The popularity of supplements known as nootropics has skyrocketed in recent years. Otherwise known as smart pills, they are highly sought after by students, academics, and executives with a hectic lifestyle who are trying to get a "leg up" on the competition.
But are these supplements any good? And what exactly can they do for you? In this article, we'll take a look at the best nootropic supplements that you can try this year and see if they're really worth your time and money.
What Are Nootropics?
Nootropics are any type of supplement, natural or synthetic, that can improve cognitive function. This includes everything from memory and focus, to mood and energy levels.
While nootropics have been used for centuries in traditional medicine, it is only in recent years that they have gained mainstream popularity. This is largely due to the fact that more and more people are finding themselves under constant pressure to perform at their best both at work and at home.
As such, the demand for supplements that can help to improve cognitive function has never been higher.
What Do Nootropics Do?
The effects of nootropics vary depending on the specific supplement you take. However, in general, they work by modulating certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for various aspects of cognitive function.
This includes neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine. By modulating these neurotransmitters, nootropics can deliver several benefits, including:
Focus And Attention
One of the main reasons nootropic supplements are sought out is for their ability to improve focus and attention.
This is achieved by increasing levels of certain neurotransmitters like acetylcholine, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are responsible for regulating attention and focus.
So, by increasing their levels, nootropics can help improve your ability to focus on tasks and stay attentive for longer periods of time than you normally would. If you are a student or find yourself struggling to stay dedicated to the task at hand, there are nootropics that can help with that.
An excellent combination of nootropic ingredients can be found in Dawn To Dusk, providing up to 10 hours of crash-free energy and concentration.
Memory And Learning
Nootropics can also help to improve memory and learning. This is achieved in a similar way to the way they improve focus and attention, although much of this effect is facilitated by acetylcholine.
This neurotransmitter is the most relevant for memory and learning, as it is involved in the formation of new memories and the consolidation of short-term memories into long-term ones.
So, by increasing levels of acetylcholine, nootropics can help you to form new memories more easily and to recall old ones with greater clarity. This makes them perfect for students who are trying to cram for exams, or for anyone who wants to improve their memory and recall ability.
Mood And Anxiety
Nootropics can also have a positive effect on mood and anxiety. This is achieved by modulating neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
Dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure and motivation, while serotonin regulates mood and anxiety.
Although many types of mental disorders are largely (and sometimes incorrectly) grouped into depression, the specific nootropic to benefit you would differ significantly if you are demotivated as a result of low brain dopamine (such as is common in recovering addicts).
Short Term Energy
The brain is the determinant of your overall energy levels. Yes, your adrenals do play a large part in this process, but for the most part, it is your brain calling the shots. Nootropic stimulants are specially designed to support optimal brain function and therefore can have a profound effect on your overall energy levels.
This is especially useful if you find yourself struggling to get through the day (or night) due to tiredness or low energy levels. If you are looking for a quick and easy way to boost your energy levels, then nootropics could help.
The impact of stress on the human body is colossal. And never has the stress burden we face been so great.
The fact is, chronic stress can have a detrimental effect on pretty much every aspect of health, from cognitive function to physical health. It can even shorten your lifespan.
So, anything that can help to reduce stress levels is going to be beneficial for overall health. And this is where nootropics come in.
Nootropics can help to reduce stress by modulating neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. When levels of these neurotransmitters are off balance, it can lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety.
There are nootropics that not only mitigate the impact of the stress hormone cortisol on the body but which can also help you sleep better.
Many people are creators, and sometimes experience "blocks" that put a hard stop to their creativity. This is where nootropics can help.
Nootropics can improve creativity by increasing levels of acetylcholine and dopamine. Acetylcholine is involved in the formation of new memories, which means it can also help you to come up with new ideas.
Dopamine, on the other hand, is responsible for feelings of pleasure and motivation. So, by increasing levels of dopamine, nootropics can help you to feel more motivated to pursue your creative endeavors.
A high-functioning brain requires good quality sleep. This is because sleep is when the brain gets a chance to rest and repair itself.
During deep sleep, the brain waves slow down and blood flow to the brain increases. This allows the brain to flush out toxins and replenish its supply of neurotransmitters.
In addition to the more stimulatory neurotransmitters, certain nootropics also boost inhibitory ones such as GABA, which initiate sleep and relaxation as the night winds down.
The Best Nootropics
Now that you know the many beneficial effects that nootropics can have on cognitive function, mood, and energy levels, let's take a look at some of the best nootropics to try this year. Many of these are naturally occurring, while others are synthetic, but nevertheless very effective.
