There are health enhancers and panaceas for pretty much every part of your body, but the amazing computer which keeps it all ticking over can sometimes need support too. Cognitive function which drives every mental ability is dependent upon the health of your brain.
The term nootropic refers to substances obtained from certain foods, natural supplements and pharmaceutical drugs which are able to affect your ability to take in and process information, to remember what you have learned, to concentrate and feel motivated and to pay attention to whatever you are moved to think about and achieve.
Sometimes called ‘smart drugs’, nootropics can support those who are in good health but wish to aspire to a razor-sharp mentality, maximise concentration skills, hone motivation and give a boost to mental awareness.
For many, the effects of ageing can bring fear of impending memory loss and a reduction in concentration skill. Mental agility well into senior years is something everyone hopes for, but it’s not unusual to experience spells of memory lapse and feelings of vagueness known as brain fog. Nootropics can help alleviate these symptoms.
History of Nootropics
Table of Contents
The term nootropics was introduced in 1971 by a Romanian psychologist and chemist called Corneliu Giurgea. He arrived at the name by joining together the Greek words for ‘mind’ and ‘turn.’ Translated into English this means mind turner or mind bender, which could be a bit misleading and definitely doesn’t mean that nootropics are mind altering drugs in the way of hallucinogenic substances. On the contrary, they have a much more positive and practical effect on the brain without the risks and side effects of those substances which have psychedelic repercussions.
To quote Giurgea “A nootropic should safely support and improve cognitive performance.” This is the guideline and gives a good indication of what a nootropic is, and what it is not. There are certain products which are being labelled ‘nootropics’ but which have no scientific basis for the title. Also, there are some substances which have been found to have either negligible benefits or else to be harmful in their effects.
Top Natural Nootropics
Genuine nootropics have been shown by scientific studies to be both safe and effective. Those with strong evidence of effectiveness are from vitamins, herbs and amino acids.
Among these natural nootropics are:
- Acetyl L-Carnitine- Aid alertness, memory and cognitive decline.
- alpha GPC (glycerylphosphorylcholine)- Improve memory, learning and cognitive decline.
- Ashwagandha – Decreases stress
- Bacopa Monnieri – Increases memory
- Caffeine – Stimulant
- Creatine – Increases energy
- Feverfew – Decrease migraine
- Ginkgo Biloba – Aids cognitive ageing
- Lion’s Mane Mushroom – Antioxidant and can benefit cognitive impairment
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Supports mood and brain health
- Inositol – Decreases stress
- Maritime Pine Bark – Antioxidant and boosts cognitive function
- Melatonin – Promotes sleep
- Rhodiola Rosea – Increases energy and improves focus
- L-theanine – Promotes relaxation
- Vitamin B2 – Decreases migraine
- Vitamin B6- Enhance alertness, cognition and memory.
- Vitamin B12- Boost alertness, concentration and memory.
- Zinc – Supports mood
Best Natural Nootropics from Food
Tea is possibly our national beverage and most people’s go-to comfort drink. Both black and green tea contain the substance L-theanine which, according to a 2016 review, can possibly increase alpha waves in the brain. Alpha waves are known to create a relaxed state of mind which is nevertheless on high alert. Green tea is especially high in L-theanine amino acid which can reduce stress. When teamed with caffeine the combination gives a boost to cognitive performance. Caffeine can improve mental focus but should be regarded as a short-term measure.
A word of warning on caffeine. As with any substance, whether it’s natural or artificial, there is a potential for side effects and overdose. Most of us enjoy coffee and tea and these are fine in moderation but using caffeine in tablet or powder form is risky as it can cause a racing pulse and seizures. One teaspoon of pure caffeine powder is equal to approximately 28 cups of coffee and there is a very fine line between what constitutes a safe amount and a dangerous amount.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are very well known and have been used for decades to boost brain function. Omega-3 helps with the repair and renewal of brain cells. A review in 2015 concluded Omega-3 could protect against brain ageing. It was also the subject of a clinical trial to assess the cognitive improvement in the brains of young adults. The trial had positive findings. Research has also found that Omega-3 is important for supporting the central nervous system. These fatty acids are derived from eating fatty fish as well as taking fish oil in supplement form.
Cocoa beans contain flavanols which are able to increase blood flow to the brain and instigate the production of new brain cells. Try to choose a dark chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa.
Red wine could have nootropic value due to its high levels of resveratrol which is an antioxidant that targets free radical invasions.
