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A note on supplements

While some people may use supplements to help improve memory, focus, and mood, there’s very little research to support the effectiveness of these products.

Therefore, when selecting supplements, be wary of products that make outlandish and unsupported claims about their effects on brain health and function.

Before trying any new supplements, it’s important to ask a healthcare professional about potential medication interactions or safety concerns.

You may spend a lot of time thinking about keeping your physical health in check, but brain health and function are important too. A healthy brain allows you to learn, remember, communicate, solve problems, and make decisions.

Your brain may start showing signs of cognitive decline as early as in your 30s. For this reason, practicing standard healthy behaviors — like eating a balanced diet, getting regular physical activity, and avoiding smoking — is key to maintaining your brain health (1).

But what about supplements?

Several herbs, such as gingko biloba, have been used for centuries to help improve mental alertness and thinking ability. However, there’s little to no research to definitively say that supplements have a direct effect on brain health.

Still, if you’re feeling like your brain could use a little TLC and you’re interested in giving supplements a try, it’s important to do your research and consult a healthcare professional before trying any new products.

To save you time, we rounded up the 5 best brain-boosting supplements.

Brain-boosting supplements are products that are marketed as a way to improve or preserve memory, enhance thinking ability, improve mood, or sharpen focus.

Some of these supplements may be beneficial by providing essential nutrients that you don’t get enough of in your diet or by providing nutritional compounds and herbs that you might not regularly consume.

For example, if you don’t like fish or can’t eat the recommended amount, you can take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement to help support your heart and brain health (2).

Brain-boosting supplements may also help reduce the risk or improve outcomes of some brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease (3, 4).

Common ingredients found in brain-boosting supplements include omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, nitrate, caffeine, gingko biloba, ginseng, adaptogenic mushrooms, and many other vitamins, minerals, and herbs (5, 6).

While many vitamins, minerals, and herbs have been used for years — or even centuries — to improve brain health, there is limited scientific research to support their effectiveness for specific brain disorders or concerns (5).

  • Vetting: All the products and brands included have been vetted to ensure that they meet Healthline’s medical and business standards.
  • Ingredients: The products below contain high quality, evidence-based ingredients.
  • Quality and testing: We chose products that are made by reputable brands and are tested during the manufacturing process, ideally by third-party labs.
  • Cost: We included products to suit a range of budgets.
  • User reviews: The user experience can’t be overlooked. The products included have overall positive online reviews.

Why you should trust us

Every brand and product on our list has been reviewed by registered dietitians and vetted to ensure that it aligns with Healthline’s brand integrity standards and approach to well-being. Each product in this article:

  • adheres to allowable health claims and labeling requirements, per Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations
  • is manufactured in facilities that adhere to current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs) established by the FDA
  • is produced by a medically credible company that follows ethical, legal, and industry best standards
  • is made by a company that provides objective measures of trust, such as having its supplements validated by third-party labs

A note on price

General price ranges with dollar signs ($–$$$) are indicated below. One dollar sign means the product is rather affordable, whereas three dollar signs indicate a higher cost.

Generally, prices range from $0.32–$1.90 per count, or $17.29–$49 per container, though this may vary depending on where you shop.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $0.35 per serving
  • $$ = $0.35–$0.75 per serving
  • $$$ = over $0.75 per serving

Note that the dosage recommendations range from 1–2 capsules or tablets 1–3 times daily.

Thus, a product you need to take fewer times per day may end up being comparatively cheaper, despite having a higher price per count than a product you need to take multiple times per day.

Best adaptogenic mushroom powder

OM Lion’s Mane

  • Price range: $$
  • Type: powder
  • Dose per day: 1 teaspoon (5 mL)
  • Active ingredients: lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) mycelial biomass and fruit body

OM Lion’s Mane is designed to support memory, focus, alertness, creativity, and mood. Many customers also claim that it helps with mental clarity.

