Nootropics are natural supplements or drugs that have a beneficial effect on brain function in healthy people.
These can boost memory, motivation, creativity, alertness, and cognitive function. Nootropics may also reduce age-related declines in brain function.
Here are the 10 best nootropic supplements to boost your brain function.
1. Fish oils
Fish oil supplements are a rich source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), two omega-3 fatty acids.
These fatty acids have been linked with many health benefits, including improved brain health.
DHA plays a vital role in maintaining the structure and function of your brain. It accounts for around 25% of the total fat and 90% of the omega-3 fat in your brain cells.
The other omega-3 fatty acid in fish oil, EPA, has anti-inflammatory effects that may protect the brain against damage and aging.
Taking DHA supplements has been linked with improved thinking skills, memory, and reaction times in healthy people with low DHA intakes. It has also benefitted people experiencing a mild decline in brain function.
Unlike DHA, EPA isn’t always linked with improved brain function. However, in people with depression, it has been associated with benefits like improved mood.
Taking fish oil, which contains both these fats, has been shown to help reduce the decline in brain function associated with aging.
However, evidence for fish oil’s preservative effects on brain health is mixed.
Overall, the best way to get the recommended omega-3 fatty acids is by eating two portions of oily fish per week.
Taking a supplement could be beneficial if you can’t manage this. You can find many supplements online.
More research is required to determine how much and what ratios of EPA and DHA are beneficial. But taking 1 gram daily of combined DHA and EPA is generally recommended to maintain brain health.
Summary: If you don’t eat the recommended amount of oily fish, consider taking a fish oil supplement to help promote good brain health and healthy brain aging.
Resveratrol is an antioxidant that occurs naturally in the skin of purple and red fruits like grapes, raspberries, and blueberries. It’s also found in red wine, chocolate, and peanuts.
It’s been suggested that taking resveratrol supplements could prevent the deterioration of the hippocampus, an essential part of the brain associated with memory.
If this is true, this treatment could slow down the decline in brain function you experience as you get older.
Animal studies have also shown that resveratrol can improve memory and brain function.
Additionally, one study on a small group of healthy older adults found that taking 200 mg of resveratrol daily for 26 weeks improved memory.
However, there currently aren’t enough human studies to be sure of resveratrol’s effects.
If you’re interested in trying it, you can find supplements in stores and online.
Summary: In animals, resveratrol supplements have improved memory and brain function. It’s not yet clear if the treatment has the same effects on people.
Creatine is a natural substance that plays a vital role in energy metabolism. It’s found naturally in the body, primarily in muscles and in smaller amounts in the brain.
Although it’s a popular supplement, you can find it in some foods and animal products like meat, fish, and eggs.
Interestingly, creatine supplements can improve memory and thinking skills in people who don’t eat meat.
Caffeine is a natural stimulant most commonly found in tea, coffee, and dark chocolate.
Although it’s possible to take it as a supplement, there isn’t any need when you can get it from these sources.
It stimulates the brain and central nervous system, making you feel less tired and more alert.
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Studies have shown that caffeine can energize you and improve your memory, reaction times, and general brain function.
The amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee varies, but generally, it’s 50–400 mg.
Single doses of around 200–400 mg daily are considered safe enough to benefit health.
However, taking too much caffeine can be counterproductive and has been linked with side effects such as anxiety, nausea, and trouble sleeping.
Summary: Caffeine is a natural stimulant that can improve your brain function and make you feel more energized and alert.
Phosphatidylserine is a type of fat compound called a phospholipid, which can be found in your brain.
It’s been suggested that taking phosphatidylserine supplements could help preserve brain health.
You can easily buy these supplements online.
Studies have shown that taking 100 mg of phosphatidylserine thrice daily could help reduce age-related decline in brain function.
Additionally, healthy people who take phosphatidylserine supplements of up to 400 mg per day have been shown to have improved thinking skills and memory.
