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Image by Ashley Jordan Ferira + Milene Brownlow / mbg creative
July 21, 2022

Ask any expert their favorite nutrients for brain health, and they'll likely list omega-3s, vitamin D, vitamin C, and magnesium (to name a few). Nothing against these basic nutrients—they're popular for a reason, so make sure you get enough of ''em!—but there are plenty more brain-healthy phytonutrients and botanicals that deserve their time in the sun. They're not new, by any means (in fact, they've been around for centuries!), but it's time we propel them into the spotlight. 

What are these underrated players, you ask? We'll leave it to mbg vice president of scientific affairs Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN, and Milene Brownlow, Ph.D., a health scientist with a nutritional neuroscience focus, to explain. On this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, the duo discusses everything you need to know about nootropics—or compounds that promote brain health and cognitive function. Below, find a few of their favorite neuronutrients and neuroprotective botanicals: 

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Resveratrol is a polyphenol, which is a unique, naturally occurring phytochemical compound found in plants. (You may have heard its name in reference to red wine.) And supplementing with resveratrol has also been shown to support memory, mood1, and cognitive function.* 

Specifically: "There are great studies on resveratrol and menopausal women," notes Brownlow. "It actually improves blood flow and some of the menopausal issues."* Proper blood flow is important for optimal brain health, as it provides brain cells with a constant supply of oxygen and glucose2, which they need to function optimally. 

In a 2017 Nutrients study of postmenopausal women, taking 150 milligrams of resveratrol daily was found to increase cerebrovascular responsiveness1 (CVR)—or the blood vessels' crucial ability to dilate in order to match blood flow to tissue demand—by 17%.* And another yearlong study published by Nutrients in 2020 found that daily resveratrol supplementation significantly improved overall cognitive performance3 in women ages 45 to 85.* "So there are great studies showing that resveratrol actually does benefit middle-aged women," Brownlow adds.

What's more, that recent 2020 clinical trial used the same form and dose of resveratrol as mbg's brain health supplement brain guard+ (150 milligrams of fermentation-derived resveratrol known as Veri-Te™). 

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Guarana is a small, round berry that's native to Brazil, and it's known for its energizing effects on the body and mind.* Not only do the seeds of this fruit contain caffeine naturally, but a 2019 scientific review in the journal Global Psychiatry found that guarana improved reaction time and accuracy of task performance in young, healthy adults.* Talk about an underrated superfruit. 

"I'm originally from Brazil, so I love the guarana ingredient," says Brownlow. "In Brazil, it's very common [to eat it] before exam week." Given guarana's impressive ability to bolster cognitive performance, it's not difficult to see why. To leverage the fruit's full résumé of brain health benefits, you might even want to take it with Panax ginseng—in a 2004 Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior study, guarana was clinically shown to work synergistically4 with the botanical to promote cognitive performance.*

Great news: mbg's focus+ contains both powerhouse ingredients (along with four other clinically researched botanicals and bioactives to energize your cells, mind, and body).*

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"There are ingredients in brain guard+ that help with stress resilience," notes Ferira. Namely, kanna: a medicinal succulent plant indigenous to South Africa. In fact, this adaptogenic plant has been clinically shown to buffer our brains from stress.* Take this randomized clinical trial5, for example, which leveraged 25 milligrams of Zembrin® kanna extract and measured participants' reactivity to threats in the amygdala section of the brain. The results? Participants were less reactive to fearful stimuli.* 

In another six-week clinical trial, daily intake of Zembrin® kanna extract significantly increased alpha1 and alpha2 brain frequencies during various cognitive tasks—and an uptick in these brain-wave frequencies is associated with greater calmness. "I personally take brain guard+, and I call it my 'zen zone,'" says Ferira. "The kanna is really driving that…it's helping you be resilient to things that might induce a little bit of anxiousness otherwise."* As we've said once before: This unique, adaptogenic plant really is Mother Nature's chill pill.* 

The takeaway. 

If you're interested in supporting your brain health from multiple angles, it's important to have these phytonutrients and botanicals on your radar. And sure, you might find some of them in foods and beverages, but if you want to be sure you're getting a clinically backed dose for daily brain benefits, high-quality supplements are the way to go—and mbg's brain guard+ and focus+ are quite the brain-supporting pair, if we do say so ourselves.* 

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If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.
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