Here are the 16 best brain supplements & best nootropics backed by scientific studies!
You want to perform better at your job, become smarter, think faster, remember more, and maintain clarity and focus throughout the day.
Maybe you feel like you’ve plateaued in your mental development and think that you are deficient in something that your body is lacking – a vitamin, amino acid, something. You feel like you’re not as sharp as before.
If you have seen the movie, Limitless, with Bradley Cooper, you know what I’m talking about. Now, these supplements aren’t going to be like that, but will definitely give you an edge on the competition. Plus, it’s always better to be safe than endangering your health with dangerous drugs with high side effects.
I have used most of these supplements, still trying out a lot. Some are incredible, while others are hard to tell if they’re making a difference – and makes you think if you’re just wasting money. I will give you my opinions on each and tell you which ones that I had the most success with.
I have backed all of the claims of these brain supplements with scientific studies. They are interesting and worthwhile to read.
Supplements are great HOWEVER, I believe in looking for foods first whenever possible. So next to the supplements, I’ll ALSO list foods that are rich in that nutrient.
Remember – Everyone is different, if something didn’t work for me, it still might work for you.
Please remember that you should address your nutrient deficiencies first before moving on to the these supplements. Not many people know that they are deficient in a lot of vitamins.
- 70% of people have Folate (b9) deficiency – caused by THIS common gene defect!
- 40% of people have Vitamin B12 deficiency
- 75% of people have Magnesium deficiency
- 90% of people have Vitamin D deficiency
ALSO, a GOOD gut flora is a must for any healthy individual. Our gut is considered our “2nd Brain” and DIRECTLY affects your mood and cognitive abilities! If you ever took an antibiotic, it has killed your healthy gut bacteria. Taking in foods rich in probiotics is an absolute must.
Table of Contents
- What You Should Look For in a Brain Supplement
- 1. Creatine
- 2. DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid)
- 3. Ginkgo Biloba
- 4. Curcumin
- 5. Vinpocetine
- 6. Citicoline
- 7. Alpha GPC
- 8. L-Theanine + Caffeine
- 9. Huperzine A
- 10. Bacopa Monnieri
- 11. Asian Ginseng
- 12. Acetyl-l-Carnitine (ALC)
- 13. Phosphatidyl Serine (PS)
- 14. Piracetam
- 15. Choline
- 16. Rhodiola Rosea
- 17. Passionflower
- POWERFUL All in One Formulas
- If this helped you, Please Share this list of the Best Brain Supplements and Best Nootropics with your friends!
What You Should Look For in a Brain Supplement
- Is it backed by Scientific Studies?
- Does it work? How does it make you feel?
- Do you notice any negative side effects?
- Is it made from quality ingredients?
- Is it Safe?
- What are other customers saying?
Here is MY list of the best brain supplements and best nootropics on the market:
Creatine? What? Yep, creatine is an extremely well-studied supplement that is mainly known for assisting in building muscle mass and strength. Don’t worry women, this isn’t going to stack muscle on you, so take a chill pill.
Little do people know, creatine also:
- Enhances focus
- improves memory
- Increases your energy
More and more, it is being recognized as a nootropic.
Studies have demonstrated that supplementing your diet with creatine will improve your short-term memory and reasoning skills, which suggests that this is both a great brain and performance booster a.k.a. nootropic.
Study: Rae, C., Digney, A. L., McEwan, S. R., & Bates, T. C. (2003). Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 270(1529), 2147-2150. Source
Creatine is a substance that your body uses on a regular basis, so it is completely safe.
Dr Jose Antonio quickly gives his two cents about Creatine and the Brain.
My Personal Experience:
Creatine is great, especially if it’s couple with a form of caffeine. When you hit the gym, you feel focused and you have more energy to finish out the reps (why it’s a great supplement for building muscle and strength). Even if you’re not at the gym, you still have that focused feeling. It’s the most studied compound in the fitness world and it’s reassuring that your body actually needs creatine for specific functions. I take the Creatine Monohydrate form of creatine since all of the studies have researched this specific form. Creatine does take a loading period of 3-5 days to get into your system. Creatine won’t make you fat, and it won’t stack muscle on you if you’re not training for muscle (lifting heavy – weight lifting). I think women in general (like my sister) are deathly afraid of weight training and getting “bulky”. If you’re looking to burn fat, having more muscle is a good thing!
