Nootropics are becoming increasingly popular as a tool for improving memory, information recall, and focus. Though research has not yet determined the mechanism for how nootropics work, it is clear that they provide significant cognitive benefits. Additionally, through a variety of hypothesized biological mechanisms, these compounds are thought to have the potential to improve vision.
In today’s fast-paced society, the feeling of being “in the zone” through a combination of improved vision and cognitive function can be invaluable for enhancing productivity and mental clarity as you go about daily tasks.
What Are Nootropics?
Early humans were hunter-gatherers who spent most of their time outside surrounded by nature. Back then, their daily tasks also required high levels of focus. However, the focus required for hunting prey and collecting sources of food is significantly different from the focus required for daily tasks today.
Modern jobs require individuals to spend prolonged periods of time in a state of constant productivity. Coupled with the prevalence of technology in modern daily tasks, achieving that flow can be difficult for some people. This is where nootropics come in.
The term nootropic refers to a class of chemicals that have been found to offer cognitive benefits when ingested. To meet the criteria of a nootropic, a substance should:
- Improve memory and learning ability
- Protect the brain from the negative impact of anticholinergic drugs, barbiturates, and other similar substances.
- Improve the efficacy of neuron firing
- Have very few or no side effects and low toxicity1
The above are requirements for the strictest definition of nootropics; however, a more general definition for nootropics is a supplement that helps improve concentration and focus, or a “smart drug” that acts as a cognitive enhancer. Under the looser definition, everything from caffeine to Adderall can be considered a nootropic.
The History of Nootropics
The very first nootropic drug was discovered in the 1960s and initially used to relieve motion sickness. Afterward, the memory-enhancing properties of this drug were examined. In 1971, the first studies were conducted about piracetam and how it could be used to improve memory.
After that, researchers conducted an increasing number of studies about piracetam and other racetams in order to examine their potential memory-enhancing and neuroprotective benefits.
Even before this, however, certain substances had been used specifically because of their effects on the mind throughout the history of human civilization. For example, Pacific ceremonies used kava kava to enhance mood and increase socializing, while Native Americans consumed peyote for its spiritual (hallucinogenic) properties.2
Most of these herbs were initially either chewed or brewed. In the modern age, some of these same herbs are still used in the same way they have been used by civilizations throughout history.
Although it was a Romanian chemist who is credited with discovering nootropics, a substantial amount of research on racetams was conducted in the Soviet Union. This resulted in the birth of another category of substances entirely: adaptogens, which, in addition to benefiting cognitive function were thought to allow the body to better adapt to stress.
After the Cold War, much of the information about adaptogens and nootropics that had been classified became public. This was right around the time when the United States established more clear regulations about drugs and supplements.
When it comes to nootropics, there are two classifications. One is nootropic drugs which require government regulation in order to be sold legally. The other group is dietary nootropic substances. This is technically a category of food that is not as strictly regulated.
How Nootropics Boost Vision
There are a few different theories about how nootropics could boost vision or at least make an individual perceive that their vision is better.
One possibility is that when an individual takes a drug like noopept, they experience greater alertness and mental clarity. So, while the objective ability to see may not actually improve, the ability to process visual stimuli increases, resulting in the perception of improved vision. This allows individuals to process visual cues more quickly, take in scenes more easily, and allows for the increased perception of smaller details.
Alternatively, it’s possible that nootropics could work through improving blood flow to the optic nerves as in the case of vinpocetine.3 Even though the benefits of using nootropics to boost mental clarity, alertness, and vision are agreed upon, the mechanism of how this happens is still a mystery and requires further investigation.
Best Nootropics for Vision Enhancement
One of the many benefits nootropics may provide is increased visual perception. Here are a few nootropics that may help:
Ashwagandha is an herb used to help the body adapt to stressors. It has also been shown to help regenerate dendrites and axons and restore neural networks.4
Noopept is a nootropic that belongs to the ampakine family. It is known for promoting learning, boosting mood, and improving logical thinking. It has been popular as a study drug for a long time but has recently become a popular supplement for improving vision. Users report seeing colors more brightly and feeling as if their vision is more vivid after taking noopept.
