HomeBrain HealthNatural Nootropics for Enhancing Brain Health, Memory and Learning
Natural Nootropics for Enhancing Brain Health, Memory and Learning
Recently I’ve got more and more questions about natural nootropics and smart drugs. Well, it’s not a really surprise that people want to raise their performance, because there are ~7.3 billion people struggling for the world’s diminishing resources. Using nootropics is becoming more common and we see more people taking them to benefit their work career and enhancing brain power & health.
Today, more and more people work in so-called creative work career, where your cognitive performance dictates how successful you will be. Thats why for many people, using nootropics is no longer a choice, but a necessity. In addition, nootropics inspiring films like Lucy and Limitless have surely caused a lot of interest for nootropics and performance enhancers.
How nootropics, smart drugs or cognitive enhancers affects?
Can nootropics really make a normal person smarter? Many will surely imagine that nootropics could change them to a superhuman as seen in Hollywood movies.
Unfortunately, in real life, the real effects from nootropics are far away from these films. Using smart drugs does not change you to a genius who can make millions in the stock market in a short time.
In fact, nootropics won’t increase your IQ by 150 points. However, they do elevate and accelerate your brain’s neurotransmitters and circulation, which can be seen as enhanced cognitive abilities, memory, virility and mood.
Practically, this will be perceived as better memory, focus, and learning. Many will also feel that they are socially sharper, more positive, better mood, reduced anxiety and other fears. Improvements in sex life and sports training are also common with increased dopamine and serotonin levels.
How you will experience these effects, depends entirely on your starting level. Generally speaking, the sharper and “bright spark” you are the less you will benefit from nootropics. On the other hand, if you are a naturally slow, foggy or distracted individual, then nootropics can give significant benefits to you.
Safety of nootropics
Generally, these natural nootropics and smart drugs that are commonly available to a normal person are relatively safe. Of course, if you use these with for example medications like SSRIs, SNRIs, MAOIs the consequences may be serious.
Also It is worth remembering that the human brain has not fully developed until you are about 25 years old.12 If you are under the age of 25 you may want to stay in natural safe smart drugs like L-theanine and creatine.
Always consult your doctor for permission before using any herbal remedies or anything in this site if you are suffering from a disease or take medicines.
Here is the popular natural nootropic supplements that can enhance brain health, memory, learning or even reduce stress. Most of them have scientifical evidence from human studies, but for some, investigations are at an early stage. I use all of these regularly.
Carnitine is an amino acid obtained especially from meat products, but the body can also produce it from lysine and methionine itself. The body transforms carnitine into acetylcarnitine (AlCAR).
Carnitine derivative acetyl-l-carnitine is able to bypass the blood brain barrier easily. Which why many people are using acetyl-l-carnitine supplements to enhance brain function.
Animal experiments have shown that acetyl-l-carnitine has improved learning, decreased cognitive impairment, increased serotonin in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus and might protects the brain against alcohol-related side effects.
Human studies are still limited. Acetyl-l-carnitine has been shown to alleviate decline and fatigue of cognitive abilities caused by Alzheimer’s disease and aging, as well as significantly reduce ADHD symptoms in children. However, there is not yet reliable studies made with healthy people.3–8
Of course, the benefits of ALCAR are not just to promote brain function, but it also has many other possible benefits, such as improved insulin sensitivity, sperm quality, nitric oxide production (+possibly erection).9–16
That is, acetyl-l-carnitine seems to be beneficial for those with impaired brain function, but the younger ones can also use it (for increasing training power, erection and sperm quality,
Generally reported ALCAR benefits:
– Motivated and positive feeling
– Increased coping
– More vigilant and more energetic
– Improved ability to retain and absorb information (better memory)
– Increased sports performance
Generally reported ALCAR side effects:
– Excessive dose may cause muscle twitching
– Too stimulated feeling (just the same as excess coffee)
ALCAR has a pretty tasteless flavor and the best value for money is to choose unsweetened powder. I personally use PrimaForce Alcar, which is great value for money. Jar contains appromicly are 500 doses (500mg), which is enough for at least one year. Packet includes a measuring spoon that can be conveniently used to take 500mg doses.
I take ALCAR powder with my morning coffee, as at least in one study coffee is noted to boost effects of ALCAR.17
Novadays very few people have optimal B-vitamin levels and even deficiencies are common. Many smart drug expert recommend that B-complex supplement is where everyone should start their smart drug experiments, as B-vitamins are really important for optimal brain function.
