I understand that many people turn to Nootropics to improve their brain function. Because let’s face it, many of us have a hard time being on task- with a plethora of social media outlets and the internet at our finger tips. I bet you’ve at least chain watched YouTube videos once before! In our time, distraction has become an enormous problem.
But it’s not only distractions that are posing a problem to our productivity. Many of us are also experiencing cognitive deficits, whether it be ADHD, brain deteriorating diseases like Alzheimer’s, depression, etc.
My observed is that my productivity correlates with the amount of energy that I feel, or how high my metabolism is. When I have a high body metabolism, I find that it is much easier to stay on task. Whereas when I have a low body metabolism, I find that I am easily distractable with very little motivation to get work done. My conjecture is that a person’s energy level also contributes to the amount of energy the brain gets to work with, explaining why a high energy level encourages productivity.
I also have a speculation that our brain’s prefrontal cortex may have something to do with how “on task” we are. When our prefrontal cortex gets sufficient energy, we can pay better attention. But when our prefrontal cortex doesn’t get enough energy or blood flow, then our decision making ability declines. That’s why we make poorer decisions when we are angry, because in a fight-or-flight state blood flow drops from the prefrontal cortex.
Similarly, it is observed that people with ADHD receive less blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, explaining why ADHD may cause attention deficits, and why stimulants like Ritalin actually work; simply because Ritalin increases blood flow or the energy the total brain receives.
Table of Contents
With the understanding that our brain’s metabolism is key to increasing our cognitive function, I’ve developed a stack for myself to boost memory, motivation, focus & concentration, and productivity. My choices were influences by the fact that I have virtually a peasant’s budget, and the fact that I am somewhat reluctant to taking experimental laboratory chemicals to “play” with my brain, so to speak. But I suppose this is a matter of preference, because honestly its very possible to mess yourself up with “natural” stuff. Anyways, this is the list that I have developed so far:
- Covering Nutritional Deficiencies
Don’t even think about Nootropics if you don’t even exercise. I promise you, the edge that exercise gives makes Nootropics look insignificant. I’m not saying not to take Nootropics, but that exercise is an extremely important prerequisite to cover first. And in my personal experience, exercise has been able to give to a cognitive lift when Nootropics fail me. I’ve also seen that exercise enable some nootropics to work much better than using the nootropics alone, including the stack that I describe below.
This stack doesn’t look like much, but I’m not going for something that will sucker punch my brain irrecoverably. Rather, I am actually going for something a bit more subtle. Alone, each ingredient in my stack has a mild effect on the body. However in combination, I found out that they synergize quite well. That may have something to do with the fact that coffee, cocoa, turmeric, and black pepper are all Monoamine Oxidase Enzyme Inhibitors (MAOI); meaning that they potentiate each others psychoactive effects.
So after experimenting around with these ingredients, I’ve developed a set of ordered steps that I’ve found most effective for gaining a benefit from the stack:
- Chew on Ginger Root (peeled, 1cm x 1cm x 1cm)
- Chew on Turmeric Root (peeled, 1cm x 1cm x 1cm)
- Drink Coffee (20g ground coffee beans)
- Consume Cocoa Powder (2 tsp) or 90% Dark Cocoa chocolate bar (10g)
- Consume Tulsi leaves
Dose Early, Not Late
What scientists call theobromine has an extremely long half-life. More so than caffeine. So that I develop the least tolerance, I stuck with taking it early in the day, and not at night. If I took cocoa at night, I would observe that the next day that I was overall less well rested- meaning I got less deep sleep.
Spices Can Be Psychoactive, But Also a Problem
The Ginger & Turmeric roots I chew & spit out, since I have a sensitive stomach. Note that I still notice a psychoactive difference, because some of the active constituents can be absorbed sublingually. But I have found that Ginger and Turmeric are more effective at potentiating the high of caffeine and cocoa when actually swallowed vs. spitting them out. I suppose that a person with an iron stomach could “stomach” the spices to achieve a greater affect.
