The Effectiveness of Nootropics
The thing that differentiates certain nootropics from other substances is without a doubt their unique character. Despite all the conducive issues, eg. the lack of addictive potential, lack of harmful side effects on the organism, positive influence on the Brain functioning. However, they demand user’s own contribution. To fully take the advantage from the potential that is in our mind with the use of nootropic substances, it is essential to take care of fundaments of our healths that is diet, sleep and physical activity.
One of the most important factors that have an influence on our wellbeing is corticosteroids. There are natural steroid hormones that are produced in adrenals. Corticosteroids have the main influence on cognitive functions, they are supposed to play the major role in long-term memory and on the focus. Neither too high nor too low level is beneficial in those factors.
The main representative of glucocorticosteroids is Cortisol. Its role is, among others, to increase the blood glucose level in the rain and to increase the energy, and to form emotional memory in short-term. When we are subjected to stress, especially in long-term, we may feel anxious, not being able to keep one thought at ones and have problems with being focused. We may experience brain fog, lack of motivation in everyday life and have problems with a good, regenerating sleep.
Symptoms of elevated cortisol
- Feelings of anxiety and/or stress
- Increased body temperature during rest
- Inability to maintain one thought or inability to focus
- High blood pressure
- Excessive accumulation of fatty tissue around the navel
- Waking up early in the morning
Symptoms of lowered cortisol
- Problems with waking up
- Problems with concentration
- The effect of a foggy mind (“brain fog”)
- Lack of motivation to act, energy every day
- Paradoxical reaction to stimulants
Having one or more symptoms does not immediately mean that you have an abnormal reaction to cortisol to stimuli. However, if it is possible, it is worth checking.
Luckily, there are nootropics with specific qualities and properties similar to the adaptogens. Those exhibit a potential of regulation cortisol levels.
In this category fall:
-Magnolia bark being used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine contains two main active substances, ie magnolol, and honokiol, which are responsible for its anti-stress and anxiolytic effects, and thus – lowering the level of cortisol. These two substances also have other properties – their antioxidant potential is 1000 times higher than that of vitamin E. As if that was not enough – by modulating the activity of neurotransmitters and enzymes in the brain (increasing choline acetyltransferase, inhibiting acetylcholinesterase and increasing acetylcholine release) they display a distinctive nootropic effect. In higher doses, the magnolia acts as a depressant of the central nervous system.
a popular amino acid found in green tea leaves (Camellia sinensis). Its unique properties as a non-sizable relaxant are responsible for the increasing the production of alpha waves in the brain. This makes it extremely effective in combating stress and anxiety without causing drowsiness. Alpha waves are one of the four types of brain waves and represent a state called “relaxed alertness”. This condition does not occur during deep sleep or in moments of high arousal generated by fear or anger. L-theanine additionally has an effect that improves concentration and increases mental performance.
Epimedium (Horny Goat Weed)
A plant also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as early as 4th century AD as an aphrodisiac. Research has revealed that it also acts as an adaptogen by increasing the levels of adrenaline, norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine when they are low and lowering the level of cortisol when its level is too high. It can restore the low values of testosterone and thyroid hormone to a normal level, which explains its effect on libido. In animal studies, Epidemium also showed bone strengthening, increased muscle mass and fat loss, which is associated with a decrease in cortisol.
This group includes hundreds of compounds of vegetable origin in the structure resembling cholesterol. The most common phytosterols present in the diet are beta-sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol. The best way to deliver them in the right amount is to eat fruit, vegetables, seeds, and nuts, which of course involves a number of additional benefits. Phytosterols demonstrate the ability to modulate the immune system, inflammation and the level of pain sensation by affecting the production of inflammatory cytokines, which is also associated with the reduction of symptoms of allergy and hypertrophy of the prostate gland. It is known to use phytosterols by marathon participants and other stressful events to Reduce Cortisol Levels, maintain adequate DHEA levels and prevent suppression of the immune system that occurs after such activities. It is worth noting that they are fully safe as long as they are tailor-made (as they are male and female), otherwise they can lead to serious complications.
