Nootropics are ‘smart drugs’ that improve your cognitive function and allow you to perform intellectual tasks more efficiently, whilst adaptogens work on the adrenal system, managing your response to stress and anxiety.
‘Adaptogens’ are well named, as their function changes according to your needs: in other words, they make your body and brain chemistry return to normal functioning, achieving homeostasis.
Nootropic adaptogens are extremely popular because they improve cognitive function in a myriad of ways, and are also helpful in reducing stress. Below is a run down of the top 5 nootropic adaptogens to conquer anxiety and stress.
One extremely popular and venerable herb for reducing anxiety and stress is Ashwagandha. It’s been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, and its effects have been well documented. As well as reducing stress and anxiety, it also improves mood and motivation, through its impact upon various neurotransmitters in the brain that influence your mood. In Sanskrit it actually means ‘horse smell’ as the herb is known for its horse like odor, and is also said to give you the strength of a stallion (though there is no money back guarantee on this claim). A study cited in Food Matters showed that it reduced cortisol levels by 64% versus a placebo, so these claims are backed up by research.
Another herb can have profound effects and stress is Ginseng. One study showed that even a relatively low dose of Ginseng allowed a group of healthy volunteers to perform tasks more efficiently. Asian ginseng in particular has been used for 5000 years as a remedy for just about everything: it prevents adrenal fatigue and boosts GABA, which has an anti-stress effect. In fact, Asian Ginseng is otherwise known as Panax, which means ’cure all’ in Greek, such are its healing properties across a wide spectrum of disorders and ailments.
One thing that the first two herbs have in common is that they have been used for centuries in traditional medicine and Eleuthero is no different. However, this herb has been approved in western societies as an alternative to pharmaceuticals for treating chronic fatigue syndrome it also improves recovery rates after Illnesses. Also, it is widely used to improve mood and memory, and it has been used to treat instances of mild depression.
One of the oldest plants on earth, this species is so resilient that some trees close to the epicenter of the explosion of the Hiroshima bomb actually survived. The plant can also help you become more resilient, as it is an antioxidant, it protects your brain’s cells, and it works as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI, a form of antidepressant), boosting dopamine. According to Dr Axe, a prominent Nutrition expert, Ginkgo is shown by research to help the body manage stress and reduce the prevalence of stress hormones such as Cortisol, and it might be particularly helpful if you have the winter blues, and may even treat panic attacks.
This herb helps to bring an equilibrium to your levels of cortisol, one of our main stress hormones, which is often elevated when we are stressed. Also, we do not want to have levels of cortisol that are too low, as in an Addison’s sufferer, and Rhodiola Rosea also helps to raise Cortisol if needs be. As it modifies levels of cortisol, it is particularly good at treating stress, and according to Dr Lipman, author of the health website Be Well, this herb can improve well-being within a month.
These nootropic adaptogens are a godsend for those who want a more natural alternative to pharmaceutical products that treat anxiety and depression, and most of them have been used for 1000s of years and thus have proven testimony, generation after generation. These products are bound to be popular for two main reasons: the increasing awareness of healthy living (the supplement industry was worth $32 billion in 2014) and the prevalence of mental health issues, with one in five adults in the US experiencing mental health issues.
Marcus regularly blogs at psysci, a psychology, science blog that examines the latest research and explains how findings can impact and improve people’s lives.