What is a nootropic? According to the dictionary, it’s a substance that enhances cognition and memory and facilitates learning. Everyone would sign up for that! Here are some of the stars of supplemental nootropics that you can count on to boost cognition, memory, focus, creativity, and motivation.
Used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, andrographis fosters homeostasis—the state of maintaining internal balance despite whatever’s happening around you. As the human condition is continually called upon to adapt to less than ideal conditions, andrographis is an adaptogen that helps decrease reactivity to stressful situations, whether real or perceived to be real by the brain. This is accomplished by helping the brain cells communicate more clearly. The key to andrographis’ effectiveness is a bitter compound in the leaves called andrographolide. Studies have shown that andrographolide prevents inflammation in the brain linked to neurodegeneration and improves synaptic plasticity markers in the cortical and hippocampal regions. Plasticity is the brain’s ability to change and adapt to new information.
These findings suggest that andrographolide could be a countermeasure for treating disorders related to memory impairment. In addition, scientific research shows that andrographis may reduce the symptoms of chemotherapy-induced brain fog. While there are growing numbers of andrographis supplements on store shelves, it’s important to look for a supplement that includes at least 80 mg andrographolide and around 400 mg of andrographis per capsule.
Ginseng is one of the world’s oldest adaptogenic medicines. Like all adaptogens, ginseng contains compounds that help the body and mind respond to circumstances in helpful ways. If you’re feeling scattered, ginseng can help you feel focused; if you feel tired, it can energize you. While all ginseng has some benefits, the majority of studies show red ginseng is the best and most beneficial. A new study has shown that a specific red ginseng, called HRG80, helps restore energy lost to chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and post-viral symptoms. In fact, in just four weeks, 60 percent of individuals reported dramatic improvements, including a 67 percent average boost in energy, a 45 percent average increase in mental clarity, a 46 percent average improvement in restful sleep, and a 72 percent increase in stamina. Remember though—not just any ginseng will deliver these results! The HRG80 red ginseng used in this study was hydroponically grown without pesticides, and carefully tended in ultra-clean conditions. This unique cultivation method concentrates levels of noble ginsenosides to be seven times stronger than ordinary ginseng.
Bioactive B Vitamins
B vitamins, including B6, B12, and folate, are essential to keeping the mind sharp. A Korean study examined the blood levels of B vitamins and cognitive function in elderly individuals, including 100 adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), 100 with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and 121 with no cognitive impairments. Dietary and supplement usage was recorded, and folate and B12 concentrations were also analyzed. The researchers found that B vitamin intake was advantageous for individuals with MCI and AD. The better the B intake, the higher the scores on tests that required identifying objects, remembering lists of words, and recalling names. In addition, B vitamins can help boost mood and mental-energy levels. Look for a supplement that supplies vitamin B6 as pyridoxal 5’-phosphate (P-5-P), vitamin B12 as methylcobalamin, and folate (B9) as methylfolate. These forms are more bioavailable because they don’t require conversion by the liver. This is a boon as we age since the body is less able to absorb and convert these critical Bs as we head into our golden years.
Coenzyme Q10 does what no other nutrient can do—it strengthens energy production in almost every cell in the body, including the brain. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is well known and has thousands of published studies showing its overall heath benefits, including support for brain diseases and neurodegenerative disorders. Unfortunately, even though CoQ10 is essential for cellular health, it’s easily depleted due to age, intense physical activity, stress, prolonged illness, and certain drugs like statins. This depletion can leave the body susceptible to free-radical damage.
CoQ10 can also help preserve connections in the brain. Scientific research from Japan found that CoQ10 significantly reduces the loss of nerve signaling in the brain. Earlier clinical work found that CoQ10 may also slow cognitive decline if introduced early enough in patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s. What’s more, CoQ10 can reduce the pain, intensity, duration, and frequency of migraines by stabilizing mitochondrial energy in the brain. In addition, when CoQ10 is combined with a plant-based absorption enhancer called gamma cyclodextrin, bioavailability improves as much as 800 percent! That advantage can mean even better results, making the combination a formidable shield against free-radical damage.
This adaptogen has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine for easing anxiety, fatigue, and depression. And while modern research supports those uses, it’s also found that rhodiola is a promising nootropic. In one review of 36 studies, rhodiola improved both learning and memory. The researchers also found that the herb acted as a neuroprotectant that improves cerebral metabolism—which is the energy generated in the brain—thanks largely to its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Rhodiola can be a great tool for people who need to optimize their mental faculties. This was shown in one pilot study of 50 adults that appeared in the journal Phytotherapy Research. After 12 weeks of supplementing with rhodiola, the participants showed an improvement in their mental speed and resources. During an earlier double-blind pilot study, students were given either rhodiola or a placebo. After supplementing for 20 days, the rhodiola group showed improvement in their physical fitness, coordination, and mental sharpness.
There’s even some evidence that rhodiola might help those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain. It also prevents an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase from breaking down acetylcholine in the brain. This leads to better communication between nerve cells and may help ease some symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
To ensure your rhodiola supplement can truly help maximize your mental faculties, look for a high-quality product. Check the Supplement Facts label to confirm that it’s standardized to contain at least three percent rosavins and ome percent salidroside.