Nootropics, otherwise known as “smart drugs,” are substances that can improve cognitive processes, memory, focus, and behavior. They range from widely available ones such as caffeine (a stimulant) to prescription-only drugs that are primarily used by students in academically competitive colleges.
As nootropics become more and more popular, it becomes imperative that users keep themselves informed and up-to-date about their qualities.
Here are ten things you need to know about these brain boosters.
As stated above, nootropics can come from widely available and natural ingredients such as caffeine or the extract of Bacopa monnieri, while some nootropics are synthetically produced and are marketed as drugs.
People have already used naturally-produced nootropics to alter mental states for centuries, but the real dawn of nootropic usage was when Corneliu Grugea discovered the first modern nootropic: Piracetam.
The limiting description of nootropics as cognitive enhancers is already fast-changing because of the discovery of new ingredients and different modes of action of the said substance.
As they skyrocket in popularity all around the world, any nutrient that is beneficial for the brain and the nervous system can already be considered a nootropic.
Today, at least 70 different substances are considered nootropics and they still maintain the original purpose of the substance which is to enhance cognitive function. Also, these substances can also slow down neurologic aging, strengthen stress resistance, enhance mood and creativity, and a lot more!
Nootropics provide Vitamins B6 and B12 which are essential for neurotransmitter production and protection of the nerves’ myelin sheaths. Neurotransmitters are chemicals needed for the transmission of a signal from one neuron (nerve cell) to another while myelin sheaths are fat insulators that speed up the electrical impulses (like the plastic sheath around electrical wires).
The combined effects of these two result in faster thinking, reaction time, and overall function of the nervous system. Also, nootropics increase the energy metabolism in the cells’ mitochondria by providing NADH and ALCAR (Acetyl L-Carnitine).
These substances can be used by the cell to produce more energy for the brain cells and possibly help with chronic fatigue syndrome.
The brain consumes 20% of the body’s energy, and so it’s also a site of high oxidative stress. The structures of the nervous system release byproducts after performing their several functions.
These byproducts (oxidants) are flushed away during sleep, but since not everyone gets enough of that, sleeping can’t get rid of all of them. These byproducts can accumulate and can cause serious problems as we age.
Some nootropics contain substances like pterostilbene, CoQ10, and PQQ which are antioxidants that can improve the micro-circulation in the brain as well as enhance neuroprotection.
Nootropics can help repair damaged brain structures or even create new brain cells. Citicoline, an ingredient found in some nootropics, can boost neural membrane turnover.
Phosphatidylserine supports healthy brain cell membranes, and Lion’s Mane Mushroom can boost nerve growth factor which can increase the production of new neurons.
The blood circulation to the brain makes delivery of oxygen and nutrients as well as the clearing up of byproducts possible. Increasing the blood supply can, therefore, result in more nutrient and oxygen availability for the cells of the nervous system.
Ginkgo biloba and Vinpocetine are some nootropics that can increase cerebral blood flow and improve memory.
Brain waves are pulses of electrical activity in the brain. There are different kinds of brain waves depending on wakefulness and brain processes. Alpha wave, for instance, is the resting state of the brain.
It aids in mental coordination, calmness, alertness, and is dominant during meditative states.
Some nootropics have powerful alpha-brain wave modulators that help with mental processing and attention.
Nootropics can help replenish the chemicals that are drained by stress. They promote adaptogenic activities that increase balanced stress responses and help with mood balance and cognition under stress.
Rhodiola, a legendary Russian adaptogen, blunts hormonal responses to stress while L-Tyrosine, the ultimate anti-stress nootropic, replenishes stress-depleted brain chemicals collectively known as catecholamines (dopamine and adrenaline).
As there are several ingredients and modes of action mentioned in this article, it’s needless to say that there is no be-all and end-all nootropics for all needs. You must be careful and check the ingredients found in your nootropic drug to make sure that it will address your specific needs.
Since nootropics are used for ‘enhancement’ and not to ‘cure,’ they have relatively fewer side effects than a traditional Western drug. Most nootropics are side-effect free, and only a few nootropics have mild side-effects.
The usual side-effects of these outliers are headaches, insomnia, fatigue, nausea, and stomach issues. Overall, nootropics are an excellent alternative for adderall and other prescription medications for focus.
If you’re interested in trying nootropics, always consult your physician first.
Nootropics: Ten Things You Need To Know About Brain Boosters
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