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Brain Health

Green Tea boosts my Motivation

Green tea motivationGreen tea is associated with many health benefits including reducing heart disease, reducing bad cholesterol, and aiding in weight loss. But one benefit of drinking green tea that I was not expecting was the increased motivation aspect.

I’ve been an avid black tea drinker for as long as I can remember, but black tea does not have much of an effect on me, in fact I only drink black tea because of habit and because I like the taste. In the morning I usually drink coffee to give me a slight motivation boost, but one day I wondered if green tea would be better for a motivation boost given that it increases dopamine levels in the brain in several ways.

One way green tea boosts dopamine levels is that it is a COMT inhibitor. COMT is a natural enzyme found in our brains that degrades several motivational neurotransmitters, including dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. Green tea contains catechins, a natural flavonol and antioxidant. Catechins act as COMT inhibitors as well as MAO-A and MAO-B inhibitors. Monoamine oxidase type B degrades dopamine so by inhibiting MAO-B as well as COMT, green tea raises dopamine levels in two different mechanisms. But it doesn’t stop there, green tea also contains L-Theanine, a psychoactive amino acid that increases dopamine and GABA levels in the brain.

I started drinking green tea about 2 weeks ago and already I’m feeling more motivated to do productive tasks. It’s much easier for me to work on a task and finish it. I also don’t procrastinate as much I did in the past and believe me I am a heavy procrastinator. One thing that I really like about this increased motivation is that it feels natural, unlike the forced motivation of amphetamines I can stop doing whatever it is I’m doing and do something else.

I only drank one bag of green tea a day. I tried drinking two bags of green tea once, but I felt no different than if I had drank only one. I am more than certain the effect is cumulative as I did not get any increased motivation the first couple of days of drinking green tea.

The brand I used was St. Dalfour organic original Green Tea. You can get it for free by using the link I gave you. It gives you $5 your first order from that site, you just have to pay for shipping.

You can also take green tea extract, which contains significantly more catechins than the regular green tea bags, which would result in a higher COMT and MAO-B inhibition, thus increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain to an even higher amount. I find the regular green tea bags to work just fine for me when it comes to increased motivation, however, green tea extract will also provide many other benefits such as increased weight loss when compared to green tea bags.

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Brain Health Health

Top 5 Herbs & Supplements for Sleep and Relaxation

If you’re having trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep at night then you definitely should not go the pharmaceutical way as those drugs develop tolerance quickly and you can even get physically addicted to them. The pharmaceutical drugs are for short-term use only. Long-term use of those drugs will have negative consequences on your body’s ability to sleep. For example, the drug Zolpidem, or Ambien, is a popular option for treating insomnia.

Zolpidem is actually not a very good choice for improving sleep quality. This drug is great for initiating sleep, but is poor at maintaining sleep as its half-life is only 2 to 3 hours. Taking this drug continuously for a month may result in a tolerance build up and a horrible withdrawal. The effects of withdrawal from this particular drug may include insomnia, seizures, benzodiazepine-like withdrawal symptoms, and others.

Aside from Zolpidem, there are many pharmaceutical drugs intended to treat insomnia, like Benzodiazepines, Non-benzodiazepines, Alcohol, Opioids, Antidepressants, and Antihistamines, however none of these are intended for long-term use and some, like Alcohol and Opioids, actually harm sleep quality.

Herbs and supplements, on the other hand, are great for long-term use and many of the herbs do not develop tolerance or develop very little. They are also not physically addictive, unless of course you abuse them and take an absurd amount.

So without further ado, here are my top 5 herbs and supplements for relaxing and falling asleep.

