We humans have been given these wonderful information processors—our brains. Unfortunately, there’s a lack of education around how best to maintain a healthy brain as we get older or when we want to boost our learning. Natural brain boosters can help us avoid cognitive decline and utilize our amazing brains in a way that enhances memory, energy, and focus.
Water and certain foods are great brain boosters, but dietary supplements can often help in this area. We will go over a few of them here.
Brain boosters are also often referred to as nootropics, or smart drugs. Certain nootropics I cover in the proceeding article have also been proposed to treat certain mental disorders and illnesses.
Here are 10 natural brain boosters recommended by science:
You’ve probably heard that up to 60% of the total human adult body is water. However, you likely haven’t heard that the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs sit at about 83% water. If your brain is about 3/4 water, and you are dehydrated, do you think it will perform effectively?
Chances are that a dehydrated human is not reaching peak performance on the next physics or math exam, or anything for that matter!
While most recommendations focus on drinking 8 glasses of water a day, new studies have revealed that may not always be the best rule to follow. To know when you should be drinking water and how much, just listen to your body. Your brain and body have evolved sophisticated techniques to inform you when you need water.
When the brain detects a lack of water, it will send signals that tell you you’re thirsty. Once you begin to feel that, start drinking water until you feel satiated. Your body knows how to care for its brain health, so trust it!
2. Krill Oil / Fish Oils
I’ve specified krill oil here, however, you are welcome to take any form of high quality fish oil supplement as a brain booster, another example being Alaskan wild salmon oil. I would, of course, suggest consuming fish instead of supplementation. However, you can benefit from both.
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats responsible for most of the brain and mental health benefits of fish oil.
Fish oil primarily contains two types of omega-3 fatty acids — EPA and DHA. These fatty acids are critical for normal brain function and development throughout all stages of life. EPA and DHA play important roles in a developing baby’s brain.
In fact, several studies have correlated pregnant women’s fish intake or fish oil use with increased scores for their children on tests of intelligence and brain function in early childhood. These EPA/DHA fatty acids are also vital for the maintenance of normal brain function throughout life. They are abundant in the cell membranes of brain cells, preserving cell membrane health and facilitating communication between brain cells.
Consuming fish or fish oils may also improve brain function in people with memory problems, such as individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive impairments.
Fish oil supplements like the Infuel Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplement would be a nice option.
Glutamine is commonly classified as a “non-essential amino acid.” This may mislead people into believing that we don’t need it. However, simply put, “non-essential” means only that the body can synthesize this amino acid. It does not mean the substance is “unimportant” by any means.
In the brain, glutamine is a substrate for the production of both excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters (glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid, popularly known as GABA). Glutamine is also an important source of energy for the nervous system.
If the human brain is not receiving enough glucose, it compensates by increasing glutamine metabolism for energy, which has led to the popular perception of glutamine as “brain food” and its application as a brain booster and energy elevator. Often, glutamine users claim to feel more energy, less fatigue, and an overall better mood.
4. Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) are white, round-shaped fungi that have long, shaggy spines, appearing much like a lion’s mane. They can be eaten or taken in the form of supplements. Research suggests that they may offer a range of health benefits, including reduced inflammation and improved cognitive and heart health.
Lion’s mane is packed with antioxidants that may fight both inflammation and oxidation in the body. Inflammation contributes to loads of medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases. In a 2012 study, the medicinal potential of 14 types of mushroom were evaluated, finding that lion’s mane had the fourth highest antioxidant activity, which researchers described as “moderate to high”.
It’s also possible that lion’s mane mushrooms can boost cognitive function, but the existing research is mainly on animals (mice), giving them better object recognition and recognition memory.
Though there is currently a lack of research around treatment, some researchers have concluded that the mushrooms may have the potential to reduce the risk of decline in cognitive health related to Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.
5. Turmeric & Curcumin
Turmeric is a plant, and curcumin is a compound found within turmeric. The main health benefits come from curcumin, but you can get this special substance by eating the turmeric plant.
Turmeric is widely regarded as one of the most powerful health and wellness supplements in existence. This is because turmeric helps with more than just brain function, such as improving the total antioxidant capacity of the body. The latest studies on turmeric show that curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier and has the potential to help clear plaques that cause cognitive decline.
Curcumin boosts Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which is a type of growth hormone that functions in your brain, linked to enhanced brain function, such as improved memory and a lower risk of brain diseases. Curcumin may also aid in preventing the development of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease, making this one of the best brain boosters around.