Piracetam is a racetam that has been found to be useful for improving vision. Similarly to noopept, it is thought to work by boosting mental clarity rather than by actually boosting true visual acuity.5
Coluracetam is another racetam that is reported by individuals to making it feel like they can see HD vision.6
The Brain and Neurogenesis
Neurogenesis process of new neurons (brain cells) forming in the brain. This is not only an important part of embryonic development but continues to be important in certain parts of the brain during early development and sometimes all through life. And more often than not, age-related brain issues will affect a majority of individuals.
Previous research stated that the brain's plasticity and neurogenesis had an age limit. However, this has been proven untrue. In fact, scientific research has shown that even adult minds can still grow with the right brain-targeting mechanisms.
Neurogenesis is another way of rebuilding the mind as adult brains regrow brain cells.7 This is where nootropics come in because they can promote neurogenesis.
How Nootropics Work to Improve Brain Function
Nootropics can improve brain function because they help increase the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a naturally-occurring protein in the brain that provides protection to neurons. This protein is also crucial in synaptogenesis, the process of creating pathways between neurons, as well as neurogenesis.8
Additionally, this protein also controls the life and death of brain cells, which aids in enhancing synaptic adaptability. Synapses are important for creating new memories, forming new connections, or combining existing connections. All of these components are important for mood regulation, maintenance of clarity, laser focus, and learning new life skills.
Nootropics and Neurogenesis
Ongoing studies are looking into the possible pathways by which nootropic substances function. Researchers have postulated that the mental health advantages derived from these substances can be attributed to their effects on the cholinergic and dopaminergic systems of the brain. These systems regulate two important neurotransmitters, acetylcholine and dopamine.
In the 1960s, research surfaced that showed that adult mice are capable of neurogenesis, and later research found that the same thing happens with cats, which sparked the hope that it could happen in humans too.
For neurogenesis to occur, several compounds are required:
- Morphogens: Support the development of precursor cells
- Neurotrophic factors: Protect neurons and help them grow (ex. BDNF)
- Neurotransmitters: (ex. GABA, glutamate, serotonin, and dopamine)
- Transcription factors: Involved with precursor cell division and organization of neurons9
Many people find that they experience increased “brain fog” as they age, some of which could be attributed to early degeneration of synapses and neural pathways. Some drugs have been found to be useful for providing cognitive improvements in these individuals. It's possible that these supplements could provide value by improving brain plasticity and supporting the regeneration of cells.10
Other related studies look into the impact of natural nootropics on memory, attention, and cognitive performance. It is thought that nootropic substances work via the dopaminergic and cholinergic system to provide mental health benefits.11
How Neurons Help You Think
Neurons form pathways in the brain, and those pathways are accessed to support thoughts and information-recall. Humans are more likely to establish more neural connections with adequate sleep, proper nutrition, and regular exercise, as these activities reduce stress and support cell growth and repair.
Essentially, humans require neurons to help perform tasks and recall information. Learning new skills and engaging in complex mental activity can help support the growth of new neurons and prevent the hippocampus from shrinking.
Nootropics Help with Neurological Activity
Using nootropics can help with neural priming and support the growth of new neurons through many different pathways.
Resveratrol is a supplement that, when taken in high doses, can help increase the growth of neurons. It also promotes the development of new blood vessels and boosts the growth factors that are associated with the generation of new brain cells. This means that it can improve memory and learning, increase focus, and enhance mental clarity.
Phosphatidylcholine is a lipid that is an important part of cell membranes. Supplementing this can help support a steady rate of neurogenesis.
There are several drugs in the racetam family, and they have all been shown to help improve cognitive function. Piracetam, for example, helps support the growth of neurons from precursor cells, while noopept and semax increase levels of BDNF and nerve growth factor (NGF), which can improve neurogenesis.