5) Melatonin

Melatonin for Sleep

Melatonin is the hormone responsible for telling our bodies that it’s time for sleep. With the invention of light bulbs and other artificial sources of light came a problem; melatonin secretion was stopped. You see, Humans follow a circadian rhythm where they sleep at night and awake in the morning, however, the way the body knows when it is night time or not is by judging the amount of light in the environment; when it’s dark, it’s nighttime, when it’s bright, it’s morning. Light bulbs hindered this by causing the environment to always be bright and effectively stopping Melatonin secretion; without Melatonin, the body does not know when it’s time for it to sleep. It is easy to develop insomnia by having insufficient Melatonin secretion at night.

Aside from sleep, some of Melatonin’s other benefits include:

  • Antioxidant properties
  • Stimulating the Immune system
  • Helping prevent cancer
You can supplement with two different versions of melatonin, instant-release and timed-release. Generally, timed-release is better than the instant-release because melatonin has a short half-life of 35 to 50 minutes. Timed-release melatonin offers a smoother, longer-lasting effect.
Do not take more than 6 mg of Melatonin at a time otherwise you may wake up feeling not well rested and fatigued.

4) L-Theanine

Green tea theanineFound in green tea and black tea, this amino acid is great for relaxation, focus and stress reduction. When taken together with caffeine this combo will provide heightened alertness without the jittery feel of caffeine. Taken in low doses, this compound will reduce stress while simultaneously improving mood and cognition in a synergistic manner with caffeine.

Taken in high doses, however, it becomes a great sleeping aid by increasing GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety.

L-Theanine works best when taken with melatonin as L-Theanine itself does not induce sleep.

You can also take L-Theanine in the morning with your coffee. It will work in a synergistic manner with caffeine to reduce stress, improve mood as well as cognition.

I personally found Doctor’s Best Suntheanine L-Theanine to have the most noticable effect on me. It contains 150 mg of a patented form of L-Theanine, Suntheanine. I must admit the effects of Suntheanine were much more noticable than the regular L-Theanine.. It felt like someone had taken a weight off of my head. Stressful situations were much more manageable. My social anxiety as well as my general anxiety was significantly reduced.

3) Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha for Sleep

I actually did a review on Ashwagandha here. The most noticable effect from this herb was the sedation and relaxation it had on me. About 30 minutes after taking it I became very tired and sleepy. It usually takes me 30 to 60 minutes to fall asleep, but with Ashwagandha I can fall asleep in less than 10 minutes.

Before I started taking Ashwaganadha I would wake up 1-3 times during sleep and what this means is that I was not getting quality sleep. If you wake up a lot during sleep then what happens is you don’t get the proper rest you need and you actually end up sleeping longer. Deep sleep is what we all need in order to get rested as well as get one very important hormone released into our body, human growth hormone. This hormone is very important in building muscle, stimulating the immune system, but more importantly losing weight. Yes, HGH does in fact make you lose fat weight and put on muscle simultaneously.

So, Ashwagandha can in fact help you lose weight indirectly by allowing you to get the deep sleep your body requires. Furthermore, Ashwagandha also regulates thyroid function. The thyroid gland is what controls your body’s metabolism rate. A higher metabolism rate results in more fat loss. Therefore, Ashwagandha not only helps you lose weight by indirectly stimulating more HGH release, but it also regulates thyroid function which maintains a healthy metabolism necessary for fat loss. Ashwagandha has many other benefits, some of which include:

  • Increased Libido
  • Increased energy
  • Improved memory
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Reduced stress

There are many Ashwagandha products out there, but the one I used was Jarrow Formulas Sensoril extract. Jarrow Formulas has a high percentage of Withanolides extract, a minimum of 8%. Withanolides are one of the active compounds found in Ashwagandha and so the higher the amount of Withanolides, the more likely the product will work. And this goes for the majority of herbs out there; the higher the amount of the active compounds, the more likely the herb is going to have an effect on you.

