Brain fog, forgetfulness, lack of focus…we’ve all struggled with it occasionally.
Whether you’re a busy professional looking to improve your productivity… A student looking to excel in your studies… Or simply someone interested in maximizing your brainpower, Nootropics, also known as “smart drugs,” have gained popularity in the health and wellness industry as a way to improve cognitive function and overall well-being.
Some of you may even have heard about them from the movie with Bradley Cooper a few years ago called “Limitless”. Now, this was an exaggerated example of nootropics abilities but it does set the high expectations for what nootropics could be someday. And believe it or not, I can bet that a high percentage of you reading this have already had a dose of a nootropic today. If you’ve had coffee, tea, or soda then that caffeine you consumed is actually a nootropic.
Of course, there are others that I recommend other than caffeine for a multitude of reasons.
Below we will take a closer look at eight popular nootropics: ALCAR, Alpha GPC, Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, Lion’s Mane, Methylcobalamin, TeaCrine, and Dynamine. We will explore the science behind each one, including how they work in the body, their potential benefits, and any downsides to consider.
Nootropics were developed in the 1960s by Corneliu E. Giurgea, a Romanian chemist who coined the term “nootropic” from Greek words meaning “mind” and “to bend or turn”. He wanted to create safer alternatives for amphetamine derivatives such as Adderall that were being used to treat ADHD.
Nootropics work by increasing the production of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that allow messages to be passed between neurons (brain cells).
This means they increase levels of dopamine (excitatory), acetylcholine (excitatory), serotonin (modulatory), norepinephrine (excitatory), histamine (modulatory), glutamate (excitatory) and GABA (inhibitory).
These benefits are exactly why nootropics have been dubbed as “smart drugs”. Luckily, the number of nootropics available on the market has increased dramatically in recent years. As a result, people are easily able to find a nootropic that works well with their unique physiology and needs.
First, let’s dive into ALCAR, or Acetyl-L-Carnitine. This amino acid plays a vital role in energy production in the body and has been found to improve memory, focus, and overall cognitive function. It may also help protect against age-related cognitive decline and improve symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease.(1)
Next, there’s Alpha GPC, or Alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, a natural compound found in the brain that helps boost the production of acetylcholine. Alpha-GPC is a naturally-occurring choline. Cholines are a class of molecules that play a major part in brain function, mainly in the areas associated with memory, concentration and triggering muscle contraction. It may also help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and ADHD.(2)
Rhodiola is an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body adapt to stress. It has been found to improve mental and physical performance, reduce fatigue, and improve overall well-being. It may also help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve athletic performance, and aid in weight management. Rhodiola is considered a great choice for those feeling stress and fatigue from work that requires a heavy mental effort, specifically in alertness, memory and advanced concentration.(3)
Ashwagandha, an ancient herb used in Ayurvedic medicine, is known to reduce stress and improve cognitive function. Studies have found it can improve memory, reduce anxiety and depression, and enhance overall well-being. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and may help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, as well as improve male fertility and testosterone levels.(4)
Lion’s Mane, a mushroom used in traditional Chinese medicine, has been found to improve memory and cognitive function, as well as protect against age-related cognitive decline. It may also help improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, boost nerve growth, and reduce inflammation.(5)
Methylcobalamin, or B12, is a vitamin essential for the production of red blood cells, the proper functioning of the nervous system, and the metabolism of DNA. It has been found to improve cognitive function and overall well-being. B12 deficiency is common among vegetarians and vegans, as well as the elderly, and supplementation can help prevent deficiencies and improve cognitive function.(6)
TeaCrine, a compound found in the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, has been found to improve mental and physical performance, reduce fatigue, and improve overall well-being. It may also help improve mood, reduce stress, and improve cardiovascular health.(7)
Dynamine, a compound found in the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, is structurally similar to caffeine and has been found to have similar effects, such as increased mental and physical performance, reduced fatigue, and improved overall well-being. However, it is believed to have a smoother, less jittery effect on the body and mind, making it a popular choice among athletes and fitness enthusiasts.(8)
Finally, C8 MCTs, or medium-chain triglycerides, found in coconut oil, have been found to improve cognitive function, and overall well-being and protect against age-related cognitive decline. MCTs are rapidly metabolized by the liver and converted into ketones, which are an alternative energy source for the brain.(9)
It’s important to keep in mind that these nootropics are not FDA-approved and should be used with caution. It’s also important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen. Additionally, It’s important to note that nootropics are not a replacement for a healthy diet, regular exercise, and good sleep. These supplements should be used as a complement to a healthy lifestyle.
In conclusion, the use of these nootropics may be beneficial for many people looking to boost their cognitive function and overall well-being. However, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional and understand the potential risks and benefits before starting any new supplement regimen.
1. G;, Traina. “The Neurobiology of Acetyl-l-Carnitine.” Frontiers in Bioscience (Landmark Edition), U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27100509/.
2. Defina, Philip A, et al. “Alzheimer’s Disease Clinical and Research Update for Health Care Practitioners.” Journal of Aging Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3776389/.
3. Darbinyan V;Kteyan A;Panossian A;Gabrielian E;Wikman G;Wagner H; “Rhodiola Rosea in Stress Induced Fatigue–a Double Blind Cross-over Study of a Standardized Extract SHR-5 with a Repeated Low-Dose Regimen on the Mental Performance of Healthy Physicians during Night Duty.” Phytomedicine : International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11081987/.
4. Wankhede S;Langade D;Joshi K;Sinha SR;Bhattacharyya S; “Examining the Effect of Withania Somnifera Supplementation on Muscle Strength and Recovery: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26609282/.
5. Julson, Erica. “9 Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom (plus Side Effects).” Healthline, Healthline Media, 19 May 2018, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lions-mane-mushroom.
6. Health Quality Ontario. “Vitamin B12 and Cognitive Function: An Evidence-Based Analysis.” Ontario Health Technology Assessment Series, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Nov. 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3874776/.
7. Qiao H;Ye X;Bai X;He J;Li T;Zhang J;Zhang W;Xu J; “Theacrine: A Purine Alkaloid from Camellia Assamica Var. Kucha with a Hypnotic Property via the Adenosine System.” Neuroscience Letters, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28864241/.
8. VanDusseldorp, Trisha A, et al. “Safety of Short-Term Supplementation with Methylliberine (Dynamine®) Alone and in Combination with Teacrine® in Young Adults.” Nutrients, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 28 Feb. 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7146520/.
9. MS, Sharon O’Brien. “7 Science-Based Benefits of MCT Oil.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 11 Nov. 2020, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mct-oil-benefits.