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Step Up Your Brain Game

NOOTROPICS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

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Nootropics are quickly climbing the ranks as one of the hottest health trends of 2023. Though they’ve silently crept into our markets, smoothie shops, and coffee houses for over a year, their moment in the spotlight has arrived. This rising class of wellness supplements is catching attention for its specific impact on brain health. It makes sense; your brain controls your entire experiential existence. Ensuring that your command center operates efficiently is critical to success in all realms of life. You don’t need a nootropic to follow that logic!

What are nootropics?

First things first, it’s pronounced “no” tropics — as if to answer the question, “Where should I go on vacation where I can avoid seeing a single palm tree?” Nootropics are chemical substances found in drugs, supplements, and functional foods that enhance brain function. That’s a broad definition that can encompass many things. Caffeine falls under this umbrella, for instance, as do turmeric, melatonin, or any teas, powders, or pills taken for calming, focus, or mood. According to the scientific father of nootropics, psychologist and chemist Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea, there are six qualifications an ingestible substance must meet in order to earn the rank of a true nootropic.

True Nootropics

  • Facilitate learning ability and memory
  • Increase thought clarity under stress
  • Enhance communication between cells and neurons
  • Protect brain cells
  • Don’t cause any adverse side effects
  • Must be research verified for brain boosting effectiveness

Why should I take nootropics?

So much of our lives is lived in our heads; our neurons are firing off email drafts, text messages, and calendar invites at the speed of light. Consequently, burnout, lack of motivation, and brain fog are among top chronic health complaints. Anyone who’s experienced them knows that these conditions don’t just affect your work day; they carry over into emotional relationships and disrupt your entire flow. Nootropics can provide a plethora of benefits to boost cognition, communication, memory, and mental stamina, as well as many physical chemical processes.

Brain tissue regeneration

Research demonstrates that nootropics fight free radicals to halt and repair oxidation. Certain nootropics boost blood flow to the brain, which carries more nutrients and oxygen to nourish your gray matter. This allows the body to repair myelin sheaths (the protective coating surrounding our nerve cells) and restore cognitive function that may have been diminished from past overuse of drugs and alcohol, traumatic stress, or chronic sleep deprivation. Nootropics like ginseng and ginkgo biloba have been trusted for centuries to keep brains young and sharp, so we’ll look for you as the returning Jeopardy champ well into your 100s!

Raise your vibration

Literally. Nootropics have been documented to assist in the tuning of brain wave frequencies, helping consumers attain more elevated levels of consciousness more often, especially those with a meditation practice or who are working to strengthen intuition. These higher frequencies also open the gate to more creativity.

Emotional wellness

Because your brain chemistry is more stable, outside events are less likely to overwhelm you and throw you off course. This stability in turn contributes to having more mental energy available for powering through your to-do list and makes it easier to step away from unhealthy coping mechanisms, which often improves physical as well as mental health.

Pharmaceutical alternatives

People looking for alternatives to prescription treatment for attention and mood concerns such as ADHD, anxiety, and mental fatigue often find nootropics to be an excellent addition to their self-care routine.

Hormone help

Since hormones are chemical messengers regulated by the brain, using nootropics can aid in paving the path to healthier hormones. This grants further benefits such as appetite regulation, digestive ease, and elevated mood. In most cases, nootropics can also be taken in conjunction with medication to enhance desired results, but always be sure to consult your doctor before changing your routine.

Which nootropics are best for my health and nutrition regimen?

Vitamins and minerals

A no-brainer way to nourish your noggin is simply to provide what it needs on a cellular level. B vitamins are crucial to brain function, and depending on the strictness of your diet, you may not be getting enough. Vitamins A, D, and K are also essential brain fuel. Electrolyte minerals like sodium, potassium, and magnesium are musts!

Fatty acids

The average adult brain burns 320 calories per day simply by being awake and thinking! Supporting a happy one means keeping it fed and lubricated. MCT oils derived from coconut fat have become a go-to, popularized by the keto movement and superfood “bulletproof coffee.” MCTs work by energizing cerebral mitochondria, giving the brain a sustainable supercharge. Omega 3s of both EPA and DHA variety are necessities as well to keep cell membranes supple and permeable to let the bad stuff out, keep the good stuff in, and prevent inflammation. Some swear by the cognition kick from drinking organic butter.

Amino acids

The foundations of proteins and enzymes, certain amino acids are crucial building blocks for optimal hormone balance and neurotransmitter performance. L-tyrosine boosts cognitive function, motivation, and energy by increasing dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. L-theanine promotes relaxation and clarity. Matcha lovers are ahead of the game on this one, as green tea is a natural source of L-theanine. Cognitive stress from accumulated toxins and overworking deplete your ability to regenerate these amino acids, so supplementing may be worth the research.

Mushrooms

Praised as superfoods, adaptogens, and herbal panaceas, the multitude of mushroom species offer so many potent capabilities to maximize holistic wellbeing. Cordyceps build muscle stamina and endurance. Chaga obliterates free radicals to revitalize immunity and delay the aging process. Lion’s mane is famed for its nootropic qualities increasing memory, focus, and nerve health. Reishi is a mental and physical adaptogen that invigorates your stress defense.

Ancient medicinal herbs

Nootropics are nothing new, as ancient schools of healing have turned to certain plants for enhanced cognition for centuries. Traditional Chinese medicine and ayurveda offer a wealth of diverse herbs to choose from. Some notables include gotu kola, a blood cleanser and total nervous system revamp heralded as a longevity aid; ginseng, the infamous Chinese memory and mental stamina assistant, and mucuna pruriens, a reproductive hormone balancer and the only known plant source of L-dopa, which is an essential precursor for dopamine production.

No matter what your needs, there’s a nootropic or two that might take the edge off what you’re going through above the neck. Many might already be ingredients in your daily multivitamin or favorite supplement blend. Make sure to do your research before changing your routine, and take your nootropic journey in increments if that feels best. Here’s to having better heads on our shoulders all summer long!

Have a favorite nootropic that gets you going? We’d love to hear about it. Share your steps to achieving mental pep by tagging @mollymymag on social media.

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