Natural Nootropics are plant-based extracts with the ability to improve mental function.
The human mind is capable of extraordinary things. Its tremendous cognitive abilities allow us to learn, think, memorize, articulate, reason and pay attention. Unlike any other time in history, we live in a technically advanced world where the capacity to process and exploit information is key to our success. Whether it be at work, in business, at school, or otherwise.
In a society where being the “best” is the proven means to achieving great success and wealth, competition has never been higher. And, the importance of gaining a competitive edge, has never been more fierce. As a result, to keep up and get ahead, more and more people every day are turning to brain-boosting supplements. Drugs with the ability to improve cognitive functioning and mental performance. Why? Because ultimately, it can be the difference between our success or failure.
The practice of bio-hacking, mind-hacking, and brain-boosting to improve and enhance mind and body (physical) performance has never been so popular. As the world embraces an even more cut-throat and highly advanced future, the explosion of information and data will exert ever greater demands on our cognitive facilities. To keep up with the changes and to push our mind power further, the rise of natural nootropics is becoming a prevalent solution.
Why Nootropics Have Become Popular
Discovery of the effectiveness of natural plant extracts on our brains has given us the capability to boost our cognitive functioning. ‘Natural Nootropics’, the term used to describe these particular natural plant extracts, are the powerful and popular brain enhancing supplements used by many people today. How powerful and popular are nootropics?
In a CNN story titled “Are Smart Drugs Driving Silicon Valley?”, Laurie Segall and Erica Fink investigate how nootropics have become popular among Silicon Valley executives. Interviewed are nootropic enthusiast and prominent founder of Bulletproof—Dave Ashley, and author and entrepreneur—Tim Ferris. Both of whom use and experiment with nootropics to elevate their game.
It has also prompted the Huffington Post to refer to nootropics in an article as “Smart Drugs: Secret of the World’s Tech Billionaires?” Although initially popular with Silicon Valley investors, Wall Street bankers, and college students, nootropics are now being used by everyone looking to enhance their mental performance. The Huffington Post Magazine also recently quoted surveys that show, up to 11% of students in the United States use nootropics on a regular basis.
What are Natural Nootropic Supplements?
Natural nootropics are plant-based extracts with the ability to improve mental function. They are more popular due to their safety and lack of side effects as compared to the other types of synthetic nootropics. They include Ginkgo Biloba, Bacopa Monneri, Huperzine A, and Lion’s Mane.
Generally speaking, nootropics are any natural or synthetic substance with the ability to boost our cognitive abilities. Combinations of nootropics are known as “nootropic stacks“. The purpose behind stacking nootropics helps to make them more effective and efficient.
Nootropics are classified into seven broad categories. These are:
- Natural Nootropics
- Vitamin B derivatives
- Peptides and Smart drugs.
- Smart drugs
Historical Use of Natural Nootropics
From immemorial time, humanity has used herbal supplements to significantly enhance concentration and memory. Our ancestors used mind-altering substances for spiritual, social and cultural purposes. Some of these were cognitive enhancement supplements whose sole purpose was to increase mental focus and alertness.
In fact, natural nootropics have played a significant role in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for over 5,000 years. The Chinese used Ginkgo Biloba and Ginseng root to improve cognition. Indian’s used herbs such as Aloe Weed and Winter Cherry in their traditional medicine to improve memory and increase the ability to solve problems. In addition, these medicines proved to be effective at preventing neuroses and insomnia.
The Difference Between Natural Nootropics and Synthetic Nootropics
Although natural nootropics have been in existence for centuries, the science behind them was not known until 1964. It wasn’t until this time that Romanian chemist and psychologist Dr. Corneliu Giurgea synthesized the first modern nootropic known as Piracetam. He called them nootropics, coined from the Greek words “noos” meaning mind and “trepein” meaning to bend. Dr. Corneliu Giurgea chose the name based on his belief that the mind was plastic, and could be reshaped to improve memory, focus, and intelligence.
Since then, scientific research has proven the efficacy of nootropics on improving mental function and memory. To date, many other synthetic nootropics, or smart drugs, such as Aniracetam, Noopept, Modafinil, Oxiracetam, and Adderall have hit the market. Due to its effectiveness, patients are prescribed synthetic nootropics to help with memory, focus, elevate mood, combat hyperactivity disorder, treat narcolepsy and decrease anxiety.
