This article will review some of the best ways you can optimize your cognition with a class of supplements known as nootropics. It’s not an exhaustive list but serves as an extensive introduction.
Lion’s Mane, a non-psychoactive mushroom, also known as “hedgehog mushroom”, has been recognized as a powerful superfood that can enhance brain function and help with a number of other ailments.
Lion’s Mane helps stimulate nerve growth factor production, or NGF, which is a neuropeptide that helps maintain neurons—the cells responsible for helping your brain process and transmit information. Studies have shown that not only is it effective for improving cognitive function for those with mild cognitive impairment; it also helps preserve photographic and short-term memory. The NGF-enhancing action of Lion’s Mane has also been shown to support the autonomic nervous system, the primary system involved in the body’s flight or fight response. By increasing NGF, the neuropeptide needed to prevent nerve cell damage, Lion’s Mane can also help alleviate symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, etc). It’s even been shown to regenerate damaged cells. This means it is one of the first substances one should reach for should they happen to have a traumatic brain injury. (TBI or concussion)
Lion’s Mane can reduce feelings of irritability and anxiety, and may help relieve mild symptoms of depression. Those who supplement with Lion’s Mane alone have reported that it can also provide a steady boost of energy, without the negative symptoms that can come with stimulants like caffeine. This is because the mushroom is rich in antioxidants that support overall cellular health.
As a bonus, the natural antibacterial properties of Lion’s Mane acts as a protectant in the gut, working against digestive conditions such as leaky gut syndrome, while its anti-inflammatory properties can help with IBS, IBD, Crohn’s disease, and colitis.
Lion’s Mane is the key ingredient in the Osmosis Brain Boost microdose blend.
L-Theanine is an amino acid that is not common in the diet and not one of the essential amino acids. It is found in meaningful amounts in tea, but otherwise supplementation is the main source of it. L-Theanine has structural similarity to glutamine and both neurotransmitters that are produced from it (GABA and glutamate). It is known to reach the brain and influence its function following oral ingestion.
L-Theanine shows great potential for improving focus, improving mood and reducing stress. Research indicates that L-Theanine promotes relaxation without drowsiness.
In 2016, researchers reviewed the existing research on the benefits of L-Theanine and concluded that this compound could benefit a person’s mental and physical health. They noted that it seems to have neuroprotective effects, which improve brain function.
On its own, L-Theanine may improve a person’s attention and reaction times. In combination with caffeine, it may lead to improvements in their number skills and alertness. In a 2012 study researchers found that people who took 100 milligrams (mg) of L-Theanine made fewer errors in an attention task than those in the placebo group. Drinking 50 mg of caffeine or combining the L-Theanine and caffeine also improved people’s focus.
L-Theanine is part of the Vitalita Mushroom Zen Blend which can be found here
Bacopa monnieri, also sometimes called brahmi or herb of grace, has been a staple plant in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for over 3000 years. It has been used by Ayurvedic medical practitioners for centuries for a variety of purposes, including improving memory, reducing anxiety, and treating epilepsy.
Animal and human studies show that Bacopa may have antioxidant properties. The herb contains saponin compounds such as bacosides and bacopasides, which may enhance the communication of brain chemicals involved in cognition, learning, and memory, and inhibit inflammation in the brain.
Several studies indicate that Bacopa may help preserve memory and enhance cognitive function. In a Thai meta-analysis report published in the Journal of Ethnophamacology in 2014, researchers analyzed nine previously published studies assessing the effect of Bacopa on cognitive function. In their conclusion, researchers stated that Bacopa has the potential to improve cognition.
A 12-week study in 46 healthy adults observed that taking 300 mg of Bacopa monnieri daily significantly improved the speed of processing visual information, learning rate, and memory, compared with the placebo treatment (1).
Another 12-week study in 60 older adults found that taking either 300 mg or 600 mg of Bacopa extract daily improved memory, attention, and the ability to process information, compared with the placebo treatment (2).
Bacopa is part of the Focus Osmosis microdose blend
Bacopa has been said to be twice as potent as Gotu Kola, another famous brain herb by the renowned herbalist KP Khalsa.
Pine Bark extract, or Pycnogenol, comes from the bark of the Pinus pinaster tree, which commonly grows in Europe. It has been praised for its medicinal properties since the 4th century B.C. when Hippocrates noted that it could reduce inflammation.
