After soy and other plants break down, they can leave behind alpha gpc, which is often used for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and stroke. However, there is insufficient clinical evidence showing the supplement to be effective for any of these. There is no agreed-upon dosing for alpha gpc, and common side effects include digestive upset, headache, and dizziness.
A plant used for millennia in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for Alzheimer’s disease, memory, attention problems, IBS, and even as a stress reduction agent. Some specific bacopin extracts such as KeenMind and BacoMind have been showing to improve memory in otherwise healthy brains, although there is insufficient clinical evidence showing its efficacy for any other conditions. Dosing is around 300mg per day, although bacopin should not be taken for longer than 12 weeks. Common side effects include cramping, nausea, and fatigue.
Bee pollen, which is collected from the bodies of bees, is touted for its many benefits, including helping with stomach problems, asthma, allergies, chemotherapy, skin conditions, and even alcoholism. In most instances, this is because bee pollen contains a unique blend of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, lipids, and protein, although many of these claimed benefits have insufficient clinical evidence to support them. As you might imagine, if you’re allergic to pollen, you’ll want to stay away.
Boron is a chemical element that’s found throughout the environment and in many of the foods we eat, and is often touted as an essential ingredient for healthy brain function. However, to date, there remains insufficient clinical evidence showing that boron plays an essential biological role, whether related to brain function or anything else.
Cognizin is a branded form of citicoline, also known as cytidine diphosphate-choline (CDP-Choline) and cytidine 5'-diphosphocholin, that is classified as “possibly effective” for age-related memory problems, improved blood circulation in the brain, and recovering from stroke. Citicoline dosages range between 500mg and 2,000mg per day, depending on what you’re taking it for, and has been found to be safe for up to 90 days of continuous use.
An amino acid that’s claimed to provide a wide range of benefits, including boosting male fertility, improving athletic performance, increasing testosterone levels, and much more. However, there remains insufficient clinical evidence showing this is actually the case.
A fatty acid typically found in the tissue of certain kinds of fish (primarily coldwater), including tuna, salmon, whale and seal blubber, and mackerel, that can help decrease the thickness of blood and reduce triglyceride levels. Because of this, DHA is often used by patients suffering from age-related macular degeneration, clogged arteries, and high cholesterol, although brain related benefits are classified as “possibly ineffective.” There are no specific dosing guidelines for DHA, although it’s generally thought to be safe in large amounts .
DMAE is a major chemical contributor in the production of acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter. Despite its key importance within the human body though, other than improving exercise performance, there is insufficient clinical evidence showing that DMAE can provide any other benefits, whether related to the brain or otherwise. DMAE is generally thought to be safe in doses of 300 to 2,000mg daily, although some patients may experience constipation, itchiness, headache, and more.
A form of vitamin B that plays a key role in the production of DNA. Folic acid supplementation can help provide a wide range of benefits, including reducing the effects of kidney disease, age-related vision loss, depression, high blood pressure, and more, although there remains insufficient evidence showing it can provide any kind of brain benefits. The recommended daily allowance for folic acid is 400mcg, although some users may experience digestive upset, sleep disorders, mood swings, or skin reactions.
In contrast to some other chemicals commonly found in nootropics, GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that blocks brain signals and can lead to a calming effect. However, GABA lacks sufficient clinical evidence showing oral supplementation can reliably provide this benefit, least of all because it cannot pass the blood-brain barrier. There isn’t a recommended daily allowance for GABA, although it generally results in no known side effects if taken continuously for up to 12 weeks.
Whether in nootropics or any other type of supplement, ginseng, the root of a plant, often comes in 3 different forms; American, Panax (Asian), and Siberian. In the vast majority of supplements, Panax ginseng is the included ingredient, which is possibly effective for improving mental performance in Alzheimer’s patients and improving mental function in middle-aged adults. Outside of these though, there is insufficient evidence showing Panax ginseng can provide any additional brain benefits in otherwise healthy patients. Dosing can range between 200mg and 900mg per day, and the most common side effect is trouble sleeping. In most instances, you should not take Panax ginseng orally for more than 6 months at a time.
