In the 1960s and 1970s work first started to look at compounds that had the potential to enhance cognition. Some of this early work started on B vitamins and has progressed to encompass countless compounds from sulbutiamine (a B vitamin derivative) to sources of choline such as Alpha-GPC and CDP-Choline.
The word “nootropic” emerged to describe this class of compounds, derived from the Greek words nous, meaning “mind”, and trepein meaning “to turn”. Nootropics are most neatly defined as a compound that enhances an aspect of human cognition. In practical terms, they are a safe way to improve aspects of your brain functions such as memory, focus or mood.
Nootropic: a substance that enhances cognition and memory and facilitates learning
You may not know, but you most likely drink a nootropic every day already. Caffeine, in coffee, is the world’s most popular stimulant and is proven to improve both mental and physical performance.
Lesser-known nootropics are CDP-Choline and Alpha-GPC. Both are prodrugs (something that is metabolised into something else in the body): CDP-Choline gives the body choline and uridine, while Alpha-GPC gives the body choline and glycerophosphate. Choline is an essential nutrient for optimal functioning of the brain.
These days, the terms adaptogen and nootropic are used somewhat interchangeably. Strictly though, adaptogens are compounds; often herbs that help the body adapt to stress and restore normal physiological functioning. Importantly, they must be non-toxic.
Although a relatively new term, many adaptogens have been used for centuries in traditional medicine, the most obvious examples being Traditional Chinese or Indian Ayurvedic.
Popular examples of Adaptogens are panax ginseng, ashwagandha, bacopa monnieri, rhodiola, curcumin… the list goes on. Mushrooms can also be adaptogens, and many have been used for thousands of years in Chinese Medicine. Cordyceps and Reishi mushrooms, for example, are the subjects of much research into their effect on aspects of human cognition.
One of the most interesting areas of research with nootropics and adaptogens is combining them to create synergistic pairings with more rounded effect profiles. A great example of this is caffeine and the calming amino acid L-theanine. Multiple studies have shown this balanced combination can significantly improve attention and alertness1,2 as well as reduce the sometimes negative side effects of caffeine alone, such as nervous energy or anxiety. This is the combination we employ in our Boost nootropic. In many ways, it’s like a calming cup of strong coffee.
Another way to use synergistic pairings is for sleep. In ZZZZs, our nootropic for sleep, we take 5-HTP from Griffonia seed, a precursor to serotonin and melatonin, which aids deep sleep, and combine with essential minerals magnesium and zinc plus calming amino acids proven to reduce sleep onset time and improve sleep quality. The result is a natural, deep, regenerative sleep.
Our other Nootropic Edge is a daily cognitive enhancer, centred about B Vitamins, bacopa monnieri and the aforementioned Alpha GPC. Bacopa monnieri is a herb native to Southern India traditionally used in Ayurveda, which has demonstrated memory improvement3 and anxiety reduction4 properties.
The subject and study of nootropics and adaptogens is a large one that’s fast-growing as it moves from niche to mainstream interest. With our products, we’ve taken the most thoroughly researched and efficacious ingredient combinations to create high quality, innovative products that will work for you.
See Form’s range of Nootropics and Adaptogens here.
1 The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood, Haskell et al (2008) Biol Psychol, 77(2)
2 The combination of L-theanine and caffeine improves cognitive performance and increases subjective alertness, Giesbrecht et al. (2010), Nutr Neurosci, 13(6)
3 Examining the nootropic effects of a special extract of Bacopa Monniera on human cognitive functioning, Stough et al. (2008), Phytotherapy Research, 22(12)
4 Effects of a standardized bacopa monnieri extract on cognitive performance, anxiety, and depression in the elderly, Calabrese et al. (2008), The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14(6)