Admit it. You are more concerned with your weight, body figure, and what you eat than worrying about your brain health. In fact, most people ignore brain health altogether until decline begins to set in, at which point reversing tissue damage is a far bigger challenge than maintaining function over a lifetime. Most will experience cognitive decline in the form of reduced short term memory, slower processing, and poor recall as early as 40 years old. By 50, a more marked decline is typically noticeable and if you're not sleeping well throughout your lifespan you will contribute to premature aging. Understanding your sleep cycle is an important first step for your introduction to nootropics and biohacking.
For starters, it's best to understand your sleep cycle. 5 Stages of Sleep: An In Depth Look Into Your Sleep Cycle
By the time you start paying attention, it can be too late to reverse cellular damage that has been gradually progressing with the passing of time. We now know that our brain and body have a far greater capability to regenerate than previously realized. Under the right nutritional circumstances and movement practices, brain or body tissues are able to recover function that was once thought to be lost. Read on to learn about how you can start biohacking... Biohacking For Beginners.
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The good news is: you can start taking care of your brain as early as now and further slow and prevent cognitive decline and increase overall health and function. If you are looking for something to improve your cognitive function and enhance your memory, this is where nootropics come in.
To give you a quick background, nootropics, also known as smart drugs, are cognitive enhancement supplements that help improve your energy for creativity, focus, memory, concentration, and attention. Nootropics also provide anti-aging benefits and improvement of physical well-being.
There are two main types: natural nootropics and synthetic nootropics. Read on to learn more about the difference between the two and find out which is the best option between them.
Get to Know Natural or Herbal Nootropics
Herbal nootropics or natural nootropics are all-natural enhancement supplements for the brain. Whatever you want to call them, this type of nootropics are either plant-based or plant-derived substances that help in improving not just your brain but also your overall health.
The love for going all natural continues to grow in popularity and nootropics are no exception. In fact, natural nootropics can be as effective and as strong as their synthetic counterparts. Often times, the synthetics are derivatives of naturally occurring nutrients, but can come with dependency issues as they are typically altered for increasing or decreasing synaptic uptake and or inhibition depending on the desired outcome. We aren’t opposed to synthetic nootropics, and actually use one called phenibut in our Mend formula. Although phenibut’s risk for dependency isn’t verified we still advise you to cycle off of any synthetic nootropic just to ensure your system resets, and reduces even the possibility of dependency. Phenibut’s big derivative factor is its phenyl ring that allows it to cross the blood brain barrier making it immediately effective. Many ingredients cannot pass this barrier, and thus effects are diminished. Proper dosing is also very important, with abuse for any synthetic nootropic shrouded in extremely high doses. If it’s in grams, it’s likely too much.
Natural or herbal nootropics do not come with any risk of dependency, and if taken in abnormally high doses, you will excrete the excess. If your brain and body doesn’t need it, you’ll excrete it. It’s obvious now that eating healthy over a lifetime and limiting your caloric intake to what is actually necessary will prime you for longevity and increase your lifespan. The addition of nootropic to your diet provide herbal nutrients that are almost impossible to obtain from even the most healthy foods. Consequently, more people are turning to nootropic supplements to feed their brain’s needs and are also using more than one natural nootropic, referred to as stacking, in order to enhance the effects of a multitude of nutrients. Some benefit from higher dosing, but often really high doses aren’t coming with proportionally greater benefit. Once you elevate your internal stores to desired levels with minimum effective doses, your brain and body will use what they require, as they need it.
Why Natural or Herbal Nootropics?
Proponents of synthetic drugs, and those of us in favor of herbal nootropics have the same goals in mind. We are just arriving there via different mechanisms. You might say that there is an abundance of synthetic nootropics in the market that could make your life easier. You might even argue that you tried natural nootropics and they just aren’t as powerful as synthetic smart drugs. In real time, we would have to agree with you. Synthetics are typically designed to act immediately and would be the hare in the race, to which herbal nootropics are more of the tortoise game. A steady supply of elevated nutrient stores over time for continued and prolonged benefit, rather than a large spike with diminishing returns over time. The effects of natural nootropics compound over time because one ingredient is capable of affecting multiple aspects of cognitive function depending on need, and severity of decline. Not everyone experiences a delay in improvement with herbal nootropics, with many proponents citing just as immediate or nearly as immediate effects as with synthetics.
So before you assume that natural nootropics are inferior to synthetics, you should experience for yourself first hand how your system reacts, and what noticeable or meaningful changes you can point to. We think herbal should be your number one choice when it comes to nootropics, because they are rooted more in a healthy diet, but understanding what synthetics can do and using them appropriately can be beneficial for specific outcomes. Here’s why:
- Think of the long-term effect. When it comes to health, the best way to look at it is to evaluate the long-term effects. Nootropics must be taken on a regular basis for you to enjoy their holistic benefits. If you are going natural, you won’t experience detrimental effects on your brain – and your health – even if you are on regular dosing for a lifetime.
