Natural Study Aides Keep You Alert for Finals
by Chris Holmes


Midterms are finally over, but thanks to the quarter system, finals are quickly approaching. Before you start popping Adderalls to help you cram, try these natural (and legal) alternatives to get the most out of your study sessions.

Exercise. Besides the obvious physical benefits, exercising as little as two hours a week can help improve blood circulation throughout the body and brain. In fact, a long-term exercising habit can actually lead to the creation of new neurons in the brain.

Use Gingko Biloba. Gingko is a natural extract that comes from the oldest species of trees in the world. For centuries, the Chinese have used it to enhance concentration and focus. Available in a tablet form, Gingko Biloba starts working immediately and usually lasts for three hours, keeping you focused and improving your memory. The pill, which is available wherever vitamins are sold, offers a natural, legal, and most importantly, cheap alternative to shelling out $20 a pill for some Dexedrine.

Chew Gum. Chewing gum has been shown to stimulate the brain’s hippocampus, which is directly involved in memory functions. Gum chewing also increases your heart rate, bringing more oxygen to your brain and improving intellectual processing.

Study With Scents. Our sense of smell is strongly linked to memory, which is why certain scents can sometimes evoke memories of the last time we smelled them. While studying, try wearing a distinctive perfume or cologne that you haven’t smelled before. During the exam, wear the same perfume. You might notice that your brain is better able to recall information from your study session this way.

Some minty scents, such as peppermint and menthol, also stimulate memory and focus. Next time you’re in the library, try sniffing some toothpaste, or wear a little Vick’s Vapor Rub. Of course, you’re bound to get some strange looks, but at least you’ll be able to study better.

Listen To Classical Music. While you might not enjoy Beethoven on your own time, classical music has been linked to improvements in concentration and focus, especially in the areas of math and writing. Try clearing out your iPod and loading it up with Mozart and Bach to help you study.

Laugh.  If you find that the stress of exams is actually preventing you from focusing, try watching a funny TV show and letting yourself laugh. Laughter releases endorphins in the brain and reduces stress, allowing you to ease up and hit the books with a positive mindset.

Nap. If you’re feeling a little tired, don’t fight the urge to sleep! Take a quick 15-minute nap. Your brain will actually be able to learn better once you’ve just woken up than before you slept. Try sleeping in an uncomfortable position, like with your head on a desk. Lying down in a comfortable bed will cause you to go into REM sleep, which can be difficult to fully wake up from.

Use A Yellow Highlighter. According to, the color yellow has been shown to improve memory by stimulating your brain and allowing you to focus better. Trying using a yellow highlighter when you’re studying; you might be surprised to find that you can better recall facts and information when you’re taking the exam. In contrast, stay away from green highlighters. The color green has the opposite effect, relaxing your brain and making you more prone to doze off.

So before you splurge on Ritalin, try using these natural study aids to help keep you alert and focused while in the library. You can use the money saved to reward yourself for doing so well on that final.