“Brain fog is beautiful,” … said no one ever.
In fact, the only time we really appreciate a sleepy mind is when we’re ready for bed and a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, cognitive grogginess doesn’t only rear its head at bedtime. Often, it can carry over into our daily activities and (to put it lightly) put a real damper on them.
There are many base reasons for lack of focus and mental sluggishness, from simply not getting enough sleep to nutrient deficiencies, stress, and even hormone imbalances. Below I’ll walk you through the various essential supplements that can help support and boost your brain power, and how they work depending on what the cause of your brain fog could be.
Best Supplements to Support Mental Strength and Focus
Adaptogens are a specific class of herbs that help your body adapt to stress. While you’ll typically see them recommended for reducing stress and anxiety, it’s worth mentioning that many of these herbs also have cognition-boosting effects.
For instance, Rhodiola Rosea, a common adaptogen herb, has shown the ability to not only increase your body’s defenses against stress and reduce cortisol levels, but to also improve cognitive function by shortening response time to test questions. It also increased the number of correct responses to questions, directly showing a effective “brain boost.” [*]
Another popular adaptogen, ashwaghanda, also shows the ability to significantly improve reaction times in psycho-motor tests, along with helping to rejuvenate for your entire nervous system, which plays a large role in brain function. [*]
The key with adaptogens is to plan on giving them a week or so to build up in your system before expecting immediate effects. In our modern, and frankly stressed, society, they are truly something most people should be taking to mitigate the effects of stress and keep your mind functioning efficiently.
Adaptogens to consider:
• Rhodiola rosea
• Holy basil
• Siberian ginseng
2. Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo has been widely studied for its brain-boosting benefits. Several studies have shown extracts of ginkgo significantly improved cognitive deficits in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as those with dementia. Scientists believe this occurs to ginkgo’s ability to increase blood flow to your brain. [*]
Other studies show ginkgo can also increase overall brain performance and perceived well-being. [*]
L-theanine is an amino acid found in high concentrations in green tea leaves. Like adaptogens, it has a stress-reducing effect that appears to be linked with its ability to improve brain function.
Scientists have found that supplementing with L-theanine can increase verbal fluency and executive functions (making higher level decisions, etc …), along with helping to manage anxiety and improve sleep. [*] Interestingly, researchers have found that L-theanine’s anti-stress and antidepressant effects can increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which may be one of the key reasons for its cognition-boosting effects. [*]
Taurine is one of the most abundant amino acids in your brain. Scientists have found it can help beat brain fog and improve focus due to sharing certain receptors that interact with GABA, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in brain development and cell-to-cell connections. [*]
Other studies show taurine can help grow new brain cells in the area of brain associated with memory, making it an awesome long-term supplement to support healthy memory. [*]
5. Yerba Mate
Yerba mate is a tea traditionally sipped throughout South America. Many people claim drinking it is like drinking coffee, but without the caffeine jitters.
While yerba mate does contain some caffeine that contribute to it’s focus-boosting powers, the various other antioxidant compounds it contains may have a synergistic effect that enhances its effect. For example, research has shown that yerba mate appears to improve short term memory in rats, while also being neuro-protective in patients with Parkinson’s, highlighting its beneficial activity in the brain. [*][*]
Yerba mate is best taken in tea form – brew a cup before your workday or before that typical mid-afternoon slump.
6. Fish Oil
Fish oil may be one of the most important supplements for keeping your brain healthy and functioning at full speed. Researchers have found that the omega-3 fatty acids found exclusively in fish and fish oil are vital for preserving and maintaining communication between brain cells, and that not getting enough of them can result in memory problems and trouble learning. [*] [*]
Studies have even found that mothers who consumed fish or fish oil during pregnancy have children who score higher on IQ and cognitive tests than those who don’t. [*]
Make sure any fish oil you purchase has been refrigerated and is in a dark bottle to ensure the delicate fatty acids don’t go rancid.
There’s obviously a reason why coffee gives us the undeniable boost that it does: caffeine.
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, and works to combat grogginess by blocking several of what are called adenosine receptor subtypes. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of sleepiness, so by blocking its receptors, caffeine can encourage wakefulness. [*]
Other studies have shown that even during severe sleep deprivation, caffeine can improved cognitive function. Yeah, it’s that potent.
I’d recommend sticking to coffee for a caffeine hit, since it’s the natural form and contains other beneficial compounds; however, green tea and black tea also contain caffeine, so don’t be afraid to swap out coffee for those once in a while.
One last thing: you may want to check up on your gut health if you’re experiencing chronic brain fog as well. Some studies show that bad bacteria overgrowth can cause fogginess, and dealing with unknown food sensitivities can also bring down your energy levels.