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Many people are seeking ways to feel more energised, have better concentration and perform better at work and uni.

This is where natural nootropics come into play.

But what exactly are nootropics?

Nootropics are ‘cognitive enhancers’ or “brain booster’ used to improve memory, increase mental awareness and concentration as well as energy.

They usually come in the form of drugs or ‘natural’ supplements including foods, vitamins, minerals, herbal extracts and synthetic substances, in either a targeted formulation or a single ingredient product.

Natural nootropics may assist with boosting brain function, while at the same time improving brain health. Nootropics are also believed to act as a vasodilator in the brain and help to increase blood circulation and oxygen flow to the brain.

Examples of natural nootropics include:

  • Matcha green tea: contains L-theanine, an amino acid found naturally in tea. L-theanine is believed to increase feelings of relaxation by increasing GABA production in addition to improved concentration. The combination of L-theanine and caffeine in green tea is also linked to improved memory and increased reaction time.
  • Caffeine – naturally occurring in coffee, helps with feelings of sleepiness. Yerba mate is a natural form of caffeine commonly found in natural energy drinks.
  • Rhodiola rosea – adaptogen herb traditionally used to help people cope better with stress and anxiety and therefore may reduce fatigue.
  • Phosphatidylserine – found in high amounts in the brain and known for its benefits effects on cognitive function and memory.
  • Lions Mane Mushroom – dietary mushroom traditionally used to support cognition.
  • Panax Ginseng – herb, commonly used to increase cognition and be anti-fatigue.
  • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) – herb native to India, which has been traditionally used for sleep, mood and anxiety. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen.
  • Bacopa – herb traditionally used to reduce anxiety and improve memory.
  • Ginkgo Biloba – a herb native to Japan, Korea and China which is commonly used to support memory, cognitive function and blood circulation.
  • Cannabidiol(CBD) oil – from the Cannabis plant which only contains low-no Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the compound responsible for the “stoned effect” of cannabis. CBD oil is now widely used for anxiety, mood, insomnia and pain. CBD is available via prescription from a GP in Aust

Are there any downsides to nootropics?

  • Added cost – these supplements / foods are an added expense but if they work for you, I am sure you will feel the price is justified.
  • Interaction with prescription medications – if you are making any prescription medications, it is always best to check for any interactions prior to taking the nootropics by speaking to a health care practitioner. The same goes for other natural medicines.
  • May not work – nootropics are not guaranteed to work for everyone, it’s really just a case of trial and error!
  • Side effects – when taking anything, side effects are possible, we may be hypersensitive to an ingredient or allergic and this can cause unwanted side effects. Most common are gastrointestinal. To avoid side effects, gradual dosing may assist.

Nootropics can be taken in supplement form, or can be used in foods such as:

Matcha green tea:

  • Replace/alternate daily morning coffee/tea with matcha green tea or a matcha latte
  • Add to smoothies / smoothie bowls
  • Add to bliss balls or other baked goods

Lions Mane Mushrooms

  • Add to smoothies / smoothie bowls
  • Add to coffee, tea or hot chocolate

What about foods?

There are some everyday foods which may also have cognitive enhancing functions, such as:

Blueberries – show to boost cognitive function

  • Add to muesli, fruit salad, smoothies, salads, baked goods
  • Simply eat as a snack alongside yoghurt

Dark chocolate – contains small amounts of caffeine along with polyphenols which exert antioxidant activities in the body/brain:

  • Eat as a treat/dessert
  • Make into a hot chocolate
  • Grate over yoghurt and fruit salad
  • Add to baked goods

Turmeric – contains curcumin which exerts anti-inflammatory activities in the body/brain and may help to modulate neurotransmitter activity in the brain:

  • Enjoy as a latte / golden milk
  • Use as a salad dressing or marinade
  • Add to smoothies and soups

To read about more foods to help with cognitive function, click HERE.

What’s the take away message?

Nootropics won’t be a silver bullet. Instead, it’s important to get the foundations right first, ie good diet, sleep, hydration, movement, less stress and then for added support people may look to natural nootropics to see if you get any beneficial effects.