Natural Nootropics- Plants As Smart Drugs
Natural Nootropics – Ways To Upgrade Your Brain
Have you ever needed a little extra boost in brain power? If you are like the majority of people I know including myself, that answer is yes. Natural nootropics may be able to provide that much needed boost.
When I first started researching nootropics, I was overwhelmed by the available supplements. Considering that I have always been into natural medicines, I decided to start with the naturals. If you are trying to increase or improve your cognitive abilities, but aren’t sure about experimenting with the more synthetic compounds out there, I recommend starting here.
I am pretty sure that you will feel a noticeable improvement. If you don’t get the level of improvement you desire, or want even more of an effect, then you can try the synthetic nootropic compounds.
People have been using things to improve their brain for thousands of years. From the Far East to North and South America, cultures and indigenous people have found ways to upgrade their brains. Some were looking for an increase in intelligence or to fix cognitive issues. Others used them as a way to try to achieve higher levels of consciousness and enlightenment. Whatever their reason, this long time use has spoken to the safety and effectiveness of these nootropics.
- Improves memory recall
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Protects against oxidative damage and mineral buildup
- Possibly improves symptoms associated with dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy 
Bacopa is one of the most thoroughly studied and tested natural nootropic. It is also one of the safest and most effective natural memory enhancers. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries.
Would you benefit from a boost to your memory? Maybe help you remember what you needed at the store? Or the name of that new guy in accounting? Bacopa significantly enhances memory recall. 
I don’t know of many people who wouldn’t benefit from a little anxiety or stress reduction. Bacopa is great in that department.  Combine that with the memory recall benefits, and you’ve got a great aid for your next presentation or meeting.
Bacopa is neuroprotective. It helps to protect the brain in a few different ways. It protects against oxidative damage and also from excessive mineral buildup- most notably from iron. 
Bacopa is very good at increasing the blood flow to the brain. This in turn increases the amount of oxygen, fuel and nutrients available and helps to remove toxins. This could drastically reduce the amount of brain fog that many people suffer from. Increased blood flow in the brain could also lessen the chances of suffering a stroke.
The other main way that Bacopa has these effects is by increasing the available amount of some critical neurotransmitters. These include acetylcholine, dopamine, and serotonin, which are extremely important to brain health. 
Additional benefits include:
- Reduced sensitivity to pain
- Protection against stomach ulcers
- Powerful antioxidant properties 
Bacopa can be purchased in capsules or as powder. Capsules are the easiest way to take bacopa because you don’t have to worry about measuring your dose. If you do decide to buy it in powder form, you can make your own capsules or just add it to a smoothie or coffee. The standard dose depends on the concentration of your supplement.
Standard dose depends on the concentration:
Side effects are very rare but could include nausea and fatigue.
- Neuroprotective and increases nerve growth factors
- Helps repair the brain from physical damage
- Stimulates myelination (production of the myelin sheath) 
- Reduces anxiety
- Boosts immune system
- May slow or help to prevent Alzheimer’s and senile dementia
Lion’s mane is one of my favorite natural nootropics. I have been using it daily for a couple of years now and love it.
Lion’s mane is an edible mushroom traditionally used in Chinese and Japanese medicine to improve brain function and support immune system function. It gets its name from the stringy texture that resembles the mane of a lion.
All of us have suffered damage to neurons in our brains to some degree. Things like physical trauma, environmental toxins, chemicals, air quality, and even stress can damage brain cells. Lion’s mane is neuroprotective. This means that it can protect you to some degree from that damage. It also increases nerve growth factors which stimulates the growth of new neurons.  This can help to fix and regrow some of the damaged neurons. Research also shows that it can be useful for repairing the damage done by physical trauma. 
Many people today suffer from some sort of depression or anxiety. The good news is that there may be a few natural ways to manage these symptoms. Lion’s mane has been shown to benefit people suffering from these mood disorders. 
Research has also shown that the use of lion’s mane has also helped in the prevention of and slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia. 
