Don’t Have Enough Time? Here Are The Key Points
Fish Oil: Provides essential omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, crucial for brain health, memory, and faster reaction times
Resveratrol: An antioxidant found in red wine and dark chocolate, it has been shown to protect the brain against aging and degeneration
Ginkgo Biloba: An ancient Chinese herb known for improving cognitive function and memory by increasing blood flow to the brain
Rhodiola Rosea: Known for reducing stress and fatigue while improving cognitive function
Acetyl-L-Carnitine: an amino acid shown to improve cognitive function, memory, and attention span
Maintaining a healthy brain should be a priority for everyone, no matter their life stage. Unfortunately, our hectic lifestyles and poor diet choices can affect our cognitive function and leave us feeling foggy-headed and fatigued.
If you’re looking for a natural way to boost your brain power, you may want to consider incorporating some brain health supplements into your daily routine.
Brain health supplements, or nootropics, are designed to improve cognitive function by providing the brain with the nutrients it needs to function optimally.
Some of the most popular supplements to optimize brain function are detailed below.
Two of the most important nutrients for brain health are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) 1. While you have likely not heard of them by that name, I am sure you are familiar with Omega-3 fatty acids, which is what DHA and EPA are.
The best sources of these omega-3 fatty acids are fish oil supplements. DHA is essential for memory and faster reaction times 2.
DHA is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties 3, which can protect the brain against age-related decline 4. EPA plays a part in brain health by boosting mental health 5, especially depression 6.
EPA impacts brain function because depression is thought to reduce the size of the brain, especially the grey matter 7. Eating at least two portions of cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines to boost your brain health further every week 8.
Fish oil supplements come in capsules, usually taken once daily. You can get them in health food stores, supermarkets, and online. Some capsules can be quite large and difficult to swallow. If you have a fish allergy or are taking blood thinning medication, it is best to avoid fish oil supplements 9.
You’ve probably seen ads for resveratrol supplements that claim to “optimize your brain function,” but what does that mean?
Resveratrol is an anti-oxidant compound in red wine, dark chocolate, black and purple grapes. Because it has been shown to protect the brain against aging and protect the brain against degeneration 10, resveratrol supplements are becoming popular.
One study found that resveratrol improved cognitive function in rats with Alzheimer’s disease. It is particularly effective at protecting the hippocampus, the brain part responsible for learning and memory 11.
However, it’s important to note that the majority of studies into resveratrol with regard to brain health are carried out on animals, so it cannot be assumed that the same effects will be seen in humans.
Resveratrol comes in tablet or powder form. The powder can be added to smoothies. When buying resveratrol as a supplement, ensure it is the trans form rather than the cis form.
This is because the trans form is more stable and can be used more easily 12. Before taking resveratrol supplements, it is important to check with your doctor first.
They may interact with medication such as blood thinners, blood pressure drugs, anti-viral and anti-fungal treatments, and prescribed cancer drugs. Some supplements, such as garlic, should not be taken with resveratrol either 13.
Ginkgo biloba is an ancient Chinese herb used for centuries to treat various health conditions. Modern science has begun to explore the potential health benefits of this herb, particularly regarding brain function.
One of the most well-known benefits of ginkgo biloba is its ability to improve cognitive function and memory, thought to be due to the supplement increasing blood flow to the brain 14.
In a study of healthy male adults aged 60-70, those who took ginkgo biloba supplements for eight months performed better on memory tests, making fewer errors than those who did not take the supplement 15.
This strangely named supplement has also shown promising results in slowing down the progression of dementia in several studies 16.
In addition, taking the supplement alongside medication for Alzheimer’s disease has been found to increase the benefits of the medication and boost the functional abilities of the patients 17.
Another study showed that ginkgo biloba may help improve working memory in healthy male adults aged 50-61. The results of these studies suggest that ginkgo biloba could be a helpful supplement for people looking to improve their cognitive function and memory 18.
In addition to its cognitive benefits, ginkgo biloba has been shown to have potentially positive effects on mental health. 480mg Ginkgo biloba supplements taken for four weeks reduced anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder 19.
The recommended dose of ginkgo biloba is 120 to 240 mg per day. It is best to start with a lower dose and increase gradually as needed.
Be sure to purchase ginkgo biloba supplements from a reputable source and look for standardized products containing 24% flavone glycosides and 6% terpene lactones. These compounds are believed responsible for most of the herb’s health benefits 20.
Despite its many potential benefits, it is important to be aware of the possible side effects of ginkgo biloba before taking it as a supplement.
The most common side effects are mild and include stomach upset, headaches, and dizziness. Rarer side effects include bleeding and an increased risk of bruising.
Ginkgo biloba also interacts with blood thinners, diabetes medication, anti-depressants, medications for anxiety, and drugs that control seizures. Therefore, speak with a healthcare professional before taking this supplement 21.
