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Got Brain Fog? Get Rid of it with These Natural Remedies

Brain fog may happen to you from time to time, but it doesn't have to be a regular occurrence. Eliminate it with these simple tips.

An Asian man looking confused, staring at his laptop in the living room

Familiar with feeling spaced out, zoning out or having brain fog? Although they sound different, these terms refer to the same condition where someone loses their mental clarity temporarily.

Most of us have experienced brain fog from time to time. Who hasn’t forgotten where they put their keys or walked into a room and can’t remember why? And those instances where you’ve lost your train of thought in a middle of a conversation? Pretty normal. 

Since it can happen occasionally and usually goes away on its own, brain fog is not considered serious. Even so, if it appears too often, it can affect a person’s work or daily activities. Moreover, in some cases, it can be a side effect of a more pressing condition that needs immediate attention.

What is brain fog and what causes it? Read on to learn more about the condition and how to treat it.

What is Brain Fog?

Brain fog is a term used to describe cognitive difficulties. Its range of symptoms includes: 

  • Poor concentration 
  • Feeling confused 
  • Slow thinking 
  • Fuzzy thoughts 
  • Forgetfulness 
  • Loss of words 
  • Mental fatigue 

It can impact your ability to make decisions, communicate clearly, multitask and pay attention to a task at hand. This absent-mindedness can put a toll on mental sharpness, leading to deteriorating work performance and affecting the way you feel about yourself.

Causes of Brain Fog

An Asian woman sitting on a grey sofa with her hand on her head
Brain fog can also be one of the symptoms of menopause.

Several neurological conditions and lifestyle habits have been known to stimulate brain fog, for example:

1. Lacking sleep

A 2017 study published in Nature magazine found that those who don’t have enough snooze time have sleep-like brain waves during their wakefulness, triggering impaired behavioural performance.

2. Hormonal changes

Brain fog can develop from conditions that influence hormones such as thyroid diseases, menopause and pregnancy. A 2021 study on pre-menopausal, peri-menopausal and post-menopausal women showed that their condition is linked to a dynamic neurological transition that significantly impacts their brain structure and connectivity.

3. Depression

Depression can reduce brain functions, from disrupting the working memory to interfering with the ability to focus and make rational decisions.

4. Medications

Certain medicines contain components that may impact the brain. For instance, a 2022 study by the University of Minnesota Medical School revealed that blood pressure drugs unexpectedly increase the effect of opioids that the brain naturally produces, resulting in fogginess.

5. Neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases

Brain fog is one of the symptoms of ageing-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Additionally, brain fog is also a sign of autoimmune diseases like lupus. Experts are still trying to find the mechanism, but it is thought that multiple factors cause brain fog in lupus patients.

6. Infections like COVID-19

Brain fog may occur as the body’s inflammatory response to infections. More recently, it manifests as a symptom of long COVID-19. A 2022 study by La Trobe University suggested that the amyloid clump, similar to what causes Alzheimer’s and dementia in the brains of COVID-19 survivors, may explain the appearance of brain fog.

7. Disruption of qi and blood circulation

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), when qi (passive energy) and blood circulation are disrupted, it can generate Dampness, Phlegm, Qi Stagnation and Blood Stasis in the meridian channels. Furthermore, it can also weaken the five vital organs (Liver, Heart, Spleen, Lungs and Kidneys) and induce a deficiency of qi, blood and yang (active energy). These factors can interrupt the distribution of nutrients to the brain.

How to Improve Brain Fog

Some natural herbs, concoctions and acupoints are believed to manage qi and blood circulation disruption, hence reducing brain fog:

Dried cordyceps in a bowl and on a table
Herbs like cordyceps can be used to improve your memory and learning abilities.

Cordyceps

A 2018 study by researchers at the College of Pharmacy, Beihua University, China indicated that cordyceps can improve memory and learning. The herb works by reducing free radical damage, preventing oxidative stress and protecting the nervous system.

