These Plant-Based Brain Boosters Can Upgrade Your Memory


Nootropics like Ginkgo biloba and bacopa monnieri are foods and supplements intended to enhance memory, mood, and other cognitive abilities.

While fitness and dieting experts dominate the nutrition conversation using weight loss and muscle growth as their only criteria for quality, the memory-boosting effects of nootropics continue to go underappreciated.

Some of these nutrients can be found in everyday food items, but any serious campaign usually requires supplementation with ginkgo biloba, bacopa monnieri, and other less commonly consumed ingredients.

Fortuitously, using these natural foods to enhance your memory and brainpower is generally friendly for the waistline as well, which makes for a more comprehensive approach to dieting than simply focusing on weight alone.

Getting the physiologically effective amounts of these remotely sourced nutrients may seem like an unlikely prospect at first, but after rolling out our roster of the top memory-boosting food sources, we’ll show you the easy way out.

The Best Nootropics for Memory

The following herbs and compounds are currently being investigated for their memory-promoting potential.

Ginkgo biloba

Native to China, Japan, and Korea, this ancient tree is approximately 150 million years old.

Ginkgo biloba can grow to be a hundred feet tall.

These trees eventually develop fan-like leaves, which is typically where the extract comes from.

Mankind has used Ginkgo biloba for millennia as a treatment for respiratory problems and many other issues.

A study from the University of Sao Francisco in Sao Paulo, Brazil assessing the effects of long-term Ginkgo biloba administration on memory in rats found that this extract improved short-term memory, “an effect that could be associated with a reduction in free radical production in the PFC (pre-frontal cortex).”

The prefrontal cortex is an area of the brain containing specialized neurons that help with the (limited) storage and fast retrieval of small bits of information, i.e., short-term or “working” memory.

A brain structure called the hippocampus is also essential in memory, and it communicates with the PFC to coordinate memory storage and recall.

This finding indicates that ginkgo biloba helps to keep the PFC “de-gunked” by finding and eliminating free radicals.

Kind of like defragmenting a hard drive, this process allows the PFC to do its job more efficiently.

Bacopa monnieri

Also known as “water hyssop” and “Indian pennywort,” bacopa monnieri is a species of creeping herb found in marshy habitats throughout India, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

This herb has been used in traditional medical practices like Ayurveda for centuries.

Health benefits are conferred by a colorful array of phytochemicals, or plant-based compounds that can exert helpful effects when consumed.

Speaking of, this randomized clinical trial led by the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR found that 300mg of a whole-plant bacopa monnieri extract administered to participants orally for twelve weeks “enhanced AVLT delayed (Auditory Verbal Learning Test) delayed word recall memory scores relative to placebo.”

The mechanism of action has yet to be sufficiently explored, but most experts agree that the antioxidant action of bacopa is likely responsible for this benefit.

If that ends up being the case, then this supplement will be substantially more effective for long-term maintenance.


It may sound like a synthetic compound because of the more technical-sounding name, but phosphatidylserine is also a plant-based extract.

Granted, the human body can synthesize a base level of this chemical, which is found in soybeans, cabbage, and other foods, but not to the extent required for memory-enhancing effects to take place.

In a study by the Yakult Central Institute for Microbiological Research in Tokyo Japan, 73 memory-deficient participants demonstrated “positive effects on cognitive performance” after being given soy-based phosphatidylserine for six months.

Delayed recall was the particular dimension that participants improved the most on, and this benefit was observed equally between the two experimental groups (100mg/day and 300mg/day).

Honorable Mentions

There are hundreds of cognition-boosting micronutrients hiding in plain sight or tucked away in remote regions of the world, and most of them have been explored in research to some extent or other.

We can’t highlight them all, but these three are among the most potent runner-ups to the frontrunners covered above.

L-tyrosine “improves working memory in a multitasking environment,” according to a study by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD.

Ginseng has been shown to help with memory, cognition, and behavior. 

L-phenylalanine raises levels of both norepinephrine and dopamine, which in turn work to boost memory.

Highlight: Optim Nutrition Memory Nutrition Complex

This supplement hits almost every major nootropic that has been tied to memory and/or cognition improvements in research.

We don’t normally advocate for catch-all solutions when it comes to supplementing routines involving more than five or six target nutrients, but Optim Nutrition’s Memory Nutrition Complex is exceptional for a few reasons.

Optim Nutrition Memory Nutrition Complex
Optim Nutrition Memory Nutrition Complex
  • Ingredients

    Vitamin B6 (as pyridoxine HCL), Vitamin B12 (as cyanocobalamin), Bacopa leaf extract, L-Glutamine, L-Phenylalanine, Ginseng root extract (5% ginsenosides), L-Tyrosine, Ribonucleic acid, Phosphatidylcholine, Ginkgo biloba, leaf extract, Phosphatidylserine, DMAE (as DMAE bitartrate), Gotu kola whole herb extract

  • Description

    Herbally enhanced memory complex

  • Price


First, this supplement hits almost every major nootropic that has been tied to memory and/or cognition improvements in research, including:

  • Bacopa monnieri
  • L-glutamine
  • L-tyrosine
  • Phosphatidylserine
  • Ginkgo biloba leaf
  • Ribonucleic acid

It also includes a full RDA of vitamin B6 and a 200% RDA portion of vitamin B12, both of which are involved with immune function, hemoglobin development and more.

Finally, the “other ingredients” list is only three items long, and all the active ingredients are proportioned (100mg-300mg) to mirror the dosage levels used in successful studies.

It’s always best to use food as your primary source of nutrients, but supplements like Optim Nutrition Memory Nutrition Complex give us the opportunity to identify even more ambitious therapeutic targets and stride toward them easily and affordably.

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