We’ve all been there. Trying to remember that one actor from that one movie that we love and have seen a million times, but for some reason, their name just isn’t coming to mind. Memory lapses like this can be expected. However, as we get older, memory lapses can be more severe and signs of something more ominous. Over 5.0 million people have dementia in the U.S., and that number is expected to rise to nearly 14 million by the year 2060. Most sufferers are over 65 years old, and many more cases of subtle cognitive dysfunction go undiagnosed. The negative effect aging has on cognitive function pushes the need to research treatments for age-related cognitive decline. Luckily, there is research out there that suggests there are steps you can take to help boost your memory and mental load. Keep reading to find out which vitamins are best for your mind.

Bacopa monnieri (Brahmi)

People have used this medicinal plant for centuries. Based on information gathered from animal studies, scientists believe that B. monnieri at doses of 20-80mg/kg BW could enhance neuron density in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the area of the brain that plays a vital role in learning and memory. Scientists observed the optimum benefit at a 40mg/kg BW dose.

In one clinical study, scientists gave 60 healthy subjects an extract of B. monnieri (300 and 600 mg) or a placebo once daily for 12 weeks. The results suggest that B. monnieri can improve attention, working memory, and cognitive processing. There were no serious adverse effects.

B. monnieri contains powerful plant chemicals (saponins) that scientists believe have memory-enhancing effects. As seen in animal studies, scientists see a difference in neurons within the brain. The neurons in your brain grow branches that help them communicate with other cells. This process is called dendrite branching. A 2011 study found that Bacopa increased the number and length of dendrites, leading to enhanced memory and learning. And in another study, adults with age-related problems strengthened their ability to control thoughts and emotions, think logically, and learn new tasks.

Alpha-GPC (L-alpha-glyceryl phosphorylcholine)

Alpha-GPC is a phospholipid that’s essential for brain health. It provides choline for cell membranes and myelin production, nourishing the nervous system. Choline from this nutrient also builds a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine (ACh). ACh maintains your cognitive (heavily involved in learning, memory, and emotions) and muscle functions. Alpha-GPC has proven to successfully treat cognitive decline that it’s a prescription for Alzheimer’s disease in some European countries. However, in the United States, it is only sold as a memory enhancement dietary supplement.

A 2015 study compared the effects of Alpha-GPC to caffeine and a placebo on cognitive function and physiological performance. 20 participants (ten male, ten female) consumed 200 mg of Alpha-GPC, 400 mg Alpha-GPC, 200 mg of caffeine, and a placebo. Those who took Alpha-GPC saw some benefits in specific physical and mental performance tasks, leading the researchers to suggest more studies should be done to determine appropriate doses and timing of consumption before testing.

In another clinical trial of 260 patients, researchers found that Alpha-GPC improved all symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease occurs when bundles of mutated proteins kill neurons and deplete ACh, resulting in various cognitive issues.

A fraction of patients has reported mild heartburn, nausea, irritability, and headache while taking Alpha-GCP. For treating symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, one should take 400 mg three times daily for six to 12 months. According to anecdotal evidence, the dosage for nootropic effects ranges from 400 to 1,200 mg daily. However, no studies have confirmed this. To be safe, start on the lower end of the spectrum and track your response as you increase your dosage.

Acetyl-L Carnitine (ALCAR)

ALCAR is an amino acid that fuels energy production in your cells and supports nerve function. It also supplies the acetyl group for producing ACh. When treating Alzheimer’s disease, no other neurotransmitter is more critical than ACh. ACLAR helps boost cholinergic activity in the brain, which may help prevent cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. It also increases brain levels of glutathione, shielding the brain against oxidative stress and amyloid-beta plaques that destroy neurons in Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s that take ALCAR have had improved attention and memory, mental agility and focus, speech, and behavior. ACLAR may also boost the effectiveness of standard drugs, like Exelon and Aricept.

If we haven’t made it clear by now, maintaining good brain health is vital for an aging brain. As brain cells age, they become senescent. This means they become less functional and more pro-inflammatory and produce less ACh. Research suggests that ALCAR may prevent the onset of senescence. Thus, improving mental health and cognition in the elderly.

For the most part, ALCAR treatment was safe and well-tolerated in clinical trials. In rare cases, patients experienced upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and insomnia. The effective dosage for most conditions seems to range from 1,500 to 3,000 mg, divided into two or three daily doses. Standard treatment should last two to three months, although cognitive impairment may require six to 12 months of treatment. We recommend that you speak with a healthcare professional for the proper dosage and duration of treatment.

Ginkgo biloba

In a 2011 study, researchers found that Ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) improved behavioral performance on working memory tasks. Other observations also concluded that there might be more efficient processing during working memory task completion when one has consumed GBE.

Manufacturers create GBE from dried leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree. It is increasingly used in Europe and the United States to alleviate symptoms of age-related cognitive impairment, like vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, it is the most prescribed herbal medication in Germany and China. Recent studies show that GBE (120 to 600 mg) enhances several cognitive processes in healthy, young individuals and those suffering from age-related cognitive impairment.

In one study, researchers saw significant improvement in young volunteers’ working memory speed after researchers prescribed them to take 120 mg of GBE daily for 30 days. The exact mechanisms by which GBE causes improvements in working memory are unclear. However, the active compounds in GBE have been shown to possess neuroprotective properties.

GBE also influences several neurotransmitter systems that are vital to cognition. Specifically, GBE is thought to enhance cholinergic processes. Increases in cholinergic transmission benefit working memory performance, while, as mentioned, decreases in cholinergic processes negatively impact performance.

An average dose is about 40 mg three times a day, administered orally. However, the daily dose can range from 120 to 600 mg depending on the ailment being treated. Most products claim that a minimum of four weeks is required to enhance mental focus, memory, and concentration.