If you haven’t tried it out, it’s definitely worth a try.
Creatine Supplements to Try Out:
- Creatine Monohydrate: Another great thing about creatine is that it’s cheap!
2. DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid)
DHA could be the single most vital nutrient that you need for optimal brain function. It is one type of omega-3 essential fatty acid and is a major building block of the brain that is responsible for creativity, emotion, attention, language and memory a.k.a. the cerebral cortex. Another important DHA function is that increases the communication between brain cells.
DHA has been shown in Omega 3 studies to improve all sorts of things including:
- memory loss
- mood swings
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Treat bipolar
- attention deficit disorder
- and increase the volume of your brain
Not only does it benefit the brain, but also benefits the whole body by lowering triglycerides, decreasing hypertension, reducing heart disease including high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Nearly 70% of the population has an omega-3 deficiency. This means that we need to eat more foods rich in omega-3’s or we need to use supplementation.
I always try to get my DHA and other Omega 3s from food. Pills and supplements are great, but I highly believe in obtaining your nutrition from food first THEN supplementation when you can’t get that specific nutrient through food consumption. Note that most foods high in DHA in also have EPA in them which is another type of beneficial omega 3.
Focus on eating these DHA foods:
Eggs, Krill, and Fish like salmon, halibut, tuna, tilapia, seaweed etc.
REMEMBER: the higher up you go in the food chain, the more toxins that organism is exposed too.
If You’re Vegan & ALA Omega 3 Synthesis
You’re screaming, “But I’m VEGAN!!” Don’t worry too much. ALA Omega 3 essential fatty acids can be synthesized in the body to EPA and DHA. BUT, depending on your body, it may or may not be enough for you. Veganhealth has a great article on this if you want to check it out.
ALA Omega 3 foods are: Nuts, Legumes, Flax Seeds, Chia Seeds etc
There is a major concern with fish oil supplements or EPA and DHA supplements because of the high mercury content found in fish today due to pollution.
Remember when buying an EPA and DHA supplement:
- Focus on sources that contain phytoplankton and krill – The higher up you go in the food chain, the more toxins that were organism will be exposed to.
- Focus on brands with high reputation for quality and ensure it with testing and a good quality control program.
- Focus on brands that catch their fish and organisms in waters that have low pollution.
Nordic Naturals: They have an extremely good record and reputation for high quality fish oil supplements and DHA supplements. There are a lot of other ones out there that are good too, however, this is the one that I have researched and personally take and like. No fish burps (rancid oil). There are other brands out there that are hit or miss on quality and it’s annoying to return.
Dr. Mercola’s Krill oil: This is another one you might want to look into. Good, solid product. The first one shipped to me, the capsules were broken. I showed them a picture and they sent out another one next day air. They have a great customer satisfaction policy.
Dr. Fuhrman’s DHA + EPA Purity: I haven’t tried this one, but I am really excited to get it and try it out. Since it is made from microalgae cultivated in a laboratory there are virtually no toxins whatsoever. He has a great article on “what vegans may be missing (DHA)”
Ginny has some great information on DHA to check out. This is one of the best brain supplements to get your body on.
3. Ginkgo Biloba
Everybody has heard of ginkgo biloba at some point in their life. Ginkgo biloba benefits are incredible and have stood the test of time in prescription medication in Europe and traditional Chinese medicine.
Ginkgo biloba benefits are:
- Decreasing Stress
- Decreasing Anxiety
- Improving Depression
- increases brain circulation
- balances neurotransmitter levels such as dopamine, serotonin, GABA
- protects the brain from free radical damage
However, there have been some recent scientific criticism about the benefits of ginkgo biloba.
