We’d all like to be a little more focused from time to time. That might be for an important work meeting, or to feel a bit more awake when spending time with the kids. However, dealing with tiredness, fatigue, stress, anxiety, and other issues can lead us to feel mentally sluggish and not clear of thought.
Some supplements can help with these symptoms. These are the nootropics, a range of supplements or compounds that specifically target the brain.
What Are Nootropics
Nootropic is a general term for what can also be called smart drugs- supplements specifically designed to enhance our mental faculties. But what are nootropics? Nootropics cover a wide range of chemicals. You may even be already taking some of them.
Popular supplements such as magnesium, omega-3, and St. John’s Wort are all nootropics. They work to affect aspects of the brain, improving mood or brain function. This is usually due to the nootropic helping to regulate or boost the production of certain chemicals in your brain. For example, omega-3 may help increase the levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is vital for brain function and may be linked to preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
How Do Nootropics Help the Brain
- Inhibiting receptors in the brain that slow brain activity
- Supporting healthy brain structure
- Providing energy for the maintenance and management of healthy neurons
- Transporting necessary fatty acids to the brain
- Increased flow of oxygen to the brain\
- Rebalancing neurotransmitters such as serotonin or adrenaline
Benefits of Nootropics
Stress and Anxiety
Some nootropics help regulate the amount of dopamine in the brain. This can increase mood levels and reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. Nootropics can also rebalance your brain’s pleasure vs. reward system- the feelings of delight you should get for a job well done, or after something great has happened to you. When dopamine levels are low, you take less pleasure in the things you love. Nootropics can help bring this back.
Focus and Alertness
Best Nootropics for Cognitive Performance
This Indian plant has been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years. It is still used today to combat stress, improve the mood, and may even increase the libido, which often suffers during periods of anxiety or depression.
Widely available and taken regularly in every cup of coffee, caffeine is a natural stimulant that directly affects the brain. It provides focus, alertness, and studies have shown it may have a preventative effect on dementia.
Another plant-based supplement, kava (Piper methysticum) is used to elevate the mood and for relaxation.
Side Effects of Nootropics
Are nootropics safe? Dr. Corneliu Giurgea, who first conceptualized nootropics, gave these five rules about nootropics:
- They must enhance learning and memory.
- They must increase information transfer in the brain.
- They cannot be a stimulant or a sedative.
- They must strengthen subcortical processes.
- They must enhance cerebral resistance.
If nootropics stick to these five rules, then realistically there should be no side effects. However, the modern definition of nootropics doesn’t adhere to these limitations as strictly. Caffeine, for example, is a nootropic as it increases brain function and focus. However, it is also a stimulant. Too much caffeine may increase anxiety levels, or cause physical jitters.
With this in mind, every nootropic has to be looked at individually. Prevent side effects by always taking the recommended dosage, and if you’re ever unsure, seek advice from a medical professional.