Supplements for the brain can include vitamins, herbal extracts, chemical substances, and fish oil. Many supplements have been studied, linked to, or recommended for specific brain conditions. These conditions include normal mental decline due to aging, mood disorders like depression or anxiety, and some degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer's. While supplements for the brain are not a substitute for medical or psychiatric care, they may bring relief of symptoms or offer protective benefits for some people. People with chronic diseases or conditions should consult a doctor before taking supplements.
Many vitamin supplements have been studied for the effect on brain health and function, including a number of B vitamins. Vitamin B1 has been studied in relation to Alzheimer's disease, and whether it can slow the disease's progression. Some Parkinson's patients have been found to be deficient in B2, and may benefit from this supplement. Vitamin B6 has important functions related to the brain, and may improve the symptoms of people with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, as well as depression. Vitamin B12 is necessary for basic nerve functioning, and deficiency has been linked to many brain-related conditions, including the normal cognitive decline associated with aging.
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Some herbal extracts are used as supplements for the brain. Some doctors recommend St. John's wort as an herbal alternative to prescription drugs in cases of mild depression. Ginkgo biloba, bacopa, and huperzine A may improve overall brain function or decrease problems, such as memory loss, that are associated with aging brains. Calming herbal extracts like valerian, chamomile, and kava are sometimes taken to reduce anxiety and promote restorative sleep for sound mental functioning.
Certain chemical substances are also taken for brain health, and are present in some supplements for the brain. Coenzyme Q10 might be beneficial to the brain either because of its antioxidant activity, or its positive effect on circulation. Acetyl-L-carnatine is naturally found in the brain, and is recommended by some to maintain mental acuity during the aging process. Phosphatidylserine has also been studied in relation to brain aging and Alzheimer's disease, where some benefits have been found. Aspirin improves overall circulation and may slow memory loss as well as reduce the risk of strokes.
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain health. Taking omega-3 supplements for the brain could reduce the symptoms of mood disorders including anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been proposed as supplements for more serious brain disorders and problems like epilepsy, strokes and schizophrenia.