- Stacking makes natural nootropics more effective. Two heads is better than one and the same goes with natural nootropics. The good thing about going for herbals is that they are often synergistic and easier to stack with other supplements that make them even more effective. One nootropic will benefit a specific process, to which another will further enhance additional metabolic processes, to which they begin to complement one another. For example, huperzine A is neuroprotective and increases neurogenesis (neuron growth). It has a prolonged mechanism of action and as a cholinesterase inhibitor it prevents the reduction of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Alpha gpc is a choline source that is a substrate or precursor to acetylcholine which further increases acetylcholine stores. Increasing acetylcholine activity is desirable as this neurotransmitter is involved in brain and body function in the CNS(central nervous system) and PNS(peripheral nervous system). Many of the functions are autonomic, meaning they occur without input. Think of it as your brain and body autopilot function that ensures everything is running smoothly and operating efficiently.
- Safety is not an issue. This brings you back to benefit number one, which is the long-term effect on your brain and body. Herbal nootropics come from natural sources that have the ability to affect how your brain works. Since they are natural, they are generally safer and do not pose any serious threats to your health. They also do not alter synaptic uptake, benefits do not diminish over time, and do not create dependency. You either ingest them to benefit or you do not, there is no withdrawal to encourage you to keep using, or to take every higher doses. Finding your minimum effective dose is adequate for a lifetime, and the benefits that you experience will be the only driving factor for you to continue use. Some benefits will not be so immediate, and when it comes to memory loss prevention, it’s a slow game you’re playing. Those who have had beneficial diets all their lives like the mediterranean diet that is high in omega 3 fatty acids show reduced levels of cognitive decline and better memory as they age as compared to those who have not benefited from healthy fats over their lifetime. We know that algal DHA is a primary component of the beneficial aspects of omega 3 fats and it’s the ingredient that cold water fish like salmon get to boost their nutrient profile. Supplementing regularly with algal DHA provides the same substrate benefit that eating salmon delivers. This is why substrates are effective and you feel good when you use them. It’s the same feeling you get when you eat nutrient dense food that provides you with valuable, clean energy.
- Accessibility and availability. When we say natural nootropics, this means you can also get brain-enhancing benefits from the food you eat. When certain herbals aren’t so great tasting as a pure digestible, or aren’t readily attainable at the market, supplementing offers the availability and accessibility you deserve. Ok, maybe not super accessible given the remote locations where many of these herbs grow, but that’s where we come in. We’ve made them accessible and available so that you can have them on hand and add them to your diet.
Herbal nootropics improve your short term memory and recall, ability to focus and concentrate, and boost your overall brain health sans the negative side effects that can arise from taking purely synthetic nootropics on a long-term basis.
Do Herbal Nootropics Have Side Effects?
Given the benefits, does this mean that you are free from any adverse effects? The truth is it still depends.
Safety is the number one tagline for natural nootropics, but at the end of the day, the effect varies from person to person. Some people may experience allergic reactions from a particular ingredient. Some natural nootropics may not be easily accepted by your body; and can cause rash, vomiting, or stomach problems.
The key here is to know your body well. Know your allergies, food triggers, and anything that could affect the balance in your body. Once you identified your trigger(s), avoid it and then look for alternatives to be able to fully enjoy what natural nootropics can offer. There are several nootropics that have memory benefit that work via different mechanisms, and come from completely different sources.
That being said, you might wonder – what herbal nootropics must be included in your daily routine? Check out the next section to find out.
The Best Natural and Herbal Nootropics
Are you wondering what type of natural nootropics should be included in your daily diet?
Originally from India and North America, this herb has been a favorite in Ayurvedic medicine for treating various conditions. Later on, ancient Indians realized that this herb also comes with cognitive enhancing powers, capable of boosting your memory – starting from formation, then retention, and then restoration, and can also be a natural treatment for epilepsy. Since it has antioxidant effects, this herb is also present in many anti-aging formulas.
Apparently, bacopa monnieri’s effects are only limited to one aspect of brain health, which is memory. This is why this herb is often stacked with other natural nootropics to be able to address other cognitive functions.
When it comes to going natural, this herb will always be part of the list. Used for medicinal purposes dating back thousands of years ago, gingko biloba, particularly the leaves, has flavonoid glycosides and terpenoids, which act as monoamine oxidase inhibitors. It also protects your body against free radicals and oxidative damage to your cells that could compromise your overall health.
In case you are looking for a nootropic that can boost your memory and concentration, gingko biloba can do the job. It may not be as strong as the other natural nootropics, so make sure to include this in your nootropic stack.
This nootropic ingredient is extracted from Firmoss, a plant that grows in Southeast Asia. This plant has been around for hundreds of years and recently, experts discovered that it blocks too much production of acetylcholinesterase, a type of chemical that breaks down acetylcholine.
The right amount of acetylcholine leads to improved memory, better cognition, and even higher test scores. This is because it is able to protect your brain cells from dying and at the same time, encourages formation of new brain cells.
To make the most out of huperzine-A, combine it with a choline source nootropic, like alpha GPC. Yes, there are good synthetic options as well which you will learn more about below.
