5 Best Natural Nootropic Supplements for Improved Focus and Attention
The term nootropic was coined in the 70's by Dr. Corneliu. E. Giurgea, to describe a class of cognitive enhancing compounds called racetams, he and his team of chemists had been synthesizing since the 60's.
The term would be used to describe any compound - natural or synthetic - that would posses cognitive enhancing abilities in terms of improved memory, learning, and focus, while also being non-toxic, and have very low rate of side effects. For something to be nootropic, it would also have to be neuroprotective (protect the brain from physical and chemical stressors).
In this article, I will be focusing on natural nootropics, the stuff that occurs in plants and foods, excluding the synthetic stuff like racetams, Modafinil, Adderall, Ritalin, and other prescription "smart drugs".
So here are your five best natural nootropic compounds:
#5. Bacopa Monnieri
Bacopa Monnieri (water hyssop, Brahmi), is an adaptogenic herb commonly used in the Indian herbal medicine; Ayurveda.
Even though its an Indian ancient herb, there's Western studies showcasing its effect at improving cognitive abilities.
For one Bacopa has been found to increase the enzymes in the brain that are linked to memory formation.
Like with all nootropics, Bacopa is neuroprotective, and administration of the herb resulted in over 2-fold increase in the levels of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD) in rat hippocampus.
In human studies, Bacopa has reliably increased the retention of learned information and short-term memory.
In a meta-analysis of Bacopa Monnieri's effect on cognitive abilities, it was noted that it exerts its most prominent effects on parameters related to memory and learning.
Overall, Bacopa Monnieri has good scientific evidence supporting its use as a memory and learning booster, but the effects aren't acute, and most studies note the largest improvements after 2-weeks of use.
#4. Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola Rosea (Roseroot), is a herb that grows in the extremely harsh conditions of Siberia and northern Scandinavia.
Rhodiola was traditionally used by Vikings for promotion of physical vigor.
In modern science it has been identified as a normalizing adaptogen that can greatly reduce fatigue and improve subjective well-being. This claim has also been extensively studied and has some warranty.
When it comes to cognitive benefits, Rhodiola works best on people who feel fatigued and sleep-deprived. It's slightly psychostimulatory and can enhance focus and attention, but there's also research in animals suggesting it improves memory and learning.
As with all nootropics, R. Rosea is also neuroprotective and has an antioxidative effect in the brain.
#3. Lion's Mane
Lion's mane (Yamabushitake, Hericum erinaceus), is a medicinal mushroom.
It's mostly used in water soluble extract form among coffee, tea, or other beveridges for nootropic purposes.
Lion's mane is also neuroprotective, as it has been shown to preserve brain neurons from death during benzene administration and regrow neurons after "experimental crushing" in rats.
The mechanism of action is not fully known, but research in animals has shown that Lion's mane administration results in increased neurogenesis (neuron growth and increased branch of points), through stimulation of the nerve growth factor (NGF) peptide.
#2. Choline Bitartrate, Alpha-CPG, Citicoline...
Choline is a water-soluble vitamin that is often grouped with the B-vitamin complex. It's found naturally in foods like egg yolks and animal liver.
Deficiency in it is fairly common, and aside from cognitive enhancement, choline as a methyl donor is vital for the health of the liver and for the methylation of estrogen.
When it comes to cognitive stuff, choline is the raw material of the brain neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is necessary for the processing of information within various areas of the brain. The cholinergic system is most commonly linked to improved attention, arousal, and motivation.
The three most commonly supplemented forms of choline include;
- Choline bitartrate - for overall replenishment of bodily choline, this salt-bound form of choline is commonly used.
- Alpha-GPC - Alpha-glycerophosphocholine is phospholipid that contains choline. Being fat-soluble it's can easily cross the blood-brain barrier.
- CDP-Choline - Citicholine as its often called, is choline and uridine bound together by two phosphate groups. Similar actions as alpha-GPC.
If you haven't supplemented with choline before, I suggest starting from choline bitartrate to take care of the possible deficiency first, and then possibly adding in either Alpha-GCP or Citicholine for better absorption to the brain.
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a naturally occurring component of the cell membranes. Estimated 60 grams of PS resides in various pools within the human body, and roughly half of that exists in neural tissue.
It's a fat-soluble structure with with both serine and phosphatic acid taking the place of two fatty-acids in its structure.
Phosphatidylserine supplementation benefits:
- Cognitive functions - PS is one of the few natural substances that has been granted a qualified health claim in treatment of cognitive deficit by the FDA. Robust research supports its use as a cognitive enhancer and neuroprotective agent.
- Testosterone to cortisol ratio - Aside from cognitive benefits, PS supplementation alongside exercise has been noted to result in reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increased levels of the male hormone testosterone, thereby favoring the T:C ratio more for anabolism.