Men's Health Resource Center (MHRC)

[Wicked] Herbs to Jack Up Your Brain, Memory, Focus & Mood

Herbs for Brain Health and Function

Hey there lads and ladies! In case you missed it, there is already a huge community of 'brain hackers' out there, or so some like to call themselves.

The use of nootropics (brain enhancement drugs and supplements) is more popular than ever today. And while some users opt for fast-acting simulant drugs to 'hack' or boost their brain power, others prefer the more natural and safer long-term option, which is herbal remedies.

The idea of brain hacking isn't something new though. People have always searched for quick-fixes, magic spells, or herbal concoctions thought to produce exceptional brain abilities. Some herbs, however, have shown to be more than just a fairy-tale elixir.

In this article I am going to briefly discuss the benefits of the best medicinal herbs that you can use to enhance your brain function, improve your memory, increase your focus, and uplift your mood.

If you are looking for a safe way to support your mental health and performance, these herbs are a must-try.

Huperzia Serrata

1. Huperzia Serrata

Huperzia Serrata - also called Chinese club moss or firmoss - is a plant native to Asia. People have used this herb in traditional medicine to treat Alzheimer's disease and memory problems.

Huperzia contains a chemical called Huperzine A, which works as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. It increases the levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, aka the learning neurotransmitter, which plays a key role in brain function and memory.

Huperzine A is widely used in over-the-counter nootropics. It can help you improve your memory, learning, and mental function.

Side Effects: Huperzine A (Huperzia Serrata extract) is safe and does not have any significant side effects when taken within normal dosage (50-100mcg daily).

Bacopa Monnieri

2. Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa Monnieri is a plant and medicinal herb found in many parts of the world. Indians call it Brahmi and use it in their traditional medicine (Ayurveda) for different conditions.

Bacopa is an adaptogen (combats effects of stress), antioxidant (protects against cell damage), and nootropic (improves cognitive function). It has been shown in clinical trials to improve cognitive performance and memory formation, particularly in older people.

Many generic and branded forms of this herb and its extract are widely used by men and women, young and old, healthy and suffering from mental problems.

Bacopa can help with memory, thinking, attention, and depression. It is also an effective anxiolytic that reduces anxiety and stress, and thus can help you focus during stressful working hours.

Side Effects: Bacopa Monnieri extract is safe when used in the range of 300-600mg daily. If you take the dose on an empty stomach though, it may in some cases cause an upset stomach, cramping, nausea, and/or diarrhea.

Mucuna Pruriens

3. Mucuna Pruriens

Mucuna Pruriens - also called cowhage or velvet bean - is a plant in the bean family. Some people in Africa and Asia use it as food, but it's more known for its medicinal uses and benefits.

Mucuna is a good source of L-DOPA, an amino acid that the body uses to make dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain. Dopamine, aka the feel-good/desire/pleasure chemical, plays a key role in brain functions, especially in the reward-motivated behavior.

With its high content of L-DOPA, Mucuna Pruriens extract can boost your mood and motivation. It can also help reduce the symptoms of conditions affected by dopaminergic pathways, including Parkinson's disease and ADHD, although the evidence is mostly anecdotal.

Side Effects: Mucuna Pruriens is generally safe in doses up to 1,000mg of the extract. It may lead to negative side effects in some people, including nausea, vomiting, and bloating. It can also interact with depression medications if you are taking any.

Vinca Minor

4. Vinca Minor (Periwinkle)

Vinca Minor, more commonly known as lesser periwinkle or periwinkle, is a plant with outstanding lavender blue flowers that can be found in some parts of Europe.

The leaves and flowers of Vinca Minor contain more than 50 naturally-occurring chemical compounds called alkaloids. Vincamine is one of the alkaloids found abundantly in this plant. Vincamine increases blood flow to the brain and enhances its function.

For use in dietary supplements, a synthetic compound called vinpocetine was derived from vincamine. Vinpocetine helps improve memory and prevent cognitive decline related to age. It is used in many popular over-the-counter nootropics.

Side Effects: Vinpocetine (or periwinkle extract) is safe for oral consumption and does not yield negative effects at standard dose. It is used in the dosage range of 5-60mg per day.

Withania Somnifera

5. Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha)

Withania Somnifera, or more commonly Ashwagandha, is a small shrub that is used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. The root contains many naturally-occurring chemicals called withanolides, which have been clinically studied and proven to have some therapeutic effects.

Ashwagandha root extract has many uses as a dietary supplement. It is mostly known for its neuroprotective, brain calming, anti-anxiety, and anti-depression effects. It also improves sexual health (libido and fertility) in both men and women.

Ashwagandha can help you counteract cognitive impairment and other negative effects of daily stress on your mental acuity.

Side Effects: Ashwagandha is safe for daily use within the normal dose of 100-500mg. It can also be taken in high doses (up to 6,000mg) for short-term use, but higher doses may cause an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Ginkgo Biloba

6. Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba is a large tree native to China. The leaves of this tree contain numerous chemical compounds (ginkgolides, biflavonoids, flavonoid glycosides, etc.) that are believed to have medicinal properties.

Ginkgo leaf extract is a well-known ingredient in cognitive enhancement supplements. It can improve blood flow to the brain and other parts of the body, albeit its effect is rather weak.

This is a good addition to your daily supplement stack as it can support mental clarity, short-term memory, attention, cognitive function, and help you sleep better at night.

Side Effects: Ginkgo leaf extract is safe for daily supplementation. A moderate dose in the 50-250mg range does not typically cause any side effects. However, there are some reported side effects including headache, dizziness, gastrointestinal discomfort, diarrhea/constipation, and nausea.

Where to Buy These Herbs From?

You can find these herbs in powder and/or capsule form at most supplement stores online and at local retail stores. You can either get them as stand-alone supplements, or go with a pre-made herbal nootropic stack. Some people prefer to try each ingredient separately and build their own stack that works best for them.

Bulk generic supplements (powders) are cheaper, but you may have to try different suppliers to find quality products at an affordable price.

Pre-made brand formulas (multi-herb supplements) are generally more expensive, but can save you time and effort by providing an optimal formula that has already worked for other users. Make sure you study the label (ingredients and dosages) of any supplement before you buy it as many supplements on the market are under-dosed.