9 Essential Cognitive Enhancers Review

Man has been obsessed with making himself smarter for about as long as he has been seeking the holy grail. It’s no wonder that there has been a wealth of research in the area of the human brain, seeking for beneficial ways to increase memory and overall cognitive function. In recent years, there have been many advances being made as we learn more and more about the functions, activities and potential of the human brain.

Cognitive enhancers can help your brain function better in a number of ways including:

  • Improving memory and recall of information
  • Assisting in increased blood flow to the brain
  • Enhances focus and clarity
  • Reduces the negative effects of aging on the brain
  • Balances out moods including decreasing depression and anxiety

Cognitive Enhancement Supplements

Additionally, for certain brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s (which is the most common form of dementia that is diagnosed in America), there have been leaps of advancement as people look for both a cure and a relief from symptoms. There has been more research done on dysfunctional brains due to illness and injury than there has on healthy brain levels.

For this reason, you will often find additional and deeper benefits if you are incorporating brain boosting supplements into a regime while trying to treat a brain disorder. It is always suggested that if you have a history of Alzheimer's in your family that you begin taking supplements earlier. Also, brain supplements taken in the earliest stages of Alzheimer's seems to have the most beneficial effect on subduing symptoms.

If you are wondering how to increase your own brain power, memory, attention or cognitive functions, then you will want to check out some of the top brain supplements that can help you. Read on to find out what they are and what they do.

1Picamilon

For over 50 years the drug picamilon has been available in eastern Europe for the enhancement of mental functions. Formed formed from a synthetic combination of niacin and GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid), Picamilon is a drug used to improve mental clarity and is described as providing a feeling of stimulated calm.  In Russia where it was invented Picamilon is prescribed for a variety of different purposes such as treating migraines, stroke victims,  depression and some types of glaucoma.

What does Picamilon Do?

Picamilon is a powerful brain booster that works on the body and mind in two important ways. First, GABA when metabolised causes an anxiolytic response, which is a reduction of anxiety and can help improve mental clarity by removing distractions.  Unlike other anxiety reducers picamilon doesn’t depress the system, leaving it groggy and lacking energy. Additionally most users of Picamilon say they feel a reduction of background noise and self anxiety, both of which negatively impacted focus.

The Second way it helps is that when niacin is metabolised it acts as a vasodilator, which increases blood flow to the brain. With more blood flow comes more oxygen, glucose and other nutrients to the brain, which can result in greater concentration, mental stamina, and improved alertness.

2Phosphatidylserine

While most people have never heard of it phosphatidylserine is one of the most essential chemicals in your body for cellular cycling and regrowth. From a scientific standpoint phosphatidylserine is a aminophospholipid, a type of negatively charged fat that is found within every cell of the body. It is estimated that there is 60 grams of this fat within the average human, with over half of these contained within the brain.  While it exists in many foods it has only been available as a supplement since the early 1990’s. Early forms of the supplement were derived from cow brains, but due to fears of mad cow disease it is now produced from either soy or cabbage.

What does Phosphatidylserine Do?

There are several benefits that come with taking phosphatidylserine supplements.

Studies have shown that phosphatidylserine is a promising addition to your diet if you are aspiring to increase academic areas of the brain. It seems to improve language skills, attention to detail, and memory. Research suggests that it is especially effective in people with declining mental health. It does this by binding with the neurotransmitters in the brain, causing it to metabolise glucose more efficiently which heightens communications between cells of the brain.

Additional studies have also shown that phosphatidylserine can improve some of the symptoms of alzheimer's disease and dementia in as little as six to twelve weeks of use.

In the same study evidence was also shown that phosphatidylserine  may make alzheimer’s medications like Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors more effective when used in combination.

3Galantamine

Originally developed in the 1950’s in eastern Europe for the treatment of myopathy, myasthenia and other motor dysfunctions, it has now become a popular nootropic due to its benefits as an enhancer to learning, memory, and other cognitive functions.  Galantamine is a alkaloid supplement either derived from the flowers of the plant Galanthus Causasius or created synthetically.  Besides its use as a supplement, Galantamine is approved by the FDA for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

What does Galantamine Do?

