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As such, I (and other members of our world-class team) like to keep you appraised of the latest trends and discoveries in the world of health, nutrition and performance.
Nootropics have been around for a while but I’m betting that most of you reading this will not have heard of the word, so I thought it a good idea to write a short, introductory piece.
Now this interesting class of supplements (so-called nootropics) is quite ironic because they work on the health of the brain as well as (in some cases) the performance of the mind… both of which will help you, dear reader, with your education, whether you are a student (in the formal sense of the word) or simply a ‘student’ of the healthy diet and optimum nutrition. Hand on heart I can say that nootropics genuinely changed my life, making me a veritable learning machine, helping me cope with stress and reducing daily anxiety.
So nootropics could help you learn more…about nootropics. Or about any other topic that takes your interest. How do I know? Because whilst I was a student for the second time in my life, studying ‘Human Science’, I began experimenting personally with many of these interesting new nootropic supplements. I would look at the scientific evidence behind each nootropic and even discuss certain nootropic supplements with my neurophysiology professor, to gain greater understanding of the precise mechanisms of action of these amazing-sounding chemicals – some of which are extracted from nature, others of which are only made possible by the synthesis of modern chemistry.
Anyway, through much personal experimentation and research, I came up with my own, highly effective nootropic stacks and used them regularly all through my mature student days to help my learning (memory, accuracy of recall, speed of recall, speed of thought, concept understanding, appreciation of visual colours, etc). More importantly though (I feel) is the way that the combination of daily mental challenge , coupled with regular nootropic intake, changed my ‘average’ mind, into a knowledge sponge, ready and willing to absorb and understand anything and everything to do with the Human body – or in fact anything that interests me generally. In other words, nootropics will work well by themselves, but they work best (at learning) if combined with a daily ‘diet’ of study. A bit like how eating proper nutrition should improve your health markers but works even better when combined with sensible, regular exercise.
So, What Are ‘Nootropics’?
Have you seen the film ‘Limitless’? Well that is Hollywoods’ fantasy version of the real-world supplements that boost brain power. And yes they do exist. Called ‘nootropics’ (from the Greek words noos- mind and tropos – to ‘turn towards’), even in their most potent forms, they do not even come close to the Hollywood image. In that film, the main character, gets his hands on a pharmaceutical drug that once ingested, allows him to become super-productive and super-focussed, mentally, to the point where he can learn musical instruments and new languages and advanced mathematical concepts, all within a matter of hours. In the real world, nootropics offer (in my experienced opinion) roughly 5-10% of the Hollywood portrayal. And that’s with dedicated and prolonged use, not as a ‘one off’ intake.
Now some of you may be thinking “well if it’s only 5%, then why bother?”. Well there are 3 main reasons.
- Let’s say there was a supplement that allowed you to become 5% of another Hollywood ‘ideal’ – Superman – wouldn’t you want some of that? I would!
- To be classed as a genuine nootropic, the chemical (whether naturally-derived or completely artificial), HAS to offer some sort of measurable health benefit to your brain, whether that be (for example) retention of cell membrane fluidity or as a powerful neural anti-oxidant. Again, I don’t know about you, but I want some of that! As healthy nutrition and regular exercise (and medicine) allows our bodies to live longer and longer life-spans, I personally want to make my brain last the distance too, so that I can think clearly into my dotage!
- Under certain circumstances and for certain individuals, some types of nootropics can offer effective relief against some fairly unpleasant mental conditions. I have friends who use L-theanine to combat daily anxiety. Other friends use a low dose of something called Phenibut to control social anxiety and to allow them to relax in social settings instead of drinking alcohol. Other friends use some nootropics as a way to blunt appetite or to lift mood whilst dieting. All are extremely worthwhile things to have in ones’ ‘toolbox of life’.
Are ‘Nootropics’ Safe?
In a word: YES. Unlike in the ‘Limitless’ film, where discontinuation of the drug leads to psychosis, and markedly decreased mental ability, real-world supplements (of any category of supplement from vitamins through to creatine) DO NOT result in this sort of deficit upon their discontinuation. Yes, if you boost your brain a little, you may – purely by contrast – notice how slow your ‘normal’ cognition is if/when you stop using the very things that boosted you in the first place. But you can effectively take many nootropics for years without needing a break. I know. I did it!