Synthetic nootropics are manufactured in a lab whereby natural nootropics are extracted from natural/organic herbs that have been in existence for years.
What’s the key difference between natural and synthetic nootropics? Simply put: synthetic nootropics are manufactured in a lab whereby natural nootropics are extracted from natural/organic herbs that have been in existence for years. Natural nootropics are made from natural and health-boosting herbs, which can increase cognitive ability while improving your general well-being. Natural nootropics are safer and can be used for an extended period without any harmful effects on the body. Conversely, like with many other synthetic drugs, synthetic nootropics are often associated with adverse side effects which include:
- Habitual consumption
- Sleep disorders
- Cardiac stress
- Irritability and mood swings
- Appetite problems
What are the Different Types of Natural Nootropics?
We can divide natural nootropics into three broad categories based on their mechanism of action. These are:
1. Neurotransmitter Enhancers
This type of natural nootropic increases the activity of brain chemicals responsible for mental acuity. Such chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, include dopamine and acetylcholine among others. Neurotransmitter enhancers transmit signals across brain synapses from one neuron to another. The primary method through which the brain works. Increasing the concentration of neurotransmitters, or the sensitivity of their chemical receptors improves our mental function and strengthens our learning ability.
Natural nootropics also work by boosting blood flow to the brain by widening blood vessels. This can dramatically increase the supply of critical nutrients necessary for proper brain function such as oxygen and glucose. This, in turn, heightens mental performance. Some nootropics such Ginkgo Biloba can cause vasodilation throughout the entire body while others like Vinpocetine only dilate vessels in the brain.
3. Protective Antioxidants
Many nootropics are powerful antioxidants. This means they preserve and protect brain cells from the damaging effects of free radicals in the body. Free radicals produced during metabolism can cause damage to neurons and lead to poor memory, diminished brain function, and lack of focus. Protective antioxidant nootropics also slow down the aging of brain cells, which prevents degenerative brain diseases such as dementia.
The 7 Best Natural Nootropics
There are many natural nootropics available in the market. All of which have varying levels of potency and effectiveness. Amongst the vast variety of natural nootropics, there are seven of which have proven to be the most effective. Listed below are the top seven best natural nootropics most renown in the world. Honorable mentions that did not make the list, but are worth mentioning are; Artichoke Extract, Tryptophan, Reishi Mushrooms, Polygala Tenuifolia, and Curcumin.
1. Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo Biloba is one of the most famous Chinese traditional medicines. It was used for centuries as a tonic, energy supplement and treatment for a variety of ailments such as asthma and various infections. Ginkgo Biloba is obtained from the leaves of the Ginkgo tree. The herb acts as a vasodilator in the body, increasing blood flow and boosting circulation to cells and tissues. The properties of Ginkgo Biloba make it an effective remedy for various complications related to blood flow, such as migraines and sexual dysfunction.
As a natural nootropic, one of the key benefits of Ginkgo Biloba is its ability to promote increased blood flow through the brain. It does this by inhibiting the Platelet Activating Factor (PAF). This helps to make our blood less sticky and blood vessels dilate. As a result, this helps to boost memory, elevates mood, relieve anxiety, and enhance learning ability. Another benefit of Ginkgo Biloba is it works as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. This means Ginkgo Biloba also helps protect the brain from injury and aging. For this reason, Ginkgo Biloba has proven valuable in the management of Alzheimer’s and other memory-related disorders.
Vinpocetine is a natural nootropic extract from the Periwinkle plant. It’s used in Eastern Europe and often as a treatment for cerebral vascular disease and age-related memory loss. Vinpocetine is a potent vasodilator, antioxidant, and neurotransmitter booster—which acts specifically on the vessels in the brain. Its effects increase cerebral blood flow to the brain by dilating vessels. This leads to greater absorption of glucose and oxygen by brain cells. As a result, this creates better memory formation, focus, and concentration, as well as faster learning and mental clarity.