Lion’s mane is an adaptogenic mushroom that gets its name from its shaggy appearance. It’s widely consumed as food and medicine in Asia and has become more widely known in Western countries over the past several years (7).

Hericenones and erinacines are two compounds found in lion’s mane that have been shown to support brain cell growth and improve cognitive function (8, 9).

Each serving of this supplement contains an effective dose of 2,000 mg of lion’s mane, sourced from both the fruiting body (cap and stem) and the mycelial fibers of the mushroom.

According to the company’s website, OM Mushroom products are third-party tested, though the company does not disclose the name of the testing agency.

Pros

  • third-party tested
  • uses both the fruiting body and the mycelium
  • vegan, gluten-free, and kosher
  • USD Certified Organic
  • non-GMO verified

Cons

  • some reports that the powder doesn’t always mix easily

Best bacopa powder

Pure Encapsulations Bacopa Monnieri

  • Price range: $
  • Type: capsules
  • Dose per day: 1 capsule 1–3 times daily with meals
  • Active ingredients: Bacopa monnieri leaf extract

“Brahmi, or Bacopa monnieri, is a plant that is used in Ayurvedic medicine to enhance memory, learning, and thinking,” said Monisha Bhanote, MD, founder and CEO of WELLKULÅ.

In addition to having antioxidant properties, bacopa has been shown to have a direct effect on the brain (10, 11).

Bhanote explained, “[the benefits of bacopa] may be attributed to the supplement’s ability to activate synaptogenesis (strengthening the connections between neurons).”

Pure Encapsulations Bacopa Monnieri provides 200 mg of bacopa per 1-capsule serving. It’s also vegan-friendly, certified gluten-free, and third-party tested for purity and potency.

While many customers note that the supplement has helped improve their mental awareness, keep in mind that research on Bacopa monnieri is limited.

The most common side effects of Bacopa monnieri include nausea, gastrointestinal upset, and intestinal hypermotility. Long-term safety of bacopa supplements hasn’t been studied in humans (12).

Finally, it’s important to note that bacopa supplements may interact with certain medications used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, depression, and epilepsy (13).

Pros

  • non-GMO
  • third-party tested
  • gluten-, egg-, wheat-, and peanut-free

Cons

  • limited research on bacopa supplements for brain health

Best for stress relief

Moon Juice SuperYou

  • Price range: $$$
  • Type: capsule
  • Dose per day: 2 capsules in the morning
  • Active ingredients: shatavari root extract, organic ashwagandha root and leaf extract, organic amla fruit extract, and rhodiola root extract

SuperYou is an herbal supplement that claims to help your body cope with stress, boost energy and mood, preserve collagen, and reduce physical, mental, and emotional fatigue.

It contains several ingredients that have been associated with mood-boosting and stress-relieving benefits, including ashwagandha and Rhodiola rosea.

Ashwagandha is an adaptogen known for its stress-relieving properties.

One study in 58 healthy adults found that taking a dose of either 250 mg or 600 mg of ashwagandha daily for 8 weeks significantly improved cortisol levels and sleep quality compared to a placebo (14).

Similarly, a study in 130 healthy adults found that taking an ashwagandha supplement for 90 days significantly improved stress levels, sleep quality, and overall psychological well-being compared to a placebo (15).

Another study found that 12 weeks of ashwagandha supplementation had a moderate advantage for depression and anxiety scores among adults with schizophrenia. Still, the effect of ashwagandha on stress levels has not been confirmed in healthy adults (16).

Rhodiola rosea is another adaptogen included in SuperYou.

One study in people with mild to moderate major depressive disorder found that taking Rhodiola rosea for 12 weeks significantly reduced depressive symptoms (17).

While it wasn’t quite as effective as the antidepressant medication sertraline, Rhodiola rosea led to fewer negative side effects and was better tolerated by study participants (17).

Additionally, a 2022 review concluded that Rhodiola rosea is promising for use in managing stress-related symptoms and conditions such as anxiety (18).

All the ingredients used in SuperYou are traceable and sustainably sourced, though the product isn’t third-party tested.

