What Are Nootropics?

One of the biggest trends in wellbeing recently is for nootropics, classified as natural and synthetic substances that can help improve everything from mental performance to mood and memory. Derived from the Greek term for ‘bending or shaping the mind’, nootropics are proving an increasingly popular way to enhance everything from general lifestyle to mental attitude in the gym.

What are nootropics?

With their roots in ancient medicine, nootropics are most widely used to increase alertness and mental stamina and are often referred to as brain boosters or smart drugs. Although some nootropics fall into the category of pharmaceutical drugs that are used to address certain conditions like ADHD, others are more widespread than you may realise and will already feature in your daily routine. Caffeine is not only one of the most widely consumed psychoactive substances in the world, but also one of the most common nootropics around, while your daily cup of tea contains a nootropic called l-theanine, an amino acid that can reduce mental fatigue and improve cognitive function. Other well-known nootropics include B-vitamins 6, 9 and 12 lauded for their ability to optimise brain health, and rhodiola rosea and panax ginseng, both believed to enable better mental processing and improve mood.

How do they work?

Although much of how nootropics affect an incredibly complex and individual organ like the brain remains somewhat of a mystery to scientists, experts believe they’re capable of working across several pathways in the brain. One such way they enhance cognitive function is by increasing blood flow to the brain, improving its overall health, delivering nourishing compounds like nutrients and oxygen and removing potentially damaging neurotoxins. As a result of this health boost, the brain is chemically more balanced, is better able to protect vital brain cells and has a boosted regeneration process, ensuring it functions more efficiently. There’s also some evidence to suggest that nootropics enhance not only the metabolic activity of the mitochondria, cells in the brain that produce much of the brain’s energy source ATP, but that they also help transport fatty acids which act as fuel for the mitochondria.

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How to take them

How to take nootropics depends very much on the type you’re taking, so while some lend themselves to capsule form, others work well in a tea or powder form. As with most supplements, it’s important to establish a foundation of good lifestyle habits to help boost the effects of nootropics and your overall health in the process. That means ensuring plenty of sleep, eating a nutrient-rich diet, exercising regularly and managing your stress. It’s also worth noting that it’s best to seek medical advice before you start taking anything new, especially so if you have any underlying health issues.

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