Natural Brain Boosters

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Just as athletes take supplements to enhance their physical performance, some people hope to sharpen their wits with so-called “brain boosters?

“It could mean several things. It could mean herbs or nutrients that enhance clarity of thinking, alertness, focus, concentration, memory, and even mood,” says Ray Sahelian, MD, author of Mind Boosters and a family practitioner in Marina Del Ray, Calif.

“Most commonly, people will notice that they are more focused and alert, that they are more motivated, that they are processing information faster,” he says.

That is, if they notice any effects.

“Some have tried and have gotten benefits. Others may not have noticed anything,” Sahelian says.

blood and thereby improving oxygen flow to the brain. The brain is a glutton for oxygen, so it’s possible that even a slight lack of circulation can affect its performance.

As a brain booster for people with normal mental abilities, it remains controversial.

For example, a study published in the journal Psychopharmacology in 2000 found that ginkgo improved attention. A 2001 study in the journal Human Psychopharmacology suggested that it improves memory. Nevertheless, in a review of studies on ginkgo in healthy people, researchers found no good evidence that it improved mental abilities, according to a 2002 report in Psychopharmacology Bulletin.

You should not take ginkgo biloba with any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (dietary supplements, not drugs, so they’re not subject to the rigorous approval process that drugs are. The FDA limits the claims manufacturers can make about sleep, out of anything, is probably the most important factor in preserving memory and clarity of thinking during the day,” he says.

Published June 16, 2003.