While nootropics may be becoming increasingly popular, many people still do not know what they actually are. Dubbed everything from “brain-boosters” to “magic pills” by the media, the lack of clarity that surrounds them can be confusing. In reality, you may be surprised to learn that most of us drink a nootropic daily: caffeine.
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Put simply, nootropics are defined as compounds that enhance human cognition; they improve aspects of our mental performance such as memory, focus and mood. Humans have been using these compounds for over 3,000 years, but it wasn’t until the 60s and 70s that scientists began researching their effects.
Some are quick to confuse nootropics with performance drugs, but in fact most of the nootropics on the market in the UK are made from natural ingredients, often plants. For example, Ginkgo Biloba is a tree that is native to China and has been proven to help with concentration and memory when taken over long periods of time; it has been a part of traditional Chinese medicines for centuries.
So, how do nootropics work?
Nootropics influence central neurotransmitters, contributing to memory, cognition and mental performance. There are various neurotransmitters that impact a range of things, such as dopamine and serotonin, which affect mood. Take caffeine as an example; it blocks the adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep, with its levels increasing the longer that we are awake. With caffeine blocking its receptors, we ultimately feel more energised.
Researchers are now investigating the effect of combining compounds, for example, caffeine and L-Theanine. Although many people drink coffee in the morning to boost their energy for the day and help them concentrate, it can leave them feeling nervous and shaky. On the other hand, L-Theanine is an amino acid that has a calming effect. Studies have shown that, in combination, they can significantly improve attention and alertness, whilst eliminating the unwanted side effects of caffeine. This synergetic combination appears naturally in the form of Matcha and is so effective that Samurais would use it to aid their mental discipline. Form Nutrition’s Boost was designed with the same effect in mind.
Other combinations have more long-term effects. Studies on Bacopa Monnieri, an herb often used in Ayurveda, have shown it to enhance memory when consumed on a regular basis. Equally, Alpha-GPC is a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. With choline being integral to brain function, Alpha-GPC can protect against long-term cognitive decline. Both compounds are found in Form Nutrition’s Edge.
Nootropics’ increasing popularity is arguably the result of modern life; we’re trying to do too much at once and we are struggling to switch off. But, the truth remains that nootropics are not going to put you to bed, work on your to-do list or make you a superhero. They can, however, help you to concentrate, lift your mood and enhance your memory, depending on which you choose.