Can you really use natural Nootropic plants to 'hack' your brain to become brighter, have better memory & be more resistant to disease?
I want to share some really important information with you about ways that you can vastly improve both the physical structure and cognitive function of your brain by harnessing the immense power of nootropic herbs.
You’ll have probably come across the term ‘nootropics’ if you’ve been following any of the ‘bio-hacker’ bloggers online. Bio-hackers experiment – largely upon themselves – to find ways of enhancing performance to gain a competitive edge.
For herbs to be considered to be nootropic they must be able to:
There is a huge amount of ongoing research which is trying to synthesise pharmaceutical drugs that can confer all of these advantages – however, so far, Mother Nature wins as comparable pharmaceutical drugs have undesirable side-effects.
Before I introduce the herbs that have proven brain-health benefits, I should explain that I was inspired to write this piece as I spotted something rather interesting just very recently online: Harvard Medical School recently launched a statement about ways to improve cognitive function. And, amazingly, they stated; “Follow a Plant-Based Whole Food (PBWF) diet”– as their number one step you can take to enhance your mind – in all respects. So, before even considering shelling out on herbs to boost brain health and performance – get your underlying nutrition right. Remember that a PBWF diet dramatically reduces harmful chronic inflammation, which is an underlying component of all brain disease. I would also strongly suggest that appropriate exercise is essential - it is a known brain performance booster - as is taking time out to meditate - and I've covered the health-promoting effects of these in other articles here on this blog.
These are the top 4 nootropic herbs – that have been proven to work – are safe, and more effective than comparable pharmaceutical drugs:
Bacopa monnieri (BM)
Nootropic formulas often incorporate this perennial, non-aromatic herb for good reason: it is multi-functional and enhances both brain structure and performance.
Your brain is an extremely active organ and as such it is highly susceptible to oxidative damage from free radicals. It is also protected by the blood brain barrier which may prevent beneficial anti-oxidants from counteracting the effects of free radicals in the brain. However, research shows that BM can boost your capacity to fight free radicals by increasing brain levels of key anti-oxidant compounds including glutathione, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin A.
BM inhibits Acetylcholinesterase
Acetylcholine is an important neurotransmitter which assists memory and cognition. However, it can be “switched off” by an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase (ACHe) within 1/500 of a second. While this is a normal occurrence in the chemical balance of our brains, if ACHe becomes overactive, cognitive function will decrease.
BM increases blood flow; your brain tissue requires optimal blood-flow to carry oxygen and nutrients. Reduced blood flow is linked to a variety of neurological issues (including dementia).
BM reduces memory impairment through reduction of lipid peroxidation and restoration of anti-oxidant enzymes, it also inhibits beta-amyloid protein plaques (which are a key neurodegenerative component of Alzheimer’s Disease).
BM is an effective memory enhancer – particularly for word recall and verbal tasks – it has been used by Vedic scholars for millennia to memorise long passages and hymns.
The most common side effects of BM are mild gastrointestinal upset, however one placebo-controlled double-blind trial in adult men showed no adverse effects with doses up to 300g for 4 weeks.
Ginkgo is an antioxidant and a nerve cell protector. It stabilises cell membranes, and this inhibits excess blood clotting and facilitates relaxation of blood vessel walls.
Like BM, above, ginkgo aids brain function and health, including the prevention of beta-amyloid protein plaques - benefitting healthy people and those with neurological disease, and it dramatically improves performance in non-contextual word-recall tests.
Gingko is as effective at improving symptoms of dementia as the widely used pharmacological therapy, ergoloid mesylates, (a combination of drugs used to relieve age-related mental decline). This is supported by other studies which show Ginkgo is comparable to the medication donepezil, used to improve cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s; and that that Ginkgo is equally effective in treating mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, compared to all second-generation cholinesterase inhibitor medications.
