Virtually everyone knows that as we age, our brain power declines. The result is loss of focus and mental sharpness, a reduced ability to concentrate on tasks for prolonged periods, and lower mental energy.
Other telltale signs of loss of brain function are more physical: decreased hand-eye coordination, loss of balance, loss of athletic ability, and, especially as we get older, loss of driving ability, which when we become seniors can translate into loss of freedom.
To combat this, we investigated brain supplements (also known as nootropics, brain boosters, and cognitive enhancers) and their ingredients to find which are most effective at slowing, halting, and even reversing mental decline.
Our research team spent over 400 hours reviewing clinical trials and expert opinion. Based on this data, they concluded these are the best 9 ingredients for achieving optimal brain health:
Citicoline. Citicoline does more to boost brain power than just about any other bioactive compound on the planet. Let’s count the ways: First, citicoline helps the brain generate electrical impulses. Second, it protects neurons from free radical damage. Third, citicoline helps your body make acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter. Fourth, by supporting mitochondria, citicoline boosts brain energy. Fifth, citicoline is used in the synthesis and maintenance of brain cell membranes. Sixth, it enhances the repair of brain cells and accelerates recovery from brain injury. And last but not least, citicoline improves cognitive performance, attention span, focus, and memory. Quite a compound!
Rhodiola Rosea extract (RR). If you can’t concentrate on a mental task for long periods, RR may be able to help. This herbal extract fights mental fatigue and stimulates brain activity, especially when you are tired or under stress. Other benefits of RR include improved memory, learning, and mental work capacity. In a clinical study published in the journal Phytomedicine, young, healthy physicians fatigued from working the night shift were given repeated low-dose treatments of RR extract. The results of the study suggested that RR can reduce general fatigue under certain stressful conditions.
L-Theanine. Like citicoline, the amino acid L-Theanine improves brain function in many ways. L-Theanine makes you calmer and more relaxed while reducing stress. By stimulating alpha waves, the amino acid enhances creativity and improves your mind’s ability to learn. It also protects neurons from damage which may help slow cognitive decline. In a study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, young participants who took a single 50 mg dose of L-Theanine showed improved attention and mental alertness.
L-Tyrosine. Neurotransmitters are bioactive molecules vital to the transmission of brain signals between neurons. Tyrosine is a naturally occurring amino acid used to make the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine. Stress depletes your body’s supply of tyrosine, preventing it from making more neurotransmitters. The solution is to take supplemental tyrosine, which the body can then use to restore norepinephrine and dopamine to healthy levels. Restoring normal levels of these vital brain chemicals improve multitasking ability, memory, and cognition.
Phosphatidylserine (PS). PS has multiple benefits in the human brain: It can improve memory, sharpen mental clarity, elevate mood, reduce anxiety, and slow age-related cognitive decline. Unfortunately, PS is depleted as we age, so you need to supplement to restore PS to healthy levels. In a study reported in the journal Clinical Intervention Aging, 30 elderly volunteers received 300 mg of PS daily for 12 weeks. Results showed significant improvement in memory, learning, and executive functions.
Bacopa Monnieri. Blood brings important nutrients as well as oxygen to the brain. The active ingredients in this herb, bacosides, have been shown to boost blood flow to the brain 29% in lab rats. The herb also is a potent antioxidant that helps to oxygenate the brain and defend it against damage from free radicals. Taking Bacopa Monnieri can help the brain improve retention of new information as well as increase the speed of information processing. Other benefits include greater capacity to handle stress, a reduction of anxiety and depression, and faster processing of visual information.
Vinpocetine. Oxygen deprivation kills brain cells rapidly. Vinpocetine is a vasodilator that increases the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain, helps the brain use oxygen more efficiently, and protects the brain from both dangerous free radicals and toxins. Fast-acting vinpocetine has been shown to improve memory in as little as two days. It also supports brain activity in the long term, helps the brain metabolize energy, and boosts serotonin and dopamine levels.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom. What makes Lion’s Mane so unique is its ability to stimulate the body’s production of nerve growth factor, which means it may help regenerate nerves better and faster. In an animal study published in Biomedical Research, lab mice fed Lion’s Mane Mushroom for 23 days showed that the mushroom prevented amyloid peptide-induced impairment of memory, indicating it may be useful in preventing cognitive dysfunction.
Huperzine A (HA). An alkaloid extracted from the Chinese herb Club moss, HA blocks the enzyme acetylcholinesterase – a harmful enzyme that degrades acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter that helps with learning and memory. HA also energizes brain cells, boosts nerve growth factor, and prolongs brain cell life. In a Chinese study, patients with the diagnosis of possible or probable Alzheimer’s Disease were given 400 micrograms of HA daily for 12 weeks. The researchers concluded that HA remarkably improved cognition, behavior, and mood in Alzheimer’s patients.
Our #1 Choice for Optimal Brain Health – Mind Lab Pro
Of the brain supplements we reviewed, our number one choice is Mind Lab Pro. It gives the best results in terms of improving mental alertness, memory, problem solving, and thinking overall – making you sharper and better focused. And, it is the only brain supplement to contain all 9 of the ingredients listed above, in dosages found to be effective in clinical trials.
You can read our review of Mind Lab Pro and the other top brain supplements on the market here: Top 3 Nootropics for Brain Performance.
1 Darbinyan V, Kteyan A, Panossian A, et al. 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. Phytomedicine 2000;7:365-371.
3 Clin Interv Aging. 2013; 8: 557–563.The effect of soybean-derived phosphatidylserine on cognitive performance in elderly with subjective memory complaints: a pilot study Yael Richter, Yael Herzog, Yael Lifshitz, Rami Hayun, and Sigalit Zchut
5 Zhonghua Yi Xue Za Zhi. 2002 Jul 25;82(14):941-4.[Clinical efficacy and safety of huperzine Alpha in treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer disease, a placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial].Zhang Z1, Wang X, Chen Q, Shu L, Wang J, Shan G.