A Review: Alpha Brain
Some of you probably know by now that I am an absolute skeptic by default; I will not believe what you are trying to sell me - be it religion, essential oils or otherwise - unless the evidence is there. Thusly, I am very suspicious when it comes to any sort of supplement. Some are actually dangerous or don’t have any research supporting them, others are not even what they claim to be. A surprising amount of supplements and homeopathic treatments are effectively sugar pills.
So, when Joe Rogan, who’s opinion I generally respect, introduced Onnit’s Alpha Brain nootropic, I was skeptically intrigued. For those out of the loop, nootropics are a class of supplements that are supposed to improve cognitive function. These are not to be confused with things like Adderall, which is an amphetamine and can have severely detrimental effects overtime. Nootropics generally contain more natural ingredients like Omega 3, ginseng and more. These are time-tested chemicals and herbs that are known for triggering higher brain function in different ways.
It takes a lot for me to consider actually buying a supplement like this. While I’m sure everyone would like a pill similar to the one in Limitless, I just don’t think there are many things out there that are going to make a huge difference and not have adverse side effects, beyond eating right, exercising and meditation. But Onnit has gone about Alpha Brain and their other supplements the right way, trying to put them through as many tests and double blind studies as possible, and the results have been strongly in their corner.
First, let’s talk about what’s actually in Alpha Brain. There are four main active ingredients:
AC-11 - This is a compound derived from the Amazonian plant, Cat’s Claw. It is supposedly able to better activate enzymes that can better repair damaged DNA. Because AC-11 is a proprietary formulation, little is known about its effectiveness.
Alpha GPC - This is a naturally-occurring chemical in the brain that supports memory function and focus. It is also released when certain fatty acids are broken down. In Europe, it’s actually given to Alzheimer’s patients as treatment. While there is more evidence for Alpha GPC’s effectiveness, it is still not considered an official treatment for cognitive disorders in the US.
Huperzia Serrata - This is a mossy plant that brings its ability to inhibit AchE to the nootropic mix. AchE breaks down the chemical acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter that is important for cognitive function. The more AchE that is inhibited, the less breakdown there is of acetylcholine. There is a lot of evidence behind huperzia and it is considered one of the safest nootropic supplements to take.
Bacopa Monnieri - This is an Indian plant traditionally taken by the elderly to improve cognitive function. Also known as brahmi, this herb has been proven in several studies to have a positive effect on retention of new information. It has also been known to help curb anxiety, although there is less evidence behind this claim.
The Boston Center for Memory carried out a double blind study of Alpha Brain’s effectiveness and showed that those taking Alpha Brain were better able to recall words and sentences from memory. This really piqued my interest, because the BCM are the group that showed that gingko has no beneficial cognitive effect. They are true organs of the scientific method seeking to disprove, yet still yielded a positive result. I decided to try Alpha Brain myself.
My Alpha Brain Journal
Day 1 - I took one pill in the afternoon after getting it in the mail. I never go balls to the wall when introducing a new substance to my body. Didn’t really experience anything. No noticeable feeling of being more focused and no interesting dreams. It’s only the first day, so this is pretty much what I expected anyway.
Day 2 - Two pills in the morning with breakfast. From now on I’ll be taking two pills in the morning daily. I did notice a boost in my focus and productivity while at a coffeeshop in the early afternoon. I started working on three blog posts at the same time on a whim.
Day 3 - Today I definitely felt a bit of a boost. I went to a party last night and drank…more than a small amount. By nighttime I had none of the haze I’ve come to expect on such evenings and was able to actually get a bit of writing done.
Day 4 - Okay, I had a crazy, vivid dream last night, but not in a good way. I had a dream that seemed very real about my brother being violently killed in a car crash. It was definitely not lucid as I didn’t realize it was a dream and I had actually started grieving in my mind until I woke up. Not cool. I had a nice productive buzz going in the afternoon, sort of like I took half an Adderall.
Day 5 - Another vivid dream last night, although I forgot what had happened almost as soon as I woke up. I was in a coffee shop about two hours after taking the pills and for at least two hours, my productivity and focus was in god mode.
Day 6 - I took my normal dose of two pills with breakfast. Oddly enough, today I didn’t really notice anything different. I’m assuming my body is still adjusting to it and won’t be surprised if I have a few hit or miss days at the beginning.
Day 7 - The boost was back today. This is the first time that I notice a positive impact during a workout. While running, I was better able to focus on my breathing and form. It was just a more enjoyable workout than normal.
Day 8 - I had a somewhat lucid dream last night. I was in China with my girlfriend and some other friends, and we were trying to run away from some sort of government agent. At a certain point, I just asked everyone why they were scared, because this is just a dream anyway. The dream ended after that, sort of like that realization ended the simulation.
Day 9 - I’m getting closer to pinning down that feeling when I know Alpha Brain is working. It’s like the 10 minutes after half a cup of coffee and a cigarette minus the killing yourself slowly. I’m really starting to like this stuff.
Day 10 - More vivid dreams, but I always forget them by the time I write this journal. The feeling of increased focus was the same and is becoming reliable.
Day 11 - I’ve noticed that I’m able to carry conversations more naturally and I can always find the right words. I had a wonderful conversation with my best friend, mostly talking about the election, big events I missed while I was away and the rise of the regressive left. I talked and talked without tiring, which is very rare for me.
Day 12 - Today is another zero day for me. The best discussions are held over drinks, and I had more than a few last night. My brain was white noise today and there was nothing Alpha Brain could do about it.
Day 13 - Today is my last dose before I fly out back to China. I’ve still got a couple of days at home, but I enjoyed AB so much that I want to save a couple of doses for my flight. I had an odd number of pills left, so I decided to take three total today - two at breakfast and one more at lunch. My brain was switched on well into the afternoon and it made for a good final productive day before leaving.
Day 14 - I flew from Greensboro to Detroit today and spent the night there before my big flight to Shanghai. Was able to get a decent amount of work done in my hotel over a few beers. Could definitely feel the buzz I’ve become familiar with.
Day 15 - I had a very pleasant flight back to China and managed to be fairly productive. And sleep! I haven’t mentioned that I’ve noticed being able to fall asleep more easily since starting Alpha Brain, and I sleep soundly, too. I can usually never sleep on flights and I think AB might have had something to do with this exception.
After a little over two weeks with Alpha Brain, I can say that I have definitely noticed a positive impact on my productivity. The majority of days taking the supplement, I was more switched on, more “in the zone” and was able to access a state of flow more easily. The whole dream factor sort of took a back seat to all of this. I did find the more vivid dreams somewhat interesting, but that’s not the reason I’m taking this nootropic.
As I said, the vivid dreams were interesting, but sometimes the feeling of realness was unsettling and uncomfortable. This is a more unpredictable aspect of this supplement that I could honestly go without. My final gripe is the price. For $34.95 you get 30 pills, which means your paying $1.17 per pill. The recommended dose is two pills per day, so you’re paying that price for only a two week regimen.
Is it worth it?
If the question is does Alpha Brain work, I must say - in my case anyway - definitely. There was a marked increase in my daily productivity. I was able to focus my attention more often and more frequently, easily ignoring the potential distractions on the internet. Most of my writing took less time, mostly because everything seem to come to me more easily than normal. If I didn't have the shipping costs of getting it sent to China, I would have no hesitation in continuing it. For now, I'll probably buy another bottle to take back with me and see it where it goes from there.
If you'd like to try Alpha Brain yourself, and support this blog in the process (with no extra cost to you), you can purchase it through my Amazon affiliate link here.