I Tried Nootropics for Focus—And Here’s What Happened
There comes a point when one can’t rely on coffee alone to jump-start the day. Sacrilege? Maybe. But it became true for me a few months ago when I started having serious brain fog and inability-to-focus issues, thanks to inconsistent sleep patterns, anxiety and chronic illness. I’ll be the first to say that my goal should have been (and was) to get to the bottom of those symptoms, especially as they relate to my Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, but I also needed a stop-gap boost to provide a little assistance on the days I had serious writing or strategizing to get done.
Since my one cup of coffee per day stopped being a reliable source of extra energy, I decided to try something else—nootropics. They’re a hot supplement right now, one that claims to improve cognitive function, memory, creativity or motivation, in healthy individuals. Here’s what happened when I gave nootropics a go.
My Problem: Brain Fog, Memory Issues, Lack of Focus
Typically, brain fog, memory issues and lack of focus are all signs of a bigger issue brewing in my body, so I (and you should too, if you’re experiencing any of these) began by seeing my integrative doctor, a naturopath and my therapist. I’d been experiencing cyclical issues related to my cognitive function, in ways that hadn’t been this bad since before I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis two years ago.
Usually, I’m a hound for details—I remember dates without putting them on my calendar; I easily recall minute specifics about conversations; I can tell you the price of nearly any product I regularly buy at the grocery store, down to the cent. But in the last few months, I found myself struggling to remember general conversation topics I’d discussed with my husband. I’d forget that I ordered something for our new house on Amazon, only to be surprised when it arrived in the mail. I had trouble recalling the name of a good college friend’s spouse.
It was like my brain couldn’t work as fast as it usually did—and it was working harder to do tasks that were way more menial. I knew the details I kept forgetting were filed away somewhere, but I just couldn’t find the right cabinet.
On top of that, I was sometimes having trouble putting together sentences (and for a writer, that’s a totally separate kind of scary). I’d trail off in the middle of conversations and not be able to get back on track. I’d find myself trying to remember a certain (widely used) word, only to give up and start Googling synonyms. I felt like I couldn’t put the puzzle of my work and life together in the way I was used to.
I brought all that to my team of practitioners, and when I was in a good routine with supplements, was waiting on some bloodwork to come back and was using mindfulness and meditation to address my anxiety, I wondered if there was anything else I could do to, albeit temporarily, hone my focus. That’s when I heard about The Nue Co.’s Nootro-Focus.
My Solution: The Nue Co.’s Nootro-Focus Nootropics
Nootropics have been around since the 1960s, when synthetic formulas were developed to enhance brain function. The term wasn’t officially coined until 1972 when Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea, a Romanian psychologist and chemist, laid out the five characteristics a drug had to have in order to be called a “nootropic”:
- It should enhance learning and memory.
- It should help the brain function under disruptive conditions, like hypoxia (low oxygen) or electroconvulsive shock.
- It should protect the brain from chemical or physical assaults, such as those from certain drugs.
- It should increase the efficacy of neuronal firing control mechanisms in cortical and sub-cortical regions of the brain.
- It should have very few (if any) side effects; and it should have extremely low toxicity.
All of those seem to lend themselves to a more natural, non-synthetic solution, right? Exactly. And that’s part of the reason that “smart supplements” have been gaining popularity in the wellness world for the last few years. A 2016 study demonstrated that natural brain boosters like Gingko biloba and American ginseng can boost brain function and make the brain healthier over time.
These, and other supplemental combinations, can work to increase the blood circulation to the brain and, at the same time, provide important nutrients, and increase energy and oxygen flow to the brain. They can also reduce inflammation, help protect against toxins and stimulate new neuron cells, which can all lead to increased brain activity and enhanced thinking + memory abilities.
With all that going for it, when I heard about The Nue Co.’s new Nootro-Focus, I was intrigued to give it a try, on top of the other treatments I was working on with my doctors. According to the description, the ingredients in Nootro-Focus are clinically proven to increase neurotransmitter activity and fuel the brain, while improving memory, attention + focus. It doesn’t contain caffeine, and it’s been designed for daily use.
In the short term, Nootro-Focus is meant to work to reduce restlessness and sharpen mental clarity, while increasing Alpha brain waves and helping you zone in on the task in front of you. Within six weeks, they say, the ingredients in the formula have been clinically proven to increase the production of crucial “brain fuel” ATP (adenosine triphosphate) by 13.6 percent, and increase the formation of brain cell membranes by 26 percent.
Their clinical studies show that memory and recall is improved within six weeks, while nerve growth factor (NGF) aids neurogenesis and protects the brain, long-term. Worth a shot, I thought.
The Results: More Focus, Better Recall, Faster Work
When I tipped my head back to swallow my first two pills (they recommend two capsules with breakfast every morning), I expected to experience nothing. No impact. These types of supplements usually don’t work on me in any capacity, except sometimes a placebo effect. I skipped my usual cup of coffee as part of the experiment, and got to work.
I was completely taken aback when 30 minutes later, I felt energized, focused and streamlined in a way I hadn’t in months. I was tearing through emails; I wrote an article in 75 percent of the time it normally took me. My brain felt like it was working at its normal speed, instead of slowly chugging along at half time. Even my tired eyes felt perkier.
I definitely chalked it up to a placebo effect, even though I’d gone in with serious doubts. I figured I’d just ramped myself up in some way, psychologically, and my adrenaline was fueling me. But then I took the recommended dose again the next day, and each day for the next two weeks—and my ability to concentrate, my clear-headed thinking and my faster neuron firing (at least that’s what it felt like to me) continued, even though my sleep patterns hadn’t changed.
After 14 work days of using The Nue Co.’s Nootro-Focus, I was pretty convinced that these supplements were certainly boosting my brain in a way that caffeine couldn’t. I can’t say much about the long-term impact because it’s supposed to take six weeks of daily usage to increase recall and memory, but the short-term benefits have been well worth it for me. Overall, I feel more in control of harnessing my thoughts and focus to corral them to do when I need, instead of feeling led by my brain fog. I feel like I can put sentences together more effectively, and I feel less like I’m floating through my day.
I haven’t tried other brain-enhancing supplements, but I’m fully on board with the effects of this one. I’m still going after the underlying issues I know my chronic illnesses are contributing to, but for now, The Nue Co.’s Nootro-Focus is a great addition to my routine to help with focus, mental clarity and memory.
Want more natural treatments for anxiety or stress? Read how this writer tried cold showers for anxiety, and how this writer gave up coffee for matcha lattes to try and calm her nerves.
JOIN THE WELL COMMUNITY
Sign up to get the latest well insiders stories delivered to your inbox every week.