Curating this best brain boosters list was harder than we had imagined. In the world of brain boosters, one size does not fit all, and hence there cannot be an absolute top 10. Still, we think there are certain compounds which have earned their keep in this list of cognitive enhancers. In general, we prefer natural compounds to synthetic compounds. Amphetamines and racetams are highly effective and widely popular “smart-drugs”, but their effects (and side effects) are highly variable. Modafinil made the best brain boosters list on the basis of the recent scientific support. It also goes without saying that there is extensive scientific evidence supporting the cognitive importance of sleep, exercise, and meditation. Finally, we want to acknowledge that Rhodiola Rosea narrowly missed our best brain boosters list!
Scientists have recently considered Modafinil to be the first well-validated pharmaceutical ‘nootropic’ agent. With 10+ hours of “beast mode” and fewer side effects than adderall, modafinil is becoming the go-to “smart-drug” for high performing professionals and students alike. Use modafinil in spurts rather than daily usage because its long term effects have not been established. Modafinil is a controlled substance, so you will also need a valid prescription from a licensed physician.
2. Caffeine + L-Theanine Stack
In the world of brain boosters, the Caffeine + L-theanine stack is carving out a formidable reputation for increasing focus and attention. If you are a coffee drinker then you know that Caffeine makes coffee the rocket fuel for productivity. If you are a tea drinker then you may know that L-Theanine is a natural ingredient found in tea that promotes relaxation. Add the two together and you can get the effects of coffee without the jitters! Check out our preferred Caffeine + L-Theanine Stack.
Widely popular with fitness enthusiasts, Creatine is an underrated brain booster. To undo this grave injustice, we think Creatine deserves the number 3 spot on the best brain boosters list due to its ability to increase brain energy capacity. Double-blind placebo controlled studies have shown that supplementing your diet with Creatine improves brain performance, including enhancing IQ and memory performance. Creatine is also found in various meats, so don’t feel guilty after you enjoy that delicious steak!
4. Bacopa Monnieri
The ancient Indian practices of Ayurvedic natural medicine may have merit after all. A 2012 scientific review noted that Bacopa Monnieri, an Ayurvedic herb, is a highly effective memory enhancer. Studies also show its potential as a natural alternative to synthetic ADD/ADHD medications, its powerful stress-reducing effects, its cognitive enhancing effects, and even its efficacy for fighting depression. Bacopa also shows promise as a pain-killer. No surprise that Bacopa made it to our best brain boosters list!
No brain boosting list can be considered complete without the mighty Ashwagandha. We firmly believe that anxiety is the number 1 brain performance killer. With more than 3000 years of historical reference to its positive effects on the brain, Ashwagandha is now widely used as a reliable anxiety reducer. We have also been very surprised by its efficacy in increasing cognitive and psychomotor performance. If like most of us, you are struggling to adequately relieve stress, Ashwagandha is one of the best brain boosters you can find.
Turmeric, an ancient spice, has recently experienced a popularity explosion in the media – and for good reason. Used in India for centuries, its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties have finally received the much deserved attention in the west. With over 5000 peer-reviewed scientific papers investigating its medicinal properties, people are discovering benefits from supplementing their diet with this marvel of nature including treating depression, controlling diabetes, and reducing pain. We call it our all star spice.
Ginseng has recently been marketed as a wonder herb. While these claims may be a bit overstated, ginseng does show promise with improving memory and reducing stress with only a 200mg dose for 8 days. Studies have also shown its positive effects on cognitive performance for Alzheimers, and its potential as a natural remedy for ADD/ADHD. In addition to its cognitive effects, there is evidence to suggest that Ginseng may help with weight loss and controlling diabetes. Maybe not a wonder herb, but certainly one of the best brain boosters!
8. Ginkgo Biloba
Across the Pacific, lies the majestic Chinese ginkgo tree, whose leaves contain one of the strongest antioxidants known: Ginkgo Biloba. A recent study shows that Ginkgo Biloba has neuroprotective effects, scavenges free-radicals in our bodies, and helps in fighting oxidative stress. Scientific studies are also demonstrating its benefits including improving memory and reducing stress. The flavonoid contents of Ginkgo may also improve sleep efficiency. Give Gingko a try and it will earn its way into your stack of brain boosters.
9. Omega-3 Fish Oil
Is fish oil also a brain booster? A recent double-blind counterbalanced crossover trial showed EPA-rich fish oil supplementation made participants’ brains work ‘less hard’ and achieve better cognitive performance. In addition, this 2007 study confirms that fish oils with various DHA and EPA combinations have shown to benefit those suffering from ADD/ADHD, autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia, aggression, major depressive disorder (MDD), biopolar disorder, along with schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder.
10. Essential Oils
A bit controversial, but essential oils have sneaked into our best brain boosters list! We were surprised to find scientific evidence for essential oils as brain boosters. Studies have shown essential oils to help with sleep disorders and even depression. Furthermore, aromatherapy massage with a mixture of sweet almond oil, lavender oil, cypress oil, and sweet marjoram oil were found to boost white blood cell count of CD8 lymphocytes (cells that help us fight cancer).