Hey there! Welcome to my ultimate guide on adaptogens and nootropics.
In my opinion, adaptogens are an essential component of any nootropic stack.
Adaptogens deliver many mind-body-enhancing benefits, including:
- Mood boosts
- Mental and physical energy
- Stress management
- Calm and sleep support
- Sex drive and performance
++ Much more!
I’ve used different adaptogens for years and experience their benefits daily.
In this article, I dive deep into the science to explore the potential certain adaptogenic nootropics can help you!
I also include specifics on different adaptogens and their benefits, biochemistry, dosing recommendations, side effects, and best places to purchase them.
So if you’re ready to learn more about the world of nature’s natural stress supporters, let’s jump into it!
Best Nootropic Adaptogens – Quick Guide-
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are plants or herbs that help the body adapt to stress and maintain homeostasis.
They help the body cope better with physical, chemical, and biological stressors by regulating its stress response. Here are two bullet points for you to better understand:
- Adaptogens work by stimulating the body’s natural defense mechanisms, helping to reduce the adverse effects of stress on the body.
- Adaptogens can also help to enhance cognitive function, improve mood, and increase energy levels, making them popular among those looking to improve their overall health and well-being.
What Are Nootropics?
Nootropics are substances that enhance cognitive function in healthy individuals. They are also known as “smart drugs” or “cognitive enhancers”.
Here are a couple of key points about nootropics:
- Nootropics can improve various aspects of cognitive function, including memory, focus, creativity, and motivation.
- Nootropics increase the availability of certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine, or promote neuroplasticity in the brain.
History of Adaptogens as Nootropics
The idea of using adaptogenic plant compounds dates back to WWII when the first studies on the stimulating and tonic effects of Schisandra chinensis were published in Soviet Union WWII military journals. 1Zhestyanikov, V. D., Some data on the effect of the Far East Schizandra on the CNSScientific Papers of 3rd Year Students of the Naval Medical School 3. 1945
The adaptogenic concept was a response to Hans Selye’s theory of stress and general adaptation syndrome (GAS), which has three phases:2Selye, Hans, Stress and the General Adaptation Syndrome*Br Med J. 1950
- Alarm Phase,
- Resistance Phase
- Exhaustion Phase
The term “adaptogen” was coined over the next 2 decades by the toxicologist Lazarev to describe compounds that could prolong the resistance phase (phase 2) and decrease sensitivity to stressors, resulting in stress protection. 3N V LAZAREV, General and specific effects of drugsFarmakol Toksikol. 1958
Adaptogenic plant compounds have since experienced an explosion of biomedicinal research to develop drugs and products that boost one’s ability to thrive under prolonged physical and mental stress.4 Brekhman, I. I. , EleutherococcBibliographic index) 1958-1981
Many findings of this research indicate that certain adaptogenic substances can activate the protective mechanisms of cells, which is linked to an increase in survival rate both in vitro and in vivo.5Samuel E Schriner, et al, Protection of human cultured cells against oxidative stress by Rhodiola rosea without activation of antioxidant defensesnFree Radic Biol Med. 20096F A C Wiegant et al, Plant adaptogens increase lifespan and stress resistance in C. elegansBiogerontology. 2009
How Adaptogens Work
Adaptogens function as a stress vaccine, inducing minor stress components to elicit anti-stress components.
While different adaptogens have their particular modes of action, each have a general similarity in how they work to calm the body’s stress-response system.
Some adaptogens such as Ashwagandha and ginseng act via the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis, while others such as Rhodiola and Holy Basil act on the adrenal gland directly.
The adrenal glands and HPA axis are anatomically and functionally interconnected. During stress scenarios, they can interact at different levels, which control the body’s overall stress response.
The actual adaptogenic response from plant compounds comes from the activation of certain key mediators of the adaptive stress response, including the stress hormones cortisol and neuropeptide Y (NPY) along with nitric oxide, stress-activated protein kinases, heat shock proteins (HSP70 and HSP25), and the FOXO (DAF-16) transcription factor.7Alexzander Asea et al, Evaluation of molecular chaperons Hsp72 and neuropeptide Y as characteristic markers of adaptogenic activity of plant extractsPhytomedicine. 20138F A C Wiegant et al, Plant adaptogens increase lifespan and stress resistance in C. elegansBiogerontology. 2009
These mediators give rise to adaptive and stress-protective effects via various central nervous, sympathetic, endocrine, immune, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal systems components.