A chemical that acts as a key structural component of most connective tissues, and is produced naturally when the liver converts glucose. Although glucuronolactone is available as a standalone supplement, it’s most widely found in energy drinks due to it’s supposed ability to improve endurance. And while some studies have shown this to be the case, for the most part there remains insufficient evidence.
An amino acid that, among other things, acts as a neurotransmitter, works as a GABA precursor, and is one of the most abundant molecules in the brain. However, because glutamic acid does not pass the blood-brain barrier, there is insufficient evidence showing oral supplementation can have reliable benefits to cognition.
Grape seed extract has relatively strong clinical evidence showing it can help improve poor circulation, high cholesterol, and eye diseases related to diabetes, as well as to provide beneficial antioxidants. Most grape seed extract studies have used 100-300mg per day, although noted side effects include headache, itchy scalp, dizziness, and nausea.
Derived from Chinese club moss, huperzine A is thought to increase levels of acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter. Because of this, huperzine A is considered possibly effective for treating dementia and memory-related problems, although there remains insufficient evidence for other conditions. Huperzine A dosing can range between 30mcg and 200mcg, depending on the condition being treated. Common side effects are digestive upset, blurred vision, muscle problems, restlessness, and more.
A compound of niacin and inositol, this can help widen blood vessels and reduce cholesterol, even to the brain. As such, it’s often included in nootropics. However, while typical dosing ranges from 1,500 to 4,000mg per day, there is insufficient clinical evidence inositol can reliably provide any kind of brain benefits. Common side effects include digestive upset and headache.
Iodine is a key chemical element that must be obtained from sources outside the body, and is primarily responsible for healthy thyroid function. Dosing ranges between 90mcg and 290mcg per day, although there is insufficient clinical evidence showing iodine can reliably provide any brain benefits. Doses greater than 1,100mcg should be avoided.
Iron is a key mineral that helps red blood cells transport oxygen from the lungs to cells all over the body. Many brain supplements include iron thinking that it might help improve blood flow to the brain, although other than learning problems in children with iron deficiency, there is insufficient evidence showing it can provide any kind of other brain benefits. Depending on age, iron dosing can range anywhere between 0.27mg and 9mg per day. Common side effects include digestive upset, which is why iron supplements should be taken with food.
The most abundant free amino acid in the human body, glutamine plays an important role in a variety of bodily functions, including digestion, immune system response, and helping to fight against the damaging effects of stress. Glutamine also produces nitrogen, which can help increase blood flood and oxygenation to muscles, including the brain. However, there remains insufficient clinical evidence showing that l-glutamine can reliably provide any kind of brain benefits. Daily dosages can range between 4 and 40 grams.
Another key amino acid, l-ornithine is used to build proteins within the body. L-ornithine is classified as “likely ineffective” for worsening of mental function caused by liver disease, and there do not appear to be any other brain benefits associated with the amino acid.
A sugar found in milk that makes up 2-8% of its total weight, lactose does not directly cause any brain-related benefits, but is often used as a filler to make tablets/capsules.
An essential amino acid that requires biotin in order to fully break down within the body, after which it is used for various important processes, including healing muscle damage and cognition. However, there is insufficient clinical evidence showing that oral supplementation of leucine can have any brain-related benefits.
An amino acid primarily used for cold sore treatment, although it is often included in brain supplements to help reduce stress. However, there is insufficient clinical evidence showing that lysine can provide any kind of brain-related benefits. Dosing can range between 1,000 and 3,000mg per day, although common side effects include stomach pain and diarrhea.
