Everyone’s seeking out brain boosters and memory supplements right now. Just search “best supplements for focus” and Google serves up hundreds of recommendations—everything from prescription drugs like Ritalin to fish oils to good old-fashioned coffee. There are so many options out there that just choosing the best brain supplement can feel overwhelming. If you’re looking for something that will help you focus, think more clearly, be more productive, and keep your memory sharp, here’s what you need to know:
- Brain boosting supplements are called nootropics. Nootropics are compounds or supplements that enhance cognitive performance—meaning, they’re thought to help improve your brain’s focus, alertness, and productivity while decreasing forgetfulness and mental fatigue.
- Nootropics fall into two separate categories, and some of the best supplements for focus are natural. While there are lab-made synthetic formulas like the prescription drug Adderall, there’s a renewed interest in natural nootropics, such as herbs, vitamins, or other plant-based compounds.These plant-based remedies appeal to many people who are looking for increased energy and focus without the side effects of prescription medication. In my opinion, the best nootropics are the ones that elevate your brain’s natural capacity and energy without harsh side effects or addiction risks.
- While natural nootropics may seem like a hot new trend, they’ve been used by humans therapeutically for millennia. Another reason why there’s been an increased interest in plant-based brain supplements: People feel more comfortable consuming plants and herbs that have been in use for millennia. In fact, you likely already employ one of the oldest-known and most effective nootropics: caffeine. Research shows that indigenous people of the Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico consumed caffeinated drinks more than 1,200 years ago.
Tea, which is also thousands of years old,shows a significant effect on mental alertness, L-theanine, an amino acid found in tea, is able to relax the mind without inducing drowsiness. Research has shown that combining caffeine and L-theanine may help you multitask better.
Scientists are currently studying the nootropic potential of Chinese herbal medicine, a tradition that goes back many thousands of years. Indeed, traditional Chinese medicine has been used to combat cognitive impairments for millennia and has been shown to improve learning and memory.
While not as old as traditional Chinese medicine, cannabis consumption goes back in human history way further than caffeine: nearly 2,500 years. And although cannabis users are frequently stereotyped as forgetful, unfocused, and unproductive, recent research shows that the cannabinoid CBD actually acts as a neuroprotective, and demonstrates “numerous therapeutic properties for brain function and protection.” Some research indicates CBD could be considered a nootropic: A new study from University College London found that participants given CBD experienced “significant” increases in blood flow in the hippocampus, an important part of the limbic system that regulates motivation, emotion, learning, and memory, as well as the orbitofrontal cortex, which is responsible for things like making decisions and planning.
- When seeking out the best nootropics, look for reputable brands that provide third-party testing. Because the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t verify that supplements contain what they claim to on the label, It’s imperative to make sure you are purchasing any brain supplements from an ethical company. Businesses that are serious about your safety will be fully transparent about what’s in their products (all of which should be tested by a verified third-party testing lab) and provide Certificates of Analysis (COAs) on their website. That little bit of extra homework is worth it.
Natural nootropics are not new—but in our increasingly demanding, technology-heavy and stress-filled society, the need for brain boosters derived from plants and other natural sources is on the rise. Getting familiar with terminology, industry standards and the latest nootropic respearch will help you locate the best supplements for focus and productivity.