Vinpocetine is also effective at further enhancing the production of neurotransmitters. It’s able to do this by interacting with the sodium, calcium and potassium channels in the brain. This not only boosts cognition and memory but also elevates mood and reduces anxiety. Finally, this natural nootropic has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that protect brain cells from injury, damage by free radicals, and the effects of aging.
3. Bacopa Monnieri
One of the most ancient Ayurvedic supplements, Bacopa Monnieri is a small plant native to India, South Asia, and Southern USA. Bacopa Monnieri is a type of perennial creeping herb which is native to wetlands. Bacopa Monnieri has been used in Asia to treat a variety of ailments such as diarrhea, asthma, indigestion, and epilepsy. For centuries, it was well known for its sedative-like relaxation effects due to Hersaponnin—one of its active ingredients. Bacopa Monnieri
Bacopa Monnieri has many health benefits. However, as it’s reported as one of the most effective natural nootropics, it’s better known as a natural nootropic supplement. This is because of its ability to stimulate nerve cells and make synapses more responsive to impulses. It has the ability to stimulate our brain’s hippocampus, which is central to all cognitive functions in the brain. Bacoside A, the active ingredient, also promotes the growth of cell dendrites, which are nerve cell extensions that facilitate the transmission of impulses.
These effects improve neuronal communication, which boosts cognitive ability, memory, and learning. In addition, Bacopa Monnieri has also proven to help patients suffering from a high level of anxiety and depression. And also to increase focus and attention. As with other natural nootropics, Bacopa Monnieri requires a particular dosage range. The range varies by individual so yours will depend on your physiological reaction. In most cases, Bacopa Monnieri may require frequent intake for a relatively long period of time to show signs of effectiveness.
4. Huperzine A
Also known as Selagine, Huperzine A is a purified extract from the Chinese moss club Huperzia Serrata. It’s popular as a memory enhancer for people suffering from. Alzheimer’s disease. Huperzine A works by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine (ACH) through the inhibition of cholinesterase. This is an enzyme which degrades ACH in brain synapses. Huperzine A also protects neurons from damage by glutamate, beta-amyloid, and peroxides. Huperzine A is used as a memory enhancer by increasing the ability to retain and recall information. It also improves general cognitive functions and protects the brain from age-related memory declines.
5. Lion’s Mane
This is an old medicinal mushroom used in Chinese medicine as a tonic and treatment for common ailments. It grows in China, Japan, Europe, and North America. Physicians have been using it to treat neurogenerative diseases for years. Nootropic users of Lion’s Mane best know it for its nootropic qualities. These include cognitive enhancement and neuroprotective effects. As a natural nootropic supplement, Lion’s Mane has proven to increase the production of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). A protein that is essential for the proper growth of nerve cells. Increasing the levels of NGF prevents inflammation and encourages the growth of neurons while boosting overall brain health.
6. Rhodiola Rosea
This herb grows in high altitudes in the arctic regions of Northern Europe and Asia. Its properties, as a mind and body tonic, made it famous in Asia, Russia, and Scandinavia. Rhodiola Rosea is effective at treating fatigue and mental exhaustion while promoting cognitive functioning. This natural nootropic herb works by inhibiting the enzymatic breakdown of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. As a result, this increases the concentration of the neurotransmitters, which leads to mood stabilization, increased motivation, and improved cognitive abilities.
Also known as Withania Somnifera, this herb is native to Northern Africa and India. People have often used Ashwagandha to treat various ailments and conditions. These include; snake bites and constipation. More commonly, however, people took Ashwagandha to increase sexual function as well as for use as a tonic. For this reason, it is known as Indian Ginseng. Ashwagandha has nootropic properties which derive from its ability to promote the growth of neurons, as well as its antioxidant properties that protect neurons from injury and aging. Amongst its range of benefits, Ashwagandha users have reported improved cognitive abilities by lowering stress and anxiety. It manages to do this by inhibiting the action of cortisol, a stress-related hormone, making it valuable in treating chronic stress and depression.
Natural Nootropic Stacks
All the top natural nootropic supplements listed above are powerful and effective when taken on their own. However, nootropics tend to act as potentiators for each other when taken together as a “stack.” By stacking nootropics, this enables you to take a combination of natural supplements for greater efficacy.