One particular nootropic, NSI-189, has been found to have antidepressant properties, and it has been found to improve cognitive function in individuals suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD). In studies on mice, it was found to increase the volume of the hippocampus by as much as 20 percent.
Racetams are often used as a smart drug by finance workers, students, and individuals in high-pressure jobs as a way to help them get into a mental flow state and work for long periods of time. Additionally, the habits and skills that an individual acquires while using a racetam can still be accessed when someone is not taking racetams because it becomes a habit.
There are many natural nootropics that can support improved vision and mental clarity. Essential nutrients, like the B vitamins, fall into that category. Vitamin B12, for example, is an important micronutrient associated with eyesight. In fact, a symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency is blurred vision.
If someone is deficient in B12 for a prolonged period of time, then the optic nerve that leads to the eyes can begin to break down, resulting in a loss of visual acuity.12The good news is that some of these consequences can be reversed with B12 supplementation.12
Herbs are another valuable source of natural nootropics that can help with both vision and mental acuity. Herbs with nootropic properties include:
- Ginkgo biloba: Thought to help reduce the risk of glaucoma and macular degeneration.
- Fennel: Thought to be helpful for remedying eye-related inflammation.
- Saffron: Helps delay the degeneration of eyesight in older adults
- Bilberries: Helps improve night vision because they maintain healthy blood circulation. They are a vasodilator and can promote blood flow to the eyes. Bilberries also contain anthocyanosides, which can help the eye to adapt to changing light conditions.
- Turmeric: An antiseptic, in addition to helping prevent oxidation of the lens in the eye.
Benefits of Nootropics Use
Nootropics offer both short- and long-term benefits. The immediate edge you gain can be increased productivity, better stress resistance, enhanced short-term memory, and improved focus. In the long-term, nootropics have been shown to promote mental clarity, better moods, and improved memory.
The drive to achieve things is spurred by motivation. For some people, igniting this inner drive seems to be just out of reach. Luckily, nootropics have been shown to boost motivation through the regulation of the neurotransmitter dopamine.13
Essentially, one of dopamine’s primary roles is triggering pleasure and motivation. So, by inducing feelings of rewards, the individual is then driven to become motivated to work towards goals to achieve those feelings of pleasure.
Here are some key nootropics that have been shown to be helpful for boosting motivation:
Also known as arctic root because only the root of this plant is used in this preparation, Rhodiola rosea is found in the arctic regions of Alaska, Asia, and Europe. Aside from optimizing dopamine, it also energizes, stimulates, and clarifies the mind, all helpful elements for increasing motivation.
Also known as folate, vitamin B9 is found in oranges, sweet corn, mangoes, avocado, spinach, asparagus, and beans. It can also be found in supplements and multivitamin capsules. Since Vitamin B9 is necessary for dopamine synthesis, it goes without saying that it is an important component for improving motivation.
This amino acid is a building block for proteins, and even though the body can produce tyrosine, it can also be found in foods like wheat, oats, beans, nuts, eggs, fish, meats, and dairy products. L-Tyrosine is specifically known to support dopamine levels and balance brain chemicals that are linked to healthy mental drive.
Natural nootropics are thought to help the mind relax and focus, helping to enhance the capacity for creativity. But, because it’s difficult to measure creativity, there's not much clinical research to back these claims at this time.
A good nootropic that enhances creativity is L-theanine. Found in green and black tea, L-theanine regulates brain waves to the alpha-frequency. This is a brain state that is alert but relaxed and linked to cognitive exploration and mind-expanding creativity.
Improved Learning Ability
Many nootropics have shown the ability to help enhance learning, which combines several cognitive demands like memory retrieval, memory storage, attention, focus, and mental energy. Aside from that, nootropics are also calming, enabling you to think clearly even under stressful conditions.
Below are some great nootropics for supporting memory for better learning:
Based on animal studies, this medicinal root has shown promising results when it came to improving learning ability and memory.