I used the mildest coffee that I could find, since I didn’t need anymore laxatives in my stack. For cocoa, I tried Nestle’s Tool House Cocoa powder, Trader Joe’s 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate, and Lindt’s 90% Cocoa. The powder is ok when taken with a drink. And it works just fine if not better, especially since the active chemicals are concentrated as a powder with the fat is removed. But I find that I simply enjoy consuming dark chocolate squares; placing a square in my mouth and melting it down with the coffee I drink.
Choline is Effective; Even from Soybeans
Interestingly, I got a more enjoyable-clear minded high off of the huge Trader’s Joe Dark Chocolate than other brands of dark chocolate. I’ve tried the savory Lindt 90%, which is absolutely delicious with its delicate, floral, fruity notes. I’ve even tried the abhorrent cocoa backing powder by nestle. With a bit of investigation, I found out that Trader’s Joe Dark Chocolate had soy lecithin as an added ingredient- which also happens to be a significant source of phosphatidylcholine.
The tulsi leaves I’ve foraged from my potted garden, and I can say that tulsi tea simply has a weaker effect on the body vs. consuming the actual leaves. In other words, you need more leaves for a tea for the similar effect.
Exercise is Required
I found that the combination of coffee, cocoa, and other MAOIs really pump out the dopamine into your brain. To make sure you recover your dopamine levels, you’ve got to exercise. Additionally, exercise further increases enzyme inhibition, making the high from coffee and cocoa more so potent.
My Anecdotal Observations for Different Stacks
Coffee all by itself is great and all. But I observe that usually coffee alone is not enough to provide the motivational effect that I was looking for. Perhaps it would synergize, or need to synergize with other substances to be more effective than it originally is.
Alone, I noticed that coffee grants its user better concentration by increasing a persons arousal, both mentally and physically. But I also noticed that as I’ve mentioned before, coffee does not necessarily grant a motivational/inspirational effect all by itself. I’ve discovered that there is a condition which blocks the motivational benefit of coffee: mind fog. I noticed that coffee doesn’t necessarily lift the condition of mind fog, and mind fog significantly disrupts my ability to focus, be productive, and to act on my forward planning or task schedule that I develop for maximum productivity. Mind fog effectively blocked me from winding into action, because mind fog prevents a person from thinking clearly.
I hypothesize that brain fog is associated with the state of our prefrontal cortex; whether you’d call it low brain metabolism, insufficient or un-optimal brain fuel delivery, or that I simply wasn’t receiving sufficient blood flow to my prefrontal cortex.
So I decided to address the issue by adding turmeric and dark chocolate to my stack.
Combo: Coffee + Dark Chocolate + Turmeric
To address the issue of mind fog, I added raw turmeric root and dark chocolate. The turmeric is a natural anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, and blood thinner; all these properties contribute to a better overall cognitive performance.
Dark chocolate should undoubtedly also be an anti-depressant, and it affects the pleasure centers of the brain- specifically the cannabinoid receptors. That means that taking cocoa will positively boost a person’s mood, and I do believe a positive mood is good for productivity. The cocoa also contains the a powerful vasodilator called theobromine, and vasodilators should theoretically improve blood flow to the brain by widening blood vessels. I suppose that very fact is also the reason why cocoa is known as an aphrodisiac ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°).
And all together, coffee, cocoa, and turmeric inhibit the MAO enzyme in the body, and inhibiting the MAO enzyme (in a small amount) is found to correlate with an anti-depressant effect and seen to correlate with a lower incidence in Parkinson’s disease (at least for coffee).
Combo: Coffee + Dark Chocolate
The addition of Dark Chocolate decreases the amount of coffee that I need in order to feel a motivating buzz that helps my cognition.
Combo: Coffee + Dark Chocolate + Ginger
Nice gentle stimulation, I notice that the Ginger eliminates or greatly reduces any anxiety I had before or get from the coffee and dark chocolate. Body temperatures decreases first (because of the ginger), and stays low. I get chilly pretty easily. I find that I have a lot of productivity, motivation, concentration, and focus. I didn’t only chew the ginger; I ate it too.
I find that Ginger greatly reduced mind fog; I used to get sleepy from drinking too much coffee or eating too much Dark Chocolate. Ginger totally eliminates that, and instead brings an incredible amount of clear mindedness that allows me to feel cognitive enhancement that I originally look to coffee and dark chocolate for.