The FDA in America and the MHRA in the UK have both classified most nootropics as Generally recognised as Safe (GRAS), however due to the potent physiological effects of certain classes of nootropics, the powers-that-be are reclassifying certain sub-groups of nootropic supplements into prescription-only medicines (POMs). However there are still many more safe nootropic supplements that are still perfectly legal to buy and use without prescription.
How do ‘Nootropics’ Work?
Just as there are a plethora of ‘health’ supplements out there (from vitamins to minerals to anti-oxidants, to gut flora, to sleep-aids, etc) each with its own particular effect(s), there are a plethora of nootropics and each has its own mechanism of action (MOA). Though there is often crossover between the specific effects of different types of nootropics and it takes a background in neurophysiology (which I have) to be able to understand the technical aspects of each MOA. Since most of you reading this article won’t have a background in neurophysiology, I will refrain from the most technical descriptions and keep it to laypersons terminology.
Generally though, nootropics fall into a few main categories.
- Boosting or modulating neurotransmitter levels, to optimise synaptic activation and hence optimise the ‘speed’ or connectivity of the different parts of the brain.
- Increasing the amount of oxygen-rich blood that the brain receives and/or optimising the brains ability to utilise glucose for energy.
- Facilitating connection between the two hemispheres of the brain, which provides better memory detail and integration and/or formation of more detailed memories.
- Improving the ‘ease’ with which certain parts of the nervous system are activated, leading to greater overall activity in the neurones of that part of the brain.
- Reducing the cumulative effects associated with aging, such as loss of neuronal cell membrane fluidity or the accumulation of metabolic waste within the neuronal body.
- Some nootropics exert a calmative (anxiolytic) effect and can be used to reduce social anxiety and stress or improve mood and/or sleep. Some nootopics even offer an alternative to alcohol, letting the user feel less inhibited and socially anxious.
So you can see that there is almost ‘a nootropic for every occasion’. The problem is that with such variance and choice, it can become extremely confusing as to what nootropic to choose to which task you need it to. And since every person responds slightly differently to anything they take, even asking other users on message boards can create more questions than it answers. However certain quality nootropic supply companies do have forums where you can ask the moderators (and even the product designers/creators themselves if you are lucky) specific questions about specific products and ask for specific recommendations.
One such company with an excellent (in my opinion) forum for asking questions (and more importantly, receiving intelligent answers) is www.mindnutrition.com. Furthermore, having looked at their product range and checking out their Certificates of Analysis (COA – always performed by an independent 3rd party), I decided to purchase /’research’ their products so that I could recommend (or not) them to you, dear reader.
I am extremely pleased by their products. All seemed to do what was claimed on the information pages (though some effects are more or less subtle than others – don’t expect to ‘go limitless’) and all seemed to be very high quality and purity. Service and packaging and shipping were all excellent too.
I especially like:
- Neurostim – a great all-round cognition booster. Very similar in concept to the nootropics I used at university, this gives me noticeably enhanced vocal acuity, with enhanced vocabulary and fluidity as well as improved typing speed and accuracy. Whether you are a student, business person or self-employed, this nootropic stack offers something for you. Faster and more efficient work output can leave you with more free time, more impressed work colleagues and a better outlook on office/work life balance.
- Neurochill – After a stressful day, this ‘natural, legal alternative to alcohol, valium or cannabis’ really does take the edge off and leave me feeling super-relaxed, yet mentally sharp, not cloudy or foggy. Very little ‘hangover’ the next morning and a GREAT nights’ sleep. If you have children (like I do) and you just want to relax which out worrying that you might be ‘impaired’ should there be an emergency, you should check Neurochill out.
I will be reviewing more Mind Nutrition products in forthcoming articles, but for now, why not check out their website, and if you have specific questions about their products, simply hit their forum and ask their team of experts. I’m sure you will get the answers you seek.