9 Brain Health Supplements You Need To Consider As You Age

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9 Brain Health Supplements You Need To Consider As You Age
Our society tends to put a lot of value on how we look, but the older we get, the more we realize that brain health is what's most important. Because who we are is our mind, not our body.

This article is about nine supplements offered by ProHealth Longevity that are made to support brain health. Many of them address various deficiencies that promote cognitive dysfunction of one type or another that become more pronounced as we age.

Cognitive dysfunction is a major health problem, one you don't want to have. Many neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer's Disease dementia, cerebrovascular impairment, seizure disorders, head injury and Parkinsonism, can debilitate you severely, and, in effect, change who you are.

The smart play is to begin now to actively maintain the health and vitality of your brain by using the best supplements for brain health you can find. In this article, we're going to explore what you can do to ensure your brain is in good health and continues to delight you throughout your long, vital life.

These are the nine brain health supplements I'm going to cover:

    1. Curcumin
    2. Bacopa Monniera herb
    3. Ashwagandha herb
    4. Resveratrol
    5. Omega 3's
    6. Ginkgo, herb
    7. Huperzine A, plant moss
    8. Vinpocetine
    9. Phosphatidylserine
      Most of these nine are derived from herbs. This is unsurprising given that herbs are typically contain abundant amounts of phytochemicals (also called phytonutrients), as you'll soon see.

      Herbs Are Great Brain Health Supplements

       some herbs can boost brain health

      Phytochemicals from medicinal plants play a vital role in maintaining the brain's chemical balance and to treat cognitive disorders, claims a study by Professor G. Phani Kumar of the Indian Institute of Technology, which informs the rest of this section on brain-protective herbs. [1]

      The first thing to know is that "phytochemicals" are chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants. (Phyto means "plant" in Greek.) Some are responsible for color and other organoleptic properties (substances experienced via the senses), such as the deep purple of blueberries and the smell of garlic.

      For thousands of years, Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine have relied on medicinal herbs for their neuroprotective active phytochemical substances, such as fatty acids, phenols, alkaloids, flavonoids, saponins and terpenes.

      The brain is made up of neurons and neuroglia, the neurons being responsible for sending and receiving nerve impulses or signals. We do not want these neurons to degenerate.

      Neurodegeneration is a process involved in both neuropathological conditions and brain aging. Cerebrovascular and neurodegenerative diseases are leading causes of death all over the world. Cognitive dysfunction, is a major health problem in the 21st century. It goes without saying that many neuropsychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer's Disease, dementia, cerebrovascular impairment, seizure disorders, head injury, Parkinsonism, and others, can be severely debilitating.

      Herbal medicine has long been used to treat neural symptoms. Some have been shown to exert anti-inflammatory and/or antioxidant effects, which is a mighty fine thing, because there's increasing evidence that neuroglia-derived chronic inflammatory responses play a pathological role in the central nervous system. To combat this inflammation, anti-inflammatory herbal medicine and its constituents are becoming a potent neuroprotector against various brain pathologies.

      With that as background speaking to the neuroprotective abilities of herbs, let's dig into the nine supplements that support brain health.

      1. Curcumin

      Curcumin might be new to you, but certainly you've heard of the ubiquitous Indian spice Turmeric, from which it is derived. Curcumin is a bright yellow chemical compound produced by curcuma longa plants. It's the principal curcuminoid of turmeric, and its most potent.

      If you had to choose just a few supplements to take, curcumin deserves consideration to be among them. This herb contains bioactive compounds that have powerful medicinal properties. For instance, curcumin:

      • Is known to be a natural anti-Inflammatory compound
      • Dramatically increases the antioxidant capacity of the body
      • Could lower your risk of heart disease
      • Diminish inflammation-induced arthritis pain and mobility
      • Improves overall mood and lessen depression symptoms
      • Boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor (a type of growth hormone that can drive the growth of new neurons in the brain) linked to improved brain function and a lower risk of brain diseases
      • May be useful in preventing and treating Alzheimer's disease

        Since our focus is on brain health, let's turn to curcumin's usefulness to alleviate depression, improve cognitive function and mitigate the ravishes of Alzheimer's.

