Vendor brand reviews link found at the bottom of the article.
In reading my articles, you notice they usually are full of scientific citations. Since this article is my own subjective opinion and experience, you won’t find any such references in this review.
And if, after reading this article, you still need or want to see the supporting science for these supplements, please refer to previous articles, at the bottom. After 14 years of biohacking with heavy nootropic supplement experimentation, here are my favorite supplements for cognitive, energy, and mood enhancement.
#1 Krill or Vegan Algae Oil
As Prince said, “Simply the best.” With research moving into the evaluation of algae and krill omega-3’s compared to fish and cod liver triglyceride forms, my experience of both krill and algae oil continues to be my number one choice.
We all need omega-3’s, as a common nutrient deficiency, and increasingly we are viewing them as the “building blocks of the human brain.” Newer studies are telling us phospholipid omega-3’s are suitable choline sources like CDP-choline and Alpha-GPC, because of effects from phosphatidylcholine delivering significant mood and cognitive stimulation.
Krill both increases mental sharpness and my mood and seems to do so more effectively than algae oil. With my individual depression chemistry and history, studies confirm omega-3 effectiveness even more so for those with a history of depression and no history of anxiety.
Recent studies are exploring how phospholipid omega-3 forms support the endocannabinoid system and how these may be of top value for daily cannabis users for support and repair along with a lowering of THC tolerance. The benefits of omega-3’s to the cardiovascular and other primary body systems remain well supported by critical nutrient benefits.
#2 Ginkgo Biloba
In my experience, one problem with generic ginkgo Biloba supplements is the relative lack of a therapeutic dose, as we see in the typical 120 mg capsules. Despite using this puny ineffective dose in studies, the evidence supporting ginkgo for mood, cardiovascular, and cognitive enhancing benefits remains.
Ginkgo acts as a monoamine oxidize inhibitor (MAOI), which means interactions could occur when using prescription serotonin medications, such as SSRIs or MAOIs. Always consult your medical professional before engaging in any health or medical strategy.
When I began testing ginkgo in 6,000 mg extracts, this is when the effects became obvious. In this patented standardized form and dose, you’ll find the best ginkgo studies, which is much more the norm in the “generic” supplement form we see in Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia.
As the oldest and widely used and studied the plant for memory improvement, ginkgo has several mechanisms of action, including effects on serotonin and dopamine. Besides its benefits on memory and mood, it increases nitric oxide for blood flow, while lowering diastolic, systolic blood pressure, and the risk of blood clotting.
#3 Curcumin BCM-95 or Longvida
Curcumin, similar to Ginkgo Biloba, is a natural anti-depressant. Because of the potential for drug interactions, those on psychiatric medications, especially SSRI and MAOI prescription drugs, should consult with their doctors and pharmacists.
In the active form of turmeric root, curcumin is a popular anti-inflammatory and well-studied plant for the promotion of body and brain benefits. While turmeric kills cancer cells in Petri dishes, its biggest problem is its lack of absorbability in the body, causing us to use absorption enhancers such as black pepper (piperine or bioperine) and fat.
I use curcumin in the BCM-95 and/or Longvida forms, in which the former shows the best effects on mood and the latter on cognition. In line with studies, I subjectively feel the effects of curcumin more on serotonin with lower doses, while effects on dopamine come with higher dosages.
Since we cannot test for serotonin levels, how do we know whether serotonin is being activated? Usually, an individual will subjectively report visually seeing things brighter and lighter when serotonin is being released.
#4 Cold Brew Coffee/ Matcha Tea/ Cocoa
Who doesn’t just love coffee? I like to start my day with a cold brew coffee with coconut milk and stevia.
Throughout the day, I’ll have a few matcha green teas and/ cocoas, while are great catechols food sources fueling our dopamine activity. While raw cacao has about 33% more polyphenol antioxidants, cocoa is easier on the stomach and much less bitter and smoother tasting, so I go with cocoa.
Those with anxiety or stress issues will carry on much better with cocoa or matcha tea with lower caffeine intake. Besides DLPA, cocoa contains theobromine, a caffeine alternative acting as a long-acting “smoother” stimulant, with many users reporting it as silky smooth on their nerves.
I consider caffeine a daily essential “whole food”. Besides mood and cognitive benefits, it’s an effective appetite suppressant allowing me to delay eating until 2 pm, which increases my energy and mood and counterintuitively my appetite.
