How can you keep your brain healthy for your whole life? This is a key question that has many good answers.
Getting enough good sleep, eating right, and exercising are certainly valuable.
One of the most overlooked choices for good brain health, though, is consuming the best memory supplements that you can find.
Finding the best supplements for brain health and function can be challenging. You have to sort through dozens of formulas.
A good starting point is finding only those supplements that are backed by good scientific research.
Marketing claims about which products constitute the best supplements for memory and focus are commonplace. Validating such claims means peeking into the published scientific literature on each ingredient in any commercial formula.
How to Find Scientific Studies on Brain Health
General search engine results about brain health will come up with millions of pages on the topic. Using an actual medical database narrows the results down. For example, at this time, searching for studies listed on PubMed gives the following results for different phrases associated with brain health (multiple terms in quotes as indicated):
“brain health” (1,871 articles)
“memory loss” (3,519 articles)
dementia (178,092 articles)
“Alzheimer’s disease” (99,560 articles)
“mental health” (214,644)
That is still too much information to sort through.
Modifying each search with such terms as herbs or supplements can be helpful.
The best strategy, however, might be simply to plug the name of the herb of interest into the PubMed search box.
Let’s take a look at a few of the more popular herbs that appear in supplement formulas. A PubMed search using the full scientific name of each ingredient hits the bullseye on a much smaller set of results.
The following include some of the best brain enhancement supplements based on scientific research. If you are looking for the top 5 rated brain supplements, this is a great list to start with.
The water hyssop (also called brahmi or Indian pennywort) is a traditional medicinal herb in Ayurvedic medicine.
It produces a variety of substances that influence brain health.
A 2012 review of several clinical research studies on B. monnieri concluded that this herb improves memory. Another review cited its potential for relieving dementia, Parkonson’s disease, and epilepsy (2013).
When possible, scientists love to find out how herbs work. So far they have discovered several ways that B. monnieri influences brain function.
These include antioxidant brain protection, regulation of certain kinds of neurotransmitters, and increased blood flow to the brain.
In addition, one of the more exciting properties of this herb is its ability to reduce the accumulation of amyloid beta proteins.
These are the small proteins that make up the main component of amyloid plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
The maidenhair tree (or simply, “ginkgo”) has been known for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
It has been used for treating a wide variety of medical conditions since ancient times, especially those involving circulatory disorders and memory.
Most research on ginkgo in modern times addresses its properties for boosting circulation and mental function (2015). Certain ingredients in the leaves of ginkgo have the unusual ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. As a result, ginkgo extracts can increase vascular flow in the brain itself.
One of the more exciting recent discoveries about ginkgo is its influence on brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
BDNF is a protein that is active in several parts of the brain that are vital to learning, memory, and higher thinking.
We now know that levels of this crucial brain protein can be boosted by supplementing with ginkgo extracts (2017).
Chinese ginseng might be the granddaddy of ancient herbal medicines.
Ginseng has been used since ancient times to boost energy, lower blood sugar, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and even reverse erectile dysfunction.
More recently, ginseng has attracted attention for its potential to improve mental function. This area of study is still relatively new.
Nevertheless, we already know that ginseng can enhance nerve cell growth and survival in the brain (2013). Building and protecting new brain cells is crucial for learning and memory.
Any list of the best memory supplements must go beyond herbs and include certain kinds of mushrooms.
Although mushrooms are popularly referred to as herbal supplements, they are technically classified as fungi, not plants.
Several kinds of mushrooms offer benefits for brain health (2013).
The snow fungus mushroom (Tremella fuciformis) is a good example.
This mushroom boosts antioxidant activity in the brain. It also stimulates nerve growth factor (NGF) and reduces the toxicity of the amyloid beta proteins that characterized Alzheimer’s disease (2007).
Two other species of medical mushrooms also boost NGF or stop the formation of amyloid beta proteins.
These are the lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) and the reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) (2015).
The Big 5 Plus One
Although we started out looking for the top 5 rated brain supplements, we actually ended up with six.
You couldn’t go wrong with any 5, or all 6, of the herbs and mushrooms in our list.
Taking all six would be best.
Research supports the use of all of them for improving memory and focus.