Pine Bark is a good source of vitamin C as well as numerous phytochemicals, natural plant compounds that support better health. The stars of the group are proanthocyanidins, powerful antioxidant compounds (more potent than Vitamin C and E) that provide a wealth of added health benefits.
Pine Bark extract may help manage symptoms of ADHD. A study in 2006 discovered that children who took the supplement daily for four weeks had significantly reduced hyperactivity levels, improved concentration and visual motor skills.
Another study in 2013 suggests that Pine Bark extract may help to decrease nerve cell damage after traumatic brain injury. More research is needed to understand Pine Bark extract’s role in decreasing damage resulting from head trauma. However, the results of the study showed improvement in cognitive functioning and short term memory among patients.
Pine Bark is part of the Focus Osmosis microdose blend
Vinpocetine is a synthetic derivative of vincamine that is an alkaloid extracted from the periwinkle plant, Vinca minor . No significant side effects and toxicity have been reported for vinpocetine at therapeutic doses and it is generally thought to be safe for long-term use. It has been shown in animal studies to have significant anti-oxidant effects, and is able to pass the blood brain barrier for the prevention and treatment of stroke, dementia, and memory disturbances. (see the 2018 paper -An update on Vinpocetine: New discoveries and clinical implications)
It also seems to have vasodilating effects that enable it to stimulate circulation and be of benefit for vascular issues and even cardiac concerns. More study is needed in regards to these heart benefits. Interestingly, it has also been found to lessen liver damage after chemical exposure. The primary nootropic & cerebral usage though remains it’s strength. It has been clinically used in many countries for treatment of cerebrovascular disorders such as stroke and dementia for more than 30 years.
Note: Vinpocetine is said to be more bioavailable if taken with a meal. It should also never be injected and is usually taken orally.
Vinpocetine is part of the Focus Osmosis microdose blend
Huperzine A is an alkaloid compound extracted from club moss (Huperzia serrata).
Huperzine A is thought to be beneficial for problems with memory, loss of mental abilities (dementia), and the muscular disorder myasthenia gravis because it causes an increase in the levels of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is one of the chemicals that our nerves use to communicate in the brain, muscles, and other areas.
In a study of younger students , a small dose of huperzine A (50 mcg) taken twice daily for 4 weeks improved several aspects of memory and learning performance.
Huperzine A has also received significant research attention for supporting memory and cognitive performance during aging.
A 2014 study identified Huperzine A as being able to modify and have a significant benefit for neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s.
Huperzine A is also part of the Focus Osmosis microdose blend
Choline is a vitamin-like essential nutrient and a methyl donor involved in many physiological processes, including normal metabolism and transport of lipids, methylation reactions, and neurotransmitter synthesis. The majority of the body’s choline is found in specialized fat molecules known as phospholipids, the most common of which is called phosphatidylcholine.
We need to get adequate choline in our diet in order for our brains to function at their peak, thus supplementation is especially helpful to fill gaps in the diet.
Choline deficiency causes muscle damage and abnormal deposition of fat in the liver, which results in a condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Genetic predispositions and gender can influence individual variation in choline requirements and thus the susceptibility to choline deficiency-induced fatty liver disease.
Animal studies have shown that choline is essential for optimal brain development and influences cognitive function in later life. Recent intervention studies have found that supplementation with citicoline (a choline derivative) may be useful to limit neurologic damage in stroke patients and improve retinal function in some glaucoma patients. It remains unclear whether citicoline could be used in the treatment of dementias and in head trauma patients.
Choline is also part of the Focus Osmosis microdose blend in the form of Choline Bitatrate which is very bioavailable form.
Gotu Kola (centella asiatica) is renowned as a cerebral tonic in Ayurvedic tradition and is also used in the Chinese system of medicine. There is evidence to support it’s beneficial effects for various neurological issues. It is one of the Rasayana (tonic herbs), said to increase mental clarity and impart long life. Used to treat ulcerations both internal and external, improve digestion and fight amoebic dysentery. It has been used topically for burns and speeds wound healing as it seems to benefit the connective tissue & collagen formation.
Note: Be cautious if you are on blood thinners or have any concerns with thinning blood.
More on GotuKola can be found here.
Hopefully this introductory article has served to highlight some of the nootropics that are available for enhancing your own cognitive functioning, so that you can perform at your best and walk your path with purpose. In a fast-paced world filled with mental overwhelm, we need all the allies we can find.