How Do Memory Vitamins Work? (And the best brain supplements)

There are a whole bunch of supposed memory vitamins and supplements to help you focus and increase brain function. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation, questionable research, and things we just don't know when it comes to which vitamins can actually help with memory and concentration. This article will dig into current research to select the four best vitamins and supplements to boost your memory and overall brain function.

Vitamin Vs Supplement

First, let's talk about the difference between a vitamin and a supplement. Vitamins are simply organic substances needed in small amounts to sustain life. ((Medical News Today: What are vitamins and how do they work)) we are talking about vitamin A, B, in CS here. Vitamins in raw, healthy foods that you eat every day and are also available as a daily supplement in tablet form. Or like chewy, edible cartoon characters. Supplements are simply extra pills, liquids, or cartoon characters that you consume in addition to the actual food that you eat. Supplements may include, but are not limited to, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, hormones, and other compounds synthesized or isolated from natural sources.

What Research Says About Vitamins and Supplements

Now we need to talk about the current state of research on vitamins for memory and brain supplements. The only real consensus seems to be that a lot more research needs to be done to really answer which vitamins and supplements are best for your memory. Supplements are big business. In 2015, Americans spent $643 million on supplements, and a quarter of Americans over 50 take them regularly.((Guardian: save your money)) that a lot of money is being spent on extremely unregulated or understudied industries. Here's what we know: The brain needs vitamins and minerals to function properly. We also have some studies in rats and small samples of humans that show tentative hope that certain memory and brain vitamins supplements may also have positive effects on our brains.

How do memory vitamins and supplements work?

Vitamins and supplements work in different ways to improve memory and brain function. So let's break down how some of the big vitamins and supplements work.


Any vitamins or supplements that promote memory development fall into a category called nootropics. Nooptropic is now a term for any natural or synthetic substance that has a positive effect on memory. ((Examples: what nootropics? )) Each type of nootropic works differently in the body affects memory.


Some nootropics, antioxidants. Vitamins such as vitamin E fall into this category. Antioxidants aid memory by protecting cells from free radicals. When free radicals accumulate in the body (a natural by-product of metabolism, aging, and exposure to environmental toxins), they cause cellular damage, so antioxidants help memory by preventing and reversing some cellular damage.


Some nootropics help memory by going a step further than antioxidants. Some, like lion's mane mushrooms, can help stimulate new cell growth. This regeneration will help memory by stimulating new neural growth. Memory relies on strong neural connections, which is why nootropics that stimulate cell growth can be a particularly effective supplement.

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In order to remember, we must be alert. The first part of memory is perception, so nootropics such as caffeine help us wake up enough to perceive in the first place. These sensory perceptions can then turn into memories.


Adaptogens are believed to regulate the adrenal glands, which help the body cope with stress. More research is needed, but some think adaptogens help control hormone levels that help your immune system, energy levels, and brain function.((Time: what are adaptogens and why do people take them?))

Reducing Inflammation

Another way some nootropics help memory is by reducing inflammation in the brain. Memory relies on strong neural connections, and inflammation hurts those connections. So, nootropics that relieve this inflammation can be helpful for people to improve their cognitive function and memory.

Sleep Improvement

Research is starting to show that sleep may also be critical for memory. Studies show that memory may require an active forgetting process during sleep. ((Science: sleep)) While we sleep, we are actually clearing less important memory capabilities. It helps to enhance the memories that are really important, as sleep is an important part of memory. Any nootropic that improves our sleep can also help boost our memory and brain function. So which four vitamins for memory and brain supplements are top of the list?

Best Brain Supplements

1. Vitamin E

If we are talking about vitamins, I would bet my money on vitamin E for memory boost. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which means it protects cells from free radicals. When there are too many free radicals in the body, they cause cell damage. So, vitamin E helps slow down the aging process (cell damage), including the onset of Alzheimer's disease-dementia. Studies have shown that people with adequate levels of vitamin E do better on cognitive and memory tests and significantly delay Alzheimer's dementia. To boost vitamin E impact even more, some studies have also shown that it works best with adequate levels of vitamin C.((NCBI website: Effects of Vitamin E on Cognitive Function in Aging and Alzheimer's Disease ))

2. Lion's mane

The lion's mane mushroom has been around in Chinese medicine for thousands of years, but may not be on your radar just yet. Some preliminary studies in rats have shown that it can improve memory and protect the brain. Lion's mane has anti-oxidative effects in the body by fighting free radicals, but can also stimulate nerve growth factor. How Dr. Mary Szabo L. Ac DACM explains

“These proteins stimulate the production of new brain cells and keep existing ones healthy. They also support myelin and brain plasticity.”

Myelin is a fatty substance around nerve cells axons. Axons are like wires between cells, so when we talk about memory, Axon Coating Protection is the plastic coating protection for electrical wires. When the coating is at risk, so is the wire itself. Like all other nootropics, a lot more research needs to be done on lion's mane, but early research looks promising. It can help stimulate nerve growth, protect brain cells, and remove free radicals that can help improve your memory.

3. Omega 3 Fatty Acids

A lot of research has been done on fish oil and how it affects overall brain health. Just like vitamin E, we need to get the fatty acids in fish oil in our actual diet. And if not, then the supplement may just be what the doctor ordered (again, please check with your doctor before taking any supplements). Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids. 3 In omega 3 because there are actually 3 different omega 3 fatty acids: EPA, DPA and DHA. There's still more research to be done to figure out which fatty acids have which effects on the brain, but preliminary research suggests that omega-3s, especially DHA, are the most important fatty acids for adult memory. ((Frontiers of Aging Neurology: long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and brain)) Omega-3s in cell membranes, and studies have shown that eating them can help protect the health of cells in the brain by helping build cell membranes throughout the body.((App for all your needs: How Omega-3 Fish Oil Affects Your Brain and Mental Health))

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4. Rhodiola Rosacea

There is a plant called rhodiola rosacea that can also help with mental and physical fatigue. Rosacea Rhodiola is an adaptogen, which means it helps regulate the adrenal glands. This will help you deal with stress better. According to Dr. Sabo

“A double-blind, placebo-controlled study on physicians working the night shift showed [rhodiola rosacea] was beneficial in improving brain cognition when taken daily as a supplement.”

So if you are looking for a supplement to help with your cognitive stamina, Rhodiola Rosacea might be the thing for you.

Bottom Line

So, is there anything to keep in mind when considering vitamins for memory and brain supplements? There's still not enough research to say exactly which vitamins are best for memory or which supplements will stimulate your brain the most. What most doctors agree is that a healthy diet of natural, unprocessed foods, a physically active lifestyle, a good night's rest, and strong social relationships is actually the best thing we can do for our memories and our brains in general. But if you are making these positive changes to your diet, exercise, sleep, and relationships, you may also be considering supplements. Check with your doctor because memory problems could be a sign of something more serious. As Dr. Szabo explains,

“Problems with memory and concentration can be symptoms of other conditions, such as an underactive thyroid, anxiety, depression, or insomnia. It can also be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease or dementia in old age. While some supplements can help with such symptoms, getting the right diagnosis and medical attention from MD and targeted support from a Holistic practitioner may be the best path to ongoing care.”

So seek expert opinion and ask questions earlier about nootropics, adaptogens and antioxidants to land on your own decision for which memory vitamins and brain boosters are best for you.

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