There are also people who report that certain smart drugs or nootropics work better after they correct their B-vitamin deficiency.
We have seen this trend also in studies, where B-vitamin consumption has reduced stress, improved cognitive performance, mental health and vitality.18–23
Its good to also know that there are people with certain mutatations who can not convert certain b-vitamins to bioavailable form. For example about 40% of the population may have certain MTHFR mutation (source).
When choosing vitamins B supplements it’s good idea to pay attention that they are in bioactive form, to make sure vitamins are actually absorbed.
I use this B-complex where all the B vitamins are in bioactive form. 1 capsule a day is enough to ensure optimal vitamin B intake, at least if the diet is in a relatively good condition. When you take this, you do not need to take vitamin B12 separately.
L-Theanine + coffee
Many recognizes L-theanine as pill which lowers anxiety and social frustration. Coffee is perhaps the world’s most famous stimulant that enhances precision and keeps you awake longer.
However, for many people coffee causes nervousness and restlessness. When coffee is combined with a L-theanine, it can relieve the negative aspects of coffee and improve the positive benefits.
Caffeine also seems to improve positive effects of L-theanine. Because of this L-theanine and coffee is a very popular natural nootropic combo.
Research has also found the positive interaction between coffee and L-Teanine:2425
“The L-theanine and caffeine combination improved both speed and accuracy of performance of the attention-switching task at 60 min, and reduced susceptibility to distracting information in the memory task at both 60 min and 90 min. These results replicate previous evidence which suggests that L-theanine and caffeine in combination are beneficial for improving performance on cognitively demanding tasks.” – Study
“There was also a significant positive caffeine x L-theanine interaction on delayed word recognition reaction time. These results suggest that beverages containing L-theanine and caffeine may have a different pharmacological profile to those containing caffeine alone.” – Study
Creatine is one of the world’s most searched and used nutritional supplements. While many people are aware of the fact that creatine helps to builds muscles, there are also studies suggest that it gives a significant boost to working memory and overall intelligence.
Natural hebal nootropics that can be used for boosting brain power, relieve stress and increase energy. Most of them are perfectly safe for longer usage, but you might need to cycle some of them.
Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi)
Bacopa Monnieri is also called the Brahmi which is a popular Nootropic herb from India. Bacopa Monnier is commonly used to alleviate anxiety, stress, to improve memory and learning.
Bacopa Monnieri and its main active ingredient (bacosides) are mainly based on their ability to improve synapse communication and hippocampus kinase activity. It alleviates anxiety and fears by increasing the activity of neurotransmitter receptors (which regulates serotonin).
Studies show that Brahmi improve memory in cognitively impaired elderly people and also in young healthy people. There have also been reports of depression and anxiety mitigating effects. Other benefits noted in the studies include: faster learning and improved memory capacity.27–36
With Bacopa Monnier you should not wait for one night miracle, as its active ingredients will only affect after 4-6 weeks of daily use. And the actual results can only be seen after 8 to 12 weeks of supplementation. However, you might feel anxiety-suppressing effects faster.
If you use Bacopa Monnier as an nootropic, you should pay attention to how much bacosides your product contains. Plant Bacopa monnier leaf has only about 8% is an effective bacoside and the amount of dried powders varies between 2-6%. For this reason, for example, with dried powders, it is really difficult to know the optimum dose, so it is advisable to favor products with standard quantities of bacosides (extracts).
For smart drug use its best to choose one that has the highest number of active standardized bacosides (for smart drug use).
Bacopa Monnier should be taken with a fatty meal as the main ingredients are fat soluble. Generally, the recommended maximum maximum dose for the smart drugs use is about 150mg of bacosides, but it might good idea to start with a lower doses and see how it will affect.
The mushroom called Hericium erinaceus is better known as “Lion’s Mane” which is touted to enhance brain function and protect nerve cells. However, human studies are still at an early stage.
The effect of Lion’s Mane on brain function is apparently based on its ability to stimulate Nerve Growth factor (NGF) messenger RNA, which would basically mean faster functioning brain.
This theory has been tested in mices and it has been found that it really increased the level of NGF mRNA expression in the hippocampus.37 However, it is worthwhile to have a healthy skepticism with Lion’s mane, as human experiments are still in early stages.
