We love talking about age-defying skin care, but let’s not forget about taking care of our brain health, too. In this list you’ll find everything from focus-boosters and de-stressing aids, to women-focused brain health.
Choosing a Brain Supplement
While all of these suggestions come from experts on brain health, “the best supplement for you may vary based on your individual needs, as they’re not one-size-fits-all,” says Candy Calderon, wellness expert and brain-health professional. Consider talking with your doctor about your specific goals. Furthermore, “a balanced diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management are also essential components of maintaining brain health,” adds Calderon.
Ingredients to Avoid
Although caffeine is widely beloved for its energizing properties, it actually works “by turning off neurotransmitters in the brain that control sleep, cognition, memory, and focus. This gives you temporary feelings of alertness,” says Joel Totoro, registered dietitian and director of sports science at Thorne HealthTech (he’s also worked with the New England Patriots and the University of Michigan). Excessive caffeine can have negative effects, so it’s important to know your limit. “Rather than blunting the body’s feelings of fatigue with caffeine, a more productive way to support your brain is to provide it with nutrients to allow it to function optimally.”
Moon Juice, Amanda Chantal Bacon recommends keeping an eye out “for fillers, flow agents and additives in supplements that can inhibit ingredient absorption, preventing you from getting full brain-health benefits.” Things like shellacs, magnesium stearate, stearin, and cornstarch can negatively affect bioavailability.
The Brain Supplements We Love
Fall down the rabbit hole and discover Alice’s functional Brainstorm Mushroom Chocolates, cofounded by food studies expert Charlotte Cruze, and former pharmaceutical executive Lindsay Goodstein. Together, they developed the product with a team of doctors, formulators and chocolatiers. Lion’s mane is often referred to as “the mushroom of the mind” because of its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, a rare feat.
“It stimulates nerve growth factor and improves memory, cognition, neuroplasticity, the ability to learn, and overall brain health,” says Cruze.
For immediate results, Brainstorm features guarana, a natural source of caffeine, to boost alertness and overall cognitive function. It also contains phosphatidylserine, which Cruze says helps “improve mood, memory and cognition, and may help slow down neurodegeneration.”
“The brain is a highly metabolic organ, consuming 20 percent of our calories, despite accounting for only 2 percent of our weight,” says Totoro. “The brain is highly selective about the nutrients it lets in.”
As Totoro explains it, the brain needs nutrients to provide energy to fuel the nerves, support neurotransmitter production and protect against oxidative stress. “This powder formula features ketones to provide an alternate fuel source to injured or uninjured brains, as well as branched-chain amino acids to help with dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine,” he says. “It also contains CoQ10 phytosome to bolster cognitive function, reduce oxidative stress and support mitochondrial function.” Lastly, it includes Meriva, which is one of the more bioavailable curcumins to look for.
Moon Juice leans on natural adaptogens and nootropics in this formula. The adaptogens support “cognitive function, as they help with stress by decreasing our sensitivity to various life stressors,” says herbalist Olivia Amitrano.
Chantal Bacon was an early adopter of wellness supplements and packed Brain Dust with brain-loving ingredients like ginkgo, ashwagandha, lion’s mane mushroom, maca, and rhodiola. She says that adding this to tea, coffee or hot water can afford neuroprotection, speedier processing, stronger memory function, and enhanced alertness, concentration, clarity, and mental stamina.
Emma Heming Willis realized that while there are many great brain health supplements on the market, most are heavily marketed to men, although the majority of Alzheimer’s patients are women. Her answer to that is her new brand Make Time Wellness.
The launch unfortunately lined up with brain health challenges at home for Heming Willis as her husband, Bruce Willis’s aphasia progressed to frontotemporal dementia. This made her mission all the more pertinent.
Helen Christoni and Heming Willis formulated the supplement Make Time for Brain Health “to meet a woman’s needs and support her brain, body and beauty in that order, while also starting a conversation with women around brain health,” says Christoni.
Leona West Fox, CN, an integrative functional nutritionist and medical board advisor to Kourtney Kardashian Barker’s brand Lemme, says she often advises patients to look for supplements containing citicoline, lion’s mane mushroom, vitamin B12, and organic MCT oil. “It’s important to find clinically studied forms of these nutrients to ensure you’re getting the most studied form,” she explains. “That’s why I love Lemme Focus. It has all of these ingredients, as well as a clinical dose of a clinically studied form of citicoline.”
Additionally, Calderon explains that lion’s mane mushroom “contains compounds that may stimulate nerve growth factor production, potentially promoting brain health and nerve regeneration.”
Amitrano concocted her own blend of nootropic herbs to boost mental clarity and concentration. “Ginkgo leaf contains powerful antioxidants that specifically protect tissues in the brain and improve circulation to help deliver nutrients and oxygen that support memory and cognition,” Amitrano says.
The formula also features rosemary and gotu kola, a favorite leafy green of elephants in Sri Lanka, which are known for their amazing memory. “It’s important to ensure herbs are included in therapeutic dosages,” she adds. “For example, ginkgo biloba hits a sweet spot of optimal effectiveness around 240 milligrams.”
CBD is well known for reducing anxiety, which can interrupt cognition and memory, says Warwick, RI family medicine specialist and cbdMD medical advisor Lucille Vega, MD. The brand combined 1,000 milligrams of CBD and CBG with other well-known cognition boosters in its Focus Capsules. “The formula features proprietary ingredients specifically designed to improve everyday focus and mental clarity,” says Dr. Vega. “You get stress relief and brain-health benefits in one.”