Memory pills: Do they work? (2023)

With people more aware of cognitive decline and dementia risks, manufacturers are marketing an ever-increasing range of products that claim to boost memory and brain health. However, memory pills can be ineffective, unsafe, or of low quality.

Some people take so-called “memory pills” in order to boost their brain health or avoid dementia.

However, research has yet to prove the effectiveness of these memory pills, and they may be unsafe for some people to take, particularly if they already have dementia or are taking certain medications.

Additionally, the government does not evaluate dietary supplements, making it difficult for people to choose quality products.

This article explains what memory pills are and how they work. It also looks at their safety and effectiveness and the risks of taking dietary supplements.

Read on to find out what the research says about memory pills and other popular products for brain health, as well as how to maintain brain health through diet and lifestyle.

Memory pills: Do they work? (1)Share on Pinterest

“Memory pills” are a term that someone may use to describe products and dietary supplements that support memory.

Manufacturers sell various products in stores and online that claim to enhance memory and cognitive performance. Sometimes people refer to these products as “smart drugs” or “nootropics.”

How do they work?

Nootropics affect the brain by influencing neurons and neurotransmitters at a cellular level.

(Video) Can Nootropic Pills Make You Smarter?

Some research indicates that these processes may positively affect amyloid plaques, which scientists believe are responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.

Nootropics can be either prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, or dietary supplements.

Doctors may prescribe nootropic drugs such as Donepezil for Alzheimer’s disease.

Additionally, some people take dietary supplements that claim to have nootropic or memory-boosting effects. However, scientific research may not have proven these effects.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluates the safety and efficacy of medications that doctors prescribe for memory problems.

However, unlike prescription drugs, the FDA does not evaluate supplements. Therefore, it is difficult for consumers to know if a supplement works, if it is of sufficient quality, and if it is safe to take.

The FDA forbids manufacturers to claim that any such product prevents, treats, or cures diseases or health conditions.

In 2018 the FDA issued warning letters to companies illegally selling more than 58 products and dietary supplements which claimed to prevent, treat or cure Alzheimer’s disease and several other serious diseases and health conditions. The FDA noted that these products may be ineffective, unsafe, and could prevent a person from seeking an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

A 2020 study identified 650 dietary supplements that manufacturers marketed for brain health and cognitive performance. Of 12 products that the researchers selected, the majority had either additional ingredients that the manufacturer didn’t list or listed ingredients that the researchers couldn’t detect by analysis. Additionally, the evidence did not support some of the claims the products made regarding efficacy and safety.

The Office of Dietary Supplements notes that several independent organizations offer quality testing and allow seals to appear on products that pass standards. These organizations include U.S. Pharmacopeia and People can look for these seals to help them choose a product but should note that they do not constitute a federal endorsement.

(Video) Lawsuit claims Prevagen doesn't boost memory

The following is a list of supplements that researchers have looked at for supporting memory and brain function and what the evidence says:

Gingko biloba

Traditional cultures and practitioners have used Ginkgo biloba leaves in herbal medicine for centuries.

The active compounds in Ginkgo biloba that can improve blood circulation are antioxidant and neuroprotective.

Manufacturers sell supplements containing an extract of Ginkgo biloba called EGb 761. Some researchers have studied the effectiveness of this extract in dementia.

A 2014 systematic review and meta-analysis and a 2019 review both concluded that while there seem to be positive effects in dementia related to the extract, the limitations in studies mean that scientists are unable to draw firm conclusions about its clinical effectiveness, particularly in different types of dementia.

Flavonoids, cocoa, and caffeine

A 2019 report by the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) evaluated supplements for brain health. The report concluded that currently, there is not enough evidence to recommend taking cocoa, flavanols, or resveratrol for brain health.

The authors comment that some studies have found that these compounds may improve blood flow to the brain, attention, and processing speeds, but several studies are industry-funded, which could cause bias.

Additionally, the GCBH advises that although caffeine may provide some short-term benefits in mental alertness and focus, caffeine supplements in the form of energy drinks and pills may carry health risks.

Vitamins and minerals

Some people believe that taking vitamin and mineral supplements supports brain health and function, for example, B vitamins, vitamin E, and antioxidants.

However, the research is currently conflicting and inconclusive.

(Video) Are Brain Supplements Any Good?

