The term ‘Nootropics’ is an umbrella term for anything that will improve memory, learning, focus, mood, concentration, information processing, motivation and attention.
You may have never heard of nootropics, but you may have used them. For example, if you ever had a coffee to help you focus, it can be classed as a nootropic.
Nootropics include various foods, supplements, and drugs. Some people use them to decrease brain fog and increase mental clarity. Older adults also use them to support healthy cognitive ageing.
A Romanian psychologist and chemist, Corneliu Giurgea coined the term ‘nootropics’ in 1972. He combined the Greek words for “mind” and “turn.”
Giurgea identified substances with these six features as nootropics:
- “Enhancement of learning acquisition” – improve learning and memory.
- “Resistance to impairing agents” – support brain health.
- “Facilitation of interhemispheric transfer of information” – improve processing.
- “Enhanced resistance to brain ‘aggressions’” – protect the brain.
- “Increased tonic, cortico-subcortical ‘control’” – improve focus and attention.
- “Absence of usual pharmacological effects of neuro psychotropic drugs” – safe to use, very few side effects.
To summarise Giurgea, a nootropic should safely support and improve cognitive performance. If a substance does not have these features, it is not a nootropic.
Although the term Nootropic is relatively new, the use of them is not.
Indian Ayurvedic medicine, known for adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha, may have begun as an oral tradition around 5000 BCE. And as early as 1500 BCE, the Ancient Egyptians catalogued hundreds of stimulants, sedatives, motor excitants, motor depressants, narcotics, and hypnotics.
Natural or Synthetic.
Nootropics are split into two main camps. For simplicity, camp one will be called ‘Synthetic’ and Camp two, ‘Natural’.
The synthetic camp includes:
- Subscription drugs, pharmaceuticals, and synthetic compounds. The phrase ‘Smart Drugs’ will often be used for this camp.
The Natural group includes:
- Amino Acids, herbs, vitamins, minerals, plants, mushrooms, enzymes, flavonols, and fats. *Note that synthetic vitamins may appear in this group, but they will be FDA approved and so can be labelled as a food supplement.
Firstly, from the synthetic camp and perhaps the most well-known cognitive enhancers are the Afinil wakefulness drugs. Afinils were first developed in France in the late 1970s and sold as prescription drugs under various brand names. Afinils are particularly notable for reducing mental fatigue according to multiple human studies. They may also provide subtle improvements to cognitive performance, such as reaction time and short-term memory in healthy adults.
Other well-known artificial cognitive enhancers include the Racetams. They are legally available in the United States, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not allow vendors to market Racetams as dietary supplements.
First developed by Giurgea in Romania in the early 1970s, Racetams are artificial smart drugs. They may provide a notable decrease to cognitive decline, according to multiple human studies.
Many of the best and safest nootropics come from herbs, amino acids, vitamins, and plants and mushrooms. These are widely available as dietary supplements, and you can buy these nootropics in stores or online without a prescription. It is worth remembering that these often have multiple benefits such as anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antifungal, and more.
Here are some examples: *not all possible benefits are listed
- ASHWAGANDHA may decrease stress, improve blood sugar and inflammation.
- BACOPA MONNIERI may increase memory and contains powerful antioxidants.
- CREATINE may increase energy, strength and aid brain function.
- FISH OIL (omega-3 fatty acids) may support mood and help with brain development and function.
- GINKGO BILOBA may support healthy cognitive ageing and is rich in antioxidants.
- RHODIOLA ROSEA may increase energy and improve focus as well as being antiviral.
- L THEANINE may promote sleep and focus.
- ZINC may support mood and the immune system.
How do nootropics work? And how well do they work? Different substances have different effects on different timelines and at different magnitudes. For example, focus is often something needed instantly, which is why coffee is often used. It’s worth noting that substances like caffeine are easy to measure because they are instant reaction. Memory improvements, however, need to be worked over the longer term.
The Pulse Method
The pulse method can be read about more deeply in Dr Ben Lynch’s book Dirty Genes.
The Pulse Method explains why the constant taking of some supplements is not optimum. The Multi-Vitamin tablet is often one of them. If you are deficient in a vitamin or mineral and start taking a multi-vitamin, you may soon feel better. But what can often be the case with multi-vitamin supplements is that the doses are high and often synthetic. So, the pill you took that at first made you feel good will start to make you feel bad. If this happens then have a break from that multi-vitamin.
Yew Tree Supplements does not sell a multi-vitamin for this reason. That’s not to say you won’t get a natural source of vitamins and minerals from our products. Yew Tree products have been blended with particular doses to enable them to be taken continuously without worry. You may need to seek out specific substances you are deficient in such as an Iron supplement elsewhere. Yew Tree does not include Iron in its products because Iron can be inflammatory for those who do not need it.
