If you’re looking for cognitive and memory support, look no further than nootropics. Nootropics are commonly known as “smart drugs” and may be referred to as neuro or cognitive enhancers, or brain boosters. They may be pharmaceutical or nutraceutical and are known to improve mental performance and thinking functions, including memory, focus, attention, and creativity.
How do nootropics work?
Nootropics work by supporting different facets of brain function. Some increase cerebral blood flow (blood flow to the brain), while others impact neurotransmitter levels which are involved in making and creating memories. But not all nootropics are right for everyone, and because nootropics are often herbal extracts, it’s important to choose safe, non-GMO, and contaminant-free products.
One of the most common and widely used nootropics is caffeine. Yes, even your average cup of joe can help your brain! As a stimulant, caffeine supports mental focus, but it does come with side effects. So, if you enjoy your daily cup without the jitters, that’s fantastic, but let’s switch gears and discuss some other nootropics with fewer side effects that can clinically boost brain power.
1. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
With 60% of the solid weight of the brain being fat, it’s a no-brainer that fatty acids play a role in its overall health. DHA makes up the majority of this weight, and as an essential omega-3 fatty acid, it must be obtained from diet or supplementation. Unfortunately, the general daily recommendation is much lower than what is thought to be therapeutic for brain health, so greater dosages of omega-3 fatty acids are potentially necessary to impact the brain. And by lowering inflammation and supporting cell membranes, omega-3 fats like DHA have shown promise in protecting the brain post-stroke. It is also suggested they stabilize plaques and reduce the production and deposition of amyloid protein in the brain.
Antioxidants are used in the treatment of cognitive and other brain disorders because they help defend brain neurons against free radical damage associated with neuroinflammation. N-Acetyl-L-cysteine is a powerful antioxidant, showing promise in vascular and nonvascular neurological disorders, and because it is a precursor to the antioxidant glutathione, it modulates neural and inflammatory pathways in the brain. Acetyl-L-carnitine supports sustained mental energy, and as a precursor for the synthesis of acetylcholine, it supports the production of this memory-specific neurotransmitter and protects against neurotoxicity from amyloid deposition.
3. Ginkgo biloba
Extracts from the maidenhair tree, Ginkgo biloba, have long been used in China as traditional medicine. In recent decades, clinical trials have suggested that ginkgo could help in reducing cognitive impairment and dementia by slowing declines in cognition, function, and behavior because of its ability to increase cerebral blood flow. Although considered very safe, ginkgo is cautioned in people taking blood thinners.
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a phospholipid − a natural fat present in all cell membranes − and has been shown to enhance mood and mental ability while protecting the brain from age-related memory decline. PS is required for healthy nerve cell membranes and myelin sheaths. Because it can cross the blood-brain barrier, it acts directly in brain tissue to support cognitive functions, including short-term and long-term memory, recall, focus, attention, concentration, reason, problem-solving, language skills, and communication.
This extract, from seeds of the periwinkle plant, is an alkaloid that improves brain function and cognition by increasing blood circulation to the brain and supporting healthy glucose metabolism. It has been clinically shown to facilitate learning and memory, prevent cognitive deficits commonly associated with dementias, and act as a neuroprotective to reduce damage to the brain from stroke and trauma.
6. Huperzine A
As the main active ingredient in the traditional Chinese herb Huperzia serrata that can cross the blood-brain barrier, huperzine A has been shown to improve memory function. It plays a role in the management of acetylcholine by preventing its breakdown in the brain, and supporting healthier levels necessary for memory. Huperzine A’s mechanism of action is similar to that of the drug of choice for several types of dementia, and it has been authorized for treating benign memory deficits in China since 1994.
While these are all impressive nootropics on their own, formulas containing several or more of these provide holistic support for brain health and amp up nootropic power. Look for comprehensive formulas containing these clinically proven brain-boosting nutrients and choose ISURA®-certified products to ensure they are non-GMO, contaminant-free, and heavy metal tested.
The information in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health care practitioner before starting supplements or making lifestyle changes.
Written by: Jennifer Brix