Used in traditional Indian medicine, this herb is also known as Brahmi and is known as the “learner’s nootropic.” It works by stimulating the brain chemicals related to enhancing memory, learning, and thinking. Additionally, it has been shown to slow down the rate at which individuals forget newly-acquired information.
Many people find it difficult to think clearly when they are stressed out. Ongoing stress leads to progressive mental fatigue and an eventual breakdown. Luckily, there are several ways that nootropics can help relieve stress. One is through the natural promotion of feelings of relaxation and the other is by replenishing the brain chemicals drained by stress.
Here are the scientifically studied nootropics studied to combat stress:
Because of its ability to modulate alpha brain waves, L-theanine also has the capacity to reduce stress levels.
This is an example of an adaptogen, a substance sourced from plants with the supposed properties of enabling the body to adapt to and combat stress.
A known adaptogen that enhances mind’s performance while strengthening stress resistance.
Stress depletes certain brain chemicals, and L-tyrosine aids in mental recovery by helping promote their replenishment.
Better Sleep Quality
Research has shown that there is a correlation between optimal brain performance and healthy sleep patterns. There are nootropics available that not only help boost brain function but also can help promote sleep.
One nootropic that stands out when it comes to sleep-boosting and mind-enhancing capacity is L-theanine. Human studies show that this smart drug provides better sleep quality and increased self-perceived measures of recovery, mood, energy upon waking, and dream quality.
Increased Attention Span
When it comes to attention, there are several ways that nootropics can help:
- Divided Attention – The ability to complete multiple mental tasks or multi-tasking.
- Alternating Attention – The capability to shift from one task to another, or cognitive flexibility.
- Selective Attention – The ability to focus on a stimulus despite environmental disruptions.
- Focused Attention – The simple ability to focus on the task at hand.
- Although there are a large number of nootropics for increasing attention, notable ones include:
Geared towards enhancing a wide variety of attentional performance.
A naturally-occurring brain chemical in the body that can be found in supplements or as an IV drug. In two different research studies, it was shown to enhance attention in both sexes.
Boosted Brain Energy
What adds to the appeal of nootropics aside from their ability to enhance brain function is their ability to boost energy without the negative effects related to the use of stimulants.
There are four known ways that nootropics increase energy:
- Modulation of the alpha brain waves that invigorate wakeful relaxation.
- Strengthening of the brain's ability to resist stress despite multi-tasking.
- Optimization of efficient energy production within the mitochondria of each brain cell.
- Assisting healthy blood flow to the brain.
When the brain is energized, this is directly correlated to the ability to maintain mental alertness and agility. Some of the best nootropics for these benefits include L-tyrosine, Rhodiola rosea, and citicoline. Vitamin B12 is also an invaluable cofactor when it comes to energy metabolism within the brain.
Nootropics are also sought out by consumers because of their ability to enhance mood and relieve stress. Nootropics like bacopa monnieri and L-theanine are backed by research as stress-relieving options. Lion's mane mushroom is also well-studied for its ability to boost the nerve growth factor, thereby leading to a balanced and bright mood.14
Nootropics are most sought after because of their long history of improving memory. With smart drugs, various memory functions have been shown to be enhanced, including free recall, short-term memory, and long-term memory.
When it comes to memory retrieval and formation, acetylcholine is the invaluable brain chemical behind these functions. Thus, nootropics containing this substance have been shown to enhance memory:
Also known as pyridoxine, vitamin B6 it is found in bananas, chickpeas, potatoes, fish, and poultry. A crucial vitamin for the normal development of the brain, this vitamin has been founded to enhance memory in older adults.
Possibly related to brain regenerative and energizing nootropic properties, citicoline has seen to increase memory performance in older adults.
This is considered the most evidenced-backed memory smart drug with the capacity to aid in information recall, as well as long and short-term memory.
Ginkgo biloba is considered one of the oldest living trees still around and is well-documented for its ability to improve cognitive performance.
