The Best Vitamins for Memory
What are the best vitamins for memory? While there is no miracle cure for a bad memory, the vitamins listed below may be able to help.
A word of caution: Everyone has heard there are vitamins and supplements that can improve your memory and other brain functions. Research indicates this may be true.
However, success in using vitamins for memory improvement varies. Some products work better for some people than others. Each of us have different genetics, health and diet, and natural memory ability, which may partially explain this.
And don’t forget: what you eat and drink and the quality of your sleep have a powerful effect on your memory, too. Taking vitamin pills won’t offset an unbalanced lifestyle.
So do your own research before trying any vitamins or supplements. Read the labels and product reviews. Evaluate the advice and tips from people who have used the products. Consult your physician as appropriate for your situation. This is common sense.
Below is a list of vitamins for memory, followed by a longer list of supplements that may have a positive effect on memory and brain function. A brief description and background information are included for each one. All are legal in the U.S. and readily available from health food stores, nutrition shops, and online stores such as Amazon.com.
List of Top Memory Vitamins
Below are three types of vitamins for memory improvement you may wish to consider taking. Studies indicate these vitamins are essential for the brain and memory to operate at its best. For many people, vitamin pills are an easy way to help them get enough of these vitamins in their daily diet.
The following are vitamins that can affect memory and brain power:
Supplementing with antioxidant vitamins daily is recommended. In addition, these vitamins can be found in naturally occurring foods such as blueberries, strawberries, and other berries; sweet potatoes; red tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, green tea, peppermint tea, and other types of herbal tea; nuts and seeds; and citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits.
Note that with some of these foods, you get both the B vitamins and the antioxidants – a double dose of vitamins for memory improvement!
In addition to taking regular vitamins for memory improvement, you might also want to try memory and brain enhancing supplements. Keep reading to learn more.
Other Brain & Memory Supplements
Supplements are similar to vitamins, and may even contain vitamins, but are generally available in pill form only and not necessarily in food. See the examples below – you’ll understand what I mean!
I’ve included references to published research studies for most of these supplements. However, the few references listed here are examples only and not meant to be comprehensive. Also keep in mind that scientific research is an ongoing process with new developments and discoveries happening all the time.
These supplements are listed in alphabetical order. I don’t advocate any of them in particular. It’s up to you and your physician to determine which supplements (if any) are right for your situation.
Research studies that suggest acetyl l-carnitine may protect brain cells:
(1) Barhwal K, Hota SK, et. al. (June 2009). “Acetyl-l-carnitine (ALCAR) prevents hypobaric hypoxia-induced spatial memory impairment through extracellular related kinase-mediated nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 phosphorylation”. Neuroscience 161 (2): 501-14. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.02.086.
Supplementation with Alpha GPC can also help with therapeutic recovery from strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, and other vascular brain conditions.
Research suggesting that Alpha GPC assists cognitive disorder recovery:
(1) Barbagallo Sangiorgi G, et al. “Alpha-Glycerophosphocholine in the mental recovery of cerebral ischemic attacks.” An Italian multicenter clinical trial. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1994; 717:253-69.
Research suggesting that bacopa monnieri may improve memory:
(1) Morgan A, Stevens J. “Does Bacopa monnieri improve memory performance in older persons? Results of a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial.” Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine 2010 Jul;16(7):753-9.
Research suggesting that bacopa monnieri may enhance intellectual activity:
(1) C. Stough, J. Lloyd, et. al. (2001). “The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects”. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 156 (4): 481-4. doi:10.1007/s002130100815.
(2) S. Roodenrys, D. Booth, et. al. (2002). “Chronic effects of Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) on human memory”. Neuropsychopharmacology (Wollongong) 27 (2): 279-81. doi:10.1016/S0893-133X(01)00419-5.
(3) Stough C, Downey LA, Lloyd J, et al. (2008). “Examining the nootropic effects of a special extract of Bacopa Monniera on human cognitive functioning: 90 day double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trial.” Phytotherapy Research 22:1629-1634.
Research suggesting that carnosine may provide anti-aging protection:
(1) Aruoma OI, Laughton MJ, Halliwell B (December 1989). “Carnosine, homocarnosine and anserine: could they act as antioxidants in vivo?”. The Biochemical Journal 264 (3): 863-9.
(2) Choi SY, Kwon HY, Kwon OB, Kang JH (November 1999). “Hydrogen peroxide-mediated Cu,Zn-superoxide dismutase fragmentation: protection by carnosine, homocarnosine and anserine”. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1472 (3): 651-7. doi:10.1016/S0304-4165(99)00189-0
(3) Klebanov GI, Teselkin YuO, Babenkova IV, et al. (1998). “Effect of carnosine and its components on free-radical reactions”. Membrane & Cell Biology 12 (1): 89-99.