Safety/ Side Effects
Ginkgo is safe in both healthy and diseased populations. However, caution must be taken when consuming it alongside blood thinners such as warfarin or aspirin. Despite studies showing that Ginkgo Biloba does not affect our speed of clotting, it is still recommended to discontinue its use at least 36 hours before surgery (some studies suggest 14 days before).
For people with diagnosed cognitive dysfunction through dementia, dosage is between 120mg-240mg daily (taken three times a day). The optimum dosage for healthy people is 180mg per day. Best results are achieved through daily dosing for a period of 6 to 12 weeks, with many people noticing improvement as early as 4 weeks.
Huperzine extract is a form of toothed clubmoss, native to China and India. The benefits of consuming huperzine on our cognitive performance and brain function have been demonstrated in many studies. Research on patients with Alzheimer’s have shown improved brain function, memory, cognition and behaviour. In fact, 58% of the patients treated saw improvements in one of these areas, which was 22% greater than placebo.
Safety/ Side Effects
A study of 474 patients showed no influence of huperzine on vital signs, blood test results or ECG test results. Improvements in mental capacity and function, were seen at dosages of 100mg-500mg per day and doses are usually taken 2-3 times a day.
This compound is extracted from lesser periwinkle plant, native to central and southern Europe. The benefits of vinpocetine on cognitive function and memory have been well proven. One study in healthy volunteers, showed that a two-day course of 40mg of vinpocetine improved memory using the Sternberg technique. This test is where a group of symbols (numbers/letters/shapes) is shown to a participant and the person is asked if a specific symbol was contained in the group. Vinpocetine was able to improve the ability to examine and compare each item in turn to gain the correct answer (e.g. repeating the sequence in order).
Safety/ Side Effects
It is considered unequivocally that vinpocetine is a very safe substance, even up to doses of 30mg per day.
If you want to explore ways of improving your mental performance, all of these herbs are definitely worth trying – alone or in combination – however always take sensible precautions: strength of individual products varies – so follow the dosage instructions on the packaging carefully – and avoid anything that you may be allergic to.
There’s never been a better time than right now to begin to rewind your biological age – so that you get younger physically. Ageing is a phenomenon that affects us – as a totality. So our bodies, minds, emotions all age – but not at the same rate. However, each one of these disparate elements, or parts of ourselves, affects the others. For example, if you have an aged mental outlook, this would affect your physical body and all its systems and this would cause your body to age prematurely. Fortunately, the reverse can be true and by readjusting your mental outlook, you can have a profound affect on your body – and it also works the other way around – by exercising your body in such a way that you are giving your body ‘youth cues’ you can initiate a profound anti-ageing effect upon your mind.
My best advice to you – right now – is to engage in a little ‘mind/body gymnastics’ in order to re-set your mental outlook and I’m going to show you just how to do this by harnessing the power of summer to set a really effective mind/body anti-ageing or – as I prefer to call it ‘rejuvenation’ - campaign in motion.
Nutrition and Hydration to get your bod looking awesome – and your mind in tip top shape:
Have you heard the saying “Abs are made in the kitchen”? Well, it is true – let me explain a bit further: It is crucial to exercise – our lives depend on it – but many of my clients bemoan the fact that while they absolutely beast themselves at the gym, they still can’t see any muscle definition. This is because – and this applies especially to us ladies – we need to reduce body fat in order to actually see the muscles that are lying underneath. There truly is no amount of exercise that you can do which will cause your abs to show, or your pert glutes to pop, it they are softly hidden under a layer of fat. So, while we will come on to the best exercises in a moment, I want to talk about what we should be consuming in order to actually look leaner and have more muscle definition – as this is what will help you look and feel sleeker, sexier, and enable your mind to function far better!
