Product Name: Alpha Brain
Product Description: Alpha Brain is one of the world's most popular nootropic stacks, and one of the oldest still on sale. Made by Onnit, it is sold as a complete brain supplement designed to enhance mental performance and reduce stress.
Offer price: 79.95
Focus, Learning & Memory
Neuroplasticity & Brain Health
Value For Money
Alpha Brain by Onnit is one of the most popular natural nootropics on the market, but does it really work? Not likely. Alpha Brain uses cheap, unproven, ineffective ingredients and proprietary blends; always a recipe for a rip-off. There’s no good reason for Onnit to be using prop blends unless Alpha Brain is mostly made up of useless ingredients, of which there are many in the formula!
See our current top rated nootropic: https://www.ijest.org/nootropics/mind-lab-pro-review/
Provides a healthy serving of Alpha-GPC
Contains Bacopa monnieri
Bacopa monnieri is in a basic, whole-plant form
Contains several useless, unproven ingredients that do nothing for cognition or mood
Extremely expensive for what it is
Uses proprietary blends to hide a low quality formula
Huperzine A means Alpha Brain must be cycled
What Is Alpha Brain?
Alpha Brain by Onnit is one of the most popular natural nootropic supplements on the market today. It was one of the first brain supplements to target the average health and fitness enthusiast; before Onnit, nootropics were something only serious biohackers and gamers used. Today, most people are aware that nootropics exist, and a significant portion of the population are using them to improve their memory, increase processing speeds, and reduce anxiety. That is, in part, down to Onnit and Alpha Brain.
According to the Onnit website, Alpha Brain is a complete nootropic, delivering numerous improvements in cognitive function, including:
- Better memory function
- Sharper focus
- Reduced stress and anxiety
On top of that, Onnit claim that Alpha Brain supports brain health. This does indeed make it a comprehensive nootropic supplement. The question is, does this nootropic really do all of these important things?
In the detailed Alpha Brain review below, I’ll take you through this popular nootropic’s ingredients, side effects, and price tag to find out if it is really such a great brain supplement. If you get to the end of the review and you still have questions, please post them in the comments section at the end.
Alpha Brain Ingredients
Onnit have put effort into making sure Alpha Brain is accessible for everyone. It is vegan, gluten-free, and suitable for people following a paleo diet (if you’re into personality-signalling pseudo-science). Lots of Onnit’s products are now geared towards the Paleo movement, and Alpha Brain is continually trying to reposition itself as the Paleo nootropic.
It uses quite a few ingredients, most of which are listed as part of proprietary blends. Much of my Alpha Brain review will focus on this use of prop blends, but more on that later!
Here is the full Alpha Brain ingredients list:
- Vitamin B6 – 10mg
- L-Tyrosine – Dose unknown
- L-Theanine – Dose unknown
- Oat straw extract – Dose unknown
- Phosphatidylserine -Dose unknown
- AC-11 (Cat’s Claw extract) – 350mg
- Alpha-GPC – 100mg
- Bacopa monnieri – 100mg
- Huperzia serrata extract (1% Huperzine A) – 40mg (400mcg Huperzine A)
- Leucine – Dose unknown
- Vinpocetine – 5mg
- Pterostilbene – Dose unknown
Here is an image of the label showing the full formula and doses as it appears on the Alpha Brain bottle:
Let’s go through these ingredients in a little more detail. In each case, I’ll highlight the relevant clinical data and tell you whether the ingredient works or not. I’ll also discuss what I make of the doses used in Alpha Brain. At the end, I’ll give you my analysis of the formula as a whole. I will also say a word or two about Onnit’s use of proprietary blends – something I am not a fan of at all!
Vitamin B6 – 10mg
Vitamin B6 is an essential nutrient. You need it to convert carbohydrates into glucose. This is why people use B6 as an energy supplement, and it is why it is an ingredient in many pre-workout nootropics. Including it in a nootropic is a good idea, as it will increase mental energy.
