‘Nootropic’ is a term for any substance that improves cognition.
For decades, students and professional people keen to boost their concentration, memory and cognitive performance in general, would reach for amphetamines or medication prescribed to children and adolescents with attention-deficit disorders (ADHD). These were generally known as ‘smart drugs’ (1-3).
But for a few years now, particularly in student circles and in the world of start-ups, people are increasingly turning to more natural nootropics (4).
Each nootropic works on the brain in a different way: some address anxiety and thus improve concentration, while others stimulate the dopaminergic or GABAergic systems, or even the cholinergic system.
It’s for this reason that the most powerful nootropics are generally dietary supplements that combine several molecules to provide maximum benefit. Let’s begin with the best-known natural nootropics before moving on to the most powerful synergistic formulation at the end of the article.
Let’s start with an excellent little everyday booster . An essential element of cell membranes, choline is required for the production of acetylcholine, one of the most important neurotransmitters, involved in memory and learning.
The best food source of choline (which is not synthesised by the liver in sufficient amounts and must therefore be provided by the diet) are eggs, or more precisely, egg yolks(5-6).
Used for more than 3000 years in Ayurvedic medicine, Bacopa monnieri contains active ingredients called bacosides, which are thought to be responsible for its benefits. This powerful adaptogen (7):
That’s why so many people choose to take daily nootropic supplements containing Bacopa monnieri to support their brain function.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom, or Hericium erinaceus to give it its botanical name, is an extraordinary mushroom which resembles a long white beard, or indeed a lion’s mane, hence its name.
Extremely rich in beta-glucan polysaccharides, as well as in phenol derivatives called hericenones, this mushroom has been part of the traditional Chinese pharmacopoeia for thousands of years, where it is used for holding back the ageing process and for preserving memory.
A number of studies have also examined its potential as a treatment for mental disorders linked to advancing age (8-10).
It’s thus regarded by many as a natural, traditional and powerful nootropic, and is widely consumed in the form of Lion’s Mane Mushroom capsules.
A perennial plant that grows in sandy, rocky and dry soils, rhodiola, or Rhodiola rosea, has been used since the time of Ancient Greece as a medicinal plant and has been studied since the 1960s to determine its benefits and active principles.
Rich in rosavin and salidroside, glycosides and phenylethanol derivatives, rhodiola stimulates energy metabolism, thus increasing levels of ATP and creatine phosphate in the mitochondria.
This is probably why rhodiola is recognised for:
Rhodiola is therefore also considered to be a natural and effective plant nootropic for boosting brainpower (as in, for example, the supplement Rhodiola rosea).
An amino acid first isolated by Japanese scientists in 1945 from green tea leaves, L-theanine is thought to help increase levels of serotonin, dopamine and GABA (12).
Serotonin and dopamine are considered to be ‘happy hormones’ because of their calming and anti-stress effects. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) meanwhile is not only a well-known inhibitory neurotransmitter of the nervous system, but is also involved in memorisation processes and cognitive function. It’s thought to act by modulating neuron activity.
These effects may therefore account for green tea’s huge popularity. To increase their intake of L-theanine, some people choose to take targeted supplements (such as Suntheanine®) (13).
As mentioned above, the most powerful natural nootropic is inevitably going to be a formulation that combines several natural nootropic substances to increase their effects.
So, when you combine Bacopa monnieri, Gingko biloba (recognised for supporting healthy peripheral circulation, associated with good brain reactivity), vitamin B12 (which helps reduce fatigue and is good for the nervous system), L-theanine, caffeine anhydrous (known for promoting concentration) and taurine, the end result is a natural and super-powerful nootropic for boosting brainpower: which is precisely what’s offered by the synergistic formulation Smart Pills.
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