So, happily, the foods that we are more inclined to eat in summer hold the key. Think cucumbers, lettuce, watermelon, in fact the whole rainbow of colourful salad veggies and fruits. As long as you incorporate sufficient protein – in the form of pulses, tofu, tempeh and small portions of nuts etc. you will have no need to count calories – as this way of eating is termed “calorie poor, nutrient rich”, which means that you are getting enormous bang for your buck in terms of healthy nutrition, while consuming few calories. In fact, not only will this approach to eating help you to look and feel fabulous – it is going to be instrumental in helping you rewind your biological age. Here’s why: from an anti-ageing perspective, the approach with the best research and most compelling evidence is a caloric restriction programme (CR). There is now ample evidence that CR really does slow, halt and even reverse ageing. The latest and most compelling research proving the health benefits of a plant based diet is drawn from the Seventh Day Adventist 2 study which started in 1980 and has tracked over 96,000 people. Check out the website for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM.org), which sets out exactly how to safely (and deliciously) swap to a plant-based diet.
Another huge advantage to eating lots of juicy fruits and veggies is that they provide tremendous hydration This is crucial for optimal health, but also helps to actually make us look younger, by plumping skin and getting rid of fine lines from the inside out. Importantly, optimal hydration enables our brains to function better – so that our thought processes are more efficient.
Exercise - mindfully
Lots of research points to the idea that all exercise, no matter what type, is more effective when undertaken outdoors. Summer’s here – what are you waiting for? Set achievable goals – if you’re unfit – walking is the very best exercise you can do. Aim for at least 30 minutes four to five times a week. This will help strengthen your bones, thus staving off and even healing osteoporosis. You’ll build muscle and burn fat too. Walking is also linked to improved mood and enhanced cognitive function. Crucially though, it is vital to also do resistance training – going to a gym is fine – but many councils have outdoor gyms and exercise equipment and this is way more effective. Don’t forget too that you can perform isometric exercise, which is an extremely effective system of using your own body-weight to load your bone and muscle. When you exercise, involve your mind – visualise the exercise, see your muscles working and getting stronger. By harnessing the power of your mind’s eye, you’ll gain so much more than you would if you just fling a few weights around.
Last but not least – get some sunshine!
Sunshine is vital for health – it helps to set our metabolic clocks, regulates our hormones and by reacting with the melatonin in our skin forms Vitamin D3 – a hugely important anti-ageing/rejuvenation nutrient.
Low blood serum vitamin D3 levels are associated with a variety of health issues that have a huge impact on the rate at which we age. These include multiple sclerosis (MS), arthritis, osteoporosis, and cancers – especially skin cancers. Previously, it was thought that sun exposure was the direct cause of many skin cancers but we are beginning to question this concept. Low levels of Vitamin D are found in people with skin cancers – even in people who had little sun exposure. This leads researchers to question whether constant over-use of sun protection is actually healthy – I believe it isn’t. It seems that the best ‘dosage’ of sun to get your Vitamin D levels up is about 20 minutes morning and evening without getting burnt. My advice would be to ask your doctor for an NHS Vitamin D test (it’s just a finger prick blood test). This will ascertain whether your serum levels are low, and if so, you’ll need to supplement with Vitamin D – however, make sure that you take D3 (cholecalciferol), which is the form that our bodies can actually utilise best.
The truth is that it’s all an inside job: health, happiness, and wellbeing - we have so much more control than we even realise. Just putting a rainbow on your plate, meditating and exercise, socialising and feeling passionate about something or anything makes all the difference and is instrumental in rewinding your biological age for optimum performance. Message me from my contact page for your free Relaxation Response meditation download here
An abundance of joy - it is your birthright - but sometimes it needs to be cultivated with gratitude practices. I've set up 'gratitude triggers' so that when they appear, I pause momentarily, and take a quick inventory of all the things I am grateful for. I have quite a few gratitude triggers, for example, when I see 11.11 on my phone I pause and evoke gratitude (yep, cheesy but it works for me). The trick is to pick a trigger and firmly anchor it by immersing yourself into deep gratitude while holding that trigger in mind. Try it and let me know how you get on. Jayney xx
When your mindset is right then everything else falls into place. I find one of the easiest and most effective ways to cultivate positivity is to feel grateful - I keep a "Three Good Things" journal and write in it each night. I think of three good things that have happened that day and I note them down - not just what happened but also how it made me feel, and any other observations. It's a well researched technique - give it a go. Let me know how you get on below.