(4) Reddy VP, Garrett MR, Perry G, Smith MA (May 2005). “Carnosine: a versatile antioxidant and antiglycating agent”. Science of Aging Knowledge Environment 2005 (18): pe12. doi:10.1126/sageke.2005.18.pe12
Research suggesting that carnosine may protect against strokes:
(1) Min J, Senut MC, Rajanikant K, et al. (October 2008). “Differential Neuroprotective Effects of Carnosine, Anserine, and N-Acetyl Carnosine against Permanent Focal Ischemia”. Journal of Neuroscience Research 86 (13): 2984-91. doi:10.1002/jnr.21744
Research suggesting that citicoline may improve focus and mental energy:
(1) “Supplement naturally boosts ageing brain power”. Sydney Morning Herald 2008-02-25. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
(2) Silveri MM, Dikan J, Ross AJ, et al. (November 2008). “Citicoline enhances frontal lobe bioenergetics as measured by phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy”. NMR in Biomedicine 21 (10): 1066-75. doi:10.1002/nbm.1281.
Research suggesting that citicoline may protect memory ability:
(1) Teather LA, Wurtman RJ (2005). “Dietary CDP-choline supplementation prevents memory impairment caused by impoverished environmental conditions in rats”. Learning & Memory 12 (1): 39-43. doi:10.1101/lm.83905.
Research suggesting that ubiquinol may protect against age-related memory loss:
(1) Shults CW, Oakes D, Kieburtz K, et al. (October 2002). “Effects of coenzyme Q10 in early Parkinson disease: evidence of slowing of the functional decline”. Archives of Neurology 59 (10): 1541-50. doi:10.1001/archneur.59.10.1541
(2) Cleren C, Yang L, Lorenzo B, et al. (March 2008). “Therapeutic effects of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and reduced CoQ10 in the MPTP model of Parkinsonism”. Journal of Neurochemistry 104 (6): 1613-21. doi:10.1111/j.1471-4159.2007.05097.x.
Research suggesting that DMAE may enhance alertness and mood:
(1) Dimpfel W, Wedekind W, Keplinger I (May 2003). “Efficacy of dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) containing vitamin-mineral drug combination on EEG patterns in the presence of different emotional states”. European Journal of Medical Research 8 (5): 183-91.
(2) Pfeiffer CC, Jenney EH, Gallagher W, et al. (September 1957). “Stimulant effect of 2-dimethylaminoethanol; possible precursor of brain acetylcholine”. Science 126 (3274): 610-1. doi:10.1126/science.126.3274.610.
Research suggesting that gotu kola may help improve concentration:
(1) Bradwejn, J., Zhou, Y., et al., “A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study On The Effects of Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) on Acoustic Startle Response in Healthy Subjects”, Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology2000 Dec; 20(6):680-4
(2) Cataldo, A., Gasbarro, V., et al., “Effectiveness of the Combination of Alpha Tocopherol, Rutin, Melilotus, and Centella asiatica in The Treatment of Patients With Chronic Venous Insufficiency”, Minerva Cardioangiology 2001, Apr; 49(2):159-63.
Research suggesting that ginko biloba may improve attention span:
(1) Elsabagh, Sarah; Hartley, David E.; et. al. (2005). “Differential cognitive effects of Ginkgo biloba after acute and chronic treatment in healthy young volunteers”. Psychopharmacology 179 (2): 437-46. doi:10.1007/s00213-005-2206-6
(2) Kennedy, David O.; Scholey, Andrew B.; Wesnes, Keith A. (2000). “The dose-dependent cognitive effects of acute administration of Ginkgo biloba to healthy young volunteers”. Psychopharmacology 151 (4): 416-23. doi:10.1007/s002130000501
Research suggesting that huperzine may enhance memory:
(1) Sun, QQ; Xu, SS; Pan, JL; Guo, HM; Cao, WQ (1999). “Huperzine-A capsules enhance memory and learning performance in 34 pairs of matched adolescent students.”. Zhongguo yao li xue bao (Acta pharmacologica Sinica 20 (7): 601-3.
Research suggesting that huperzine may help with Alzheimer’s disease:
(1) Wang, Bai-Song; Wang, Hao; et.al. (2009). “Efficacy and safety of natural acetylcholinesterase inhibitor huperzine A in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: an updated meta-analysis”. Journal of Neural Transmission 116 (4): 457. doi:10.1007/s00702-009-0189-x.
