Brain power improves through brain use, just as our bodily strength grows with exercise. But, isn’t it correct that both require nourishment? The body needs essential nutrients, among which water enables vital bodily functions, vitamins and minerals maintain optimal health, carbs and fats provide energy backup, while proteins build and repair tissue.
So, what does your brain need then? Apart from, of course, all that delicious food for thought that you receive from science and arts to consume freely and devour voraciously?
Blueberries might protect it from dementia and Alzheimer’s, while avocados might mean the difference between hypertension and a healthy noggin. Still, neither can make you smarter.
The word you’re looking for is nootropics. If you were already using them, you would have known the answer from the start. In fact, you would have known every answer from the book.
Here’s why synthetic smart pills, brain boosters and cognitive enhancers can never replace natural nootropics, along with where to find and how to choose the best one for your brain.
- 1 The Myth vs the Real Story
- 2 What Are the Benefits of Using Nootropics?
- 3 Are Nootropics Safe?
- 4 Are Modern-Day Nootropics Natural?
- 5 How Can You Tell Which Nootropics Are Natural?
- 6 Best Natural Nootropic Supplements
- 7 Stacking Nootropics Up
The Myth vs the Real Story
Remember NZT-48 from the movie Limitless? The mysterious pill gave Bradley Cooper’s character a 4 digit IQ and superhuman cognitive abilities, not to mention the awesome potency to learn any language only by hearing it, or to tap into everything that was or ever has been a part of his experience.
Like many books and movies before, Limitless too encouraged the recurring myth of humans using as little as 10 pitiable percent of their brain capacity. Though scientists have busted this misconception a long time ago, proving that there isn’t some locked cerebral potential that we cannot access during our everyday intellectual endeavours, many brainiac types nevertheless continue their quest for a magic pill that would be strong enough to make them smarter, quicker, bolder, and more successful.
Spoiler alert, it doesn’t exist. Well, at least not in a safe, brain-nurturing form.
In the name of unstoppable creativity, some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have luckily found the nearest substitution – nootropics. They are not the ones who’ve invented it, of course, neither are they the only ones to use it. Loved by computer programmers, biohackers, scientists, people with high pressure careers, and college students, nootropics have been around since the dawn of consciousness.
Nootropics have helped our cave ancestor grow into a modern man.
They’ve been loved by shamans, healers and medicine men of old too, and used to boost cognition, improve memory, and protect the collective brain of their ancient tribes. Their virgin form was a plant, which is why nootropics remain the most natural cognitive enhancers on today’s vastly synthesized “smart” drugs scene. And, commercially speaking, the scene has known them from the early 1970s.
It was then that a Romanian scientist Corneliu Giurgea used Greek words for the noun mind and the verb to bend in order to coin the term. Today, nootropics are googled around 90,000 times a month by those eager to go beyond their limits of productivity, and to bend their minds to their will in a harmless way.
What Are the Benefits of Using Nootropics?
Besides clarity, you mean? It’s exactly how most nootropics users describe the effect. While other brain boosters will make you either mind-bogglingly high or anxiously wired, with nootropics you’ll feel nothing but utmost purity of thoughts. Some call it a laser-vision focus, others call it lucidity.
Be as it may, nootropics are powerful enough to improve cognitive functions like critical thinking, ability to focus, abstract learning, and short term memory, but still gentle enough to make you superhumanly smart without any consequences for either your brain or your overall health.
Since all nootropics alter the brain’s chemistry in one way or another, some of them energize the spirit and elevate the mood as well. In case you’re already familiar with similar substances, and therefore naturally resent the anxiety or panic attacks that usually come as side-effects, don’t worry. Nootropics won’t ever bring you down, but they will upgrade and protect your brain instead.
They start by taking care of your blood flow, after which they work on increasing its circulation to the brain. Together with blood, the brain is then fed with a number of essential nutrients. Some of them you consume through your regular diet, others are supplemented by nourishing compounds found in nootropics themselves. They are particularly beneficial to vegetarians, but valuable to all.
Oxygen is another companion to blood and nutrients, though it’s definitely more than a sidekick. Thanks to nootropics, the brain receives a healthy dose of oxidizing agents, responsible for optimizing neurotransmitters and neutralizing the formation of free radicals in brain cells. The mind is thus replenished and energized, while risks of inflammation or toxins are both significantly reduced.