An amino acid found in meat, fish, and dairy products used to treat a variety of conditions, including liver disorders, wound healing, depression, alcoholism, Parkinson’s disease, and more. Other than acetaminophen poisoning though, there remains insufficient clinical evidence showing methionine can provide any of these benefits.
A trace mineral that plays an important role in bodily function, especially the breakdown of proteins and other substances. However, there is insufficient clinical evidence showing molybdenum supplementation can provide any real-world benefits (90% of molybdenum is excreted through urine), other than those related to molybdenum deficiency.
A form of vitamin B3 that can be used to treat high cholesterol, diabetes, some skin conditions, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and more. For Alzheimer’s disease, there seems to be some evidence that obtaining more niacinamide from food could help prevent the onset of this disease, but this may not be the case for oral supplementation. There is insufficient evidence for other brain-related benefits. Niacinamide dosing ranges between 2mg and 35mg per day, and the most common side effect is flushing, especially around the face, arms, and chest.
A trace mineral found in several foods, including some nuts and grains, nickel is primarily used to increase iron absorption and to treat osteoporosis. Interestingly, nickel’s precise function in the body isn’t fully understood, although there is insufficient evidence showing it can have any kind of brain benefits. Nickel dosing can range between 0.2mg and 1mg per day, depending on age.
A member of the racetam family, oxiracetam has been studied as a nootropic, specifically related to dementia and increasing logical performance, attention, concentration, memory, and spatial orientation. For many of these tests, dosing ranged between 1,600 and 4,800mg per day, although the results remain inconclusive.
As a vitamin (also known as vitamin B5) that helps your body use carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids, pantothenic acid is used to treat a wide variety of conditions, including alcoholism, ADHD, autism, depression, and much more. However, there is insufficient clinical evidence showing it’s effective for any of these conditions. Dosing ranges between 1.7mg and 7mg per day, and when taken in these amounts, side effects are rare.
An amino acid used to treat depression, ADHD, Parkinson’s disease, alcohol withdrawal, and more. Although we know that phenylalanine makes chemical messengers within the body, it’s not clear exactly how it works. Other than treating a skin condition known as vitiligo though, there is insufficient evidence showing oral phenylalanine supplementation can provide any kind of benefits. Dosing typically ranges between 50mg and 100mg per day, and side effects are rare.
Technically a drug that’s owned by the Russian pharmaceutical company NPK ECHO, pikamilon is hydrolyzed into GABA and niacin within the body. However, there remains insufficient evidence showing it can reliably provide any kind of brain benefits.
Another nootropic within the racetam family, piracetam is thought to influence neuronal and vascular function within the body, although it’s not yet fully understood why this occurs. Interestingly, piracetam is not permitted by the FDA to be sold as a dietary supplement or for any medical use. Overall, while some clinical trials have been conducted showing that piracetam is useful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, age-related brain degeneration, and depression, there remains insufficient evidence showing this is always the case.
A chemical found in some berries and peanuts, reseveratrol is thought to (among other things) expand blood vessels and improve blood flow, although there is insufficient clinical evidence showing this can provide any kind of benefits, brain-related or otherwise. While there is no official dosing information for resveratrol, studies have shown 250mg daily doses for up to 3 months to be likely safe.
Riboflavin is a B vitamin found in a variety of foods and is required for proper development of many parts of the body. Riboflavin supplementation is often used to treat migraine headaches, muscle cramps, some blood disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, and more, although there is insufficient clinical evidence showing it can provide any kind of brain benefits. Riboflavin dosing ranges between 0.3mg and 1.6mg depending on age, and a common side effect involves turning urine a yellow-orange color.
A proprietary ashwagandha extract manufactured by Natreon, Inc. For additional information, please see the entry for ashwagandha.
A proprietary formulation of phosphatidylserine manufactured by Chemi Nutra. Phosphatidylserine plays a key role in numerous bodily functions, but primarily related to maintaining cellular function within the brain. Phosphatidylserine is listed as “possibly effective” for the treatment of age-related mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease, although there is insufficient evidence showing it’s effectiveness for other conditions. Phosphatidylserine is thought to be generally safe when taken in 300mg daily doses for up to 6 months.