The heat shock proteins, in-particular, have potent anti-aging effects in the brain and body and can protect against Alzheimer’s Disease, cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease and other age-related disorders.9Ratan V Bhat et al, Glycogen synthase kinase 3: a drug target for CNS therapiesJ Neurochem. 200410 Konstanze F Winklhofer et al, The two faces of protein misfolding gain and loss of function in neurodegenerative diseasesEMBO J 200811Makarov, V. G.,, Potential use of plant adaptogen in age related disorders, celebration of the centennial birth of Hans Selye, Budapest, Hungary.Cell Stress Chaperones 242. 2007
Adaptogens may be the most potent natural nootropics available today. due to their ability to control the body’s innate stress response.
Cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone released during stress, is connected to heightened instances of clinical depression, trauma, fear, and pain.
Activation of the HPA axis and sympathetic adrenal response is also tightly connected to many cognitive disorders, including melancholic depression, anorexia nervosa, panic anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, chronic active alcoholism, and alcohol and narcotic withdrawal.
As adaptogens have shown the ability to modulate the HPA axis and sympathetic adrenal response, thus decreasing circulating blood cortisol levels, they are linked to the alleviation of each of the above listed disorders.12Alexander Panossian et al, The adaptogens rhodiola and schizandra modify the response to immobilization stress in rabbits by suppressing the increase of phosphorylated stress-activated protein kinase, nitric oxide and cortisolDrug Target Insights. 2007
Other mediators of the effects of adaptogens (e.g., nitric oxide, JNK, SAPK, HSP70, HSP25, and FOXO (DAF16)) play roles in chronic inflammation (common to all age-related diseases), such as that seen in muscle degeneration (sarcopenia), senile dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. 13Alexander Panossian, Understanding adaptogenic activity: specificity of the pharmacological action of adaptogens and other phytochemicalsPhytochemicals in Medicine and Food II. 2017
Best Adaptogen Nootropics
Increased mental processing speed
Increases ability to recall information
Improve Memory, Learning, and Cognition
Protect nerve cells and promote growth of new cells
Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects
Can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and seizures
- Increases acetylcholine – the most important neurotransmitter for memory and learning
- Can also increase serotonin and GABA in the hippocampus, the brain’s hub for memory and emotions
- Can offset cognitive decline with aging
- May protect the gut and stomach
- Can be taken in capsule or powder form
- Some people say doesn’t taste good and can cause nausea or stomach upset
- Possible interaction with the antidepressant amitriptyline, consult doctor before using
- Has been shown to help improve memory and cognitive function
- Helps reduce anxiety and stress levels, as well as improve sleep quality
- Strong anti-inflammatory agent, making it helpful for conditions like arthritis and asthma
- Can help reduce blood sugar levels
- Studies show taking ashwagandha can reduce cholesterol levels, helping to reduce high cholesterol levels
- Can be taken daily
- Should be avoided by pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding
- Can interfere with diabetes medicines
- Should be avoided by those with thyroid disorders
- May cause some stomach upset such as diarrhea and vomiting
Eleuthero Root Extract
Long history of use in Traditional Chinese and Russian medicine
Robust data supporting Eleuthero’s ability to boost stamina and endurance
Natural adaptogenic herb that calms the body’s innate stress response
Antiinflammatory, Neuroprotective, and socially stimulating cognitive effects
Studied extensively alongside Rhodiola Rosea and Holy Basil
Panax Ginseng is a well-studied adaptogenic herb possessing many mind-body benefits with a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine
Ginsenosides are the active constituent molecules in Panax Ginseng that elicit most of the benefits.
Top benefits include neuroprotection, increased focus, testosterone boosts, better reaction and cognitive procession speed, possible cardiovascular benefits, blood glucose stabilization and more!
Works well alongside Gingko Biloba and helps attenuate any negative effects from vaccines.
Nootropics Depot Panax Ginseng sampler pack includes 3 different products w. varying amounts of Ginsenosides
Long history of use in traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Russian cultures
Traditionally used to treat various disorders, including kidney infections, mental problems, asthma, diabetes, cough, spermatorrhea, spontaneous sweating, thirst, and insomnia
Clinically shown to be protective against stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases
Main benefits come from lignans known as Schisandrin
- Available in capsules and powder form
- Can protect against health problems like asthma, depression, diabetes, fatigue, high cholesterol, and upper respiratory tract infections.
- Has been shown to improve athletic performance and reduce fatigue.
- Quality cordyceps can be quite expensive and hard to find
Reishi – Real Mushrooms
- May help improve sleep quality and reduce stress levels
- Can be consumed in many different forms, such as capsules, powders, teas, and tinctures
- Used in Asia for centuries as a medicinal mushroom
- Common side effects include gastrointestinal upset and nausea
- Not recommended for people with autoimmune disease or taking immunosuppressive medication