Regeneration pertains to remodeling, repairing brain cell membranes, and growing new brain cells in response to new experiences and learning. Though the brain is in a constant regenerative state, with the help of smart drugs, this process can be fully optimized.
In part, nootropics help boost the regeneration process of the brain by becoming growth promoters or building block raw materials of the brain. Some nootropics shown to promote long-term brain regeneration include:
Lion's Mane Mushroom
Since this nootropic increases the nerve growth factor (NGF), it has been shown to support the remodeling and brain adaptability that is part of the brain regeneration process.
Maritime Pine Bark Extract
These pine trees grow near the Mediterranean Sea, and only the bark is used for medicinal purposes. The extract contains flavonoids, which have been shown to improve neural connections and likewise enhances BDNF levels.
According to one study, citicoline has been shown to boost brain regeneration in humans by as much as 26 percent.
Neuroprotection means providing protection for brain cells. Nootropics act similarly to antioxidants by providing protection to the brain against age-accelerating effects of free radicals. Another way that these smart drugs help is by providing protection to brain cells from degradation and damage linked to cognitive decline and brain fog.
Protects brain cells from toxic collateral damage through cleanup and disposal of dying brain cells.
Accelerates brain regeneration and optimizes brain cell structure.
It is a known fact that cognitive decline is often linked to aging. It may not be as visible as skin aging, but the brain does in fact age. Often, cognitive decline is not noticeable because it could be as mild as forgetting names of people. However, research has shown that even in healthy adults, cognitive decline can start as early as in the late twenties or early thirties.
Studies show that one of the most common causes for brain aging is the buildup of free radicals, which are unstable molecules that cause damage to the brain's cell membranes. Through the use of nootropics, these free radicals can be stabilized, arresting the damage they cause.
Provides brain anti-aging properties through antioxidant compounds known as bacosides.
Pine Bark Extract
Contains a complex antioxidant known as proanthocyanidin which has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, stabilizing free radicals in the brain.
Nootropics and Essential Oils
Many essential oils also have nootropic properties.
Essential oils are plant-based extracts. They are concentrated aromatic compounds derived from specific plant’s roots, flowers, seeds, leaves or branches, and even the rind of citrus fruits. There is a wide variety of essential oils, and each one provides a range of health benefits when used topically or aromatically.
There are many available studies involving essential oils exhibiting nootropic effects. First, there's lemongrass, or Cymbopogon Citratus, which has been shown to be a promising memory-restoring agent in mice.15
Another study on the olfactory impact of essential oils like lavender and rosemary revealed that they produced positive effects on cognitive performance and mood.16 And in another study on the inhalation of essential oils like grapefruit, fennel, Estragon, and black pepper essential oil, inhalation of the oils resulted in modulation of sympathetic activity in adults.17,18
With all these studies pointing to the nootropic benefits of some essential oils, it can logically be concluded then that some essential oils can be considered “smart drugs.” However, since essential oils have so much variety and only a small fraction of this wide range has been studied, it cannot be definitively concluded that absolutely all essential oils have brain-boosting benefits. The connection between the two is strong, however.
The Nootropic Effects of Essential Oils
If you’re looking to enjoy the aromatic benefits of essential oils, highlighted below is a quick list of essential oils that have been shown to have brain-boosting effects.
- Sandalwood – Increases attention span and mental stamina.
- Rosemary – Improves the ability to retain information.
- Chamomile – Calms the nerves and reduces stress, allowing for better focus.
- Basil – Boosts mental clarity and health while eradicating mental fatigue.
- Clary Sage – Boasts a sedative effect that reduces stress and improves sleep quality.
- Lavender – An instantly relaxing scent that has also been shown to improve sleep.
- Orange – Contains significant stress-relieving properties by lowering cortisol levels.
- Bergamot – Helps boost mood and relieve stress.
Another way to experience and benefit from an all-natural breathable nootropic is by using FOCUS MONQ, an organic essential oil blend.
