actually attack and destroy neurons when the brain becomes significantly inflamed.
But since gastrodin can rein in this inflammation and signal microglia to stop being overly aggressive, this biochemical action may keep the immune cells from causing irreversible harm.4
Another benefit of gastrodin, according to medical scientists, is its potential for helping the brain increase its blood supply. When conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes disrupt some of the blood flow to brain tissue, studies show that thinking and memory can slip.5
But lab tests demonstrate that gastrodin can help the brain actually grow new vessels – a process called angiogenesis that improves the brain’s supply of nutrients and oxygen conveyed by blood.6
In addition to that, gastrodin can help offset what’s called “vascular dysfunction.” This occurs when your arteries don’t open wide enough to allow blood to flow freely. That kind of problem cuts off nutrients and oxygen from brain tissue. Tests in Asia, however, indicate gastrodin can help improve the brain’s performance by restoring the blood vessels’ ability to expand and get more blood to neurons.7
New Help for Stroke Victims
Other studies show that gastrodin may help the brain recover from a stroke. This happens, according to some tests, because it can help the hippocampus – one of the brain’s most important memory centers – grow new neurons to replace those that have been damaged or destroyed when a stroke cuts off the brain’s blood supply.
In addition, the research shows that in the aftermath of a stroke gastrodin may activate what are called “signaling pathways” – complicated chemical changes in cells – that help support memory and the function of the brain’s neural networks.8
Even more exciting, additional research suggests that gastrodin works synergistically with our probiotic bacteria—the good bacteria—that live in our digestive tract.9
This is important because we know, as we’ve talked about in other articles in this newsletter, that science has proven a link between the health of your gut and the health of your brain. As additional research is published, I’ll keep you updated.
Meanwhile, gastrodin is available as a supplement. I haven’t tried it myself, but it may be worth a try. Especially if you’re suffering from frequent headaches or you’ve had a stroke.