Nootropics & the Science Behind Cognitive Enhancers
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The health and wellness industry has no shortage of pseudoscientific fads. Remember colloidal silver? Turns out that not only does it not do any of the things claimed, but it also can damage brain function. Not cute. It’s easy to get on a wellness bandwagon – homeopathy and natural remedies are an attractive alternative to chemical energizers and pharmaceuticals – but it’s almost too easy.


Celebrity endorsements, viral TikTok hashtags, and Insta influencers with 300k followers do not proof make. Just because you hear a product’s name every time you leave your house or scroll through your phone doesn’t mean anything. We used to give kids mercury for common coughs – it’s pretty clear our word of mouth cannot be trusted.


A recent development in the health and wellness industry is the use of nootropics for brain health and cognitive function. Fancy word, big claims. Sounds a little familiar. The difference here, though, is nootropics have hard data to back them up – clinical research. And we’re not just talking one study that showed one nootropic boosted performance on memory-related tasks. We’re talking multiple nootropics, multiple studies in animals and humans, peer-reviewed articles, preclinical trials, and meta analyses.


Let’s get into it!

What are Nootropics?

Nootropics are compounds that can pass through the blood-brain barrier to promote processes that support and enhance cognitive health. There are synthetic nootropics used in the pharma industry to treat certain conditions, but when we’re talking about nootropics in the wellness industry, we’re referring to plant, mushroom or algae-derived compounds. The all-natural stuff.


For instance – everyone knows what caffeine is. The world’s favorite pick-me-up, it’s found in a bunch of different plants, like tea and coffee. Caffeine is a nootropic, because it directly affects the neurochemical processes that increase attention, focus, learning, and memory.


Other nootropics you’ve likely heard of include GABA, l-theanine, Bacopa monnieri. And there are a host of others. But what exactly do they do, neurochemically?


What are the Potential Benefits of Nootropics?

Some nootropics, like caffeine, give you an in-the-moment cognitive boost. Others protect brain health. Still others boost cellular genesis in the brain. That’s why when you find, say, a nootropic drink that’s meant to support focus and concentration, much of the time, it’ll contain several nootropics. That way, there’s overall support for short- and long-term brain function.


Let’s talk about those 3 most common nootropics: GABA, l-theanine and Bacopa monnieri:


GABA: The Calm-Down Chemical

GABA is the body’s main inhibitory neurotransmitter/amino acid/hormone/nootropic. It’s a quadruple threat – in a good way. GABA tells overexcited neurons to calm down, and is associated with calm clarity that isn’t accompanied by drowsiness. GABA dysfunction is associated with several types of chronic mental conditions, especially related to mood.


A 2019 review of the literature supported – among other things – GABA’s ability to:


  • Protect from toxic agents and free radicals
  • Protect against degenerative disorders
  • Prevent neuronal damage and death
  • Regulate the immune system


L-Theanine: The Brain-Booster

L-theanine is an amino acid found in multiple species of tea. It’s associated with focus, relaxation, cognitive enhancement, and energy support. It’s thought l-theanine’s effects are because it increases Alpha wave activity in the brain, which is associated with calm focus. L-theanine also inhibits neurotransmitters that tend to exacerbate stress responses.


A 2008 review of the literature supported l-theanine’s potential to help:


  • Maintain alertness, focus and attention
  • Reduce the negative effects of caffeine
  • Enhance the ability to attention switch
  • Enhance the ability to ignore distractions


Bacopa Monnieri: The Cognition Companion

Bacopa monnieri is a nootropic herb that’s been a part of Ayurvedic medicine for millennia for a host of things, including cognitive function, memory and learning. It seems to work by promoting activity of a key neurotransmitter involved in memory and learning. Bacopa monnieri may also increase/redirect blood flow to the brain and protect neurons from damage.


A 2013 review of the literature indicated Bacopa monnieri’s may be able to:


  • Increase cerebral blood flow
  • Attenuate symptoms of dementia
  • Protect neurons from oxidative damage
  • Reduce production of harmful chemicals that result from stress responses


Other Key Nootropics

MTE’s formulation contains both GABA and l-theanine. In addition, a few other strategic nootropics offer 360-degree support for focus:



What Does Science Say?

This could be a dissertation in and of itself, so let’s take the barest of bones from 10 important studies on the positive effects nootropics have had on cognitive health in clinical settings:


1. A rat study on the neuroprotective benefits of nootropics saw significant reduction in several neuronal markers of age-related cognitive decline, including decreased neuron loss in the hippocampus.

