Natural nootropics are nootropics made from herbs or containing only compounds which are naturally found in the nature. Technically natural nootropics should be made solely from compounds extracted from plant and animal tissues and minerals in order to earn the title ‘natural’. But as demand and competition in the nootropics market increased it became acceptable that compounds are laboratory produced. Now the only requirement for validly carrying the term ’natural nootropic’ on its label is that it contains only compounds which can be found in nature but it does not matter how they were procured.
Original natural nootropics were just a bunch of (carefully selected) dry herbs crushed and mixed together. To keep the same quality between individual production batches, the input ingredients had to be carefully tested, monitored, shipped and prepared. All this was very expensive hence natural nootropics can now be cheaper as fewer processes need to be involved in manufacturing. It also means they can be more potent because the active ingredients are more isolated. Some very potent ingredients which could previously only be included in trace amounts can now be the main ingredients.
A natural nootropic can consist of a single compound but it is much more common to find several mixed together. The letter are called nootropic stacks. They are often far more effective than individual compounds because they interact with each other to produce much stronger results. But not all compounds act favorably with each other, finding good combinations is a science in itself and many companies hide the ratios of their mixtures under proprietary formulas. This can make it difficult to judge what effects a certain blend will have on you and can hide potentially undesired ingredients – like stimulants.
While stimulants – like caffeine – can have strong nootropic effect they also induce stress and strain on your cardiovascular system. While every coffee drinker among us has accepted this side effect it is not desirable nor acceptable for everyone. Especially those who are prone to nervousness and anxiety are often told to avoid stimulants. Some stimulants also stimulate your adrenal glands which can become an issue with long term use as it can bring to adrenal fatigue.
The best thing about natural nootropics is that they can be classified as supplements. This means buying them is not restricted. However this also means that their quality is not controlled by government organs thus the manufacturing company is not held liable for bad batches. To avoid getting pixie dust it is hence still important to buy nootropics from a source with a long track record and a large customer base.
What are natural nootropics made of
The following is a list of herbs typically used as nootropics and their effects. While there are hundreds of herbs with nootropic effects only the following are widely used in nootropic stacks.
American ginseng, Asian ginseng, Siberian ginseng
While the 3 ginsengs are often separate species they are used for the same effects. Technically ginsengs are stimulants; they are used for increasing vigor and overall energy, boosting the immune system and many other things. In nootropics they are typically added for increased focus and better memory.
Ginsengs on their own do have a slightly addictive effect in the sense that you will feel withdrawal after prolonged use. The withdrawal symptoms usually consist of fatigue, drowsiness and brain fog.
Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera)
Ashwagandha is highly marketed for natural medicine. It is touted to have many great effects but very little is proven.
Its most notable uses are for improving thinking ability, increasing fertility and increasing sexual desire. It is possible it is a mild stimulant.
Chinese moss (Huperzia Serrata)
The main active ingredient in Chinese moss is huperzine-A which is used for improving memory. While huperzine-A is somewhat modified (not completely natural) it is still treated as natural by legislation and hence falls under the category of supplements.
An unmodified and less purified Chinese moss extract is also often used in nootropics. It is possible it is a mild stimulant but very little is known about it.
Ginkgo is highly known for favorably affecting memory. Several over the counter drugs have derived from it and are targeted at the aging population.
It is sometimes added to natural nootropic stacks but evidence for ginkgo to improve memory in people without age related memory issues is limited at best.
Kratom is a pain killer, a mood enhancer and staves off fatigue. It can also increase arousal. In nootropics it is usually used due to its fatigue staving property and sometimes for its mood enhancing effect.
It is necessary to note though that kratom also has sedative/relaxing effects and is thus not necessarily the best choice for everyone. It also has some withdrawal effects which are said to be short and mild however they can become quite severe if you take high doses of kratom for over a month.
Lion’s Mane mushroom (Hericium Erinaceus)
Lion’s Mane mushroom is thought to have many favorable effects and is undergoing considerable research. So far we can say with reasonable certainty that it has high neuroregenerative effects and nerve protection effects. One study even showed it improves cognitive ability (thinking and memory) in people with with cognitive impairment.
It is used in nootropics for its nerve protection and regeneration abilities to prevent damage to the brain from increased mental load and ingested toxins. Many also extrapolate the observation that Lion’s Mane mushroom improves cognitive ability in people with with cognitive impairment to healthy individuals. Hence they use it to boost their own cognitive abilities.
Periwinkle (Vinca Minor)
The compound called vincamine gives this flower most of its pronounced nootropic effects. While it is already a potent nootropic in its natural state it can be synthetically modified to obtain an even more potent nootropic called vinpocetine.
Vincamine increases blood flow to the brain which increases oxygen supply to the brain and in turn its capacity for work. It is reported to also boost concentration, memory and even vision.
In parts of Russia this plant has been used for coping with stress for centuries. More recently it was claimed to work like a stimulant hence increasing mental and physical performance, as well as alleviating mental fatigue.
Unfortunately none of the claims and effects are scientifically proven so far.
Sage (Salvia Officinalis)
Throughout Europe sage was cultivated for its medicinal and culinary properties. It was even believed to be magical and was hence used in spells and potions.
While this may all seem downright silly in modern times our forebearers might not have been completely wrong as sage is a very potent natural nootropic. Sage extracts and essential oils improve memory, attention, alertness and mood. The cognitive boost is comparable to that of caffeine.
The active nootropic ingredients of sage are the so called cholinesterase-inhibitors but sage also has B vitamins. Some postulate that the letter increase effectiveness. The downside of sage is that it also contains estrogenic substances.
Effects of natural nootropics
Natural nootropics can have all the same effects as synthetic nootropics but milligram for milligram synthetic nootropics are more powerful. This means you need to buy more nootropic mass when buying natural nootropics but it is not a big as because natural nootropics are usually much cheaper than synthetic ones.
Because synthetic nootropics are more concentrated they are often favored over natural nootropics. Many believe that natural nootropics are weaker and have more unwanted side effects. While this is sometimes true the situation is often also completely the opposite as the additional substances can act in synergy with the wanted active ingredients to produce stronger nootropic and neuroprotective effects.
This is also the premise of stacking nootropics – to gain stronger/better effects through synergy between individual active ingredients. Perhaps the most obvious desire of those who stack nootropics would be to obtain short, instantaneous and extremely powerful effects however most usually try to prolong effects instead of trying to increase their power. With some nootropic stacks effects are said to not be observable in the first week at all, instead they increase gradually over the course of 1 or 2 months. The benefit of such nootropic stacks is that the cognitive boost is than supposed to last for weeks (even without taking the nootropic) and not just a few hours.
The best natural nootropic
There are a few good natural nootropics on the market currently and many people swear by them. In all cases these are nootropic stacks. They provide a good starting base for what you can achieve with natural nootropic stacks but if you want to achieve the truly best effects for your physiology you must create your own nootropic stack. This has become quite popular in recent years and services have arisen which allow you to order your own mixtures.
Unfortunately mixing nootropic stacks is not yet an exact science, hence it takes a lot of trial and error and self education. This is not for everyone thus proprietary formulas will keep evolving to suit our needs.