When deciding what nootropics to add to your nootropic stack, it is important to take into consideration how they impact brain function. By understanding what nootropics are best for different purposes, you can create a stack that works to improve brain health and function in a variety of ways. The top 10 best nootropics for enhancing cognitive function are outlined below.
Tumeric is the spice responsible for the bright yellow color of curry. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional holistic medicinal system in India, for thousands of years. The primary compound in turmeric that contributes to its health benefits is known as curcumin. There have been a large number of studies conducted on the benefits of both turmeric and curcumin.
The primary benefits of turmeric as a brain supplement are believed to be due to its powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potential. As people grow older, inflammation and oxidative stress play a role in the development of neurological conditions and age-related cognitive decline.1 Due to turmeric’s ability to reduce the damage caused by oxidation and inflammation, it may help protect brain function and the health of the brain as individuals age.
Caffeine and L-Theanine
If you struggle with brain fog or mental or physical fatigue, taking a combination of the natural nootropics caffeine and L-theanine may help.
Caffeine is the most popular stimulant used around the world, and it has been shown to increase alertness and enhance information processing. It may even help reduce mental and physical fatigue. However, there is one downside to caffeine that few people are familiar with: it does not appear to help memory and excess stimulation may harm certain kinds of memory.2
Fortunately, nature has come up with a solution. In green tea, you’ll find caffeine alongside another compound: L-theanine. L-theanine is an amino acid that has relaxing benefits that are not accompanied by fatigue or sedation.
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Human studies suggest that these two compounds work together synergistically. When compared to just caffeine alone, caffeine and L-theanine were found to yield similar benefits for alertness and accuracy on an attention-switching task, yet had the added benefit of improved performance on a memory task when compared to caffeine alone.3
In order to try this powerful combination naturally, swap out coffee for green tea. While it does contain less caffeine than coffee, many individuals still notice significant benefits. You can also simply drink more of it. Otherwise, there are supplements that contain both of these brain-boosting nootropics. Or you can use an L-theanine supplement at the same time that you drink coffee.
Modafinil and Armodafinil
Modafinil is a prescription drug sold under the brand names Provigil and Nuvigil for the treatment of narcolepsy. Modafinil and Armodafinil (a longer-lasting and stronger version of Modafinil) are among the strongest when it comes to reducing fatigue and enhancing memory and learning abilities.4,5
The ability of these drugs to enhance cognition and provide stimulation without a jittery feeling make them favorites among students and those who must perform despite sleep deprivation, such as military personnel. They may even help boost creativity, increase motivation, enhance attention span, and improve reaction time.6
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort is a natural herb that has been used for centuries to encourage a positive mood. In a meta-analysis of human clinical trials, researchers concluded that this herb may help relieve the symptoms of mild to moderate depression. These same results have not been found with severe depression.7
Keep in mind that St. John’s wort is known to interact with a wide variety of drugs, so speak with your doctor before adding it to your nootropic stack.
Noopept is a popular synthetic nootropic supplement used to improve memory and learning potential. It has also shown promise for reducing stress, improving mood, and boosting energy.8 It is the way that noopept works inside the body that is particularly beneficial, not just for cognitive function, but for brain health as well.
Noopept boosts levels of nerve growth factor and brain-derived neurotrophic factor, two chemicals that stimulate the growth of new nerve cells, increasing neuroplasticity.9 This increase in neuroplasticity improves brain health, memory, and learning abilities.
Additionally, noopept appears to protect the mitochondria, the part of the cell responsible for creating energy and preventing oxidative damage in the brain.10 These benefits may help protect against age-related cognitive decline and neurological diseases.
Because the benefits of noopept for neuroplasticity require long-term supplementation, you may not notice the cognitive benefits until you have been supplementing with it for a longer period of time—think weeks rather than days.
As a brain supplement, alpha-GPC is known to slow the rate of cognitive decline and may even boost cognition in those who are healthy.11,12 These nootropic benefits are largely due to the two compounds alpha-GPC breaks down into when taken orally: choline and glycerophosphate.
Not only is alpha-GPC the most effective drug at delivering choline to the brain, where it is used in the synthesis of the “learning” neurotransmitter acetylcholine, but it also supports the health and function of cellular membranes.13
Cell membranes are made up of phospholipids, a type of fat. Choline and glycerophosphate are important components of phospholipids. Therefore, sufficient choline and glycerophosphate can help protect the structure of cell membranes.
Cold-water fish contain the highest levels of two omega-3 fatty acids integral to the health and function of the brain: DHA and EPA. DHA and EPA act as a neuroprotective and may help those suffering from a variety of neurological and neurodegenerative disorders.14 Rather than eating fish multiple time each week, many neurohackers choose to take fish oil supplements.
DHA, in particular, is important for the structure of neuronal membranes and thus the overall health of the brain. It is this fatty acid that is thought to play the most important role in helping with neurodegenerative diseases. EPA, on the other hand, appears to support an optimal mood.15
Resveratrol is an antioxidant found in wine and the skin of red and purple fruits that can help protect the health of the brain through its antioxidant potential, as well as an ability to enhance cerebral blood flow.18
Animal studies suggest that this nootropic supplement may help enhance cognitive function and memory, with one human study finding an improvement in memory following 26 weeks of taking 200 mg/day of resveratrol.19 In another animal study, resveratrol was even found to protect the health and function of the hippocampus, the brain region largely responsible for long-term memory that also plays a role in emotions.20
It is thought that long-term supplementation with this compound may help preserve brain health and function, particularly in the region most important for memory and learning.
If you struggle with fatigue and the related performance deficits, whether mental or physical, creatine may help you get to where you want to be.
Creatine is a molecule naturally produced in the human body that is a common supplement for athletes and bodybuilders. As a nootropic, this supplement can help fight brain fog, increase cognitive function, and improve performance during periods of sleep deprivation.21
Creatine works primarily through providing a source of energy for the brain in the form of phosphocreatine, in which high-energy phosphate groups are stored.22 This energy is released during periods of stress, which is how it benefits the body, both mentally and physically. Additionally, it increases the use of oxygen in the brain.
This brain supplement appears to be particularly useful for vegetarians, with greater improvements seen in cognition in vegetarians than in omnivores. This makes sense because creatine being is primarily found in certain animal products, such as eggs, fish, and meat, but not in plant-based foods.23
Phosphatidylserine is an amino acid derivative that is used to make phospholipids, a component of cellular membranes. Because this is an important part of cellular membranes, supplementation with phosphatidylserine has demonstrated a positive role in brain health and cognitive function, especially in the elderly.
Supplementation with this natural nootropic has been found to enhance cognition in both young and older adults. One hundred mg three times daily was found to reduce the symptoms associated with age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative symptoms in the elderly, and 400 mg/day enhanced memory skills in healthy adults.24
There are a variety of ways that nootropic supplements can enhance the health and function of the brain. You can use this list to pick and choose the best nootropics for your personal needs. This may include improving memory, fighting fatigue, reducing stress, improving mood, or protecting against age-related cognitive decline. Whatever the purpose, there is a nootropic to fit your needs.
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