Introducing our latest series of posts with Vivid’s in-house nutritional therapist, Milda.
Milda (DipNT mBANT rCNHC) is a Nutritional Therapist who empowers and guides people to take charge of their physical and mental health through the power of nutrition and lifestyle. She became fascinated by nutrition as it was the most effective tool in her own quest to escape stress, anxiety and chaotic eating habits, which then led to studies at the College of Naturopathic Medicine in London. Milda is now based in the South-West, where she runs her busy clinic Nutrition Path, enjoys long walks in the woods and a steaming cup of matcha.
In this series of posts Milda will talk through different foods, drinks and life-hacks for nourishing and maintaining a healthy, productive and optimal mind. We start the series with ‘natural nootropics’. Not sure what nootropics are? Read on…!
**Note for readers – we love science. We aim to support all statements about brain health with credible, original scientific papers, not third-hand knowledge or hear-say. You’ll be able to find references to all studies at the end of each blog. If you want any further information please do not hesitate to email us!**
The idea of enhancing your brain power and cognitive function by supplementing with natural herbs and plants may sound like a brilliant script for a new sci-fi film, but the irony is that such natural supplements have been used for thousands of years and are now making a modern ‘comeback’.
Modern world pressures, being plugged-in 24/7 and bombarded with infinite stream of information is proving tricky to keep up with and simultaneously sustain good health. From university students, to office workers, to overworked entrepreneurs- who wouldn’t want to enhance concentration, mood, memory and feel more resilient?
Brain health and optimum function has been a hot topic for almost a decade and vitamin C and multivitamins are just not quite cutting it anymore. Meet natural nootropics, that may provide the natural alternative we are all so eager for.
So what are natural nootropics?
The term nootropics is derived from Greek word ‘noos’, meaning ‘mind’ and ‘tropein’, meaning ‘monitor’ (1). These compounds are also called ‘cognitive enhancers’ or ‘smart drugs’. It’s no surprise natural nootropics are gaining popularity with the Silicon Valley on the pursuit to amplified productivity and brain function (2).
Simply put, nootropics are nutritional compounds that can help boost memory, focus, creativity, motivation and provide mental clarity (3). Although synthetic nootropics have been around since the 70’s, they are relatively potent and require a prescription, but their safety for long- term use is yet to be validated by research.
Natural nootropics, on the other hand, still provide significant cognitive support and boost, with barely any side effects. Often these are more potent versions of herbs or plants, or nutritional compounds from food sources, just like mother nature intended.
Some of these ‘smart drugs’ often fall into a couple of categories, like adaptogens and nootropics, which create a wholistic and synergistic effect on the body.
Natural nootropics to look out for
If your diet is balanced and packed with a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, chances are you are getting a boost of nootropic compounds daily, with a cup of green tea, blueberries for breakfast or mackerel for dinner.
And if despite the rainbow on the plate, sometimes you feel like your brain could benefit from some extra TLC, natural nootropics are a good place to start.
Although supplemental natural nootropics are fairly new in the Western world, some ancient traditions like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine have been using them regularly for centuries.
Check out some of our favourites:
L-Theanine – Originally used by Zen Monks in Japan to stimulate alpha brain waves for better meditation purposes, this amino acid is found in green tea leaves and is plentiful in Matcha tea. L-theanine may help promote relaxation under stress, improve memory and focus (4, 5, 6). And that is just the tip of the iceberg, as this amino acid has also shown to have positive effects on emotional status and sleep quality (7).
Bocopa Monniera – also known as Brahmi in Ayurvedic tradition, Bocopa is one of the better-known nootropics. This cognitive enhancer is proven to improve learning, memory and decrease anxiety (8, 9), allowing more mental clarity and calm.
Phosphatidylserine – a surprising amount of the human brain is composed of this phospholipid, which essentially is a type of fat. Research has repeatedly shown that phosphatidylserine can help slow down the degeneration of the brain and mental decline (10), as well as improve cognitive performance in people with robust optimum health (10).
Lion’s Mane – known as Yamabushitake, this medicinal mushroom in Chinese Traditional Medicine has been embraced for centuries. Lion’s mane has proven to stimulate nerve growth factor (11), which essentially means it can help grow nerve cells. Such a promising natural alternative in the times when Alzheimer’s and dementia are on the rise.
The bigger picture
While the rise of nootropics and increasing research in this area offers hope and excitement, it’s necessary to look at your diet and lifestyle first, before seeking out alternatives to boost brain function.
Are you managing your stress levels? Is your diet packed with nutrients and antioxidants? Are you spending enough time outdoors?
Nootropics may be an exciting addition towards optimum health and brain enhancement, providing the foundation is health is there in the first place.