So the best combination seems to be the ginger & coffee stack. Dark chocolate is more of an aphrodisiac than anything else.
Combo: Coffee + Dark Chocolate + Ginger + Turmeric
Again, very good stimulation. The turmeric speeds up the “high” or “buzz” stimulation that I seek to improve my productivity and focus. Additionally, the turmeric makes it so that less coffee is required to get the caffeine buzz; that means I keep a low tolerance to coffee while at the same time getting more bang for my buck.
I also noticed that my body temperature significantly increases for a short duration, like an hour. So much that I had to take my shirt off to feel comfortable.
Combo: Coffee + Ginger + Turmeric + Tulsi Leaves
Without the addition of the cocoa, I felt buzzed but faint; it was harder to keep my focus and attention, I felt sleepier. I loose some of the boost in my attention and focus without the cocoa added.
Combo: Dark Chocolate + Ginger + Turmeric
Absolutely wonderful. Within moments I feel a strong, constant, unbroken attention. I’m not falling asleep while I am trying to study. I actually feel awake, and I notice how tired & sleepy I was before. This stuff rocks. The coffee is a fine addition, but removing the coffee also removes the laxative & distracting jittery effects that I experience. I suppose you could replace the coffee with another source of caffeine. But the cocoa, ginger, and turmeric combination is perfectly fine on its own.
Combo: Coffee + Dark Chocolate + Black Pepper + Turmeric + Tulsi leaves + Ginger
I feel sleepy, then relaxed, then speedy in a good way, then anxiety.
T 0:00 – vision starts becoming brighter
T 0:30 – I feel sleepier and more relaxed while talking
T 1:00 – My body starts becoming warmer, I feel extremely motivated to get work done, and I start thinking and talking much faster
T 1:30 – I become more relaxed, I still feel a bit warm, but not so anxiously speedy
Combo: Coffee + Dark Chocolate + Black Pepper
I feel sleepy, a little anxiety afterwards. I think Black Pepper contributes to my anxiety. Body temperature increases. I will drop the Black Pepper for this daily stack because of the anxiety; doesn’t really provide any useful effect, other than acting as a MAOI and potentiating the stimulating effect of Cocoa and Coffee.
So the addition of any ingredient, be it dark chocolate, ginger, black pepper or turmeric increases the high of caffeine, and also the high from cocoa. Tulsi doesn’t potentiate the high per say, but improve my memory and concentration in my observation. I believe this is due to the fact that Tulsi increases the amount of AcetylCholine (ACh) that is available in the brain, where ACh is responsible for our memory & attention.
I find that the cocoa lowers my exercise tolerance; in other words how much effort I am able to exert during exercise. After seeing that it took more effort to do the same exercise (cycles of sprints and recovery walks), I took a note that I should perform the exercise before taking any dark chocolate. I believe this is because theobromine in the cocoa is a heart stimulant, so my heart rate is increases for the same level of exertion. That means that in order to achieve the same level of exertion in an exercise, my heart has to beat faster than when I don’t consume the cocoa.
Another observation for the cocoa is that my ears become red & hot, my disposition was more calm and relaxed, and overall I just felt a faint fuzzy warmness. I felt that I was content with what I was doing and not as easily distractable. Not to the extent that I didn’t feel motivated to get stuff done, just that I didn’t need to take a break every so often. I feel that Ginger and Turmeric increases these effect of the cocoa (because both are MAOI and blood thinners).
I would say that out of all the ingredients, I felt the most cognitive change from Cocoa. I found that my tongue flowed more easily, my emotional response or sensitivity increased, and I became overall more passionate in what I did. I believe that coffee & exercise did a great deal to accentuate the pleasant but mild “high” that I acquired from the Cocoa. That’s because both coffee and exercise inhibit liver enzymes in different ways; coffee is an effective MAO inhibitor, whereas exercise inhibits enzyme production of the liver by temporarily turning off the digestive system during the physical activity.
My favorite combination is the Dark chocolate, Ginger, and Turmeric combo; with or without the coffee. I found that Black Pepper makes me feel too anxious, and Tulsi does not contribute enough to be counted as “essential”, but otherwise a nice addition.