L-Tyrosine – UNKNOWN DOSE
L-Tyrosine is a fantastic nootropic substance. Studies have found that people who consume Tyrosine perform significantly better in cognitively demanding tasks while being placed under intense environmental strain. In other words, Tyrosine seems to help you stay focused and mentally sharp when in stressful situations. So far, clinical trials have shown that Tyrosine promotes cognitive performance in people subjected to sleep deprivation, extreme cold, and multi-tasking. Tyrosine works by supporting the formation of dopamine in the brain.
Unfortunately, we have no idea how much Tyrosine we get from Alpha Brain. Tyrosine has only been found to be effective in doses above about 125mg. Taking less than that is a waste of time. So why is Onnit hiding the dose?
L-Theanine – UNKNOWN DOSE
Theanine is an amino acid found in large quantities in black tea. It has few nootropic properties of its own. However, one interesting property of theanine is that it works synergistically with caffeine. In simple terms, theanine reduces the severity of caffeine’s side effects while boosting its positive effects. I recommend taking theanine and caffeine in a 2:1 ratio. Sadly, yet again we have no dose information to work with here!
Oat straw extract – UNKNOWN DOSE
We aren’t told exactly what has been “extracted” from the oat straw in Alpha Brain’s Oat Straw extract. But in this case, that’s not important; oat straw has never been shown to do anything interesting at all in an independent clinical trial. Many people claim that it reduces stress and anxiety, while others say it promotes restful sleep. I’ve seen no solid evidence to support these claims. As such, I’m forced to conclude that this is a completely useless ingredient. I suspect it is being used to bulk out Alpha Brain’s “flow blend”.
Phosphatidylserine – UNKNOWN DOSE
Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid and an essential building block of your brain cell membranes. It is also the main signal brain cells use to tell killer cells that they have reached the end of their lives. In other words, without sufficient levels of phosphatidylserine, you cannot make or maintain brain cells at an optimal rate. This certainly makes sense given what we see in the clinical literature, where phosphatidylserine supplementation in the elderly reliably improves memory function. Once again, we’re left clueless as to the dose in Alpha Brain. Why would Onnit keep this secret? If the dose was good, you’d assume they’d be eager to tell us, right?!
Cat’s Claw extract – 350mg
I have no idea why Onnit have gone in so heavy on Cat’s Claw. This is not a nootropic by any stretch of the imagination. As far as I can tell, cat’s claw does nothing. I haven’t been able to find a single independent, good quality clinical trial showing that cat’s claw improves cognitive function in some way. Onnit have dedicated 350mg of Alpha Brain’s formula to this completely unproven substance. This is a real shame, especially when you consider how under-dosed some of the other ingredients are!
Alpha-GPC – 100mg
Alpha-GPC is a powerful cholinergic. At 40% choline by weight, it is extremely effective at increasing brain choline levels, which in turn increases the synthesis of acetylcholine; your brain’s primary executive neurotransmitter. Basically, having more acetylcholine will improve every executive function: you will experience greater learning ability and processing skills, sharper focus, and better brain function overall. But the problem here is the dose. Alpha Brain only gives us 100mg of Alpha-GPC (a fact we had to work out for ourselves as it is not stated on the label). This is not enough Alpha-GPC to increase neurotransmitter production, which means it is not enough for you to experience significant increases in focus, learning, memory and processing speed.
Bacopa monnieri – 100mg
Bacopa monnieri is perhaps the most reliable natural memory enhancer on the planet. Several clinical trials have shown that Bacopa monnieri supplementation significantly improves memory retention and recall. The effect is particularly strong in older people, those with mild memory impairment, and those with early-stage memory disorders.
Once again though, Onnit is short-changing us here. Studies showing big improvements in memory function have used no less than 150mg of high quality Bacopa monnieri extract per day for 6-12 weeks. Alpha Brain not only gives us 100mg (50mg less than the lowest dose used in clinical trials), but we don’t get a high-potency extract; just pure Bacopa leaf powder.
