It’s a cliché to say we live in a fast-paced world, but it’s true. And no organ feels the effects of this quickened pace more than the brain, which must process ever-increasing amounts of information.
No wonder one recent survey found neurological dysfunction to rank behind only cancer and obesity among Americans’ main health worries.
But these concerns go far beyond simply forestalling decline. Even healthy people want greater brainpower to keep up with the rise in cognitive workload.
And that’s where nootropics come in.
Building a Better Brain
The word nootropic, based on the Greek words for “mind” and “affecting” or “changing,” refers to any substance used to make learning easier and to enhance memory and thinking. Many of these substances also help protect the brain from injury.
People have spent centuries hunting for nootropics; green tea and sage are two cognition enablers with long track records. However, it wasn’t until the 1960s that researchers put this quest on a more scientific footing, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that noo-tropics started to be seen as a DIY path to improved brain performance.
Gingko biloba, used in traditional medicine for more than 2,000 years, was one of the first nootropics to draw widespread attention for its ability to promote better blood flow within the brain. Another circulation booster, Bacopa monnieri, has been found to improve mental processing speed while buffering the brain against stress.
Two other herbs have yielded useful nootropics. Huperzine A, found in the Chinese club moss (Huperzia serrata), supports the activity of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter crucial to mental performance and memory. Vinpocetine, found in the dwarf periwinkle (Vinca minor), helps tame oxidation and inflammation within the brain.
A number of nutrients have nootropic effects. They include the lipid phosphatidylserine (PS), required for proper brain cell formation; lipoic acid, a potent antioxidant; and astaxanthin, another antioxidant that helps keep brain cells pliable.
One of the latest nootropic nutrients is pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ). Cells produce energy through tiny structures called mitochondria; keeping these mitochondria healthy is crucial for the brain, which requires a lot of energy. PQQ has shown an ability to support energy production within the brain by protecting existing mitochondria and stimulating the creation of new ones.
Taking a Systems Approach
Many hardcore brain hackers take “nootropic stacks,” or supplement combinations. However, going the stack route requires a bit of research to ensure that one is taking the correct substances in the correct dosages from the most reputable suppliers.
Supplement manufacturers have now developed nootropic systems that eliminate the homework (or worse, the uniformed guesswork). High-quality formulations are tested for purity and potency by third parties and are free of gluten, GMOs and allergens.
Such systems include omega-3 fats, which help keep brain cells flexible while protecting them against inflammation. And because the brain is only as healthy as the body, better formulations also include multivitamins to promote overall well-being.
Feeling the need for increased brain speed doesn’t have to turn anyone into a nootropics nerd. Supplementation systems offer single-source cognition support.