The original nootropic, no list would be worthy if first and foremost we didn't talk about caffeine. At doses ranging from 40-300mg caffeine reliably increases energy levels and alertness, while also boosting productivity.
Not surprisingly, coffee is such a popular beverage among millions of people around the world. But while it is an excellent short-term nootropic, tolerance quickly develops and causes diminishing returns the longer it is used.
Available as the patented product Teacrine, this nootropic can increase energy levels, and mental performance, and also reduce fatigue. Mood and focus also benefit, depending on the specific dose.
Theacrine is structurally similar to caffeine, but with one key difference - it doesn't seem to lead to the development of tolerance like caffeine does. This means that over time you'll still get the same benefits from it as when you first started using it.
This natural nootropic comes from the Chinese club moss Huperzia Serrata. It is a potent inhibitor of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, which breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
By inhibiting this enzyme, huperzine A prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine, leading to increased levels of this important neurotransmitter in the brain.
This has benefits for memory, learning, and focus. In addition, huperzine A is also neuroprotective, meaning it can help to protect the brain from damage.
Additionally, huperzine A can promote more restorative sleep by enhancing the REM phase, during which memory consolidation also occurs.
Also known just as forskolin, this nootropic is excellent for boosting the levels of the neurotransmitter cAMP in brain cells. This has a number of benefits, including enhanced cognitive function, mood, and even neuronal plasticity.
Many anecdotal reports indicate that it motivates the process of learning
Forskolin also promotes the release of stored energy in fat cells, which can lead to increased physical stamina and endurance. As an added bonus, forskolin is also neuroprotective.
L-Theanine is an amino acid that is naturally occurring and often combined with caffeine to "smooth" the spike caffeine is known to cause. In fact, it really potentiates all of caffeine's positive attributes, such as focus and energy, and allows for a clean stream of motivation to wash over you.
But L-theanine can also be used on its own. When consumed, it quickly crosses the blood-brain barrier and increases levels of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA.
This has a calming effect on the brain, which can lead to improved focus, better sleep quality, and even reduced anxiety, although it is not considered sedating by itself.
Ashwagandha has grown in extreme popularity over the past two decades since it has several positive effects on reducing the impact of the stress hormone cortisol.
Cortisol can have a number of negative effects on cognitive function, not the least of which are anxiety, depression, insomnia, and impaired memory formation.
Ashwagandha has also been shown to be effective in reducing stress-related food cravings and promoting more restorative sleep. As an added benefit, it is also neuroprotective.
Ashwagandha is also classified as an adaptogen, the likes of which make the body more resistant to acute or chronic stress. This is a result of the herb's ability to modulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
Ginseng is a general term that refers to both Asian and American varieties of the plant. Ginseng is also classified as an adaptogen, along with ashwagandha and Ginkgo Biloba. Ginsenosides are the key active ingredient in ginseng and are responsible for its effects on cognitive function, energy levels, and overall health.
Asian ginseng, or Panax ginseng, contains more ginsenosides than American ginseng, or Panax quinquefolius.
That being said, both types of ginseng can offer cognitive benefits, including improved memory, focus, and reaction time. Ginseng is also neuroprotective and can help to reduce the negative effects of stress on the brain.
In addition to its cognitive benefits, ginseng is also excellent for overall health. It can help to reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, and even improve heart health.
Nootropics don't just comprise the classic stimulant class that they have become associated with but also compounds that promote restful sleep and recovery. Melatonin is one such compound.
While melatonin is often used as a sleep aid, it can also have cognitive benefits. Melatonin helps to protect the brain from damage caused by oxidative stress and can even help to improve memory and learning.
Additionally, melatonin can help to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and can promote more restful sleep.
This is important because sleep is essential for overall health and well-being, and also for cognitive function.
If you struggle to get restful sleep, a natural aide such as DREAMZZZ can help get your circadian rhythm back on track.
It is worth mentioning that melatonin is also a natural hormone produced by the body, so it is completely safe to supplement with.
Are Nootropics Safe?
Yes, nootropics are safe for the vast majority of people. They are considered non-toxic and with low potential for addiction, although a low-grade tolerance/dependence is possible with some of them, such as caffeine.
However, as with any supplement, it is always best to speak to a doctor before taking them, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.
These are in fact, just a few of the best nootropic supplements that you can try this year. There are many more, including those that are fully synthetic and much stronger than the ones listed above.
That being said, there is a much larger risk of negative effects occurring from the use of these compounds, so the best place to start is with the safer, natural alternatives.
Nootropics can make a notable difference in your life, whether in terms of better productivity at work, improved cognitive function, or just a better ability to deal with stress.
So why not give them a try and see for yourself? You might be surprised by the results.