Natural nootropics can help you achieve your mental peak with fewer side effects than synthetic drugs. The term nootropic has significantly broadened its meaning since it is very popular and different people interpret it differently. A somewhat accepted definition of nootropics says that anything that makes your brain healthier and improves mental performance is a nootropic.
A nootropic should leave your brain in better mental condition than before, or at least help you reach better mental performance while using it.
Natural nootropics can also contribute to better brain performance. A short list of functions that these substances can improve:
- Brain blood circulation
- Supply of precursors to neurotransmitters
- Reduce brain inflammation
- Slows down brain aging
- Help in new brain cells formation
- Stress resistance
- Provide nutrients to the brain that are missing in the average diet
- Increase energy by increasing nutrient and oxygen flow
- Toxicity protection
Creatine is well-known to athletes as it is used for exercise performance and gaining muscle mass. Just in the United States, the majority of sport nutrition supplements that contain creatine are making roughly about $3 billion turnovers.
This substance can also improve brain performance, slow down aging, bone density, depression, diabetes, tolerance of exercise, nerve and muscle disease. We will focus on its nootropic properties.
You can use it as a supplement, while to some people that have metabolism disorder and fail to produce normal amounts of creatine it is a necessity.
Let’s take caffeine for example, it makes you feel like you have more energy. While it only drains what is left and it is inevitable to have jitters after. Creatine actually provides more energy to the brain without any crashes after unlike stimulants.
Many people mix creatine with glucose, but this way there will be jitters after because of the dropping glucose levels. There is also an effective way to use creatine without mixing it with
Some of the benefits of creatine include
- Energy level improvement
- Improves reasoning skills
- It is proven to be safe
- Works well when your diet doesn’t contain a lot of meat
- Unlike caffeine, creatine is not dangerous
- Improvement of mental endurance
Tyrosine is an aromatic amino acid that serves as a building block for proteins. It is also a precursor for dopamine – a neurotransmitter that affects motivation and focus. Low levels of dopamine will make you feel fatigue, very moody, and unstable. This further leads to poor concentration.
You should consider taking tyrosine if you do not get enough sleep, you are overworked or stressed. During these stages, your body will have increased needs for tyrosine. It contributes to the making of adrenaline and noradrenaline – the substances responsible for fight-or-flight response in stressful situations. Tyrosine makes it on the list of natural nootropics because it can affect brain chemicals, improve mood, and stress response.
An average person consumes at least one cup per day to squeeze more productivity out of it. Caffeine will provide energy like a stimulant would do but you will end up feeling jittery and exhausted at the end. Other than that, some people have caffeine sensitivity. This means they respond to caffeine very easy and feel anxious and agitated easily.
Theanine can replace caffeine easily, with many perks too. More specifically L-Theanine is an amino acid that can be extracted from the tea plant. It is a compound of green tea and also has relaxing and calming effects.
It is also familiar as a natural nootopic, while its main function is reducing stress and fatigue. It amplifies alpha brain waves – the ones responsible fora calm state of the brain. This leads to better creativity and heightened alertness.
An interesting thing to mention is that it affects the GABA neurotransmitters in a positive way. They are responsible for our mood and emotion regulation. With this being said, L-Theanine regulates mood, promotes calmness, and focus.
L-Theanine’s ways of affecting the brain and mechanisms of acting are not yet very well understood. But they are very well documented. L-Theanine can be also used to improve sleep. Mixing 500mg of this compound with a keto diet can have great results.
Ginseng originates from China and its nootropic and relaxant properties have been harvested for many years in their culture. In a turn of events, the Panax quinquefolius or American appears to be more superior to the one originating from Asia.
Panax quinquefolius is a great nootropic. It grows mainly in North America. The plant is in such demand that in some states it has been declared an endangered species.
People take American ginseng to fight stress and boost their immune system. Other benefits also include digestion improvement, and improving the loss of appetite. Research suggests that taking one 100-400 mg dose of American can improve short-term memory and reaction in perfectly healthy people.
American Ginseng is also considered possibly effective for:
- Respiratory tract infections
- Reducing muscle wear during exercise and athletic performance (10)
Rhodiola Rosea (Arctic Root)
Rhodiola Rosea is regarded for its adaptogenic properties. It can improve your ability to handle both physical and mental stress. This natural nootropic also increases levels of a few major neurotransmitters including dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. The fact that it affects serotonin in a positive way makes it a good mood regulator and could help people battling with depression.
This is a great herb to try out for people who have trouble concentrating, experiencing brain fog, fatigue and low energy combined with anxiety and stress.
While it is a great natural nootropic, it is possible that Rhodiola Rosea (more scientific research is required) can help with:
- Hearing loss
- High Cholesterol
Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri)
As the previously reviewed herb, Bacopa is also an adaptogen and has been used in traditional medicine. It can improve the body’s ability to handle stress better while improving memory and focus. It has many contributions in the Ayurvedic medicine for centuries- used as learning enhancer, anti-epileptic, and a sedative. (12)
Scientifically speaking, it affects dopamine, serotonin, and the GABA neurotransmitters – increasing levels. While it decreases a stress hormone by the name of cortisol. An imbalance of the above-mentioned neurotransmitters is responsible for many mental
It is a great choice for age-related mental decline as some research suggests that it protects the brain cells from Alzheimer’s disease. This natural nootropic can provide the benefits of a synthetic drug with nootropic properties without the horrible side effects.
