Below, I’ve given a technical breakdown of a couple main supplements that have played a big role in my personal self-healing and in the self-healing of clients and friends in my world.
Keep in mind that the primary goal of these neurological and anti-stress supports is to give us the room to do our deeper work of allowing the organic and energetic powers of the individual to create a newer, safer and more expansive baseline from which to operate. No supplement or cutting-edge pharmaceutical is a panacea without a consistent, dedicated daily practice to: breathwork, meditation, boundary-setting and ritual. At least, that’s how I’ve come to see it. Please take a close read at my research analyses below and I welcome any questions or comments.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. The items recommended below have been selected from my years working closely with medical professionals and dietitians, as well as from experience reported by clients and in my own experience. As with anything related to your body and your health, do your own detailed, honest research to determine what choices are best for you. Where possible, I have included links to authoritative web resources that should empower your decision-making. Please check with your primary care provider before taking any medications or supplements.
How to Take It: It seems doing a 60 or 90-day course of Ashwagandha in pill form could yield some benefits for addressing stress and inflammation. Personally, I enjoy a tea each day that includes Ashwagandha.
Two of my favorites in this category are the ORGANIC INDIA TULSIA ASHWAGANDHA TEA and KSM-66 in pill form (300 mg twice daily). These, of course, are combined with other wonderful anti-stress and vitality supplements. Really it’s all about the tea for me, and if I can put a little “Ash” in there to help the brain de-stress without making myself tired or foggy, why not?
Warnings: If you have stomach/GI problems (including ulcer), low blood pressure, diabetes or auto-immune diseases, be careful about overuse of Aswagandha.
Also, pregnant women should avoid it.
Neuro-Max II (nootropic supplement)
Okay, here is where it gets interesting. I’ve been big into nootropic mushrooms for over 2 years now. There is a growing cadre of supporters that swear by the power of neuro-enhancing mushrooms. ‘Nootropic’ is the buzzword here. It’s not just mushrooms that can fill this category. It’s anything that can claim to enhance cognition, brain function and memory.
This supplement throws everything at the ‘nootropic’ wall, so to speak. I think this is a good tool to put in your toolkit during periods of high stress or during recovery from addiction, depression or overwhelm.
I’ve taken the time to break down the fundamental ingredients in this supplement. Even if you’re not taking this supplement specifically, many of these ingredients are common to the world of cognitive support. It’s well worth a read so you know what to look out for when considering your choices or harvesting recommendations from others.
This amino acid has varied impacts. Scientifically, it seems to be most effective when individuals are under extreme stress or in stressful situation (such as extreme cold or loud noise). Popularly, it is used to improve memory and cognition. There is also promising evidence that if you are sleep-deprived, it might help you recover some of your faculties. Boy, I wish I’d known about this supplement when I had two babies under 2 in the house! I think the consensus points to the benefits of tyrosine when you’re particularly stressed, in a type of fight-or-flight mode. So, adding it to the mix should be helpful when stress due to largely external factors spike.
This literally means a chemical or fat that attaches to phosphate group, such as lecithin. So, what is it good for? Well, phospholipids are essential to the structure of cell membranes and are abundant in brain tissues and nerve cell membranes. They form a type of membrane that makes them both good at protecting cell structures, while still having assorted hydrophilic properties. As far as I understand it, the presence of this complex increases bio-availability of the other nutrients in this supplement, perhaps also aiding in transmission across cell membranes.
Bacopa Monnieri Herb Extract
An ayurvedic herb that also goes by the names ‘waterhyssop’ or ‘herb of grace’, bacopa has a storied history of usefulness in healing. There is limited scientific evidence for the effectiveness of Bacopa in improving memory and cognition; some good studies have been done and so it bears consideration in your anti-aging, anti-memory loss regimen. I like the idea of ingesting something called ‘herb of grace’, so maybe that thought helps me feel more calm and, from that calmer place, I’m able to think more clearly. You might experience slight stomach upset if you were to ingest this in larger doses for an extended period of time. I think in the way it is delivered with Neuro-Max II, it can’t hurt, and there is promising research to suggest that its inclusion is likely beneficial.
Pureleaf Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract
Ginkgo is from the Ginkgo biloba tree and is a common Chinese herbal remedy. Please take a close look at the resources below to see if Gingko is safe for you to consume, as folks with certain food allergies, seizure disorders and those taking anti-depressants should be especially wary. Also, Ginkgo is not recommended for nursing or pregnant women.
As for understanding some of the research, I’m just going to quote directly from WebMD as I like the simplicity with which they distill the complex truth about Gingko:
There's good evidence that ginkgo might ease leg pain caused by clogged arteries. It might also help with some other circulation problems. In addition, ginkgo may relieve PMS symptoms, like breast tenderness and mood changes.
Researchers have studied ginkgo for many other conditions, including ADHD, depression and other psychological conditions, multiple sclerosis, and tinnitus from a vascular origin. Some people are also using ginkgo to prevent high altitude sickness, though studies have not yet established that it’s effective for that. Many uses of ginkgo show promise, but more research needs to be done.
For the purposes of cognition and preventing memory loss, multiple sources contend that Ginkgo can actually help people with moderate dementia and Alzheimer’s. For healthy folks looking to get an edge, I would say that Ginkgo likely isn’t going to do much to give a real edge to your cognitive faculties -- but, the fact that it might improve circulation and regulate mood are probably going to be equally as impactful to your higher cognitive functions. I think a lot of what we consider to be neuro-enhacement is really just easing unnecessary stress fatigue on the brain so that it can function from a calmer, less fight-or-flight triggered baseline.
Keep in mind that I don’t recommend Neuro-Max II or any of the derivative ingredients specifically for the promise that you’re going to suddenly acquire superhuman mental faculties.
Typically, clients I work with start our process in a state of distress, confusion, psychological fatigue, overwhelm, mental fixation or obsession that they would like to alleviate. The reason that I ask folks to take some combination of neuro-enhancing or nootropic supplements is simply to give the brain a break. It’s one of many tools we use. We take the time (typically 2-3 months) to put in some supports that allow the brain to rest easier so stress levels and mood fluctuations ebb. We create the space for us to dig deeply into breathwork, meditation and trauma processing that allows the body’s natural prana or qi to take over and do what it does best -- heal and adapt according to its own inner harmony. In essence, we get the brain and the thinking mind out of the way, so that we can harness a deeper well of intelligence.
In this space of greater inner expansiveness, we develop new ‘thinking’ and ‘being’ tools that make the next phase of earthly development markedly more profound and deeply spiritual for the individual, dare I say even more enjoyable.
Organic Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus)
Of all the nootropic mushrooms, Lion’s Mane has been studied the most and is most widely accepted as a neural enhancement or, at the very least, a protector against accelerated decay or degradation of neurons. It is also high in antioxidants, helping to combat inflammation and boosting immune defence.
Although it has been studied widely, the evidence in human trials is limited. Side-effects are limited, although you should still consult your doctor before consuming it regularly in mild to moderate doses. It’s likely very safe and likely doing good things for your cognition and durability against mental aging after middle age. Again, though, this might have more to do with its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, than any magic bullet enhancement to neurons themselves.
Ashwagandha Root Extract
See Section Above
Huperzine A (Huperzia Serrata Leaf Standardized Extract)
Another typically Chinese herbal supplement, known colloquially as Chinese Club Moss, this has traditionally been consumed to support brain function and prevent memory loss. The purified alkaloid form Huperzine A has been used shown to have neuroprotective effects and is used for treatments against Alzheimer’s and dementia in Asia.