Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice, and is just the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to nootropics.
Alpha Brain is a nootropic supplement manufactured by a company called Onnit. The supplement is made famous by Joe Rogan, who claims Alpha Brain significantly improves his mental state and references the product frequently on his podcast "The Joe Rogan Experience."
But does Alpha Brain contain research-backed ingredients for supporting cognitive functions like memory and mental speed? Does it contain any questionable additive ingredients? How do real users rate and describe the effects of Alpha Brain? And what retailer sells the supplement for the best price?
In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more as we analyze the ingredients in Alpha Brain based on medical studies to give our take on whether the supplement is likely to be an effective nootropic (cognitive enhancer), or if it's a waste of money.
We'll also review the two medical studies on Alpha Brain, feature a segment where Joe Rogan discusses the supplement, share our thoughts on whether Alpha Brain Black Label has a more effective formulation, highlight real customer reviews and provide a cost breakdown to document which retailer sells Alpha Brain for the best price.
Alpha Brain contains three blends which we'll review in this section. The ingredients in the Flow Blend are shown above.
L-theanine is claimed by Onnit to be “shown to promote attention and reaction time” which is a surprising claim in our opinion.
That claim on their website is not cited, but due to the similar terminology it seems as though the brand is referencing this medical study titled “Effects of l-theanine on attention and reaction time response.” The study found that l-theanine had “no convincing [nootropic] effect” in healthy subjects, and had a nootropic effect only in individuals with anxiety.
However, the lowest dose in any of these three studies is equivalent to around 10,000 milligrams (mg) for an average weight adult. The average ingredient dose in Flow Blend is 162.5 mg, or 2% of what appears to be an effective nootropic dose based on the above-linked studies.
Oat straw extract was shown in a clinical trial published in the Nutrients journal to have no benefits to cognition.
The doses used in these trials were 300 mg and 400 mg, respectively, both of which are around twice the average ingredient dose in this blend.
Our verdict: this blend is unimpressive from an ingredient dosing perspective.
The ingredients in Onnit Focus Blend are shown above.
Alpha GPC is included at a 100 mg dose, which may be significantly underdosed.
An Examine review of Alpha GPC for cognitive support concludes the following: “For the usage of alpha-GPC in attenuating symptoms of cognitive decline, almost all studies use a dosage of 1,200 mg daily." That's 12x higher than the dose in Alpha Brain.
Bacopa extract is included at a 100 mg dose, while we consider the minimum effective nootropic dose of this ingredient to be 300 mg daily, based on a meta-study, as we documented in our Focus Factor review article.
Toothed clubmoss extract providing 400 micrograms (mcg) of huperzine A appears to be an effective dose. A 2011 medical review found huperzine A at this dose to confer cognitive benefits, as did a 2003 meta-study.
Our verdict: This blend is unimpressive but likely effective due to the huperzine A inclusion.
Onnit's Fuel Blend only contains two ingredients: l-leucine and pterostilbene.
L-leucine is an amino acid and we can't find any medical evidence that it improves cognition. Most clinical trials on l-leucine that we came across while researching this article used a dose in the thousands of milligrams, while this blend has an average ingredient dose of 30 mg.
Pterostilbene is a resveratrol analog, and we can't find any clinical backing for its benefits to brain function.
Our verdict: We can't find any evidence that this blend supports cognitive function.
There are two active ingredients in Alpha Brain that aren't included in the blends, which are shown above.
Cat’s claw extract may reduce the formation of brain plaque according to a medical review published in the Scientific Reports journal. This suggests that this is an effective preventative ingredient.
Vitamin B6 is easily obtainable from food sources, and we don't understand why it would be included in a nootropic formulation as we can't find any clinical evidence that its supplementation optimizes brain function in individuals who are not deficient in vitamin B6.
Overall, we're not particularly impressed by Alpha Brain's formulation, especially given its price.
We do believe that Alpha Brain may improve short-term cognitive function and memory, given its many research-backed ingredients, but the majority of these ingredients may be underdosed based on our review of clinical studies.
The good news is that the inactive ingredients in Alpha Brain are safe and non-toxic.
But has Alpha Brain been proven to work in medical studies? We'll answer that question after sharing our personal experience with the supplement in the next section of this article.
We Tried Alpha Brain Ourselves
One of our product testers named Matt Donnelly tested Alpha Brain. Here's his experience:
I had no issues with packaging or product experience. The bottle opens easily, capsules are normally sized and have no taste.
I have tried different nootropics, and based on my experience, Alpha Brain is the one of the better options. I can’t say with certainty that it works exactly as described, but I did find myself slightly more focused on tasks during the day.
I tried taking both one capsule daily and two capsules daily, and noticed some level of nootropic benefits from both (didn't notice any difference), so it may be more cost-effective to simply take one capsule daily.
I didn't experience any side effects from daily use of Alpha Brain.
Overall, I'd rate this product 7/10.
I don't plan to purchase it in the immediate future, but if I get back in the market for nootropics, I'd go with Alpha Brain before any other brands.
Is Alpha Brain Proven to Work?
Alpha Brain has been studied in two clinical trials published in peer-reviewed medical journals, which is the gold standard of product research and is a sign of a high-quality supplement brand.
A 2015 clinical trial on Alpha Brain tested the effects of the supplement on cognition by giving trial participants a "battery" of neuropsychological tests before use of the supplement and after six weeks of use.
The study authors concluded that Alpha Brain use "significantly improved recent verbal memory" and executive functioning. In some tests, those taking Alpha Brain processed information around 20% faster than those taking placebo pills.
A 2018 clinical trial reported that Alpha Brain did not benefit performance on mentally-strenuous tasks in a trial population of U.S. army soldiers.
