Arise the Brain Power
To protect neural tissue against oxidative stress damage, we need phytonutrients that not only potent in antioxidants but capable of passing through brain-blood barrier, an ability that can not be accomplished by every molecule. The spices below, can access brain tissues, packing plenty of healing power against free radicals and trigger other pathways for greater cognitive function and neural protection. Let’s take a closer look.
The following potent ingredients make up our (Arise Chai) Tea Blend with 3x more antioxidant rich spices.
Black tea contains caffeine (for our Arise Tea that is about 20mg per teabag; average cup of tea is about 40 mg per 235 mL cup) which has been extensively studied showing improvement in cognition. Caffeine in tea raises mental focus and concentration by promoting blood flow to the brain and interacting in several neurotransmission processes. First, caffeine competes with adenosine in the brain, binding to its receptors and increasing overall neural activity. Secondly, caffeine also promotes the release of other cognition and mood boosting neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, acetylcholine, serotonin, glutamate and GABA. Unlike drinks with higher caffeine doses (ie. coffee [90mg] and energy drinks [74 mg] per 235ml), caffeine in black tea is less likely to over-stimulate the heart and cause other unpleasant side effects.
Black tea reduces cortisol (stress hormone) levels which is linked to improved memory. It contains an amino acid called L-theanine that relaxes the brain creating better focus. Brain studies shown L-thanine producing a long lasting attention during extended or difficult tasks.  Caffeine and L-theanine in tea able to cross the BBB and work together to enhance cognition, focus and attention, while increasing psychological effects of mood, calmness and contentment.[14,15,55]
Cinnamon embodies the “power of spice” definition. Loaded with flavonoids (type of polyphenols) like eugenol, quercetin, epicatechin, cinnamtannin B1, cinnamaldehyde and elements like manganese, cinnamon showcases its might with the #3 spot on the ORAC (267,536) chart. These phytonutrients produce a sweet-like aroma that fight inflammation, diabetes, cancers, bacteria and neurodegenerative diseases. When free radicals attack lipids within cellular walls causing damage, they also produce a molecule called malondialdehyde (MDA), which has become a well known marker for oxidative stress, as its levels directly relate to tissue damage. Cinnamon metabolites are capable of crossing BBB and enter the brain where they fight oxidative stress reducing MDA levels, protecting neural tissues and improving internal antioxidants (glutathione (GSH)).[17,18]
There is a lot of research linking neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s to insulin resistance. Since the brain uses about 60-70% of total consumed glucose,  insulin is an important factor in managing all of that sugar distribution. Insulin is able to cross BBB and its resistance (or effectiveness) has been substantially documented to higher risk of Alzheimer’s. In fact the Alzheimer’s disease is often referred to by another name—Type 3 Diabetes. Cinnamon has been extensively shown to reduce numerous inflammation markers, insulin resistance and diabetic symptoms. In the brain, cinnamon’s polyphenols do the same thing. They improve insulin signalling resulting in better brain cell nourishment, sharper memory and cognition. Cinnamon metabolites also increase the removal of tau plaque proteins from brain tissue—another hallmark Alzheimer’s marker.
Besides insulin benefits, cinnamon metabolites decrease numerous inflammatory proteins and protect dopamine releasing neurons. This is important in Parkinson’s disease as cinnamon shown to reduce motor symptoms (movement and balance instability) associated with this brain disorder. Just by smelling or chewing cinnamon products can boost cognitive activity and improve response of memory tasks. Smelling this sweet fragrant spice builds motivation and performance while lessening anxiety related symptoms in ADHD children.
For over 5,000 years ginger has been used by traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines as a healing agent. With over 100 active ingredients (identified thus far) this fragrant rhizome is loaded with potent inflammation fighters that effectively neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammatory pathways in numerous diseases such as respiratory illness, indigestion, diabetes, cancers, arthritis and dementia. Ginger’s 10-gingerol and 6-shogaol are two mighty antioxidants which minimize many inflammatory compounds inside the brain, decrease neuro-inflammation and lower risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Ginger’s polyphenols protect against brain disorders by improving organ blood flow, safeguarding nerve cells and simultaneously refine memory even after an injury or a stroke. Just by eating ginger enhances focus, learning and speeds up the response times. Another powerful antioxidant of ginger is 6-gingerol which elevates learning and memory neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh). The exact mechanism is still work in progress but observation studies show ginger boosting levels of ACh and other neurotransmitters including norepinephrine, epinephrine, dopamine and serotonin within brain areas of memory, attention and mood.
This perennial belongs to the Zingiberaceae plant family which includes ginger and turmeric. Known as the “Queen of Spices” cardamom is usually third most expensive spice (after vanilla and saffron). It comes in two varieties and is most popular in Indian cuisine and traditional medicine. Rich in powerful polyphenols like pinene (both alpha and beta), myrcene, limonene, sabinene, 1,8-cineole, linalool, terpinolene, quercetin and methyl eugenol among many others, cardamom helps reduce stress, and advance brain function and cognition.
Cardamom’s phytonutrients increase levels of several neurotransmitters like acetylcholine (ACh) and brain-defined neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is vital to numerous performance skills including learning, short and long term memory (neural plasticity) as well as the growth of new neurons and overall brain development. In Alzheimer’s model, cardamom oils raise ACh and BDNF levels while protecting brain tissue against oxidative stress. This not only improves Alzheimer’s symptoms but also cognition and anti-anxiety effects.
