SMART PLANTS CHALLENGE // DAY FIVE
Mixing up your wellness routine with a nootropic addition can yield powerful and exciting results. For a list of natural nootropic resources, see pages 265-266 in Smart Plants. Here's how to pick a great one.
6 Questions to Ask
When Choosing A Natural Nootropic
1. What is the right form for me?
Before purchasing a nootropic, consider how you plan on using it. If you love making food, nootropic powders and tinctures will be your best bet so you can use them in recipes. (Find simple nootropic recipes in the Rituals recipe section of Smart Plants [page 238] including smoothies, lattes, and energy bites.) If cooking isn’t your forte, or time is limited, consider taking the nootropic as a capsule or pill instead. The “best way” to use natural nootropics is the way that you’ll use them most regularly.
2. What are the other ingredients?
It’s important to know what you’re taking. Although natural nootropics may often be advertised as a single plant, many actually contain a blend of several ingredients. Sometimes these blends are a good thing – they can include additional nootropics, so you don’t have to take other ingredients individually. Other times the blends simply contain extra food-based ingredients (for example, coconut or olive oil) that may make the nootropic more digestible or palatable. But occasionally, these extra ingredients are something you’d like to avoid – such as fillers, excess caffeine, sugars, or artificial additives. If you’re new to natural nootropics, consider taking single-ingredient products or simpler blends so you can learn what works best for you (and what may not). Either way, always read the ingredients carefully and make sure that every ingredient suits your diet.
3. Is it standardized?
Nature can be unpredictable: just as one apple may be sweeter than another, plants can vary in the level of healing nutrients they offer. That’s why naturopathic medicine often uses standardized products: a lab-tested, guaranteed quantity of the plant’s beneficial active compounds. This "actionable amount" ensures more accurate “dosing” and increases the likelihood of a successful outcome. You don’t always have to use standardized formulas, but especially in the cases of potent herbs and their phytochemicals (such as rhodiola, ashwagandha, and curcumin [sourced from turmeric]), using standardized forms can be very helpful to reap the benefits you desire.
4. Where does it come from?
Many cultivated nutrient-dense plants can easily absorb and carry toxins, such as chemicals or heavy metals, if grown in poor conditions. Even wild-gathered plants can absorb environmental contaminants depending on the location, or may be harvested unsustainably. Avoid these compromises by choosing organic varieties (and/or harvested sustainably where applicable), and buy from companies that test their products regularly, with plenty of transparency around chemical analysis.
5. Does this counteract with anything else I am taking or any other health concerns I currently have?
Natural nootropics and the phytonutrients they contain are some of the most powerful ingredients nature has to offer. While this means while they can offer exciting wellness gains, it's also possible that occasionally they may not be right for you. St. John’s Wort, for example, can counteract with certain prescribed antidepressants. Individuals with high sensitivities to stimulants may find even the low amounts of caffeine in matcha or cacao to be too much. If you are currently taking medications or have other health concerns, consult with a doctor to make sure natural nootropics are right for you. Remember: Natural nootropics should never have negative side effects, so if an ingredient doesn’t sit well with you, stop taking it.
6. Do I really need this?
More superfoods, natural nootropics, and supplements are not necessarily better. Strategize your health intentions and work with the ingredients that help solve a problem or contribute to a goal. The most significant positive results will be experienced from the natural nootropics you use to help correct existing deficiencies. Taking every natural nootropic in Smart Plants won’t be as effective as taking the handful that are personally the most helpful for YOU.
Hungry for more on nootropics? Join our Natural Nootropics 101 online course today!