I wouldn’t be too concerned with the recent studies, I believe that there’s a reason that ginkgo biloba has stood the test of time in many civilizations and why it’s even a prescription in Europe – it’s because it works. It has easily made it on our list of best brain supplements & best nootropics.
Ginkgo Biloba Supplements to Try out:
- Ginkgo Biloba – Double Strength by Nature’s Bounty (Most Affordable 120mg)
- Ginkgo Biloba by Real Herbs (Super Potent 8 to 1 – 700mg)
Looking for a convenient All-In-One supplement for your brain?
Jeopardy Champion Ken Jennings takes this supplement. And it has literally EVERYTHING in it – I personally use this along with two others.
Curcumin is the ingredient inside the Indian spice turmeric. It’s extremely potent and responsible for most of turmeric’s health benefits and gold color.
It has been widely used for centuries in Chinese and Indian medicine to reduce inflammation in the body. It has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions that involve inflammation such as Crohn’s disease, ulcers, arthritis, cystic fibrosis, IBS and IBD.
You can even use turmeric with cauliflower to halt prostate cancer:
- Dorai T, Cao YC, Dorai B, et al. Therapeutic potential of curcumin in human prostate cancer. III. Curcumin inhibits proliferation, induces apoptosis, and inhibits angiogenesis of LNCaP prostate cancer cells in vivo. Prostate 2001 Jun 1;47(4):293-303. 2001. PMID:16280.
- Aggarwal B. Paper presented at the U.S. Defense Department’s ‘Era of Hope’ Breast Cancer Research Program meeting in Philadelphia, PA, October 5, 2005,. reported in NUTRAingredients.com/Europe “Turmeric slows breast cancer spread in mice.”. 0.
Curcumin has powerful inflammatory, antiviral, antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.
It protects your brain and body in a number of ways. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties reduce brain inflammation and break up plaques in the brain usually associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
it’s been coined “exercise in a bottle” meaning that it increases blood flow to the brain just as well as exercising does.
Curcumin increases levels of “happiness brain chemicals” also known as dopamine and serotonin.
It is highly effective for depression and is as effective as popular antidepressants like Prozac.
It has been found to assist in improving memory loss associated with OCD and other compulsive behavior.
The Michael J Fox foundation is currently studying curcumin as a Parkinson’s treatment
There is a catch though. Curcumin is poorly absorbed by the body. In fact, 85% of curcumin supplements pass straight through the intestines virtually unused. Talk about a waste of money!
HOWEVER, one trick that is scientifically proven to increase the absorption of curcumin by 2000% is to add black pepper (or BioPerine) with your turmeric or curcumin. Black pepper contains an ingredient named piperine which is responsible for this incredible absorption rate increase.
Curcumin Supplements to try out:
- Turmeric Curcumin with BioPerine by Vermerson Health – this has black pepper extract
- Turmeric Curcumin with black pepper extract
More Great info on Tumeric and Curcumin
Vinpocetine is a synthetic form of vincamine, which is a natural occurring compound found in the periwinkle plant.
This is a relatively new brain supplement that straddles the line between smart drug and brain supplements.
In other countries like Europe and Japan, Vinpocetine is only available by prescription, but in the US it is an over-the-counter supplement that you can get easily especially on Amazon.
Doctors in Europe believe that this supplement is more effective than ginkgo biloba which has a very good reputation as one of the best brain supplements.
Vinpocetine does the following:
- improves reaction time
- improves overall mental well-being
- improves memory
- protects the brain from degrading, making it a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease
- decreases brain inflammation
- protects against free radical damage
- balances out your neurotransmitter levels
I really liked Vinpocetine. You definitely receive a mental clarity different from caffeine. It’s not a HUGE difference but you can definitely tell… you have to take it for a week to notice a difference. Sadly, after awhile I began to have huge headaches and so I stopped taking it. This could be from that specific brand I was taking, source naturals. I also was taking a little bit too much. So if you decide to try this out, note that it takes a couple days to a week to feel anything and that you need to pay attention to the dose and not overdue it.
While I didn’t find much luck with this, I still added it to the list of It has easily made it on our list of best brain supplements & best nootropics. Other people have received great results with this, and it’s worth a shot.
