People today more than ever before are very knowledgeable, conscious and protective of their well-being, both physical and mental. We all know how important it is to eat healthy food, cut down on sugary and junk food, and exercise regularly in order to keep our body in top shape and help it fight off many potential illnesses.
Another common thing most people do to enhance their health is taking nutritional supplements. There is hardly anyone these days who doesn’t stock a collection of supplements in their house; from fish oil capsules, to vitamins, to all sorts of herbs and compounds touted as natural remedies.
One particular category of supplements is relatively new, but has been quickly gaining momentum on the global market, and that is nootropic supplements.
A nootropic is any substance, natural or synthetic, that is used to improve cognitive function or enhance mental performance. Nootropics are also commonly referred to as cognitive enhancers.
There are many nootropics being used by a large number of consumers for different purposes. They include traditional medicinal herbs as well as man-made chemicals and drugs that are legally available over the counter in most countries.
Below, we’ll look at six highly regarded nootropics and briefly talk about their clinically proven or anecdotally alleged health benefits.
1. Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba leaves have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine for a handful of health issues. It is also one of the most popular herbal supplements in Western world, where many people take it to improve memory and cognitive function.
Ginkgo biloba may help increase blood flow in the brain, and it has been used to help patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. There is no conclusive evidence to date to support its memory-boosting claim.
Ashwagandha is another widely used herbal remedy with an endless list of suggested benefits. It is known for its adaptogenic properties, which is why it is often taken to reduce daily stress and improve overall well-being.
Some people use ashwagandha as a cognitive enhancer, and there are unproven claims that it eases anxiety, ADHD and other forms of mental impairment.
CDP-choline is a natural nootropic and one of the main supplemental sources of choline: an essential nutrient the human body uses to produce a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.
Supplementation with CDP-choline can help maintain healthy brain function and it has potential neuroprotective effects. It is taken as a memory enhancer and study aid.
Piracetam is a medication belonging to a larger group of synthetic compounds called racetams. Piracetam is a mild cognitive enhancer that may help with short-term memory, learning, depression and anxiety.
There is little evidence that piracetam benefits brain function in healthy individuals, however, it seems to be beneficial for aging people. Despite the lack of clinical data, piracetam is widely used as a nootropic supplement.
Adrafinil is a vigilance enhancer and stimulant that is used to boost wakefulness, energy and focus. It is particularly effective for counteracting tiredness in people who don’t get enough sleep.
In France — the country where adrafinil was discovered — it is approved as a prescription medication, however, in the U.S. it is not approved by the FDA for the treatment of any health condition. Adrafinil is still legally available for purchase at many online vendors in the U.S. and worldwide. Some consumers prefer it over caffeine since adrafinil doesn’t cause jitters.
6. Holy Basil
Holy basil is an aromatic and medicinal herb that is native to India and Southeast Asia. It is used as an herbal remedy for treating different health problems, most importantly anxiety, stress and depression.
It is often recommended to drink holy basil tea or take it as a supplement to promote mental calmness and well-being. One study concluded that this herb is a considerably effective cognitive enhancer.
There are many herbal and chemical compounds that have been shown to support mental performance and reduce the brain-damaging effects of stress, anxiety and other diseases.
For people who often struggle with brain fog and difficulty to stay focused and energized, some of the nootropics sold over the counter may provide an effective relief with very few or no side effects.
However, you should keep in mind that since these supplements are not regulated, many of them are marketed with unproven claims of benefits. You are encouraged to do your own research, and don’t depend on commercial messages or unsubstantiated consumer reviews usually seen on websites that promote these products.