How To Use Nootropics
Before beginning to use nootropics in your day-to-day life, it’s important to take some important safety considerations into account for optimal effects.
This means that you should not take nootropics like vitamin on a daily basis simply because of tolerance. You need to take them periodically and intermittently without any clear pattern. Through this, you avoid building both tolerance and dependence on the substance.
So how does cycling work? Let's say you take nootropics for three weeks straight and then you stop for one week straight too. Alternatively, you can take nootropics on the weekdays and not take any on the weekends.
Follow the Recommended Dosage
Especially when you are new to nootropics and are still trying to gauge how you and your body will react to the substance, be sure to always follow the recommended dose.
More Does Not Always Mean Better
There are nootropics that work best at a very low dose, so it does not necessarily mean that the higher the dose of a certain substance you take, the more benefits you will enjoy. Remember that when it comes to smart drugs, more does not equate to better benefits.
Frequency of Use
There are nootropics with fast-acting effects, while others provide effects that are far and few in between. Remember that some nootropics may take a few days, weeks, or even a month of frequent to begin providing benefits.
So, how much and how many differing nootropics can an individual take? Well, there are two options: single nootropic use or stacking. Single nootropic use means consuming only one smart drug. For example, if you want to try the lion's mane mushroom, you just stick to this nootropic.
On the other end of the spectrum is the nootropic stack, a practice where individuals create a cocktail or mixture of different smart drugs for daily intake. The mixture and its variety actually depend on the goals of the user. Many users have said that nootropic stacking is more effective for delivering improved cognitive function in comparison to single nootropics.
However, it’s important to be careful with nootropic stacking. The human body is complex, and each is body unique. Thus, no one person will have the same reaction to one substance or a combination of substances.
Furthermore, there is no certain way to know whether you’ll have an adverse reaction to a particular substance, even if it’s natural. This risk is heightened when stacking multiple substances because substances can have synergistic effects, meaning one substance can heighten the effects of another. However, using nootropic stacks that are known to have been frequently used can reduce the chances of any negative side effects.
How Effective are Nootropics, Really?
Nootropics are becoming more prevalent because of their versatile uses. More studies are still being conducted to verify their effects.
Caffeine and L-Theanine
However, two nootropic substances that have been researched more extensively than most other nootropics are caffeine and L-theanine. These compounds are both found in coffee and green tea, although in much smaller doses than the ones that people tend to consider therapeutic for nootropic purposes.
Caffeine can help improve focus because it increases catecholamine signaling. The problem is that over time it is possible to build up a tolerance to caffeine, which reduces that beneficial impact. Since caffeine is a stimulant that can also disrupt sleep quality and increase stress, it's a good idea to use it only in moderation.
L-theanine, on the other hand, can promote neuronal health and help reduce the physiological and psychological response to stress.
Stacking L-theanine with caffeine will help improve your focus while easing the shakes that can come with drinking a lot of coffee. Combining 100mg of caffeine with 200mg of L-theanine is a good starting point for those who want to improve their ability to sit down and work for long chunks of time and focus on difficult tasks.
Piracetam and Choline
Another popular stack is to combine piracetam and choline. These synthetic stimulants work to improve brain function in a number of ways, and piracetam is one of the original nootropic compounds. Interestingly, researchers do not fully understand how piracetam works.
One of the more dominant hypotheses is that piracetam improves membrane fluidity in the brain. Unfortunately, since most studies conducted on piracetam focus on elderly individuals and people with cognitive defects, it's difficult to gain a clear understanding of how the drug could help young professionals with generally healthy brains.
One often-cited study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology looked at cognitive function in the elderly and showed that racetam helped to improve their brain function.19 Another study, which was published in Psychopharmacology, looked at adult volunteers (including those who are generally healthy) and found that piracetam helped improve their memory.20
Anecdotal evidence from individuals also indicates that piracetam can help people focus for longer periods of time and enhances the ability to think clearly. However, some people find that they get headaches when they take it.
