If you are interested in improving your memory & cognitive function and are considering using memory pills or supplements, it is important to understand what ingredients they are using. While the industry is getting better at providing quality products there are still things out there that are of questionable benefit.
Knowing what substances work will help you pick a product that provides what you need.
As reported by Consumer Reports and Nutraingredients-usa etc, there are still products out there that don’t help much. More people may be using memory enhancing supplements, but the public is still behind the curve as far as being educated consumers who understand the products and their capabilities.
With the concern out there for greater mental health, people are looking for pills for improving memory and brain function, but have little idea what they need to accomplish that purpose.
Besides, memory pills come in all sorts of combinations, but there are some key ingredients that any company that produces pills for improving memory or brain function should include for maximum efficiency.
Some memory pills may also come as nootropics which can be either prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, or dietary supplements. For example, Doctors may prescribe nootropic drugs such as Donepezil for Alzheimer’s disease.
In case of over the counter products, natural supplements etc., it is important to note that the FDA forbids manufacturers to claim that any such product prevents, treats, or cures memory related diseases or mental health conditions.
In 2018 the FDA released warning to companies illegally marketing more than 58 products and dietary supplements which reported to prevent, treat or cure Alzheimer’s disease and a few other serious diseases and health conditions. The FDA observed that these supplements may be ineffective, unsafe, and could stop a person from trying to get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
The fact that the FDA does not evaluate dietary supplements means that some memory pills, especially in online marketplaces may be ineffective, of poor quality, or not contain the ingredients they state on the packaging.
For people with dementia, taking unsupervised supplements could be a risk, especially if they also take prescribed medications. People who have a health condition, are about to have surgery, or take prescribed drugs should always check with their healthcare provider before taking any memory supplements.
Editor’s note: For seniors and the elderly, it does seem that Lion’s mane pills like “Mind Lab Pro” would be more beneficial, as Lion’s mane will work on NGF and amyloid ß(25-35) peptide (an enzyme that has role in Alzheimer’s). Having said that, another product Brain Pill combines Bacopa Monnieri Synapsa, that also works on NGF & BDNF (apart from other mechanisms) with Huperzine-A (very effective against age-related cognitive decline, as well as increasing growth hormone). So overall Brain Pill might be the best supplement against age-related memory loss/decline. Read full review of Lion’s mane & Bacopa Monnieri, along with their clinical & anecdotal evidences in memory boosting.
While Medicalnewstoday.com recommends mainly Gingko biloba, Flavonoids, cocoa, and caffeine, Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamins & minerals, we will be discussing some other herbs & substances here, that have shown good, consistent performance in scientific studies related to memory, cognition & brain health.
1. Bacopa Monnieri
Bacopa monnieri is probably the best known cognitive-enhancers and rejuvenators recognized since ancient times in the Ayurvedic medicine. Bacopa monnieri Linn or Brahmi, a plant in the family Scrophulariaceae, has been employed in the Ayurvedic system of medicine for centuries. It has been reported as a nerve tonic and thoroughly put to use as remedy for a variety of neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases.
The primary mechanisms of cognitive action of Bacopa seems to be by boosting two key neurotransmitters in the brain: acetylcholine and GABA. Consequently, it may allow you to be feeling relaxed and mentally-stimulated concurrently. Consistent with whatever research has been done along with some anecdotal evidence, it may be a great supplement for reducing stress and improving memory and learning – especially if you’re older. It also appears to improve antioxidant defense, defending the body against oxidative damage.
As opposed to the potentially addicting and forceful action of popular psychostimulants, chronic and reasonable intake of BM appears to help nourishment of neurons, long term, rather than depletion of neurons, a long-term memory benefit that is at par with 1400 years of Ayurvedic study.
2. Lion’s Mane
Lion’s mane (referred to as Hericium erinaceaus) is a medicinal, edible mushroom comprising of many compounds, namely hericenones and erinacines.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom seems to primarily boost memory by 2 main mechanisms – stimulating the synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), required by your brain to keep neurons strong and healthy, and reducing the effect of amyloid ß(25-35) peptide (an enzyme that has role in Alzheimer’s and triggers learning and memory deficits).
There are many instances of people starting to remember random old, long forgotten memories when taking NGF/BDNF increasing compounds like Lion’s Mane [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4567216/].
3. Huperzine-A from Huperzia Serrata
Huperzine A functions as a “cholinesterase inhibitor” — ie. it prevents the breaking down of acetylcholine (a chemical required for studying and remembrance). Small early research claims that huperzine A could possibly enhance memory and safeguard nerve cells, which often can impede the cognitive decline connected to Alzheimer’s. [Source: https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/363985 , https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8701750/ ]
Huperzine A is thereby believed to enhance learning and memory and to protect against age-related cognitive decline.
There’s a a shortage of long-term safety data — most scientific tests have held up three months or less — and a lot of people in the trials had side effects, including nausea and vomiting. More studies are needed to determine possible benefits and long-term risks of huperzine A.