Serine is an amino acid that acts as a precursor to glycine, as well as a neuromodulator that binds to glutamate. Other than as a treatment for schizophrenia and ALS, there is insufficient clinical evidence showing serine supplementation can have any kinds of brain benefits.
A mineral used to treat osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, digestive disorders, and more, although silicon’s function within the human body has not been well established. Other than increasing bone strength though, there is insufficient clinical evidence showing silicon can provide any reliable benefits. There is no recommended daily allowance for silicon, although some studies have shown up to 40mg per day to be safe and well tolerated.
An herb whose flowers and leaves are used to make supplements for the treatment of a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, migraines, muscle pain, and more. The active chemical in St. John’s Wort is hyperforin, which is thought to act on chemical messengers within the body to regulate mood. From a brain perspective though, St. John’s Wort has only been found to be “likely effective” for the treatment of depression. Dosing ranges between 300mg and 900mg daily, and common side effects include trouble sleeping, restlessness, and anxiety. Note: Medical professionals recommend that you not stop taking St. John’s Wort suddenly, but that you instead slowly reduce your intake.
Also known as vitamin B1, thiamine helps our bodies utilize carbohydrates, and is used in the treatment of nerve inflammation, some types of brain damage, Alzheimer’s, and memory loss, although there is insufficient evidence for any brain disorders not caused by thiamine deficiency. Dosing for thiamine can range between 0.2mg and 1.5mg daily depending on age, and side effects are rare.
An amino acid that is converted into glycine, although there is insufficient clinical evidence showing threonine can provide any kind of brain benefits.
A chemical element that’s present throughout the environment, including in your body’s tissue. However, the CDC claims “There is no evidence that tin is an essential element for humans.” Therefore, tin supplementation is not a requirement, and there is insufficient clinical evidence showing it can provide any brain-related benefits.
An essential amino acid that’s converted to 5-HTP within your body, which is then converted into serotonin, a hormone that transmits signals between nerve cells. However, there is insufficient evidence showing that tryptophan supplementation can provide any kind of brain benefits. However, tryptophan is classified as “possibly unsafe” when taken orally, due to over 1500 reports of eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS), which has resulted in 37 deaths.
An amino acid commonly found in meat, dairy, soy, and beans that is very similar in structure to threonine. Like threonine though, there is insufficient clinical evidence showing it to provide any kind of brain benefits within the human body.
A mineral used to treat diabetes, high cholesterol, anemia, and improving athletic performance. Other than vanadium deficiency though, there is insufficient clinical evidence showing it can provide any kind of brain benefits.
A key vitamin for the proper development of eyes, skin, and immune system that is found in fruits, vegetables, meat, and saltwater fish. However, there is insufficient clinical evidence showing it to provide any kind of brain benefits. Vitamin A dosing ranges between 300mcg and 3,000mcg per day, and while side effects are rare, they can include fatigue, irritability, digestive upset, and fever.
An important vitamin for the function of the brain, nerves, and blood cells, although there is insufficient clinical evidence showing vitamin B12 to provide any kind of direct brain benefits. Oral vitamin B12 dosing ranges between 0.4mcg and 2.8mcg, primarily depending on age, and side effects are rare.
Another key vitamin important in organ function that also acts as an antioxidant. Vitamin E is classified as “possibly effective” for slowing down memory loss related to Alzheimer’s and dementia, and is effective in dosages ranging between 60IU and 1,200IU per day. Most people do not experience any side effects when taking vitamin E.
A vitamin that’s primarily responsible for blood clotting, although there is insufficient clinical evidence showing it to provide any kind of brain benefits. Vitamin K dosing ranges between 2mcg and 90mcg daily, and most patients experience no side effects from its use.
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