Some scientific studies conclude that the effects of Bacopa on the nervous system are comparable to those of l lorazepam. Lorazepam is the most commonly prescribed drug for anxiety and depression, in the US it is sold under the brand name Ativan. Bacopa might even be a better choice than benzodiazepines because it promotes cognition improvement, unlike the synthetic drugs.
Ginkgo is a very popular herb around the globe. You probably have read about this plant or perhaps even used products that contain Ginkgo. This is a potent natural nootropic and in some countries, it is only available as a prescription medication. (14)
Being one of the strongest natural nootropics, it works by increasing blood circulation to the brain, balancing brain chemicals, and prevents brain damage. Most nootropic users take it for concentration, dealing with memory loss, depression, and anxiety. (15)
Citicoline is a compund that the human’s body produces from choline found in food. Some foods that contain choline include eggs, seafood, and beef. You would have to consume large quantities of food which is impossible in order to gain any cognitive improvements from food solely.
Citicoline is one of the natural nootropics that improve concentration, focus, attention, and memory. Some countries have citicoline prescribed as a medication to treat age-related memory problems. This natural nootropic is an essential intermediate in the process of synthesis of phosphatidylcholine. (16)
This supplement increases blood flow to the brain, the ability to stimulate nerve growth, and activates the central cholinergic system. (17)
Supplementing the brain with citicoline is very important. Statistics show that 80% of US citizens lack its precursor choline and citicoline itself. Not only it is on the list of great natural nootropics, but it can also help people who are recovering from a stroke. In fact, it was first developed in Japan for stroke recovery treatment.
This substance is purified from a plant by the name of Chinese club moss. Unlike other substances mentioned above, there is a slight controversy when it comes to whether Huperzine-A is a herb or a completely purified drug. It does originate from a plant, but to get to the end product it requires a lot of laboratory work.
Herbs and other natural nootropics usually contain many ingredients, in the range of hundreds while this substance has been stripped down by lab chemists. Its usage is mainly for memory improvement, learning enhancement, Alzheimer’s disease, and memory impairment. Outside of treating brain-related problems and diseases, it is also used for treating a muscle disease called myasthenia gravis.
It can also protect from agents that damage nerves for example nerve gas.
Its usages include:
- Memory enhancement
- Mental impairment
- Age-related memory loss
- Protection from nerve poisoning agents
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
This is a very unique mushroom, by appearance and the health improvements it can provide. For many years in the Chinese medicine, it is said that to bestow nerves of steel and memory of a lion. Its physical appearance is similar to the lion’s mane- therefore its name.
It combats depression and anxiety which is a common disorder in modern society. In studies conducted on mice, who were given the lion’s mane mushroom extract had lower depressive behaviors than before. (23)
While the research is mainly on animals, this natural nootropic may boost cognitive function. In a conducted study, where mice consumed lion’s mane supplements appeared to give them a better object and memory recognition. (24)
The B12 Vitamin is a water-soluble vitamin that is involved in the metabolism of every single cell in the body. We will focus on explaining the importance of this vitamin in the proper functioning of the nervous system. It helps synthesize myelin and development of red blood cells. (25)
The deficiency of this vitamin can lead to neurological difficulties and anemia. An interesting fact is that the body can store reserves of B12 vitamin that can last up to four years. The slightest deficiency of this vitamin can trigger depression, memory problems, fatigue, and confusion.
Deficiency of B12 can affect the neurological system in a more serious way, resulting in permanent nerve damage. This is manifested through face tremors, irritation, and reflex problems.
Vitamin B12 or cobalamin is one of the eight B vitamins and it is the most complicated one. It consists of many chemically related compounds which show physiological activity. As a natural nootropic, it can improve alertness, improve the attention span, relieve from stress, insomnia, and mood regulation.
Vitamin D affects the brain during all stages of life. Therefore, it is on the list of natural nootropics. It can improve memory, problem-solving abilities, and mood. The body naturally produces it when exposed to the sun. This means if you spend less time than average to get sun exposure, you will most likely benefit from any supplement that contains vitamin D. Unlike any other vitamin, it functions as a hormone and when the body is exposed to sun it synthesizes it from cholesterol.
As a natural nootropic, it is critical for maintaining cognitive health. It is a vital part of neurotransmitter synthesis -the process where new transmitters come to life, gene expression, DNA maintenance and repair, memory retrieval, and new memory formation.
Almost all the cells in the body contain a vitamin D receptor. It is associated with the immune system and bone density and health. Risk of vitamin D deficiency have mostly people who work indoors and older adults.
Not getting enough vitamin D brings many problems that include type-2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive impairment, and depression.
In a conducted study in the US in 2011 almost 42% of all adults had vitamin D deficiency. Across the globe, around 1 billion people have vitamin D deficiency.
Natural Nootropics Closing Words
Whether you prefer to go for natural nootropics or synthetic drugs, choosing some of this list would certainly not be a mistake. Natural nootropics often come with fewer to no side effects than the synthesized ones.
Prescription drugs such as Adderall or Ritalin have the most potent effects on memory and attention but come with side effects and you should consult a professional before consuming them. They are also used to treat people with disorders. Many of the synthetic drugs lack research on how they affect the brain of a healthy adult human.