A study from the Universities of Sheffield, York and Manchester has uncovered the horrifying incidence and cost of medication errors (237 MILLION of these per year). 6.6 people - PER DAY - die as a result of these errors. The data they have analysed come from reports of Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs). As you'll know, ADRs are vastly underreported - so we can safely assume that the disastrous number of deaths - and costs to the taxpayer (from treatment to try to rectify the damage done - and the cost of law suits for wrongful death and injury) are on the higher side of the figures given. Here is the report extract:
1. A medication error is a preventable event that may lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm.
2. We found 36 studies reported error rates in primary care, care homes and secondary care, and at the various stages of the medication pathway, ranging from 0.2% to 90.6%. Errors were more likely in older people, or in the presence of co-morbidity and polypharmacy.
3. We found four UK studies on the cost of medication errors in specific settings, with a wide range of estimates for costs from €67.93 per intercepted error for inhaler medication to €6,927,078.96 for litigation claims associated with anaesthetic error.
4. We estimated that 237 million medication errors occur at some point in the medication process in England per year. This is a large number, but 72% have little/no potential for harm. It is likely that many errors are picked up before they reach the patient, but we do not know how many.
5. We estimated that 66 million potentially clinically significant errors occur per year, 71.0% of these in primary care. This is where most medicines in the NHS are prescribed and dispensed. Prescribing in primary care accounts for 33.9% of all potentially clinically significant errors.
6. Error rates in the UK are similar to those in other comparable health settings such as the US and other countries in the EU.
7. There is little evidence about how medication errors lead to patient harm. We had to estimate burden using studies that measured harm from adverse drug reactions (ADRs). The estimated NHS costs of definitely avoidable ADRs are £98.5 million per year, consuming 181,626 bed-days, causing 712 deaths, and contributing to 1,708 deaths. This can be divided into:
Primary care ADRs leading to a hospital admission (£83.7 million; causing 627 deaths);
Secondary care ADRs leading to a longer hospital stay (£14.8 million; causing 85 deaths and contributing to 1,081 deaths).
8. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, anticoagulants and antiplatelets cause over a third of admissions due to avoidable ADRs. Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeds are implicated in half of the deaths from primary care ADRs. Older people are more likely to suffer avoidable ADRs.
9. These estimates are based on studies at least 10 years old so may not reflect current patient populations or practice. This may be an underestimate of burden as only short-term costs and patient outcomes are included, and we had no data about the burden of errors in care homes.
Gorgeous garlicky deliciousness - and cruelty-free!
I reverse-engineered this recipe after tasing an amazing mayo at a new vegan restaurant just recently. I wanted to find a mayonnaise recipe that actually works and is super-quick to make.
I looked at several vegan recipe sites to get the basics down and then I adjusted the recipe to work with a more European taste (I find that many of the US blogs tend to offer recipes that are just a bit too sweet - and that doesn't work for Europeans).
Anyway - the experiment worked brilliantly. And, here it is . . .
Do let me know how you get on in the comments below - or if you have any questions. Happy Mayo-Making!
By Jayney Goddard MSc, FCMA, FRSPH, Lic.LCCH, Dip.ACH. President: The Complementary Medical Association
There is a wealth of academic research in the field of ‘compassion’ – particularly in the nursing arena and now spreading to other conventional medical fields too and it is becoming firmly established that love, kindness, compassion and altruism are all associated with positive health benefits for those giving and receiving these beautiful acts. These benefits impact us on every level; mentally, emotionally, physically and of course spiritually.
