Trending Nootropics for Your Next Supplement Line
Across demographics, consumers are buying brain health supplements. Healthy older adults have been found purchasing them for better memory function and mitochondrial health. On the other hand, the adult population may buy them to boost energy, focus, and stress relief.
Research suggests that in 2019 the sales of brain health supplements grew by 24%, and the ones targeting sleep and mood grew by 16%. One such category that's benefiting from the growing brain health supplement demand is Nootropics.[i] [ii]
So, what are nootropics? Nootropics are natural supplements that have beneficial effects on brain function in healthy individuals. They are known to help boost motivation, alertness, creativity, and cognitive functions.[iii]
Through this article, I will touch upon a few nootropic ingredients trending in the market that may help supplement brand owners capitalize on the growing demand.
L-Theanine is a nootropic with high market value and economic importance. It is an amino acid usually found in tea leaves (both black and green tea) and in small amounts in Bay Bolete mushrooms.[iv] [v]
Evidence from human electroencephalograph (EEG) studies show that L-Theanine significantly increases brain activity in the alpha frequency band, which indicates that it relaxes the mind without inducing drowsiness. Alpha activity is also known to play an important role in critical aspects of attention.
Research indicates that L-theanine has a significant effect on improving mental alertness while promoting relaxation. L-theanine has been found to provide many health benefits, including helping boost GABA (Gammaaminobutyric acid levels), a naturally occurring amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter. It also helps induce calming effects and reduce levels of chemicals associated with stress-induced anxiety. L-theanine, as a supplement, is also linked with enhanced relaxation and focus.[vi]
Research suggests that 85% of the American population consumes at least one beverage per day. Consumption of caffeine supplement powder has been linked to helping boost focus, mood, and alertness. Caffeine supplements may also help improve attention and ease everyday fatigue caused due to common overwork.[vii]
Consumers may be inclined toward caffeine supplements to help eliminate the extra calories that come with sugar-rich beverages.[viii]
- Bacopa Monneiri
The leaves of the Bacopa monnieri plant have been used for centuries in the traditional East Indian system of healthcare (Ayurveda) for purposes of promoting "healthy longevity, and strengthening life, brain, and mind. "While that is certainly impressive, it is even more impressive that several modern, human clinical studies have been conducted showing that supplementation with Bacopa helped:
- Improve occasional, age-related absentmindedness.
- Promote a healthy memory.
- Improve some measures of delayed recall.
- Promote cognitive function.
Most of these studies found that daily supplementation with 300 mg of Bacopa monnieri leaf extract (standardized for 50% total bacosides) provided significant benefits by week 12—although progressive benefits in Total Memory Score were also seen during week 4 and 8 as well.
- Citicoline or CDP Choline
Choline is found in almost every human cell and is considered a brain nutrient that supports mental energy, support, and attention. But data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) suggests that only 8% of the American population consumes the daily recommended amount of choline. This may be because the sources of choline are limited to animal organ meats, liver, and brain.
Citicoline is a form of choline shown to have memory/cognitive benefits for healthy subjects with some memory problems. Three studies in healthy subjects demonstrate that citicoline supplementation can benefit memory. In one study, citicoline helped improve brain energy reserves and utilization and helped maintain the health of cell membranes.
In another study, citicoline helped improve memory in healthy subjects with memory deficits. In a third study, citicoline improved memory in healthy subjects with relatively inefficient memories.[ix]
Panax ginseng root, or ginseng for short, is a traditional Chinese herb that has been used for thousands of years in various aspects of healthcare. It is also one of the most widely researched herbs in modern science, with over 5,000 published studies.
Ginseng belongs to a category of herbs known as adaptogens, which help stabilize physiological processes and promote homeostasis (i.e., stable, healthy functioning of the body), especially in the case of stress and fatigue. This property was seen in two human clinical studies examining the effects of ginseng on mental performance. The results demonstrated that 200 mg of ginseng root extract daily:
- Improved speed of mental performance within 60 minutes.