So is the risk of premature brain aging and receptiveness to stress. As nootropics stop the formation of damaging free radicals, they encourage that of healthy new brain cells, which simultaneously increases neuroplasticity. In case you haven’t heard about it, it is a buzzword in modern-day psychology that promises the renewal and rewiring of the brain, and in plain language means “the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life”. Pretty neat, right?
The result may not be as close to the notorious NZT-48 as one would hope, but it’s pretty majestic if you come to think about it. Instead of a fatigued head, nootropics give you a clear mind. Instead of artificially induced hyper-intelligence, you receive lucidity. Nootropics’ effects are potent, but completely natural, with more boons for your brain’s health than you’ve ever thought you might need.
Are Nootropics Safe?
The definition of nootropics might be elusive, but there’s one thing all scientists agree upon – if the substance is harmful, then it doesn’t belong under this umbrella term. Being the official founder of this family of compounds, Doctor Corneliu Giurgea himself established a number of criterions for defining any substance as nootropics. Needless to say, the protection and promotion of brain health is the first and most important of those. To answer your question, yes, nootropics are perfectly safe.
In fact, they have actually been proven to be some of the safest types of nutritional supplements available on the market today. There isn’t any indication of nootropics forming a habit, an addiction, or tolerance, nor any health risks of using them together with other prescription drugs. Further research is being conducted as we speak, and will hopefully find that nootropics can be used for clinical purposes as well, primarily for treating Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.
In terms of a specific type, stack, and dosage, it’s certainly advisable to consult a doctor beforehand. Not every remedy is for every case, and we are, after all, as individual and unique as leaves of grass. The wrong choice won’t do you any harm, but it may cause headaches, fatigue, or insomnia. With ultimate brainpower and health being the entire purpose of using nootropics, you’d certainly want to avoid those and create the most suitable regimen for mind-blowingly optimal results.
Are Modern-Day Nootropics Natural?
Not all nootropics are proven to be effective or harmless, because not all of them have been scientifically researched yet. This, of course, applies to the broader definition of these compounds, the one that enthusiastically, but also dangerously, calls every brain-boosting substance a nootropic, be it temporarily effective or continually beneficial, FDA-approved or illegal, natural or synthetic.
Speaking of legal ambiguity that surrounds this broader, partially uncontrolled range of self-proclaimed nootropics, its’ important to note that current FDA regulations accept only a handful of them. They are, by rule, produced by leading pharmaceutical moguls, and are, as expected, heavily synthesized.
Declared as both effective and harmless, these “smart” drugs that may or may not be labelled as nootropics can be acquired only with a prescription. As such, they are universally frowned upon by believers in organic and herbal medicine, and often discarded as uncertain and unreliable.
After all, what can be better than the real thing?
The natural nootropics used today are certainly far from their virgin form. While in the ancient times herbs were consumed in a grinded, powder-like matter, and berries were eaten only after they’ve been dried up, modern-day preparation offers simplicity that’s both safer and more convenient.
Instead from the actual ground, we now take natural nootropics from capsules. They may be slightly processed, but that only means that contemporary science and manufacturing have made them more refined, thus reducing any potential risk of misuse or improper dosing. The technique has been changed to fit our modern needs, but the essence has remained the same.
How Can You Tell Which Nootropics Are Natural?
To unravel the confusion behind currently available substances that call themselves nootropics, one should first learn to discern between natural nootropics and synthetic ones. We are interested in the first category, since they are the only ones that have been proven to provide all the benefits discussed above. If healthy mental enhancement is what you want, then look no further from your garden.
Among natural nootropics themselves, scientists and advocates recognize herbal nootropics and natural supplements. Essentially, both are naturally-occurring compounds, with the main difference being that the latter have been pharmaceutically processed to a certain extent. A kind of natural nootropics that connoisseurs call herbal are exactly what their name suggests – synergistic compounds derived from brain-boosting herbs that have been further prepared for a modern-day consumer.
Since both fall under the category of natural nootropics, and both, it goes without saying, meet Giurgea’s requirement for the protection and promotion of brain health, our overview of the best natural nootropics will include examples of each, along with some examples of natural nootropics in food.
Best Natural Nootropic Supplements
Thanks to our scientific achievements, nature has found its perfect form in these five nootropic supplements. The list of benefits they provide doesn’t differ from the aforementioned boons of natural nootropics, and includes enhanced memory, improved cognitive function, sharp focus, and neuroplasticity, among many others.
