Woman focusing because she takes nootropics

10 Supplements for Attention and Focus

We use our brains every waking (and dreaming) minute of every day. Even when we're thinking of nothing, we're still using our brains. And sometimes, we need to pay extra attention to them, if we want them to pay better attention for us!

Whether you just want to improve your everyday focus, conquer your to-be-read book pile, or even just be more engaged in your conversations and social relationships, staying focused is essential for maintaining a happy and healthy quality of life.

That's where attention and focus supplements come in. Let's dig into how they work, and ingredients to keep you focused on your best brain health.

How do attention and focus supplements work?

You can find a wide array of different brain supplements that satisfy almost every cognitive and mental health need—whether that's supporting memory, mood, or even just general brain cell health. So it shouldn't be surprising that there are certain supplements formulated specifically to help you keep your attention on the things that matter.

These supplements may each work in a different way to support focus. Some help your body adapt to stress to make it easier to concentrate (since we all know how hard it is to keep your eye on the prize when you feel frazzled), and some fill in dietary gaps to help you better get the essential nutrients you need to keep your focus.

There is also a specialty type of brain supplement called nootropics—several popular focus and attention supplements are often placed in this category. Nootropics are noteworthy for supporting productivity and keeping the mind sharp. They promote circulation and oxygen in the brain, which helps drive mental stamina and performance. Nootropics can work synergistically with other types of focus supplements to help you gain and retain focus, no matter what life throws your way.

Top 10 supplements to increase concentration

  1. B vitamins

    —If you want to "B" your best as you get older, supplementing with vitamin B, a group of vitamins well known for their brain benefits, is a really good idea! While you might find several B vitamins in your standard multi-vitamin, if you're more interested specifically in brain supplements, a B vitamin complex may be a better option. Studies have shown that optimal doses of vitamin B complex have been found to support healthy neurological function at any age. And that's not all—vitamin B has even been found to fight age-related cognitive decline in the elderly.

    Make sure that your B-complex includes harder-to-get vitamins like vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, as deficiencies are more common as you get older. Getting enough vitamin B12 is especially important for those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.

  2. Magnesium L-threonate

    —Magnesium is generally known as a whole-body health superstar, but did you know that there is one specific type of magnesium that supports your brain health—and is helpful for your attention? Enter L-threonate, a type of magnesium that is specially formulated to cross the blood-brain barrier. In one randomized placebo-controlled trial of 44 adults between the ages of 50 and 70 taking between 1.5 and 2 grams of magnesium L-threonate, this ultra-absorbable form of magnesium was found to improve both cognitive and executive function in as little as 12 weeks.
  3. Ashwagandha

    —Have you ever had trouble focusing as a result of stress or fatigue? Ashwagandha to the rescue! This adaptogenic herb supports memory, cognitive function and mood, making it easier to manage your stress and keep yourself focused on the task at hand. While it is a great standalone nutrient for supporting attention and mental focus, it is also extensively utilized in combination formulas. Some of these formulas even combine ashwagandha with bacopa to fight fatigue while supporting cognitive performance!
  4. Bacopa monnieri

    —Also known as water hyssop, bacopa is a very popular nootropic option for those who might need a little extra push in focus specifically when it comes to studying. Why? Bacopa encourages new connections between neurons in the brain that govern learning, emotion and memory.

    In fact, in a double-blind placebo-controlled trial involving 60 healthy medical students, 6 weeks of Bacopa monnieri supplementation showed significant strides in attention, concentration, working memory and even recall as compared to placebo. So the next time you're up cramming in all the key points of a presentation, or you're pulling an all-nighter to ace your next exam, it might be time to consider bacopa.

    This doesn't just apply to those who are still in school or have tests to study for, either. It can benefit older populations, too. In the elderly, bacopa supported optimal cognitive function and brain processing speed. This included power and continuity of attention.

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  1. Mango extract and peppermint oil combination

    —Ever wake up and don't quite feel as sharp as you want to? That extra cup of coffee not quite doing it for you when it comes to focus? This nootropic supplement offers a caffeine-free way to help sharpen your mental focus. It also helps fight mental fatigue, making it a win-win!

    Mango leaf extract has been clinically studied to help enhance brain activity, relieve mental fatigue, support mental focus and support healthy levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine in order for your brain cells to help communicate with each other. Standardized peppermint oil extract was also studied to support mental stamina and better attention in healthy adults. Like mango leaf extract, peppermint oil also supports neurotransmitters like GABA and acetylcholine to help encourage brain cell activity.

  2. Lutein and zeaxanthin

    —Traditionally, these carotenoids, highly concentrated in the macular pigment, are used as ingredients in eye health supplements. So, while it may seem odd to place these in the brain health category, well…think again! Your eyes are your brain's neighbors and these organs are connected in more ways than you may think. Lutein and zeaxanthin are highly concentrated in the brain, and have been studied in both older and younger populations to help enhance brain function and support spatial memory, along with reasoning skills, cognitive flexibility and attention scores.

    In one study of healthy individuals aged 18-25, those who took lutein and zeaxanthin for around 6 months were able to favorably support their brain performance and promote the brain's neuronal plasticity. In simpler terms, the presence of these carotenoids helps encourage your brain's ability to learn by helping you both build new connections and reorganize old ones, essential for attention and retention.

    Older adults taking lutein and zeaxanthin were also able to better filter out irrelevant information while they multitasked—an ability we should all want! This combination allowed them to focus on the information they wanted to store rather than anything they didn't, making it easier to maintain a higher level of productivity.

  3. L-theanine

    —While it's common for most people to use amino acid L-theanine for maintaining a healthy stress response (and rightfully so, this small but mighty compound is what gives green tea its calming effects), its stress management properties are exactly why it's so good for focus and attention. Due to its ability to keep you on an even keel, it works by promoting a calm, but focused state in your brain waves.