Huperzia serrata (1% Huperzine A) – 40mg
Huperzia serrata, also known as Chinese Clubmoss, is the natural source of a compound called Huperzine A, which is a fast-acting focus enhancer. Huperzine A inhibits the enzyme which breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (the enzyme is acetylcholinesterase). This means reduced acetylcholine breakdown, which in turn means more acetylcholine. Higher levels of acetylcholine elicits significant cognitive enhancement in the form of greater concentration, faster information processing, and enhanced working memory. There are some serious safety and side effect concerns with Huperzine A, which I will discuss at length in the Alpha Brain side effects section.
L-Leucine – UNKNOWN DOSE
Leucine is a branched chain amino acid. It is ubiquitous in the human diet; every food that’s even fairly rich in protein probably contains plenty of leucine: seeds, cheese, milk, eggs, fish, chicken, and soybeans are all packed with leucine. We don’t know why Alpha Brain contains any leucine at all; it doesn’t influence cognitive functions in any way, it doesn’t enhance mood, and it doesn’t increase mental energy. I suspect leucine is here to act as a filler, bulking out Alpha Brain’s formula to allow Onnit to cut back on other, more expensive ingredients.
Vinpocetine – 5mg
Vinpocetine is a great nootropic, although it has recently fallen out of favor with brain supplement manufacturers. Vinpocetine primarily works through some combination of oxidative damage protection and cerebral blood flow promotion. Studies indicate that vinpocetine acts as an antioxidant in the brain while simultensouly increasing blood flow within the brain. This means better protected brain cells, and better nourished brain cells; the end result is higher cognitive function.
Pterostilbene – UNKNOWN DOSE
Pterostilbene is a derivative of resveratrol, the common antioxidant. In plants, pterostilbene acts as an anti-microbial and anti-oxidant. It is thought that it has the same action in humans; it is generally assumed that pterostilbene is a much more potent antioxidant than resveratrol, to which is is chemically very similar.
Alpha Brain Formula Analysis: Useless ingredients & unknown doses
Overall, I’m not impressed with Onnit Alpha Brain in the slightest. It’s clearly an old, tired nooropic stack designed for the nootropics market as it was in 2010. Today, nootropics are much more sophisticated and the average user is much better educated on what constitutes a top nootropic.
For starters, I have no time for supplements that hide their doses in proprietary blends. There’s no good reason to do so, which leaves us with the conclusion that they’re hiding low doses and formula stuffing.
This makes sense, as there are plenty of cheap, useless and unproven ingredients in Alpha Brain: cat’s claw, oat straw, and leucine to name just a few. None of these ingredients have been proven to work in clinical trials. None of them can be said to reliably improve any measure of cognitive function. And for all we know, they could make up the vast majority of the Alpha Brain formula.
Even the ingredients that work leave us wanting more.
There’s only 100mg of Alpha-GPC in Alpha Brain. Compared to the 300mg we get from other nootropic stacks, that’s pathetic.
The Bacopa monnieri extract doesn’t have a listed potency, so it may just be Bacopa monnieri leaf powder.
It stands no chance of slowing or attenuating cognitive decline, and it offers no benefits in terms of supporting brain cell health. Other nootropics encourage nerve growth and protect brain cells from damage; Alpha Brain just offers a basic anti-oxidant at an unknown dose.
All-in-all, Alpha Brain is a disappointing nootropic. It is far from the best brain supplement on offer today.
It may have been competitive 10 years ago, but it is showing signs of its age today! Yet Onnit show no signs of changing this tired old formula.
Alpha Brain Dose: How much should you take?
The recommended daily dose of Alpha Brain is two capsules; no more, no less. Normally, manufacturers state the maximum number of capsules you can take in a day, but Onnit don’t list this on the label. We therefore have to assume that the upper limit on your daily Alpha Brain dosage is two capsules.
