3 Best (Natural) Nootropics for Better Memory
If you think that nootropics or smart drugs are all recently discoveries, think again. There are some outstanding natural nootropics that have been used to boost brain power for centuries.
The alpfirst synthetic smart drug was discovered just over 50 years ago, but that’s just the latest development in the long history of nootropics.
People have been using plants and their derivatives to enhance cognitive abilities for literally thousands of years. Here are three of the best natural nootropics, all known to improve cognition in general and memory in particular.
Read more: 16 Experts Explain How To Improve Memory With Nootropics
Natural Nootropics for Memory: My Top 3
Bacopa Monnieri is a plant-based nootropic that has been enhancing memory, mood and brain health since it was discovered in ancient India.
Traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine as a brain tonic, it remains an important medicinal herb and a popular choice for people who want a natural way to improve memory and reduce anxiety.
Bacopa monnieri generally enhances memory and cognitive abilities by improving synaptic communication. It encourages the growth and proliferation of dendrites, the “branched” nerve cell extensions along which neural impulses travel, which makes neural signaling faster and more efficient. This action is the key to bacopa’s ability to enhance both memory and general cognition.
It is also an effective anti-anxiety agent. One of its active ingredients is hersaponin, an alkaloid that has been demonstrated to have a relaxing, sedative-like effect.
Bacopa is also known to support the activity of GABA, a powerful inhibitory neurotransmitter that acts to prevent anxiety by restricting the firing of neurons that are over-excited by stress.
Unlike modern nootropics, bacopa monnieri is not a fast-acting supplement that has immediate observable results. Getting the most from bacopa involves a long-term regimen lasting weeks or even months.
Bacopa monnieri is also different from most modern nootropics in that it does have the potential for toxicity when taken in high doses. A daily cumulative dosage of 200 – 400 mg is generally considered safe and effective.
Bacopa monnieri works well to round out just about any nootropic stack. For anti-anxiety and stress relief, it works well in combination with other anxiolytic nootropics like aniracetam or phenibut.
For more mental and physical energy, bacopa pairs well with oxiracetam or phenylpiracetam. For optimal cognitive performance, it works well in combination with piracetam, pramiracetam, or adrafinil.
2. Huperzine A
Huperzine-A is an extract derived from Chinese club moss, an herb of the Huperziceae family.
It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for many centuries and is still considered an excellent nootropic capable of significantly improving cognitive abilities.
Its proven positive effect on memory is so remarkable that it is being seriously studied as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
Huperzine-A works by increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine available for use in the brain.
Acetylcholine is known as the learning neurotransmitter and is the brain chemical most closely related to memory and cognitive abilities. Many modern nootropics work by stimulating receptor sites to increase acetylcholine production.
But Huperzine-A increases the amount of available acetylcholine in a different manner; rather than stimulating the production of more, it stops other substances from breaking down the acetylcholine already circulating in the brain.
This action, known as acts as acetylcholinesterase inhibition, results in a net increase in the crucial neurotransmitter.
Both animal studies and clinical trials with humans indicate that Huperzine-A is safe and well tolerated at recommended dosages. Huperzine-A is typically a very concentrated substance that is measured in micrograms rather than milligrams, and for purposes of cognitive enhancement daily dosage should not exceed 200 mcg.
There are generally very few side effects associated with Huperzine-A, though on rare occasions side effects including nausea, vomiting, and high blood pressure have been reported.
It is not recommended for use by anyone who has heart disease, seizure disorder, emphysema, or urinary tract blockages, or by women who are pregnant or nursing.
Huperzine-A works well on its own but is a very popular addition to other nootropic stacks and is often included in preformulated nootropic supplements like Alpha Brain.
Like all nootropics that interact with the acetylcholine system, Huperzine-A will perform best when used in conjunction with a good choline source like Alpha GPC, CDP choline, or centrophenoxine.
Lion’s mane mushroom, also known as Hericium Erinaceus, Yamabushitake or Satyr’s beard, is another natural nootropic that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for many centuries.
Believed to act as a general tonic for a variety of health problems including kidney, liver, stomach and heart conditions, it can also significantly improve both memory and general cognitive abilities.
Lion’s mane has a mechanism of action that’s very different from that of other nootropics. Its primary cognitive enhancement action is the increase of NGF, or Nerve Growth Factor, in the brain.
NGF is a protein that is crucial for the survival and function of both sympathetic and sensory nerve cells; it promotes the growth and branching of axons, the long threadlike extensions along which impulses are conducted.
NGF also improves overall cognition by enhancing the overall growth and maintenance of the brain’s entire neural system, the vast and complex network of neurons and synapses through which neural signals are communicated. Increasing the amount of NGF is believed to boost memory by enhancing signaling speed and efficiency and improving communication between the hemispheres of the brain.
Lion’s mane is considered both safe and well tolerated, with no documented side effects. It is even thought to act as an immune system booster that will reduce inflammation and help maintain overall health.
The effects of lion’s mane are not immediately observable, so it must be added to a supplement regimen for a period of time in order to get maximum benefits.
Doses of up to 3,000 mg per day have been tested with no toxic effects, but a daily dosage of 500 mgs is generally recommended. It’s a good addition to other nootropic stacks and is often found in combination or preformulated stack products.
Are natural nootropics as good as modern synthetic compounds?
Both natural plant extracts and synthetic compounds have a place in the nootropic regimens of millions of people all over the world.
Natural nootropics alone may not fill all your needs, but they have a long and proven history of improving memory and general cognition, and are definitely worth a try.