Want a Natural Memory Booster? Here are the Top 9 Memory Supplements

Can’t ever seem to remember where you left your keys? Having a hard time keeping all the facts and figures straight for an upcoming test or presentation? No worries! Thankfully the study of nootropics—drugs intended to enhance memory, neurology, cognition and overall intelligence—has come a long way over the past decade.

Don’t let the ‘drugs’ bit put you off – many of these ‘smart drugs’ are composed of natural foods and herbs that improve mental function and come with several other health perks. Read on to find out top 9 memory supplements for highly effective, all natural ways to enhance your cognition and memory.

Ginkgo Biloba

Of all the great benefits that come with taking ginkgo biloba, the best known is probably ginkgo’s ability to boost brainpower. So how does ginkgo work? Studies aren’t conclusive, but all signs point to gingko extract (Egb 761) aiding neurological and psychological health by increasing blood flow to the brain.

Several studies have shown that taking ginkgo daily improved the memory of healthy participants—from young adults to people well into their middle ages. It’s also shown to be a great treatment for patients suffering from mild to moderate symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia, improving memory and cognitive ability.

Lecithin

This isn’t going to be the most appealing nutritional supplement you’ve ever heard of, but stay with me. Lecithin (phosphatidyl choline) is a naturally occurring fatty substance that’s found in animals and plants. Its main function in people is as insulation for nerves, helping us keep our wires from crossing and the message system running smoothly (so to speak.) It’s found in large concentrations in food like eggs and offal.

If you’re an omnivore who eats a well-balanced, healthy diet, you should be getting enough. But given how hard that is these days, it’s best not to chance it and include this is in your arsenal.

Especially since in human and animal trials, lecithin has shown itself to be a dynamo when it comes to short-term memory. One promising animal study shows that the positive effects could be intergenerational. So if you’re pregnant, it could also be good for your baby’s memory as well! When pregnant rats were given lecithin supplement, their offspring solved a maze much better than the offspring of the rats who didn’t get the supplement. And what’s more, that improved memory lasted the duration of the rats’ lives. In short, lecithin babies grew up to have better memories than non-lecithin babies. The assumption is that taking the lecithin better maintains and fosters growth in the neurotransmitters.

Be warned though: higher doses of lecithin supplements have led to some pretty unappealing side effects such as diarrhea, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and a in some cases a fishy smell.

Vinpocetine

Vinpocetine is a semisynthetic derivative of vinca alkolaid vincamine (partially lab created, partially extracted from the periwinkle plant.) It’s currently sold in Germany as a nootropic where it’s classified as a phosphodiesterase inhibitors (PDEIs).

Phosphodiesterase inhibitors prevents phosphodiesterase (protein molecules) like those found in blood vessels, from relaxing. That means blood vessels remain dilated and blood flow to hard-to-flow-to places improves.

Studies found that taking vinpocetine regularly lead to better memory and reasoning. In 1987 a study conducted on participants suffering from chronic vascular senile cerebral function (aka mild to moderate dementia caused by diminished blood flow to the brain) show that without interfering with other medication, vinpocetine improved cognition and recall in the patients after just three months.

In the near three decades since that study, there have been hundreds of others that have essentially stated the same thing: vinpocetine enhances cognitive abilities, memory and alertness.

Choline

Choline is used to treat a number of diseases and ailments but like vinpocetine it’s also a nootropic. In 1998, Choline became the newest nutrient to be added as a required nutrient by the National Academy of Sciences, which means that it’s required by the human body to function. Though not specifically labeled a B vitamin, it’s definitely recognized as being in the same wheelhouse—meaning that it helps process food into energy for human usage. It’s found in foods like fish, legumes, spinach and eggs.

Though the mechanics are unclear (like a great deal of nootropics) both long-term memory and ability to maintain mental focus are improved. This probably has to do with choline being an important component of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter (a chemical that send signals across synapses.) Acetylcholine is perhaps best known for being the neurotransmitter that keeps your muscles moving and grooving.

Here’s the tricky bit: there are quite a few different sources of choline and a number of types of supplements you can take. The most common are probably soy lecithin and phosphatidylcholine, but they’re not the best way to get your choline boost as they typically don’t have more than 10-13% concentration of choline in them. Your best bet is choline alfoscerate, or Alpha GPC as research demonstrates that it has the best absorption rate out of different varieties, offering 40-60% depending on formulation.

