Nootropics are substances that have a positive effect on our brain, enhancing its function and overall performance. During the last few years, there has been increased research into this area, as it seems to be very promising for both the treatment of certain diseases and improving brain function in healthy people. However, there is a common misconception that these smart drugs can only be obtained from external sources such as brain supplements. Here, we have compiled some of these compounds that are actually produced by our own bodies. Let’s take a look at some of them and learn more about the impressive things our bodies can do.
Improving brain performance is in the best interest of our bodies. This allows us to thrive in our daily lives and make the most of each day. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our body has mechanisms to produce smart drugs that can help our brain performance. Despite being produced endogenously, due to their function, we can call these molecules nootropics. Some of these molecules are L-DOPA, melatonin, 5-HTP, GABA, and L-cysteine. The majority of these are precursors of other molecules, such as the neurotransmitter dopamine. Let’s take a deeper look into some of these natural nootropics and what their functions are.
This amino acid is mainly known for being the key inhibitory molecule in your brain. It works as a neurotransmitter, meaning that it regulates communication between neurons. GABA is often in a balanced relationship with glutamate, which is the main excitatory neurotransmitter. Thanks to this balance, the brain can work properly without neurons dying due to excess in neuronal excitation, known as excitotoxicity. This balance is such that GABA is actually produced from glutamate to regulate its function on the neurons.
Therefore, GABA’s effects on the brain are related to a reduction of stress and anxiety. If there’s a GABA deficiency, the person might find themselves restless and anxious for no reason. A critical lack of GABA production might lead to a seizure. Likewise, excess amounts of GABA can put the patient into a coma. Current targets for GABA therapy are mood disorders as well as cases of insomnia. Furthermore, there’s present research regarding GABA’s role as part of brain supplements used in addiction recovery. It’s believed that it might mitigate the symptoms of withdrawal and help in the recovery process.
This is the precursor of N-Acetyl L-Cysteine, an important amino acid in the central nervous system. L-cysteine has an important function as it’s involved in the glutathione cycle. More specifically, it has an important role in the process of glutathione restoration, which is one of the most relevant antioxidants in the body. Although glutathione has become part of available brain supplements, L-Cysteine’s ability to cross the blood-brain barrier might make it more effective. Initially, this molecule wasn’t seen as one of the smart drugs. Instead, it was only used to treat acetaminophen poisoning.
However, recent studies have focused on the role of L-Cysteine in the treatment of depression, mood, and cognition. With the rise of nootropics, the question of their usefulness in brain function has risen. According to some reports, L-Cysteine might have a role in reducing depression and anxiety. Furthermore, it’s also involved in dopamine and glutamate regulation, both instrumental neurotransmitters for proper brain function.
Levodopa is easily one of the most studied amino acids in the brain. It’s the precursor of the catecholamines, which are adrenalin, noradrenaline, and dopamine. Their important functions make L-DOPA instrumental in human life. Due to the many pathologies associated with dysfunction or dysregulation of these catecholamines, L-Dopa has attracted scientific attention for years. This is how it was discovered that by itself, L-DOPA also affects neuronal growth and development.
Administration of L-DOPA has been historically used for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. As L-DOPA can cross the brain-blood barrier, just like many other smart drugs, it can exert its function there. Furthermore, it can also cause increased production of dopamine, the main catecholamine involved in Parkinson’s. Furthermore, it has been determined that L-DOPA has an important influence on memory and cognition as the precursor of dopamine.
Another one of the nootropics produced by our body is 5-HTP. This molecule is an amino acid, and, just like L-DOPA, it also works as a precursor. More specifically, it’s involved in serotonin production, although it’s not its main precursor, which is 5-Hydroxytriptamine (5-HT). 5-HTP has been demonstrated to be useful in improving a person’s mood, and it’s often indicated for the treatment of mood disorders such as depression.
Out of all the smart drugs, this is perhaps one of the most widely studied, and it is sold in numerous countries for mental health purposes. Thanks to its beneficial effects on sleep, 5-HTP has an important role in brain performance. During sleep, brain development takes place as well as neuronal network consolidation. Improving this area of your life can also help your memory skills.
We are naturally able to produce our own nootropics, which are involved in making sure there’s a balance between opposing neurotransmitters in our brains. On certain occasions, there might be a dysregulation of these natural-occurring smart drugs, which causes negative effects on our overall performance. This is why these endogenous molecules have been studied and considered for the production of exogenous brain supplements. There is developing evidence regarding their in enhancing brain performance.