Caffeine is another excellent example of when to use the Pulse Method. Caffeine is a substance that works best when used short term. We build a tolerance to caffeine, and the body will require more and more of it to get the same effect. Considering that caffeine withdrawal can be torturous for some, you may need to start with small increments when applying the Pulse Method. Such as one day on, one day off. Other examples would be to consume caffeine two or three times a week. Or perhaps two days on two days off, or one week on one week off might work best for you. To get the best nootropic effects from caffeine, you should use the Pulse Method. It is also far healthier to take frequent breaks from caffeine for multiple reasons.
Many herbs, however, do not apply to the Pulse Method. Bacopa, for example, becomes more effective over long-term usage.
Do natural nootropics work?
In 2013, a study quantified the magnitude of effect for a popular nootropic drug – Modafinil. The scientists used Cohen’s D, which is a standard statistical method from behavioural science. The method generates outputs on a scale of 0 to 1:
- 0 is no effect
- .2 is a small effect
- .5 is a medium effect
- .8 is a large effect.
The scientists applied this method to the results of seven human studies. They found that the nootropic drug had a magnitude of effect of .77. The study also used the nootropic drug, Modafinil as a benchmark for assessing two natural nootropic herbs.
One of the herbs was Panax Ginseng, and the other was Bacopa Monnieri. When the scientists applied Cohen’s D to nine Ginseng studies, they found that the Ginseng magnitude of effect was .86. And when they applied the method to seven studies of Bacopa, they discovered that the Bacopa magnitude of effect was .95.
These results indicate that Ginseng and Bacopa may both have large effects. And their effects may be larger than the effect of the nootropic drug, Modafinil. However, each affects different cognitive functions on different timelines. The study concluded:
“Neurocognitive enhancement from well-characterised nutraceuticals can produce cognition-enhancing effects of similar magnitude to those from pharmaceutical interventions.”
Both artificial and natural nootropics are available in powders, liquids, and pills – capsules, tablets, soft gels.
If you’re looking for flexible dosage and low cost, powders may be the way to go. And for some like Creatine, which requires ‘high’ doses (measured in grams), powders are also practical. For others, which require smaller amounts, nootropic capsules may save you a lot of time and frustration.
Often two or more ingredients are combined into a “stack.” A stack may include ingredients that are more effective together, such as Caffeine for energy and Theanine to alleviate the jitteriness sometimes associated with caffeine. Theanine is found in black tea but not coffee. Stacks may also include ingredients that complement each other, such as Bacopa for memory and Rhodiola for focus.
You can make your own stack by purchasing ingredients separately, but this can get expensive and inconvenient.
The best option is pre-made stacks, which the market is full of. However, there are three main problems:
- The number of ingredients you get usually is low meaning you often need to purchase several pre-made stacks, this ends up expensive, and you often double up on some of the ingredients.
- Many companies hide their doses behind ‘secret formulas’; this is not to protect their formula! It is straightforward for a laboratory to reverse engineer these to find out the amounts. These ‘secret formulas’ or ‘patented blends’ are used purely for two reasons – to make it appear that you can only get this formula from them and to hide the amounts you are taking. At Yew Tree, we believe that you should know exactly how much you are taking when taking any food supplement.
- Many contain ingredients that do not work or for which there is little or no supporting evidence in scientific studies.
On top of that, stack products tend to be expensive, with many vendors charging exorbitant prices for their secretive ineffective products.
At Yew Tree, we do not use the hormone melatonin or synthetic B vitamins, and never hide our ingredient amounts behind a ‘made-up word – blend’. We develop high-quality natural nootropic supplements that can be taken every day. We combine nutrients and doses with the highest scientific evidence levels for the most significant magnitudes of enhanced cognitive function.
- LIGHTS ON includes 19 ingredients and is designed to enhance memory, energy, and mood. As well as enhance brain and nerve function for better ageing. It is also abundant with antioxidants, antiviral, antifungal, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory attributes. Each bottle provides 1 – 2-month supply (60 capsules)
- LIGHTS OFF is designed to enhance relaxation, sleep, and next-day focus. Quality sleep is the cornerstone of health from your immune system, joints, to brain health. Each bottle provides a month supply (60 capsules)
- VITALITY has been uniquely formulated with vitamins and minerals, whole-food nutrients and herbal extracts that have been blended to optimise your protection against free radical damage. Vitality has been designed for overall health, including immunity, joints, hair and skin. Each bottle provides month supply (60 capsules).
The benefits of each of these supplements complement the others; therefore, Yew Tree also provides combination stacks at discounted prices:
- Double Up includes both LIGHTS ON and LIGHTS OFF.
- Triple Up includes LIGHTS OFF, LIGHTS ON, and VITALITY.
All Yew Tree formulas are entirely open source, yes, they can be copied but not without scrimping on the quality or price.
We publish all quality control test results from our suppliers, manufacturing, and third parties.
If you are new to nootropics, then Yew Tree is an easy and dependable way to get started. If you have used them for years, Yew Tree is a convenient base for building your stack. Try Yew Tree today. It’s a smart choice.