Cardamom also has impressive micronutrient profile including high levels of thiamine (vitamin B1), vitamin C and manganese that fight oxidative stress, raise nerve communication, brain energy and cognitive ability in animals. Manganese boosts brain activity in hypothalamus and cortex regions, while speeding up recovery of affected neural pathways and reducing several Parkinson’s symptoms.
Cardamom’s anti-inflammatory properties relax the mind and lessen anxiety along other mood related disorders like PTSD. Quercetin is a flavonoid compound within cardamom believed to be responsible for such powerful effect. Research shown quercetin lowering anxiety and depression in small animals.
Cloves are nutrient superpowers that tip the ORAC scale at #1 spot (with 314,446) as the most potent antioxidant product. Cloves not only pack phytonutrient quantity but also possess well researched heavy-hitters including vitamins (A, C, E, K), manganese and flavonoids like quercetin, anthocyanin, and eugenol. Eugenol is a potent polyphenol that effectively reduces inflammation and shown to be 29 times stronger than aspirin when it comes to preventing blood clots. And cloves have highest levels of eugenol of any spice. Animal studies show cloves essential oils reducing inflammation, improving memory and learning.
Eugenol in clove oil can cross BBB into CNS. Inside the brain, ingredients like eugenol showcase their antioxidants prowess by neutralizing free radicals, protecting brain cells, elevating antioxidant enzymes and shrinking all oxidative stress markers. At the same time eugenol de-stresses the body and raises dopamine and serotonin levels (mood neurotransmitters). Higher concentrations of these transmitters link to lower risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Fennel seeds are filled with numerous protective ingredients like kaempferol, quercetin, anethole, vitamin C, B complex, iron, magnesium, manganese and potassium. Potassium is an electrolyte that’s needed for proper electrical messaging (production of action potential) throughout the body, including the brain. Fennel reverses amnesia in animals within days and shows great promise in neurodegenerative disease research.
Acetylcholine (ACh) is an important regulator within central (CNS) and peripheral (PNS) nervous systems. As a “jack of many traits” ACh is released in neuromuscular junctions to stimulate muscle contractions, while in the brain it modulates impulses responsible for attention, memory, motivation and arousal. Deterioration of ACh (as often seen with age) and its pathways decreases cognition and places us in a greater risk for brain diseases. Phytonutrients within fennel seeds protect brain tissues against oxidative damage and increase ACh levels that improve mental alertness, memory and response.
Other fennel antioxidants such as estragole interact with neural communications (action potential) as well as enzymes which remove floating neurotransmitters inside synapses. Though the exact process is still being worked on, estragole shown elevating levels of several neurotransmitters including norepinephrine, dopamine and GABA that progress memory, cognition and mood.
Known as the “King of Spices” this small fruit from a flowering vine Piper Nigrum contains many special polyphenols like piperine, pipene, camphere, limonene, numerous terpenes, meperidine, isoquercetin, and sarmentine to name a few. These bioactive compounds produce a multitude of anti-inflammatory responses within the brain and rest of the body. Piperine is the main active ingredient responsible for black pepper’s unique spicy taste and smell. Its antioxidant capacities neutralize free radicals, protect brain tissue against oxidative stress, and have been related with better memory and learning ability in dementia animals.
Piperine also enhances the mood by raising dopamine and serotonin levels. The two neurotransmitters are popular markers and treatments for depression, Parkinson’s and epilepsy. Piperine works by inhibiting (or slowing down) enzymes (like monoamine oxidase (MAO)) that break down neurotransmitters, thus increasing availability of dopamine and serotonin for use by neural cells. This makes black pepper a strong antidepressant agent, and as effective as common prescription drugs such as Prozac (fluoxetine). Through similar methods piperine elevates other neurotransmitters like acetylcholine and BDNF[63,69] resulting in greater memory, cognition and lower risk for Alzheimer’s and depression.
Another important ability of piperine is improving nutrient bioavailability—absorption of other beneficial compounds into the blood stream. It helps uptake of nutrients including vitamins B6, B12 and C, amino acids (tryptophan [precursor of serotonin] and phenylalanine [precursor of catecholamines like dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine]), minerals and many others. Piperine also boosts bioavailability of many powerful polyphenols, like curcumin which is poorly absorbed on its own. Piperine can to increase curcumin’s bioavailability by 154% in animals and a whooping 2000% in humans.
As the seeds of a parsley plant, coriander seeds have been used by our ancestors for over 6,500 years. This metabolic booster possesses a multitude of phytonutrients including its star ingredient linalool. With linalool as a major component, coriander seeds can calm the brain and reduce anxiety in animals as effectively as common anxiolytic drugs (such as Diazepam). Coriander has also been used as an ancient remedy against migraines and insomnia. Human trials confirm this by showing coriander’s mighty anti-inflammatory properties decreasing the duration, intensity and frequency of a migraine attack.
As we discussed, neurotransmitter levels are often associated with greater cognition, better communication and lower risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Linalool is another polyphenol with powerful neuro-protective properties. Like piperine, linalool increases acetylcholine (ACh) levels in the brain (by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase) improving memory and neural function while lowering risk of Alzheimer’s.