Herbal Nootropics

Nootropics, also known as smart drugs and cognitive enhancers, are drugs, supplements, and other substances that improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions such as: memory, creativity, and/or motivation in healthy individuals.--Wikipedia.

Herbal nootropics are a safer way to enhance mood, sharpen concentration, and improve focus without side effects.

Some of our favorite Nootropics are:

Huperzine A is a highly purified and concentrated extract from the Chinese club moss plant, which has a long history of use in herbal and Chinese medicine. Huperzine A, the main active compound in the plant, is used to enhance memory and learning. In one study, huperzine A improved memory and learning ability in a group of students, compared to a placebo. It may also be effective in improving cognitive function and reducing brain inflammation after traumatic brain injury. Newer studies are finding a significant improvement of cognitive function, daily living activity, and overall symptoms of Alzheimer’s patients.

Rhodiola Rosea, also called Arctic root, is an adaptogen that’s been used in traditional herbal medicine for hundreds of years. It’s been shown in many studies to prevent fatigue, reduce stress, combat mental fog, and enhance mental performance. In one study, rhodiola reduced fatigue, increased mental performance, enhanced the ability to concentrate, and decreased cortisol response to stress. Another study found that people suffering from mild to moderate depression who took rhodiola had fewer symptoms of depression than those who took a placebo.

Lion’s Mane, a mushroom used in culinary applications as well as in traditional Chinese medicine, has shown potential as a safe and effective nootropic. It contains compounds called hericenones and erinacines that may have neuroprotective and cognitive-enhancing effects. Other studies suggest that lion’s mane works by increasing nerve growth factor (NGF), a protein necessary for the growth, maintenance, and survival of neurons. Although most of this research is done in petri dishes, other studies in people suggest that lion’s mane is effective in improving mood and relieving depression.

Tyrosine, an amino acid found in eggs, turkey, beef, seaweed, soybeans, and Swiss cheese, is necessary for the production of norepinephrine and dopamine, neurotransmitters that play significant roles in mood regulation. Low levels of these neurotransmitters are linked with depression, apathy, fatigue, and lack of concentration, and some studies suggest that supplementing with tyrosine can alleviate even significant depression. It’s also extremely effective in preventing cognitive decline in conditions of stress.

Citicoline, a chemical that occurs naturally in the brain, is used to treat Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, as well as head injury, age-related memory loss, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Studies show that it can significantly improve cognitive impairments, especially those caused by vascular diseases (such as multiple small strokes and arteriosclerosis), and can improve memory and recall in elderly patients without dementia. Citicoline appears to work by enhancing circulation to the brain and improving neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to recover and restructure. And it’s not just for the elderly. Studies show that citicoline can improve motor speed and attention in adolescents and healthy adult women. In one study, people who took citicoline showed significantly improved attention and fewer mistakes on attention tests.

Acetyl L-Carnitine, a form of the amino acid carnitine that’s found in high-protein foods, is key in producing acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter for memory, learning, and cognition. By enhancing the body’s production of acetylcholine, acetyl L-carnitine can improve focus, alertness, clarity, and memory. Studies show a significant improvement in performance of mental tasks in Alzheimer’s patients after acetyl L-carnitine treatment, and also suggest that it may be effective in the treatment of dementia and cognitive impairment, especially as a result of alcoholism and degenerative diseases. It also has a positive effect on mood and depression, and in one study was shown to bring relief faster than prescription drugs, with no side effects.

L-Theanine, a compound found in tea, has been shown to promote concentration, alertness, and attention, creating a state of calm focus that similar to meditation. It works by increasing levels of serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, neurotransmitters that improve mood, memory, and learning. Combined with caffeine, it has been shown to improve both speed and accuracy on cognitively demanding tasks and to reduce susceptibility to distracting information during memory tasks. L-theanine may also help protect against neurodegeneration (death or loss of function of neurons).

Vinpocetine, a chemical that resembles a substance found in the common creeping plant periwinkle, is widely used in Europe as a brain booster. It’s thought to work by improving circulation, decreasing inflammation, and balancing neurotransmitter levels. It’s also been shown to increase blood flow and oxygenation to the brain. Studies show that vinpocetine may improve attention, concentration, and memory, and may enhance cognitive function and improve long- and short-term memory, especially in patients with cerebrovascular conditions.

Source: Better Nutrition, January 2018


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