Items to Try out:
Citicoline is a compound that occurs naturally in your body’s cells. This is a great compound and supplement to take!
- Increases blood flow to the brain
- Helps build healthy brain cell membranes
- Increases Brain plasticity
- Increases brain energy by engaging your cell’s mitochondria.
- Reduces inflammation and free radical damage – two major causes in brain aging
Important Citicoline Studies and Evidence
One study showed that it improved memory as well as the study drug piracetam
It increases the levels of your neurotansmitters (acetylcholine and dopamine)
Acetylcholine is the main chemical in your brain that affects learning and memory. (Dopamine is linked to motivation, pleasure, and productivity)
Citicoline supplements have been shown in studies to improve memory, attention, focus, and concentration.
DOCTORS EVEN PRESCRIBE Citicoline, in fact they have been doing it for years to treat serious brain disorders, memory loss, brain injury, dementia, and Alzheimer’s
Citicoline Supplements to Try Out:
Since you can’t eat citicoline directly from food (see foods below) it’s beneficial to look into supplementation. When looking for a citicoline supplement, look for Cognizin. It’s a form of citicoline that is highly bioavailable. Usually, this form is only present in the better brain supplement brands – These brands contain Cognizin. Source.
- Citicoline CDP Choline – by Jarrows Formula – Contains Cognizin
Also, citicoline has been considered safe.
If you look at any good all-in-one brain supplements, you will find that it contains Citicoline or Cognizin because it’s considered one of the best nootropics and best brain supplements out there.
You can’t digest citicoline directly from food. Your best bet is to eat foods that are rich in Choline, which will eventually turn into Acetylcholine and citicoline. Examples of food with choline.
- Beef liver, Raw Eggs, meat, shrimp
- collard greens, mushrooms, fish, spinach, broccoli, Brussel sprouts etc. Source.
- See more foods with choline
If you need further explanation, Oregon State University has great choline information.
7. Alpha GPC
L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, also known as Alpha GPC, is the synthetic version of choline and is obviously related to citicholine mentioned above.
Now choline is the precursor of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter responsible for remembering, comprehension and learning.
Alpha GPC is sold almost everywhere as a supplement for memory. However in Europe they have a prescription medication for it to treat Alzheimer’s.
Now you are probably thinking that if it synthetic that it is potentially bad for your body or isn’t as good. However unlike natural calling supplements, Alpha GPC efficiently and quickly moves choline into the brain where it is readily used to build new and healthy brain cell membranes, increase neurotransmitter levels such as serotonin, dopamine, GABA, stimulate new growth of brain cells.
Alpha GPC studies show that:
- it consistently improves the intention span and improves memory in people of all ages
- improves memory
- improves thinking skills
- improves attention span
- can be used to treat stroke
- can be used to treat dementia
- can be used to treat Alzheimer’s
In a lot of the best brain supplements out there, you will find Alpha GPC.
Foods with Choline (Alpha GPC is Synthetic Choline)
- Seeds and Nuts
Alpha GPC Supplements to try out:
Alpha GPC by Jarrows Formula
8. L-Theanine + Caffeine
It’s no surprise that caffeine is an extremely powerful stimulant that most people consume every day and is considered a nootropic. However, there are some side effects to it but L-Theanine can help with those side effects.
A good source of caffeine and L-Theanine is found in Green tea. While caffeine in excess causes some negative side effects like ”the jitters”, L-Theanine appears to relieve those side effects.
There are certain studies looking at the effects of both caffeine and L-Theanine.
Some of these benefits are:
- improves mood
- reduced levels of stress
- increased focus and concentration
Studies on L-Theanine and Caffeine
- Juneja, L.R., Chu, D.C., Okubo, T., Nagato, Y and Yokogoshi H. (1999). L-theanine—a unique amino acid of green tea and its relaxation effect in humans. Food Science and Technology, 10, 199-204.
- Petroff, O. A. (2002). Book Review: GABA and glutamate in the human brain. The Neuroscientist, 8(6), 562-573.