Our bodies can generally tolerate natural nootropic supplements individually or as a stack. The practice of stacking nootropics isn’t anything new. In fact, it goes as far back to ancient times. During these times, people grounded and mixed together different herbs for maximum effect. The same practice is done with natural nootropics. We know nootropics have different mechanisms of action. So, by combining them, it gives you the best cognitive enhancing properties.
Top 3 Best Natural Nootropics Stacks
Many manufacturers combine different natural nootropics to engineer stacks. If you have experience with nootropics, you can also build your own stack and fine tune the ingredients to suit your requirements. Here are the top three all-natural nootropic stacks.
1. Ginkgo Biloba, Lion’s Mane, and Bacopa Monnieri stack
This natural nootropic stack contains:
- 240mg of Ginkgo Biloba extract taken once per day
- 500mg of Lion’s Mane taken once a day
- 100mg of Bacopa Monnieri taken twice a day
This stack is great for boosting cognition and reducing stress and anxiety. It’s also effective at keeping you energized and alert throughout the day. This, in my experience, has been the effective nootropic stack for me personally. Although the results may be different for you, this all natural nootropic stack is worth trying.
2. Alpha Brain
This all-natural nootropic stack contains 9 ingredients for the best nootropic effect. It contains L-Tyrosine, L-Theanine, Phosphatidylserine (PS), and Oatstraw. It also has Bacopa Monnieri, Huperzine A, Cats Claw, Vinpocetine, L-leucine, and Alpha GPC. Alpha Brain is produced by Onnit and it’s available to buy on Amazon. Onnit claim Alpha Brain has been “clinically studied to help healthy individuals support memory, focus, and processing speed.”
3. Mind Lab Pro
This is another all natural nootropic stack. It contains Bacopa Monnieri, Citicoline, Huperzine-A, and Phosphatidylserine (PS) as N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, Vitamin B, Lion’s Mane, Vinpocetine, and Rhodiola Rosea. This combination of ingredients is designed to deliver the best cognitive enhancing properties. Mind Lab Pro is produced by Opti-Nutra and can be purchased online via their website.
How to Stay Safe with Natural Nootropics Supplements
Natural nootropics are generally safe for everyday use. Made from natural plants and herbs, they contain no synthetic additives or drugs. While they generally deemed to be safe, it’s important to follow safety procedures when using any supplement. These include:
- Do not mix with prescription drugs. Nootropics are powerful supplements which can interact with certain prescription medications. Inform your doctor before taking nootropics if you are on prescription drugs.
- Consult your doctor if you suffer from a medical condition. If you suffer from severe medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, or if you are allergic to any nootropic ingredient, seek medical advice before using nootropics or any other supplement.
- Observe the recommended dosages. Like any other supplement, stick to the indicated dosages on the packaging. Taking too much of your supplements can have adverse effects, but taking too little will fail to produce the desired results.
- Live a healthy lifestyle. Support the use of natural supplements by maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. Avoid unhealthy lifestyle choices such as excessive alcohol or drugs. Remember, supplements help to compliment a healthy lifestyle. Use of supplements as a substitute only nullifies or decreases the benefits.
Misconceptions About Natural Nootropics
A common misconception people have about natural nootropics is they think natural nootropics are 100% safe. While there is yet to be a nootropic supplement that can claim to be “100% safe”, I strongly suggest being mindful, even with the best natural nootropics out there. As with any supplement, whether it is natural or not, new or a thousand years old, when taking any type of nootropic, take the time to make an informed choice about which one you choose to take and be mindful of the effects it’s having on you. Everyone’s brain and situation are different, so keep in mind that a nootropic supplement that works for one person won’t necessarily mean it will work for everyone.
See also: The Best Nootropics for Mind, Memory, Motivation & More.
Using Natural Nootropics
To summarize: natural nootropics are plant-based derivatives with no synthetic chemicals or additives. They can greatly boost your ability to focus, concentrate and remain motivated. These supplements are indispensable to those looking for better learning, memory retention, general cognition, and overall brain health. Whatever nootropic supplement you choose, remember to follow the guidelines on the bottle and follow a healthy lifestyle for best results.