Pine Bark Extract or Phoney Balogney?

Memory, attention, and problem-solving are important cognitive functions, invaluable in the navigation of everyday human life. Memory allows us to know our own cellphone numbers and email addresses. Attention gives us the ability to focus on lectures. Problem-solving helps us determine which assignments to do first, what the correct answer to a question on an exam is, and which route is the shortest way to class.

Cognitive research has shown that humans tend to remember ~7 digits at a time, can tone out other stimuli by focusing their attention on a target stimulus, and that problem-solving is a complex process that involves several parts of the brain. According to this article, there are particular substances that can be taken to enhance those very important cognitive abilities. Now, this comes to no surprise to many of us – the use of substances as brain-altering catalysts has been taken advantage of for millennia. This article in particular lists five nootropics, or substances that, “if used properly and safely, enhance the cognitive functions of the user.”

While the article does cite experimental research involving humans, it does not include many details about those studies. It lists the number of participants in each substance-based study, but no actual research is cited. The only reference takes you to a pyramid scheme-esque website ( with several articles about the use of nootropics for a variety of issues, including gaming and e-sports, sleep, short-term memory and visualization, and reduced forgetting.

In addition to an apparent lack of concrete research, the article does not go into very much detail. Instead of more savory paragraphs, it simply lists various information such as recommended usages, side effects, and what time of day the nootropics should be consumed.

These nootropics seem a little out there – substances such as pine bark extract and citicoline. In my humble opinion, if humans were meant to have pine bark extract in their brains, we would have developed an instinct to run headfirst into trees; however, this is not the case (for many of us, I would hope). The daily reliance of substances, albeit natural ones, seems a bit whacky to me. One would hope that healthy habits, such as exercise and adequate nutrition, would be more effective and long-lasting.

Before I spend £19.95 ($25.95) on 120 pine bark extract pills, I’ll be at the gym or trying to get enough sleep to help my brain out. I would also find a more reputable source, with access to actual data.