If you’re into finding ways to fine-tune your productivity and focus, you may have heard the term “nootropics” thrown around before. It seems like all the entrepreneurs in charge of leading the most innovative, cutting-edge start-ups are using these substances to biohack their way to success, get more done and achieve their goals faster.
What exactly are nootropics? And how can they supercharge productivity?
Defined as “a substance that enhances cognition and memory and facilitates learning” by Merriam-Webster, nootropics are essentially “smart drugs.”
Have you ever seen the movie “Limitless” where Bradley Cooper takes a brain-enhancing drug to boost his mental ability? What he takes in that movie to boost his brainpower is very similar to what a nootropic is. In all reality, nootropics aren’t “limitless pills” that allows you to tap into unused brainpower and become a superhuman, but they can absolutely boost your ability to focus and enhance productivity.
Nootropics generally have a few purposes:
- Boost memory
- Improve brain function
- Increase concentration
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Promote relaxation and creativity
There are all types of nootropics on the market. Some are synthetic pills such as Noopept or even Adderall, but today we’re going to focus on naturally occurring nootropics. Discover 5 natural nootropics and how they can boost your productivity…
What Is It? Known as “Indian ginseng” or “winter cherry,” ashwagandha is an herb commonly used in Ayuvredic medicine to decrease stress and improve stamina.
How It Improves Productivity: Stress is one of the biggest killers of productivity. When you’re worried about all the things you have to do, it’s much harder to get started in the first place.
If you find that you’re often stressed out, ashwagandha may be a good nootropic candidate for you to consider as there have been several studies done on the effectiveness of ashwagandha in decreasing stress and anxiety. This nootropic’s unique ability to decrease stress on a cellular level puts ashwagandha in the category of “adaptogen” – another term you may have heard for substances that have been proven to help the body adjust to and manage stress levels.
What Is It? L-Theanine is an amino acid commonly found in tea leaves and mushrooms. You’ve probably heard of this compound being especially prevalent within green tea.
How It Improves Productivity: Like ashwagandha, L-Theanine’s productivity-boosting powers come from its ability to help decrease stress and promote relaxation without making you feel sleepy or drowsy. It does this by:
- boosting calming brain chemicals such as GABA – also potentially helping with sleep.
- decreasing the number of chemicals in the brain that leads to anxiety and stress, thus potentially improving attention span and accuracy during task switching.
- enhancing “alpha brain waves,” the brain waves that are most active during moments of deep meditation, creativity and flow, and daydreaming, improving creativity.
Green tea, especially matcha, has the highest amounts of L-Theanine, so try incorporating more of it into your daily routine.
What Is It? Grown in the arctic regions of Asia, North America, and Europe, rhodiola is an herb in the adaptogen family. Rhodiola aids in regulating cortisol and other stress hormones and supports brain chemicals that are key in the cognitive or thinking process.
How It Improves Productivity: Rhodiola encourages focus and can improve energy levels as well as memory. It’s often included in nootropic blends to help combat physical exhaustion that leads to fatigue (and therefore poor cognitive function – meaning fatigue that causes you to be unable to focus). If you’ve been feeling especially fatigued and run-down lately, rhodiola can help battle that feeling of tiredness and get you back on track to focus by potentially improving your ability to think through fatigue.
What Is It? Commonly found in “nootropic stacks” (combos of 2 or more individual nootropics designed to boost specific functions), bacopa monnieri is another herb native to India often used in Ayuvredic medicine. Known as “brahmi” or “Indian pennywort,” recent studies have shown that the herb can enhance cognition.
How It Improves Productivity: In some previous clinical studies featuring bacopa monnieri, the herb displayed an ability to increase the length of certain nerve cells in the brain responsible for learning and memory.
Some parts of the study even indicated that users taking the herb processed visual information faster, learned quicker, and recalled necessary information from memory with more ease.
Taking bacopa can improve attention, memory and information processing. That means being on your A-game as often as possible just got a little easier.
What Is It? Gingko biloba extract is derived from a tree of the same name. Known for its ability to boost memory, it’s no surprise gingko biloba has been considered an effective nootropic for centuries. The tree in which the extract’s pulled from is the oldest of its species and dates back nearly 270 million years.
How It Improves Productivity: There’s no shortage of studies touting the cognitive benefits of gingko biloba – and rightfully so. The nootropic’s said to boost the speed of information processing in the brain, improve the ability to remember (especially for older populations), and increase circulation within the brain, thanks to its robust profile of antioxidants.
While this list is nowhere near an exhaustive list of all the available nootropics out there, these are a few well known naturally derived ones.
Disclaimer: This should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult your physician before taking any of the above supplements.
Have you tried nootropics before? Which ones have you used? Have any of the above worked for you? Comment down below!