Pros

  • vegan-friendly
  • traceable ingredients
  • excellent customer reviews
  • non-GMO
  • gluten-free

Cons

  • may take several weeks to produce results, as most adaptogens do
  • not third-party tested
  • expensive

Best for older adults

Thorne B Complex #12

  • Price range: $
  • Type: capsule
  • Dose per day: 1 capsule 1–3 times daily
  • Active ingredients: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, biotin, pantothenic acid, and choline.

B vitamins, particularly folate, are necessary for the production of neurotransmitters in the brain during fetal and infant brain development. However, their effects on brain health don’t end in infancy. B vitamins also play an essential role in brain health as you age (19).

Older adults are at a higher risk for vitamin B12 deficiency as a result of decreased intake of foods containing B12 as well as increased risk of gastrointestinal conditions and use of medications that inhibit absorption of the vitamin. (20, 21).

Homocysteine is a compound that causes brain atrophy and is linked with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamins B12 and B6 and folate play a key role in reducing homocysteine levels in the brain.

Therefore, maintaining healthy levels of these nutrients may help slow the rate of cognitive decline with age (22, 23).

Researchers studied the cognitive status and vitamin B12 levels of more than 1,300 older adults. They found that low vitamin B12 levels were associated with poor memory in men, deficiency was associated with poor attention, and severe deficiency was associated with poor immediate memory (24).

Other research found that participants’ average B12 and folate levels prior to taking the supplement were within normal limits. This suggests that supplementing with B12, folate, and B6 may have cognitive benefits regardless of deficiency (25).

Thorne B Complex #12 is a great option for older adults because it contains B vitamins in their active forms, which are easier to absorb.

Thorne Research is a well-known and trusted supplement company that conducts rigorous quality testing on its supplements multiple times throughout manufacturing.

Pros

  • third-party tested
  • contains active forms of B vitamins
  • vegan-friendly
  • gluten-free
  • contains naturally derived colors and flavors
  • affordable

Cons

  • may be difficult to swallow

Best omega-3

Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega

  • Price range: $$
  • Type: softgels
  • Dose per day: 2 softgels
  • Active ingredients: purified deep sea fish oil from anchovies and sardines

Omega-3 fats have been shown to help reduce the risk of many chronic conditions, including heart disease and stroke, and may help with the management of lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Plus, research suggests that these essential fats may help improve memory and cognition (2, 26).

In one review, 10 of 14 included studies found a link between omega-3 supplements and improvements in cognitive function. As a result, the researchers concluded that omega-3 supplements might be beneficial for preventing or treating cognitive decline in older adults (27).

While there’s no official recommendation, consuming 250 mg of combined EPA and DHA — two types of omega-3s — per day has been associated with health benefits. However, some research suggests that much higher doses of omega-3s are needed to help manage or prevent cognitive decline (2, 26).

Because studies show that most Americans have low intakes of foods rich in EPA and DHA, it’s worth consulting a healthcare professional to see whether you could benefit from taking an omega-3 supplement and what an optimal dose might be (28).

Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega is one of the best omega-3 supplements, as the lemon-scented softgels are made from 100% wild-caught sardines and anchovies. They contain 1,100 mg of combined EPA and DHA per 2-capsule serving.

Nordic Naturals is known for its transparency and quality. Its products are third-party tested, and consumers can easily view certificates of analysis (COAs) for its products online.

Pros

  • third-party tested
  • COA available online
  • no fishy aftertaste
  • Friend of the Sea certified with sustainable practices
  • non-GMO verified
  • no artificial flavors or colors
  • gluten-free

Cons

  • not suitable for vegans or vegetarians

Below are the main factors to consider when shopping for a brain-boosting supplement.

Do the ingredients support my needs?

It’s important to have a clear benefit in mind when selecting a supplement. For example, are you looking for a product that supports overall brain health, or are you looking for a more specific effect such as improving memory or focus?