2. A rat study on nootropics and cognitive decline saw deficits and indicators of deficits restored in aging rats.

3. A study on nootropic use for treating children with MBD (mild brain deficit) saw significant improvement in focus, attention, organization, and memory – 75% in the treated group compared with 15% in the control group.

4. A human study on mild cognitive impairments saw nootropic supplements helped improve memory, selective attention, word reading, and memory quotient in people with MCIs.

5. A human study on the cognitive health benefits of nootropics saw increased subjective feelings of alertness and a significant improvement in performance during task-switching.

6. A human study on mental performance under stress saw nootropic treatment reduce the neurochemical effects of stress during a stressed mental task, coupled with mood support.

7. A human study on performance during stressful tasks saw nootropic supplements both decrease stress markers and increase accuracy on arithmetic problems, compared to control group.

8. A study on nootropics and cerebral ischemia in mice saw a protective effect against oxidative damage in the brain.

9. A human study on the cognitive benefits of nootropics saw supplementation significantly increase subjective scores on concentration, motivation to exercise, energy, and mood.

10. A human study on nootropics and exercise saw consistent improvements in selective attention and response inhibition.


But is It Safe, Though?

Yes; nootropics are generally considered safe. It’s important to note that we don’t yet have a massive enough data set to say that all of them are always safe in everybody no matter what. In fairness, nothing is, and no one should ever claim that. However, in the data we do have, as well as the general opinion of the scientific community, severe responses to nootropics are rare when used responsibly.


Because nootropics support brain function, you should notice a difference when you use them. Effects also tend to accumulate over time. You’ll be able to tell if a certain nootropic isn’t for you if you become angsty, irritable, restless, etc. Basically, if they’re doing the opposite of what they’re supposed to, it’s not a good fit. 


Aside from those with individual intolerance, people who should definitely consult a physician before undertaking a nootropic supplement routine include:


  • People with mental health challenges
  • People on maintenance medications
  • Anyone under the age of 18


In addition, there are contraindications for nootropics in people who are pregnant or lactating.


Ways to Incorporate Nootropics into Your Daily Routine

There are a few ways you can jump on the nootropics science-backed bandwagon – both supplements to take and things to do to make the most of your body’s use of them:


Take nootropics as a supplement: This is the most common and convenient way to take nootropics. You can buy nootropics as capsules, powders, or liquids. Nootropic drink mixes tend to be more bioavailable than pills.


Add nootropic-rich foods to your diet: There are many foods that are naturally rich in nootropic compounds. Naturally, since foods are where we get the nootropics we put in the green powders and wellness drinks... A few easy-to-find foods with nootropic activity include:


  • Blueberries: Blueberries are a good source of antioxidants, which can help protect your brain cells.
  • Ginkgo biloba: Ginkgo biloba is a plant that has been shown to improve cognitive function.
  • Fish: Fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain health.
  • Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate is a good source of antioxidants and flavonoids, which can also help improve cognitive function.


Nootropics aren’t magic solutions to supporting cognitive health, though. You have to do your part, too. Lifestyle factors that maximize the potential benefits of nootropics include:


  • Get enough sleep: Sleep is essential for brain health. When you don't get enough sleep or you get poor quality sleep, your brain doesn't have time to repair itself or the resources to function at its best.
  • Exercise regularly: Exercise is also good for brain health. It helps to improve blood flow to the brain and promote the growth of new brain cells. It also supports important hormones and neurotransmitters for mood and sleep.
  • Reduce stress: Stress can have a negative impact on cognitive function – among a host of other things. Find healthy ways to manage stress, like yoga, meditation, or spending time in nature. (And adaptogens can help, too!)
  • Learn new things: Learning new things is a great way to keep your brain active and engaged. Try to learn something new every day, even if it's something small. Learning promotes neural plasticity, which protects against the development of cognitive deficits and disorders.


MTE: A Nootropic-Stacked Drink that Supports Mood & Focus

We are definitely into the nootropic movement... obviously. Not only are nootropics safe; they’re natural, which means they don’t come with the risks of stimulants and pharmaceuticals. A daily dose of l-theanine doesn’t attack your liver or wear out your heart. And when stacked with the key adaptogens in our 13-ingredient formulation, this green drink actually supports your liver and heart health.


More Than Energy helps promote focus, mood, attention, concentration, and way more, and it does it without excessive caffeine, sugars or other weird and/or artificial stuff. Wanna know more about the science behind this awesome green stuff? Check out our Wellness Blog for the science, and our Ingredients page for the deets.

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