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Life Extension Magazine

Broad-Spectrum Protection Against Brain Aging

By Arlan Myerson

Brain Regeneration
Brain Regeneration

One of the most important genes influenced by gastrodin is the gene that produces neuronal cell adhesion molecules.9 These molecules are essential to the process by which brain cells find their way to link up with others as synapses. One result of this activity is that new memories can form rather than be erased or forgotten.63 Gastrodin also increases the activator protein-1, a regulator of new protein formation which results in new neuron growth and improved memory.64

In addition, gastrodin switches on the “misfolded protein response,” a self-healing mechanism that recognizes and destroys the abnormal proteins involved in brain cell death in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases.65,66


Just as in patients being hooked up to the heart-lung machine during surgery, strokes involve rapid and catastrophic disruption of brain blood flow, an excess of excitatory brain activity, activation of destructive enzymes, and accumulation of inflammatory cytokines.46 Stroke-inflicted brain damage happens in an extremely short period of time and can provide important insights into brain aging.

Gastrodin’s unique ability to balance excitatory-to-inhibitory neurotransmitter levels makes it therapeutically valuable in strokes. Rats treated with gastrodin after an experimentally-induced stroke had an increase of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA by up to 34% as well as increases in the protective amino acid taurine by up to 14%.11,47

As a result, the animals given gastrodin had significantly smaller areas of brain damage and swelling; they also performed better on tests of memory and behavioral performance, compared with animals that had strokes but were not supplemented.48-50

Similarly, when brain cells in culture were exposed to low oxygen levels (similar to a stroke), they exhibited sharp rises in excitatory neurotransmitters. Pre-treatment with gastrodin prevented that rise, and the subsequent microscopic evidence of neurotoxicity.51

Gastrodin’s ability to promote neuroregeneration is especially important when a stroke happens. Once metabolized in the body, gastrodin boosts production of an enzyme that restores normal structure to brain proteins damaged during stroke.13 Experimental-induced strokes in animals given gastrodin were up to 55% smaller than in untreated animals.13 And pretreatment with gastrodin reduced the rate of cell death by apoptosis following stroke.52

Human studies have been performed in China using gastrodin in treatment of strokes, with great success. Given as an intravenous drug, gastrodin was effective in treating 97% of subjects with ischemic stroke (insufficient blood flow), compared with 74% who received conventional injections.53 And, in hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding into the brain), gastrodin improved absorption of blood and swelling in 89% of treated subjects, compared with 72% who received conventional medications.54


Gastrodin has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to prevent and treat seizures with impressive results. As a result, Western medicine is now seeking to exploit it as a source of antiepileptic drugs.55,56 Following brain injury or stroke, seizures are unfortunately a common and distressing occurrence. They are the clearest example of what happens when the brain’s excitatory neurotransmitters outweigh the inhibitory ones. Rapid and uncontrolled electrical activity are hallmarks of seizure activity typically spreading to both sides of the brain in the absence of adequate inhibitory action.

In a rat model of epilepsy, treatment with gastrodin significantly reduced the frequency and time to onset of seizures; at the same time it reduced brain markers of lipid peroxidation, a side effect of prolonged seizure activity that indicates destruction of brain cell membranes.56

Mainstream medicine treats acute seizures with GABA-like drugs that increase inhibitory brain activity (drugs such as lorazepam (Ativan®), for example). Gastrodin naturally raises calming GABA levels in brain cells by decreasing levels of GABA-breakdown enzymes. Gastrodin supplementation also lowered seizure-prone animals’ seizure severity scores.30



According to the National Institutes of Health, over 40 million adults in America suffer from anxiety disorder.57 Like seizures, anxiety is a direct result of an imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory brain cell activity, with excitatory stimuli being predominate. Drugs used to treat anxiety, therefore, are usually ones that mimic the calming, inhibitory effects of GABA, such as the benzodiazepines (Valium, oxazepam, and others.)

Gastrodin’s two major breakdown compounds, found in brain cells after ingestion of gastrodin, have been shown to have powerful anti-anxiety effects in mice.58 Unlike their drug counterparts, however, these gastrodin metabolites did not produce unwanted side effects such as sedation or muscle relaxant effects.

