Nootropics are natural supplements or drugs that have a
beneficial effect on brain function in healthy people.
Many of these can boost memory, motivation, creativity,
alertness and general cognitive function. Nootropics may also
reduce age-related declines in brain function.
Here are the 10 best nootropic supplements to boost your brain
1. Fish Oils
oil supplements are a rich source of docosahexaenoic acid
(DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), two types of omega-3
The other omega-3 fatty acid in fish oil, EPA, has
anti-inflammatory effects that may protect the brain against
damage and aging (4).
Taking DHA supplements has been linked with improved thinking
skills, memory and reaction times in healthy people who have
low DHA intakes. It has also benefitted people experiencing a
mild decline in brain function (5, 6, 7).
Overall, the best way to get the recommended amount of omega-3
fatty acids is by eating two portions of oily fish per week
If you can’t manage this, then taking a supplement could be
More research is required to find out how much and what ratios
of EPA and DHA are beneficial. But taking 1 gram per day of
combined DHA and EPA is generally recommended to maintain brain
Bottom Line: If you don’t eat the
recommended amount of oily fish, consider taking a fish oil
supplement to help promote good brain health and healthy
Resveratrol is an antioxidant that occurs naturally in the skin
of purple and red fruits like grapes, raspberries and
blueberries. It’s also found in red wine, chocolate and
It’s been suggested that taking resveratrol supplements could
prevent the deterioration of the hippocampus, an important part
of the brain associated with memory (22).
If this is true, this treatment could slow down the decline in
brain function you experience as you get older (23).
Additionally, one study on a small group of healthy older
adults found that taking 200 mg of resveratrol per day for 26
weeks improved memory (26).
However, there currently aren’t enough human studies to be sure
of resveratrol’s effects (27).
Bottom Line: In animals, resveratrol
supplements have been shown to improve memory and brain
function. It’s not yet clear if the treatment has the same
effects in people.
is a natural stimulant most commonly found in tea, coffee and
Although it’s possible to take it as a supplement, there isn’t
really any need when you can get it from these sources.
It works by stimulating the brain and central nervous system,
making you feel less tired and more alert (28).
The amount of caffeine
in one cup of coffee varies, but generally it’s 50–400 mg.
However, taking too much caffeine can be counterproductive and
has been linked with side effects such as anxiety, nausea and
Bottom Line: Caffeine is a natural stimulant
that can improve your brain function and make you feel more
energized and alert.
It’s been suggested that taking phosphatidylserine supplements
could be helpful for preserving brain health (37).
However, larger studies need to be carried out before its
effects on brain function can be fully understood.
Bottom Line: Phosphatidylserine supplements
could improve your thinking skills and memory. They could
also help combat the decline in brain function as you age.
However, further study is needed.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is an amino acid produced naturally in your
body. It plays an important role in your metabolism,
particularly in energy production.
In humans, studies have found that it may be a useful
supplement for slowing the decline in brain function due to
age. It may also be useful for improving brain function in
people with mild dementia or Alzheimer’s (47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52).
However, there is no research to show it has a beneficial
effect in otherwise healthy people who aren’t suffering from a
loss of brain function.
Bottom Line: Acetyl-L-carnitine could be
helpful for treating a loss of brain function in the elderly
and people with mental disorders such as dementia or
Alzheimer’s. Its effects in healthy people are unknown.
6. Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba is an herbal supplement derived from the
Ginkgo biloba tree. It’s an incredibly popular
supplement that many people take to boost their brain power.
It’s thought to work by increasing blood flow to the brain and
is claimed to improve brain functions like focus and memory
Despite the widespread use of ginkgo biloba, results from
studies investigating its effects have been mixed.
Bottom Line: Ginkgo biloba may help improve
your short-term memory and thinking skills. It may also
protect you from age-related decline in brain function.
However, results are inconsistent.
is a natural substance that plays an important role in energy
metabolism. It’s found naturally in the body, mostly in muscles
and in smaller amounts in the brain.
Although it’s a popular supplement, you can find it in some
foods, namely animal products like meat, fish and eggs.
Interestingly, creatine supplements can improve memory and
thinking skills in people who don’t eat meat (61).
In fact, one study found that vegetarians taking creatine
supplements experienced a 25–50% improvement in performance on
a memory and intelligence test (62)
However, meat eaters don’t see the same benefits. This may be
due to the fact that they are not deficient and already get
enough from their diets (63).
Bottom Line: Taking creatine supplements
could help improve memory and thinking skills in people who
don’t eat meat.
8. Bacopa Monnieri
Bacopa monnieri is a medicine made from the herb
Bacopa monnieri. It’s used in traditional medicine
practices like Ayurveda for improving brain function.
However, it’s worth noting that only repeated use of Bacopa
monnieri has been shown to have this effect. People generally
take about 300 mg per day and it may take around four to six
weeks for you to notice any results.
Studies of Bacopa monnieri also show that it may occasionally
cause diarrhea and an upset stomach. Because of this, many
people recommend taking this supplement with food (70).
Bottom Line: Bacopa monnieri has been shown
to improve memory and thinking skills in healthy people and
in those with a decline in brain function.
9. Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola rosea is a supplement derived from the herb
Rhodiola rosea, which is often used in Chinese
medicine to promote well-being and healthy brain function.
It’s thought to help improve mental processing by reducing
However, results have been mixed (75).
A recent review by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
concluded that more research is required before scientists can
know if Rhodiola rosea can reduce tiredness and boost brain
Bottom Line: Rhodiola rosea may help improve
thinking skills by reducing fatigue. However, more research
is needed before scientists can be certain of its effects.
10. S-Adenosyl Methionine
S-Adenosyl methionine (SAMe) is a substance
that occurs naturally in your body. It’s used in chemical
reactions to make and break down important compounds like
proteins, fats and hormones.
One study found that adding SAMe to the antidepressant
prescription of people who had previously not responded to
therapy improved their chances of remission by around 14%
More recently, a study found that, in some instances, SAMe may
be as effective as some types of antidepressant medications
However, there is no evidence that this supplement benefits
people who don’t have depression.
Bottom Line: SAMe could be useful for
improving brain function in people with depression. There is
no evidence it has this effect in healthy people.
Take Home Message
Some of these supplements show real promise for improving and
protecting brain health.
However, note that many brain-boosting supplements are only
effective for people who have a mental condition or are
deficient in the supplemented nutrient.