You guessed it right. Natural nootropics are the ones that come naturally from Mother Nature, just as she wants us to live. These types of nootropics can make our brains healthier while helping us safely reach the peak of our health. Personally, I prefer these kinds of nootropics simply because they have no chemicals added in their composition. I will know exactly what it is that I am consuming, without worrying about a certain ingredient wearing a funny name. These natural nootropics don’t come with the risks of the so-called “smart drugs,” or research chemicals that supposedly have a positive effect on our brains. Here are just a few of the natural nootropics that I recommend using.

  1. L-Theanine

L-theanine (or theanine) is one of the main active compounds you will find in green tea.Ever since it was discovered in 1949, it has been studied and defined as a psychoactive compound that has cognitive-enhancing and anxiolytic effects.

It has many methods in which it acts. First, it has potential glutamate inhibition properties. It takes effect by blocking the glutamate receptors and lowering the ANS (Autonomic Nervous System) activity, thus reducing the stress response. The result of the research says L-theanine has the ability to bind to the glutamate receptors; however, its affinity is significantly lower than that of glutamic acid.  L-theanine also seems to possess some GABA (Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid) activity. Experiments made on rats show that a theanine injection could increase the GABA cerebral concentration by almost 20%. However, l-theanine doesn’t seem to be a straight GABA analog. The compound also showed an ability to increase the alpha brain waves. Studies done on 18 healthy volunteers proved that 200 mg of theanine was enough to enhance the alpha bands, improve reaction time and decrease the heart rate in times of “high stress.” The low-stress patients remained unaffected when compared with the placebo.

L-theanine has many benefits. First of all, it has sedative effects, releasing properties that can help calm the mind and allow the brain to focus. It is also very effective in relieving anxiety and lowering the stress levels. Studies were done on patients with sleep issues linked with hyperactivity and showed remarkable results. It also demonstrated that it can improve the memory (also related to the increased alpha brain waves), improve the cardiovascular health and it does not have any toxic side effects.

The compound is dosed differently according to the purpose. Here is some dosage advice for the average individual:

  • Sleep Purpose: 200 mg taken about 45 minutes before going to sleep.
  • Alertness: stacking two parts of theanine with one dose of caffeine should do the trick.
  • Daytime Use/Anxiolytic: A 100-200 mg dose should start kicking in about 45 minutes before taking it, and it should stay in effect for about 4-6 hours.

Theanine doesn’t seem to have any other side effects other than the occasional headaches, nor does it appear to have an addictive potential.

  1. Bacopa Monnieri

This plant is extremely popular in the Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine, and it has been recommendedsince early ages for asthma, epilepsy and also memory enhancement. Bacopa is defined as an adaptogen, and as a result, it can mitigate the stress levels. The compound responsible for the bacopa’s effects is believed to be the bacoside, the most studied one being Bacoside A. It will also balance the serotonin levels and preventmorphine-induced dopamine surges.

As a nootropic, the bacopa herb is generally recommended for reducing anxiety, but also as a cognitive enhancer that can improve the memory. Research has discovered that Bacopa is also able to:

  • Prevent drug induced amnesia in animals.
  • Normalize the neurotransmitter levels in many kinds of animal diseases.
  • Increase the antioxidant levels (SOD, glutathione and catalase) in the brains of rodents.
  • Enhance the memory of humans with an effect that lasts for all ages.
  • Reduce anxiety (as shown in various trials conducted on humans).
  • Enhance performance and reduce error rate in cognitive tasks.

Regarding the dosage, bacopa should be taken twice every day, with each dose of a 150 mg bacosides (it has to be in extract form). Since bacopa is a fat soluble, it is recommended that you take it together with a meal. Side effects are not that grave, but they may consist of nausea, drowsiness, cramps, lethargy and muscular fatigue.

  1. Curcumin

Curcumin is an essential ingredient extracted from turmeric, which is also an important spice in Ayurvedic medicine. It has been used a lot in Indian cuisine which is why there is also a very low disease rate in their culture. Talk about living forever…

Curcumin is a great antioxidant which has the ability to improve the memory concentration and the overall cognitive function by increasing the blood flow. It can increase the serotonin levels, boost the dopamine and stimulate their production. A normal dosage of 400mg of a curcumin formulation (Longvida) will successfully improve memory, mood, and alertness in older adults. Side effects can be chest tightness, gastrointestinal imbalance, yellow stool, swollen skin, headaches, and rashes. 

  1. Ashwagandha

The Ashwagandha is another herb from the Indian culture that has a history dating back to 3000 years ago. The plant is very effective in reducing anxiety, but it can also improve cognitive functions such as attention. The Withaferin A, which is a major active constituent, seems to be the anti-inflammatory agent responsible for the effects of the Ashwagandha.

When undertaking this treatment, you will need to look for the Ashwagandha root extract – that is the one that offers most of the benefits. The standard dose is 300 mg per day, and the only side effect that people may have experienced is hyperthyroidism.

  1. Lion’s Mane

No matter how fierce this name may sound in your mind, Lion’s Mane is actually just a mushroom. Research surrounding this plant says that it can support cognitive activity by an enhanced release of the nerve growth factor. Lion’s mane has proved to:

  • Support the neurogenesis through the nerve growth factor.
  • Perform as a neuroprotective compound through its myelination support.
  • Reduce the beta amyloidal induced cognitive deficiency in animals.
  • Reduce dementia symptoms in humans.
  • Promote the regrowth of nerves in animals.
  • Reduce depression and anxiety in humans.
  • Accelerate the healing of wounds in rodents.

Regarding the dosage, studies showed that 2-3 grams of lion’s mane extract can come to the benefit of a regular adult human. However, it is unclear if a 3-gram dose would bring more benefits as compared to a 2-gram one. I found no side effects for Lion’s Mane, and considering that it is often used in cuisine, that’s how it should be. The only minor side effect that was noted for this mushroom is slight gastrointestinal distress.

There isa great number of natural stimulants, known and unknown. There are so many that it’s difficulteven to keep track. However, their main characteristic is that they are risk-free and hold little to no noticeable side effects.

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