Memory declines as we age, but even in your prime, you may find that your memory fails you from time to time. Stress, irregular sleep patterns, and poor diet can make matters worse. If improving your memory is your main goal, you may have stumbled upon one promised solution–nootropic supplements.
Nootropics, or “smart drugs,” are well known for an array of brain-boosting benefits, from promoting focus to preventing cognitive decline as we age. The question is–how do you narrow the sights on this spectrum of benefits? If improving your memory is your main focus, then you need to know: Which nootropic is best for memory?
The answer is–there’s no one “best” memory-enhancing nootropic supplement, rather there are a handful of nootropics that may specifically impact the portion of the brain that handles memory functions. In fact, stacking several memory-enhancing supplements may be the best way to improve your memory on all fronts–including short-term, long-term, and working memory.
To make that easier, we’ll break down what we know about modern nootropic supplements and which ones have research-backed benefits for memory enhancement. Let’s jump in:
Best Nootrpics for Memory Table of Contents
Memory-enhancing nootropic supplements come in many forms, from amino acids to herbs and even mushrooms.
A combination of memory-enhancing herbs may be the best approach to improving your memory since each works through different mechanisms.
Many memory-enhancing supplements also have neuroprotective effects, so you need to take them daily for the most benefit.
Ginkgo Biloba, a supplement derived from one of the world’s oldest trees, has been traditionally used for improving kidney health, treating asthma and bronchitis, and for managing senility in older adults. Now, much of the research regarding Ginkgo’s potential benefits for memory centers around its ability to help improve memory and cognition in cases of dementia.
One study found that a standardized extract of ginkgo biloba called EGb 761 was clinically effective in treating dementia.
Another study furthered these results, suggesting that EGb 761 was safe and effective for stabilizing and possibly improving cognitive function and social behavior patterns in dementia patients.
Why does ginkgo have this effect? Researchers aren’t yet sure–but they theorize that it has something to do with Ginkgo’s ability to promote better blood flow to the brain, which may support nervous system functions and healing.
In fact, ginkgo may even help to prevent and repair neuronal damage. Research has found that Ginkgo Biloba may be capable of reducing nerve damage in the brain both in animal models and test-tube models.
Despite that ginkgo has been one of the most popular memory-enhancing nootropic supplements for hundreds of years, researchers aren’t sure how it may impact healthy adults. Some research has found marginal improvement in memory in healthy, young subjects, but other research suggests that it may have little to no impact.
Most researchers agree that a diet lacking in Omega-3 may speed up brain aging. A study published in Neurology® measured the mental function of 1,575 people with an average age of 67. These tests also evaluated their brain structure, body mass, and the omega-3 fatty acid levels in their blood.
The researchers concluded that people with low Omega-3 levels had lower brain volume and scored lower on tests involving visual memory and executive function, like tasks involving problem solving, multi-tasking, and abstract thinking.
Another study looked at the impact of a fish oil diet (or a diet containing plenty of omega-3) on fruit flies’ ability to learn. In this study, fruit flies fed the fish oil had a positive impact on learning and memory compared to fruit flies fed a standard diet.
Alpha-GPC is a choline supplement known to promote the release of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps facilitate learning and memory. For this reason, it’s well-known as a memory-enhancing supplement. In fact, it’s sold as a prescription drug for managing Alzheimer’s disease in some other countries, but it exists only as a dietary supplement in the U.S.
Lion’s Mane is a medical mushroom that’s often called the “mind mushroom” thanks to purported benefits surrounding memory and focus.
A 2017 study, for instance, found Lion’s Mane to increase object recognition and memory in mice. Further animal research found that the medicinal mushrooms may even help prevent cognitive decline caused by neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson's and Alzheimer’s.
Human evidence is limited, but one older study did evaluate the benefits of the medicinal mushroom on cognitive performance in older adults. This research concluded that daily consumption of mushroom extract for 4 months improved cognitive performance in adults between 50 and 85 years of age compared to the placebo control group. The cognitive performance scores decreased after discontinuing the extract.
Most significantly, though, Lion’s Mane may help to promote neurogenesis, the growth of nerve cells in the brain, which may help to improve memory from a less direct angle by improving overall brain function.
Learn more about Lion's Mane by reading:
Cordyceps is a functional mushroom that’s well known for its ability to promote blood flow in the body, which is usually translated to physical benefits like increased endurance and agility.
