If you’ve ever watched the movie Limitless, you are aware of the promises of a super-drug that can make your brain work like some kind of superhero on steroids. If the pharmaceutical industry had their way, you’d be getting one of these super drugs from them—at a very premium price. However, there is actually a class of natural, herbal supplements called Nootropics, which may not make you a Mensa candidate, but can certainly increase your cognitive abilities, in some cases a hundred-fold.
How Nootropics Work
Nootropics work by supporting the brain’s chemical processes and communication abilities. Primarily they:
- Boost memory
- Increase our ability to learn
- Protect the brain from toxins
- Increase the neuronal firing in the cortical and sub-cortical areas of the brain
Nootropics are also called cognitive enhancers, because that’s exactly what they do—enhance how you think. Nootropics work in different ways, depending on the type of herb you take. The average adult human person has around 100 billion neurons, which account for trillions of different cellular communications every second of the day. It would only make sense, that by increasing the ability of these neurons to fire and communicate, we’d be able to perform most cognitive tasks at faster rate and with greater acumen.
Cholinergics, for example, help the brain work smarter and faster by boosting memory, focus and the ability to decipher new information. Choline can enhance, inhibit or mimic the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
Acetylcholine from a choline-rich diet can help boost the brain’s performance, such as when we eat eggs or certain types of fish. Yet, a supplement which supplies the brain with sufficient choline can also do wonders for our overall cognitive health. Soymilk, tofu, quinoa and broccoli are also particularly rich plant-based sources of choline, the well-established nootropic.
Another class of nootropics are called racetams. These are also known to be neuroprotective, as well as improve memory, focus, mood, learning abilities and energy levels. They’ve even been proven to reverse amnesia. These nootropics work by helping your brain signal more quickly.
All types of racetams have three things in common: nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen. There are numerous pharmaceutical versions of racetams, but they also occur naturally.
Vitamin B Derived Nootropics
Vitamin B derived nootropics are known for improving memory, as they affect the creation of choline, glutamate and dopamine in the body. These type of nootropics have also been used to help treat degenerative cognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer’s. There are both pharmaceutical and plant-based varieties. One comes with possible side effects, and the other doesn’t.
Numerous Drug-Based Nootropics
There are numerous additional categories of nootropics, but they are all mostly synthetic, which means that they can have side-effects like any other pharmaceutical drug. Specifically, Piracetam was one of the first lab-created compounds designed to enhance cognitive performance. Fortunately, there are quite a few completely natural alternatives, some of which can even be ‘stacked’ for massive effectiveness.
Natural Nootropics for Ultimate Brain Performance
Fortunately, there are many forms of plant-based, natural nootropics. You can even use several together at once without any real toxicity concerns to take your ‘super’ brain powers to the next level. Here are just a handful of them:
Chinese Club Moss– A nootropic derived from this plant is often seen in the form of Huperzine-A. It has been altered slightly in a lab, but you can always take it in its original form, as well. Research has shown that this supplement can provide significant memory improvements in Alzheimer’s and many dementia patients. There are also generous amounts of Club Moss in the adaptogenic herb complex TianChi.
Ginkgo Biloba – It has been used for centuries by Chinese medicine experts to improve memory and reduce anxiety. The winter blah’s were especially affected by supplementing with Ginkgo biloba in a randomized, double-blind test. This herb, too, can help with those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as proven through multiple meta-anylses.
Tryptophan– That easy breezy feeling you get after eating turkey and pumpkin pie following holiday meals is likely due to their high levels of tryptophan. It helps to boost our mood and our memory through the production of serotonin, which tryptophan helps to increase. It has also been found to have a significant effect on the gut-brain axis, or the way that our immune cells speak to our brains through the gut.
Bacopa Monnieri – This is a plant-derived substance coming from the Brahmi plant. It is so effective that it is often recommended by Aryurvedic practitioners, and has been used throughout India for centuries as a means to improve cognitive performance. Bacopa Monnieri has demonstrated antioxidant, hepatoprotective and neuroprotective activity. Not only has this herb effectively treated Alzheimer’s patients, but it also reduces anxiety, and it even reduces insomnia while improving memory. Just 300 mg a day seems to do the trick.
Lion’s Mane – This nootropic is an edible mushroom. You can buy it in specialty stores or also take it in supplement form. Along with reishi mushrooms and numerous other fungi, Lion’s Mane offers numerous health benefits. This particular mushroom has been shown to boost memory and also improve your mood, while reducing anxiety and lessening depression.
Artichoke Extract– This is a nootropic made from the leaves of artichokes. Due to its antioxidant properties, artichoke extract can help boost memory and improve cognitive performance. This herb can even help your brain work better after over-indulging in alcoholic beverages, staving off a hang-over. This herb also happens to help with digestive orders, high levels of bad cholesterol and acts as a prebiotic, as well.
You won’t likely be the crazy genius that the lead character is in Limitless, but you can certainly experience a better mood, less depression, a sharp memory, faster brain circuit firing, enhanced neuronal communication and improved overall cognitive abilities with nootropics. Might it be time to give plant-based supplements a try? Your super-powered brain is just waiting to reveal itself to you with their use.