Coconut oil is high in medium chain fatty acids which, instead of being digested, make it directly to our liver where they are converted to ketones. These ketones are then used by our brain to make adenosine triphosphate, a fuel for the brain and a substance which improves memory function.
Because they have high levels of choline, eating eggs helps our brain to send signals across neuronal membranes. Choline is also utilised by our body to make acetylcholine which helps us to achieve deep sleep, and this results in us being able to retain new memories. Eating plenty of eggs has been found to seriously help brain performance, particularly among senior age groups.
Blueberries contain a powerful antioxidant called anthocyanin which slows the ageing process of the brain. Anthocyanin also helps memory and cognitive function generally. No wonder they are classed as one of the superfoods.
Curcumin, the active ingredient found in the root of the turmeric plant has a wealth of nootropic powers. It is possibly one of the most researched natural foods which has been found to possess the ability to stimulate brain cell production. It has been proven to be effective in the treatment of depression, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.
Dark green leaves such as spinach, kale and chard are some of the best ways of taking in high levels of the chemicals lutein and zeaxanthin which are brain-health nutrients. They help with increased memory and improved recall.
Natural Nootropic Supplements
Sometimes speed and convenience is of paramount importance and the ability to be able to reach for a tried and trusted supplement to give the desired effect is worth its weight in gold. This is particularly true at times of stress or when there is an urgent need for a boost to fulfil a certain aim. It is important to use a tried and trusted supplier who has the purity and provenance of the product as their number one priority.
For anyone struggling with neurological issues, to be able to ease symptoms and support with trusted natural supplements which are free from the side effects associated with artificial pharmaceutical drugs is often a much more appealing route.
Here are some of the most widely acknowledged herbal extracts and amino acids recommended by natural medicine and recommended in supplement form:
- Ginkgo Biloba – Leaves from the Ginkgo biloba tree, which is a native species of China, are an ancient herbal supplement. A systematic review and meta-analysis of several randomised controlled trials was published in 2016 which concluded that Ginkgo biloba is potentially beneficial for the improvement of cognitive function. It also reported that due to inconsistent findings, more research is warranted to confirm effectiveness and safety in treating cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Panax Ginseng – A shrub native to China, the roots are used for medicinal purposes. Panax ginseng is not the same as Siberian or American ginseng. A 2018 review concludes that the beneficial properties of Panax Ginseng on neurodegenerative diseases are due to the antioxidative and immunomodulatory properties. There can be interactions with certain medication so it is important to consult a doctor before taking it.
- Lion’s Mane Mushroom – A powerful antioxidant which enhances the immune system and is excellent for fighting inflammation which contributes to many diseases. Lion’s Mane mushroom has also been found in studies to have a beneficial effect on mild cognitive impairment and memory.
- Rhodiola Rosea L. (roseroot) – One of the most verified and well-known medicinal plants in the northern hemisphere. It is from the roots of the rhodiola rosea that antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health supporting compounds are extracted. Many studies have been carried out to verify these properties. Rhodiola has been found to have neuroprotective power due to phytochemical substances such as flavonoids and phenols. Additionally, certain compounds are present which may ease depression and other cognitive dysfunctions. A review article highlighting this research has been published. A further review highlights rhodiola’s ability to regulate neurotransmitters in the brain, resulting in mood enhancement.
- Maritime Pine Bark –Highly antioxidant as well as giving powerful support to the circulatory system. It has been found to be beneficial for boosting brain health and cognitive function. Read more.
- Creatine – An amino acid which is a building block of protein, making it effective for athletes who need to increase their stamina and performance. It has been found to also have positive effects on cognitive function. The International Society of Sports Nutrition verify that taking creatine as a supplement at a rate of up to 30 g per day is safe for healthy adults. However, there is a 2018 review which questions whether it is safe to be taken by younger adults and adolescents.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Have long been popular for general health as well as improved cognitive function.
Nootropics can be purchased individually as capsules or powders but to save you time and a great deal of research into what to take and how much of it you need, we have devised a supplement called Nootropic Complex which contains an expertly blended formulation of the best and most effective natural nootropics. This combination will meet the cognitive needs of those who most need and aspire to a higher level of brainpower with one easy to apply solution:
- Striving to problem solve and meet deadlines
- Needing a clear head, great recall and reasoning skills
- Athletes needing help with motivation and willpower.
- Over 60s searching for support for memory, mental alertness and that feel-good factor
- Students working for exams need good recall, fact storage and calm attitude
Right across the whole range of those aspiring to increase cognitive ability Nootropic Complex is able to give brain-boosting support.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at [email protected]