(The Top 9 Science-Backed Supplements)
Our nervous system comprises our brain, nerves, and spinal cord.
Combined, they are essentially the operating system of the body.
Difficulty breathing, learning, moving, speaking or swallowing can occur when something malfunctions within a part of our nervous system.
Memory, mood, or senses problems can also happen.
Over 600 neurologic diseases exist, with the most common being:
- Cancer, such as a brain tumor
- Infections and meningitis
- Degenerative diseases, with damaged or dead nerve cells as seen in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
- Diseases from faulty genes, such as Huntington’s disease and muscular dystrophy
- Diseases of blood vessels supplying the brain, such as strokes
- Spinal cord and brain seizure disorders, such as epilepsy
- Nervous system development issues, such as spina bifida
While we will focus on general nervous system support, see acetylcholine supporters, for a more in-depth degenerative brain disorder and dementia discussion for topics such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The Top 9 Science-Backed Nervous System Supplements
#1 B Vitamins
B vitamins are critical role players as coenzymes and more within our nervous system.
Notably neurotrophic B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folate), and B12 (cobalamin) play the biggest roles in maintaining a healthy nervous system.
An entire school of medicine, called Orthomolecular Medicine, founded its core framework around mega-dosing vitamins.
Influenced by the work of pioneers such as Linus Pauling, scientific studies could not confirm nor dismiss their teachings.
Most famous was the work of psychiatrist Abraham Hoffer, who used 3,000 to 9,000 mg of B3 (niacin) to treat over 5,000 schizophrenics.
Considerable evidence exists for the efficacy of B1 (thiamin), and others, even though the exact mechanisms remain unexplained.
As B2 (riboflavin), B6, B9, and B12 are involved in the methylation process, recent research is interested in their role as methyl-donors.
“Increasing levels of blood high-dose B-group vitamins were also associated with increased neural metabolism. These findings suggest that high-dose B-group vitamin supplementation might be effective in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation through increasing oxidative metabolism, and may promote myelination, cellular metabolism, and energy storage. Together, these findings highlight the importance of B-group vitamins in the maintenance of brain health in healthy adults and may have important implications in the prevention and alleviation of disease and disability.”
Methylated B-vitamins or fully active vitamins are best for methylation support. We link doses of B6 over 300 mg with increasing the risk of neuropathy.
Benfotiamine is fat soluble analog of vitamin B1 (thiamine).
Arguably the most effective diabetic neuropathy supplement, research shows benfotiamine shields the body from sugar damage, while improving diabetes and Alzheimer’s symptoms
Known for cellular regeneration support, benfotiamine guards again cancer while strengthening the immune system and protecting the brain.
Benfotiamine seems to work best synergistically with alpha-lipoic acid, as the two in combination should the ability to influence nerve repair.
#3 Alpha-lipoic Acid
The “universal antioxidant”, lipoic acid (LA), or alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory fatty acid delivering essential actions.
From vitamin metabolism to mitochondrial respiration, R-lipoic acid is found inside every cell of the body, meaning typically only 50% of the dosage in a supplement is bioavailable.
We associate low levels with diabetes, as this supplement has medical approval in parts of Europe for diabetic neuropathy.
Multiple studies conclude alpha-lipoic acid improves insulin resistance.
Additional findings confirm alpha-lipoic acid supplements help with neuropathy, or diabetes, or cancer treatment causing nerve damage.
Subjective reports describe symptom reduction such as pain, prickling, and tingling in the legs and feet.
While improving fat and sugar metabolism, it also possesses mitochondrial support actions along with anti-inflammatory benefits while also activating AMPK, the body’s master metabolic switch.
With too many actions and benefits to list, alpha-lipoic acid is a true powerhouse supplement.
Effective with 300 mg for type 2 diabetics. Only the R-isomer is bioavailable, so 150 mg R-Alpha Lipoic Acid could be effective. Other studies show it requires doses. We find the best results in combination with benfotiamine and see the better supplements offering 2-in-1’s together.
#4 Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR)
Acetylcholine is the most important neurotransmitter for cognition and memory, with cholinergic transmission being the focus of Alzheimer’s disease research.
ALCAR might protect against cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease by improving acetylcholine function.
Neuropathy or nerve damage can result from various drugs and conditions.
As both an anti-diabetic and anti-neuropathic compound, ALCAR is effective for related complications of both disease and drugs.
