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What are Nootropics? Benefits and How They Work

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Anything that gives your brain a boost gives you an advantage in life. It’s the quickest and sharpest among us who rise to the top, and staying with-it as you age is a critical aspect of finding enduring health and happiness.

We often overlook our brain health as we focus on our BMI and muscle tone. It’s easier to stay fit the brainier you are, however, and using natural substances to boost your mind is one of the most time-honoured healing techniques of the ancient world. Dive into the history of nootropics, their modern applications, and what Feel Nootropics mean for your brainpower and overall health.

What are nootropics?

Nootropics are plant-derived (botanical) substances, sometimes synthesised, that are believed to boost brain function or treat certain psychiatric conditions. Used in Western medicine since the 1970s, practitioners of ancient medicine have known about nootropics for centuries.

Defined loosely, a “nootropic” [nous = mind, tropic = monitor/maintain] is any substance that boosts your cognitive ability or brain function. In most cases, however, this term refers to a small category of natural substances science has identified as being beneficial to neurological well-being.

Rather than inhabiting an obscure corner of fringe science, the benefits of nootropics are accepted to the degree that pharmaceutical companies have developed prescription nootropics for Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions. It isn’t necessary to get a scrip to enjoy the benefits of nootropics, however, since many forms of natural nootropics are widely available.

It’s curious, then, that the mainstream medical community hasn’t embraced the rise of nootropics with greater enthusiasm. This reluctance isn’t due to a perception that nootropics are based on quack science—far from it. Rather, the eternal complexities of the human mind continue to stymy medical research scientists to the extent that they can’t classify nootropics.

How do nootropics affect the mind?

It’s easy to get weird and philosophical about this subject because it is—the human mind is endlessly mysterious, and we have no idea how thinking happens, which means we can’t truly understand how nootropics appear to boost cognitive performance. Faced with the obstinate slipperiness of consciousness, medical researchers have been forced to shrug and wait for “the science to catch up.”

While the scientists twiddle their thumbs, however, people around the world continue to experience the world-changing power of nootropics for themselves. Science may not have provided a cohesive picture of the human mind yet, but modern scientific orthodoxy isn’t the only place we can look for answers to our questions about nootropics.

What are nootropics for?

You should use nootropics whenever you want to give your brain a boost. Whether you’re sleep-deprived or tired of caffeine, nootropics are natural solutions to everyday stresses and fatigue.

A general sense of tiredness permeates modern society. No one is exempt from the stresses and toxic environments of the contemporary world, but it’s possible for us to enjoy the fruits of our labours better with the art of biohacking.

The mind may be unfathomably complex, but the body is essentially a machine. Don’t let that fact get you down—we’re all unique inside. It’s just that all our bodies follow the same basic parameters, and biohacking is all about learning what these parameters are and how to change the system to achieve different results.

Why do people take nootropics?

Nootropics are for people who want to take command of their bodies and unlock their inner potential. Using nootropics is different than taking vitamins and minerals, which is why WeAreFeel has developed an entirely new product line to tackle these clearly-defined needs head-on.

With computers, you provide an input, and you receive an output. By changing the programming of the computer or the computing hardware, you can change the output you receive. The human body is exactly the same in this respect—change what you put in, and you change what you get out.

How do nootropics work?

The term “nootropic” was coined in 1972 when clinical trials of piracetam, the first and most famous pharmaceutical nootropic, showed positive results in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. Piracetam appeared to facilitate the proper expression and uptake of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a critical neurotransmitter involved in memory, pain, and practically every other human neurochemical process.

Since then, science has discovered or created dozens of other nootropic substances, and they all affect the brain in different ways. Nevertheless, GABA stimulation remains a common theme, and all nootropics appear to boost cognitive function by gently easing the natural processes of the brain and its partner, the ever-ephemeral mind.

Augmenting neurotransmission

In clinical settings, nootropics are known as “CNS modulators”, which means they exhibit significant effects on the operation of the central nervous system (CNS). Science recognises that many psychological disorders are affected by neurotransmission, and substances like nootropics that alter how neurotransmitters move throughout your nervous system show promise in treating cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s.

The success of nootropics in conventional psychiatry has encouraged layman use of these “mind-enhancing” substances. Lacking access to pharmaceutical nootropics, however, enthusiasts researched natural alternatives, and the general-market nootropic industry was born.