It belongs to phospholipids and is mainly concentrated in brain cells and cell membranes playing a key role in muscle metabolism and the functioning of the immune system. Studies have also shown the involvement of PS in modulating over-production of cortisol, especially after intense exercise. There is much evidence that, in lower doses, phosphatidylserine supplementation may contribute to improving cognitive function and reducing symptoms of depression. At higher doses, it can reduce cortisol levels by 15-30% after intense physical exercise. Due to the fact that cortisol is catabolic to muscle tissue, it is often used by athletes to stop muscle loss. Adding to this the antidepressant effect of phosphatidylserine and improving brain function, it can also be used by people who lead a stressful lifestyle.
It belongs to endogenous amino acids, which revealed its anti-stress potential and counteracts fatigue and increases physical and mental performance. Due to the fact that chronic stress reduces the levels of neurotransmitters, i.e. adrenaline, norepinephrine and dopamine, this is related to the decrease in mental abilities. Tyrosine, in turn, is a substrate for the synthesis of these neurotransmitters, so it significantly contributes to the improvement of brain function. Many studies on humans and specimens confirmed this assumption, showing the effect of improving cognitive functions under stress conditions, physical performance, antidepressant effect, and modulation of stress responses under unfavorable conditions.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)
these are three amino acids: valine, leucine, and isoleucine. Every day, their supply in the right amount, whether with food or supplementation, gives a number of benefits, ie increasing endurance and energy, reducing fatigue, improving mental performance, preventing suppression of the immune system and preventing catabolism of the muscles after intense exercise. In the BCAA study, they also showed that blood levels of glutamine – an amino acid used as fuel in cells of the immune system – were maintained. In addition, a beneficial effect on preventing the increase in cortisol and a decrease in testosterone under stressful conditions is also revealed.
It is a group of plants and fungi whose main and common feature is the ability to adapt the body to stressful environmental conditions. Despite the fact that the exact mechanism of action is not yet known, some of them have an effect on the glands located in the adrenal glands, i.e. the place where cortisol is produced. Part of the compounds isolated from these herbs during the study showed a buffering action and counteracting excessive adrenal response to stress and thus reducing the secretion of cortisol with simultaneous stimulation of their activity during periods of fatigue and low energy levels. The most well-known adaptogens are Ginseng, Ashwagandha, Rhododendron, Dipswings, Sum, Chinese Citrons and Asian Mushrooms (Reishi, Maitake, Shiitake).
Supplements that control testosterone levels
Due to the fact that testosterone is considered an “alter ego” of cortisol, because when the level of one grows in parallel the other falls, regulating its amount can affect also the amount of cortisol and thus adequately modulate the response to stress. In addition, testosterone is an important factor regulating the mood, brain function, sex drive, muscle mass and overall metabolic rate. Effective means that keep your testosterone at an optimal level are DHEA, Eurycoma, zinc, Cordyceps, conjugated linoleic acid, and HMB.
Above considerations confirm that without a healthy lifestyle, which is a condition of proper diet, sleep and movement, the effect of taking nootropics can disappoint us. Interestingly, in addition to the above-mentioned symptoms of an inadequate cortisol level, the lack of the desired nootropic effect is also to such signs. With an elevated level, we can take appropriate supplements, meditate and increase your physical activity.
At low cortisol, paradoxically, we recommend stopping stimulating substances, test thyroid function, and change your lifestyle. It is important to ensure adequate rest. The best solution is to stop using stimulants for a longer time. For starters, it is worth switching to more delicate stimulants, such as green tea. However, according to the proverb – “prevention is better than cure”.
Therefore, let’s take care of our foundations that guarantee proper mental functioning and enjoy the full spectrum of nootropics.
The 5 Best Nootropics For Lowering Cortisol
The Cortisol Curve
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