In human studies, Lion’s Mane has been found to cause significant improvements in the dementia grade scale (Revised Hasegawa Dementia Scale) in a people suffering from general cognitive impairment.38 The use of Lion’s Mane also has been found to be associated with reduced anxiety, depression and menopause symptoms in women.39 In rats, lion’n mane has been found to protect against cognitive impairment caused by amyloid plaque.40
Although these results are not yet very convincing, they provide indications that Lion’s Mane can help at least if you suffer from cognitive impairment.
Huperzine-A is isolated from an Asian plant called Huperzia serrata. Huperzine-A is known to function as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, which hinders the acetylcholinesterase enzyme from breaking down acetylcholine, leading to higher acetylcholine levels in the brain.
According to Wikipedia acetylcholine plays a pretty important part in the brain:
“In the brain, acetylcholine functions as a neurotransmitter and as a neuromodulator. The brain contains a number of cholinergic areas, each with distinct functions. They play an important role in arousal, attention, memory and motivation.”42
But does Huperzine-A actually work? Well, if you look scientifical studies about the subject, you will notice that most of them are really low-quality and poorly made studies from China.
According to these studies: Huperzine-A has shown some positive results in Alzheimer’s studies.43–45 One study noted improved memory and learning performance in students.46 Huperzine-A might also help unravel some cognitive symptoms with major depressive disorder.47 Huperzine-a might also have some neuroprotective features based on animal studies.48–51
Generally speaking, if you have low levels, increased acetylcholine could improve your memory activity, concentration, clarity, and ability to handle information. But this of course depends entirely on the person taking it.
Huperzine-A is definitely nootropic that you need to cycle. 3-4 days a week for a maximum of 2 weeks is generally recommended.
Important! If you are already using other acetylcholinesterase inhibitors do not take Huperzine-A without a doctor’s permission. Otherwise, you should ask your doctor for permission if you have any illness or take any other medication.
Huperzine-A should be tested and dosed carefully. Many people have already spoiled their own dopaminergic paths with alcohol or drugs and Huperzine-A can confuse the pack even more. In such cases, it is possible that Huperzine-A may potentially have the opposite effect of what is being sought.
Huperzine-A is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, and excess acetylcholine can cause unpleasant side effects. The dosage of Huperzine-A depends entirely on the person, but generally 25-200 mcg day / 3-4 times a week is sufficient for smart drug use and sleep improvement.
Study where students improved memory and learning performance used 50 mcg 2 times day.46 Another human study used dose of 400 mcg (0.4mg) of huperzine-A and noted it to reach peak blood concentrations after about 1 hour from ingestion, but has relative long half life ~10 hours.52 So basically single dose can provide benefits for a whole day.
Tim Ferriss in his book The 4-Hour Body, recommends taking 200 mcg 30 minutes before going to bed ( max 3 times a week ).
Its a good idea to choose a standardized extract where the quantity Huperzine A is clearly stated. For example, acclaimed Source Naturals Huperzine-A (1 tablet 200 mcg standardized extract).
Generally reported Huperzine-A benefits:
– More “awake”, more accurate and clearer state
– Sleep quality has improved
– Increased concentration
– Improved memory
– Positive energetic feelings
Rhodiola Rosea its best know about its ability to alleviate stress, fatigue and depression, but its smart drug use is on the rise also. Rhodiola Rosea is used to increase energy, motivation, and improve mood. The power of Rhodiola Rosea as an smart drugs is mainly based on its ability to alleviate stress and fatigue, but it may also have memory and concentration enhancing properties.53–56
Generally reported rhodiola rosea benefits:
– Increased motivation and increased mood
– Clearer mind
– Increased self-confidence and sexual desire
– Increased social behavior
– Improved quality
– Pleasant memories come up.
Generally reported Rhodiola Rosea side-effects:
– Overactivity, anxiety, arrhythmia with coffee. (Not recommended with coffee)
– Dry mouth
– Symptoms of serotonin syndrome (safety of rhodiola rosea)
There are natural nootropics which have real benefits proven in repeated human studies and are safe to use for most people. However, it’s also good to remember that your diet, sleep and even exercise affects your brain health, and you can’t really overcome bad diet and lack of sleep by using nootropics.
Please note this list is not finished, there is a lot more natural nootropics which will be added to this list shortly. I will keep updating this list regularly when new studies and experiences appear.
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