#5 D-Ribose/ Creatine (micronized)
As part of my “workout stack”, creatine and d-ribose play a big role. While creatine is a natural substance in the body, d-ribose is a non-glucose spiking sugar playing a critical role as part of our DNA.
Our primary energy source is adenosine triphosphate, (ATP), which both creatine and d-ribose can stimulate. By increasing our mitochondrial energy at the cellular level, this potent combo improves our brain power along with athletic performance.
Various studies are proving these mitochondria supplements as effective in lifting our mood besides cognition and physical function. In physical effects, studies show creatine increases strength, while d-ribose improves endurance.
I use micronized creatine because of its smoother effects on the gut. About 15 minutes before my workout, I take 6 grams of creatine with 2 grams of d-ribose, and then I’m off to the races.
#6 Mucuna Pruriens
For all-day long-acting dopamine mood-boosting supplements, a non-habit forming extract from the African velvet bean called mucuna pruriens is my all-time favorite. In terms of 9 to 5 energy, focus, and motivation, nothing stacks up to mucuna.
The extract is so effective at raising dopamine levels; we use it for dementia patients, as in those with Alzheimer’s disease. While we find the active compound in mucuna, L-DOPA, in use for the dementia drug levodopa, mucuna supplements offer us a lower percentage “full-spectrum” plant-based natural option.
Setting the tone for the day, I take mucuna in the morning with my coffee. I appreciate mucuna as an adaptogen, with health-protecting effects, especially for the protection of the brain and dopamine receptors.
As we use levodopa in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, there is some support showing mucuna pruriens with a standardized 15–40% L-DOPA is superior to the pharmaceutical L-DOPA, possibly because of the other alkaloids in the bean. Interestingly enough, the bean has trace amounts of tryptamine, a naturally occurring psychedelic compound.
#7 Nicotine Lozenge
As a workout enthusiast, I’ve used an array of pre-workout supplements to stimulate energy and focus. No gym supplement works for boosting my focus and drive and a low dose of 2 mg nicotine lozenge.
Now while this might seem strange to use nicotine as a non-smoker, those with addictive histories might want to abstain from trying out nicotine, as there are reports of individuals becoming addicted. This being said, I will only use one tablet once a day for my workouts.
Nicotine, unlike mucuna, is a short-acting substance and not the best choice for boosting hourly daytime energy and mental production. Again, I find it most effective for my 50-minute workouts, when engaging the body, and would not consider or advocate the use of actual cigarettes to achieve these effects.
While we recognize nicotine to boost nicotinic acetylcholine, as the only compound capable of doing this, it as well stimulates other neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine in delivering profound cognitive-enhancing effects. An interesting study is ongoing in France about how nicotine might be protective against the coronavirus, COVID-19 with the same actions.
Agmatine helps with workouts but as well feels like it delivers a “grounding” effect. It seems to deliver clarity and a greater sense of patience in scenarios wherein I normally am not as patient as I otherwise would be.
An amino acid metabolite from another amino acid, L-arginine, agmatine is a popular athletic performance enhancer. Matching its very strong anecdotal support within the nootropics community, the initial agmatine studies are very promising.
We believe the antidepressant effect on serotonin is because of lowering N-methyl-D-aspartate, (NMDA) activity in the brain. Likewise, we also see some initial and promising evidence for cardiovascular and neuroprotection by this same NMDA “antagonism” and nitric oxide production.
Studies have used 2 to 3 grams for dosage. Many biohackers are now using it in the intranasal form and experience even better results.
#9 Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s mane along with curcumin and ginkgo Biloba is a potent cognitive enhancing supplement. Many report mood benefits with its use, however, I mainly experience it as a cognition booster.
While this one is the least favorite of the mood and cognitive stimulants I use, it remains the focus of scientific studies with great hopes of it being a supplement for neurogenesis. This means to say some believe it can successfully cause the formation of new neuronal connections in the brain.
As the popularity of lion’s mane as a nootropic cognitive booster grows, we may ultimately view it as the ultimate “smart drug”. Until then, many continue to use it with great excitement and reports of it improving their brainpower.
For me, lion’s mane helps my focus and has a grounding effect similar to agmatine. And it seems to pair well with the other supplements I take as a nice bookend.
I hope you enjoyed reading my list.
What are your favorite mood and cognitive enhancing supplements?
Would you drop a comment below?
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