Ever since childhood, the fall has felt like the real start of the new year to me. After the lazy days of summer it’s time to sharpen the pencils and get down to work. I always get a sense a rising energy, even as the evenings draw in.

In this busy and exciting season anything which supports concentration, sharpens the mind, and strengthens the memory helps, so I love to blend a hot tea with tasty damiana to energize, gingko and rosemary for memory, and skullcap to support calm focus. I add a little ginger, too, as it encourages healthy circulation so that plenty of oxygen gets to the brain.

When I was studying to become a clinical herbalist I drank this blend while I was preparing for my exams and then took a bottle of the cold tea into the exam room. I found that I associated the familiar taste and smell with my study time and it helped me stay calm and recall everything I had learned.

This is a good tea to enjoy in the morning as a flavorful replacement for coffee. The damiana delivers a caffeine-free wake-up boost and the combination of herbs quickly gets your brain firing on all cylinders.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon dried damiana leaf
  • 1 teaspoon gingko leaf
  • ½ teaspoon dried skullcap leaf
  • ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • ¼ teaspoon dried ginger or a chopped ½ inch piece of fresh ginger root.


  1. Simply place all the herbs in a warmed teapot.
  2. Pour over freshly boiled filtered water.
  3. Steep for 5-10 minutes then strain and enjoy. You can sweeten it with honey, but I love the taste as it is.

And why not harness the aromatherapeutic benefits of fresh herbs to get into the swing of studying? If you’re lucky enough to have rosemary growing nearby, children (and grown-ups!) can harness its memory-supporting powers by picking a little sprig on the way to school. Tucked into a pocket, it can be sniffed whenever they feel their attention slipping to provide a little extra focus.

This tea is safe for children aged over 8 or so in small quantities, though avoid it too close to bedtime, as it is a little stimulating. Gingko and rosemary have mild blood-thinning qualities, so talk to your doctor before using them if you’re on blood-thinning medication.

Writer Paula Grainger is a highly regarded British Medical Herbalist. After graduating with first class honors from The University Of Westminster, she created Lemon Balm, a popular Herbal Apothecary and Clinic in London’s Camden Town. She has worked with people of all ages using herbs to enhance their health and wellness and has a wealth of experience in communicating the power of plants through her workshops and writing. In 2011 she moved with her husband (the novelist Michael Marshall Smith) and their young son to Santa Cruz, California where, when she is not growing herbs or making herbal preparations, she continues to share her love and expertise of plant medicine with people on both sides of the Atlantic. Her first book INFUSE (co-written with Karen Sullivan) was published in Spring 2016.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.