What Are Nootropics?
Nootropics are natural supplements or drugs that provide positive benefits to brain function in healthy individuals.
Many of these can boost memory, increase motivation, enhance creativity, encourage alertness and improve general brain function. Nootropics may also protect against age-related declines in cognitive function.
Here is a list of the 10 best nootropic supplements that help to boost your brain function.
Fish oil supplements are excellent sources of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which are two types of omega-3 fatty acids.
In particular, these fatty acids have been tied with many positive health benefits, such as improved brain health.
DHA plays a crucial role in preserving the integrity and function of the brain. As a matter of fact, it makes up about 25% of the total fat, and about 90% of the omega-3 fat found in the cells of the brain.
EPA, the other omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil, has anti-inflammatory properties that may help protect the brain from damage and aging.
In healthy individuals who have low DHA intake, the use of DHA supplements has been tied with improved thinking skills, memory and reaction times. It ‘s also benefited individuals experiencing a mild decline in cognitive function.
However, unlike DHA, EPA isn’t always associated with improved cognitive function. But in people with depression, it’s been linked with benefits like improved mood.
Using fish oil, which contains both of these types of fats, has been linked to helping reduce the decline in mental function associated with aging.
Even so, evidence demonstrating fish oil’s beneficial effects on the brain is mixed.
Generally speaking, the best method for getting the recommended amount of omega-3 fatty acids is to consume two portions of oily fish weekly.
If that’s not convenient for you, then using a supplement could be your best bet.
Further research is needed to find out how much and what percentage of EPA and DHA are best. But it’s generally recommended to take 1 gram of combined DHA and EPA per day to maintain brain health.
In Short: If you’re not getting the recommended amount of oily fish, look at using a fish oil supplement to help encourage good brain health and protecting the brain against aging.
Resveratrol is an antioxidant occurring naturally in the skin of purple and red fruits, such as grapes, blueberries, and raspberries. It can also be found in red wine, peanuts, and chocolate.
Research indicates that using resveratrol supplements could help preserve the function of the hippocampus, which is an important area of the brain associated with memory.
If that’s true, this supplement could protect against the decline in brain function experienced as a result of aging.
Animal research has also shown that resveratrol could improve memory and cognitive function.
Also, a study on a small group of healthy seniors showed that taking 200 mg of resveratrol daily for 6 months improved memory.
But, there currently isn’t enough research on humans to be certain of resveratrol’s effects.
In Short: Resveratrol supplements have demonstrated improvement in memory and brain function in animals. It’s uncertain if the supplement has the same effects in people.
Caffeine is a naturally-occurring stimulant most frequently found in coffee, tea, and dark chocolate.
Even though you’re able to take it as a supplement, there isn’t that much of a need when it can be had from these sources.
Caffeine works by stimulating the brain and central nervous system, causing you to feel more alert and less tired.
As a matter of fact, research has shown that caffeine allows you to feel more energized and improves memory, reaction time and overall cognitive function.
Generally, a cup of coffee will contain around 50-400 mg of caffeine, although the amount will vary.
For the majority of individuals, single doses of around 200–400 mg daily are considered safe for the most part and is enough to provide benefits to your health.
That said, using larger amounts of caffeine can be counterproductive and has been associated with negative side effects like nervousness, nausea and difficulty sleeping.
In Short: Caffeine is a natural stimulant that can boost your cognitive function, allowing you to feel more alert and energized.
Phosphatidylserine is a type of fat compound located in the brain called a phospholipid.
Research indicates that using phosphatidylserine supplements might help preserve brain health.
Research has also shown that using 100 mg of phosphatidylserine three times daily might help reduce age-related decline in cognitive function.
Also, healthy individuals who use phosphatidylserine supplements of up to 400 mg daily have demonstrated improved memory and thinking skills.
But, more research needs to be conducted before it’s effects on cognitive function can be fully understood.
In Short: Phosphatidylserine supplements might boost your thinking skills and memory. They might also help fight against the decline in cognitive function as you age. However, further research is needed.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is an amino acid that the body produces naturally. It plays a major role in metabolism, especially in energy production.
Use of acetyl-L-carnitine supplements has been purported to cause increased alertness, improved memory, and protection against age-related memory loss.
