The growing demand for cognition and memory enhancing natural supplements, has made nootropics the latest à la mode
As we are all living in a world where we push our minds and body’s to the limit, while most of us are also riddled with brain fog, mental tiredness and fatigue. At no surprise due to the help of the environmental toxic soup we live in today and add emotional stress to that mix- Its no wonder we are all looking for help from our herbal friends.
The term Nootropic was coined by Dr. Giurgea who used his discovery to continue the study of nootropics. Nootropics enhance memory and help those with learning disabilities, having neuroprotective effects, increasing cellular communication in the brain and nervous system, increasing cognition while having low toxicity.
The word nootropic comes from the Greek nous (meaning “mind”) and trepin (meaning “turning”). From this etymology, we get a meaning something along the lines of mind-turning or mind-bending.
When we look at different herbs, it becomes clear that different nootropics affect the brain in different ways, ultimately having a different role to play in different brain “disorders”.
As a naturopath, I believe in the importance of asking the fundamental question of “why.” It is through this inquiry that we can truly understand and address the underlying causes of our challenges.
When it comes to searching for substances to support brain function or addressing suboptimal cognitive performance, asking “why” is crucial. There can be a multitude of factors at play, and while nootropics may offer assistance, they may not provide a complete solution. It could be related to hormonal imbalances, a congested liver, gut issues, or a combination of these factors.
In today’s world, we are constantly exposed to environmental toxins, consume processed foods, and often rely on alcohol for relaxation and have compromised sleep. All of these factors contribute to a decline in mental function. If any of this resonates with you, I highly recommend working with a practitioner and engaging in a comprehensive detoxification method, which goes beyond simply abstaining from alcohol for a short period.
I urge you to explore the underlying reasons for your brain “affliction” or difficulty in focusing.
This same approach applies to considering nootropics. It’s essential to recognise that different nootropics have varying effects, and not all may be suitable for everyone. For instance, stimulating nootropics may not be the best choice for individuals with insomnia or an overactive mind. Understanding which aspect of cognitive function you want to address, such as memory or inability to focus, or a sense of disjointed thinking, is crucial.
Once you have answered these questions, it is important to reflect on how you arrived at your current state. Has your memory always been weak, or is it a recent development? Are there any specific circumstances, such as pregnancy or age, that might contribute to brain fog or difficulty in focusing? By considering these factors, you can start to paint a clearer picture of the underlying causes and explore appropriate strategies for improvement.
Alright enough of that, let’s get to the Herbal Nootropics: one of my all time favourite herbs; which I will say does not only fall under the umbrella action of nootropic, it’s a nervine tonic with many other capabilities.
GOTU KOLA – CENTELLA ASIATICA
Gotu Kola, also known as Centella asiatica, is an extraordinary herb with calming and relaxing effects. It acts as an anxiolytic herb and venous tonic, making it exceptional for promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety.
The effectiveness of Gotu Kola is attributed to its interaction with GABA-ergic mechanisms. GABA is a vital neurotransmitter that acts as an “off” switch for the brain, regulating cognitive functions. Imbalances in GABA activity can contribute to cognitive issues like anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Gotu Kola helps rebalance GABA activity, improving sleep quality, focus, and concentration.
Furthermore, Gotu Kola inhibits the activity of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme responsible for breaking down acetylcholine. This inhibition promotes the growth of neurites, enhancing learning, memory, and overall cognitive function. This mechanism also supports healthy ageing, an added bonus is that Gotu Kola speeds up the production of collagen 😉
BRAHMI — BACOPA MONNIERI
Bacopa monnieri, known as Brahmi, bears a rich historical heritage deeply rooted in the wisdom of Ayurvedic medicine. For centuries, Ayurvedic scholars and practitioners have revered Brahmi as a potent nervine herb with multifaceted benefits surpassing its nootropic nature. Within the records of Ayurveda, Brahmi has held the esteemed position of a brain-rejuvenating elixir, revered for its ability to dissolve obstructions within the central nervous system and restore cognition. It has been a herb of numerous Ayurvedic formulations crafted to address cognitive dysfunction and unlock the potential of the mind.
The fame of Brahmi rests prominently on its neural tonic properties and its remarkable ability to enhance memory. These therapeutic virtues are attributed to the presence of triterpenoids called bacosides, In clinical research, Brahmi, has shown hepatoprotective, neuroprotective, and antioxidant activity.
It’s neuroprotective and antioxidant activity is exhibited through its ability to increase cerebral blood flow and modulate neurotransmitters such as dopamine.
The tapestry of historical knowledge and contemporary investigations hints at the potential of Brahmi in the treatment of complex conditions like dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy, making this herb of great importance for modern day man.
Energetically, Brahmi its cooling, astringent, bitter, and sweet. This makes it particularly useful for individuals with excess heat and inflammation. Those who suffer from migraines, dizziness, nausea, and otherwise constricted cerebral blood flow.
RHODIOLA — RHODIOLA ROSEA
Rhodiola, is another esteemed herb pretty much across the world. According to Richard brown Mongolian families who new where to find the precious plant kept it secret for hundreds of years.
Siberians sold it to Chinese emperors, and clandestinely transported it through ancient trails where they traded it for wines, garlic and honey.
However, it grows all the way to Sweden and Atlantic shores — so it’s really been enjoyed on almost all continents.
Functioning as an adaptogen and a nootropic, Rhodiola offers a wide range of benefits, including positive effects on sexual health for both men and women. It boosts physical and mental endurance, reducing fatigue and improving productivity, both physically and mentally. Clinical research has shown its memory-enhancing properties, particularly in stressful conditions that require enhanced learning abilities. Rhodiola also shows promise as a preventive measure against Alzheimer’s disease, with neuroprotective effects and antioxidant activities that enhance memory, cognition, and learning.
Interestingly, Rhodiola is contraindicated in bipolar, mania, and paranoia. It’s also not recommended for those with insomnia as it’s highly stimulating. Furthermore, Rhodiola, like some other nootropic herbs, impacts MAO neurotransmitters in the brain, which means it is not recommended for individuals using antidepressants. It is best used as a nootropic addition to formulas for those with chronic fatigue symptoms.
Nootropics are a wonderful addition to formulas to support the cognitive performance of each person. But it’s equally important to choose the right one — or to choose a more appropriate cognition enhancing herb such as a nervine or adaptogen. The choice will vary depending on the person, their specific ailments, and the underlying cause.