Galantamine works in two important ways on the brain. The first is that it inhibits the actions of Acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that destroys used Acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in the brain. When Acetylcholinesterase production is inhibited, the body has increased amounts of the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine, which can result in increased neural activity.

Secondly, Galantamine is thought to increase the receptiveness of Acetylcholine sites in the brain, making it even more receptive to those neurotransmitters. This increased receptiveness is believed to speed up nerve impulses in the brain, increasing the brain’s ability to process information.

Additionally, it is believed that Galantamine facilitates the release of new neurotransmitters such as adrenaline and epinephrine, which increase both mental function and energy, as well as help the body regulate mood.

4Panax Ginseng

Found across the globe from Korea and China all the way to North America, the Ginseng root has been used for over a millennia to increase mental focus and enhance mood. While there are 11 known types of Ginseng the variety most often used as a mental supplement is Panax or Asian Ginseng.

What does Panax Ginseng Do?

The effect of ginseng is a complex one, because of its effects as an adaptogen it works by normalizing  the organs and glands of the body one system at a time in pursuit of homeostasis, or internal stability.

Homeostasis, which is the tendency to maintain internal stability, is caused by over twenty  unique ginsenosides found only within the Ginseng plant.  Ginsenosides which are related to steroids, have multiple effects on the body acting as a stimulant to one organ or gland while working as a depressant on another.

These Ginsenosides have a number of beneficial effects on the body including improved immune response, and the prevention of neuron degeneration. While not all of the effects of Ginsenosides are completely understood, one benefit of their use that has been proven in multiple studies is ginsenosides function as an antiproliferative,  which is a compound that inhibits cell growth, especially in tumor cells.

A recent study in 2005 published in the journal of Psychopharmacy showed that another of the primary benefits of Ginseng supplement use was its ability to enhance cognitive performance in tasks that require a long amounts of mental focus.  Additional studies have also shown that when used in conjunction with Ginkgo Biloba, Panax Ginseng can increase memory function in otherwise healthy adults.

5Choline

One of the most essential nutrients for brain function and health, Choline is a supplement great for anyone looking to improve or restore cognitive function and memory.  While many foods in the typical western diet contain choline, it is estimated that 90% of the american population is suffering from choline deficiency which can lead to a host of ailments including fatigue, memory loss, headaches and impaired mental facilities. The reason most people have a deficiency in choline is that even though it is contained within most meat, dairy, and egg products, its levels are so low within them that it’s simply not enough.

What does Choline Do?

Studies have shown that use of Choline supplements have shown multiple beneficial effects including increasing mental clarity and long term memory. it does by stimulating the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter responsible more many mental functions including remembering new information and recalling stored memories. Because of this increase acetylcholine activity researchers are now looking into choline as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

6L-Tyrosine

Also known by its chemical name of 4-hydroxyphenylalanine, L-Tyrosine is one of the 22 amino acids responsible for the synthesis of protein. Originally discovered in 1846, the chemical was Tyrosine from the greek Tyri which means cheese due to it being discovered in casein, a cheese protein. The chemical is found in a number of high protein foods including turkey, chicken, fish, cheese, yogurt, milk, almonds, peanuts, avocados, and most soy products.

What does L-Tyrosine Do?

L-Tyrosine is not technically a brain boosting supplement, because it is an amino acid. However, you can increase your intake and it has a wide range of effects on the brain and body due to it being a precursor or “building block” to a number of different neurotransmitters. With increased levels of L-Tyrosine the body, and with it increased neurotransmitters, the brain becomes more capable of challenging tasks relating to focus, alertness and attention to detail.

An additional effect of L-Tyrosine is that it increases the production of essential chemicals and hormones, and aids functioning within the organs and glands that produce them including the thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands.

Additionally, in recent studies it was concluded that L-Tyrosine may be an effective natural brain supplement that will work as a treatment of depression and anxiety. This is due to the fact that the chemical increases the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine which is believed to improve mood, while lowering the production of the hormones Norepinephrine and Epinephrine which are a primary cause of stress.

