For millennia, we just followed animals around. We worked together in tribes to hunt, fish, plant, harvest, build shelter, and handle every other material need as a unit – for the most part. Then, the agricultural and industrial revolutions happened, and the last one percent of human existence until now became a whirlwind of technological breakthroughs. The result? 40 million of us are diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression, and that’s just in the United States, according to recent statistics.
We sit in cubicles and work all day so we can provide for our families. No more mud between the toes, no more building shelters, no more community collaboration! Psychologists believe that anxiety and depression are so prevalent now because the human brain, having acclimatized to a nomadic/pastoral existence, is unable to handle the rigors of modern life. Where many of us turn to risky prescription drugs to bridge this gap, there is another option: nootropics.
The term “nootropic” refers to a class of natural and synthetic substances used to enhance one or more of our mental faculties; concentration, alertness, mood, memory, cognition, and so forth. Nootropics can take the form of pills, powders, herbal teas, and other forms of food. When used properly, some nootropics can ameliorate anxiety symptoms significantly.
Okay, you may be saying, but how? How does a nootropic fight anxiety and improve mental performance? There are several mechanisms by which these substances can reap their benefits. Some nootropics stimulate receptors in the brain that allow for important functions, like memory or sleep. Other nootropics can mimic the action of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) that promote calmness and destimulation. Additionally, some nootropics can improve blood supply to the brain and combat the harmful processes introduced by free radical exposure.
Alright, let’s talk specifics. As mentioned, there are many natural and synthetic nootropics, most of which are available as over-the-counter supplements for different uses. The following is a brief review of five very popular nootropics that are used to reduce anxiety, stress, depression, and enhance overall mental wellness.
This herb, hailing from several continents around the world, is as plentiful as it is powerful. Bacopa monnieri is an herbal nootropic and adaptogen that has long been used in traditional medicine to reduce anxiety and stress, improve memory, and boost cognitive performance. Beyond traditional belief, there is plenty of scientific evidence to back up these claims.
Lemon balm is a mint-like herb with numerous health benefits, but it is mostly known for its sedative and calming effect. People often take this herb to reduce anxiety and stress, and to help them sleep. Although more commonly used as a sleep aid than a nootropic, some studies have shown it may help improve aspects of cognitive function.
Lemon balm can be taken as a supplement in capsule or powder form, or better, you can sip on a nice cup of savory tea made from its leaves, whether fresh or dried.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
This mushroom has been around for thousands of years, and it lately became a very popular supplement revered for its memory-boosting, brain-protecting, and anxiety-fighting benefits. Lion’s mane may help protect from age-related cognitive decline and there are promising studies on its efficacy in fighting off brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease and other mental disorders. There is also evidence that it may reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, besides other benefits.
If herbal remedies aren’t doing the trick for you, you may want to consider one of the more potent synthetic nootropics, and of those, phenibut tops the list when it comes to mitigating anxiety. Phenibut is an analogue of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, which is primarily responsible for calming your brain and helping you relax.
Phenibut is not a dietary supplement, and there are reports of withdrawal symptoms and people abusing this substance, but it works very well with no significant side effects when used properly. Phenibut is not regulated by the FDA, and it is usually bought from online stores in the form of nootropic powder or capsules.
Fatigue and anxiety have an interesting relationship that neuropsychologists are still exploring. Sulbutiamine, a derivative of thiamine (vitamin B1), is a synthetic nutritional supplement that is used to reduce fatigue and improve mental energy and performance. Sulbutiamine may help anxiety sufferers restore healthy energy levels and improve other symptoms of anxiety.