Some animal research has shown that acetyl-L-carnitine supplements could prevent age-related decline in cognitive function and increase learning ability.
In people, research has shown that it might be a useful supplement for slowing age-related brain function decline. It could also be useful for improving cognitive function in individuals with mild dementia or Alzheimer’s.
But, there are no studies that show it has a beneficial effect for otherwise healthy individuals who aren’t already suffering from a loss of cognitive function.
In Short: Acetyl-L-carnitine might be helpful for treating decreased brain function in seniors and people with mental disorders like Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s effects in healthy individuals are unknown.
Ginkgo biloba is an herbal supplement made from the Ginkgo biloba tree. This is an incredibly popular supplement that many individuals use to boost their brain function.
It’s believed to work by improving blood flow to the brain and is thought to increase cognitive functions like focus and memory.
Even though the use of ginkgo biloba is widespread, results from research investigating its benefits have been mixed.
Some research shows that using ginkgo biloba supplements may help reduce age-related decline in cognitive function.
A study in healthy middle-aged individuals found that using ginkgo biloba supplements helped improve thinking skills and memory.
But, not all research has shown these benefits.
In Short: Ginkgo biloba might help improve short-term memory and thinking skills. It could also protect against age-related cognitive decline. But, results are inconsistent.
Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body that plays an major role in energy metabolism. Creatine is mainly found in muscles, and also in the brain, but in smaller amounts.
Even though it’s a popular supplement, creatine can be found in some foods, specifically animal products such as meat, fish and eggs.
Not surprisingly, creatine supplements can improve memory and cognitive function in people who don’t eat meat.
As a matter of fact, a study in vegetarians taking creatine supplements showed that they experienced a 25–50% increase in memory and intelligence test performance.
But, meat-eaters don’t experience the same benefits. This might be due to the fact that they’re not deficient and already get enough creatine from their diets.
In Short: Using creatine supplements might help improve memory and thinking ability in people who don’t eat meat.
Bacopa monnieri is a traditional medicine made from the plant Bacopa monnieri. It’s long been used in holistic traditions like Ayurveda for improving cognitive function.
It’s also been shown to improve thinking ability and memory, both in healthy individuals and in seniors suffering from a decline in cognitive function.
But, it’s worth pointing out that only continual use of Bacopa monnieri has been shown to provide this benefit. The typical dosage is about 300 mg daily and it might take about four to six weeks before you notice any results.
Research on Bacopa monnieri also shows that it might occasionally cause diarrhea or upset stomach. Due to this, many people suggest taking this supplement with food.
In Short: Bacopa monnieri has been demonstrated to improve memory and thinking ability in healthy individuals and in those with a decline in cognitive function.
Rhodiola rosea is a supplement produced from the plant Rhodiola rosea, which is frequently used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve well-being and healthy cognitive function.
It’s also believed to improve mental processing by reducing fatigue.
Individuals using Rhodiola rosea have been shown to enjoy a decrease in fatigue and improvement of brain function.
But, results have been mixed.
One recent report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found that more research is needed before researchers can know if Rhodiola rosea might reduce tiredness and improve brain function.
In Short: Rhodiola rosea might help improve thinking ability by reducing fatigue. But, more research is necessary before scientists can be sure of it’s effects.
S-Adenosyl methionine (SAMe) is a naturally-occurring substance found in the body. It’s involved in chemical reactions to create and break down crucial compounds such as proteins, fats and hormones.
It might be useful for improving the effects of some antidepressants and warding off the decline in cognitive function seen in individuals who have depression.
One research study found that adding SAMe to the prescription antidepressant of individuals who had not responded to prior therapy increased their odds of remission by about 14%.
And recently, one study also found that, at least in some instances, SAMe might be as effective as certain types of antidepressant medications.
But, there is no evidence to show that this supplement benefits individuals who don’t have depression.
In Short: SAMe might be helpful for improving brain function in individuals with depression. There is currently no evidence to show that it has this effect in healthy individuals.
As you have seen, some of these supplements indicate real promise for the improvement and protection of brain health.
But know that many brain-enhancing supplements will only provide benefits for individuals who have a current mental condition or are currently deficient in the nutrient being supplemented.
Nutrition expert. Blog writer. Health enthusiast.