- B -Vitamins and Their Nootropic Benefits
One of the most important nutrients your brain and body needs is B-vitamins. They support and promote not just healthier skin but also better brain health. When it comes to B-vitamins, the following must be included in your list of natural nootropics:
- Vitamin B1 – This is also called Thiamine and known for lowering your stress levels.
- Vitamin B2 – Commonly referred as Riboflavin, this type of B-vitamin fights cellular damage caused by free radicals trapped inside your body.
- Vitamin B3 – This is Niacin and it helps lower your risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.
- Vitamin B5 – Called Pantothenic Acid and is popularly known as an anti-stress vitamin.
- Vitamin B7 – This is Biotin and helps with peripheral neuropathy as well as the healthy component for hair, skin, and nails.
- Vitamin B9 – Popularly known as folic acid, which supports your overall brain function and commonly recommended during pregnancy to prevent birth defects.
- Vitamin B12 – This is Cobalamin, which helps assist against memory loss and boosts your mood, energy, and mental clarity.
This amino acid is naturally occurring in green tea leaves. When taken, L-theanine can do the following:
- Supports and increases alpha brain waves to keep you relaxed and boost your mood.
- Increases calmness without the danger of addiction or withdrawal.
- Calms your nerves to prevent social anxiety.
- Improves your focus and stacks well with caffeine to prevent anxious jitters.
Still, don’t limit yourself to these natural nootropics. This list is nowhere near exhaustive. There are many out there that also deserve the spotlight, so make sure to read up as much as you can to find out what will work best for you and your needs.
What to Know About Synthetic Nootropics
Natural nootropics will always be better in our eyes, but this doesn’t mean that the synthetic counterpart is evil. In fact, the two types of nootropics share the same goal: to improve your overall cognitive function, increase your brain health, and slow or prevent tissue damage and decline in mental processing.
Why Try Synthetic Nootropics?
- They are effective. Synthetic nootropics live up to there promise of better thinking, improved memory, enhanced functionality, and more focus. In other words, you get to enjoy what you paid for. Keep in mind though, that you will need more of them over time to deliver the same effect.
- Easily target a variety of cognitive functions. There are natural nootropics for every cognitive function you want to focus on but synthetic nootropics have very specific mechanisms of action often making them more immediate than herbals, but as mentioned this comes at a physiological price namely in dependency and withdrawal.
- Variety of options. You have many choices when it comes to choosing nootropics. You can try racetams, a widely used nootropic group that helps release acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter as we’ve discussed. Another type of synthetic nootropics that is common among biohackers is ampakines, although further research is needed regarding their long-term use. Modafinil is another option because it provides an energy boost and keeps you awake to increase your productivity throughout the day. Phenibut, which is also an ingredient in Momental Mend, helps improve learning, memory, and thinking, in addition to its anxiolytic effects, but must be taken in moderation and occasionally cycled off to prevent dependency.
Synthetic nootropics can be effective in boosting your brain health; however, don’t be too complacent. Read the next section to find out the dangers that come with them.
Do Synthetic Nootropics Have Side Effects?
Here lies the difference between natural and synthetic nootropics. Compared to natural nootropics, you are more prone to side effects when you use synthetic nootropics.
What kind of side effects, you might ask. Here are some possibilities:
- Headache or dizziness
- Alters your synaptic uptake or inhibition.
- Heart palpitations
- Prominent Nausea
- Confusion, difficulty concentrating
- Mood swings, especially during transitional periods, and in between cycles
- Greater Fatigue
More than these symptoms, one of the biggest concerns in taking synthetic nootropics is the “dependency” they create. There are people who take higher doses in a more frequent manner to pump them up, only to find themselves physically dependent on these smart drugs.
That’s not all. The most effective synthetic nootropics like Modafinil are not readily available and are considered a class IV controlled substance here in the US, making it illegal over the counter and heavily restricted for use given its potential for dependency. You must have a prescription to purchase in the US. Adrafinil however is legal and is designed to be metabolized into Modafinil for similar effects. You can’t get it easily – and legally – without a prescription.
Despite the benefits it can bring such as keeping you alert and energetic throughout the day, many synthetic nootropics are not designed for long-term use with limited to no studies showing that they are safe for long-term dosing. Consequently, there are few studies that will explain exactly how synthetic nootropics truly work, which is why you need to take caution with intake.
Are Herbal Nootropics or Synthetic Nootropics Better? You Be The Judge.
Given the benefits and possible side effects of both natural and synthetic nootropics, it is safe to say that natural nootropics are the better way to go. They are safer, as effective in the long term, and will never compromise your health, much like how too many apples won’t lead to dependency or declining benefit.
Should you avoid synthetic nootropics? Not necessarily. The key is to find the right ingredients and make sure they are within a recommended dosage in any formula. Remember, you should cycle off of synthetic nootropics occasionally. Find out their half life and you can determine how long it takes for them to leave your body. Even though their effects can be more powerful in the short term, a long term solution that can be sustained over time is definitely achieved with herbal nootropics. When it comes to improving brain health with nootropics, you have to decide if you are the tortoise or the hare.