The notion that a pill might increase intelligence beyond known human capacity is decidedly science fiction. However, a large number of scientists and pharmaceutical companies are creating nootropics: prescription drugs or supplements intended to enhance different areas of cognition.
The word ‘nootropic’ is roughly translated from the Greek "to bend or shape the mind."
While drugs like Provigil (for narcolepsy); Ritalin and Adderall (for ADHD); and Axura (for Alzheimer’s) all constitute prescription nootropics, we share the natural forms of ‘smart drugs’ that we’re currently exploring…
Ginseng root is an ancient medicinal plant traditionally use to support brain function. Taking a single dose of 200 - 400 mg has been shown to reduce brain fatigue and significantly improve performance on difficult tasks like math problems. It is worth noting, however, that longer-term studies have found that the body may adapt to ginseng, making it less effective after several months of use.
Green Tea and L-Theanine
L-theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in green tea, but it can also be taken as a supplement. Studies have shown that taking just 50 mg – the amount found in roughly two cups of brewed tea - can have a calming effect, increasing alpha waves in the brain without causing drowsiness.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s mane is a medicinal mushroom proven to benefit the brain, nerves, and immune system. As a nootropic, it is particularly effective in stimulating Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) in the hippocampus of the brain, enhancing learning and neuroplasticity. It has also been investigated as a way to lessen the amyloid plaques that obstruct communication between neurons and have been linked to the development of neurodegenerative illnesses like Alzheimer's.
This adaptogenic plant may improve the body’s ability to manage stress. Studies have shown that taking rhodiola rosea supplements might lessen feelings of burnout in people who are nervous or under a lot of stress, with college students taking it in small dosages throughout the day reporting fewer feelings of stress and mental exhaustion.
Extracts from the leaf of the ginkgo biloba leaf may be beneficial for brain health. When taken regularly for six weeks, ginkgo biloba supplements have been found to enhance memory and mental processing in healthy older adults. It may also assist in reducing stress-related high blood pressure and cortisol levels.
Every cell in your body contains a form of choline called CDP-choline. We wouldn't be able to walk, think, sleep, or remember anything without choline, because it is essential for nerve and cognitive function. Memory and cognitive processes are particularly impacted by CDP-choline, which gives the brain the fuel it needs to exert persistent mental exertion. Because your body needs this nutrient more quickly than it can make it, it may be useful to add to your nootropic supplement arsenal.
This aquatic herb was first discovered in the wetlands and marshlands of Southeast Asia and India. It is also referred to as water hyssop, or ‘Brahmi’, after the deity Brahma. Early Ayurvedic texts cited it as a way of helping to lessen stress, anxiety, and low mood. Today, it has become more well known as a nootropic for supporting memory and cognition.
It is important to remember that getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and managing stress remain the first steps in supporting your mental health. Adding a nootropic to your supplement regime may help take you a step further in the direction of your goals, and should be discussed with your healthcare provider.