Fuel your nog­gin with these mood-lift­ing, brain-boost­ing, fo­cus-sharp­en­ing herbs for ev­ery­day use

Amazing Wellness - - CONTENTS - By Lisa Turner

Un­lock Your Brain Fuel your nog­gin with these mood-lift­ing, brain-boost­ing, fo­cus-sharp­en­ing herbs for ev­ery­day use.

In the 2011 movie Lim­it­less, the hero scaled the world’s high­est moun­tains, made a for­tune overnight, and got the girl—all by tak­ing a sim­ple pill. Now, dozens of nootrop­ics—from phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals such as Ri­talin, Ad­der­all, and modafinil, to le­gal but ques­tion­able com­pounds found on the In­ter­net, in­clud­ing pirac­etam and adrafinil—prom­ise en­hanced mood and a smarter, faster brain. It sounds too good to be true, and it prob­a­bly is. Though they’re le­gal and ef­fec­tive, chem­i­cal nootrop­ics (called “smart drugs”) have side ef­fects, in­clud­ing rapid heart rate, headaches, in­som­nia, and anx­i­ety, and some have a high po­ten­tial for tol­er­ance, ad­dic­tion, and with­drawal symp­toms.

A bet­ter choice: her­bal nootrop­ics that en­hance mood, sharpen con­cen­tra­tion, and im­prove fo­cus, with­out the side ef­fects, tol­er­ance, or with­drawal. They work by in­creas­ing cir­cu­la­tion to the brain, al­ter­ing the con­cen­tra­tion of neu­ro­trans­mit­ters, re­duc­ing brain in­flam­ma­tion, stim­u­lat­ing the for­ma­tion of new brain cells, and pro­tect­ing the brain from free-rad­i­cal dam­age. Some of the best:


Huperzine A is a highly pu­ri­fied and con­cen­trated ex­tract from the Chi­nese club moss plant, which has a long his­tory of use in her­bal and Chi­nese medicine. Huperzine A, the main ac­tive com­pound in the plant, is used to en­hance mem­ory and learn­ing. It may also be ef­fec­tive in im­prov­ing cog­ni­tive func­tion and re­duc­ing brain in­flam­ma­tion af­ter trau­matic brain in­jury. Newer stud­ies are find­ing a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment of cog­ni­tive func­tion, daily liv­ing ac­tiv­ity, and over­all symp­toms in Alzheimer’s pa­tients. Typ­i­cal doses are 50–100 mcg, twice per day. Check with your doc­tor be­fore us­ing.


Also called Arc­tic root, Rhodiola rosea is an adap­to­gen that’s been used in tra­di­tional her­bal medicine for hun­dreds of years. It’s been shown in many stud­ies to pre­vent fa­tigue, re­duce stress, com­bat men­tal fog, and en­hance men­tal per­for­mance. One study found that peo­ple suf­fer­ing from mild to mod­er­ate de­pres­sion who took rhodiola had fewer symp­toms of de­pres­sion than those who took a placebo. Typ­i­cal doses are up to 340 mg twice daily of rhodiola ex­tract con­tain­ing 2–3 per­cent rosavin and 1–2.5 per­cent salidro­side.


An ex­tract from the Brahmi plant, Bacopa monnieri has been tra­di­tion­ally used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a va­ri­ety of ail­ments. Now, stud­ies show that it can en­hance mem­ory and im­prove mood. One study found that bacopa sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved cog­ni­tive func­tion and de­creased de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety in older adults with­out Alzheimer’s. Other stud­ies have sug­gested that bacopa can help pro­tect against agere­lated neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion and cog­ni­tive de­cline. Typ­i­cal doses are 150–300 mg per day of a bacopa ex­tract con­tain­ing 50 per­cent ba­co­sides.


Lion’s mane, a mush­room used in culi­nary ap­pli­ca­tions as well as in tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine, con­tains com­pounds called heri­cenones and eri­nacines that may have neu­ro­pro­tec­tive and cog­ni­tiveen­hanc­ing ef­fects. Stud­ies sug­gest that lion’s mane works by in­creas­ing nerve growth fac­tor (NGF), a pro­tein nec­es­sary for the growth, main­te­nance, and sur­vival of neu­rons. Al­though most of this re­search has been done in petri dishes, other stud­ies in peo­ple sug­gest that lion’s mane is ef­fec­tive in im­prov­ing mood and re­liev­ing de­pres­sion. Typ­i­cal doses are 500–750 mg per day.


