We’re living in an extremely stressful era. Due to a bunch of personal and professional obligations, you’re probably feeling like a hamster on a wheel. Your tasks and worries are constantly pilling up and, no matter how hard you try, you don’t seem to have them under control. You’re exposed to numerous stressful situations, your diet is poor, and your sleep is even worse.
Sooner or later, this way of life will take its toll on your health.
Ultimately, one of the major consequences you may face is memory loss.
It all starts with losing keys, leaving your oven on, or not being able to recall your neighbor’s name. But, if you don’t take proper care of your mental health, things can get worse.
It doesn’t matter if you are a college student, a stay at home mom, or a business owner, you need to boost your brain’s power and prevent your memory decline.
This is exactly why the number of people who are turning to supplements for memory enhancement is constantly rising. Namely, the sales of these products have doubled between 2006 and 2015.
Nootropics: The Big Picture
Nootropics, also known as cognitive enhancers, memory enhancers, smart drugs, or brain boosters, are either synthetic or natural substances used to improve cognitive abilities, prevent age-related memory loss, and slow down neurodegenerative diseases.
Now, nootropics have a long tradition and had been used for centuries in different cultures. Believe it or not, Bacopa monnieri was used in Ayurvedic medicine by Vedic scholars that recognized its positive effect on cognition and focus. Gingko and green tea were used by the Chinese centuries ago to enhance memory. Then, the mighty coffee beans arrived to Europe from the Middle East, later conquering the rest of the world.
Fast forward to the modern age of incredible medical achievements and the boom of memory-enhancing supplements. What we can conclude from these examples is that we’ve been harnessing the power of these remedies for centuries. The only thing that changed is the way we consume them.
Today, these ingredients can be used individually, or merged together in a form of capsules, tablets, powders and liquid extracts. While they can be leveraged in some serious cases of memory loss, memory supplements are usually over-the-counter remedies used by healthy individuals that just need to improve their memory and mood throughout the day, or are experiencing minor forgetfulness due to stress.
The Rising Need for Memory Supplements
According to the “Global Brain Health Supplements Market Size, Market Share, Application Analysis, Regional Outlook, Growth Trends, Key Players, Competitive Strategies and Forecasts, 2017 to 2025” report, the brain health supplements market is growing at an astonishing rate. The report shows that this market accounted for $1.8 billion in 2016 and this number is predicted to skyrocket to $3.2 billion by the end of 2024.
Now, the question is – what lead to the rapid expansion of this market?
- There’s the rise of the web, which changed our perceptions of our health and wellbeing for good. With a greater accessibility to scientific resources and numerous health apps, we are not only learning how to treat different diseases, but also how to prevent them from appearing in the first place.
- The world’s oldest population keeps growing rapidly. If you translate this into numbers, you’ll see that 8.5% of people around the world is older than 65, and this number is expected to reach 17% by the end of 2050. Logically, as aging is one of the most common causes of memory-related diseases, preventing these diseases on time should be paramount for every individual. This is where brain boosters come to shine.
- When compared to expensive traditional prescription drugs, cognitive supplements are both more accessible and affordable.
- Mitigating the causes of memory loss would minimize the number of people affected by diseases like Alzheimer’s, and result in significant cost savings. Given the costs of the long-term health care and hospice for individuals with Alzheimer’s, it’s not surprising that this is one of the most expensive diseases. According to the 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, the total payments for the patients suffering from it were estimated at $214 billion in 2014.
How Effective are your Pills?
If you do your research, you can see that there is a multitude of nootropics out there. This sounds like a great idea, since you’re given a greater opportunity to find your ideal “brain booster.”
But, is this really so?
- First, nootropics vary and their effects on our memory and cognition are different. Some memory supplements are used to boost one’s cognitive capabilities, some to sharpen focus, while others can improve one’s mental acuity.
- Second, these effects can also be individual and depend on a wide range of tangible and intangible factors. For example, a person facing memory loss due to the lack of quality sleep should not use the same supplement as a person noticing the early signs of dementia. These are two completely different types of memory-related issues and should be treated accordingly.