We see ALCAR repair nerve damage while relieving pain and other symptoms in HIV-treatment patients.
ALCAR increases glutathione in the brain and can thus protect the brain from oxidative stress and amyloid-beta plaque neuron-destroying Alzheimer’s actions.
Improvement in attention, behavior, focus, memory, reaction time, and speech occur with Alzheimer’s patients receiving ALCAR.
ALCAR improves the effectiveness of traditional Alzheimer’s drugs.
While possibly requiring intramuscular or intravenous treatment, Acetyl-L-carnitine can repair nerve damage, while relieving diabetic, HIV, and other injury-causing. 2–3 grams is the dosage we see in studies.
#5 Black Seed Oil
Black seed oil (Nigella Sativa), also black cumin, is one of the world’s oldest plants native to South Asia, has been used for an array of indications, and has been affectionately been referred to as, “the cure for all diseases except for death.”
It appears to raise acetylcholine, GABA, and serotonin, with its thymoquinone delivering strong anxiolytic, or relaxing properties.
With its potent neuroprotective qualities, we find it being used in nervous system diseases such as epilepsy, memory, and pain.
While black seed oil has previously lacked studies, we now see success with its use in the opioid recovery community. Anecdotal black seed oil evidence is strong, as we are seeing matching confirming studies and reviews.
#6 Omega-3’s (Phospholipid Krill or Vegan Algae Oil)
Proven for serotonin and dopamine synthesis, emerging studies show phospholipid omega-3’s in the form of either krill or algal oil may be superior to the triglyceride fish oil omega-3s.
The difference is because of the stark differences in their structural forms.
Phospholipids offer more bioavailability and efficiency for absorption, as every cell membrane in the human body comprises phospholipids.
In this form, they are much more shelf-stable along with lower heavy metal exposure to lower dosing.
While past studies show general support for omega-3’s in the form of fish oil, we theorize that krill or algal phospholipid is superior in absorption.
Recent evidence concludes phospholipids are effective choline sources, as phosphatidylcholine is a phospholipid attached to a choline particle easily crossing the blood-brain barrier.
Newer studies are testing the benefits of phospholipids on the endocannabinoid system.
With this strong neuroprotective nutrient, depression continues to appear to be a powerful use for omega-3’s, and more so in absence of anxiety.
Overall brain and nerve support are increasingly well-supported with phospholipid omega-3 sources.
Krill oil upregulates CB1 of the endocannabinoid system while increasing receptor strength and density. DHA is the building block of the human brain. Curcumin increases DHA levels in the brain. As we await more human studies, initial studies are promising. The studied dosage is 1 to 4 grams.
Matching its very strong anecdotal support within the nootropics community, the initial agmatine studies are very promising.
Agmatine, an L-arginine metabolite, is a popular athletic performance enhancer.
We believe the notable antidepressant effect on serotonin is because of a lowering of glutamate activity in the brain.
Likewise, we also see some initial and promising evidence for cardiovascular and neuroprotection by this NMDA antagonism with nitric oxide production.
Agmatine is unique because it increases eNOS, the protective endothelial nitric oxide while blocking iNOS and nNOS, the inflammatory and neurotoxic nitric oxide synthase enzymes.
While the studies are small and few, they are very promising, while matching extensive anecdotal evidence. Studies have used 2 to 3 grams for dosage. Some biohackers are now using it in the intranasal form and experiencing better results.
As one of the most commonly used supplements in the world, magnesium acts with over 300 enzymes, including cell-to-cell communication and production of ATP, DNA, RNA, and proteins.
For GABA and glutamate regulation, magnesium plays a heavy role and is often used as a sleep and anxiety supplement.
As up to 80% of humans are believed to have a magnesium deficiency, this has become more and more difficult to correct from the diet alone.
As a key neurotransmitter signaling regulator, we increasingly view magnesium as a mood and cognition mineral.
Enabling activation of NMDA glutamate and GABAA receptors, magnesium plays the role of a staunch heavyweight champion.
Besides anxiety and depression, we can view magnesium as a sleep and anxiety supplement, as we know it is both a key cofactor in dopamine production and providing the brain neuroprotection.
While managing serotonin toxicity, magnesium deficiencies can also result in lower acetylcholine levels.
Watch for dose and always calculate the actual absorption percentage of elemental magnesium.
#9 Ginkgo Biloba
As ginkgo Biloba is the most commonly used plant for brain health, our appreciation of this well studied and ancient medicinal antioxidant powerhouse seems to stop right there.
