What Supplements Help with Stress and Focus?

To stay on top of your game, you need to focus. But how do you keep your eye on the prize in a world filled with so many distractions? On top of that, stress is an inevitable part of life for most of us. No wonder we're walking around feeling frazzled!

While lack of focus and everyday stress might seem like two unrelated issues, a recent Life Extension survey of more than 2,100 customers found that they can be a vicious circle for many people, with 58% of respondents saying they have more trouble concentrating when they're stressed, and nearly half reporting that not being able to focus contributes to stress. Does this sound relatable?

Fortunately, there are two plant extracts that have been studied for their ability to help you maintain an even keel—and keep your eye on the prize. Spearmint extract has been shown in clinical trials to support aspects of mental cognition, such as working memory and attention. Additionally, many clinical trials show ashwagandha offers a wide range of benefits and helps balance the body's response to the stresses of day-to-day living. In fact, ashwagandha has become one of the most sought-after botanicals for stress management.

Ready to find your zen and sharpen your focus? Let's explore the benefits of these nutrients, which are available as a combination supplement called Ashwagandha Plus Calm and Focus.

What does it mean to "find your zen"?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "zen" as "a state of calm attentiveness in which one's actions are guided by intuition rather than by conscious effort." In other words, it's the opposite of over-thinking! The term has roots in a Japanese sect of Buddhism dating back to the fifth century, but in today's hectic world, achieving focus and not letting that ever-growing to-do list run the show are goals many of us have.

How ashwagandha manages stress

Ashwagandha, or Withania somnifera, may be one of the most popular herbal supplements in the 2000's, but did you know it has been used for thousands of years? It is an adaptogenic herb also known as a winter cherry.

All the mechanisms of how ashwagandha works to support our health are not yet fully understood yet by researchers, but one is that it reduces cortisol secretion, according to a 2023 review paper covering the various benefits of ashwagandha, including:

  • Reduction in perceived stress scale (PSS) scores

  • Improvements in cardiorespiratory endurance

  • Thyroid hormone support

  • Improvements in attention and working memory

Wondering if there is a specific ashwagandha extract to take for stress? Sensoril® is a clinically studied ashwagandha extract standardized to the active compounds known as withanolides that researchers believe are responsible for the cognitive and mood-supporting benefits it provides.

In a 60-day clinical trial, 130 adults with stress were randomized to 125 mg of Sensoril® once or twice daily, 250 mg of Sensoril® twice daily, or placebo. At 60 days, the ashwagandha groups experienced significant support for mood and stress, with the higher doses eliciting a greater response. The ashwagandha extract also helped balance biological markers of stress and encouraged a healthy balance of the stress-related hormones cortisol and DHEA.

What is spearmint?

Spearmint, or Mentha spicata, is a species of mint similar in taste to peppermint, or Mentha peperita. You probably know spearmint from your gum, mouthwash, or toothpaste, or maybe you enjoy it in food (chocolate mint ice cream, anyone?) or as an essential oil. And just as spearmint refreshes your breath and your taste buds, mint essential oils can lift your spirits after a long day. Spearmint also can give your mental powers a "pick-me-up" when standardized in supplement form. Spearmint has antioxidant properties, which can benefit your whole body.

How spearmint benefits your brain

When we say spearmint may have cognitive health benefits, we're really talking about how this herb may influence memory...and we're not referring to whether you remember the name of your high school crush! Instead, a specific extract of spearmint appears to support memory in two very practical and different ways:

  1. Staying on task

    : Spearmint supports your working memory, which is a part of your short-term memory that allows you to store information and manipulate it while working on another mental task. Controlled by the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, working memory helps maintain attention, focus, concentration and may enhance movement and reaction times.
  2. Knowing your way around

    : This type of mint also gives a boost to your spatial working memory, which is the ability to know where items are arranged in space, such as the layout of your house, remembering where you placed your keys in a room, or how to get around town.

Both working memory and spatial working memory are necessary for fully functioning cognitive ability...all the more reason to supplement to harness your full mental capacity!

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Caffeine for Focus: Pros and Cons

What's your go-to when you need to focus? Many people turn to caffeine, especially from coffee. While many studies indicate coffee can be beneficial to our health, it might not be the best option for everyone. One issue with stimulants, such as caffeinated coffee, is that they may interfere with sleep, especially if consumed later in the afternoon and evening. Other people may not tolerate caffeine well at all.

Will any type of spearmint help my memory?

Many people like to chew a piece of minty gum as they're hard at work…but unfortunately, no…not just any spearmint will do when it comes to memory support. The spearmint used in Ashwagandha Plus Calm and Focus is actually a trademarked herb (Neumentix™) with an innovative profile of over 50 beneficial phenolic compounds. One of these herbal compounds, or "phenols," is rosmarinic acid, which is also in the herb rosemary, and it has clinically studied benefits for your attention and focus.

To be fair, spearmint in other products and foods (including spearmint-flavored tea bags you'll find in the grocery store) also contains rosmarinic acid—but not at the same potency as a supplement. That's because this high-rosmarinic acid-containing spearmint extract has been standardized to ensure you'll receive a beneficial dosage of the active compounds found in spearmint.

Is there any proof that spearmint supports memory?

Yes, here are three examples of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies (one of the strongest types of research studies) demonstrating efficacy:

  • In 142 healthy, recreationally active individuals aged 18-50, taking 900 mg/day of spearmint extract over 90 days was shown to improve both attention and working memory. These were statistically significant improvements over placebo that indicated enhanced brain function, and the authors concluded spearmint is an efficacious nootropic. Meaning: yep, it works!
  • In 90 individuals aged 50-70, 900 mg/day of spearmint extract significantly improved working and spatial memory compared to placebo.
  • Among 142 healthy individuals aged 18-50 who received 900 mg of spearmint extract daily for 90 days, those receiving the extract displayed improved cognitive performance compared to placebo. The participants' reactive agility also improved—in other words, they were quicker to react and with greater accuracy in response to a stimulus.

What are other ways to enjoy spearmint?

While you'll get the most brain benefits from supplementing, that doesn't mean there aren't other perks from having more of this helpful herb in your life:

  • Essential oils

    : The scent can be invigorating, especially after a long day, and you can enjoy the aromatic scent by using a diffusor.
  • Fresh spearmint fruit salad

    : Add a fresh leaf of spearmint to your fruit salad to add complexity to an otherwise ordinary snack or dessert.
  • Have a spot of caffeine-free tea

    : Interesting fact: while spearmint is often enjoyed as a beverage and called a "tea," spearmint is not derived from Camellia sinensis, so it technically is not tea in the traditional sense.

What if I don't like the taste of spearmint?

Good news: Ashwagandha Plus Calm and Focus is flavorless! Of course, if you do love spearmint, you can take this supplement and enjoy spearmint tea or other dishes containing this refreshing mint.

Sensoril® is protected under US Patent No. 7,318,938 and is a registered trademark of Natreon, Inc.
Neumentix™ is a trademark of Kemin Industries, Inc.

About the Author: Holli Ryan is a food & nutrition expert, registered & licensed dietitian-nutritionist, health & wellness writer, blogger, and social media specialist. She graduated from Florida International University and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In her free time she enjoys photography, travel, cooking, art, music, and nature.

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