I think it is really worth sticking to in this case, as we have no idea how much of some of these ingredients is actually in a serving of Alpha Brain. Without exact doses to work with, you can easily end up taking too much of a single substance.
When is the best time to take Alpha Brain?
It shouldn’t matter when you take Alpha Brain, be it first thing in the morning, at midday, or right before bed. As a daily, complete nootropic, it should be designed in such a way that it promotes overall cognitive function over the long-term, not just for a few hours each day (although that’s exactly what I experience with Alpha Brain).
But that is how Alpha Brain should work. Sadly, this is not the best nootropic in the world, and the mild benefits it does produce tend to wane after a couple of hours. As such, I think the best time to take Alpha Brain is either first thing in the morning or about an hour before a mentally demanding task.
Alpha Brain Side Effects: Is it safe?
One of the main problems of dealing with proprietary blends is that I cannot say for certain whether or not a supplement is safe. That’s because side effects are always dependent on doses; you need to know how much of a substance you’re taking to know if it’s safe. Onnit hides the doses from us (needlessly), so we’re left in the dark here.
Generally speaking though, Alpha Brain looks fairly safe for most people if used on an infrequent basis. All of the ingredients have been tested in clinical trials, and while their efficacy may be lacking, none of them have been found to be very dangerous or side effect-prone.
However, the use of Huperzine A means Alpha Brain is not safe for everyday, long-term use.
Huperzine A inhibits acetylcholinesterase, which breaks down excess acetylcholine. This causes a buildup of acetylcholine, which in the short term is a good thing; it means greater focus, better memory function, and overall better cognition.
However, when acetylcholine levels get too high, the neurotransmitter can actually cause issues. In simple terms, the nerves in your brain can become jammed with acetylcholine. Using Huperzine A daily for more than about 3 weeks will almost definitely cause issues. Common side effects include:
- Loss of focus
- Memory impairment
- Lack of motivation
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle cramps
Taking Alpha Brain every day for more than 2-3 weeks will almost certainly cause some of the side effects listed above. Continuing to use Alpha Brain for longer than 3 weeks will just make those side effects worse.
Pricing: How much does this nootropic cost?
Alpha Brain costs $79.95 for a 90 capsule bottle. With a 2 capsule serving size, that works out at $79.95 for 45 days worth of Alpha Brain, or around $1.77 per day.
Given that Alpha Brain offers little in the way of product quality, I think it is an extremely over-priced dietary supplement. I don’t see why anybody would buy Alpha Brain when you can get far better nootropic stacks for the same price or even less.
Alpha Brain Reviews & User Feedback
Let’s check out some Alpha Brain reviews from users. Here is a selection of reviews taken from various places online. I have tried to select a range of reviews from reliable sources (mainly Trustpilot and Reddit):
Review Conclusion: Is Alpha Brain the best nootropic supplement?
I strongly recommend you read my full Alpha Brain review before buying this nootropic.
Despite describing it as the best nootropic in existence, Onnit have done a pretty poor job with Alpha Brain. I don’t think this supplement stands any chance of dispelling brain fog or increasing your information processing speed, let alone enhancing cognition over the long-term.
To give it its due, Alpha Brain does have some fairly immediate effects. Taking Alpha-GPC and Huperzine A at the same time will do that.
But the immediate effects of Alpha Brain (mild increases in focus and working memory) are short-lived, and they are fairly weak. The benefits of Alpha Brain are nowhere near as powerful as the benefits you get from other, more modern nootropics on sale today.
The formula contains lots of cheap, useless ingredients. Onnit doesn’t tell us the dosages, which leads me to think they are probably stuffing the formula with cheap garbage.
All-in-all, Alpha Brain looks like a low quality nootropic stack to me. I don’t see why anybody would still want to use this stuff over some of the more advanced brain supplements available today – the current best nootropics even cost less money!