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Alpha Brain Review: An Expert’s Take on Safety and Effectiveness

Written by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

Reviewed by Anthony Dugarte, MD 

Last Updated on May 20, 2021

Our Expert Rating:

3.0

About This Rating
The average rating of this product is calculated based on the evaluation of the following factors:
  • Support for Claims:3.0
  • Ingredient Safety:3.0
  • Value for the Price:2.0
  • Brand Transparency:4.0

Alpha Brain is a dietary supplement claimed to improve memory and cognitive function. While some of its ingredients have health benefits, there is limited research on its overall effectiveness.

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Alpha Brain Review: An Expert’s Take on Safety and Effectiveness

Pros

  • Some ingredients have health benefits
  • Allergen-friendly
  • 90-Day money-back guarantee

Cons

  • Limited research on effectiveness
  • Potential for side effects
  • No third-party testing

What Is Alpha Brain?

Alpha Brain is a dietary supplement created by a company called Onnit. It is intended to improve memory, mental speed, and focus.

It is considered a nootropic, which is a supplement that claims to support certain brain functions.

Alpha Brain is available in pill form or as Alpha Brain Instant, which is in powder form. For those who don’t like to swallow pills, the powder form may be a better option.

It is a popular supplement promoted by celebrities, including Joe Rogan. The claims are that it helps you stay in the “zone” flow state longer to enhance concentration and productivity.

It does this, in theory, by helping you produce more alpha waves to enhance your focus and creativity. Alpha waves are a type of brain wave that can help you feel more calm, focused, and present.

Alpha Brain is free of caffeine, dairy, and gluten. It is also keto-friendly.

The instructions for taking the Alpha Brain pill are 2 pills daily, preferably with a light meal.

For the Alpha Brain Instant powder, the dose is one packet mixed with 8 ounces of cold water. It is also preferable to be taken with a light meal.

Evaluation of Ingredients

Alpha Brain contains 4 main ingredient blends – Onnit Flow Blend, Cat’s Claw, Focus Blend, and Fuel Blend.

1. Flow Blend, 650 mg

The Flow Blend is intended to promote alpha wave production in the body, improving concentration and focus.

The ingredients are as follows:

  • L-tyrosine: An amino acid that may improve cognition. The research has shown mixed results. For example, a research review showed improved cognitive performance when under short-term stressful situations, while others have shown no effect.
  • Phosphatidylserine: A type of fat that may help our nerves communicate with each other. Some research shows it may potentially improve memory, but only in the short term.
  • Oat straw extract: An extract from a plant. It may improve attention span in older adults, according to a 2011 study. However, the dose was much higher than what is in Alpha Brain.

Based on the available research on these 3 ingredients, the dose of the ingredients may not be enough to be effective. More clear research is also needed to demonstrate the long-term benefits.

2. Cat’s Claw, 350 mg

Cat’s Claw: An extract from the bark of a rainforest vine. There are no clear-cut studies that show any benefits from taking it; therefore, I would not recommend it.

3. Focus Blend, 240 mg

This blend contains 2 ingredients claimed to help with focus:

  • Huperzia Serrata: A form of moss native to Asia. According to a systematic research review, Huperzia Serrata may play a role in improving measures of cognitive function and daily living activity.

    However, it is unclear what doses were given to produce these benefits and if the amount present in this focus blend would be enough. This ingredient was also only studied in those with Alzheimer’s, which may not translate to all populations.
  • Bacopa: An herb used in traditional Chinese medicine. One small 2016 study showed improved measures of memory and cognitive ability after taking 150 mg of bacopa daily for 6 weeks. This dose is similar to what is present in this focus blend.

More research is needed to determine the effectiveness of this blend in the general population, specifically in those who don’t have a neurological condition such as Alzheimer's.

4. Fuel Blend, 60 mg

L-leucine: An amino acid similar to resveratrol, the antioxidant present in red wine. It is claimed to protect the brain and nerve cells.

However, most of the research on it is related to its potential role in building muscle and weight loss.

Alpha Brain Clinical Study

There was one clinical study in 2016 done directly on Alpha Brain, where improved memory was seen after 6 weeks.

The participants specifically were seen to have an improved ability to recall recent information and practice higher-level thinking.

However, the randomized study was small (only 63 people) and was sponsored by the manufacturer. This could lead to bias in the study design and in how the results are interpreted.

Any other studies done on the individual ingredients have either been small or have shown mixed results.

Verdict on Claimed Benefits

Below is our summary of the available evidence for the claimed benefits of Alpha Brain based on the available research:

  • Improved memoryModerate Evidence
  • Enhanced mental speedModerate Evidence
  • Improved focusModerate Evidence

Side Effects, Safety, and Dosage

I was not able to find reports of any serious side effects from this product. However, a few milder side effects were seen.

In a 2013 study, huperzia serrata was shown to cause gastrointestinal side effects in mice, such as vomiting, indigestion, and diarrhea.

Additionally, a 2009 randomized trial showed similar side effects in those taking bacopa, primarily increased stool frequency, abdominal cramping, and nausea.

These are potential side effects in general in those new to taking nootropics. Always speak to your medical provider before starting any supplement to determine what is best for you.

Cost and Where to Buy

On Onnit’s website, Alpha Brain’s cost is $34.95 per month for a single bottle or $67.95 for a 3-month supply.

The cost is lower than many other nootropics on the market.

It can be ordered directly from the company or Vitamin Shoppe.

If you are interested in this product, I recommend purchasing directly from Onnit’s website to get the discount and 90-day money-back guarantee.

Comparison to Alternatives

Alpha Brain is a nootropic that has a few differences from others on the market.

From a cost perspective, it is more reasonably priced. Other nootropics, like Prevagen, can cost up to $90 a month.

Alpha Brain is similar in price to products like Neuriva but contains more ingredients.

Alpha Brain is also one of few nootropics that don’t contain caffeine. While caffeine is a well-known nootropic, this is a good thing for someone who may be sensitive to caffeine’s effects.

Based on the current research, I’m not sure if any nootropic supplement would profoundly benefit someone who does not have a diagnosed neurological condition such as Alzheimer’s.

The Bottom Line

While some of the ingredients in Alpha Brain do have research to back them up, this research does not necessarily apply to the entire population.

In particular, it seems those who have an actual medical diagnosis that causes cognitive impairment may be more likely to see results—for example, those who are older or have dementia.

I am not sure how much a healthy person with normal cognitive function would benefit from a product like this.

Always consult with your medical provider before starting any new supplement.

A Word from Our RD

If you are looking to boost your brain health, there are many more effective ways of doing so.

Eating plenty of brain-boosting foods such as avocados, fatty fish like salmon, berries, broccoli, nuts, and spices such as turmeric can keep your mind sharp.

Also, stay active daily. For example, just going for a daily 30-minute walk can enhance your focus and concentration.

Lastly, engage in activities that challenge your mind. For example, doing a daily crossword puzzle, reading a book, or learning a new hobby.

If you are concerned about your cognitive health, consult with your doctor for advice and to outweigh the pros and cons of taking a cognitive-enhancing supplement.

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