The Best Supplements to Improve Brain Function

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Woman with good brain function

When the crunch is on and you have a big presentation or exam, your brain needs to perform at its best.

There are a lot of ways to improve your memory, concentration, and overall cognition but this article will focus on the best supplements for improving your brain function. And, best of all, these findings are backed up by research.

So without further ado here are the best brain supplements to improve your memory, mood, and boost your cognitive functioning:

1. Phosphatidylserine – Improve Concentration

Phosphatidylserine is a chemical found in high concentrations in the brain (1). Phosphatidylserine supplements were once made from cow brain but are now made from cabbage or soy.

Benefits associated with phosphatidylserine include improved thinking, memory, and concentration.

Phosphatidylserine is a popular supplement for students. It has also has a positive impact on children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (2).

It is recommended at 100 mg three times daily for 300 mg total of phosphatidylserine (3). Because of its fat solubility, phosphatidylserine does not combine well with fat blockers (4).

2. L-Theanine – Relax the Mind

L-Theanine actually alters brain wave patterns (5). The mental effect is described as similar to the effects of meditation according to research (6).

L-Theanine also improves memory recall, learning, and motivation (7). It also has some anti-anxiety properties (8).

In combination with caffeine, L-Theanine may help boost cognitive abilities. It is recommended patients take 100-200 mg of L-Theanine along with some caffeine for optimal impact (9).  Some patients have reported dizziness and headaches associated with taking this in combination with caffeine in large quantities (10).

The most well-known sources of L-Theanine are green tea and black tea, however, you would need many cups to get 100mg of L-Theanine.

3. Creatine – Boost Your Brain

Creatine is a popular supplement among bodybuilders and workout enthusiasts – and for good reason. It not only helps with increased muscle mass but also boosts memory and brain function.

The dosage amount of creatine differs per person and is best accomplished through a staggered loading process. To begin, take 0.3 grams per kilogram of body weight per day for 5–7 days, then follow with at least 0.03 g/kg/day either for three weeks (if cycling) or indefinitely (without additional loading phases) (11).

Pregnant women should avoid taking creatine due to the limited information about its impact on pregnancy (12).

4. Acetyl-L-Carnitine – Increase Energy

ALCAR, or Acetyl L-Carnitine, is an amino acid associated with increased levels of mental and physical energy (13).

It has shown efficacy in improving mentality clarity but also has anti-ageing properties as well as mood-boosting effects (14).

In addition, ALCAR is a powerful antioxidant, protecting your brain against environmental free radicals (15).

A dosage of 500 mg, either all at once or spread throughout the day, is recommended for adults (16). Side effects from taking ALCAR are rare and normally associated with extraordinarily large doses (17).

5. Ginkgo Biloba – An All-Time Favorite

One of the most long-used supplements in the world, ginkgo biloba is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to provide the brain with balanced brain chemistry and improved cerebral functioning (18).

It is one of the best-selling supplements in the world and has even had a positive impact on patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Aside from fish oil, gingko biloba is probably the most popular supplement consumed on the market today.

120-240 mg of gingko biloba should be enough to improve cognitive performance (19). Women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid taking gingko biloba (20).

6. Fish Oil – For Brain Power

Among the most popular brain supplements in the world, fish oil has a host of benefits for your body as well.

Fish oil is laden with DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid – an essential building block for your brain (21).

Usually found in cold water fatty fish, there are many fish oil supplements on the market that are perfect for boosting your cognitive function.

You can eat salmon or take a supplement, whichever is easier for you to access. People on blood-thinning medications, aspirin, warfarin or clopidogrel should exercise caution when using fish oil supplements (22).

250 mg of combined EPA and DHA is the recommended minimum dose according to research while doses of 500 mg of fish oil have also shown effectiveness in treating metabolic disorders and in boosting brain functioning (23).

7. Huperzine A – Better Memory

A small plant native to Asia, Huperzia Serrata has shown effectiveness for improving memory and circulation according to research (24).

It does this by boosting levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain (25). It also promotes cell regeneration and protects the brain from harmful environmental toxins (26).

To get Huperzia Serrata, one usually needs a supplement as the plant is native only to Asia. Huperzine A can be taken at 100 mcg twice daily for beneficial effects (27).

Patients receiving anticholinergic drugs, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, or cholinergic drugs should consult with their doctor before beginning a course of Huperzine A (28).

8. Citicoline – Healthy Brain Cells

A brain chemical located throughout your body, citicoline is one of the most powerful brain-boosting supplements available on the market today and works by helping your build healthy cell membranes (29).

The most effective dosage levels are between 1000-2000mg a day (30). Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid taking citicoline supplements (31).

9. Brahmi – An Ancient Brain Tonic

Used in the ancient healing science of Ayurveda for its supposed aid in memorizing religious texts, Brahmi (Bacopa Monnieri) has been used for the past 3000 years as a “brain tonic” to help improve memorization and learning (32).

Brahmi’s effective mechanism is that it increases cerebral blood flow, providing more oxygen, nutrients, and glucose to the brain so it can function more efficiently (33).

When compared to a pharmaceutical drug Modafinil and the more traditionally used ginseng, brahmi came out on top (34).

750-1500 mg of brahmi leaf in capsules or powder form should achieve the desired effect (35). Fatigue and dry mouth are associated with too much brahmi as well as some reports of diarrhea.

Pregnant women should be careful when taking brahmi (36).

10. Curcumin – Increase Serotonin and Dopamine

The main active compound in the spice turmeric, curcumin increases the brain’s levels of serotonin and dopamine which are associated with happiness and wellbeing (37).

Curcumin also improves memory in adults within one hour of ingestion according to research (38). A dosage of 80-500 mg of curcumin is associated with improved memory performance (39).

Some patients have reported dizziness, nausea, and diarrhea after taking too much curcumin, so be judicious in your supplementation (40).

Read Also: 10 Foods That Keep Your Brain Young 

Read Also: The Best Supplements to Improve Focus and Concentration

Photo: Ivan Kurmyshov

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