Still, when chosen properly, nootropics definitely have a positive effect on boosting our memory, learning, creativity and other closely related cognitive abilities.
The Ultimate List of Supplements that will Give your Memory a Boost
The greater the number of memory supplements, the greater the risks. According to the 2017 Government Accountability Office report, some of these substances are sold as memory-enhancers, even though there is no actual research to back their benefits for improving memory. This is the result of loose regulations and, to avoid being misled by hype, you need to do your research.
This is why we decided to make the ultimate accurate list of powerful supplements for memory enhancement that are backed by scientific research.
1. Acetyl-l-Carnitine (ALCAR)
This amino acid is definitely one of the most popular memory supplements, used to boost alertness, focus and mental clarity. Its major product is acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that optimizes some basic brain functions, such as memory, sleep cycle and learning.
There are some indications that this supplement may be used in treating a wide range of depressive disorders effectively. Some recent studies show that it has “rapid and long-lasting antidepressant effects.”
2. Alpha- GPC
Short for Alpha-glycerophosphocholine, Alpha-GPC is a type of choline-containing supplement used to improve learning and memory. It can be found in numerous choline-rich foods or taken as a memory supplement.
It’s bioavailable, meaning that it enters the brain and starts working rapidly. Most importantly, it supports the creation of healthy cell membranes and improves the levels of dopamine, serotonin and GABA. For this reason, this supplement is used for sharpening people’s attention, memory and cognition, as well as preventing mental decline. To support this claim, check out the research conducted by Instituto Nacional de la Senectud which shows how this supplement can be effective in treating cognitive disorders, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.
3. Bacopa Monnieri
Also known as water hyssop, Bacopa monnieri is a creeping herb which grows in wetlands and represents one of the most effective memory boosters. Even though it requires a long time to take effect, this plant is incredibly powerful when it comes to enhancing memory in both healthy people and those experiencing cognitive decline. Research shows that it also has a minor effect on treating anxiety and depression.
Panax ginseng is definitely one of the most famous herbs out there. In traditional Chinese medicine, it has a reputation of an “elixir of life”, bringing strength and wisdom to those consuming it. Given the fact that there are numerous types of ginseng, Panax ginseng is also known as “the true ginseng” and is believed to have a moderate effect on neuroprotection, memory and learning.
According to examine.com, huperzine-A is “a compound extracted from the herbs of the Huperziceae family.” It boosts acetylcholine levels by preventing enzymes from breaking it down. As mentioned above, acetylcholine improves memory, learning and cognition. It is also used in treating Alzheimer’s, as well as in neuroprotection to stop the degradation of brain cells.
6. Magnesium L-Threonate
Magnesium is a valuable dietary mineral and one of the most significant electrolytes in our body, second only to calcium. Given this fact, it’s not surprising at all that this mineral plays a fundamental role in more than 300 different metabolic functions, including our mental health, cognition and memory. Its relatively new form of supplements, magnesium l-threonate has a positive effect on memory and attention and, at the same time, minimizes the levels of depression and anxiety.
7. Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
These are some of the most significant nutrients for our health, especially for our brain. The most one being docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a primary structural component of our brain. Namely, this substance protects us from memory loss and mental decline, while its deficiency can cause numerous cognitive problems.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in different types of memory foods, such as walnuts, egg yolks and fish. Those who need to take them in larger doses can either take a single-ingredient supplement or opt for fish/krill oil supplements.
These acids are incredibly important to our cognitive processes and memory. Taking them regularly can increase memory, mental wellbeing and reaction time, simultaneously reducing the levels of anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline.
8. Rhodiola Rosea
Also known as Arctic root, golden root and roseroot, Rhodiola Rosea can boost your health in numerous ways. Even though it’s most commonly related to a decrease of stress levels and prevention of burnouts, it can benefit your memory, too. It has proven to be an exceptional herbal remedy for people experiencing memory problems due to stress. By minimizing cortisol and boosting the levels of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, this plant will also improve your tolerance to stress, strengthen your mental health and prevent depression.