However, more extensive studies need to be conducted before its effects on brain function can be fully understood.
Summary: Phosphatidylserine supplements could improve your thinking skills and memory. They could also help combat the decline in brain function as you age. However, further study is needed.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is an amino acid produced naturally in your body. It plays a vital role in your metabolism, particularly in energy production.
Taking acetyl-L-carnitine supplements has been claimed to make you more alert, improve memory and slow down age-related memory loss.
These supplements can be found in vitamin stores or online.
Some animal studies have shown that acetyl-L-carnitine supplements can prevent age-related decline in brain function and increase learning capacity.
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In humans, studies have found that it may be a valuable supplement for slowing the decline in brain function due to age. It may also help improve brain function in people with mild dementia or Alzheimer’s.
However, there is no research to show it has a beneficial effect on otherwise healthy people who aren’t suffering from a loss of brain function.
Summary: Acetyl-L-carnitine could help treat a loss of brain function in the elderly and people with mental disorders such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. Its effects on healthy people are unknown.
7. Ginkgo biloba
Ginkgo biloba is an herbal supplement derived from the Ginkgo biloba tree. It’s an incredibly popular supplement many people take to boost their brain power, and it’s available in stores and online.
It’s thought to work by increasing blood flow to the brain and is claimed to improve brain functions like focus and memory.
Despite the widespread use of ginkgo biloba, studies investigating its effects have mixed results.
Some studies have found that taking ginkgo biloba supplements can help reduce age-related decline in brain function.
One study in healthy middle-aged people found that taking ginkgo biloba supplements helped improve memory and thinking skills.
However, not all studies have found these benefits.
Summary: Ginkgo biloba may help improve your short-term memory and thinking skills. It may also protect you from age-related decline in brain function. However, the results are inconsistent.
8. Bacopa monnieri
Bacopa monnieri is a medicine made from the herb Bacopa monnieri. It’s used in traditional medicine practices like Ayurveda for improving brain function.
It’s been shown to improve thinking skills and memory in healthy people and in elderly people suffering from a decline in brain function.
However, it’s worth noting that only repeated use of Bacopa monnieri has been shown to have this effect. People generally take about 300 mg daily, and it may take around four to six weeks for you to notice any results.
Studies of Bacopa monnieri also show that it may occasionally cause diarrhea and an upset stomach. Because of this, many people recommend taking this supplement with food.
Summary: Bacopa monnieri has been shown to improve memory and thinking skills in healthy people and in those with a decline in brain function.
9. Rhodiola rosea
Rhodiola rosea is a supplement derived from the herb Rhodiola rosea, often used in Chinese medicine to promote well-being and healthy brain function.
It’s thought to help improve mental processing by reducing fatigue.
People taking Rhodiola rosea have been shown to benefit from decreased fatigue and improved brain function.
However, results have been mixed.
A recent European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) review concluded that more research is required before scientists know if Rhodiola rosea can reduce tiredness and boost brain function.
Summary: Rhodiola rosea may help improve thinking skills by reducing fatigue. However, more research is needed before scientists can be sure of its effects.
10. S-Adenosyl methionine
S-Adenosyl methionine (SAMe) is a substance that occurs naturally in your body. It’s used in chemical reactions to make and break down essential compounds like proteins, fats, and hormones.
It may help enhance the effects of some antidepressants and reduce the decline in brain function seen in people with depression.
One study found that adding SAMe to the antidepressant prescription of people who had previously not responded to therapy improved their chances of remission by around 14%.
More recently, a study found that, in some instances, SAMe may be as effective as some types of antidepressant medications.
However, there is no evidence that this supplement benefits people who don’t have depression.
Summary: SAMe could help improve brain function in people with depression. There is no evidence it has this effect on healthy people.
Some of these supplements show real promise for improving and protecting brain health.
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However, note that many brain-boosting supplements are only effective for people who have a mental condition or are deficient in the supplemented nutrient.