When it comes to nootropics, or “smart drugs,” many people imagine a synthetic drug similar to the “limitless” pill, where Bradley Cooper takes a pill and suddenly has superhuman powers. However, if you’ve ever taken a nootropic, you know that their benefits, while oftentimes extremely beneficial, are not quite so dramatic.
While there is no drug that quite measures up to the “limitless” pill, there are countless supplements that can improve how people feel and how well the brain functions. These drugs can change the overall outlook on life, as well as increase performance at school or work. And yes, many of these are 100 percent natural!
From powerful stress-fighters that promote neurogenesis to herbs shown to slow memory loss as people age, naturally derived nootropics can have just as big of an impact on mood and cognition as their synthetic counterparts.
In fact, the most commonly used nootropic of all time around the whole world is natural: caffeine. This nootropic drug is so strong that its use was banned in the Olympics from 1984 to 2004 by the World Anti-Doping Agency.1
Highlighted below are the ten most popular all-natural nootropics and the research-backed benefits that they offer. Consider trying one or more in your all-natural nootropic stack.
Ten Most Powerful Natural Nootropics
The natural supplements described below have been shown to reduce stress, improve exercise performance, enhance memory, reduce fatigue, and provide a wide range of other benefits.
St. John’s Wort
If you’re looking for a natural nootropic shown in study after study to help relieve symptoms associated with mild to moderate depression, St. John’s wort may be just what you’re looking for.5 St. John’s wort is known to interact with many prescription and over-the-counter medications, so be sure to speak with your doctor before adding it to your nootropic stack.
Few people probably think of their daily cup(s) of coffee being categorized as nootropics, but caffeine has been shown to enhance alertness, boost physical performance, improve reaction time, and increase feelings of subjective well-being.7,8
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It’s important to note, however, that studies on caffeine have had mixed results when it comes to its effect on memory, so do your research to determine when you should supplement with this particular nootropic.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s mane is a mushroom that neurohackers use to protect against cognitive decline, reduce feelings of stress, boost focus, and encourage a positive mood.9 It’s best to use capsules or powders taken with food to encourage optimal strength and absorption.
One of the most commonly used adaptogens—herbs that reduce feelings of anxiety by promoting a healthy stress response—is ashwagandha.10 Studies have found reductions in the stress hormone cortisol and subjective feelings of stress with regular use of this powerful herb.11
Memory formation, attention, and mood enhancement are the primary uses of bacopa monnieri.12 Human studies have found that four to six weeks of supplementation with this herb can improve memory in healthy individuals and those experiencing cognitive decline.
Panax ginseng is a plant commonly used in herbal medicine. Research suggests that it can help promote a positive mood, improve cognitive function, boost immune system strength, and decrease muscle damage post-exercise.13
No nootropics list would be complete without a quality source of choline. Alpha GPC is a precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter important for learning and memory. Many synthetic nootropics are designed around optimizing the cholinergic system, yet you can get some of these benefits with natural nootropics as well.
L-theanine is a compound found in green tea that works exceptionally well when used in conjunction with caffeine.16 It encourages relaxation without fatigue and can consequently reduce jitters that may come with the use of stimulants.
Whether you choose to use individual nootropics or a nootropic stack, there are powerful natural options for both. It will put your mind at ease to know that you are taking an all-natural supplement which allows you to experience full nootropic benefits.
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