Nootropics are natural supplements or drugs that have a beneficial effect on brain function in healthy people. Many of these can boost alertness, creativity, motivation, memory, and general cognitive function. Nootropics may also reduce age-related declines in brain function.
Nootropics Improve Brain Function
It has been said that your brain uses 25 percent of your energy, and these days, between life stress, work, and general fatigue, it can sometimes feel like brain fog takes over. Now, there exist a number of non-pharmaceutical herbs and substances, called nootropics, that say they can be utilized to boost your brain and help you feel sharper and clear-minded — and thus more productive.
Just as athletes take supplements to enhance their physical performance, some people hope to sharpen their wits with so-called brain boosters. Who doesn’t want a healthier brain — one that’s quick, focused, and ready to tear it up at trivia night? Fortunately, there are plenty of paths to brain health. Proper diet is one — fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, and natural proteins — while regular exercise and social outings are some others. But what if you’re looking for a little extra boost? In that case you’ll want to turn to nootropics.
Research supports the Mediterranean diet as a winner in warding off dementia. You can fine-tune the cognition-enhancing benefits of this eating plan by breaking out specific nutrients to ensure you consume plenty of the foods that deliver the most brain-strengthening bang for the buck.
Nootropics can be classified as pills, supplements, and other substances designed to improve various aspects of cognition including motivation, creativity, memory, and mood. Commonly referred to as either brain-boosters or smart drugs, they support memory and cognitive performance and provide neuro-protection in healthy people. Basically, nootropics boost brain power and protect your brain from deteriorating over time.
Supplements may affect cognitive function directly or indirectly. Direct effects include things like altering or participating in neurotransmission and participating in or influencing energy metabolism. Indirect effects include things like altering the levels of hormones that affect the brain, protecting the brain from damage and dysfunction, and ameliorating disorders that can affect cognitive functioning, such as insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
The Best Nootropic Supplements
Aging takes its toll on your cognitive abilities as well as your physical ones. Memories become fuzzy, you find yourself misplacing your keys on an all-too-regular basis, and your work performance isn’t as on point as it used to be. Luckily, there are supplements you can take to mitigate this mental deterioration.
Resveratrol is an antioxidant that occurs naturally in the skin of purple and red fruits like grapes, raspberries and blueberries. It’s also found in red wine, chocolate and peanuts. It’s been demonstrated that taking resveratrol supplements could prevent the deterioration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain associated with memory. If this is true, this treatment could slow down the decline in brain function you experience as you get older.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
As far as brain supplements go, omega-3 fatty acids are a great place to start. That’s because your body can’t naturally make this type of fat from scratch. And trust us: You don’t want to miss out on their big-time benefits.
Omega-3s bring a bit of everything, including improved reaction times, memory, and brain function. They may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and potentially — as shown in studies — even help prevent depression and dementia. Babies benefit, too. In fact, omega-3s promote brain health both during pregnancy and early life — making it an important nutrient for expectant parents and newborns alike.
Fish oil contains the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which are critical for neurological development and function. Many studies have looked at the ability of omega-3s to mitigate age-related deterioration of the brain, with interesting results. In one animal study, DHA and EPA supplementation reversed changes related to aging and maintained learning memory performance.
L-theanine is great for improving focus without the jittery (and potentially serious) side effects of stimulants like Adderall. That said, L-theanine combines well with a decidedly milder and more common upper, caffeine. A compound found in black and green tea, L-theanine on its own can bring about a state of relaxed alertness and so is commonly used to treat anxiety. When paired with caffeine, it works synergistically to increase memory and improve reaction time. One systematic review found L-theanine simultaneously reduced anxiety and increased attention.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a botanical ingredient that supports healthy brain function. Ashwagandha is a traditional Ayurvedic (an ancient system of medicine developed in India) botanical, and is possibly the most popular Ayurvedic herb in the Western world. This botanical has been used for thousands of years to calm and normalize the body and reduce the effects of stress, as was shown in a study of chronically stressed individuals given ashwagandha root extract.
Ashwagandha also might be neuroprotective, which means it helps protect the brain from damage by factors like oxidative stress. In a double-blind study of 60 healthy adults, 250 mg of an ashwagandha root extract resulted in improvements in information processing, sustained attention, and overall cognitive function.
A perennial shrub native to the wetlands of Northern India, Bacopa Monnieri is used in Ayurvedic medicine to improve perception, memory, and cognition. Bacopa is an adaptogen (it helps the body adapt to stress). A 2015 study found that Bacopa Monnieri increases levels of serotonin while decreasing levels of dopamine (which has positive implications for mood elevation, stress reduction, and memory enhancement).
Bacopa increases communication between neurons in rats, suggesting that this powerful substance can help improve learning ability. Studies also show that Bacopa improves memory recall in healthy adults, and substantially increases recall, attention, and mood.
Phosphatidylserine, or PS, is a type of fat compound called a phospholipid, which can be found in your brain. It’s been shown that taking phosphatidylserine supplements could be helpful for preserving brain health.
Studies have shown that taking 100 mg of phosphatidylserine three times per day could help reduce age-related decline in brain function. Additionally, healthy people who take phosphatidylserine supplements of up to 400 mg per day have been shown to have improved thinking skills and memory.
Research indicates supplementing with PS derived from cows may help reduce the cognitive decline that often accompanies aging. In a study examining the effects of PS on almost 500 elderly subjects with cognitive impairment, statistically significant improvements in the phosphatidylserine-treated group compared to placebo were observed both in terms of behavioral and cognitive parameters after 3 and 6 months.