Additionally, make sure to choose a product that contains ingredients that are research-backed to support your individual needs.

Keep in mind that there’s limited research on the role of supplements for brain health. It’s a good idea to be cautious of products with claims that seem too good to be true.

Finally, just as important as the actual ingredients is the quality and amount of those ingredients. Make sure the ingredients are present in therapeutically effective amounts.

Are there any contraindications?

This is especially important if you have a medical condition or take any type of medication — prescription or over-the-counter — as many herbs can interact with medications.

Additionally, keep in mind that even a natural supplement or herb can have dangerous side effects if taken incorrectly.

If you’re pregnant or nursing, take any medications, have any health conditions, or are preparing for any type of surgery or procedure, make sure to consult a healthcare professional before taking any type of supplement (29).

Do you trust the brand?

The FDA does not hold supplements to the same stringent quality and safety standards as medications. While the FDA does provide oversight, it’s up to the manufacturer to meet minimum quality standards (29).

Third-party testing is a step manufacturers can take to prove that their product contains exactly what is listed on the label.

Examples of third-party organizations to look for include:

  • NSF International
  • USP
  • UL Solutions
  • Informed Choice
  • Eurofins
  • Advanced Laboratories
  • Labdoor

If you’re looking to boost your brain health, it’s important to address several aspects of your health. Examples of ways that you can support a healthy brain without supplements include (30):

  • attempting to manage or reduce stress
  • getting adequate sleep
  • eating a balanced diet
  • staying physically active when possible
  • routinely challenging your mind
  • avoiding smoking, or trying to quit if you do smoke

It’s important to consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about changes in your brain’s performance or your ability to think.

While we often think of cognitive decline as a health concern for older adults, Bhanote explained that research suggests a decline in cognitive function can begin as early as in your 30s (31).

If you have any of the following symptoms, contact a doctor as soon as possible, as these could be indications of a more serious brain disorder (32, 33, 34):

  • frequent headaches
  • difficulty thinking or speaking
  • seizures
  • impaired vision
  • numbness, paralysis, or weakness in your face or any other part of your body
  • personality changes
  • uncoordinated movements
  • frequent irritability and mood changes
  • depression
  • difficulty sleeping or waking

Are brain-boosting supplements safe?

Brain-boosting supplements can be safe when taken with caution and under the supervision of a healthcare professional. If you take any medications or have a medical condition, it’s essential to consult a doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any new supplements.

Keep in mind that these supplements contain ingredients that, while natural, can have severe consequences when mixed with medications.

Supplements can also have harmful effects in certain populations, such as kids, people with medical conditions, and people who are pregnant or nursing.

Additionally, it’s safest to choose a supplement from a reputable brand that uses third-party testing.

Do doctors recommend supplements for improving brain function?

Every doctor has their own take on how and when to use supplements for brain function.

However, as Bhanote explained, supplements are generally not the first route of treatment for many brain health conditions.

“As a matter of principle, we have to ensure we are taking basic lifestyle measures for our brain health, which include proper nutrition, quality sleep, and adequate physical activity,” said Bhanote.

Once other lifestyle factors and overall health status are accounted for, some healthcare professionals may recommend supplements to help make up for possible nutrient deficiencies or to support a person through a particularly stressful period of life.

What are the top brain foods?

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins E and C, and caffeine can help support a healthy brain (35, 36, 37).

To support brain health, research suggests loading up on foods such as blueberries, salmon, turmeric, nuts, coffee or tea, and leafy greens.

While several supplements may have beneficial effects on brain health, it’s important to remember that research on these products is limited and inconclusive.

If you decide to try a supplement, make sure to select a product that contains evidence-based ingredients in therapeutically effective doses. It’s also a good idea to choose a supplement that has been tested for purity and potency, ideally by a third-party lab.

Finally, keep in mind that while supplements may support a healthy brain, it’s also important to address other aspects of your life that contribute to brain health, including diet, exercise, stress, sleep, and smoking.