Now Foods also sells Ashwagandha extract with a minimum of 4.5% Withanolides. The difference between the two is not big, but Now Foods offers 450 mg of Ashwagandha root-only extract in one capsule whereas Jarrow Formulas offers 225 mg of roots and leaves extract. Remember though, Jarrow has a minimum of 8% Withanolides so it contains 18 mg of Withanolides whereas Now Foods has a minimum of 4.5% which would entail 20.25 mg of Withanolides.

I recommend getting the Jarrow Formulas Ashwagandha if and only if you are looking for enhanced sleep quality. If you are looking for enhanced sleep quality as well possibly getting some other benefits from Ashwagandha then I recommend getting Now Foods Ashwagandha extract.

2) Bacopa monnieri

Bacopa for Sleep and relaxation

My absolutely favorite herb. This herb is just amazing. The amount of benefits this herb gives is unreal. Here are just some of the many benefits this herb provides:

  • Enhanced sleep quality
  • Enhanced memory
  • Enhanced concentration
  • Enhanced cognitive function
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Reduced depression
  • Reduced stress
  • Antioxidant properties

Many of us have trouble remembering simple everyday things, like where we put the keys, if we turned off the stove or not, or did I take my pill(s) today? Bacopa not only enhances short-term and long-term memory, but it also enhances working memory.

The night I took Bacopa was the best sleep I have ever gotten in the past 4 years. Bacopa just took me out. I was able to reduce my sleep hours from 10 hours to only 8 hours of sleep. Also, my dreams were very intense and vivid and upon waking up I could actually remember what happened in my dreams.

I only took one caplet of Himalaya Herbal Healthcare bacopa, which contains 66.5 mg of the known active ingredients. I can only wonder what would have happened if I took a more potent source, like Planetary Herbals, which contains 90 mg of the active ingredients.

Bacopa, for me at least, was very potent. I only recommend you use this product if you are really having trouble falling asleep or getting some quality sleep because this herb will make you sleep like a baby. I do not recommend taking this herb if you have work or school in the morning or anything that you have to be at before a certain time because you might just sleep through your alarm clock. However, when you wake up you’ll feel very well rested and energized and ready to get on with your day.

1) Valeriana officinalis

Valerian Root Sleep

Valeriana officinalis is one of the most potent herbs for treating insomnia and enhancing overall sleep quality. Aside from its positive effects on sleep, Valeriana provides many other benefits including:

  • Reduced Anxiety
  • Reduced Tension
  • Reduced Excitability
  • Reduced Stress

Not only that, it also sedates agitated individuals while stimulating fatigued individuals. It is thought that this herb brings a balance to the system.

Valeriana is very useful for people who have trouble falling asleep and is also very useful to those who wake up during sleep. Waking up during sleep reduces the amount of deep sleep your body gets which means you don’t get the adequate rest you need so you wake up feeling fatigued and sleepy.

Several of my friends and family members swear by Valeriana for enhancing sleep quality. I personally find Valeriana to have the most effect on my sleep out of all the above mentioned herbs and supplements, as do my friends and family.

I take Now Foods Valerian Root everyday and it doesn’t seem to have lost any efficacy, in fact, I think the longer I took Valerian Root the better the effects were.

What’s best about it is there are no dependence issues; if one day I do not want to take a capsule I’ll be able to sleep just fine without it, but of course not as well as I would have had I taken it.

Bonus: All-In-One sleep formula

If you want to take all the above mentioned herbs and supplements, but don’t want to take 5 pills at a time then I recommend getting Irwin Naturals Power to Sleep PM. Though it does not contain Bacopa, it provides all the mentioned herbs and supplements and more.

Categories
Brain Health Health

Does Ashwagandha actually work

Ashwagandha Herb Review

Ashwagandha herb review

With many herbs and products appearing on the Internet, one has to wonder if any of these actually work.

Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng, and Winter cherry, is a herbal plant that has been used for many decades to treat various health conditions.

I was interested in Ashwagandha for its ability to regenerate neurons and reconstruct synapses. I was hoping neuron regeneration and synaptic reconstruction would be able to improve my stress-induced cognitive impairment. Sadly, it did not.