(1) Mori, K.; Inatomi, S.; et. al. (2009). “Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial”. Phytotherapy Research 23 (3): 367-372. doi:10.1002/ptr.2634.
Note: Half the people in industrialized countries are thought to have a magnesium deficiency.
Research suggesting that magnesium l-threonate may improve memory and learning:
Inna Slutsky, Nashat Abumaria, Long-Jun Wu, Chao Huang, Ling Zhang, Bo Li, Xiang Zhao, Arvind Govindarajan, Ming-Gao Zhao, Min Zhuo, Susumu Tonegawa, and Guosong Liu (2010). “Enhancement of Learning and Memory by Elevating Brain Magnesium”. Neuron 65 (2): 165-177. DOI:10.1016/j.neuron.2009.12.026.
Research suggesting that NADH may be useful against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease:
(1) Belenky P; Bogan KL, Brenner C (2007). “NAD+ metabolism in health and disease” (PDF). Trends in Biochemical Sciences 32 (1): 12-9. doi:10.1016/j.tibs.2006.11.006.
(2) Kaneko S, Wang J, Kaneko M, et al. (2006). “Protecting axonal degeneration by increasing nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide levels in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis models”. Journal of Neuroscience 26 (38): 9794-804. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2116-06.2006.
Research suggesting that phosphatidyl serine may help with ADHD:
(1) Hirayama S, Masuda Y, Rabeler R (September/October 2006). “Effect of phosphatidylserine administration on symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children”. Agro Food 17 (5): 32-36.
(2) Vaisman N, Kaysar N, et. al. (2008). “Correlation between changes in blood fatty acid composition and visual sustained attention performance in children with inattention: effect of dietary n-3 fatty acids containing phospholipids”. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 87 (5): 1170-1180.
Research suggesting that l-tyrosine may help with cognitive performance:
(1) StrÃ¼der HK, Hollmann W, Platen P, Donike M, Gotzmann A, Weber K (1998). “Influence of paroxetine, branched-chain amino acids and tyrosine on neuroendocrine system responses and fatigue in humans”. Hormone and Metabolic Research 30 (4): 188-94. doi:10.1055/s-2007-978864.
(2) Thomas JR, Lockwood PA, Singh A, Deuster PA (1999). “Tyrosine improves working memory in a multitasking environment”. Pharmacology Biochemistry & Behavior 64 (3): 495-500. doi:10.1016/S0091-3057(99)00094-5.
(1) SzilÃ¡gyi G, Nagy Z, Balkay L, et al. (2005). “Effects of vinpocetine on the redistribution of cerebral blood flow and glucose metabolism in chronic ischemic stroke patients: a PET study”. Journal of the Neurological Sciences 229-230: 275-84. doi:10.1016/j.jns.2004.11.053
About the Memory Supplements List
The list of brain supplements above is not meant to be complete. There may be other vitamins for memory and related supplements not included here that do have some effectiveness. Having said that, this list should be of value if you are interested in learning about some of the memory and brain supplements that are popular and supported by research.
I’ve attempted to focus on those which are backed up by credible studies. I have intentionally not included supplements associated with claims of enhanced memory and brain power but for which I was not able to find much scientific evidence (for example, phosphatidyl choline and l-glutamine).
I’ve also not included every supplement that may boost your physical energy, thus possibly enhancing concentration and attention span, but which doesn’t necessarily aid memory directly (for example, ATP and caffeine). Finally, I’ve not listed any “blends”, or products in which multiple brain supplements have been mixed together.
How Necessary Are Vitamins and Supplements?
For many people, it may not be necessary or helpful to take any vitamins for memory improvement or any of the related supplements. Lifestyle changes including a healthier diet, an appropriate exercise program, and more restful sleep could be all that’s needed for an acceptable level of memory and brain health.
From a dietary perspective, for example, consider eating more brain foods such a serving of cold-water fish a couple times per week. And try to consume more of the fruits and vegetables that contain B vitamins and antioxidants.
Vitamins and supplement pills are just that – supplemental. They are “add-ons”, not the main thing. Achieving a healthy lifestyle should be your first goal.
But for those who have already optimized their diet, exercise, sleep habits, etc., and who are looking for something extra, vitamins for memory and related brain supplements may give them that edge. Before trying any of these products, however, do your due diligence (i.e., do your own research). And be sure to talk to your doctor first as appropriate for your situation.
Reminder: The information on this website is not medical advice. It is for informational purposes only. Consult your physician before making any dietary changes that may affect your health.