- Kelly, S.P. (2006). Increases in alpha oscillatory power reflect an active retinotopic mechanism for distracter suppression during sustained visuospatial attention. Journal Neurophysiology, 95(6), 3844-3851.
More Studies on Caffeine / Coffee Can Improve Energy Levels and Make You Think Sharper.
I don’t really like the taste of coffee or tea but I have been consuming it for the last couple months and I love the affect on my mood and concentration. I’ve been really into the Bulletproof Coffee Technique by a cool guy named Dave Asprey… I use his technique with Yerba Mate. I’ll try to write an article about this later.
Things to Definitely Try out:
- Yerba Mate: This is the brand I use. It doesn’t have L-Theanine, but I love this stuff!
- Green Tea: I personally need to take two cups of it, it produces a good calming effect from the L-theanine and with a caffeine buzz
- Coffee: This coffee is awesome! I tend to get coffee jitters – using butter and coconut oil helps sustain the caffeine release and reduce jitters.
9. Huperzine A
Huperzine A is found and extracted from a Chinese club Moss (Huperzia serrata) and is a traditional Chinese herbal remedy used to improve memory, reduce inflammation and help increase blood flow in the body.
Since it is an alkaloid, it works by blocking certain brain enzymes that deteriorate the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
Huperzine A has very promising studies showing that it improves memory. It is sold as a dietary supplement that aims at improving memory, focus, and improving learning capabilities in young children and old senior citizens.
It also protects against free radicals from damaging your brain!
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12895686
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10678137
More Information from Dr Meschino Below:
My Personal Experience
I haven’t had much luck with this particular supplement. I have tried high doses and low doses. I really don’t feel much of anything to be quite honest. To be fair, it was a supplement that had a bunch of other things inside including the Huperzine A. Since other people have had success with it, I’ve included it on this best brain supplements list so you can try it out if you decide.
I do want to try this out again, perhaps it was the brand that I was trying. I’m most likely going to try out the Source Naturals brand next.
Huperzine A Supplements to Try Out
Here are a few Huperzine A supplements you might want to try out if you’re curious:
- Huperzine A by Source Naturals
10. Bacopa Monnieri
Bacopa Monnieri is now included in my best brain supplements list – It is a traditional herbal brain elixir that has been used for THOUSANDS of years to enhance learning, memory, and focus.
It’s used in chinese and Aravedic medicine and is touted by some to be extremely powerful
It works by balancing out your levels of serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, and while decreasing the levels of cortisol, which is your stress hormone.
Bacopa Monnieri also:
- Promotes better sleep
- Allows you to deal with stress better
- Treat anxiety
If you’re stressed out, this is an excellent choice if you have problems with your memory, learning, and concentration because you’re stressed out.
Bacopa Monnieri Supplements to try out:
11. Asian Ginseng
Another highly research nootropic derived from the ginseng root.
It has been shown to do the following:
- Improve Memory
- Improve Attention Span
- Improve Focus
- Improve Mood
- Kiefer, D., & Pantuso, T. (2003). Panax ginseng. American Family Physician, 68(8), 1539-1544.
- Kennedy, D. O., & Scholey, A. B. (2003). Ginseng: potential for the enhancement of cognitive performance and mood. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 75(3), 687-700.
- Bucci, L. R. (2000). Selected herbals and human exercise performance. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72(2), 624s-636s.
Asian Ginseng Supplements to Try Out:
- Authentic Asian Ginseng by Auragin – This is one of the highest quality Ginseng supplements out there. Grown, harvested, and processed with the utmost care!
- Asian Ginseng by Nature’s Way – Cheapest Ginseng
More about the company Auragin
12. Acetyl-l-Carnitine (ALC)
Acetyl l-carnitine is an amino acid that possesses some very powerful antioxidant properties that protect your brain from free radical damage.
It helps by reducing brain fog while increasing clarity, focus, processing speed, better moods, and memory and also keeps your brain young.
One study found that acetyl l-carnitine stabilizes tau proteins that entangle the brain and possibly cause Alzheimer’s.
