biohack

nootropics and biophilic living - part 2

We recently published an introduction to the subject of nootropics, here we dig deeper into the subject with a look at the more commonly available organic nootropics ingredients. Why should this be of interest to you?   Firstly, these all natural ingredients are small bio-hacks to help you live a healthier life and therefore represent a way to integrate nature back into our lives, creating a biophilic lifestyle (earth-friendly, connected to nature, with a focus on improved mental and physical health).   Secondly, anyone with a family history of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons may find some inspiration in the concept of bolstering their brain power early on in life. It certainly won’t do any harm.   So read on for an explanation of the main nootropics, their history and traditions, as well as the scientific evidence backing up their claims to enhanced mental and/or physical performance.

We recently published an introduction to the subject of nootropics, here we dig deeper into the subject with a look at the more commonly available organic nootropics ingredients. Why should this be of interest to you? 

Firstly, these all natural ingredients are small bio-hacks to help you live a healthier life and therefore represent a way to integrate nature back into our lives, creating a biophilic lifestyle (earth-friendly, connected to nature, with a focus on improved mental and physical health).


Secondly, anyone with a family history of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons may find some inspiration in the concept of bolstering their brain power early on in life. It certainly won’t do any harm.


So read on for an explanation of the main nootropics, their history and traditions, as well as the scientific evidence backing up their claims to enhanced mental and/or physical performance. 

all-in-one nootropics

Before we dive into our list of the leading nootropics contenders, a short note on how to get started. Various options exist today for easily accessible, online purchases that give you a generalist, quick win nootropic. These all-in-one supplements cover, to a greater or lesser extent, most bases and are in our opinion a great starting position. Examples includes products by the likes of Form for example, or GoPrimal to name but two.

build your own nootropics ‘stack’

For newbies to the subject, a simple all-in-one may be enough to get you started. It requires minimal time and even less thinking. As you start to dig deeper into the subject however, you may wish to go big on certain doses, doubling down on some ingredients and that will require buying individual, high-dose and premium quality nootropics. Place several of these together and you have your first ‘stack’, a term borrowed it seems from the tech community, as in a ‘full stack developer’.

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bacopa flower

Bacopa monnieri is a perennial herb native to India with a long history in Ayurvedic medicine linked to cognitive abilities. Ayurveda never set out to be a scientific tradition but we would be amiss to discount this philosophy entirely. Studies have shown that this herb has both antioxidant and cell-protective qualities as well as stimulating long-term increased hippocampus activity, which could equate to overall learning abilities.

l-theanine

L-theanine is an amino acid found most commonly in green tea leaves (Camellia Sinensis) and in small amounts in Bay Bolete mushrooms. Reassuringly, it is readily available in both pill and tablet form in your average health food stores.

Research indicates that L-theanine promotes relaxation without drowsiness, reducing stress and taking the edge off the famous caffeine jitters.

In a 2018 double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial of 46 participants diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), results showed significant improvements in self-reported sleep satisfaction as a result of daily 450-900mg doses of L-theanine over a 10-week period.

Improvements to brain serotonin, dopamine and GABA levels (neutrotransmitters associated with pleasure and concentration) have only been shown in animal neurochemistry trials to date, as far as we can see, which is primarily where L-theanine’s reputation for cognitive enhancement comes from. 

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ashwaganda

Another big gun in the Ayurvedic tradition, also known as Indian Ginseng, Ashwaganda is said to have similar properties to Bacopa monnieri. In one double-blind, placebo controlled study, 50 adults with mild cognitive impairment were treated with 300mg twice daily or a placebo for eight weeks with significant improvements in both immediate recall and general memory in those treated with the root.

Choline

Essential for the proper functioning of the brain, Choline is thought to improve cognition and is associated with higher memory performance. Studies have shown that ingesting Choline during gestation and early postnatal development in mice helps to protect the brain fro neuropathological changes associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Gingko Biloba

Gingko leafs are an ancient and isolated species, making them something of an anomaly in modern day biology. One double-blind, placebo controlled study showed 24 participants with improved executive functioning in females especially. Another study on patients with dementia or cognitive impairment showed that a dose of over 200mg per day over a period of at least 22 weeks had potential benefits on cognitive performance.

