Ginseng, Gingko Biloba, Omega-3’s: Brain-Boosting or Just Well-Marketed?

For those who feel cognitively sluggish or emotionally lethargic, it’s certainly admirable to turn to natural remedies before prescription drugs. But many of the foods and dietary supplements presented as “brain boosting” haven’t been thoroughly studied. New research on diet’s impact on mental energy finds that there is some truth to some of the hype: “The strongest evidence suggests” that omega-3 fatty acids may truly reduce the risk of cognitive decline, and that Gingko biloba does positively impact mood and attention. This research also highlights the need for further researchers before stronger claims are made. If your mood is low and you’re having problems focusing, it doesn’t hurt to incorporate a variety of vitamins and nutrients. If exercise, adequate sleep, and a varied, balanced diet still leave you feeling off, there might be something else going on: talk to your doctor or therapist. But if you’re pinning all of your hope on a single supplement, you may want to reassess.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • austin


    January 14th, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    Personally I think that so much of this supplement stuff is all hype. If you eat a balanced diet in the first place then you do not have to worry about supplementing with anything. A healthy diet will do all of that for you. It makes me angry that so many people buy into all of this junk and you know that they are doing no more for themselves than the rest of us are who have chosen not to get all mixed up in that nonsense.

  • Logan


    January 14th, 2011 at 4:24 PM

    There’s nothing more restorative than eating well and getting enough rest. Eight uninterrupted hours of sleep every night will cure many common ills and keep several of them at bay. It’s wise to read up on the effects of sleep deprivation and compare your symptoms against that if you’re always feeling under the weather before you think about popping supplements.

  • p heyman

    p heyman

    January 14th, 2011 at 5:18 PM

    although these may be good supplements,there is no substitute for a healthy diet and a peaceful life.even an almost-balanced everything is sufficient for a decent living without any major problems.

  • Kelli


    January 15th, 2011 at 6:57 AM

    I am going to disagree with some of the posters here. I do believe that nothing is a substitute for a well balanced diet and lifestyle. But I do think that there are people who can benefit from supplements of many kinds and that for some that is the ebst way to ensure that they are receiving the proper nutrition. There are so many wonderful benefits to vitamins and supplements. I cannot tell you how much more energy I have now that I have added many of these things to my daily regimen. And I am responsible about what I take and how I take them and I know that some people are not. But I do think that they can be worthwhile and that maybe you should not knock it until you at least give it a try.

  • John


    January 15th, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    Our ancestors never needed all these dietary supplements so why do we? There’s never been a time in the modern West where food was so accessible and in such variety. Everything you need you can get from your diet if it’s a proper one. We eat too many processed foods. That’s the problem.

  • Ellen


    January 15th, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    @John: True, our lifestyle is very different. Our ancestors were in bed by sunset and didn’t have electricity that allowed them to stay up half the night. They also ate food and meat they has raised themselves. We have a multitude of distractions now-TV, the net, gaming systems, DVD’s etc. We snack in front of the TV and go to bed late. We could well need the boost supplements can give us more than they did. Oh and our ancestors lived shorter lives too, rarely making it to their 50’s until the 1900’s.

  • Shona


    January 15th, 2011 at 2:25 PM

    I take supplements regularly. I figure they won’t do me any harm and if they do me good, that’s a bonus. My son has problems with concentration and was recommended to take fish oil capsules regularly. I honestly feel his concentration levels improved and would recommend people at least try them before forming an opinion.

  • BRad


    January 15th, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    I have belief in supplements and I use them quite often. But at the same time, I ensure that I do not go overboard about the supplements and try and maintain a healthy diet and include greens in my diet.

  • Matt


    January 16th, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    This is not a cure all. I think that they probably help some people and then have very little effect on others. Maybe it really works for people who have a srong belief that they are going to work and for the people who are skeptical to begin with they will not work. But I do agree that pinning all of your hopes to one quick fix is not going to be the answer.

  • monice


    January 16th, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    Supplements are a lot of well-marketed rubbish. I was on them as a teenager for a while and it did absolutely nothing outside of giving me bad breath. If there are any effects at all, they either take too long to happen or they make very little difference. All you really need is to drink your water and get a good night’s sleep.

  • Joan


    January 17th, 2011 at 12:48 PM

    I remember hearing about Ultra-90 in Tennessee on the radio to the point I stopped listening to any channels that advertise it. Losing six pounds in six weeks? Someone took the stairs to see what floor the elevator reaches. Being cautious about what you eat will do that anyway.

  • Kennedy


    January 18th, 2011 at 5:36 AM

    If they are such rubbish then why do so many people keep buying them?

  • Mindy


    January 21st, 2011 at 11:39 AM

    @Kennedy: They keep buying them because they don’t like to hear the words “You’re fat and unfit. Go on a diet, exercise for an hour 3 times a week, cut out the alcohol and cigarettes and sleep 8 hours a night.” A supplement sounds like so much less work, doesn’t it? I’ll be popping to the store to buy water from the fountain of life in a minute.

  • Tina


    January 21st, 2011 at 4:06 PM

    Natural remedies aren’t completely useless. Ancient tribes that have never seen a pharmacy in their lives could teach us a thing or two about plants and their healing qualities. Scientific opinion doesn’t override centuries of practical use, much as I’m sure they would love to scorn it.

  • Richard


    January 21st, 2011 at 6:18 PM

    Are the scientists forgetting that a considerable amount of those same supplements are derived from such plant materials? They aren’t all synthesized in a laboratory by men in white coats. Nature’s a far better healer than all of us put together and there’s probably more beneficial plants yet to be discovered.

  • taurus


    January 23rd, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    I’ve been interested in holistic medicine all my life. It’s complementary to, rather than a substitute for, a healthy lifestyle. People need to stop looking for a quick fix and do what’s needed to have a healthy mind, body and spirit. Whether that’s getting therapy, changing their diet or doing more physically, just do it!

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Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on