Brain function remains confoundingly complicated. We know quite a lot about how different lobes of the brain function, and we have a grasp on the importance of several brain chemicals, including those that amp us (norepinephrine and glutamate), those that calm us (serotonin), and those that stimulate pleasure (dopamine). Having a proper balance of these neurotransmitters or brain chemicals is crucial for healthy responses in everyday life as well as for long-term health.
Science devotes a vast amount of money and time exploring how to combat late-life brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Yet, even those much younger often suffer from cognitive issues such as ADD, ADHD, OCD, and a host of others.
Today’s research indicates that many of these conditions can be lessened by providing nutrients that boost production of the neurotransmitters that support the connections between neurons. One way to approach this is to take supplements that drive production of brain chemicals to support better functioning of neurons and their complicated interactions.
Here’s our list of brain-boosting supplements to keep your brain synapsing on all cylinders.
1. Ginkgo Biloba
This oldest-known tree species on the planet has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. The supplemental version relies on the fruits, seeds, and leaves from this tree. While the science is not conclusive on whether ginkgo supports memory for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia, it has been shown to alleviate suffering from anxiety, depression, and other mental-health conditions. Research also demonstrates that ginkgo may help lessen the stickiness of blood platelets, making it beneficial for health in general.
Researchers believe ginkgo biloba improves cognitive function because it promotes good circulation in the brain.
This brain chemical is often prescribed as a supplement for Alzheimer’s patients to
improve brain function. It’s also administered to those who suffer from ADHD and head trauma. Researchers believe that citocoline increases phosphatidylcholine, another brain chemical that supports blood circulation to the brain.
You may know that you need to consume more omega-3s, which are plentiful in fatty fish, but otherwise hard to come by in the American diet. What you may not know is that DHA is one omega-3 fatty acid that improves brain function by boosting the growth of new brain cells. Research shows that this is particularly beneficial for those suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Huperzine is a naturally occurring compound found in a group of plants native to India. Traditionally, huperzine was used to treat bruises and inflammation, improving blood flow. Today, it is believed that huperzine enhances focus by improving function of acetylcholine, a brain chemical linked to improved concentration.
Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, encourages greater production of serotonin, the brain chemical that helps promote better sleep and reduces depression. Tryptophan is not abundant in foods, so it is good to get it in supplements.
6. Bacopa Monnieri
Used in India for centuries to promote sleep and support health, Bacopa monnieri boosts thyroid hormone levels as demonstrated by research. Other studies support its benefits in combating the progression of Alzheimer’s. Researchers think that supplementing Bacopa monnieri may boost cognition.
Supplementing curcumin from turmeric (an extract from the ginger family) has been demonstrated to increase focus and decrease brain fog. The curcuminoids in turmeric combat oxidative stress caused by harmful free radicals that destroy the integrity of cell walls in your body. Curcuminoids improve the benefits of DHA from supplements and fatty fish and other foods, boosting neural connections and supporting brain function.
8. Lion’s Mane
This medicinal mushroom is also known as “bearded tooth fungus,” which sounds like the worst dating-profile name ever. More attractively, it’s advertised as “hedgehog mushroom.” This superfood (Hericium erinaceus) boosts focus and memory by increasing nerve-factor growth hormone (NGH). This neuropeptide supports the function of brain cells. Research shows that supplementing with lion’s mane helps preserve visual and short-term memory, among many other benefits.
When we think of key botanical ingredients that are beneficial for brain health and memory, curcumin from turmeric is one of the most clinically studied. Curcumin provides antioxidant protection to neurons and can cross the blood brain barrier. Healthy Delights Naturals Curcumin soft chews are a convenient and delicious way to incorporate curcumin’s benefits into your daily routine.
Meet the Expert: Angelica Vrablic, Ph.D. has published more than 20 peer-reviewed research studies, and she is director of product development for Healthy Delights.