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Can’t Focus? Try These 6 Chinese Herbs To Support Cognitive Function

Can’t pay attention for very long? You’re certainly not alone. In fact, a 2015 study conducted by Microsoft revealed that the average attention span was, at the time, just 8 seconds—one second shorter than the average attention span of a goldfish!

The situation may be even worse today. Consider that from February 2020, to May 2020, Internet searches for “how to get your brain to focus,” “how to focus better,” and “how to increase focus” increased 300%, 110% and 60%, respectively. 

Over 2000 years ago, sages of the Orient recorded the substances in their natural environment that supported mental acuity. Of course, back then, nobody was staring at screens. But that doesn’t mean ancient Chinese didn’t experience sharp declines in cognitive function.

We took a look at contemporary research studies that highlight some legendary Chinese herbs for cognitive function. Here’s our list of the top 6 botanical ingredients for focus and concentration.

Senega Root

Internet searches for “how to get your brain to focus,” “how to focus better,” and “how to increase focus” increased 300%, 110% and 60%, respectively.

Otherwise known as Yuan Zhi (Radix Polygalae), Chinese senega root calms the spirit and promotes cognition. It’s considered by some herbalists to be both an adaptogenic herb and a nootropic substance. Adaptogens exert a non-specific response to stress and regulate the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.

In other words, adaptogens may support brain health by normalizing the body’s response to stressors. Nootropics are substances (which can be natural or synthetic; Yuan Zhi is natural) that may exert a positive impact on mental function. 

Considered a fundamental herb in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Yuan Zhi in one research study promoted the growth of neuronal precursor cells, HiB5. Moreover, Yuan Zhi also possesses antioxidant effects in the brain. In TCM applications, the herb is used to strengthen the will. 

Sweetflag Rhizome

In China, this herb is known as Shi Chang Pu (Rhizoma Acori tatarinowii), and is used traditionally to resuscitate and calm the mind. Sweetflag was shown in one study to modulate neural progenitor cells (NPC), which assist in the regeneration of degenerated cells. In China, traditional doctors make a “smart soup” out of Shi Chang Pu herb. 

Biota Seed

Known in TCM as Bai Zi Ren (Semen Platycladi), Biota seed is traditionally used as a spirit tonic. In The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica, a classic book of TCM theory, it is said that evergreens such as those from which the biota seed is derived, “Receives the resoluteness of heaven and earth and remains unchanging; it goes through winter retaining its green lushness and thus can pacify the Heart Spirit and contain the Heart Qi. Its steadfastness also makes it impervious to invasion by evil Qi’s floating fire.” 

What does this mean for cognitive support? By supporting circadian rhythms, which, in turn, support your sleep, Biota seed may support memory and cognition. Researchers aren’t exactly sure how biota seed works for brain health, however, what is clear is that it has demonstrated the ability to positively affect learning and memory processes in the central nervous system.

—> Senega Root, Sweetflag and Biota Seed are just three out of the 10 herbs in our cognitive-support formula BrainNew.


The main active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. Recent studies have shown that curcumin has a role in enhancing hippocampal cellular proliferation and improving cognitive abilities in aged mice. A specific breed of rats (Sprague-Dawley) showed an increase in many neural development genes  in both the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus after being supplemented with curcumin for 6 and 12 weeks. 

In another study, stressed rats fed curcumin increased neurogenesis, via increasing the protein and mRNA levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). The stressed rats were fed curcumin for 21 days, and were found to have increased upregulation of p-CREB and BDNF levels, which protects from chronic stress-induced damage to hippocampal and frontal cortical neurons. 


Ginseng has been rigorously studied, for among other benefits, its effects on cognitive function. The “king of all herbs,” ginseng’s main active constituent is ginsenosides. The ginsenoside, Rg1, was found to enhance neural proliferation in adult male mice. In addition, Rg1, has demonstrated the ability to increase cell proliferation in cultured neural stem cells (neurospheres). The ginsenoside may also enhance the survival rate in hippocampal cells that act like stem cells (progenitor cells).  

Rhodiola Rosea

Among its many purported health benefits, when it comes to supporting cognition, rhodiola may help improve coronary blood flow, studies show. 

Conclusion: Herbs For Focus & Concentration

Our apologies for the dull scientific explanation. But it’s important to specifically document how research supports Chinese herbs for cognitive function. Certainly, more research is needed to confirm these effects. 

The good news is that if you want to try any of these herbs for focus and concentration, they are available in single-herb extract granules. Extract granules are super easy to use. You simply add a scoop (scooper provided) to hot water and drink as an instant hot tea. 

What do you take to boost your focus and concentration? Leave a comment below.

Suggested Reading From The Blog:

May Chinese Herbs Help With Brain Function?

Licorice Root: Candy For The West, Legendary “Guide Herb” In The Orient

This is the King of All Herbs in Chinese Medicine