Neuroprotection

By stimulating neurotransmitter activity, nootropics appear to mobilise the nervous system’s healing and defensive resources. One of the most elementary facts of human neurochemistry remains the most awe-inspiring—the entire nervous system runs on electricity at its core, and all electrical systems are volatile and require stable materials or constant maintenance.

To make matters more complicated, neurological activity has an equally important chemical aspect, and, of course, the entire system operates within a wider biological organism with which it needs to stay in harmony. If you feel exhausted already just thinking about it, imagine how your brain must feel. It needs the protective power of nootropics to keep up with the modern world’s increasingly hectic pace.

In the scientific literature, in fact, “nootropic” is commonly used as an adjective alongside neuroprotective. This just goes to show that the concept of nootropics is well-known in scientific circles. What’s relatively new, however, is the mainstream acceptance of natural nootropic substances over pharmaceutical alternatives.

Can you use nootropics for biohacking?

That subject is currently up for serious debate. There’s no consensus on whether the practice of “biohacking” is even medically legitimate, but thousands of people around the world swear by this ethos nonetheless.

The basic principles of biohacking are as simple as they are inherently valid. As we’ve touched upon, the human body works like a machine that turns inputs into outputs. Proponents of biohacking simply propose that you use these mechanistic principles to treat your own body like a highly complex computing system.

Since both nootropics and biohacking lack a certain degree of mainstream recognition, we can’t provide any recommendations on the medical effects you might observe when using nootropics. What we can say for certain, however, is that natural nootropic substances are impressively potent and powerful.

When were nootropics discovered?

The answer to that question depends on how seriously you take the perspective that Western society can “discover” a healing technique that’s already been around for thousands of years. The term “nootropic” only started appearing in scientific literature circa 1972, but human beings have been aware of and used natural brain-boosting substances since before recorded history.

Almost as soon as historical records appear, however, it’s also possible to note mentions of nootropics. Once high culture established itself fully in Ancient China and India, the focus shifted away from the mind-altering drugs used in shamanic rites and toward more subtle substances that enlighten and sharpen the senses.

Nootropics in Ayurveda

In ancient India, a discipline arose known as the “knowledge of life.” Men of the brahman caste invested their time into various philosophical pursuits, and medicine was seen as just another route of exploring the divine mystery. Translated into Roman script as “Ayurveda,” this ancient knowledge of life and all its processes pays due respect to substances called medhya rasayanas, which modern science has identified as natural botanical nootropics.

Serendipitously, the root meaning of “medhya rasayana” almost exactly matches that of “nootropic.” Medhya means intellect or memory, and rasayana means maintenance or therapy. Thousands of years ago, ancient Ayurvedic practitioners came to the same conclusions as their counterparts in modern labs and academic institutions across the West.

Ayurveda calls for the use of around ten different botanical substances that are all believed to either stimulate or heal the mind. The idea of “neurotransmission” still wouldn’t exist for centuries, but the ancient Vedic principle of prana neatly fits into our contemporary model of a neural “web” or network of electrochemical channels. International research teams are currently examining the potential medical benefits of Ayurvedic nootropics.

Nootropics in Chinese medicine and culture

While distinct from each other culturally, China and India have remained steadfast trading partners since ancient times, and significant passage of medical knowledge occurred in tandem with the northeastern march of Buddhism during the end of the Vedic period. Once firmly implanted within the cultural melting pot of Ancient China, nootropics took on new heights. Historical records of some of these feats of natural medicine have survived to the current day.

Chinese “smart soup,” for instance, is the stuff of legends, and Chinese medical practitioners have used a botanical substance called Radyx polygalae as a cognitive enhancer for millennia. Let’s see what a team of bonafide medical researchers has to say on the subject:

“Studies showed that RAPO produced a neuro-protective effect in a Parkinson’s disease model [70], improved learning and memory ability in Alzheimer’s disease animal models [71], and exhibited anti-depressant [72] and anti-inflammatory [73] activity.” - Traditional Chinese Nootropic Medicine Radix Polygalae and Its Active Constituent Onjisaponin B Reduce β-Amyloid Production and Improve Cognitive Impairments

Does science prove nootropics work?