In a study involving 100 patients with neurotic anxiety, 100% of the patients showed improvement with gastrodin therapy.59 However, in the patient group treated with conventional medicine, 78% of the patients showed improvement. Beyond just improvement, 88% of those treated with gastrodin were clinically cured of anxiety while those taking conventional medicine showed a 32% cure rate.59

Migraine Headaches

The Gastrodia orchid from which we get gastrodin has been used for thousands of years in preventing and treating headaches in traditional Chinese medicine.60 Now, in a laboratory model of the biochemical effects of migraine headaches, gastrodin has been compared to two approved anti-migraine drugs, sumatriptan and flunarizine.60 Gastrodin, in a fashion similar to that of the prescription drugs, significantly reduced the expression and actions of proteins known to be involved in the pain response that occurs in migraine and other “vascular” headaches.60

Diabetic Neuropathy

Even outside of the brain, gastrodin shows strong evidence of its “nerve shielding” effects. This is evident in studies of gastrodin and painful diabetic neuropathy, a condition in which peripheral nerves become damaged by chronic exposure to high blood glucose levels. We’ve seen that gastrodin reduces insulin resistance and speeds clearance of glucose from blood, which can help prevent neuropathy.22

But gastrodin also seems to heal nerve fibers even after diabetic neuropathy develops. Diabetic rats exhibiting pain resulting from normally non-painful stimuli, such as light touch (allodynia) and excessive sensitivity to minor painful stimuli (hyperalgesia) showed improvement in their symptoms following gastrodin administration.61 In-depth studies revealed a decrease in the nerve cells’ excitability, precisely what we’d expect from the gastrodin compound capable of balancing out the excitatory-to-inhibitory signaling ratio in nerve cells.61 Human studies show an improvement in nerve conduction velocity and total curative rate in diabetics receiving gastrodin by injection as a drug, compared with a control group.62

Dosage Suggestions

A wide range of gastrodin doses have shown protective and supportive effects on neurovascular function, in particular in the context of neurovascular inflammation. One pre-clinical study using a well-validated model showed improved memory consolidation and retrieval in chemically impaired rats using a human equivalent dose of 50 mg daily. This 50 mg dose, when combined with nutrients that function via some of the same mechanisms as gastrodin may be sufficient to derive results in aging humans.34

Those seeking maximum benefit should consider adding 600 mg of gastrodin in divided doses (300 mg twice daily) for thirty days. After thirty days, 300 mg of gastrodin may be sufficient based upon the experience of gastrodin as an over-the-counter (OTC) pharmaceutical agent. As additional research continues on gastrodin, better clarification on optimal dosing for a wide range of neurovascular and neuro-inflammatory conditions should be available.


Every second, your brain is targeted by an onslaught of destructive events that cause it to age. Even so-called normal aging results in multiple damaging cascades of events that lead to memory loss, slowed learning reflexes, and can set one up for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Those who suffer a stroke, head injury, or undergo heart surgery can accumulate years’ worth of brain aging in a few short minutes.

In recent years, scientists have made significant advances in the understanding of the mechanisms of neuro-degeneration. They’ve even discovered silent brain-healing systems that lie latent, awaiting activation.

Gastrodin, derived from a traditional Chinese medicinal orchid, can activate dormant self-healing programs hidden in the depths of your brain.

Studies show that gastrodin fights brain aging at multiple levels, re-balancing neurotransmitters towards a calmer less overly active state, restoring brain blood flow to more youthful levels, and preventing memory loss and other cognitive changes.

The combination of these protective and self-healing effects may help slow “natural” brain aging while reducing risk for slow-onset disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. And, by similar mechanisms, gastrodin seems to slow or reverse damage done by acute events like strokes.

Gastrodin’s re-balancing act also offers promise to those suffering from seizures, migraine headaches, and even painful diabetic neuropathy.

Guarding one’s brain against daily wear and against potential catastrophes may now be possible with daily use of gastrodin.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.

Brain Fitness

Your brain is constantly changing—creating new neurons and increasing the functional connections among them, known as synapses and dendrites. The level at which it performs these functions determines your brain’s fitness, which is dependent on the inflow of nutrients and blood.

Physical exercise promotes brain blood flow67,68 and the production of blood vessels,69 brain cells,69-71 and beneficial brain proteins called neurotrophins.72,73 In these ways, exercise protects brain fitness and the capacity of a person to meet the various cognitive demands of life.

As a result, studies have repeatedly shown that older individuals who regularly participate in physical exercise are less likely to succumb to cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or Alzheimer’s disease.74-76

In a study of older adults diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, scientists found that 40 to 60 minutes of intensive aerobic exercise four days a week acted as a “potent [non-drug-induced] intervention that improves executive control processes for older women at high risk of cognitive decline.”77 Another study of 1,300 people by the Mayo Clinic concluded, “Any frequency of moderate exercise performed in midlife or late life was associated with [reduced odds] of MCI.”78

Like physical exercise, mental exercise—formal education, continuing to learn, being mentally engaged in life, and practicing cognitive skills—can help prevent cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.79-81 Mental exercise can also improve normally functioning minds.82

Studies show that brain fitness can be improved by various cognitive activities, such as chess, bridge, or more structured computer-based workouts.83 Scientists found that, compared to other computer-based activities, computerized brain-boosting exercises improved attention and memory in people over age 60.84,85 Other research showed that participants aged 65 and older who performed mental training for two-and-a-half hours weekly improved their memory, reasoning, and information-processing speed—within five weeks.86 And individuals who did crossword puzzles four days a week were found to have a 47% lower risk of dementia than those who did a crossword puzzle just once a week.87