Nootropics are a class of cognitive enhancing, brain-boosting supplements made from compounds or foods, either naturally occurring or man-made, that are used to improve concentration, focus, enhance memory, facilitate learning and even elevate mood.
If you are interested in the idea of using nootropic supplements to boost mental performance but would prefer non-synthetic options, there are many excellent natural and herbal Nootropics to choose from that are backed by research.
In fact, the concept of using plants, herbs (and even certain mushrooms) to boost brain power and influence brain health has been around historically since the dawn of the human race with some plant matter having long histories of traditional use as medicines in many ancient cultures.
Although manufacturing techniques have modernized, the effects of the active ingredients in many of the most popular natural Nootropic supplements can be traced back hundreds of centuries.
As an example, the Bacopa Monnieri herb (also known as “Brahmi”) was used in many ancient cultures to enhance memory, sharpen intellect and as a traditional medicinal herb for various ailments. It is also considered an adaptogenic herb that helps to improve the body’s reaction to damaging stress.
In addition, Ginkgo Biloba, a very popular herbal supplement, also has a very long history of use. Derivatives of this tree (also known as the maidenhair tree) were used as a brain tonic in ancient Chinese medicine and its leaf is now known as a memory and mental clarity promoting herb.
Today, many of the benefits that were long ago associated with these ancient herbs and plants have been supported by modern science with a multitude of clinical trials demonstrating many of their positive effects on cognition and aspects of mood.
While research into herbal compounds and brain vitamins has been promising regarding their potential in preventing cognitive decline and in the prevention and potential treatment of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, many of these brain supplements can also lead to improvements in many facets of mental performance, logical reasoning, memory, learning, focus, concentration and mood.
With many of the synthetic nootropics like Piracetam and Aniracetam are considered safe to use, alternatively, there are many powerful and effective natural nootropic supplements to consider when looking to experience brain-boosting effects.
Here are our top picks we consider to be some of the best Natural and Herbal Nootropic supplements to enhance cognition and boost mood.
Best Natural Nootropic Supplements
Type: Adaptogen/Natural Nootropic
Used For: Memory Enhancement, Anxiety, Mental Performance, Learning Capacity, Focus, Mental Clarity, ADHD, Sexual Function
Bacopa Monnieri (also known as brahmi or water hyssop) is one of the most highly regarded herbal Nootropics available with proven effects on enhancing memory, cognitive ability, combating the negative effects of stress and reducing anxiety.
It is a creeping herb found in the wetlands of India, North America and Australia. The flowers of this plant are small and white with four to five pedals that have a long history of traditional use in Ayurveda, an over 5000 year old ancient medicinal system native to India.
While this herb was recognized by ancient Indians to enhance clarity of thought, memory and boost brain power, it was also traditionally administered for many ailments such as asthma, epilepsy, pain, inflammation and ingestion.
One of the most sought after effects of Bacopa Monnieri is its potential as an anti-aging supplement. It is considered an effective anti-oxidant and has been used in several anti-aging formulas.
The main ingredients derived from Bacopa extracts are saponins known as bacosides with unique mechanisms of action that have been linked to boosting cerebral blood flow, increasing levels of neuronal activity and heightening resistance to mental stress.
Some clinical research has shown that taking Bacopa extract daily for 12 weeks enhances verbal learning, information processing and several facets of memory, indicating the effects of this natural Nootropic supplement may be best experienced with consistent, long-term use.
Type: Natural Nootropic
Used For: Memory, Concentration, Mental Clarity, Boosting Circulation in the brain, Anti-Aging, ADHD, Brain Support, Depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Ginkgo Biloba is a tree native to China that dates back over 200 million of years with its leaves being used for medicinal purposes in traditional Chinese medicine for millenniums.
The trees fan shaped leaves contain flavonoids and terpenoids which act as monoamine oxidase inhibitors, encouraging balanced levels of Dopamine, Serotonin and Norepinephrine promoting boosting effects on mood, mental energy and concentration.
Additionally through its main active components, Ginkgo promotes enhanced circulation in the brain, an action that is believed to be the primary key to many of the famous benefits of this powerful herb. This action can result in supporting memory, alertness and helping to protect the brain from free radical damage.
3. Huperzine A
Type: Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitor/Natural Nootropic
Used For: Memory, Learning, Focus, Age-Related Memory Deficits, Alertness, Energy, Alzheimer’s Disease
Huperzine A is a naturally occurring alkaloid extracted from the Chinese club moss plant Huperzia serrata (also known as Qian Ceng Ta) which was used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to treat fevers, inflammation and other ailments.
Through modern research, it is now believed that its active ingredient blocks the action of an enzyme (acetylcholinesterase) which breaks down Acetylcholine, a chemical messenger in the brain associated with memory formation, focus, attention and learning, indirectly increasing the levels of this important neurotransmitter.
Higher levels of acetylcholine can lead to enhanced cognition, memory and learning capacity. Huperzine A is also thought to play a role in stimulating the formation of new brain cells and protecting against brain cell death.
As a highly potent supplement, only a small dosage is needed to experience this Nootropics brain boosting effects.