        The key focal point here is BDNF, which stands for brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Neurons are capable of forming new connections, but in certain areas of the brain they can also multiply and increase in number, particularly when the growth hormone BDNF precipitates this process. [2]

        Many common brain disorders have been linked to decreased levels of this BDNF hormone, including depression and Alzheimer's disease [3] [4] , but curcumin supplementation can reduce this worry, as it can increase brain levels of BDNF [5] [6] , and thereby effectively delay (or potentially reverse) many brain diseases and age-related decreases in brain function, at least in rat models. [7]

        Since so many people worry about getting Alzheimer's disease when they're older, it's valuable to know how curcumin might help.

        Alzheimer's is the most common neurodegenerative disease in the world and a leading cause of dementia. There is no proven treatment for the disease, so the best thing to do is to take preventative measures to reduce the odds of it happening to you.

        Primarily due to curcumin's high antioxidant profile and its ability to reduce chronic inflammation, it can be helpful in delaying the onset of Alzheimer's, reducing its severity or potentially stopping it from happening. This is because inflammation and oxidative damage play a role in Alzheimer's disease, and curcumin reduces both, as well as help clear the amyloid plaques that build up in the brain which are thought to lead to Alzheimer's. [8] [9]

        Clearly, curcumin alone is a worthy contender to be included among your brain health supplements, but there is something that makes it even better, and we did just that by adding bacopa monnieri, as you'll see next.

        ProHealth offers several types of curcumin, each focused on a particular outcome, including brain health.

        2. Bacopa Monnieri

        "Brahmi", short for bacopa monnieri has been used in the Ayurvedic system of medicine for centuries. Traditionally, it was used as a brain tonic to enhance memory development, learning and to provide relief to patients with anxiety or epileptic disorders.

        Several studies have found that bacopa monnieri supplements can speed up information processing in your brain, reduce reaction times and improve memory. [10] [11] [12]

        It's been shown to improve thinking skills and memory, both in healthy people, and in elderly people suffering from a decline in brain function. [13] [14]

        The active compounds in bacopa monnieri are called bacosides. They protect your brain from oxidative stress and improve signaling in your hippocampus, an area of your brain in which memories are processed. [15] [16]

        The effects of bacopa monnieri are not felt immediately. Therefore, doses of 300‒600 mg should be taken for several months for maximum benefit. [17] [18] 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. [19]

        ProHealth offers a novel and synergistic combination of our highly absorbable curcumin and 600 mg of bacopa monnieri, called Optimized Curcumin Brain & Focus.

        3. Ashwagandha

        Withania somnifera is known as ashwagandha, Indian ginseng, poison gooseberry, or winter cherry. It's a plant in the Solanaceae or nightshade family.

        As with curcumin, ashwagandha is an herb that offers a myriad of health benefits. It may be able to:

        • Reduce blood sugar
        • Reduce cortisol levels
        • Reduce inflammation
        • Reduce cholesterol and triglycerides
        • Boost testosterone and fertility in men
        • Increase muscle mass and strength
        • Reduce anxiety and stress
        • Reduce symptoms of depression
        • Improve brain function, including memory


        Lets focus on the last three: anxiety/stress, depression and brain function.

        In Sanskrit, ashwagandha means 'the smell of a horse', but it doesn't, not to my nose. The horse reference was used because in traditional cultures the herb was thought to impart the vigor and strength of a stallion, and therefore had traditionally been prescribed to help people strengthen their immune system after an illness. And as you'll soon read, however, ashwagandha is a useful brain tonic as well. Consider the findings of these studies:

        • In studies using both rat and human models, ashwagandha was shown to be able to reduce anxiety and stress because it blocks the stress pathway in the brain by regulating chemical signaling in the nervous system. [20] [21] [22]

        • Several controlled human studies have shown that it can effectively reduce symptoms in people with stress and anxiety disorders as well [23]

        • In a 60-day study in 64 people with chronic stress, those in the ashwagandha supplement group reported a 69% average reduction in anxiety and insomnia, compared to 11% in the placebo group. [24]

        • In another six-week study, 88% of people who took ashwagandha reported a reduction in anxiety, compared to 50% of those who took a placebo. [25]

        • Research into ashwagandha also suggests that it may help alleviate depression. [26] [27]

        • In one controlled 60-day study in 64 stressed adults, those who took 600 mg of high-concentration ashwagandha extract per day reported a 79% reduction in severe depression, while the placebo group reported a 10% increase. That said, only one of the participants in this study had a history of depression, and for this reason, the relevance of the results is unclear. [28]