Taking piracetam, or other racetams, with choline, can help to offset those headaches. Choline itself is not a nootropic, but it is useful to add to your stack and can also help improve memory.
Alternatives to Piracetam
One reason why a lot of people stick with piracetam even though it's not perfect is that it's available as an over-the-counter option. There are other nootropics that are prescription-only that show more promise, however.
Modafinil is perhaps the best and most well-known of the cognitive enhancers. It helps boost alertness and has few known side-effects. Researchers believe that it acts as a dopamine reuptake inhibitor. This means it increases dopamine levels and creates an enhanced reward system in the brain.
Studies into the efficacy of modafinil as a focus-booster show that it does have a beneficial impact upon those who are young and generally healthy, rather than being limited in use to the elderly or individuals with cognitive deficits.
Unfortunately, modafinil can also be addictive, and it is unclear whether long-term use could affect a person's brain chemistry. This is why it is classed as a schedule IV controlled substance in the United States.
There is a similar substance which can be purchased legally almost anywhere in the world called adrafinil. This is a prodrug for modafinil. You can take it, and then the body will metabolize it into modafinil, providing similar beneficial effects. Unfortunately, it takes longer for adrafinil to kick in—about an hour—rather than a matter of minutes. In addition, there are more potential side-effects to taking the prodrug as compared to the actual drug.
Safety and Precautions
If you're considering taking pharmaceutical nootropics, then it's important that you learn as much as you can about how they work and that you seek professional advice before taking them. Be sure to read the side effects and contraindications of the nootropic that you are considering taking, and do not use it if you have any pre-existing medical conditions or allergies. If you’re taking other medications, then discuss your plans with a doctor or pharmacist to make sure that your nootropic is safe for you to use.
If you’re suffering from blurred or distorted vision or you’ve noticed a sudden and unexplained decline in the clarity of your vision, do not try to self-medicate. It is one thing to promote better eyesight from an existing and long-held baseline, but if you are noticing problems with your eyes, then you should see an optician and a doctor to rule out underlying medical conditions.
With the right lifestyle and the right stack of supplements and nootropics, you can enjoy enhanced mental clarity, easier flow, and better vision. The best nootropics for your needs will depend on how much you want to spend, how often you want to take them, and what you want to take them for. Nutritional supplements should be taken daily, for the cumulative effect, but Smart drugs such as noopept and modafinil are usually taken on an as-needed basis, for those times when you are aiming for hyperfocus, better clarity, and better recall, or the ability to process a huge amount of incoming visual information quickly and accurately and to pick up on details that you might otherwise miss.
Depending on where you live, some nootropics may not be sold over the counter, but they are usually available online. The law regarding nootropics can vary massively around the world, so be sure to do your homework before you purchase something for the first time. Be particularly cautious when importing smart drugs, because quality control and regulations abroad are not always as stringent as they are in the US. Do not put your health at risk if all you are trying to do is gain an edge in a competitive sport.
Incorporating Nootropics into Your Diet
Aside from adding nootropic supplements into your daily routine, one great way of optimizing your brain's power is by improving your diet.
Green tea contains both caffeine and theanine, both of which are nootropic compounds. These substances work together to keep you focused and alert while keeping you calm. The presence of theanine in green tea is crucial because it counteracts the side effects of caffeine, which includes jitteriness, energy crashes, and palpitations.
Additionally, green tea also contains flavonoids like catechins, which work as antioxidants, providing protection to brain cells against premature aging.
To incorporate green tea into your daily diet, you can start with one cup a day, especially if you have not yet acquired a taste for tea. As you get used to it, you can start adding another cup until you reach three cups a day. Evenly space out your tea drinking habit to supply your body steadily with theanine and caffeine.
Nothing beats waking up to a good cup of coffee. Coffee contains many antioxidants, one being the chlorogenic acid which is effective for eliminating free radicals as well as reducing oxidative damage.