Huperzine

Huperzine isn’t only fun to say, it’s great to take! Derived form the herbs belonging to the Huperziceae family, a Chinese moss, it’s recently began attracting a lot of attention as a potential treatment for degenerative neurological disorders and may offer some level of protection for neurons.

Huperzine is classified as a cholinesterase inhibitor. Cholinesterase is the chemical in your nervous system that determines the level of activity and duration that certain neurotransmitters are active in the brain. Because hyperzine inhibits this chemical, neurotransmitters are active longer, to a higher degree.

Because of this amazing effect, though it isn’t a cure-all for any degenerative brain disorder, it can slow them down. A large meta-analysis demonstrated that huperzine A, a specific kind of huperzine extract, could offer significant relief from the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Brahmi (aka Bacopa Monnieri)

Bacopa Monnieri, or brahmi, is an herb native to wetlands all over the world.
It’s been used for thousands of years and is an important medicinal herb in a traditional Hindu medicine called Ayurveda. If you’re familiar with the nootropic Piracetam, it’s considered a much more potent version of the commonly used nootropic.

Currently it’s being studied in Western medicine as a neurological tonic and cognitive pick-me-up. Bacopa monnieri is labelled an adaptogen, able to reduce or elevate hormones based on our body’s need. This is due to a component of Bacopa monnieri called bacosides, which is shown to have a big role in regulation of serotonin and dopamine. Because the daily stress of our lives plays such a huge roll on our ability to build and retain memories, bacosides’ ability to maintain dopamine and serotonin block stress at the neurochemical level and lead to better memory creation and retention.

Because it’s so effective, you should be aware that there are a number of side effects to watch out for. If you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, this is not the supplement for you. Same if you suffer from bradycardia, thyroid disorders or lung conditions. If you have a sensitive digestive system there is a chance that it could cause intestinal blockage or ulcers. Make absolutely certain to consult your doctor or medical care professional before starting to take this this drug.

Fish Oil (DHA)

Another MVP on team “not so appetizing but oh so effective” is fish oil. Derived from the tissue of oily fish, fish oil is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is believed to help nerve cells communicate with each other by fostering growth and protecting nerve cells, increasing communication between them.

Current research is fairly conclusive that taking fish oil is most beneficial for people with existing memory problems, such the elderly or those affected by stress or chronic illness. Studies conducted in the US, Canada and the United Kingdom demonstrated that after as little as 6 months, participants scored better in memory tests than at the outset of the study.

If you’re concerned about increasing your intake of fish oil due to some sources being high in contaminants like mercury, PCBs and dioxin, rest assured that when you take your fish oil from supplements, it’s most likely you’re from farmed salmon. According to the Food and Drug Administration you can safely take up to 3000 mg of omega-3 per day (capsules will actually only have about 300 mg of fish oil per.)

Cacao

The delicious power of raw cacao has been in the headlines over the past few years. Several small studies have demonstrated that the caffeine, antioxidants and flavanols in cacao have the power to improve memory. But don’t jump for joy yet: the cocoa beverage used in tests was specially formulated for the trial and isn’t available to the public. The concoction was created to enhance the flavanols naturally found in cocoa, which are said to increase heart health.

Despite lacking access to cutting edge cocoa beverages, the caffeine and antioxidants in cocoa are still abundant, and have been reported as being very good for short-term memory.

Camu Camu

Camu camu extract is derived from the Myrciaria dubia, a humble shrub-like tree native to the Amazon rainforest in Peru and Brazil. It’s lousy with antioxidants that act to prevent the unnatural cell death (or stress-related oxidization) of cells in the brain. It’s also incredibly high in vitamin C – the highest known source of vitamin C currently known.

Though it wasn’t understood before, in the past decade medical science has determined that vitamin C is crucial to maintain proper function of the brain and eyes. Vitamin C is found to help clear plaque buildup in the brain, which may be a precursor to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia and other degenerative brain diseases.

About the Author Jessica

After growing up a perpetually pudgy kid, Jessica discovered real food – and her waistline shortly afterward. When she’s not crafting concoctions in the kitchen, she spends her free time writing about food, making her own deodorant, watching sci-fi, doing headstands, and looking for gluten free food that doesn’t suck.

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