Those with HIV should also not take ginkgo biloba as it interacts with HIV medication 20. Ginkgo biloba supplements are available as easy-to-take tablets.
Rhodiola rosea is a supplement made from the herb’s root that has been used medicinally for centuries. It’s known for reducing stress and fatigue while improving cognitive function 22.
Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogen that can help the body adapt, specifically to stress. For that reason, it can help reduce stress and stress-induced anxiety 23.
It has also improved brain function, memory, and learning. However, most of the studies in this area have been carried out on animals 24. Rhodiola rosea is available in supplement form in capsules or as a tea.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is a supplement that has various benefits for brain health and function 25.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is an amino acid naturally produced in the body, but levels decline with age. Supplementing with Acetyl-L-Carnitine has been shown to improve cognitive function, memory, and attention span.
It can also help reduce deterioration in people with mild dementia and Alzheimer’s. Side effects of acetyl-L-carnitine include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and digestive issues.
Strangely, it can also cause an odd, fishy bodily smell. This supplement has also been known to cause seizures in those who already suffer from them.
Acetyl-L-carnitine supplements should not be taken by those taking anti-biotics 26. Acetyl-L-carnitine is taken in capsule or powder form. The powder is best added to a milkshake or smoothie.
These are just a few different brain health supplements to optimize cognitive function.
Talk with your doctor/health care practitioner before adding new supplements to your daily routine. And remember, diet and exercise are still the best ways to keep your mind sharp as you age!
- Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: a review of the independent and shared effects of EPA, DPA and DHA https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4404917/
- DHA supplementation improved both memory and reaction time in healthy young adults: a randomized controlled trial https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/97/5/1134/4577127
- Dietary DHA and health: cognitive function ageing https://bit.ly/3RhDrV6
- Cognitive and cardiovascular benefits of docosahexaenoic acid in aging and cognitive decline https://bit.ly/3dJysiv
- EPA but not DHA appears to be responsible for the efficacy of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in depression: evidence from a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials https://www.omega3galil.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Epa-but-not-DHA-jULIAN-g-mARTINS.pdf
- Meta-analysis: Effects of Eicosapentaenoic Acid in Clinical Trials in Depression https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3534764/
- Physical Effects of Depression on the Brain https://www.webmd.com/depression/depression-physical-effects-brain
- ω-3 Fatty Acids in the Prevention of Cognitive Decline in Humans https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3823515/
- Pros and Cons: Fish Oil Supplements https://medshadow.org/pros-and-cons-fish-oil-supplements/
- Cognitive Performances Are Selectively Resveratrol Inhibits the Proliferation of Neural Progenitor Cells and Hippocampal Neurogenesis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3522260/
- Resveratrol Prevents Age-Related Memory and Mood Dysfunction with Increased Hippocampal Neurogenesis and Microvasculature, and Reduced Glial Activation https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4894403/
- Cis Resveratrol https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/chemistry/cis-resveratrol
- Resveratrol Supplements https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/resveratrol-supplements
- Effects of Ginkgo biloba on cerebral blood flow assessed by quantitative MR perfusion imaging: a pilot study https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21061003/
- Cognitive Performance, SPECT, and Blood Viscosity in Elderly Non-demented People Using Ginkgo Biloba https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1047.7171&rep=rep1&type=pdf
- Treatment of dementia and mild cognitive impairment with or without cerebrovascular disease: Expert consensus on the use of Ginkgo biloba extract, EGb 761 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/cns.13095
- Ginkgo Biloba for Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials https://bit.ly/3BRgsui
- Examining Brain-Cognition Effects of Ginkgo Biloba Extract: Brain Activation in the Left Temporal and Left Prefrontal Cortex in an Object Working Memory Task https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166615/
- Ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 in generalized anxiety disorder and adjustment disorder with anxious mood: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16808927/
- Current Perspectives on the Beneficial Role of Ginkgo biloba in Neurological and Cerebrovascular Disorders https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4640423/
- Ginkgo https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-ginkgo/art-20362032
- Rhodiola rosea in stress induced fatigue–a double blind cross-over study of a standardized extract SHR-5 with a repeated low-dose regimen on the mental performance of healthy physicians during night duty https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.324.7796&rep=rep1&type=pdf
- The Effects of Rhodiola rosea L. Extract on Anxiety, Stress, Cognition and Other Mood Symptoms https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Adrian-Banks/publication/283293609_The_Effects_of_Rhodiola_rosea_L_Extract_on_Anxiety_Stress_Cognition_and_Other_Mood_Symptoms/links/5b6c3119299bf14c6d97acfe/The-Effects-of-Rhodiola-rosea-L-Extract-on-Anxiety-Stress-Cognition-and-Other-Mood-Symptoms.pdf
- Rhodiola rosea L. Improves Learning and Memory Function: Preclinical Evidence and Possible Mechanisms https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6288277/
- Acetyl-L-carnitine improves aged brain function https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20590847/
- Carnitine https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Carnitine-HealthProfessional/