For example, a 2018 Cochrane review evaluated the cognitive effects on people aged 40 and up of taking vitamin and mineral supplements for at least three months. The researchers concluded that supplementation had little meaningful impact on healthy adults, but said that the evidence doesn’t permit definitive conclusions. Nevertheless, the authors noted that antioxidant vitamins might have positive effects and deserve further research.

Additionally, the 2020 report of the Lancet Commission did not recommend taking additional vitamins, oils, or mixed dietary supplements as a means of preventing dementia because extensive trials did not demonstrate beneficial effects. However, the authors note that evidence suggests a Mediterranean or Scandinavian diet may help prevent cognitive decline.

The GCBH report notes that some people may become deficient in vitamins as they age due to absorption and dental issues, which may affect their brain health. Additionally, people eating restricted diets, such as vegans, may become deficient in vitamin B12, affecting memory and thinking skills. Therefore, groups of people at risk of nutrient deficiencies may benefit from taking a supplement.

Omega-3 fatty acids

The GCBH report concluded that overall, there is insufficient evidence to recommend taking omega-3 supplements derived from fish oil for brain health. The authors noted that fatty fish consumption may benefit cognitive function due to its docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) content, but said this is not conclusive.

There can be some risks with taking dietary supplements for memory, particularly if the person is taking prescription medication or has cognitive impairment or dementia.

For example, a 2017 study of people with dementia attending a Norwegian outpatient memory clinic found that they frequently used dietary supplements. However, caregivers or healthcare service providers did not supervise the participants’ supplement intake, which may potentially have had interactions with other drugs they were taking.

People taking drugs such as blood thinners, heart medications, and drugs that affect the immune system should avoid taking any supplements without informing their doctor.

Some herbal supplements such as Ginkgo biloba, garlic, and ginseng can increase risks for someone who is having surgery. Also, some supplements can reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy in people who have cancer. People should always make their doctor aware of any supplements they are taking.

Furthermore, the fact that the FDA does not validate dietary supplements for safety and quality is an additional potential risk.

People can support their memory and brain health by taking steps to ensure they have a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Some key messages from the 2020 report of the Lancet Commission and the GCBH report are:

  • eat a healthy diet to provide all essential nutrients
  • identify any vitamin or mineral deficiencies and talk to a healthcare provider about taking a supplement
  • aim to maintain a systolic blood pressure of 130 mm Hg or less in midlife from around age 40 years
  • avoid obesity and the risk of diabetes, and maintain an active lifestyle, especially from midlife
  • limit alcohol consumption and stop smoking, as this can decrease the risk of dementia
  • reduce exposure to air pollution and second-hand tobacco smoke

Experts have linked many risk factors for dementia with social determinants of health and the inequities faced by communities of color and other marginalized groups. Creating environments with physical activity as a norm, reducing blood pressure rising with age through better nutrition, and reducing potential excessive noise exposure may help tackle these risk factors.

(Video) "It Changes Your Brain in Seconds" (Real-Life Limitless Pill)

Consuming caffeine for short-term concentration may be helpful for some people, but taking memory supplements longer-term may have risks.

The fact that the FDA does not evaluate dietary supplements means that some products may be ineffective, of poor quality, or not contain the ingredients they state on the packaging.

For people with dementia, taking unsupervised supplements could be a risk, especially if they also take prescribed medications. People who have a health condition, are about to have surgery, or take prescribed drugs should always check with their healthcare provider before taking supplements.

Although some research shows beneficial effects of supplements such as Ginkgo biloba or omega-3 fatty acids, the evidence is still inconclusive.

To support brain health and memory, people should maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet and avoid nutrient deficiencies. If a doctor diagnoses a vitamin deficiency, they may advise someone to take a supplement to decrease the risk of cognitive decline.



Are there any memory supplements that actually work? ›

Forget about those over-the-counter products that promise better memory. A recent survey found that about 25% of adults over age 50 take a supplement to improve their brain health with the promise of enhanced memory and sharper attention and focus. The problem? There's no solid proof any of them work.

What is the best pill to help with memory? ›

Donepezil (Aricept®): approved to treat all stages of Alzheimer's disease. Rivastigmine (Exelon®): approved for mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's as well as mild-to-moderate dementia associated with Parkinson's disease. Galantamine (Razadyne®): approved for mild-to-moderate stages of Alzheimer's disease.

What is the best memory supplement for seniors? ›

Prevagen is one of the most popular supplements and says it can help protect against mild memory loss, boost brain function and improve thinking in seniors.