Lion’s mane is a great mushroom to add to any meal. It can also be taken as a supplement. It does need heat to draw out many of the beneficial compounds though. So if you are supplementing with it, make sure to at least add it to some hot liquid. Most days I will add some of the dried powder to my coffee in the morning.
Another beneficial way to supplement with most mushrooms is by using an extract. Just make sure to get a high quality one that has been hot water extracted.
The effects of lion’s mane seem to level off around 4 weeks after you stop taking them. That is why daily extended use is recommended.  I have also found that it seems to take a week or more of daily use to experience all the benefits.
- Full of beneficial nutrients
- 20% protein by volume
- Aids in wound healing when applied topically
- May inhibit weight gain
Lion’s mane is most often taken as an extract in capsule form, but as you can see in the picture above, I also buy it at my local farmers market. You can buy the mushroom already powdered and add it to your morning coffee, or dry and powder it yourself. There are also some great recipes out there to include it in.
Standard Dose: 1-3 times daily
Raw- 1/2 – 1 tsp
Extract of 10:1(30% polysaccharide)- 500-1000 mg
- Increases alertness
- Decreases fatigue
- Improves concentration
- Boosts mood
- Improves short-term memory
- Improves athletic performance
Yeah, you’re probably saying, “I already knew this about caffeine.”
I have my coffee almost every morning to start my day. It charges me up and gets my mind running at top speed. I drink mine the Bulletproof way. You can check out how the Eris Fit team makes their butter coffee in this post:
Around 90% of the world’s population use some sort of caffeine,  whether it’s from coffee, tea, soda or in supplements. It is definitely the world’s favorite and most used nootropic. It may be the longest used one as well.
This is definitely my go to if I am feeling tired, or haven’t had much sleep lately. Studies have shown that when lacking sleep, caffeine can increase alertness, decrease fatigue and improve performance. 
Caffeine is also great for work because it improves concentration and short-term memory, plus boosts your mood.  The latter could really help you not to lose your temper on that coworker who loves to push your buttons.
Maybe tomorrow morning you should have a cup of coffee before you head out for your morning jog. You jog don’t you? This is because it has been found that it improves your athletic performance during long endurance events. 
Are you trying to shed a few extra pounds that you gained over the holidays? Caffeine can boost your body’s thermogenesis. That will put you into calorie burning mode and increase your energy.
Caffeine has a very positive effect on your brain and your muscles. 
As hard as it is for me to comprehend, you may not like coffee or tea. In that case, you can still get the benefits from caffeine in supplement form. Caffeine usually comes in two forms. The standard form is caffeine anhydrous. The other form takes effect much faster, but takes a higher dosage. This form is called caffeine citrate. It is formed by treating caffeine anhydrous with citric acid. The dosage recommendations for both are
- 50mg for caffeine anhydrous
- 100mg for caffeine citrate
Since caffeine is a stimulant, it will affect your sleep if used to close to bedtime. A good rule of thumb is to stop using it at least 8 hours before you plan on going to bed. Even if you don’t have trouble falling asleep, it may still hurt the quality of sleep. Some people have have to quit drinking even earlier. A good way to find the out is by using a sleep tracking app. My favorite is one called Sleep Cycle. It will measure the quality of your sleep and give you great information about it for any given night.
There are a few possible side effects associated with caffeine. These can include anxiety, nausea and increased blood pressure. A lot of your risk of these are associated with your genetics. If you do experience some of these, don’t worry. There is a great way to lessen the negative effects. I’ll let you in on that secret next.
- Counteracts negative effects of caffeine
- Works synergistically to boost mood and cognitive performance
- Reduces physical and mental stress
- Helps you relax
- Reduces anxiety
- Enhances attention
- Increases focus
- Improves memory and learning
So, you would like to enjoy the benefits of caffeine, but get jittery, anxious and an elevated blood pressure?
L-theanine may be just the thing you were looking for.