Of course, those of us working in the complementary medical and natural healthcare fields intuitively know all of this and more. Speaking very personally, I have to say that I am constantly and consistently astonished by the profound kindness and compassion I witness every day by observing the work of our wonderful Members at The Complementary Medical Association – I know that I am deeply privileged to be able to interact with these incredible selfless people – and I am eternally grateful.
What follows is a collection of just some of the research that I have come across over the years - and which I believe speaks deeply to the effects of love, kindness, compassion and altruism on us all. This is my Valentine to you – given with love and best wishes for your health and well-being in every respect.
Positive emotions and well-being.
In the 1990s researchers (Danner et al.) revisited the famous study conducted among nuns who had written short personal essays. It was found that the nuns who expressed the most positive emotions lived 10 years longer and were also somewhat protected from dementia.
Furthermore, when we are able to embrace positive emotions – when we feel good, our thinking becomes more creative, integrative, flexible, and we are so much more open to information. To illustrate this, a study conducted in 2003 by Fredrickson demonstrated that positive emotions dramatically enhanced psychological and physical resistance
Health benefits for recipients (those who receive compassionate love)
Most of us innately sense that compassion, love, and social support have health benefits for recipients and research bears this out too (Ainsworth et al., 1978; Harlow, 1958). There is the famous “Bunny Love Study” (my name for it – do forgive me!). In this study, researchers in the late 1970s were studying the effects of a diet high in fat and cholesterol in rabbits. During the study a rather strange anomaly became apparent: One subgroup of rabbits had 60% less atherosclerosis than the group as a whole, even though they ate the same diet. It was eventually discovered that the lab assistant who fed and cared for this particular group of rabbits took them out of their cages, petted them, and talked to them before feeding. The study was repeated twice with the same results and was reported in Science (Nerem, Levesque, & Cornhill, 1980).
Love, closeness and caring in families is incredibly important for health and well-being: In a remarkable study, reported by Stephen G Post – (Director, Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University and President of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love) 126 healthy young men were randomly selected in the early 1950s from the Harvard classes of 1952 and 1954 and given questionnaires about their perceptions of the love they felt from their parents.
Thirty-five years later, the men were followed up and 91% of participants who reported that they did not perceive themselves to have had warm relationships with their mothers had medically diagnosed midlife diseases (including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, duodenal ulcer, and alcoholism), as compared to only 45% of those who reported a warm relationship with their mothers. In addition, 82% of those indicated low warmth and closeness to their fathers had these diagnoses too, compared with 50% who reported high warmth and closeness.
Astoundingly, 100% of those who reported low warmth and closeness from both parents had diseases diagnosed in midlife, whereas only 47% who reported both parents as being warm and close had midlife diagnoses. Post states: “Although this Harvard study needs corroboration, it points to the now widely accepted biopsychosocial model that being loved, cared for, and supported by others is critically important to health and treatment efficacy (Goodkin & Visser, 2000).”
Women too are deeply affected by emotional stress. In the now very well-known 2004 study by Epel, Blackburn et al., two groups of women were studied: the first set were mums looking after healthy children and the second set were mums looking after chronically ill children. The researchers were keen to find out whether emotional stress can be correlated with premature ageing – as frequently people who are chronically stressed often look ‘haggard’. The researchers were particularly interested in whether stress has an effect on telomere length. Telomeres are DNA–protein complexes that cap chromosomal ends, promoting chromosomal stability. Think of them as being a bit like the plastic bits on the ends of your shoelaces – that stop your laces from unraveling. When cells divide, the telomere is not fully replicated because of limitations of the DNA polymerases in completing the replication of the ends of the linear molecules, leading to telomere shortening with every replication. Think of it as taking a photocopy of a photocopy – an how an image degrades with repeated copying.
It was found that the women with highest levels of perceived stress caring for their chronically ill children had telomeres that were, on average, shortened by one decade.
Altruism, happiness and health
Selflessness and altruism lead to happiness and health. Retired people over the age of 65 Retires older than 65 who volunteered to help others rated significantly higher on life satisfaction and will to live and demonstrated far fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety, and somatization.