The Research Behind the Nootropic
The Caffeine in coffee boosts motivation and focus by increasing dopamine. Note that the way the way that you take the caffeine significantly affects how the caffeine affects you. For example, I find that I acquire a better amount of motivation when slowly sipping coffee vs. swallowing a caffeine pill or chugging the coffee. That’s because the affect that caffeine has on the person differs when taken sublingual vs. swallowed. That’s because there are a ton of capillaries (tiny blood vessels) under the tongue and cheek that absorbs the caffeine and directly takes it through the blood brain barrier vs. through the GI tract.
Personally, I have found that if I drink coffee slowly, I feel more of the mental stimulation from the caffeine. If drink the coffee too quickly or mix in some milk (I used almond-coconut milk), then the onset of the high is slower. I also observed that exercise increases my sensitivity to caffeine, meaning I get a bigger increase in attention with the same amount of coffee.
Cocoa has a couple of chemicals that have psychoactive effects.
One of them is anandamide. What I’ve found is that anandamide may or may not benefit; it’s not potent like THC at least. The anandamide receptors deal with memory formation, where anandamide deteriorates memory consolidation.
Where THC mimics the shape of anandamide, but is exponentially more potent. That’s because anandamide is a fragile neurotransmitter that quickly breaks down, whereas THC is so extremely stable that its half-life can lasts 3-4 days after ingestion, or even longer. No wonder people who smoke marijuana can experience memory loss. I guess pleasure can come at a price?
Regardless, anandamide is only a small part of the picture, given that it is less powerful than THC. The other multitudes of psychoactive elements in Cocoa can significantly change the effect of anandamide alone. For example, I observed that anandamide slightly hurt my short term memory, but this effect in combination with cocoa’s stimulating properties made me hyper-focus on what I was doing right now, and lessened disruptions do to random-distracting thoughts.
I also noticed that the first few times that I dosed with cocoa, I sleep a lot better than usual. It looks like that the anandamide in cocoa can contribute to increase SWS sleep and REM sleep. But after a couple of days, the observed improvement in sleep disappear.
Ginger is both a blood thinner and a anti-inflammatory. Both attributes can improve brain function, because (mildly) thinning the blood improves blood flow to the brain, and as an anti-inflammatory.
My personal anecdote is that Ginger lowers my anger and makes me much calmer. My vision becomes brighter, and my ears more sensitive. I believe Ginger calms my temperament because as an anti-inflammatory it may reduce stress and improve blood circulation to the brain; particularly the prefrontal cortex also improve in blood flow. This means that my decision making is less cloudier overall. And as my diction indicates, I greatly benefit from Ginger because it gets rid of my mind fog. Turmeric also has similar properties to Ginger.
I also have observed that the addition of Turmeric and Ginger is required to prevent any mind fog from taking a lot of cocoa or coffee, allowing the user to experience the full high without any of the headache, literally speaking.
The way you take a Nootropic can effect you differently.
Specifically, I found that many nootropics become much more potent if you take them sublingually vs. orally. Sublingual refers to the absorption through the cheek & under the tongue; bascially from anywhere inside the mouth. Oral refers to simply swallowing the substance, like swallowing a pill, and the substance is absorbed through the rest of the GI tract.
Nootropics can bring you to the right state of mind for productivity.
Nootropics are only a means to an end. For our productivity, one of the most important things is the state of mind.
That’s why coffee pairs so well with music for me. Coffee preps the right neurotransmitters in the brain to receive music in a different light. In other words, you can actually hear the music to your core, affecting your state of mind. Of course, the rule of thumb is to select uplifting, inspiration music with a ready to rumble beat. You don’t want something depressive.
- Human monoamine oxidase enzyme inhibition by coffee and beta-carbolines norharman and harman isolated from coffee. – [Source]
- Anandamide modulates sleep and memory in rats – [Source]
- An Overview of Curcumin in Neurological Disorders – [Source]
- Inhibition of monoamine oxidase by derivatives of piperine, an alkaloid from the pepper plant Piper nigrum, for possible use in Parkinson’s disease – [Source]