Given that one trial found Alpha Brain to be effective and another found it to be ineffective, we'll consider the supplement potentially effective for nootropic benefit until further research emerges.
But how do real users rate and describe the effects of Alpha Brain? We'll discuss that in the next section.
Real Users Review Alpha Brain
A YouTube creator named "PeteOnPurpose" reviewed Alpha Brain and even completed at-home memory tests to see if the supplement worked for him:
A YouTube creator named "Your Inception" reviewed Alpha Brain in a video with over 200,000 views which provides dosage recommendations and compares it to other nootropic supplements he's used:
Is Alpha Brain Black Label Better?
Onnit sells a premium version of Alpha Brain called Alpha Brain Black Label that retails for $124.95. Its ingredients are shown above.
Three of the active ingredients in this formulation are the same as in regular Alpha Brain: phosphatidylserine, l-theanine and toothed club moss.
The toothed clubmoss extract is only included at half the dose as in regular Alpha Brain, which is unfortunate because we found the original dose to be backed by research studies.
Velvet bean extract is unique to to this formulation, but we can't find any studies showing it to improve brain function (nor does Onnit link to any on their product page).
Lion's mane was shown in a clinical trial published in the Biomedical Research journal to improve cognitive function and reduce mental deterioration caused by dementia at a dose of 800 mg, however the dose in this supplement is only 500 mg.
An animal study found that this mushroom increased the rate of neurons formed in the brain, and improved memory.
Citicoline is another effective nootropic ingredient, but as we noted in our review of 5 Hour Energy, the minimum effective dose, at least according to the few clinical trials we could find on this ingredient, is 500 mg. The dose in Alpha Brain Black Label is 250 mg.
Caffeine is included at a dose of 25 mg. We cannot locate any medical research suggesting such a low dose of caffeine has nootropic effects. The lowest nootropic caffeine dose that we could identify in a clinical trial is 40 mg, and this dose was found to improve cognitive performance and increase alertness.
Sucrose as an inactive ingredient, and is a strange choice for a nootropic supplement.
While there’s almost certainly a small amount of sucrose in Alpha Brain, excessive sugar intake was shown to be associated with worsening cognitive function in a 2019 medical review. Given that many consumers in developed countries already consume excess sugar from their diet, it may be logical to avoid supplements with added, refined sugar.
Overall, we do not recommend Alpha Brain Black Label. We're unable to identify any effectively-dosed active ingredients in this formulation based on a review of medical studies, and it doesn't appear to be clinically tested like the original Alpha Brain formulation.
Not only do we consider Alpha Brain likely to be more effective than Alpha Brain Black Label, it's better-priced too.
Joe Rogan Discusses Alpha Brain
Many consumers initially became interested in Alpha Brain because of Joe Rogan. The popular podcast host and media personality is a part-owner of the business and an avid Alpha Brain user. He discusses the effects of the supplement in a popular YouTube clip on Onnit's channel:
Does Alpha Brain Cause Side Effects?
While any consumer can experience side effects from any medication or supplement due to individual biochemistry, we don’t believe Alpha Brain is likely to cause any significant side effects based on its ingredients and their respective dosages.
Even though we don’t currently recommend Alpha Brain, we don’t consider any of the ingredients unsafe or likely to cause side effects, and the clinical trials on the supplement didn't report any serious side effects.
There is no mention of side effects on the Alpha Brain or Alpha Brain Black Label pages of Onnit's website at the time of updating this article.
Where to Buy Alpha Brain for the Best Price
Alpha Brain is sold at a variety of online retailers. Here's a price breakdown at the time of updating this article for both the original and the Black Label versions:
Alpha Brain (90-count)
Brand website: $79.95 (plus shipping, link)
Vitamin Shoppe: $79.99 (free shipping, link)
Amazon: $68.97 (free shipping – link to official Amazon listing)
Alpha Brain Black Label
Brand website: $124.95 (plus shipping, link)
Amazon: $124.95 (free shipping – link to official Amazon listing)
Both Alpha Brain supplements are currently cheaper on Amazon than on the brand's website when factoring in shipping costs.
However, the brand website linked above offers a free trial, so it may be worth exploring for consumers who aren't sure about their purchase.
Our Clean Nootropic Picks
There are compounds which have been shown in medical studies to be effective for cognitive enhancement and memory support.
MCT oil is a food supplement derived from coconut oil that improved memory recall by 20% in adults in a 2022 meta-study.
Bulletproof MCT Oil is our top MCT oil pick, because its only ingredient is MCT oil derived from coconuts and it has zero additives. It currently retails for under $16.
Ginkgo biloba extract is arguably the most well-studied nootropic supplement apart from caffeine.
A medical review published in the Psychopharmacology journal found that ginkgo biloba supplementation improved attention and cognitive performance in healthy, young adults.
Illuminate Labs Ginkgo Biloba Extract is our supplement which is third-party tested to ensure purity and label accuracy, and retails for only $15 at a subscription price.
Panax ginseng extract is another well-studied nootropic supplement. A 2013 clinical trial found that ginseng extract caused "overwhelmingly positive effects on neurocognitive function across different cognitive domains."
Illuminate Labs Panax Ginseng Extract is our supplement which is third-party tested to ensure purity and label accuracy, and retails for only $15 at a subscription price.
Pros and Cons of Alpha Brain
Here are the pros and cons of Alpha Brain in our opinion:
- Some effective ingredients
- Original formulation shown to improve cognition in a clinical trial
- Unlikely to cause side effects
- Mostly positive online customer reviews
- Many ingredients may be underdosed
- We can't identify any effectively-dosed ingredients in Black Label
- Black Label contains sucrose
- Brand website charges for shipping even on $100+ orders