Nootropics to Defeat Stress and Anxiety
Nootropics are a class of cognitive enhancers: legal supplements designed to positively and safely impact various areas of brain function. Nootropics boast a broad range of functions from regenerating nerve growth to boosting memory retention to increasing information transmission between the brain’s two hemispheres and more. More than a few nootropics are notable for their stress-relieving effects. Here’s a brief rundown of three of the most popular.
L-Theanine for Anxiety and Stress
First up is L-Theanine. L-Theanine, an amino acid, is a compound that you’re likely to come across even outside of a nootropic regimen — it’s found in green tea, and is why the drink is often cited for anti-stress benefits.
So, how exactly does Theanine work?
Basically, it induces a slight boost of two neurotransmitters, GABA and glutamate. GABA receptors more or less work as a “downer” modulater for a brain, while glutamate is the “upper” control. Since L-Theanine hits both receptors, it lightly relaxes you while also boosting you attention. It also doesn’t make you drowsy, is effective at low doses (200 mg), and is remarkably well-tolerated in trials (it’s very safe). Theanine, essentially, offers users a calm, attentive state of mind.
Phenibut for Relaxation
Phenibut is a considerably more powerful alternative. This nootropic was developed by Russia in the ’70s to help relax astronauts dealing with stress and poor moods. It also deals with GABA, though not quite in the same way as Theanine.
Phenibut is itself a chemical derivative of GABA, and largely functions as an GABA-B agonist by binding to the GABA-B receptor. The stimulated GABA receptors send the brain into a very calm, relaxed state that, at higher doses, is potentially sedative. This also makes phenibut useful for deep, restful sleep.
Besides GABA, Phenibut also stimulates dopamine to some degree. Dopamine is the brain’s “reward center” or pleasure neurotransmitter, and low dopamine is often cited in individuals with mood disorders. Dopamine stimulation layers the calming effects of phenibut with a sense of well-being and accomplishment.
The downside? GABA receptors are notoriously sensitive, and will adapt to phenibut after only a few days of consecutive use. This means that higher and higher amounts will have to be taken to achieve similar effects. It also means that there’s a potential withdrawal profile following extended phenibut use, as documented on many forums. The conditioned GABA receptors will underperform, as habituated by the phenibut — potentially provoking a sense of uneasiness and pervasive anxiety.
This can be avoided by cycling the days Phenibut is taken, as well as by taking not taking it above recommended dosages.
Rhodiola for Natural Stress Relief
Rhodiola Rosea is a popular natural nootropic that can be used to reduce stress. As an herb that can alleviate stress and allow a person to better adapt to stress factors in their life, it’s considered an adaptogen. The plant has a long history of use that traces from Russia and Scandinavia all the way back to the Vikings, where it was used for both mental and physical fatigue.
On the more contemporary side of the fence, it performed well in a number of clinical trials, including ones that evaluated impact on mental function, fatigue, depression, and stress. Encouragingly, none of these trials have suggested any safety risks or severe side effects.
Rhodiola Rosea’s mechanisms of action are not completely documented. It’s theorized that the plant optimizes dopamine and serotonin levels due to monoamine oxidase inhibition — a mild MAO inhibitor. MAO inhibitors work by preventing the breakdown of monoamine neurotransmitters, and through that increasing their availability. Monoamine triggers crucial functions like emotions and cognition, while serotonine is dopamine’s counterpart. Instead of short, immediate rushes of pleasure, healthy serotonin levels promote a sense of well-being and focus.
Overall, Rhodiola Rosea offers an encouraging balance of notable effects on stress without compromising long-term safety. First-time nootropic users looking for a source of natural anti-stress benefits should consider starting with Rhodiola Rosea.
Each compound offers its own distinct form of anti-stress effects, and it’s worth emphasizing that everybody’s brain chemistry is slightly unique, and effectiveness may vary from person to person. For that reason it’s best to try a number of nootropics before settling on one that works best for you.