Vinpocetine is a synthetic compound, derived from the periwinkle plant used to enhance memory and the overall mental wellbeing. It works on a simple principle – it boosts your blood flow to your brain, allowing your brain to use more oxygen, and optimizing its functions. Scientists claim that it is far more powerful than Gingko, predicting that it will become an invaluable asset in treating dementia, Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline.
As you probably already know, caffeine is a substance naturally found in coffee and tea. Since it serves as an outstanding productivity and energy enhancer, it is also added to numerous energy drinks and memory supplements. There are also pure caffeine pills and powders available on the market, but you should avoid using them, since they’re considered a dangerous psychoactive drug.
Caffeine is notoriously famous for boosting anxiety levels, so if you’re prone to stress, consider skipping this one. There are many reports showing that this substance enhances mental wellbeing and wakefulness, while there are no reliable studies showing its direct link with memory improvement.
Yes, that’s true. Even though it seems unbelievable, isolated nicotine can actually be considered a memory booster. There are even studies which prove that this substance can enhance memory, attention, response time and motor skills. But, does this mean that you should go to the store and buy a cigarette pack right away? Of course not.
Isolated nicotine has nothing to do with smoking. Most importantly, although researchers claim that this form of nicotine doesn’t affect our health, the majority highlight that you shouldn’t use it before consulting a healthcare professional.
If you are a 24Kitchen fan, then you definitely know what turmeric is. And, if you love its mustard-like taste and consume it regularly, you’re golden. Recent statistics point out that the Alzheimer’s rate is significantly lower among people who use it regularly.
The main ingredient in this plant is curcumin, which is believed to have some significant medical properties. Although it was used as an Ayurvedic natural remedy, its is not the case today. This is why there are not as many studies regarding its health benefits, but a recent research shows that it can significantly enhance memory in healthy seniors.
EGCG, or epigallocatechin gallate, is one of the most prominent green tea “ingredients”. Green tea has been synonymous with longevity, vitality and mental clarity for centuries. As a supplement, EGCG can improve your cognition and mental wellbeing, but there are not so many studies proving its relation to memory improvement.
14. Mucuna Pruriens
Otherwise known as velvet bean, this plant has numerous positive effects on our brain. Unlike most of the supplements mentioned above, Mucuna pruriens doesn’t affect our body’s acetylcholine levels. It is one of the major sources of L-DOPA or Levodopa, a precursor to dopamine. This is why it boosts the levels of dopamine in our body, which represents one of the most significant memory transmitters. Thus, if you’re feeling unmotivated, lethargic, or you’re experiencing a minor memory loss from time to time, this may indicate that your dopamine levels are low and that you should give Mucuna pruriens a shot. It will lift your mood and make you feel more motivated and focused on what you do.
You don’t have to be a pharmacist to know what ginkgo biloba is. This is definitely one of the most famous herbal remedies out there, with a wide range of uses. Now, even though millions of dollars are spent on an annual basis on different Ginkgo supplements, studies indicate that it actually has a minor effect on memory improvement, focus sharpening and prevention of dementia. Still, for people who already suffer from dementia, it may still be effective. It contributes to stabilizing the symptoms so that they don’t get worse over time.
“A couple of meta-analyses and systematic reviews show that ginkgo biloba is helpful for dementia in about the same range as drugs being pushed very heavily to treat Alzheimer’s,” claims Adriane Fught-Berman, a complementary and alternative medicine professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine.
There is a myriad of causes of memory loss. It could be anything, from the lack of quality sleep and poor diet to normal aging. This is why you need to make sure you choose the supplements that address your needs.
And don’t forget about your safety. If you’re unsure, ask a professional to help you make the right decision, based on your symptoms and preferences.
Always check the manufacturer’s site to see the full list of ingredients – it is imperative to learn what’s in the supplements you’re taking.
Most importantly, be patient. Keep in mind (no pun intended) that magic pills don’t exist. Take your supplements regularly and notice its gradual effects on your cognitive abilities. And, to improve their effectiveness, you can always combine them with some other memory-boosting strategies, such as regular exercises, proper diet, blood pressure management and brain workouts.