Is there any clinical evidence that Prevagen works? ›

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which charged Quincy Bioscience with false and deceptive advertising last January, the company study found that Prevagen was no more effective than a placebo at improving any of the nine cognitive skills, including memory, that the company measured.

What does Mayo Clinic recommend for memory? ›

Stay mentally active

Do crossword puzzles. Read. Play games. Learn to play a musical instrument.

Is there a drug to improve memory? ›

Nootropic also known as 'cognitive enhancers' are drugs that some people use in an attempt to improve memory, increase mental alertness and concentration as well as boost energy levels and wakefulness.

What can I take naturally to improve my memory? ›

Memory Supplements With Potential
  • Omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 fish oil supplements have piqued great interest. ...
  • Huperzine A. Also known as Chinese club moss, this natural medicine works in a similar way as Alzheimer's drugs. ...
  • Acetyl-L-carnitine. ...
  • Vitamin E. ...
  • Asian (or Panax) ginseng.
Dec 16, 2010

What is the 5 word memory test? ›

Introduction: The five-word test (5WT) is a serial verbal memory test with semantic cuing. It is proposed to rapidly evaluate memory of aging people and has previously shown its sensitivity and its specificity in identifying patients with AD.

What are the 3 foods that fight memory loss? ›

What are the foods that fight memory loss? Berries, fish, and leafy green vegetables are 3 of the best foods that fight memory loss. There's a mountain of evidence showing they support and protect brain health.

Is it possible to increase memory in the elderly? ›

Learning new skills — like playing a new instrument, practicing a hobby that involves hand-eye coordination, performing memory exercises for seniors, and even doing math in your head — has been found to improve cognitive function and memory. Keeping your mind active with new challenges can keep your memory strong!

What helps elderly memory? ›

Plan tasks, make to-do lists, and use memory tools such as calendars and notes. Put your wallet or purse, keys, phone, and glasses in the same place each day. Stay involved in activities that can help both the mind and body. Volunteer in your community, at a school, or at your place of worship.

What is the number one brain supplement? ›

Vyvamind is the top rated brain health supplement to improve brain health, energy levels, cognitive function and greatly increase levels of mental performance. NooCube is a brain pill that contains a high level of magnesium, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

What are the dangers of taking Prevagen? ›

Side effects of Prevagen are not clearly noted on the product website. Instead, it suggests notifying your doctor if you're concerned about potential side effects. Adverse effects of taking apoaequorin are very rare, but research suggests they can include headache, nausea, constipation, edema and hypertension.

Does B12 help with memory? ›

Though there is evidence to suggest that people who suffer from Alzheimer's disease and dementia are often deficient in this vitamin, studies have found that taking supplements or increasing dietary vitamin B12 does not improve memory function in those living with the disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Does Neuriva actually work? ›

Neuriva is a brain function supplement that has been reported to be effective for the majority of users. However, it does not work for everyone, and the product can be expensive. With only two ingredients there are few to no side effects reported.

What improves memory the most? ›

Among the best ways to improve memory are the same lifestyle changes that reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. For example, quit smoking, drink alcohol in moderation or avoid drinking completely, and limit intake of sugary and processed foods.

Is there a pill to help with memory loss? ›

There are currently five medications that are FDA-approved to treat memory loss caused by Alzheimer's disease: Donepezil (Aricept) Memantine (Namenda) Namzaric.

Which fruit is best for brain? ›

Certain fruits such as oranges, bell peppers, guava, kiwi, tomatoes, and strawberries, contain high amounts of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps prevent brain cells from becoming damaged and supports overall brain health. In fact, a study found that vitamin C can potentially prevent Alzheimer's.

What herb is good for forgetfulness? ›

Herbs and Supplements for memory loss
  • American Ginseng.
  • Asian Ginseng.
  • Carnitine (L-Carnitine)
  • Ginkgo Biloba.
  • Green Tea.
  • Rosemary.
  • Siberian Ginseng.

What causes memory loss and forgetfulness? ›

Many people worry about becoming forgetful. They think forgetfulness is the first sign of Alzheimer's disease. But not all people with memory problems have Alzheimer's. Other causes for memory problems can include aging, medical conditions, emotional problems, mild cognitive impairment, or another type of dementia.

What are the 3 words on a memory test? ›

Recall of Three Little Words Helps Quick Diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment. ATLANTA, Nov. 19 -- Mild cognitive impairment can be determined in less than five minutes with a three-word memory test and a clock-drawing task, according to researchers here. The words are apple, penny, and table.