Huperzine A appears to be of some benefit to people with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a 2013 research review published in PLoS One.[ https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0074916 ]
An older, smallish study released in the Chinese journal Acta Pharmacologica Sinica in 1999 observed that huperzine A made it easier to improve memory and learning in a number of adolescent students. [ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10678121 ]
Huperzine A might assist with memory boosting for learning purposes. In an analysis of teenage students, a smaller dose of huperzine A (50 mcg) taken twice daily for 4 weeks increased several aspects of memory and learning performance. [ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10678121 ]
One of huperzine A’s most well-known biological actions is its assistance in acetylcholine signaling. Huperzine A has enhanced acetylcholine levels in animal and human studies and has impact on cholinesterase enzyme activity. The net effect is a boost in acetylcholine, which might explain its reported benefits on memory and cognition.
Phosphatidylserine is a fatty compound manufactured in the body that has a role in overlaying and protecting every cell in the body and is involved in the clotting function of the body. It’s especially critical for the adequate performance of nerve cells inside brain, and helps to transmit messages between them.
Phosphatidylserine (fos-fuh-tie-dul-SER-een) as a dietary supplement has acquired some attention as a possible medication for Alzheimer’s disease and other memory problems. A lot of studies with phosphatidylserine demonstrate enhanced cognitive abilities and actions.
As a significant element of healthy nerve cell membranes, phosphatidylserine is considered as having a key role in keeping your memory razor-sharp as you get more mature. Research in animals claim that levels decline with age.
A double-blind, randomized, controlled study was carried out to look into the negative impacts of Soy-PS on the cognitive characteristics of the elderly Japanese subjects with memory complications. The oral administration of Soy-PS for 6 months enhanced memory function, mainly delayed recall, in the aging population with memory complaints.
This effect was equally observed at both low dose (100 mg/day) and high dose (300 mg/day). The safety of Soy-PS was also confirmed. Since delayed recall is regarded as one of many cognitive functions weakened at the earliest stage of dementia, Soy-PS may serve as a suitable nutritional supplement for preventing dementia development in people with memory complaints. [ Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2966935/ ]
5. Gingko biloba
Traditional cultures and experts have made use of Ginkgo biloba in organic and natural medicine for centuries.
Ginkgo biloba is an antioxidant-rich herb employed to increase brain health and handling numerous conditions. The active substances in Ginkgo biloba can enhance blood circulation and are antioxidant and neuroprotective.
An overview of research using the standardized Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 observed the product to be more beneficial than placebo in most cases of Alzheimer’s disease, and vascular or mixed dementia. [Source : https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2318-10-14 ]
Ginkgo consists of several flavonoids, substances which experts suggest can help against aging-related difficulties such as dementia by strengthening blood flow to the brain. Although another study didn’t show any benefits in reducing dementia. [Source : The results found that ginkgo biloba did not lower the overall rate of developing dementia. ]
Further human studies are essential to recognize which clinical population is most responsive to Ginkgo treatment. Aside from that, it may be extremely helpful to recognize which chemical compound or natural ingredients provide therapeutic effects in memory disorders. [ Source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27414695/ ]
Vinpocetine is manufactured from the alkaloid vincamine, which in turn is extracted from the leaves of the lesser periwinkle plant V. minor L. In the United States, the plant is commonly referred to as myrtle or creeping myrtle.
Though clinical evidence of its cognitive benefits is mixed, it does seem to have potential to enhance memory and boost brain blood flow and metabolism. It has been utilized in Japan, Russia, and some European countries to help remedy cerebrovascular disorders, but it is not accepted as a pharmaceutical in the United States.
As a supplement, Vinpocetine is employed to enhance brain circulation, alertness, cognitive function, concentration, and memory, in addition to lowering inflammation and oxidative stress.
Preclinical studies claim that vinpocetine may lower inflammation, increase biological aspects of memory, and possibly improve memory or protect against cognitive impairment.
Additional preclinical experiments noticed that vinpocetine improved the brain’s mitochondrial function, lessened oxidative stress, and reduced toxicity all of which may protect against dementia and protect brain health.
7. Omega-3 fatty acids
The GCBH report figured overall, there is not enough data to recommend taking omega-3 supplements derived from fish oil for brain health. The authors noted that fatty fish consumption may benefit cognitive function due to its docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) content, but said this is not conclusive.
Some research has identified that people using diets high in omega-3s—which are found in fatty fish such as salmon—may have a lower risk of dementia & alzheimer’s. Other studies like this one exist too.
Vitamins and minerals
Some specialists recommend that taking vitamin and mineral dietary supplements encourages brain health and function, for example, B vitamins, vitamin E, and antioxidants.
The GCBH report hints that some people can become deficient in vitamins with aging due to absorption and dental issues, that can have an impact on their brain health. Furthermore, people eating restricted diets, such as vegans, may become deficient in vitamin B12, affecting memory and thinking skills. Therefore, groups of people at risk of nutrient deficiencies may benefit from taking such supplements.
*The FDA does not evaluate dietary supplements, memory pills, natural nootropics etc. and the manufacturers & supplements’ companies are not allowed to claim that their product cures, prevents or treats any memory related mental health conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia etc. or “age-related memory decline” or “memory loss”. This article is NOT meant to be taken as medical advice.