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Nootropics 101

Nootropics are one of the many tools available that can positively impact your mental wellness. While the term might be new, most people have experienced the affects of nootropics before, like the alertness you get from the caffeine in a cup of coffee, or the calm that L-theanine gives you when you sip a mug of green tea. Some nootropics, like ashwagandha and ginkgo biloba, have been used in traditional medicines for hundreds of years. 

What is a nootropic?

A nootropic is a compound that improves cognitive functions like memory, motivation, concentration, or attention. There are two different types: 

  • Natural: Derived from plants like Caffeine or L-theanine
  • Synthetic: Lab created compounds like Adderall or Piracetam 

How do nootropics work with your brain?

Our brains are incredibly complex — so complex that scientists and doctors are still discovering new things about how they work. In the case of nootropics, we often have proof that they create a positive impact on our brains before we understand exactly how it works. 

One thing we can generalize is that when your brain is healthy, better cognition seems to follow. Here are the main ways that nootropics enter our brains — and improve our lives:

Energy: 

Our brains use about 20% of our body’s energy to power about 86 billion neurons. Nootropics may support brain energy by enhancing the metabolic activity of our mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell), or by increasing the flow of fatty acids, oxygen, and other key nutrients to our brains.

    Neurotransmitters: 

    The neurons in our brains are constantly communicating with one another. To do that, they use an array of chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Nootropics may improve cognitive function by keeping those systems in balance and optimized.

      Blood flow: 

      Our brains don’t just rely on blood flow to replenish the nutrients it needs — it also relies on that same flow to clear away neurotoxins. Nootropics may support cerebral circulation by preventing damage to blood cells and making them less likely to clump.

        Brain waves: 

        Measured by an EEG (electroencephalogram), brain waves are the collective electrical activity of your brain – otherwise known as "neural oscillations." Nootropics like L-theanine can boost certain brain waves, promoting a more relaxed state of mind.

          Neuroprotection: 

          Just like your skin, our brains suffer from free radical damage over time. Nootropics can help combat that damage by increasing free radical-fighting antioxidants, clearing away neurotoxins, and protecting against damage from stress. 

            Regeneration: 

            Our brains degrade over time — but they can also regenerate. Nootropics may support that neuroregeneration by boosting natural growth factors, providing raw neuronal building block materials, and maintaining brain cell membrane flexibility and plasticity.

                      Part of a balanced routine

                      Just like your daily multivitamin, nootropics do their best work when paired with other healthy habits as part of a full-scope wellness routine. Many doctors agree that getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and managing stress can help boost brain health. Together, they’re all powerful tools you can add to your mental wellness routine.

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