Ginkgo improves brain function with anti-stress, anxiolytic-like actions while increasing cognition from energy metabolism.
Ginkgo is the single best natural supplement for peripheral hypertension and is possibly as effective as medication for Raynaud’s Syndrome, a common peripheral hypertension condition.
Besides improving blood flow to the brain, ginkgo Biloba powerfully increases blood circulation and lowers blood clotting throughout the body.
Operating as a natural ACE inhibitor and vasodilator, ginkgo Biloba can substantially lower both diastolic and systolic blood pressure.
With the discovery of COVID-19 and the coronavirus, we believe the virus attaches itself to the ACE2 enzyme of our renin-angiotensin-system, (RAS).
The RAS controls blood pressure and cardiovascular function in the heart and kidneys, and ginkgo at larger doses might be a plant-based therapeutic.
Ginkgo biloba, in producing ACE inhibitory properties, serves to protect and strengthen the ACE2 enzyme.
Because of this, ginkgo may prove itself as a potent anti-coronavirus compound in future studies and usage.
In another trial on 70 healthy volunteers, EGb 761 extract prevented the rise of blood pressure caused by stress.
Studies showing the effectiveness of Ginkgo Biloba are using the EGb 761 extract or 6,000 mg standardized extracts. One study proved its effectiveness for Alzheimer’s disease. Another study proved its effectiveness for macular degeneration, glaucoma, and eye pressure. It lowers LDL oxidation.
Medicinal Mushrooms (Lion’s Mane)
Medicinal mushrooms are trending in the news, as they were commonly used in Eastern medicine for centuries.
From amongst the many options, lion’s mane mushroom performs with great results in cellular and animal studies delivering significant cognitive effects.
While Lion’s Mane possesses antibiotic, anticancer, neuroprotective, fat- and glucose-lowering actions, it’s also effective for ulcers, anxiety, and depression, while delivering anti-fatigue and anti-aging benefits.
In decreasing inflammation, stimulating the immune system, and offering potent antioxidant actions, it is becoming clearer that lion’s mane is a strong neuroprotective compound.
Lion’s mane likely decreases the amyloid-beta plaque in the brain. Its constituents likely protect neurons from amyloid beta-induced neurotoxicity.
Currently undergoing testing for mood and addiction disorders, NAC acts as a potent nervous system supplement.
Initial clinical trials show its neuroprotective effects might help with traumatic brain injury, dementia, and neurodegenerative diseases.
We refer to glutathione as the body’s master antioxidant.
From the three glutathione-making amino acids, cysteine is the most critical.
In relieving respiratory condition symptoms by antioxidant and expectorant actions, NAC loosens air passageway mucus.
NAC restores glutathione levels in the lungs while lowering bronchial tube and lung tissue inflammation.
Beyond glutathione, NAC manages the primary neurotransmitter glutamate.
In managing the detoxification process, NAC supplements are treatment options for an array of health issues. Hospitals worldwide stock it as an essential medicine.
Curcumin, 5-HTP, agmatine, citrulline, arginine, lysine, antioxidants, ashwagandha, bananas, berberine, berries, borage oil, cacao, calcium, cayenne pepper, chamomile, chromium, cinnamon, cacao, cocoa, theobromine, copper, d-chiro inositol, evening primrose oil, feverfew, GABA, glutathione, kava kava, green tea, leafy greens, L-lysine, lecithin, lithium-orotate, magnolia bark, matcha tea, Myo-inositol, purple passionflower, lemon balm, saffron, red sage, pantethine, selenium, St. John’s Wort, valerian, hops, xanthohumol hops, vitamin A, C, D3, E, K, omega-3, DHA, EPA, cod liver oil, fish oil, protein, fiber, creatine, DHEA, Maca, Panax ginseng, ginger, garlic, melatonin, centrophenoxine, American ginseng (Cereboost), bacopa monnieri, galantamine, Gotu kola, noopept, pterostilbene, phosphatidylcholine, phospholipids, phosphatidylserine, nicotine, huperzine A, uridine, alpha-GPC, CDP-Choline, magnolia.
The need for balancing essential minerals and nutrients such as magnesium, b-vitamins, and vitamin D cannot be more clear when considering nervous system support.
Invariably, too much of a good thing can be detrimental, as we see the potential for nerve damage with excess B6 intake.
Always start with coverage for these basic essentials foremost, before adding non-essentials.
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