4. Lion’s Mane
Type: Mushroom Supplement/Natural Nootropic
Used For: Cognitive Health, Memory Enhancement, Promoting Longevity, Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia, Lowering Cholesterol, Lowering Blood Pressure
Lion’s Mane mushroom, also known by its scientific name Hericium erinaceus, is an edible mushroom native to North America, Europe and Asia. It gets its name from its distinct appearance that resembles the mane of a shaggy lion.
Widely available today in supplement form, in China it is considered a medicinal mushroom that has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine serving as an anti-oxidant, health treatment and for its believed positive effects on brain function that dates back several centuries.
As a Nootropic, Lion’s Mane has gained a strong presence in the world of brain supplements largely due to the discovery of its connection to increasing Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) secretion, a protein that is crucial for the growth and maintenance of neurons, encouraging long-term brain health.
Higher amounts of this protein can lead to enhanced cognitive abilities including a boost in memory and recall and maintaining concentration and attention.
Type: Natural Nootropic
Used For: Memory Enhancement, Brain Health, Cognitive Function, Learning Capacity, Focus, Alertness, Improving Cerebral Circulation, Age-Related Cognitive Decline, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and more.
Vinpocetine is a semi-synthetic derivative of the alkaloid vincamine found in the Periwinkle plant (Vinca Minor) which is native to Europe and western Asia. The plant has a long history of use in folk medicine as an herbal remedy where it was believed to help treat various ailments from headaches and sore throats to even lapses of memory.
Most well known and documented for its powerful effects on boosting cerebral blood flow and circulation, Vinpocetine has also shown to target damaged brain cells and promote increased release of important chemical messengers in the brain, all which can lead to enhancing memory, alertness, focus, mental clarity and even improving mood.
Vinpocetine is fast acting natural Nootropic that is also a promising neuroprotectant. It may help reduce the potential for oxidative stress which encourages significant anti-aging benefits.
Type: Adaptogen/Natural Nootropic
Used For: Stress Relief, Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia, Cognitive Function, Mood Enhancement, Anti-Aging, Arthritis, Inflammation
The Ashwagandha plant or Withania Somnifera is native to Indian and Northern Africa. It is one of the most highly regarded herbs in ancient Ayurveda medicine and has been used for thousands of years as a tonic and tool for rejuvenation.
Ashwagandha gets its name from the combination of “ashva” the Sanskrit word for horse and “gandha” meaning smell or fragrance which is referring to the odor of this plant’s roots and to its healing properties.
It was traditionally considered a restorative believed to give an individual “stallion like vigor” and was most commonly prescribed by ancient Indian practitioners to promote longevity, boost sexual function and to help patients recover from illnesses.
The active ingredients in the Ashwagandha roots are alkaloids and steroidal lactones known as withanolides which are believed to enhance cognition by reducing the release of cortisol which can be damaging to several cognitive processes. It is most commonly used to combat adrenal exhausting due high stress or demanding work schedules and is also highly noted to reduce anxiety.
Ashwagandha is also believed to have powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may have positive effects on overall health.
Stacking Natural Nootropics
Some Natural nootropics can be just as strong as their synthetic counterparts and they do have much value for enhancing cognitive performance when taken on their own. However, most natural nootropic supplements are considered much more effective for achieving more well rounded and lasting cognitive effects when they are taken in combination with other supplements called Nootropic stacks.
While the resulting effects of natural nootropics can vary from person to person, you can buy these supplements individually and test out how it may work for you or you can experiment with your own natural stacks.
If you are new to stacking or even Nootropics altogether and would prefer to not experiment on your own, you can opt for an excellent and highly recommended pre-formulated natural stack supplement such as Mindlabpro designed by Opti-Nutra or others such as Alpha Brain or Brain Stack.
Synthetic vs Natural Brain Supplements
Since the conception of brain supplements, the use of natural Nootropic supplements versus synthetics has been widely debated and choosing which type to use is really left to personal preference.
Many naturally sourced Nootropic supplements offer many significant benefits for boosting intellectual capabilities while lowering the risk of side effects with the herbal cognitive enhancers being around for many years.
While natural Nootropics are not necessarily safer than synthetic Nootropics, since they do have potential to be toxic to the body when used inappropriately, contrarily synthesized Nootropics like Piracetam and Aniracetam are considered virtually non-toxic to humankind and very safe for short-term use but lack research into their long-term effects.
In addition, while there are many incredibly powerful herbal and naturally derived Nootropics available that may even have comparable effects to stronger synthetics, they may not provide immediate, noticeable effects in comparison.
Safety of Natural Nootropics
Natural nootropics can be safe and effective tools to help boost cognition, brainpower and encourage feelings of well-being without significant side effects and most have stood the test of time.
While some of these brain boosters should be used occasionally or cycled, others can be used on a daily basis. It is good to note that some of the naturally derived compounds have the potential to be toxic to the body when used in excess and outside of the recommended dosages.
It is important to follow the recommended dosage guidelines and it is always a good idea to speak with a medical professional first before starting a new supplementation regimen.
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