        • Ashwagandha supplementation promotes antioxidant activity that protects nerve cells from harmful free radicals. In one study, epileptic rats treated with this herb almost completely reversed their spatial memory impairment. This was likely caused by a reduction in oxidative stress caused by ashwagandha. [29]

        • To test the effect of ashwagandha on memory, one study monitored 500 healthy men who took 500 mg of ashwagandha extract daily. They reported significant improvements in their reaction time and task performance, compared to men who received a placebo. [30]

        • Another eight-week study of 50 adults showed that taking 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract twice daily significantly improved general memory, task performance and attention. [31]

        There needs to be more studies done on ashwagandha's impact on brain function and memory, but what researchers have found out so far is promising. Test-tube and animal studies suggest that it may reduce memory and brain function problems caused by injury or disease. [32] [33] [34] [35]

        ProHealth offers a unique ashwagandha supplement called Optimized Ashwagandha that contains KSM-66®, the highest-concentration ashwagandha extract on the world market today.

        4. Resveratrol

        Resveratrol stands out in this list of nine brain health supplements, because it's not an herbal extract, but a stilbenoid. As such, it's still similar to an herb in that a stilbenoid is a type of natural phenol, and a phytoalexin produced by several plants in response to injury, or when the plant is under attack by pathogens such as bacteria or fungi. Sources of resveratrol in food include the skin of grapes, blueberries, raspberries, mulberries, and peanuts. [36]

        Resveratrol phytophenols are present in high amounts in red grapes and exhibits high antioxidant activity. When consumed, it rapidly enters the central nervous and can protect neurons in the brain and spinal cord against ischemic injury. Administration of resveratrol to rats reduced ischemic damage (a restriction in blood supply to tissues) to the brain in a model of stroke, and also protected spinal cord neurons against ischemic injury. [37] [38]

        Resveratrol can protect neurons against nitric oxide-mediated oxidative stress-induced death; meaning, neurons that die from free radical damage. Similarly, resveratrol protects a type of neurons in the midbrain (called dopaminergic neurons) against metabolic and oxidative insults, a model relevant to Parkinson's disease. Resveratrol protected cells against the toxicity of mutant huntingtin in worm and cell culture models. In models relevant to Alzheimer's disease, resveratrol protected neuronal cells from being killed by amyloid β-peptide and promoted the clearance of amyloid β-peptide from cultured cells. [39]

        ProHealth's Natural Resveratrol contains a comprehensive blend of polyphenols, including natural resveratrol and red wine extract (alcohol free).

        5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

        Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats responsible for most of the brain and mental health benefits of fish oil, which mostly contains two types of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. These two fatty acids are important components of cell membranes, they have powerful anti-inflammatory functions within the body, and are well known for their critical roles in human development and heart health. [40]

        Omega-3 fatty acids impact on the brain begins before birth. Several studies have correlated fish or fish oil consumption by pregnant women with higher intelligence test scores taken by their children in early childhood. [41] [42]

        These fatty acids are also vital for the maintenance of normal brain function throughout life. They are abundant in the cell membranes of brain cells, preserving cell membrane health and facilitating communication between brain cells. [43]

        Low levels of DHA in the brain can lead to problems:

        • When animals are fed diets without omega-3 fatty acids, the amount of DHA in their brains decreases, and they tend to experience deficits in learning and memory. [44] [45]

        • In older adults, lower levels of DHA in the blood have been associated with smaller brain size, a sign of accelerated brain aging. [46]

        There are also claims that fish oil can improve brain function in people with memory problems, such as those with Alzheimer's disease or other cognitive impairments.

        Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia and impacts brain function and quality of life in millions of elderly adults. Finding a supplement that could improve brain function in this population would be a major, life-changing discovery.

        However, omega-3 fatty acids will not cure Alzheimer's. A review of the research found no compelling evidence that omega-3 supplements like fish oil improve brain function in people with Alzheimer's disease. [47]

        Nonetheless, several studies have suggested that taking fish oil supplements may improve brain function in people with more mild types of brain conditions like mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or age-related cognitive decline. [48] [49]

        For instance:

        • One study gave 485 older adults with age-related cognitive decline either 900 mg of DHA or a placebo every day. After 24 weeks, those taking DHA performed better on memory and learning tests. [50]

        • Another study investigated the effects of taking 1.8 grams of omega-3s from fish oil supplements daily for 24 weeks. The researchers found improvements in brain function in people with MCI, but no benefits for those with Alzheimer's disease. [51]

        Based on this research, it appears that fish oil supplements may be most beneficial when taken in the early stages of brain function decline. If you wait too long, fish oil may be of little benefit to reverse cognitive decline, but depression is another matter.