What is the 3 word dementia test? ›

The Mini-Cog test.

A third test, known as the Mini-Cog, takes 2 to 4 minutes to administer and involves asking patients to recall three words after drawing a picture of a clock. If a patient shows no difficulties recalling the words, it is inferred that he or she does not have dementia.

What is the 30 question dementia test? ›

The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) is a tool that helps healthcare professionals detect mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease in people. A 2021 study found that it is a better measure of cognitive function than the MMSE. It consists of 30 questions that take 10–12 minutes to accomplish.

Why does ice cream help with dementia? ›

Ice cream has the power to immediately elicit soothing feelings at the very first taste of a single spoon-full. It erases all the negative feel- ings related to the frustration and continues to stimulate pleasure receptors in the brain with every new scoop. And dementia (here is the best part!)

What can I eat to stop forgetting? ›

11 Best Foods to Boost Your Brain and Memory
  • Fatty fish. When people talk about brain foods, fatty fish is often at the top of the list. ...
  • Coffee. If coffee is the highlight of your morning, you'll be glad to hear that it's good for you. ...
  • Blueberries. ...
  • Turmeric. ...
  • Broccoli. ...
  • Pumpkin seeds. ...
  • Dark chocolate. ...
  • Nuts.

Are bananas good for memory loss? ›

1. Go ape. Bananas are a great source of potassium, manganese, vitamin C and fibre, but did you know they can also enhance memory? Studies show eating bananas help students learn more efficiently and improve exam scores.

What fruit is good for memory? ›

Blueberries are a particularly rich source of anthocyanin and other flavonoids that may improve brain function. Grapes are full of resveratrol, a memory-boosting compound. Concord grapes are rich in polyphenols, a brain-accessing antioxidant.

Why do I forget things immediately after thinking of them? ›

Forgetfulness can arise from stress, depression, lack of sleep or thyroid problems. Other causes include side effects from certain medicines, an unhealthy diet or not having enough fluids in your body (dehydration). Taking care of these underlying causes may help resolve your memory problems.

Can memory come back with dementia? ›

The study found that the memory loss associated with dementia may not be a case of memories being "erased," as has been the long-held belief in the scientific community. Instead, patients with Alzheimer's may still have those memories but are just struggling to retrieve them.

What vitamin helps forgetfulness? ›

Getting enough vitamin B12 may give you more energy, improve memory, and make learning new things easier. It also has been shown to help improve mood and lessen depressive symptoms.

What is it called when you forget things easily? ›

Transience. This is the tendency to forget facts or events over time. You are most likely to forget information soon after you learn it. However, memory has a use-it-or-lose-it quality: memories that are called up and used frequently are least likely to be forgotten.

How do you treat memory loss in the elderly? ›

What You Can Do to Help
  1. Be supportive. Help the older person see the humor in situations and give reassurance that being forgetful is normal and that your love and support has not changed. ...
  2. Be helpful and non-judgmental. ...
  3. Be patient. ...
  4. Avoid arguments. ...
  5. Encourage doing familiar things that are pleasant. ...
  6. Encourage regular routines.

Which juice is good for brain? ›

Flavonoids may reduce inflammation and maintain or improve blood flow to the brain which could have positive effects on cognition. A clinical study in healthy older adults reported that adults who consumed 100% orange juice scored better on combined tests for global cognitive function compared to the control group.

What is the best natural supplement for memory and focus? ›

Top Supplements for Improved Focus
  1. Resveratrol. Resveratrol belongs to a group of compounds called polyphenols. ...
  2. Phosphatidylserine. Studies have shown that those taking up to 400 mg of phosphatidylserine daily had improved memory and thinking ability. ...
  3. Ginkgo Biloba. ...
  4. Rhodiola Rosea. ...
  5. Bacopa Monnieri. ...
  6. Maca Root. ...
  7. L-theanine. ...
  8. MCT.

Will Medicare pay for Prevagen? ›

Does Medicare cover Prevagen and how much does it cost? Medicare does not typically cover dietary supplements like Prevagen but you can save money on your out-of-pocket costs when you use SingleCare as your copay. When you use our savings card during checkout you could spend a discounted price of $32.66 for Prevagen.

How long does it take to see results from Prevagen? ›

In a double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial subgroups of individuals who were cognitively normal or mildly impaired, taking just one Prevagen a day over 90 days improved certain aspects of cognitive function.