- Enhance the performance of mental arithmetic within 60 minutes.
- Reduce feelings of mental fatigue within 60 minutes.
- Quickly reduced feelings of mental fatigue during sustained mental activity.
- Quickly improved some measures of mental performance.
While many nutraceuticals may take weeks to work, these studies found that ginseng root extract provided beneficial results in as little as 60 minutes.
Ashwagandha is a small, woody shrub found growing in Africa, the Mediterranean, and India. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 3000 years.[x] Ashwagandha has also been referred to as a "royal herb" due to its rejuvenating effects, ability to act on various systems of the body including neurological, immune, energy production, endocrine, and reproductive.[xi]
These broad-ranging effects are a function of ashwagandha's adaptogenic properties, which help the body to adapt by normalizing physiological processes in times of increased stress.
Ashwagandha has historically been used in Asia for treating stress-related health conditions. In one study, standardized ashwagandha root and leaf extract in stressed humans decrease the average stress-related anxiety score, serum cortisol (the "stress hormone"), serum C-reactive protein (an inflammatory marker), pulse rate, and blood pressure.
In addition, ashwagandha root and leaf extract improved sleeplessness score from 3.1 on day 0 to 1.9 on day 30 to 0.9 on day 60—a percentage change of about 71%. Therefore, this study provides evidence that the consumption of ashwagandha root and leaf extract significantly reduced experiential and biochemical indicators of stress without adverse effects.[xii] [xiii]
- Omega – 3'sDHA
Extracted from algae and produced in small quantities in the brain, Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is a structural omega-3 fatty acid with neuroprotective and nootropic properties. This fatty acid is essential for the brain's healthy structure and function. DHA has been found to support the brain's learning, attention, memory, and focus capabilities.[xiv] [xv] [xvi]
In healthy adults, DHA has also been found to help activate the brain's growth hormone – BNDF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and nutritionally support brain health.
A naturally occurring antioxidant, resveratrol, is found in the skin of red and purple fruits like blueberries, grapes, and raspberries. Resveratrol can also be found in red wine, peanuts, and chocolates—and in the dietary supplement industry, it is found in Japanese Knotweed extract.
In a study, 80 post-menopausal women received resveratrol or placebo for 14 weeks to examine the effect on cognitive performance and other parameters. Results were that, compared to placebo, significant improvements were observed in the performance of cognitive tasks in the domain of verbal memory (p = 0.041) and overall cognitive performance (p = 0.020). Mood also tended to improve in multiple measures. These results indicate that regular consumption of a modest dose of resveratrol can enhance both cerebrovascular function and cognition in postmenopausal women, potentially reducing their heightened risk of accelerated cognitive decline and offering a promising therapeutic treatment for menopause-related cognitive decline.
In the nootropic supplement market, resveratrol is gaining traction for helping improve the brain's cognition. Owing to its health benefits, resveratrol's market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.1%.[xvii]
Phosphatidylserine (P.S.) is present in every cell of the body and is found to be highly concentrated in the brain cells.
Research suggests that P.S. is one of the most effective nootropics available in the market today. P.S. for commercial use is obtained from soybean and sunflower seeds, and a small percent is produced from marine sources. The global market shows growth opportunities for marine-based P.S.
A double-blind, randomized controlled study investigated the effects of P.S. on the cognitive functions of elderly Japanese subjects with memory complaints. Seventy-eight elderly people with mild cognitive impairment (50–69 years old) were randomly allocated to take P.S. (100 mg or 300 mg/day) or placebo for 6 months. In the subjects with a relatively low score at baseline, the memory scores in P.S. treated groups were significantly increased compared to the baseline. In contrast, those of the placebo group remained unchanged. And the memory improvements in PS-treated groups were mostly attributed to the increase in delayed verbal recall, a memory ability attenuated in the earliest stage of dementia.
Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study assessed the influence of P.S. on memory and mood in patients aged 60-80 years old and who reported some memory difficulties verified by a score of at least 25 out of 30 on the Mini Mental State Test, that screens for cognitive impairment.[xviii]
Seventy-two subjects, randomly assigned to placebo and therapy groups, were treated for three months with 300 mg, P.S. daily. Results showed a large and statistically significant positive influence of treatment on both memory and mood, whereas the influence of placebo was small and non-significant. Components of memory and cognition that were most improved by the treatment included memorizing information, visual memory, and memorizing numbers. Mood was also influenced. Winter mood changes ("Winter Blues") did develop in the placebo group but were entirely blocked in those treated with P.S.[xix] [xx]
An acetylated form of L-carnitine, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, has been found to have healthy aging, nootropic, and neuroprotective effects. This can be good for brain health in healthy adults to help promote memory, attention, learning, and executive functions.[xxi]
This compound is produced in the brain and kidneys and then transported to other parts of the brain and heart. Most Acetyl-L-Carnitine in the diet comes from red meat. This is where Acetyl-L-Carnitine supplements can help a wider population.[xxii]
- Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba is a herbal supplement made from the leaves of the Ginkgo tree or maidenhair tree. This nootropic has been found to help boost memory and concentration. In addition, Gingko has been found to have antioxidant properties that may be beneficial for brain health in healthy adults. It can also help modestly boost cognitive speed.[xxiii]
- Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola Rosea is a herb that belongs to the Crassulaceae family and produces two main chemicals name drosavin and salidroside. As a supplement, Rhodiola Rosea may help healthy individuals combat mental fatigue, improve mood, encourage mental performance during stressful conditions, deal with mental fog, and much more.[xxiv]
- Vitamin B-12
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey highlighted that 3.2% of adults over 50 have low levels of B12, and up to 20% may have a borderline B-12 deficiency.[xxv]
Through diet, vitamin B-12 is usually consumed from animal sources, making it less accessible for vegans and vegetarians. This makes vitamin B-12 supplements essential among consumers. The lack of this vitamin has been associated with age-related cognitive decline, emotional imbalance, weakness, etc.
Vitamin B-12 can also help deal with stress-induced anxiety and fatigue.[xxvi]
Turmeric contains compounds called curcuminoids, namely, curcumin (diferuloylmethane), desmethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin.
Out of these three, curcumin has been found to offer antioxidant effects. Furthermore, curcumin provides several nootropic effects for healthy adults, including helping reduce oxidative stress and activating BNDF.[xxvii] Studies also suggest that curcumin may help healthy individuals boost cognitive performance and assist with memory, mood, and attention.[xxviii]
- Creatine Monohydrate
Creatine monohydrate is a nitrogenous compound that naturally occurs in the body and is found to supply energy to the cells.[xxix]
Besides helping athletes with muscle health, creatine monohydrate has shown positive results as a nootropic for brain health.[xxx] It can be a great supplement for vegans, vegetarians, bodybuilders, and athletes.[xxxi] [xxxii] Today, creatine monohydrate is also considered the least expensive and among the most effective forms of creatine.
For brain health, creatine monohydrate has been found to help enhance critical thinking, memory, cognition, decision-making, and deal with brain fatigue.[xxxiii]
Huperzine-A is a lab-synthesized form of Chinese club moss called Huperzia serrata. Traditionally, Huperzia serrata was known for its medicinal properties and has now shown properties that may help promote a clear mind. This nootropic has also been found to help boost acetylcholine (Ach) in healthy adults. Ach helps with learning, mental processing, and memory.[xxxiv]
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[x] Anonymous. Monograph. Withaniasomnifera. Altern Med Rev 2004;9:211-4.
[xi] Singh, N., Bhalla, M., de Jager, P. and Gilca, M. An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med 2011;8:208-13.
[xviii] Gindin J, Novikov M, Dedar D, Walter- Ginzburg A, Naor S, Levi S. The effect of plant phosphatidylserine on age-associated memory impairment and mood in the functioning elderly. The Geriatric Institute for Education and Research, and Department of Geriatrics, Kaplan Hospital, Rehovot, Israel. Unpublished report; 2009.