However, cordyceps may also have some memory-enhancing benefits according to one animal study that found it capable of improving memory and learning in mice by “scavenging oxygen free radicals, preventing oxidative damage, and protecting the nervous system.” Enhancing cerebral blood flow may be another mechanism by which cordyceps helps to improve memory and cognitive functions.
Learn more about cordyceps by reading:
Rhodiola is an herb that grows in cold, mountainous areas in Europe and Asia. It’s also known by the names “arctic root” and “golden root,” and has been well-known as a medicinal herb for hundreds of years.
The roots of this plant contain over 140 active ingredients–but most notably contain rosavin and salidroside, two compounds known to be potent adaptogens. Traditionally, the roots of this herb have been used to treat anxiety, depression, and other psychological conditions, but now researchers believe it may have benefits for the whole brain, including the potential to for improving memory.
One review of 36 animal studies concluded this to be true–stating that “R. rosea L. can improve learning and memory function” possibly due its “antioxidant properties, cholinergic regulation, anti-apoptosis activities, anti-inflammatory, improving coronary blood flow, and cerebral metabolism.”
Grapeseed extract is rich in flavonoids that are thought to have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which researchers believe may give grapeseed extract neuroprotective properties.
In fact, the flavonoids found in grapeseed extract have been shown to delay or reduce the onset of neurodegenerative diseases, like dementia. Gallic acid, one component of grapeseed extract, has been shown to inhibit the growth of beta-amyloid peptide clusters, which are usually present in cases of Alzheimer’s Disease.
One 2011 study found that grapeseed extract can help to lower or prevent oxidative stress in the brain. Various studies have found that grapeseed extract can improve memory, prevent memory loss, improve cognitive status and brain antioxidant levels, and reduce amyloid clusters and brain lesions.
One study involving 111 healthy human subjects found that taking just 150 mg of grapeseed oil daily could improve attention, language, and short and long-term memory.
Which is the best nootropic for improving memory?
If you’re looking for the best nootropic for memory, you may be frustrated to hear that there’s no one-off supplement that scores well across the charts. In fact, every person will respond differently to different nootropic supplements simply because everyone’s body and neurological state are different to begin with.
The truth is, you’ll probably want a supplement that contains many of these memory-enhancing nootropics. Or, look for a nootropic supplement that does it all, like our Lucid Mushroom+Nootropic beverages. This unique blend of functional mushrooms and nootropics supports healthy memory, boosts cognitive function, enhances energy and endurance, and much more. It contains many of the nootropics mentioned above, like Alpha-GPC, Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, and Ginko Biloba.
Curious to learn more? Read “Why We Chose Our Ingredients: What’s in a Lucid Stack?” Or check out one of our three flavor varieties:
- “Proof of efficacy of the ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 in outpatients suffering from mild to moderate primary degenerative dementia of the Alzheimer type or multi-infarct dementia” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8741021/
- “A placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial of an extract of Ginkgo biloba for dementia. North American EGb Study Group” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9343463/
- “An Updated Review of Randomized Clinical Trials Testing the Improvement of Cognitive Function of Ginkgo biloba Extract in Healthy People and Alzheimer’s Patients” https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2019.01688/full#B48
- “Is Ginkgo biloba a cognitive enhancer in healthy individuals? A meta-analysis” https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/hup.2259
- “Red blood cell omega-3 fatty acid levels and markers of accelerated brain aging” https://n.neurology.org/content/78/9/658
- “Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Fish oil Improve Learning and Memory in Drosophila melanogaster” https://jbs.camden.rutgers.edu/content/omega-3-fatty-acids-fish-oil-improve-learning-and-memory-drosophila-melanogaster
- “The effects of alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, caffeine or placebo on markers of mood, cognitive function, power, speed, and agility” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4595381/
- “Dietary Supplementation of Hericium erinaceus Increases Mossy Fiber-CA3 Hippocampal Neurotransmission and Recognition Memory in Wild-Type Mice” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5237458/
- “The Neuroprotective Properties of Hericium erinaceus in Glutamate-Damaged Differentiated PC12 Cells and an Alzheimer’s Disease Mouse Model” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5133811/
- “Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18844328/
- “Improvement of Learning and Memory Induced by Cordyceps Polypeptide Treatment and the Underlying Mechanism” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5874985/
- “Rhodiola rosea L.: an herb with anti-stress, anti-aging, and immunostimulating properties for cancer chemoprevention” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6208354/
- “Rhodiola rosea L. Improves Learning and Memory Function: Preclinical Evidence and Possible Mechanisms” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6288277/