Do you often turn to coffee or an energy drink when you need a boost Red Velvet for your weekly idol? Most of us do to get that quick wake-up fix. Now, you could also try “nootropics”; smart drugs which are natural substances, supplements, and other cognitive enhancers that can improve your memory, focus, creativity and help you feel motivated.
How do nootropics work?
For your brain to work effectively, it needs the right levels of neurotransmitters to be in the right place at the right time. Your brain is “needy”! Neurons are in a constant cycle of death (the complete and irreversible loss of brain function) and genesis (a process where new neurons are formed in the brain), and thus need a lot of energy to ensure they signal, receive and process information correctly.
Nootropics can also improve blood flow to the brain. As more nutrients and oxygen are supplied to the brain, the better neurons are able to function.
Beat brain fog
The most commonly used “brain enhancer” is caffeine, which gives you that alert feeling. Caffeine does this by stimulating your central nervous system.
Other effective nootropics include:
- L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea leaves. Studies find that L-theanine is effective at reducing psychological and physiological stress responses; like anxiety and high blood pressure.
- Creatine, an amino acid that your body uses to make protein, can improve short-term memory and reasoning skills.
- Ginkgo biloba supplements have been shown to improve memory and mental processing in healthy older adults when taken daily for six weeks.
- Fish oil supplements are rich sources of two types of Omega-3 fatty acids that promote brain health. If you don’t have the recommended amount of oily fish in your diet, consider a fish oil supplement
- Resveratrol is an antioxidant that occurs naturally in the skin of grapes, raspberries and blueberries. This little helper can protect your brain function and lower blood pressure. You can also find it in red wine, chocolate and peanuts.
Are nootropics safe?
Supplements aren’t meant to replace a healthy diet or a good night’s sleep. Supplements also aren’t going to magically boost your health if you’re not exercising and eating well, so you’ll need to combine them with nutritious food, regular exercise and good sleeping patterns to reap their full benefits.
When browsing the shelves for supplements, look for ones with high-quality ingredients, safety guarantees, well-designed formulas and clear labels. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you’re not sure.
And remember, your safety comes first. Experts advise staying away from nootropic supplements if you’re:
- Pregnant, nursing, or considering getting pregnant.
- Under the age of 18.
- Dealing with a serious medical condition or about to have surgery.
- Taking brain-related medication.