Nootropics - What You Need To Know

by Khyati Kapur

Nootropics - What You Need To Know

If we’re honest, we often take our brain for granted and don’t take care of it as well as we should. With the increasing rates of early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s in the U.S, there has been a renewed interest in brain health in the scientific community and general public. You must remember that the human brain is the main organ responsible for controlling virtually all of the other organ systems (we would not be alive without it), ensuring that our whole body functions optimally. If you’re not properly taking care of your brain, the rest of your body could be suffering as a result. 

You may have even reached a point where you are wholly dependent on your morning coffee routine to help you concentrate throughout the day. If you don’t want to ditch your coffee and yet still take care of your brain health, what can you do about it?

Enter nootropics into the picture. Every time you hear the word “nootropics,” think of it as any molecule that is meant to enhance brain health. Nootropics are not only limited to synthetic drugs (pharmaceuticals), but also include natural compounds found in nature, such as those found in wild herbs and in certain other foods. Even though nootropics have become quite popular over the past few years, there is still a lot of current research exploring how effective they can be in improving brain health. The current body of research shows that natural nootropics exhibit brain-protective properties by increasing blood circulation to the brain, reducing inflammation that can occur in the brain, and increasing overall energy [1]. Not only can natural nootropics help protect the health of your brain, but can also help to regenerate new brain cells.

The consumption of one notable natural nootropic, Rhodiola rosea, has been shown to play an active role in neurogenesis through salidroside, one of the main bioactive compounds found in R. rosea.

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Decisions that detrimentally affect your brain health 

Besides taking nootropics, it is crucial that you take good care of your brain health in other ways, since your brain is estimated to house close to 100 billion neurons. Neurons are also the few types of cells in the human body that do not regenerate as quickly. There are certain decisions that you could be making that are worsening and aging your brain, especially the following: 

  • Lack of sleep (especially chronic sleep loss) is a huge reason why your brain health could be suffering right now, since it has been found in various animal models that sleep deprivation can contribute to neural damage, inflammation, inhibit neurogenesis (the creation of new neurons from neural stem cells), and directly impair brain functions such as learning and memory [2].
  • Sedentary lifestyle with little exercise. We need exercise to not only maintain our cardiovascular health, but also to reduce inflammation throughout the body, and improve overall cognitive function

  • Regularly skipping meals can mess up your glucose metabolism, trigger mood problems, and lead you to overeat later (and possibly gain weight) to compensate for the skipped food. Skipping meals is not always bad however if you are undergoing intermittent fasting, since this type of fasting can improve your health if you suffer from conditions such as metabolic syndrome.

  • Excessive alcohol or drug consumption. We all know that when taken in excess, alcohol can mess up your brain’s ability to logically think, and taking drugs in excess (whether prescription or not) can also inhibit normal brain function. Red wine taken in moderation however, has been shown time and time again to be beneficial for brain health (natural red wine contains numerous antioxidants, one of the most notable being resveratrol, which can protect your brain from neurodegeneration).

  • Excessive stress will harm the gut brain-axis (or gut-brain connection), forcing you to be in a constant state of “fight-or flight” instead of “rest-and-digest.” This can contribute to body-wide inflammation and cause damage to your brain cells if the source of the stress is not properly addressed and taken care of. 
  • It is evident that the choices we make on a daily basis will directly impact our brain health in profound ways. If you feel that you have any concentration or memory problems, then really focus on improving your daily habits. Even though doctors can offer suggestions and give you steps to help improve your health, ultimately you are your best advocate, and must be willing to implement any changes necessary to maintain good health. If you are already living a healthy lifestyle but are still looking for ways to further boost your health, then nootropics could offer you an extra kick. 

    Why nootropics?

    As mentioned in the beginning of this blog, the brain is such an important organ since it is central to our everyday lives. Thus, it makes sense that you would want to take steps to improve your brain health, since brain function declines with age (due to cellular degeneration). Incorporating whole foods, medicinal herbs, and supplements with nootropic properties would be logical solutions to maintain healthy brain function. 

    One of the major food ingredients that has nootropic properties is extra-virgin olive oil, which is commonly found in the Mediterranean diet (but lacking in use in the standard American diet). Olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, antioxidants (polyphenols), and exhibits antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and overall disease-protective properties. In rat models, pure olive oil was shown to reduce anxiety, improve learning, and strengthen memory [3]

    Besides olive oil, the other top brain health foods that you should incorporate into your weekly meal plans are green, leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, fish (aiming for wild-caught when available), berries (especially blueberries), tea, coffee, and walnuts. The green, leafy veggies are packed with vitamins, minerals, and various brain-protective compounds, while fish and walnuts are loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, essential in reducing inflammation not only in your brain but also throughout the whole body (see our blog post on the differences between omega-3 and omega-6). And don’t forget the dark blue color of blueberries: this color is due to the blueberries being highly dense in flavonoids (particularly anthocyanins), compounds that act as antioxidants in your body which can help reverse the damaging effects of ageing for your brain.

    It is important to note though that certain nootropics may pose risks if taken in doses that exceed general safety limits. One study found that supplementation with certain nootropics produced symptoms which were reduced after discontinuation of those supplements [4]. Since nootropics are still being investigated, you would need to consult with a medical professional whether incorporating nootropic supplements are a good choice for your health. You also need to be careful when choosing nootropics as supplements if you are also taking other drugs, since there could be adverse effects from the drugs and nootropics interacting with each other. Besides nootropics, it makes sense that anything taken in excess, even if healthy, can be harmful to your health. Eating in moderation and awareness of how your body reacts to certain foods are the keys you must always remember to maintain a strong health. 

    Even though nootropics may have some risks for human consumption, there are scientific studies that have confirmed beneficial health results from certain nootropic ingredients, helping to outweigh any inherent risks from nootropic consumption. One study published in 2019 showed that a group of 10 different nootropic herbs were able to act as prebiotics and positively influenced the gut microbial communities of adults [5]. The authors of this study suggested that by acting as prebiotics, these herbs could indirectly influence brain health by mediating the gut-brain axis through the secretion of beneficial metabolites from gut bacteria. Therefore, if you ever consider supplementing or eating foods with nootropic properties, make sure that the ingredients you are ingesting have been shown to actually improve brain health with minimal adverse effects.

    Seva Soul’s nootropic coffee has ingredients that have all been studied and shown to exhibit improvements in brain function and health, where some of the benefits include thinking sharper, clearer focus, and neuroprotective factors that could help protect against Alzheimer's and dementia. Besides the coffee itself, the main ingredients include mct oil powder, chaga mushroom, lion's mane mushroom, Rhodiola rosea, and L-theanine. When designing this product, we took our time researching the ingredients to make sure that they would work together synergistically with the coffee to enhance their benefits. Be sure to check out the separate blog posts on each of the ingredients in this coffee to learn more about how these natural compounds could help enhance your cognitive function.

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    PLEASE NOTE that this article is not in lieu of medical advice from your doctor. All content found on this website, including articles, text, images, audio, videos, or other formats were created for informational purposes only.  This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 


    Khyati Kapur
    Khyati Kapur