Phosphatidylserine (PS)

PS is a type of fat that naturally occurs in every human body cell. You can find it in high concentrations in the brain. Because it is rare to receive PS from a regular diet, people of all ages benefit from PS supplementation. It is one of the brain supplements proven to be safe and effective for all ages. Having shown potential in treating conditions like stress and memory-related issues, attention disorders, age-related cognitive decline, and even dementia, this phospholipid is a wonder.

Because PS is both attracted and repelled by water, it can arrange itself into two parallel layers called a phospholipid layer. This layer plays a significant role in the human brain’s cell membranes. You see, cell membranes act as gatekeepers, regulating the flow of what goes in and out of the cells. When you take PS, you’re supporting brain cell membrane integrity. Thus, ultimately keeping toxins, pathogens, and other unwanted organisms out of the brain.

Neurons also need PS to conduct nerve impulses, which are essential in preserving your brain’s ability to repair brain cells and create new ones. PS can also increase brain cell fluidity. In other words, it allows brain cells to stay adaptable, which enables them to respond to stressors effectively.

I mean, what can’t PS do? It encourages the release of serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and acetylcholine. These four significant neurotransmitters affect your mood, how you concentrate, and how you learn. PS also reduces cortisol levels, which can be dangerous in large amounts. High cortisol levels are associated with brain fog, anxiety, depression, mood swings, memory loss, concentration issues, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders.

It’s suspected that PS levels decline with age. A former chairman of NIMH found that PS can improve the brain’s ability to remember by many years, even in Alzheimer’s disease patients. Researchers used soybean-derived PS (soy-PS) in one study to see its effects on elderly patients with memory complaints. Patients took 100 mg/day, 300mg/day, or a placebo once a day for six months. Researchers saw no side effects. They concluded that soy-PS is considered safe and that six months of soy-PS supplementation could improve memory functions in the elderly with memory complaints. The positive impact of PS was seen at both dosages. PS has proven to be so beneficial that it’s the only supplement approved by the FDA to make these qualified claims:

  • “Consumption of PS may reduce risk of dementia in the elderly.”
  • “Consumption of PS may reduce the risk of cognitive dysfunction in the elderly.”

DMAE (Deanolordimethylethanolamine)

DMAE occurs naturally in the brain. It acts as a building block for choline and ACh, two components vital for a healthy brain and nervous system. DMAE has been a popular nootropic (drugs, supplements, or other substances that claim to improve cognitive function) for years. In fact, it’s an active ingredient in Lucidril, a cognition-enhancing drug. While the effect that DMAE has on choline and ACh is not fully understood, some studies help paint a picture.

Researchers have found that DMAE may require other compounds to enhance the uptake and effect of DMAE on the brain. In a 2009 study, researchers used DMAE p-Glu (a compound resulting from a reaction between DMAE and pyroglutamic acid) to test its potential therapeutic effects on cognitive impairments related to the central cholinergic deficit. Researchers induced memory deficit by injecting healthy, young males with scopolamine. They concluded that DMAE p-Glu could reduce the harmful effect of scopolamine on long-term memory in healthy volunteers. This study also suggested that DMAE p-Glu might effectively reduce memory deficits in patients with cognitive dysfunction.

Huperzine A

This is a substance purified from a plant called Chinese club moss. It is highly purified, and unlike herbs, it contains hundreds of chemical ingredients. It is used to help treat Alzheimer’s disease, memory and learning enhancement, and age-related memory impairment.

Huperzine A is thought to increase ACh levels. Some research suggests that taking the substance by mouth for eight weeks may improve memory, mental function, and behavior in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Researchers have also reported that huperzine A can prevent neuron loss during Alzheimer’s disease by inhibiting the inflammatory responses seen in those who suffer from the disease. However, the long-term effects of these products on these individuals are not known yet.

Some research shows that taking huperzine A by mouth for four weeks improves memory in older children and teenagers who complain of memory problems. 

Currently, products that combine huperzine A with specific drugs are being studied as methods to treat Alzheimer’s disease. It is believed that these “hybrid” products may be effective at lower doses, leading to fewer side effects.

Doses vary on the condition you are trying to treat—dosages in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease range from 0.2 mg to 0.8 mg a day. However, one study found that 0.4 mg two times a day was required to yield clinically-significant results. In high school students with memory complaints, just 0.1 mg was reported to be sufficient.

As far as side effects go, early evidence suggests that adverse side effects are rare. However, occasional side effects have been reported. These include dizziness, nausea, digestive upsets, headache, and decreased heart rate.

Help Your Mind Today!

At WellRabbit, we see all types of patients looking to improve their memory and mental load. Whether you’re trying to stay sharp as you age or you need to focus more in class to get a good grade, we have doctor-vetted products for you. Shop our site today to keep your mind sharp.

Dr. Jeffrey Hendricks, MD

Jeffrey Hendricks, M.D., CEO Dr. Jeffrey Hendricks has an extensive research background in nutritional biochemistry and epigenetics and has developed over 1,000 nutritional products for companies in the U.S. and around the world. After spending four years at the University of Michigan’s Human Genetics Lab, he conducted research at the National Institutes of Health’s Laboratory for Gene Transfer. He’s served as a medical director in family medicine, integrative medicine, and occupational medicine, and is an advisory board member for many U.S. and international companies. The inspiration to start WellRabbit came about when helping his sister beat breast cancer, in which she took integrative medicine throughout her cancer treatment and never became ill. With WellRabbit, Dr. Hendricks has made it his mission to ensure those who are searching for quality nutritional supplements have a place they can trust. Dr. Hendricks’ clinical experience includes the treatment of over 50,000 patients, and his background, experience, and commitment to quality ideally suit his role as the Chief Executive Officer of WellRabbit.

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