Study after study shows that adult altruistic behaviour is associated with enhanced well-being, improved morale, self-esteem, and positive emotions. Furthermore, studies show that there is also a reduction in depressive symptoms among people who help others and higher levels of happiness, and evidence of enhanced overall wellness.
There is a phenomenon called the “Helper’s High”: In fact, research by Luks shows that two thirds of helpers reported a distinct physical sensation associated with helping:
About half report a “high” feeling
43% felt stronger and more energetic
28% felt warm
22% felt calmer and less depressed
21% felt greater self-worth
13% experienced fewer aches and pains
The effects of doing kind and compassionate actions can be measure physiologically: Older adults massaging infants had measurably lowerl levels of stress hormones, including salivary cortisol and plasma norepinephrine and epinephrine.
And finally, even just watching kindness and compassion in action makes you physically more resilient – as does thinking about love. Students were asked to watch a film about about Mother Teresa’s work, or they were given the task (!) of “dwelling on love”. After the two tasks were undertaken it was found that there was a significant increase in the protective salivary immunoglobin A (S-IgA).
 Danner, D. D., Snowdon, D. A., & Friesen, W. V. (2001). Positive emotions in early life and longevity: Findings from the nun study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 804–813.
 Fredrickson, B. L. (2003). The value of positive emotions: The emerging science of positive psychology is coming to under- stand why it’s good to feel good. American Scientist, 91, 330–335..
 Nerem, R. M., Levesque, M. J., & Cornhill, J. F. (1980). Social envi- ronment as a factor in diet-induced atherosclerosis. Science, 208, 1475–1476.
 Russek, L. G., & Schwartz, G. E. (1997). Feelings of parental caring predict health status in midlife: A 35 year follow-up of the Harvard Mastery of Stress Study. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 20, 1–13.
 Epel, S. E., Blackburn, E. S., Lin, J., Dhabhar, F. S., Adler, N. E., Morrow, J. D., & Cawthorn, R. M. (2004). “Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 101, 17312–17315.
 Hunter, K. I., & Linn, M. W. (1980–1981). Psychosocial differences between elderly volunteers and non-volunteers. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 12, 205–213.
 Midlarsky, E., & Kahana, E. (1994). Altruism in later life. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
 Musick, M. A., Herzog, A. R., & House, J. S. (1999). Volunteering and mortality among older adults: Findings from a national sample. Journals of Gerontology Series B-Psychological Sci- ences Social Sciences, 54(3), S173–S180.
 Krueger, R. F., Hicks, B. M., & McGue, M. (2001). Altruism and an- tisocial behavior: Independent tendencies, unique personality correlates, distinct etiologies. Psychological Science, 12, 397–402.
 Luks, A. (1988, October). Helper’s high: Volunteering makes people feel good, physically and emotionally. And like “runner’s calm,” it’s probably good for your health. Psychology Today, 22(10), 34–42.
 Field, M. F., Hernandez-Reif, M., Quintino, O., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn C. (1998). Elder retired volunteers benefit from giving message therapy to infants. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 17,
 McClelland, D., McClelland, D. C., & Kirchnit, C. (1988). The ef- fect of motivational arousal through films on salivary immuno- globulin A. Psychology and Health, 2, 31–52.
My article in Natural Health magazine is just out. It’s on how to grow (or re-grow) thick, youthful, glossy hair by summer - using products that I’ll bet you already have at home! As always, all my recommendations are thoroughly researched and proven-to-work.
Click on the link below the picture to download the full article - I do hope you enjoy it and please let me have your comments or questions below.
Jayney Goddard is one of the world's leading experts in the field of complementary medicine and natural healthcare. Her passion is natural anti-ageing; Jayney teaches people how to rewind their biological clocks so that they are more resilient to the diseases of ageing. The strategies Jayney uses are grounded in excellent science and have been shown to halt and even reverse those conditions we associate with ageing.