We’ve all experienced fatigue, forgetfulness, or difficulty retaining information. It can leave us feeling sluggish and frustrated, and often causes us to reach for things like energy drinks and coffee. These drinks are high in caffeine and sugar, and ultimately cause us to feel even worse a few hours later. For many, this turns into a vicious cycle of afternoon lattes followed by restless nights, but did you know that there are better ways to boost our brain power?
Nootropics are drugs or supplements that are made specifically to support cognitive function. Let’s take a look at the top natural nootropics and how they can help promote brain health.
The energy and alertness caffeine provides has made it a staple around the world. However, too much caffeine can come with some serious side effects, so it is important to understand how much you need to get the optimum brain-boosting benefits.
Studies have shown that having up to 300 mg of caffeine a day (the equivalent of approximately two cups of brewed coffee) can help improve alertness, attention, and reaction time. Coffee is also high in antioxidants and has a number of other health benefits (just be sure to hold the sugar and dairy).
Those who aren’t so fond of coffee can still obtain caffeine through various teas as well as through guarana, a common ingredient in many natural energy drinks and nootropic supplements. Guarana is a plant native to the Amazon with a long list of uses, one of those being to stimulate the central nervous system as well as the heart and other muscles.
Ginkgo biloba comes from one of the oldest living species of trees and is most commonly known for its flavonoid and terpenoid content. Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants that can help support the body’s ability to repair damaged cells, and terpenoids are known to improve circulation. This combination has made Ginkgo biloba a common ingredient used to support memory.
Bacopa monnieri is an herb that can be found around the world and has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine as a means to improve memory and reduce stress. It contains powerful antioxidants to help combat the deterioration of brain cells due to oxidation. It is also believed to improve circulation and lower blood pressure, among a number of other benefits.
The specific brain boosting powers of this herb have made it a popular choice for those looking to naturally treat mind-related health problems.
Lion’s Mane is a type of mushroom that is believed to support neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, both of which are important for long-term health. It is also used by many for the short-term benefits of clearing brain fog and to boost mood.
Lion’s Mane has long been used in traditional Chinese medicines and is one of the most powerful natural ways to improve the nerve growth factor (NGF). This is the brain’s ability to regenerate and rejuvenate nerves, improving cognitive functions in the short-term and helping to prevent mind-related health problems later in life.
Short for Cannabidiol, CBD is an oil extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant. It has recently been legalized and is rapidly growing in popularity. The phytonutrients found in CBD are believed to interact with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system. In doing so, CBD directly affects receptors in the brain to support sleep and manage stress.
CBD is available as full spectrum, broad spectrum, or isolate, and can be used topically or taken orally. CBD in forms such as softgels and tinctures are great for a slow release that spreads throughout the body. Topical varieties like salves and creams instead target specific areas, soothing skin while also penetrating into muscles and joints.
How to Choose an Effective Nootropic Supplement
Expert reviews of nootropic supplements rate them on two main criteria. First, they consider the short-term cognitive effects such as the improvements of attention, focus, and memory. They then also examine if the product contains key vital nutrients that can help to maintain long-term cerebral health.
Short-term cognitive effects are generally achieved through a reduction of stress and an increase in blood circulation. For long-term health, look for antioxidants and vital nutrients. B-vitamins complex are commonly found because they improve energy while boosting serotonin and dopamine levels.
These foundational elements can help us filter through the many available nootropic supplements, but it also helps to define our desired results. Not all nootropics are created equally, which is why nootropic stacking is a great method to finding a supplement suited for our unique needs.
The idea is that by clearly defining the benefits we desire, we can create a unique nootropic “stack,” or combination, of ingredients that work synergistically to most effectively boost our brains. While each individual ingredient is powerful in its own sense, they can be significantly more beneficial when they work together.
Outside of understanding our desired ingredients, it is also important to check supplements for credibility and transparency. When products become trendy, we often find less-than-quality products that make big claims in order to cash in on the latest health and wellness trend. Look for companies with credibility and that are in good standing in the health and wellness world. Also look for transparency of what is in the supplements and where those ingredients are sourced.
The Best Way to Boost Brain Power
We’ve listed only five of the top natural nootropics available to help us boost brain power, but the list could have been much longer. Finding the right nootropic stack for your specific needs is the first step to improving overall cognition and to have greater focus and clarity on a daily basis. Combine this unique natural formula with complementary lifestyle practices for the best possible brain-boosting results.
Hannah Smith is Joy Organics Director of Communications. She is driven by her passion for providing clear and accessible wellness and CBD education. In 2015, she received her BA in Media, Culture and the Arts from The King’s College in New York City and before Joy Organics, worked as writer and photographer in the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Vice, Vox, Denver Post, and the Coloradoan.