        A review of clinical studies concluded that taking fish oil supplements improved depressive symptoms in people with depression, with effects comparable to those of antidepressant medications. [52]

        Better yet was when fish oil was when fish oil was taken with antidepressants, as this combination showed the greatest improvements in depressive symptoms, especially when the fish oil supplement contained higher doses of EPA. [53] [54]

        It remains unclear how EPA and omega-3s improve depressive symptoms. Researchers have suggested it may be related to their effects on serotonin and serotonin receptors in the brain. Others have proposed that omega-3s from fish oil could improve depressive symptoms through anti-inflammatory effects. [55]

        ProHealth offers a potent omega-3 fatty acid called Arctic Select Krill Oil. This is a premium, naturally rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, given that omega-3 phospholipids from krill are the most bioefficient source of omega-3, and that includes the omega-3 triglycerides derived from fish oil. Plus, phospholipids, also known as liposomes, deliver EPA and DHA fatty acids directly to your body's cells for maximum absorption.

        6. Ginkgo Biloba

        Commonly known as ginkgo, or gingko, is the only living species in the division Ginkgophyta, all others being extinct. This herbal plant is found in fossils dating back 270 million years. Native to China, the plant or tree, depending on its growth stage, has been widely cultivated since early in human history. [56]

        The benefits conferred by ginkgo are thought to come from increasing blood flow to the brain, thereby improving brain function like focus and memory. In traditional Chinese medicine, Ginkgo is used for the improvement of memory loss associated with abnormalities in blood circulation. The herb shows memory enhancing action by increasing the supply of oxygen, and helps the body to eliminate free radicals. [57]

        Although it's not some panacea for cognitive decline of an aging brain, studies have shown some benefits from supplementing with ginkgo:

          • Some studies have found that taking ginkgo biloba supplements can help reduce age-related decline in brain function. [58] [59] [60]

          • One study in healthy middle-aged people found that taking ginkgo biloba supplements helped improve memory and thinking skills. [61]

          • A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research concluded that Ginkgo enhances cognitive functioning and stabilizes mood in cognitively impaired elderly subjects. [62]

          • A placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial of a ginkgo extract showed that, although modest, a substantial number of participants who were experiencing dementia had improved cognitive performance and the social functioning for six months to one year. [63]

          ProHealth's Ginkgo Biloba is a potent extract of ginkgo biloba leaves standardized to contain 24% Ginkgo flavoglycosides and 6% Terpene lactones.

          7. Huperzine A

          Huperzine-A is a compound extracted from the herbs of the Huperziceae family. It's known as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, which means that it stops an enzyme from breaking down acetylcholine which results in increases in acetylcholine. [64]

          Acetylcholine is known as the learning neurotransmitter, and is involved in muscle contraction as well. Increasing levels of acetylcholine is routinely used as a technique amongst weight-lifters and scholars. [64]

          Various studies indicate that Huperzine-A can protect the brain from oxidative damage, may provide some prevention and treatment for Alzheimer's disease and improves mental ability and overall well being.

          Protects the Brain From Oxidative Damage

          Huperzine A binds to NMDA receptors (associated with memory and learning impairments), thereby improving the ability of synapses to strengthen or weaken over time (synaptic plasticity), as well as improve memory function. It also alleviates oxidative damage in the brain. [65]

          May Prevent and Treat Alzheimer's Disease

          In a systematic review of different interventions for Alzheimer's disease, aggregate data from multiple studies show that Huperzine A has a statistically stronger effect in mitigating Alzheimer‘s and cognitive decline than other interventions, although these studies were not as robust as studies of other interventions. [66]

          Nonetheless, Huperzine A is thought to:

          • Decrease brain inflammation and thereby stop apoptosis in some brain cells affected by Alzhiemer's, called amyloid beta-peptides. (Apoptosis is a process of programmed cell death that occurs in multicellular organisms like us.) [67]
          • Improve mental ability and overall well-beingn some patients with Alzheimer's Disease. [68]
          • Significantly reduce the NF-kB pathway in immune cells in the brain. This refers to a pathway that controls DNA gene expression (DNA transcription), immune cell secretion (cytokine production) and cell survival. The end result is a reduction in inflammation, which can help with Alzheimer's. [69]

          ProHealth's Huperzine A product is called Think Clear™. It utilizes four top-rated nutrients for brain and memory health to effectively support cognitive function. This complex formula enhances circulation and oxygen flow to the brain to promote optimal cell health, as well as supporting information transmission from cell to cell.  In addition to Huperzine A, our Think Clear™ formula includes two other brain health supplements covered in this article: Ginkgo Biloba, which you just read about above, and Vinpocetine, about which I'll address next.