7Bacopa Monnieri

One of the most used nootropics in the world, is a brain booster called Bacopa Monnieri. This cognitive supplement is used by millions for its proven ability to boost memory, increase cognitive function and improve brain health. For thousands of years Bacopa Monnieri extract has been used in the traditional Ayurvedic medicine of india.  Its traditional name of “Brahami” comes from the word Brahma, the creator god of Hindu belief. The extract itself comes from the Bacopa Monnieri plant, a creeping perennial herb native to southern India.

What Does Bacopa Monnieri Do?

Traditionally Bacopa Monnieri has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to increase memory and mental clarity. Additionally it has been prescribed for several ailments including; epilepsy asthma, ulcers, tumors, inflammation, indigestion, as well as many others.  In modern medicine people are now turning to this supplement for its neuroprotective qualities as well as it being an antioxidant.

One of the primary medicinal compounds of the plant is Bacosides, which have been the topic of intense research. Recent studies have shown that Bacosides increase synaptic transmission in the brain. These same studies showed that this increased activity was especially pronounced in the hippocampus, which is the part if the brain most associated with long term memory development, and information recall. The studies conclusion is that this heightened rate of synaptic transmission from taking Bacopa Monnieri extract can produce increased memory development, and ultimately lead to quickened in information recall

Additionally, it is believed that the increased level of neural activity, as a reaction to this brain supplement, may help counter age related memory issues such as dementia and alzheimer’s disease.

8Ginkgo Biloba

For thousands of years the leaves of the Ginkgo Biloba tree have been used for the treatment of a variety of ailments from curing ear and eye infections, easing the symptoms of asthma and bronchitis, to increasing energy and sexual performance.  While its use in traditional “Folk Medicine” may deter some users, new studies have shown that there definitely is some cognitive function benefit with taking Ginkgo Biloba.

What does Ginkgo Biloba Do?

Studies have shown that the core components of ginkgo; ginkgolides bilobalides, and flavonoids are beneficial to mental health and function. The supplement does this by increasing blood flow to the brain which helps increase concentration and memory as well as reducing the risk of stroke.

Another benefit of Ginkgo Biloba is that it works as a natural MAO inhibitor.  MAO inhibitors are contained within most anti-depressants and are used to balance the levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine within the system. This rebalancing creates a mental climate conducive to clear thinking as well as mitigating some of symptoms of depression and ADD/ADHD

9Hordenine

Also known as N, N-dimethyltyramine, hordenine is an alkaloid that occurs naturally in several plants including Bitter Orange and Barley Grass. Due to it being relatively new brain supplement,   most people have never heard of it being used as a nootropic.

What does Hordenine Do?

While its effects are not completely understood yet, recent studies have shown evidence that Hordenine works as a MAO-B inhibitor. Monoamine Oxidase (MAO) is an enzyme that’s responsible for breaking down the neurotransmitters dopamine and phenylamine. By inhibiting this enzyme, you can prevent this breakdown occurring, and indirectly increase the levels of these essential neurotransmitters.

Will Cognitive Enhancers Work For You?

During this research, there have been a number of natural supplements that have been linked to increasing brain power. While research is still being done, there is no definitive links between supplements and increasing cognitive function. Studies are suggesting that because there are multiple compounds in plants and herbs that collectively assist mental acuity, there isn’t enough solid evidence that any one compound is the key. For this reason, it is reported that some supplements work really well on certain people, but then have limited or no effect on another. The best way to see whether or not a supplement will have brain booster effects on you, is through trial and error. You take one and then see if you have an effect. If you do, continue taking it. If you do not, then talk to your healthcare provider about what may work better.

Studies have shown that herbal supplements for conditions like Dementia and Alzheimer's cause restricted blood flow to the brain. While studies may be weak on how supplements affect the healthy human brain, they are much more promising for those that have deficiencies to brain function at the start of integrating supplements into a routine. There have been reported beneficial findings regarding improved brain function when the baseline has been affected by these diseases.

It is certainly worth checking out the most popular cognitive enhancers on the market and see if one has a positive effect on you.

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