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 that may support brain health. 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. 

      Most of these nine compounds 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. Herbal medicine has long been used to support brain health. Some have been shown to exert anti-inflammatory and/or antioxidant effects.

      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 can support healthly levels of:

      • Inflammation
      • Antioxidants
      • Brain growth hormones

        Since our focus is on brain health, let's turn to curcumin's usefulness to improve cognitive function and health.

        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]

        Curcumin supplementation can support healthy brain levels of BDNF. [5-9]

        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.

        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 and learning.

        Several studies have found that bacopa monnieri supplements can speed up information processing in your brain, reduce reaction times, and support 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]

        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. Ashwagandha has been shown to support healthy muscle mass and brain function. It may be able to support healthy levels of:

        • Blood sugar
        • Inflammation
        • Cholesterol and triglycerides
        • Testosterone


         

        In Sanskrit, ashwagandha means 'the smell of a horse', but it doesn't — at least 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.

        Ashwagandha is a useful brain tonic as well, having been shown to support cognitive health as well as healthy levels of stress pathway activation and antioxidant activity in the brain. [20-31]

        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 support memory and brain health. [32-35]

        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. Resveratrol can protect neurons against nitric oxide-mediated oxidative stress-induced death — meaning, neurons that die from free radical damage. 

        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 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]

        Arctic Krill Oil 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 supporting brain function like focus and memory. The herb shows memory enhancing action by increasing the supply of oxygen and helping the body to eliminate free radicals. [57]

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

          • Some studies have found that taking ginkgo biloba supplements can support healthy brain function and aging. [58-60]

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

          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 as well as improve 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 supports healthy antioxidant levels in the brain. [65]

          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 supporting the brain. 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.

            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.

            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 Phosphatidylserine 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.

            ProHealth's Phosphatidylserine helps support the integrity of cell structures in the brain as well as removes toxins and imports 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. The average person ingests too many omega-6 fats, which are pro-inflammatory as opposed to omega-3s, which support a healthier inflammatory response. 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. 

            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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