          8. Vinpocetine

          Vinpocetine is an alkaloid derived from the compound Vincamine. Vincamine is the main ingredient of the lesser periwinkle plant, Vinca minor, a common garden plant. Japan, Mexico, Russia, and many countries in Europe, prescribe Vinpocetine for the treatment of cognitive and circulatory brain disorders. However, in the United States and Canada, Vinpocetine is an over-the-counter supplement. [70]

          Vinpocetine is rapidly absorbed into the human brain within two minutes of an IV dose. [71] Once there, it increased blood flow, which is linked to cognitive protection. [72] This improved blood flow in the brain may be the reason that Vinpocetine shows these various brain health benefits:

          • A small pilot study involving 12 females who consumed 40 mg of Vinpocetine, three times per day showed improved memory and memory scanning speed. [73]
          • In another study, patients received either 30 mg of Vinpocetine per day, 60 mg of Vinpocetine per day or a placebo. After 16 weeks, both Vinpocetine groups had notable improvements in cognitive performance. [74]
          • Cognitive decline was slowed in subjects taking one week of intravenous infusions of Vinpocetine, followed by 90 days of 30 mg oral dosage, significantly improved the symptoms of in individuals with poor blood circulation in the brain. For example, physical balance was markedly improved. [75]
          • Another study gave vinpocetine (vinpotropile) to patients aged 50 – 78 with low blood flow to the brain. The rate of cognitive decline slowed significantly (e.g. speech performance tests), and subjective measures of well-being improved. [76]

          As mentioned above, ProHealth's Think Clear contains Vinpocetine, as well as two other brain health supplements covered here, Ginkgo Biloba and Huperzine A, making it an ideal choice to add to your supplements that support cognitive function.

          9. Phosphatidylserine

          Phosphatidylserine is a fatty substance called a phospholipid, which are a class of lipids (fatty acids such as natural oils, waxes, and steroids) and a major component of all cell membranes.

          Phosphatidylserine is necessary for the formation of healthy cell membranes, particularly those of the brain and peripheral nervous system, and thereby supports brain health, given that it covers and protects the cells in your brain and carries messages between them.

          WebMD affirms that Phosphatidylserine plays an important role in keeping your mind and memory sharp. Animal studies indicate that the amount of this phospholipid in the brain decreases as you get older. People take Phosphatidylserine to try to prevent memory loss and mental decline, two unfortunate attributes of aging for some of us.

          Several studies suggest that Phosphatidylserinet may boost your brain power. People who took the supplement scored higher on short-term memory, mood and concentration tests. For example, they could better recall names and objects. Scientists have also used phosphatidylserine in studies to treat symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, although presently there's insufficient evidence to prove that Phosphatidylserine can help treat this disease. [77]

          ProHealth's Phosphatidyl Serine helps support the integrity of cell structures in the brain as well as removing toxins and importing nutrients to the cell.

          Your Takeaway

          You now have a good sense of nine supplements potentially useful for brain health. The question swirling around your mind right now might be, "Which ones should I try?".

          If you're not already doing so, I think it's a no-brainer to supplement with Arctic Select Krill Oil, our omega-3 product. I say this because the average person ingests too much of the omega-6s, which are pro-inflammatory as opposed to omega-3s, which are anti-inflammatory. Anthropological evidence suggests that the ratio human beings evolved eating was somewhere around 1:1, while the ratio today is about 16:1 in favor of omega-6s. [78]

          Next, my suggestion is to consider Think Clear, because it contains three of the brain health supplements detailed in this article: Ginkgo biloba, Huperzine A and Vinpocetine.

          Finally, curcumin is such a multi-potent supplement that it should be considered as well. Just with it alone, you potentially support many health benefits.

          Of course, all nine are among the best supplements for brain health, so the most important thing is that you choose a few that can support your efforts to have the very best brain you can as you age.

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