What the hell is a Nootropic? You’re about to get smarter!
Most people have watched movies like “Rain Man” or more recent ones like “Limitless’ or “Lucy”. We’ve all thought and fantasized about how cool it would be to have “super intelligence” and be able to think at the speed of light.
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Why I started using nootropics
I came across the notion of ‘nootropics’ many years ago, when I heard the term and had zero idea what it meant, I had never seen or heard this word. I was fascinated so I started doing some research to figure out what nootropics were and if they actually did work, or if it was just more useless nonsense for people to needlessly buy .
What on earth is a nootropic?
As per the the knowing sage itself… Google the ‘knowledge’ God, defines nootropics as ;
‘smart drugs and cognitive enhancers, supplements, and other substances that may improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals.’
What this means is that different nootropics will affect your mind in different ways and contribute towards different facets of cognitive function. They are a diverse group of substances coming from different sources that can help with thinking processes and much more.
Nootropics can roughly be divided into “pharmaceutical” (chemical), and “natural” or plant and fungi-based substances, depending on their origin.
Obviously, my interest lies within the plant based, funghi variety. I mean how cool is it that there are plants and mushrooms out there that if you eat them on a regular basis could make you think more clearly, improve your creativity and the way you process information, I was seriously interested.
Cognitive enhancement? Yes please. But what does it actually mean?
Now, when we say ‘cognitive enhancement’, or ‘intellect boost’, what are we referring to exactly? Let me explain;
Mental functions are divided into several “classes” of processes. For the purpose of this article and explaining nootropics, we’ll divide them into:
1. Executive function — the ability to make decisions and correlate cause and effect on a higher level. A good example of your executive memory functionality would be planning anything, anything at all. A holiday, a night out, your plans to shift career or even grandmas 90th birthday!
2. Memory — Memory process is divided into 2 categories, ‘episodic’ and ‘working’ memory. Working memory is a type of short term memory, basically the ability to retain and recall relevant information whilst in the middle of a task or activity. A good example of this would be; you’re in the car with your friend who told you she lives at house number 2, Riverside View Lane. You are able to remember this address and at the same time listen to her instructions on how to get there. The very next day you may not be able to recall the address as it was stored in your short term memory banks and gets erased. This is your working memory in action, basically it’s a short term memory function that aids you in completing a current task. Episodic memory is a type of long term memory / experience recall function that basically allows you to recall specific events that happened in the past, it also allows you to distinguish between the same event that happened at the same place but at a different time. For example, dinner at 7pm at home was delicious last Sunday but not so delicious the Saturday before. This is ‘episodic memory’.
3. Inhibitory control & attention — The ability to control oneself and not react to every stimulus in our surroundings. Its crucial for maintaining concentration and workflow, for example ability to maintain focus on what we are doing at the moment and what is important, and filter out the rest. An example of this would be reading a book and not getting distracted by sounds outside.
4. Motivation — Arguably one of the most important functions, motivation is what drives us towards completing a task or taking up new ones.
5. Wakefulness — although not a cognitive function in the true sense, wakefulness is a state then affects all other functions. If wakefulness is low, or we are sleepy or tired, all other functions are reduced and impaired.
Other divisions and aspects of cognitive function exist, but are not relevant for this topic, as nootropics don’t influence them much.
So, to really sum things up…. a substance is considered ‘nootropic’ when it enhances one or more of the functions above.
“Chemical” vs “Natural” nootropics
Many substances are reported as being nootropics and come in many varieties, including plant (and mushroom) based, dietary supplements, pharmaceuticals. Te huge problem with pharmaceutical nootropics, like amphetamine, metilphenidate, modafinil and piracetam work by attaching to select neuroreceptors and mimicking the functions of neurotransmitters. They are, in essence, mind affecting drugs. Although their effects are clear and quite potent, they do what most other mind-affecting substances do. They cause addiction. Not cool!
They disturb the brains natural chemistry. Something we definitely don’t want, so lets not go down that road.
Amphetamines and metilphenidate are quite popular with students and academics, who use them to get an edge when studying for exams. Amphetamines are also popular with some athletes as in low doses they can mask the feelings of tiredness, allowing you to push further than your opponents.
Although these chemical drugs have proven and studies effects which are quite noticeable, I’m here to tell you: you can get the same effects using a smart combination of natural products! Many natural nootropics exist and although they also work by stimulating the brain in some ways, many of them achieve their effects by stimulating, repairing and “nurturing” the brains natural pathways, check out next weeks article about a really magical mushroom called ‘Lions Mane’, I promise the information in that article will blow your mind. So in summary, natural nootropics boost existing metabolic pathways, they also don’t have the “down” phase, as pharmaceutical nootropics do.
