Nootropics are often referred to as “smart drugs” for good reasons. There is much that can be told about the use of nootropics for cognitive function and it seems that many adults are starting to notice the vast benefits that these supplements can offer for overall health and mental well-being.
What are Nootropics?
A simple definition of nootropics is that they are designed to improve some part of cognitive performance including memory, motivation, endurance, energy, attention, and focus. Nootropics have the ability to enhance cognition in a variety of ways.
Some of the best brain supplements are included in the category of cognitive enhancers. These cognitive enhancers are designed to “boost” brain performance through a variety of ways, with some of the most prominent ones listed below.
Chances are you have had some type of brain supplement or cognitive enhancer at some point or another throughout your life, but with the use of nootropics, you can notice improved cognition each day. Consider some common brain supplements that can help give you that added cognitive functioning below.
Nootropics for Memory
Ginkgo biloba and Panax Ginseng
These two supplements are common among a number of nootropics and can be found in some teas and other herbal remedies. Separately, each plays a vital role in mental health and well-being.
Gingko biloba has been touted for its mental health boosts whereas Panax ginseng is known as an energy booster and focus producer. When these two supplements are combined together, they produce a synergistic effect that can be beneficial for cognitive function.
Studies have shown that 60 milligrams of Ginkgo biloba combined with 100 milligrams of Panax ginseng can significantly improve memory quality among adults, suggesting the importance of these drugs as cognitive enhancers.1 These studies utilized this dosing three times per day; however, finding the right dosing for your memory boost may not require this same schedule.
This unique compound is commonly used to affect the brain and its memory boosting properties. Found as an herbal extract, Huperzine-A serves the function as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, or simply a compound which stops the formation of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase.
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Preventing the breakdown of this enzyme allows for more acetylcholine in the brain, which is important for memory and brain functioning. Studies have shown that the use of Huperzine-A can help to boost memory and cognitive performance among individuals when compared to placebo.2
Common doses for Huperzine-A range from 50 to about 200 micrograms each day, but consider starting on the lower end of this range to see what effects it will have on your memory performance.
The name of this supplement is more intimidating to pronounce more than anything, but it does serve a valuable role in memory and cognitive performance. Alpha-GPC, or glycerylphorylcholine, is a compound that is common among a number of foods that contain choline.
Some foods that contain high amounts of choline in typical diets include liver, eggs, meat, salmon, and peanuts. It seems that Alpha-GPC serves the function of preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine in the brain, which as described before, is important for memory.
Studies have shown that the use of Alpha-GPC can boost memory by reversing some of the factors seen in amnesia, or loss of memory.3 Doses for cognitive enhancers such as Alpha-GPC will vary, but standard doses typically are 400 milligrams taken three times per day.
Nootropics for Focus and Concentration
Among a number of perks for being on a nootropics regimen, focus and concentration is something that can add performance to your daily life. Consider the following nootropics for added focus and concentration.
This compound is considered one of the more common cognitive enhancers around since it is common in green tea. L-theanine is an amino acid that serves the role as a relaxing agent, not to mention it plays a role on focus and concentration.
It seems that L-theanine increases the amount of brain wave signals which allows for better alertness among other benefits. Studies have shown that L-theanine can help to boost focus and attention when combined with caffeine.4
About 100 milligrams of L-theanine combined with only 40 milligrams of coffee (less than half a cup equivalent) can have significant effects on reaction times, mental tasks, as well as reduced fatigue.5
Another common compound that is found naturally is resveratrol. This compound, which is most common in red wine, has gained valuable popularity over recent years for its potential to affect brain performance.
Studies show that resveratrol plays many roles in the body including cardiovascular health, but more prominent studies have demonstrated its usefulness for brain functioning.
Researchers have shown that the consumption of resveratrol can lead to increased nitric oxide and increased blood flow. As a result, this can lead to boosts in cognitive performance among adults.6
Perhaps one of the most commonly consumed supplement in recent years is fish oil. This supplement, which is derived from fatty fish, typically contains compounds that give protection to cardiovascular health as well as to mental health.
In particular, it seems the EPA compounds in omega-3 rich fish oil may be important for cognitive performance. Studies have shown the consumption of fish oil can help cause the brain to be more efficient and have higher cognitive performance and the benefits may be due to EPA rich fish oil supplementation.7
Acetyl L-carnitine is a natural compound that is created in the body naturally by the liver and other organs. It serves the function of boosting energy by allowing the mitochondrial cells to burn fat. It is common in animal proteins including red meat and supplementation may play a role in cognitive performance.
One reason this drug may benefit cognition is that it can cross the blood-brain barrier, which means it is able to have an effect on brain performance. Studies have shown that supplementation with acetyl L-carnitine can reduce inflammation in the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). The BDNF affects growth, function, and survival of neurons.8
Final Thoughts on Cognitive Enhancers
The information above is designed to give you a solid background on some of the nootropics that you can use as cognitive enhancers. These agents are designed to aid in cognitive performance including memory, focus, attention, and others.
While many of the listed cognitive enhancers above can be found in food, tea, and other supplementation, it is important to understand that adding regular supplementation with these nootropics can give you the daily boost for your brain power.
Consider starting with one or two supplements at a time to see what effect it has on your brain performance and slowly add more. Taking more of each supplement is not always recommended so finding the correct dose that works for you is best.
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