    One study of cognitive function in middle-aged and older subjects found that L-theanine may contribute to improvements in attention, which in turn helps with working memory as well as overall executive function.

  4. Gotu kola

    —The phrase "think fast" takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to gotu kola. This ingredient, when standardized, is another great option for those looking for an extra boost in their focus. While usually included as an ingredient in a multinutrient formula, gotu kola's been well studied on its own for its brain boosting benefits. In one two-month study, healthy older adults taking 250 mg of standardized gotu kola per day were able to enhance their reaction time as well as the accuracy of their working memory. And as a fringe benefit, this extract also was able to help those taking it feel calmer.
  5. Rhodiola

    —Ready for a double-duty kind of supplement? This nutrient is a great option for those who have a harder time focusing because of unmanaged stress. Rhodiola, aka Rhodiola rosea, is what's known as an adaptogen, which means that it helps the body adapt to stress in a healthy way. And keeping stress in check ought to help you avoid lapses in concentration. Rhodiola also helps encourage mental performance, associative thinking, concentration, and even calculation and audio and visual perception speeds.
  6. Ginkgo biloba

    —When it comes to both general longevity and cognitive health, maybe it's time to turn to traditional wisdom. Ginkgo biloba comes from a tree that has been almost completely unchanged for over 200 million years and has been used in traditional health regimens for cognitive support for centuries. Perhaps it's apt, then, that this extract is considered to be one of the best options for older individuals looking to support their cognitive health into their old age. Talk about benefits for the long term!
  7. Ginkgo biloba helps support your ability to stay focused on daily tasks, and has also been studied extensively in older populations specifically for fighting cognitive decline over time. Meta-analyses have found that up to 240 mg of ginkgo biloba extract is well-tolerated for supporting cognitive performance and function.

What Else Can I Take to Help Me Concentrate? Honorable Mentions

  • Vinpocetine

    Vinpocetine, a compound derived from the periwinkle plant, has impacts on brain health that older adults should pay attention to! This supplement supports healthy blood flow in the brain as well as memory and concentration.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

    When we think of omega-3 fish oil, we tend to think of its whole-body benefits. And though evidence is mixed when it comes to fish oil specifically for attention, preliminary evidence does suggest that omega-3 fatty acids can support healthy cognitive function as well as preservation of brain function and memory.
  • Acetyl-L-carnitine

    Acetyl-L-carnitine is an amino acid derivative made from L-carnitine in the body, and is a popular supplement for focus and attention, particularly because of its benefits on nervous system function.
  • Phosphatidylserine

    This fatty acid-derived nutrient is important for healthy nervous system function, particularly nerve cell membranes. As a dietary supplement, phosphatidylserine crosses the blood-brain barrier to support brain function, including the ability to concentrate.

Pro tip: Be sure to always discuss any new dietary supplements you are planning to take with your doctor. For example, while vinpocetine may be a good option for older adults, those who are of childbearing age, pregnant or planning to become pregnant should not take it.

Do attention and focus supplements work like caffeine?

While you may be thinking about completely replacing your good ol' fashioned cup of Joe (technically a nootropic) with any of these nutrients, you might want to think again. Though supplements for attention are great for giving you that cognitive edge, they aren't stimulants, and you shouldn't expect them to work in the same way caffeine, be it in your coffee or tea, would. They will not jolt you into alertness if you didn't get enough sleep, for example.

That being said, consistent dosage can make a difference in how focused you are on a day-to-day basis. These nutrients support optimal concentration and taking them regularly is essential for getting the best results from them.

Who should take attention and focus supplements?

It's a common misconception that attention and focus supplements are meant solely for those who need a little bit of extra help keeping on task in either their work or school life. Certain ingredients and vitamins are good for any age! Whether that means a college or grad student who wants to get a leg up in their classes, a worker who wants to ace the key points of their presentation, or an older adult who wants to complete a daily crossword puzzle, brain health supplements for focus and attention are a no-brainer for anybody who wants to support their overall functioning and quality of life.

Best ways to support mental focus

As with any healthy lifestyle, supplementation is only one part of the equation. To keep your mind sharp in your everyday life and for many more years to come, follow these tips:

  • Keep your body moving

    Did you know that exercise can help support your focus? Research has found that moderate to high-intensity exercise can help support your concentration through the release of feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin.
  • Adhere to a healthy diet

    While a healthy diet is always important, did you know there's a specific brain-friendly diet you can follow? The MIND diet was designed to help fight age-related cognitive decline and emphasizes eating green leafy vegetables and berries, as well as nuts, legumes and other brain-friendly foods to support your mind as you age. Best of all, there are so many great recipes you can find with ingredients that include both the foods and nutrients we mentioned.
  • Prioritize sleep

    Beyond its whole-body benefits, sleep's positive impact on healthy cognitive function is undeniable. Because sleep functions as a way to refresh and recharge, it's important to prioritize your sleep/wake cycles for your best brain function.
  • Manage your stress

    Have you ever been flustered by just one too many things on your to-do list? Don't know where your head is because of stress at work or home? Stress can impact your focus and your attention more than you might realize. Keeping your cool can help you keep your eye (and brain) on the prize.
  • Stay hydrated

    Water is life, but water is also brain health. Since water accounts for 75% of brain mass and helps support blood flow and oxygen to the brain, keeping yourself hydrated throughout the day is an easy way to maintain your focus on tasks.

If you're still not sure what you may need, try a quiz to help pinpoint the brain supplements that are right for you.

About the Author: Holly Denton got her degree in English Literature from Florida State University and previously worked in English education abroad with the Peace Corps and other development organizations before joining Life Extension, where she is currently a Copywriter.


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