An amino acid found in eggs, turkey, beef, sea­weed, soy­beans, and Swiss cheese, tyrosine is nec­es­sary for the pro­duc­tion of nor­ep­i­neph­rine and dopamine, neu­ro­trans­mit­ters that play sig­nif­i­cant roles in mood reg­u­la­tion. Low lev­els of these are linked with de­pres­sion, ap­a­thy, fa­tigue, and lack of con­cen­tra­tion, and some stud­ies sug­gest that sup­ple­ment­ing with tyrosine can al­le­vi­ate even sig­nif­i­cant de­pres­sion. It’s also ex­tremely ef­fec­tive in prevent­ing cog­ni­tive de­cline in con­di­tions of stress. Typ­i­cal doses are 500–1,000 mg per day, di­vided into two to three doses.


A chem­i­cal that oc­curs nat­u­rally in the brain, citicoline is used to treat Alzheimer’s and other forms of de­men­tia, as well as head in­jury, age-re­lated mem­ory loss, and at­ten­tion deficit-hyper­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der (ADHD). Stud­ies show that it can sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove cog­ni­tive im­pair­ments, and can im­prove mem­ory and re­call in el­derly pa­tients with­out de­men­tia. Citicoline ap­pears to work by en­hanc­ing cir­cu­la­tion to the brain and im­prov­ing neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, the brains’ abil­ity to re­cover and re­struc­ture. Stud­ies also show that citicoline can im­prove mo­tor speed and at­ten­tion in ado­les­cents and healthy adult women. Typ­i­cal doses are 250–500 mg per day.


Acetyl-l-carnitine, a form of the amino acid carnitine that’s found in high-pro­tein foods, is

key in pro­duc­ing acetyl­choline, an im­por­tant neu­ro­trans­mit­ter for mem­ory, learn­ing, and cog­ni­tion. By en­hanc­ing the body’s pro­duc­tion of acetyl­choline, acetyl-l-carnitine can im­prove fo­cus, alert­ness, clar­ity, and mem­ory. Stud­ies show a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in per­for­mance of men­tal tasks in Alzheimer’s pa­tients af­ter acetyll-carnitine treat­ment, and also sug­gest that it may be ef­fec­tive in the treat­ment of de­men­tia and cog­ni­tive im­pair­ment, es­pe­cially as a re­sult of al­co­holism and de­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases. Typ­i­cal doses range from 300 mg to 1,000 mg per day. Do not take acetyl-l-carnitine with foods that con­tain pro­tein.


A com­pound found pri­mar­ily in green, white, and black teas, L-theanine has been shown to pro­mote con­cen­tra­tion, alert­ness, and at­ten­tion, cre­at­ing a state of calm fo­cus that’s sim­i­lar to med­i­ta­tion. It works by in­creas­ing lev­els of sero­tonin, dopamine, and GABA, neu­ro­trans­mit­ters that im­prove mood, mem­ory, and learn­ing. Com­bined with caf­feine, it has been shown to im­prove both speed and ac­cu­racy on cog­ni­tively de­mand­ing tasks, and to re­duce sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to dis­tract­ing in­for­ma­tion dur­ing mem­ory tasks.


Tryptophan, an amino acid nat­u­rally found in a va­ri­ety of foods, is es­sen­tial for the for­ma­tion of sero­tonin, a mood­en­hanc­ing neu­ro­trans­mit­ter. Many stud­ies have found that tryptophan de­fi­cien­cies im­pair mem­ory and may de­press mood, and a diet rich in it can have a pos­i­tive im­pact on mood and cog­ni­tion. In ad­di­tion to diet, stud­ies show sup­ple­men­tal tryptophan im­proves mem­ory deficits and en­hances con­cen­tra­tion. Tryptophan may also help im­prove de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety, and ADHD. Typ­i­cal doses are 1,000–2,000 mg, three to four times a day.


Vinpocetine, a chem­i­cal that re­sem­bles a sub­stance found in the com­mon creep­ing plant peri­win­kle, is widely used in Europe as a brain booster. It’s thought to work by im­prov­ing cir­cu­la­tion, de­creas­ing in­flam­ma­tion, and balanc­ing neu­ro­trans­mit­ter lev­els. Stud­ies show that vinpocetine may im­prove at­ten­tion, con­cen­tra­tion, and mem­ory, and may en­hance cog­ni­tive func­tion and im­prove long- and short-term mem­ory. A typ­i­cal dosage is 5–15 mg per day. Be­cause vinpocetine can cause dizzi­ness and weak­ness, check with your doc­tor be­fore us­ing.

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