For those not wanting to resort to nootropic chemicals, drugs or dietary supplements, there are some natural alternatives that are still very powerful. This list will help bring you up to speed on just exactly what types of herbal nootropics there are and just how they may work with you.
Huperzine A is a very powerful nootropic that has been used for centuries to help improve cognitive performance. This type of Chinese club moss has been used in many nootropic formulations like Alpha Brain as a primary active ingredient. It works well on its own but this natural nootropic also is synergetic with other compounds like the racetams (piracetam, aniracetam, etc…).
Huperzine A works as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme in the brain that is essential for living because it is necessary in muscle coordination and other complex tasks relating to muscle neurology. On the other hand, acetylcholinesterase is actually negative to cognition because it depletes levels of acetylcholine. Huperzine A terminates extra acetylcholinesterase to help improve cognition and memory. It has been known to do this safely when used in recommended dosages.
Snowdrop is a type of flowering herb which contains the natural nootropic ingredient, galantamine. Galantamine is the active ingredient isolated from the plant and commonly prescribed for Alzheimer’s disease. Galantamine can also be obtained over the counter from certain retailers.
One can get a lot of natural galantamine from snowdrop and this can greatly help with cognition. Galantamine and huperzine A both work in a similar way by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase. This makes them both very powerful and sought after herbal nootropics which are often used in stacks with other cognitive enhancers.
Vinpocetine is another powerful herbal nootropic which is derived from the periwinkle plant. It is also a common additive in many brain enhancing formulations. This herbal product does not work as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor like huperzine A or snowdrop.
One of the primary methods of action of vinpocetine is thought to be its vasodilation effects. It is thought to influence blood flow and energy metabolism within the brain.
Vinpocetine is also thought to act as a PDE type 1 inhibitor that is one of the only known in this class. These PDE inhibiting activities help to increase cGMP within the brain. Increasing cGMP may help to increase long term potentiation (LTP) which may have a positive impact on overall cognitive function (namely memory). Aside from this, the PDE inhibiting activities if vinpocetine is also thought to relax cerebral muscle tissue which may also have further positive nootropic benefits.
Bacopa monnieri is another powerful nootropic plant which is also commonly referred to as brahmi. It is another common ingredient in natural nootropic formulations and it has been used in ancient Indian medicine for centuries as a cognitive enhancer.
Bacopa has many chemical constituants including flavonoids and its’ own unique bacopasaponins. It is not clear exactly what all the roles these constituents play in the cognitive boosting effects of this herb. Regardless, studies have pointed bacopa to be beneficial in improving cognitive function. The herb is also thought to be highly neuroprotective.
Tea Extract (L-Theanine)
Tea extract is an herbal product that has a large list of effective health benefits which includes an improvement in cognitive function. The most interesting in the tea complex is perhaps l-theanine.
L-theanine has long been thought to be a subtle nootropic which may act synergistic with other compounds including caffeine. Studies have shown that l-theanine when used alone, can help to increase areas of cognitive function. This natural nootropic also has an influence on important neurotransmitters like dopamine.