The downsides of ‘synthetic’ or pharmaceutical nootropics are:
· Long term use is often unhealthy
· They disturb the brains normal chemistry
· Not very healthy for the body
· They usually have a “down” phase (when they stop working you feel worse than before taking it)
· Metabolizing them usually takes a toll on the liver
Our natural nootropic product
After years of research into nootropics and trying out many different ingredients and combinations, I decided that I wanted to create a nootropic stack specifically designed for athletes and people who had high activity, demanding lifestyles. There are good natural nootropic stacks out there, and many chemical ones, and all the combinations in between. However, no single product existed that is:
1. Natural (made completely from naturally occurring compounds)
2. Plant based
4. Healthy for the brain and body
5. Has no “down” phase
6. Safe and healthy to use for extended periods of time
So, I decided to create one. Through consultation with specialists in ethnobotany, mycology, nutrition and human performance we were able to create a formula that delivers what we felt was essential in an all natural daily nootropic.
Our product is a combination of hand-picked components, carefully balanced and combined to boost the brains natural functions, and help maintain long term brain health.
All of the ingredients are listed below, with a detailed summary of each ingredients benefits. It contains vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6, B12, which are all essential for proper nerve and brain function. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and contributes to the reduction of free radicals as well as brain functions. Vitamin D3 is essential for proper nerve development as well as mood and to treat depression.
Acetyl L-Carnitine reduces fatigue and feelings of tiredness and contributes to higher levels of energy. It also contributes to higher levels of dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline, all of which are crucial for cognitive function (Smeland, Meisingset, Borges, & Sonnewald, 2012).
Bacopa monnieri is used in Ayurveda to improve memory and to treat various ailments. Studies have generally found pro-cognitive effects with administration of the herb. A 2013 literature review of preliminary clinical research suggested that it had similar potential to improve cognition and memory to modafinil (Neale at all, 2013).
Rhodiola Rosea Extract is used to used to fight feelings of fatigue and feelings of weakness.
Phenylalanine, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, Taurine and L-Theanine are amino acids which are all essential for the synthesis of neurotransmitters and each individually have wakefulness and activity boosting capabilities.
Alpha-GPC increases neuroplasticity, which allows faster learning and better memory, and also boosts regeneration of nervous tissue (Barbagallo et all).
CDP-Choline or Citicoline increases the density of dopamine receptors, which increases mood and motivation.
Mucuna Pruriens seed extract contains both serotonin and dopamine, which again boosts mood and activity levels.
Phosphatidylserine is used to prevent cognitive decline and boost memory.
Theobromine is found in coffee and green tea, and is a well-known stimulant, as well as caffeine.
Ginkgo Biloba has well known mind-boosting effects and improves both short term and long-term memory.
Coleus Forskohlii extract functions by improving energy levels.
Huperzine-A prevents neurodegeneration and slows down ageing of the brain.
Artichoke leaf extract fights fatigue and exhaustion.
Uridine 5 Monophosphate improves overall cognitive function and boosts general intelligence (Holguin S, Martinez J, Chow, 2008).
Benfotiomine prevents neuropathy and helps strengthen nerves.
Celastrus Paniculatus seed extract has been shown to increase memory and intelligence and boost problem solving. Cognizin, or Citicoline likewise increases general intelligence and boosts memory.
Lions Mane promotes mental clairity, focus,memory and optimizes your bodies nervous and immune system. This is one of my favourite ingredients in the whole world. Im so into this ingredient that Im currently trying to grow fresh lions mane at home.
When all the components are considered, our product not only boosts all of the cognitive functions we listed above, but also protects against neurodegeneration, memory loss as well as Alzheimer’s disease. It will increase your mood, boost your motivation, increase your intelligence and memory, and allow you to live each day giving more than your maximum.
If you want to listen to something super interesting about Lions Mane, I love this interview from the JRE Podcast when his guest was the impressive Paul Stamets, a world renowned Mycologist (mushroom expert).
Check out our Nootropic product ‘Cognition’ coming soon. Make sure to drop your email into the form here to receive a 25% discount code when we launch in August. Then let us know what you think, how much did our product improve your daily life, memory and focus?
Aaron is the founder of www.thehonestearth.com To lead a quality life, one must be nourished with quality. We make the best plant based protein powders & supplements with sustainable ingredients from around the world.
Barbagallo Sangiorgi, G; Barbagallo, M; Giordano, M; Meli, M; Panzarasa, R (1994). “Alpha-Glycerophosphocholine in the mental recovery of cerebral ischemic attacks. An Italian multicentre clinical trial”. Ann NY Acad Sci. 717: 253–69. doi:10.1111/j.1749–6632.1994.tb12095.x
Holguin S, Martinez J, Chow C, Wurtman R (November 2008). “Dietary uridine enhances the improvement in learning and memory produced by administering DHA to gerbils”. FASEB Journal : Official Publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. 22 (11): 3938–46. doi:10.1096/fj.08–112425
Neale, Chris; Camfield, David; Reay, Jonathon; Stough, Con; Scholey, Andrew (5 February 2013). “Cognitive effects of two nutraceuticals Ginseng and Bacopa benchmarked against modafinil: a review and comparison of effect sizes”. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 75 (3): 728–737. doi:10.1111/bcp.12002
Smeland, O. B., Meisingset, T. W., Borges, K., & Sonnewald, U. (2012). Chronic acetyl-l-carnitine alters brain energy metabolism and increases noradrenaline and serotonin content in healthy mice. Neurochemistry International, 61(1), 100–107. doi:10.1016/j.neuint.2012.04.008