Is Ginkgo biloba good for memory? ›

Several studies show that ginkgo has a positive effect on memory and thinking in people with Alzheimer disease or vascular dementia. Studies suggest that ginkgo may help people with Alzheimer disease: Improve thinking, learning, and memory (cognitive function) Have an easier time performing daily activities.

How much B12 should I take for my memory? ›

There are no specific dosage recommendations for B12 supplements for mental performance or mood. Optimal dosing of vitamin B12 varies by age, lifestyle, and dietary needs. The general recommendation for adults is 2.4 mcg. Older adults, as well as people who are pregnant and breastfeeding, require higher doses.

How much B12 should I take to improve my memory? ›

Adults need at least 300 to 400 micrograms of folic acid, 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 and between 1.5 and 1.7 micrograms of vitamin B6 daily. Amounts in these brain studies were greater than that — as much as 1,000 micrograms of folic acid, 500 micrograms of vitamin B12 and up to 20 milligrams of vitamin B6.

Is it OK to take 1000 mcg of B12 a day? ›

If you are low in vitamin B12, a common recommended dose for oral supplements is about 1,000 mcg daily. But you should make sure to ask your healthcare provider about how much vitamin B12 you should look for in a supplement.

What is the best brain supplement for dementia? ›

Vitamin B complex

Vitamins B6 and B12 are critical because they team up to form one of the best compounds for slowing down the effects of dementia. There is proof that memory-deteriorating genes can become more active due to a deficiency of these vitamins.

What is an alternative to Neuriva? ›

Nooceptin has the best alternative to Prevagen and Neuriva. Bacopa Monnieri and Gingko Biloba are just a few of the ingredients in Nooceptin that have been clinically shown to increase cognitive function. Other key ingredients, such as Citicoline or L-Theanine, are also included in Nooceptin.

Does Ginkgo biloba really help memory? ›

Several studies show that ginkgo has a positive effect on memory and thinking in people with Alzheimer disease or vascular dementia. Studies suggest that ginkgo may help people with Alzheimer disease: Improve thinking, learning, and memory (cognitive function) Have an easier time performing daily activities.

How long does it take for ginkgo biloba to work for memory? ›

Dosage and form

In studies, adults have used between 120 and 240 milligrams a day in divided doses. It appears to take 4 to 6 weeks before improvements are noticed.

What happens if you take ginkgo biloba everyday? ›

When taken by mouth: Ginkgo LEAF EXTRACT is likely safe for most people. It can cause some minor side effects such as stomach upset, headache, dizziness, and allergic skin reactions. There is also some concern that ginkgo leaf extract might increase the risk of bruising and bleeding or cause arrhythmia.

Does omega-3 improve memory? ›

Omega-3 is important for our brain throughout life, from early cognitive development in foetuses to learning and memory in adults. Brain cells with high levels of omega-3 in their membranes are thought to be better at communicating with other cells, an important process for brain function.

What are the dangers of taking Neuriva? ›

Does Neuriva have side effects? Neuriva is a brain health supplement that contains phosphatidylserine along with other ingredients including folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and coffee fruit extract. Side effects may include stomach upset, sleepiness, or sleep difficulties.

What is the best vitamin for brain fog? ›

Vitamin B2 and vitamin B7 help the nervous system, vitamin B3 and vitamin B6 are required to support neurotransmitters and cellular communication, and vitamin B9 eases mental fatigue. Taking a regular B complex supplement that includes all the necessary B vitamins can help to reduce symptoms of brain fog.


1. I Tried $400 Brain Boosting Pills
(Leon Hendrix)
2. Top 5 Supplements for Increasing Brain Power
(Chronicle Living)
3. What Do "Smart Pills" Really Do to Your Brain?
(SciShow Psych)
5. Real Stories About Memory: How Supplements Changed My Dad’s Life
6. Vitamin Supplements For Memory: Dr. Oz - Mondays with Marlo
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kimberely Baumbach CPA

Last Updated: 03/05/2023

Views: 6508

Rating: 4 / 5 (61 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kimberely Baumbach CPA

Birthday: 1996-01-14

Address: 8381 Boyce Course, Imeldachester, ND 74681

Phone: +3571286597580

Job: Product Banking Analyst

Hobby: Cosplaying, Inline skating, Amateur radio, Baton twirling, Mountaineering, Flying, Archery

Introduction: My name is Kimberely Baumbach CPA, I am a gorgeous, bright, charming, encouraging, zealous, lively, good person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.