My experience with Ashwagandha

I took 1 capsule of Jarrow Formulas Sensoril Ashwagandha for 30 days before bed. Each capsule contained 225 mg of Ashwagandha root and leaf extract standardized to 8% withanolides.

The Bad

The first day I took it I noticed my sleep quality was altered. I fell into a deeper sleep than usual and though this should mean I should be able to wake up feeling refreshed and energized, it in fact did the opposite. Now I already wake up feeling fatigued and sleepy, but when I took the Ashwagandha the effect was much more pronounced. Before taking the herb, I used to sleep for 10-12 hours at a time, on average. After I started taking the herb, I would sleep for more than 12 hours each day. This effect lasted the entire 30 days I was taking the herb.

The Good

As I mentioned before, my energy level had also suffered. Upon waking up I felt very tired and drinking coffee had little effect on my energy level. The fatigue would last anywhere from 3 to 5 hours each day after the night I took the herb.

On the other hand, my memory improved a bit. I was able to recall both short-term and long-term memories much more efficiently. My verbal fluency also improved somewhat.

One effect that I really enjoyed from taking this herb was my body was consistently warm. It wasn’t hot like as if though I had a fever, but it just felt bliss. It was like it was at the perfect temperature. I think this was due to the fact that Ashwagandha improves Thyroid function.

Conclusion

Ashwagandha does actually work, but don’t expect it to be a magic pill that will solve all your problems. For me, this herb only improved my memory, verbal fluency and body temperature.
Note that herbs as well as drugs affect different people in a different manner.

The problem with herbs is that there have been no studies done on humans to determine what effects these herbs have on people. This is exactly why I did not include what effects this herb has on humans because most of it would just be anecdotal.

The only way to find out what this herb will do to you is to try it out yourself. I have included a link to the site where I bought my Ashwagandha. This link contains a coupon code that will give you 5% off of your order.

Categories
Brain Health Nootropics

My experience with piracetam

A review of piracetam

Piracetam powder review

Piracetam is a nootropic of the racetam class family. Piracetam is mainly used to enhance learning and memory, but many also find it helps with their focus and concentration. It can also increase stamina to allow for a longer study period, enhance mood, verbal fluency, colors, and music. Whether the latter effects are caused by placebo is not known since there have been no clinical trials done to study the effects of Piracetam on humans. There was, however, a clinical trial done for evaluating the efficacy and safety of Piracetam taken for 12 months on subjects suffering from mild cognitive impairment.

Piracetam’s mechanism of action has not been identified, but it is believed to improved the function of acetylcholine on the muscarinic cholinergic receptors. It is also a positive allosteric modulator of the AMPA receptor and may work on the NMDA glutamate receptors as well. Piracetam seems to have little to no effect on dopamine, serotonin, or norepinephrine levels.

My experience with Piracetam

I took 2.4 g of Piracetam everyday in the morning with orange juice and 500 mg of Choline Bitartrate for 6 months. The effects of Piracetam never really hit me and seeing as how the drug has a subtle effect, it did not surprise me. However, the effect of Choline supplementation did hit me and it hit me hard. After about 2 weeks of taking Choline Bitartrate, my mood got worse. My motivation and drive dropped to zero, my mood turned melancholic, and I became very irritable.

On the other hand, my reaction time was faster, my verbal fluency increased,  and my memory improved somewhat.

I later found out that the brain has a balance between the neurotransmitters dopamine and acetylcholine and that increasing one will decrease the other. So by supplementing with Choline, I was disturbing that balance and ultimately, lowering dopamine levels.

Conclusion

In short, my experience with Piracetam was a negative one. Though, I think the reason for that may have been due to the choline I supplemented with. Everyone’s brain is different and so some produce more choline than others. I think I am one of those people and when I supplemented with choline, my brain’s neurotransmitters balance was thrown off.