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Lion’s Mane Mushroom 

Hericum Erinaceus is an edible mushroom with medicinal qualities that belongs to the tooth fungus group. Studies have shown that it can have significant improvements on novelty-seeking behaviors, general locomotor functions and enhanced recognition memory. The exact mechanism through which it achieves this however, is not yet fully understood.

5 tips for improving indoor air quality at home

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indoor air quality and biophilic design

Indoor air quality is a key component of the healthy building / healthy design movement and forms a central part in all the big certification programs such as WELL, Fitwel and the International Living Future Institute.

It is also a component of biophilic design as it is returns the indoor built environment to a more natural state, similar to the type of air we were breathing for millions of years while evolving on the planet, i.e. fresh, clean and pollution-free.

This in turn opens the door to several bio-hacks designed to improve overall health, sleep and mental acuity.

top 5 tips for maintaining healthy indoor air at home:

1.take your shoes off!

Remove outdoor shoes at the entrance religiously, switching to dedicated indoor only shoes such as slippers, sandals or simply go barefoot, depending on the climate. This is non negotiable and half the world’s population think nothing of doing it so adopt the habit or you’ll face an uphill struggle from the start. Your shoes drag in toxins and all manner of dirt from the streets outside, just look at the soles of a well-worn pair of white trains to remind yourself of what is out there. Leave them at the door. Invest in a shoe rack and place it by your entrance. Set your feet free and breathe deep.

2. air purifying fans

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Invest in an air purifying fan such as the Dyson Pure. Not only does it have the trademark Dyson aesthetic, meaning it will happily sit in the corner of your bedroom or living area without being a visual eyesore, it also comes with an impressive smartphone app that allows you to set on/off timers, view air quality data in real time and generally get the most out of the hardware. All you’d need do is set the fan to turn on automatically around 5pm each evening and then switch it to night mode when you go to sleep. This would ensure you have clean indoor air in your bedroom for +/-8 hours while sleeping. If you then set up something similar in your office, where you likely spend another +/-8 hours every day, you’re winning.

3. air purifying plants

air purifying plants

Go big on air purifying indoor plants, yes they have been over-hyped since Instagram gave us plant-stylists but there is plenty of substance to work with here so stick with it. NASA famously did a seminal study on the top air-purifying plants (see below) but the key is not just the species, but the quantity too. Research has shown that between 6-8 such plants are needed per person per room to have any meaningful impact. In any case, plants look and perform best when carefully clustered in groups, like mini forests or jungles, so this is a win-win. Pick up a selection of different height Palms, Ficus, Chinese Evergreens, Garden Ivy, Boston Ferns and a Pothos or two and you’ll be ready to breath clean once you’ve spread them around your home.

4. eco-friendly cleaning

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Adopt an eco-friendly cleaning protocol in the house; rather than lining up endless plastic bottles of chemical-heavy products, step back a minute to consider the alternatives. Recent years have seen a proliferation of environmentally-friendly cleaning products with names like Ecover, GreenWorks and so on. They are not hard to find even in mainstream supermarkets as consumer consciousness slowly edges in this direction. Buy in bulk and decant into a smaller, re-usable bottle to reduce plastic waste. Consider the most basic of options such as using diluted white wine vinegar as a kitchen or window cleaner. Source eco sponges made from sustainable materials as you’ll likely burn through one a fortnight, once it discolours, it is time for a new one.

5. use natural ventilation

Use natural ventilation wisely. If you live on a quiet street, in a small town near a park, forest or sea, you will likely have enviably good air quality, one would hope. Open the windows and let the fresh air in whenever you can, especially in the early mornings. This is a natural instinct in many of us anyway, especially in certain cultures where open windows are a way of life.

The issue clearly is when the outside air is of conspicuously poor quality in a dense urban environment; in such instances the best solution may be to open windows at the rear of the home away from the street, or to open them at times of day when there is less traffic outside.

By consciously taking stock of the air quality outside in other words, one can take steps to protect and improve the quality of the air inside your home as well.