Ashwagandha is one of the most effective remedies for anxiety and depression. Researchers report that it blocks the stress pathway in the brains of rats by regulating chemical signaling in the nervous system. Several controlled human studies have shown that it can effectively reduce symptoms in people with stress and anxiety disorders.
In a 60-day study in 64 people with chronic stress, those in the supplemental group reported a 69% average reduction in anxiety and insomnia, compared to 11% in the placebo group. In another six-week study, 88% of people who took Ashwagandha reported a reduction in anxiety, compared to 50% of those who took a placebo.
L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that has proven effects on the reduction of anxiety and is an overall great brain booster. This powerful substance can induce calming, tranquilizing effects while simultaneously improving alertness.
L-Theanine, much like the brain-signaling chemical Glutamine, relieves anxiety. L-Theanine produces the opposite effect in the brain. While glutamate is the brain’s most important excitatory neurotransmitter, L-theanine binds to the same brain cell receptors and blocks them to glutamate’s effects. This action produces inhibitory effects, which has a calming, relaxing effect in which anxiety fades.
Resveratrol (3,5,4′-trihydroxy-trans-stilbene) belongs to polyphenols’ stilbenoids group. This natural polyphenol can be detected in 70+ plant species, especially in grapes’ skin and seeds, as well as discrete amounts in red wines and other human foods.
Resveratrol has several neuroprotective roles in various neurodegenerative impairments, such as Alzheimer′s, Huntington′s and Parkinson′s diseases, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and alcohol-induced neurodegenerative disorders. It has been shown that resveratrol protective effects are not limited to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity, but also improved mitochondrial functions and biogenesis.
A meta-analysis showed that resveratrol significantly decreased Profile of Mood States (POMS), including vigor and fatigue. However, it didn’t have any significant effect on memory or cognitive performance. So while Resveratrol may be a great solution for neurodegeneration, it likely will not yield direct cognitive performance benefits.
9. 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5HTP)
5-HTP functions in the brain and central nervous system by increasing the production of the chemical serotonin. Serotonin affects sleep, appetite, temperature, sexual behavior, and pain sensation.
Since 5-HTP increases the synthesis of serotonin, it is used for the treatment and prevention of several diseases, including depression, insomnia, obesity, and many other conditions, making this a great brain booster. It has been proposed that these conditions are heavily impacted by serotonin in the brain.
This one is quite straightforward in that most are familiar with the substance and its effects. Caffeine has been proven to increase cognitive performance by way of improved memory and focus.
I would like to stipulate that overconsumption of caffeine can be quite detrimental to one’s overall health by overstimulating the nervous system and adrenal gland, which can lead to increased levels of stress.
When consuming caffeine, do so in moderation; never exceed 300mg (milligrams) in a single day, and realistically aim to stay below 200mg (about 2-3 cups of coffee).
The Bottom Line
This list of brain boosters and memory enhancers can offer a great place to start if you want to try giving your brain a helping hand. If you do try any of these substances, I suggest doing so individually, and not all together, so that you can determine what is working best for you in particular.
Whether you’re looking for increased focus, more energy, or or improved memory, these suggestions can help. Make the most of your learning experiences by trying these out and boosting your brain’s abilities.
More Tips for Enhancing Brain Power
- 11 Brain Training Apps to Train Your Mind and Improve Memory
- How to Increase Brain Power, Boost Memory and Become 10X Smarter
- 8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More
- 4 Simple Steps to Brain Dump for a Smarter Brain (Beginner’s Guide)
Featured photo credit: Liane via unsplash.com
|||^||USGS: The Water in You: Water and the Human Body|
|||^||BBC Future: How much water should you drink a day?|
|||^||Obstetrics and Gynecology: Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Pregnancy|
|||^||Neuron Glia Biology: Roles of glutamine in neurotransmission|
|||^||Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Evaluation of Selected Culinary-Medicinal Mushrooms for Antioxidant and ACE Inhibitory Activities|
|||^||AirTract: 10 Great Health Benefits of Turmeric (Infographic)|
|||^||Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology: The effect of curcumin (turmeric) on Alzheimer’s disease: An overview|
|||^||Healthline: 12 Proven Health Benefits of Ashwagandha|
|||^||Life Extension: Brain Benefits of L-Theanine|
|||^||Biomedicines: Resveratrol: A Double-Edged Sword in Health Benefits|
|||^||Web MD: 5-HTP|