Long-term and moderate coffee consumption is the recommended dose for enjoying the benefits of this substance without incurring negative side effects. Moderate consumption would mean three to four smalls cups of coffee daily—around 400 mg of caffeine.
Brain Function-Enhancing Foods
Food is where the body and brain get daily sustenance in order to drive important processes and keep the body performing optimally.21 Foods may not contain concentrated levels of nootropic substances like supplements do, but if you eat foods that have a brain-boosting edge, they can still provide health benefits:
Research shows a strong link between consumption of fatty fish and better memory, neurogenesis, mood, and brain health.
The body and brain require energy and nutrients to support cell growth and repair. Because of this, phospholipids are vital for a healthy brain, as are choline sources. It’s a stretch to call lipids a nootropic, but the brain cannot function without them.
Many people limit the amount of fats they consume because they are worried that eating a high-fat diet will make them gain weight. However, this is not necessarily the case. Certain fats ("good" fats known as unsaturated fats) are vital for hormone production, cellular repair, and for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
A spice used in many curry dishes, turmeric has been shown to be powerful in alleviating stress.
These little berries are rich in anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants that provide protection to the brain against aging. You can enjoy your blueberries raw or mix them in with your morning oats—the options are endless.
These have shown to be effective in reducing oxidative stress and preventing free radical damage. Other veggies that have NRF2 activators include turnips, arugula, watercress, mustard, collards, bok choy, cabbage, kale, and cauliflower.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
In long-term studies, this oil has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and enhance memory.
In a study on habitual chocolate consumption, the more people ate chocolate, the higher their performance on cognitive tests like scanning and tracking, working for memory, visual-spatial memory, and organization. It is recommended to eat one bar of 85 percent dark chocolate weekly.
This is the primary choline-containing food source, an essential substance required for the proper wiring of neuronal membranes. Choline is also the building block for acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter critical for deep sleep, memory, and learning. Other sources of choline are shellfish, seafood, and liver.
Are Nootropics Worth the Risk?
It's hard to know exactly how effective nootropics are as a focus-booster. In addition to studies, the only way to know for sure is to take them for a few weeks and track your productivity over that time.
Another option is to start with simple lifestyle changes. Though the idea of nootropics is appealing, there are many things the average person can do to enhance cognitive function without jumping straight to this. Simple factors like sleep, exercise, meditation, hydration, and diet can improve cognitive function.
Remember, the strictest definition of nootropics says that for a substance to be a true brain-boosting nootropic it must have low toxicity and few side effects. Therefore, a nootropic is safe to use. However, when people start stacking nootropics indiscriminately, taking megadoses, or buying from unknown suppliers that may have poor quality control, it's easy for safety concerns to creep in.
If you want to make sure that whatever you're taking is safe, search for nootropics that have been backed by clinical trials and that have been around long enough for any potential warning signs about that specific nootropic to begin surfacing. There are supplements and nootropics that have been tested in a clinical setting, so there are options out there.
When it comes to safety, there is enough research-backed evidence to suggest that for short-term use, you are unlikely to do any harm to yourself by taking the most popular nootropics.
Long-term use is different and research-backed efficacy is another question altogether. The nootropic market is not regulated. So a company can make claims without getting in trouble because they’re not technically selling a drug. This is why it’s important to look for well-known brands and standardized nootropic herbs where it's easier to calculate the suggested dose and be confident about what you're taking.
The benefits that they offer are gradually becoming more clearly understood. Those who use them now have the potential to get ahead of the curve when it comes to learning, information recall, mental clarity, and focus. Everyone is different, however, so take some time to learn what works for you and what doesn’t and build a stack that helps you perform at your best.
When used correctly and coupled with other important lifestyle changes like a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and exercise, nootropics can provide a range of cognitive health benefits like improving information recall and boosting focus.
Whether you go for natural supplements, pharmaceuticals, or essential oils, nootropics are worth thinking about as a new addition to your daily routine.
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