Science provides theories, not hard proof. Hypotheses are postulated based on evidence, and then they’re tested to yield results. Those results don’t automatically equate to truth—experimental methods should be debated openly, and conclusions should always be posed tentatively and questioned thoroughly.

There’s plenty of science supporting the benefits of nootropics. Establishing proof in this arena, however, is even harder than it is in other medical science fields. That’s because the reigning mechanistic-reductionist medical paradigm has no idea how to account for the mind, which has successfully mystified the human race for its entire history.

Take a look at the evidence, and decide for yourself whether nootropics have benefits. Here are a couple of great resources for getting started:

Nootropics on NCBI

Nootropics on Science Direct

About Feel Nootropics formula

It’s time to dig into the main event—WeAreFeel’s nootropics formula. As always, we’ve done our research, and we’ve used the successes of our Feel Multivitamin to formulate a simple, natural, and effective nootropic formula.

Feel Nootropics combines Griffonia seed extract, l-theanine from green tea, the healing herb waterhyssop (Bacopa monnieri), and Indian Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) to provide your body with a simple daily nootropics package. Brain-boosting is important in every arena of life, and the edge you’re able to gain today becomes the happiness you’ll have in the future. Learn about these four simple, botanical ingredients and how they can help you achieve your true cognitive potential:

Why we chose Griffonia seed extract (5-htp)

Griffonia simplicfolia seeds contain high levels of 5-htp, which is a direct chemical precursor of serotonin. As the brain’s most abundant neurotransmitter, serotonin is critically involved in every nervous system process, but this compound’s most notable effects are on the perceptions of pleasure and happiness. Griffonia seed extract is one of the world’s most abundant and sustainable sources of 5-htp.

Why we chose L-theanine

Here’s what a 2008 study has to say about the nootropic effects of l-theanine, a natural botanical substance present in green tea:

“L-theanine, at realistic dietary levels, has a significant effect on the general state of mental alertness or arousal. Furthermore, alpha activity is known to play an important role in critical aspects of attention[.]” - L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state.

As a stimulant, l-theanine alone isn’t enough to exert a holistic nootropic effect throughout your nervous system. Research seems to indicate, however, that the beneficial effects of l-theanine are enormous with the side effects being essentially nonexistent.

Why we chose Bacopa monnieri (waterhyssop)

Known colloquially as waterhyssop or just hyssop, Bacopa monnieri is native to most parts of Asia, Europe, and Northern Africa. Clinical studies note, among other things, that patients who consume waterhyssop extract displayed “enhanced AVLT delayed word recall memory scores relative to placebo,” with AVLT standing for the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, a standard metric of cognition. Hyssop is currently one of the most hotly-researched nootropics, and its clear promise assured this natural substance a place in Feel Nootropics.

Why we chose Gotu kola

Commonly known as Indian pennywort, Gotu Kola is one of the most thoroughly-researched natural nootropics. Along with exerting a number of other noted effects, Gotu Kola appears to combat anxiety, depression, and other neurological disorders by stimulating serotonin production.

Is it safe to take nootropics?

Nootropics are powerful substances. Some nootropics work as stimulants, so it’s always wise to be cautious when using this class of botanical or pharmaceutical compounds, and it’s also possible that using unreasonably high concentrations of certain nootropics could exacerbate latent psychiatric disorders. When employed for the right reasons in the right ways, however, nootropics appear to be much safer than other substances historically used to “boost” cognitive function. While there’s no concrete comparative evidence, it also stands to reason that botanical nootropics would naturally be safer than synthetics.

The human mind is endlessly complex, and even modern medical science can make neither head nor tails of the powerful effect nootropic compounds appear to exert. What’s abundantly clear, however, is that nootropics affect the human mind substantially, which is why they’re used as mainline treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and related conditions.

Exercise caution as you start using nootropics, and try to keep an accurate journal of any changes you note in your energy levels or how you see the world. Open up the next chapter of your natural health adventure by making nootropics into powerful tools by your side. Feel Nootropics is standing by to help you unlock the mysteries of the mind.

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WeAreFeel Nutrition Team - All content provided on our blog is created exclusively for our readers by our research and nutrition team. We try to provide as much scientific backing as possible with references to support any claims made.
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