Ginkgo biloba

Research has discovered that ginkgo biloba is effective in treating neurodegenerative diseases. Some ginkgo biloba products are combined with the essence of chicken, which has also been found to fight mental fatigue.

Herbal concoctions

It is mandatory to consult a TCM physician who can assess the source of brain fog before consuming one of these concoctions: 

  • Yi Qi Cong Ming Tang (益气聪明汤): Suitable for Spleen, Liver and Kidney Deficiencies. 
  • Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (补中益气汤): Suitable for Spleen Deficiency. 
  • Er Long Zuo Ci Wan (耳聋左慈丸): Suitable for Liver and Kidney Deficiencies. 
  • Tong Qiao Huo Xue Tang (通窍活血汤): Suitable for Qi Stagnation and Blood Stasis. 
  • Di Tan Tang (涤痰汤): Eases phlegm
  • Qiang Huo Sheng Shi Tang (羌活胜湿汤): Eliminates Dampness.

Qigong

Studies have found that the traditional exercise can regulate hormones and improve mental health.

One 2021 study noted that regular practice of Qigong provided people with neurocognitive benefits that could help slow cognitive decline and boost brainpower. In TCM, it ensures good circulation of qi (vital life force) and blood in the meridian channels.

Acupressure

Applying pressure on a number of acupoints can help relieve brain fog. Massage each point in a circular motion, both clockwise and anticlockwise, 20 times for three minutes.

To improve qi and blood circulation

  • Bai hui (DU20, 百会) 
  • Feng chi (GB20, 风池) 
  • Tai yang (EX-HN5, 太阳) 
  • Shui gou (DU26, 水沟) 
  • Jian jing (GB21, 肩井) 

To eliminate Dampness and Phlegm: 

  • Yin ling quan (SP9, 阴陵泉) 
  • Zu san li (ST36, 足三里) 
  • Feng long (ST40, 丰隆) 

Other acupoints to stimulate are

  • Dan zhong (RN17, 膻中)– To revitalise the Heart, dispel Stagnation and boost qi and blood circulation 
  • He gu (LI4, 合谷) – To eliminate Qi Stagnation and restore blood circulation 
  • Nei guan (PC6, 内关) – To reinvigorate the Heart, dissipate Blood Stasis and boost blood circulation to the brain 
  • San yin jiao (SP6, 三阴交): To rejuvenate Spleen qi, Liver Blood and Kidney Essence 
  • Tai chong (LR3, 太沖): To manage Liver Deficiency, Qi Stagnation and Blood Stasis, thus nourishing and boosting blood circulation to the brain 
  • Yong quan (KI1, 湧泉): To regenerate Kidney Essence and nourish the brain 

Although it’s common, brain fog can be annoying. Fortunately, there are methods to handle it. But if the condition is preventing you from living your life, speak to a doctor or TCM physician for advice on how to overcome it.  

Share this article with someone you know who experiences brain fog and would like to learn more about it. 

This is an adaptation of an article, “Bash Brain Fog and Improve Memory With These Easy Tips”, which first appeared on the All Things Health US website.

References

  1. NHS Inform. 2021. Long COVID: Brain fog [online].  [Accessed 21 June 2022]

 

  1. La Trobe University. 2022. Possible cause of long COVID ‘brain fog’ [online].  [Accessed 21 June 2022]

 

  1. Nature. 2017. Selective neuronal lapses precede human cognitive lapses following sleep deprivation [online].   [Accessed 21 June 2022]

 

  1. Nature. 2021. Menopause impacts human brain structure, connectivity, energy metabolism, and amyloid-beta deposition [online].  [Accessed 21 June 2022]

 

  1. Science Daily. 2022. Blood pressure medications impact brain function [online].  [Accessed 21 June 2022]

 

  1. Lupus Foundation of America. 2021. Lupus and brain fog [online].  [Accessed 21 June 2022]

 

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2018. Improvement of Learning and Memory Induced by Cordyceps Polypeptide Treatment and the Underlying Mechanism [online].  [Accessed 21 June 2022]

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