The average gourmand’s body is full of citicoline, since the gourmand’s plate is full of nature’s most wholesome foods. Found in fresh food such as seafood, beef, and eggs, choline is the naturally-occurring substance that helps the body create citicoline on its own. This is not enough, though, which is why you can take it in the form of a natural nootropic supplement as well.
Just like turmeric, a plant this powerful nootropic is extracted from, curcumin is best known as a spice used in Indian and Asian cuisine. Because of the plant’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, people from these parts of the world have been treating health conditions with turmeric and curcumin for a very long time. Apart from the aforementioned benefits, curcumin also packs serotonin- and dopamine-boosting antioxidants, thus making you both clever and happy.
Speaking of “happy” hormones, 5-HTP is widely hailed for its powerful, yet gentle effect on serotonin. It’ll delight you to find that this natural nootropic supplement melts your calories too by promoting your gut health. Another important fact for all the hard-working minds out there, is that 5-HTP regulates the sleep cycle, helping your brain get the rest it needs.
Originally used as a remedy for bruises, the Chinese Club Moss Plant is considered to be the most generous source of huperzine-A. The stimulation of blood flow to the damaged area is its strongest suit, which is exactly what it does for your fatigued brain. Thanks to its memory-enhancing properties, this natural nootropic has been the number one choice for treatments of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease all across ancient China.
Your brain cell membranes produce phosphatidylserine on their own, but only if you nourish them with enough sunflower and soy oil. It’s where this natural nootropic is derived from, but you can also find it in cow brain, if that’s the sort of delicacy you’d consider for your dinner. You’ll definitely need it for blood flow regulation, so it’s either that or a supplement.
Best Herbal Nootropics
While there’s a myriad of nature-based nootropic supplements to choose from (those that were left unmentioned are just as brilliantly effective), the list of all-natural, herbal nootropics is somewhat shorter. It is, however, the real deal, so we strongly advise you to try them out as well.
You might have heard of the Chinese Ginseng, but the American version is currently considered to be an even better nootropic, particularly when it comes to that refreshing sense of clarity that we’ve talked about earlier in the guide. Wherever it may come from, Ginseng is still one of the most potent brain-enhancing herbs.
Luckily for your productivity, and unfortunately for your brain fog, arctic root is one of the best natural nootropics for a weary, stressed-out and unfocused mind. It too affects serotonin and dopamine in the brain, increasing their levels and making you feel refreshed and ready for new achievements.
In case Arctic Root doesn’t help, Bacopa certainly will. It boasts all the same benefits as its Arctic relative, after all – if you’re low on energy, but high on stress, either one of these adaptogenic herbs and natural nootropics will help you increase your serotonin and reduce your cortisol.
No, Ginkgo is not an old lady’s drink. It may be your grandma’s favourite tea, but it’s only because this wonderfully soothing natural nootropic helps her remember some of the best moments of her young life. Regardless of age, Gingko is amazing for enhancing your brain’s cognitive functions and will offer protection from damaging free radicals and memory loss.
You can sparkle it on your seafood (which is, by the way, yet another great example of natural nootropics in food), or you can drizzle it in a few random lines over your bathtub and inhale it from there. Rosemary feels as delicious as it tastes, and enhances both your brainwaves and your mood at the same time.
Stacking Nootropics Up
The brilliant thing about natural nootropics is that they all come from one big family of ancient remedies. Though not by their modern name, most of them have been known in folk medicine for their powerful properties, most of which were mixed, stirred, and blended together for the best, most invigorating effect. Modern-day medicine men do it too, though they call this technique stacking.
Stacking, or combining different natural nootropics for a more potent and longer-lasting result, is a common practice among today’s consumers, and is certainly something you should try. Once again, our advice is to do this after you’ve consulted your doctor – especially when you intend on using multiple nootropics. Even when they are completely natural, unsupervised usage can lessen the experience.
Be they fully organic, nature-based, processed, or completely synthesized, nootropics are plentiful resources of brain food. They are everything you need for staying on top of your intellectual game, sure, but these mind-enhancing compounds don’t stop there. Apart from making you smarter, natural nootropics can improve the quality of your everyday life too, thus bringing you one step closer to true mindfulness.