It is also a antidepressant that usually brings relief within about a week of using it every day.
It helps utilize glucose in the blood by the brain more efficiently by increasing insulin sensitivity of the brain cells.
If you consume too much alcohol, it may also prevent brain damage.
Acetyl-l-Carnitine – ALC Supplements
Acetyl L-Carnitine Supplements
Avoid the cheap inexpensive l-carnitine supplement on the market and don’t confuse it with acetyl l-carnitine. ALC is highly bioavailable in crosses the blood brain barrier more readily compared to l-carnitine that you want to avoid.
- Acetyl L-Carnitine by Now Foods
Ken Hassen explains more on Acetyl-l-Carnitine (ALC) below:
13. Phosphatidyl Serine (PS)
Phosphatidyl Serine is a phospholipid (a key part in every cell membrane of the human body) and is found in high concentrations in the brain. PS supplements are usually derived from soybeans.
Phosphatidylserine acts as the gatekeeper to your brain by regulating which nutrients get delivered to the brain and what the brain decides to waste.
It’s awesome for boosting your memory, concentration, overall learning, and overall brain cognition.
It helps with attention deficit disorders such as ADD and ADHD.
Some large studies have shown that phosphatidylserine could be an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive diseases.
It reduces stress by regulating the levels of cortisol, your stress hormone.
It can improve your mood, help with overall depression (especially in seniors).
Guess what, it can even improve your golf game! Check out the study here.
It’s commonly used to increase memory by students to improve exam performance.
Phosphatidylserine Supplements to check out
- Phosphatidylserine 200 mg by Solgar – Solgar is another fantastic supplement brand.
- Phosphatidylserine Isolate by Thorne – More Expensive – This is an isolated form and helps with a bunch of things like hormones.
Best Selling Author Dr Parris Kidd explains more below
Piracetam is a cyclic derivative of GABA. It works with choline like a tag team. They both can work alone but work extremely well together.
It was synthesized way back in 1964 in a Belgium laboratory – UBC Pharma. This was first of the so called smart drugs.
Piracetam works by increasing your acetylcholine uptake and targets specific areas of the brain that is responsible for memory.
Piracetam Supplements to Try Out:
- I don’t have any recommendations for this one right now… I’ll let you know when I do.
More on Piracetam below!
See Alpha GPC and Citicoline above – both forms of Choline.
16. Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola rosea is another herb that is derived from the Rhodiola plant.
It’s traditional usage has been use to:
- Prevent altitude sickness
- Help cope with cold climates
- Enhances mood
- Helps with fighting fatigue
- Improves reasoning skills
Source: Adaptogen, A. P. P. (2001). Rhodiola rosea: a possible plant adaptogen. Alternative Medicine Review, 6(3), 293-302.
Rhodiola Supplements to Try Out:
- Rhodiola by Thorne – Thorne has a great reputation for creating high quality supplements
- Rhodiola Ashwagandha Ginseng Complex
Passionflower is an herb derived from the passionflower plant. In smaller scientific studies, this herb has been extremely helpful to decrease anxiety.
Passionflower can be used for the following:
- Decrease anxiety
- Treat insomnia
- Treat Neuralgia and withdrawal symptoms
My Personal Experience
I haven’t tried passionflower yet, but I’m curious to see how it works. I have a long list of things to try out.
Passionflower supplements to try out:
Passionflower by Oregon’s Wild Harvest
POWERFUL All in One Formulas
These powerful brands have most of the brain supplements on this list! These are also very convenient because, who really wants to buy 5 – 10 different pills everyday – opening and closing them everyday. It’s a pain! I’ve been there.
Whenever i can, I try to get an all in one. I’ve tried the top two brands and some other ones belowSome brands that I love are below!
- Brain Pill – Great product, I’m going to do a review on it soon. Jeopardy Champion Ken Jennings uses and promotes this.
- Beautiful Mind by Essential Stacks
- Mind Lab Pro
Sharing is caring! Also, as always, I’d love to hear your feedback. Please let me know in the comments below if the article was informative or not and what supplement most excites you!