L-theanine is the main psychoactive compound found in green tea. It wasn’t discovered as a compound until 1949. Even though people have know about the beneficial properties of it for thousands of years.
You can purchase L-theanine capsules, or just drink a cup of green or matcha tea.
L-theanine works to counteract the negative effects of coffee. It also works together with coffee to boost mood and cognitive performance.    I usually only have a maximum of 2 cups of coffee a day. Unless of course one of the kids have kept me up all night. In that case I may opt for a third. If I haven’t taken any L-theanine, I sometimes get a little jittery. With L-theanine I get a smooth focus and alertness.
One of the ways that L-theanine works is by increasing levels of key neurotransmitters, specifically serotonin, dopamine, GABA and glycine. 
Do you find it hard to relax and unwind after work? L-theanine also helps to reduce physical and mental stress.  That leads to more relaxation and allows you to enjoy a more restful sleep.  I know everyone could use some help in that department..
One of the biggest reasons that I use L-theanine is that it promotes alpha waves in your brain.  This is the brain wave frequency that gives you a relaxed but high level of attention and focus. This leads to an improvement in memory and the ability to learn new things.
- Boosts the body’s immune response to infection
- Promotes healthy blood pressure levels.
The standard dose is 100-200mg up to twice daily.
No side effects have been reported unless extremely high amounts were used.
- Increases blood flow in the brain
- Improves overall cognition
- Combats cognitive decline
- Improves learning and memory
- Improves age-related skill impairments
I use this specific nootropic when I need an extra boost for studying or other tasks that require peak mental performance. It also comes in handy on days that I don’t feel like I am as sharp and focused as I need to be.
So yes, on the rare occasion that I stay out too late or have too much to drink I take some vinpocetine to help relieve some of the fogginess in my head.
Vinpocetine is derived from vincamine, which is an alkaloid found in the periwinkle plant. It was first isolated and synthesized from the plant in 1975 and was being produced by 1978.
It is used in Eastern Europe for the treatment of cerebrovascular disorders and age-related memory impairment. The use of this for combating cognitive decline and age-related skill impairment has shown to be quite effective.   Vinpocetine has also been shown to be a powerful anti-inflammatory, especially to the brain. This is one of the reasons it may play a potential role in the treatment of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.  
Unless you’re Jim Kwik or one of the other masters of memory, you probably could benefit from better memory and learning abilities. Vinpocetine could give you an edge in this area as well. It has been shown to greatly improve learning and memory. 
One last use for vinpocetine is as a pre-workout supplement used by body builders and athletes. It acts as a vasodilator, which relaxes your blood vessels allowing them to open wider. This increases your blood blow resulting in the delivery of fuel like oxygen and glucose to the muscles. This results in that satisfying muscle swelling, vein popping pump that many body builders are looking for. It also increases the amount of metabolic waste products removed from the muscles.
Just like the other nootropics, vinpocetine can be purchased in either powder or capsules.
The standard dose is 300mg up to 3 times daily.
No side effects were reported in normal doses. In much larger doses headaches, dizziness, nervousness and sleep disturbance are possible.
All Natural Nootropic Stacks
Many people that use nootropics like to create different combinations to address certain needs and situations. These are referred to as “stacks”. Most stacks contain a combination of natural ingredients and synthetic compounds. There are however a couple that only contain all natural ingredients. Both of them contain one or more of the things we mentioned in this article. Check them out.
Nature has given us so many ways to upgrade our brain. We have only scratched the surface of the ability of plants to treat and prevent things that modern science so far has been unable to do. I am very excited that more and more research is being done to expand our understanding of the healing properties of these things.
This list only scratches the surface of plants that can help upgrade your brain. There are many more. If you liked this post and would like to see posts about even more of them, please leave a comment below. Let us know what you thought, what you’d like to see us write about, or anything else pertaining to health and wellness.
Check out the rest of our nootropics series.
*Please do your own research and/or seek advice your preferred medical provider before using these or anything other herbs, supplements or medications.