You may think of the "long-term" in two ways: 1) the long-term may represent a far-off, distant, abstract future so removed from today that procrastination becomes a daily routine, or 2) the long-term encompasses an ongoing series of todays, requiring a plan for now to procure a better tomorrow. With nootropics for long-term use, we prefer the second view on "long-term" in our better brain health regimen.
And with a smart selection of natural nootropics, you may improve your cognitive performance daily without any compromises to your long-term brain health. On the contrary, the best nootropics improve daily performance in pursuit of better brain health tomorrow.
In this guide, we'll cover the best nootropics for long-term use as well as potential health and safety concerns with cognitive enhancers, namely synthetic cognitive enhancers.
Long-Term vs. Short-Term Nootropics
Convenience and immediate gratification -- these are powerful drugs in and of themselves. Often when we spend extra for something that we may otherwise buy elsewhere for cheaper, we fork over the extra dough for the convenience.
The cognitive enhancing example of this is coffee. At one point considered a luxury item, coffee is not everywhere; on every street corner, drive-thru, gas station. And not only that but the cognitive benefits may also be described as convenient and immediately gratifying:
- Convenience - no complex stacking strategies or complicated methods of administration.
- Gratification - coffee and other caffeine sources feel good within seconds upon consumption.
Yet, unlike true nootropics (and, yes, we differentiate true nootropics vs. coffee), caffeine seems to compromise long-term cognitive function for its short-term brain boosts. While coffee does possess certain daily advantages, the habit may also increase blood pressure and anxiety associated with observable changes on brain patterns.<1> Simply put, daily coffee use may not contribute to long-term cognitive enhancement the way nootropics do.
However, is it fair and accurate to say that all nootropics work for long-term use? The answer is no.
Some nootropics only work for short-term cognitive concerns whereas others may enhance brain function over time with perpetual use. With that in mind, let's explore the conditional vs. chronic aspects of nootropic usage.
Conditional Cognitive Enhancement
Conditional nootropics work but only under certain conditions, such as sleep deprivation, heightened stress, traumatic brain injury, etc. One great example of a nootropic with conditional cognitive enhancement effects is N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine. Generally speaking, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine improves cognition impaired by neurotransmitter catecholamine (e.g., dopamine, norepinephrine) depletion. Common contributors to catecholamine depletion include:
- Stress - subjective and hormonal, as in cortisol increases.
- Activity - high-intensity training or recreational activities.
- Fatigue - sleep deprivation, poor rest, metabolic disorders.
In other words, under conditions of high stress, activity, and/or fatigue, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine may significantly improve cognition. Conversely, under calm, well-rested conditions, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine's benefits are relatively limited.
Having said that, nootropics with long-term brain boosting potential may increase in effect under short-term conditions of cognitive impairment. (E.g., phosphatidylserine supplementation during certain forms of brain injury.) Thus, nootropics for long-term use may possess short-term, conditional cognitive enhancement benefits as well.
Chronic Cognitive Enhancement
Chronic nootropics work all the time, especially when supplemented daily for a long period of time. In fact some of the best nootropics for long-term use require long-term supplementation to reach peak effect; meaning that you won't feel their cognitive enhancement benefits upon first administration. These nootropic types typically work by improving:
- Cholinergic Activity - by increasing acetylcholine levels, activity, and receptor sensitivity.
- Antioxidant Capacity - by decreasing oxidative stress caused by harmful free radical levels.
- ATP Energy Output - by protecting and improving mitochondrial health and metabolic energy production.
- Neurogenesis Factors - by improving NGF and BDNF levels and expression for greater neuron growth and repair.
And other neuroprotective bio-activities. While many of these long-acting nootropics lack the appeal of convenient, fast-acting cognitive enhancers, their protective and regenerative benefits may theoretically help eliminate the conditional needs for quick-fix boosters down the road.
Long-Term Nootropic Health Concerns
Nootropics may possess long-term health advantages, but do they also come with long-term health disadvantages? In other words, are nootropics safe and non-addictive? According to Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea, the founder of nootropics, the answer to this question is: No, otherwise it's not a nootropic.
Based on the original definition of nootropic, coinced by Dr. Giurgea, a nootropic must be "
Are Nootropics Safe?
Who determines whether or not nootropics are safe? Unlike prescribed drugs, which are considered unsafe until proven safe, nootropic supplements are generally considered safe until proven otherwise.
For the most part, supplement manufacturers take it upon themselves to assign quality and safety control measures with their formulas. The best approach to supplying a safe, yet effective supplement, is to stack only research-backed nootropics in their highest quality forms (e.g., standardized herbs, patented ingredient brands) while avoiding any unnecessary additives.
Yet, even the safest nootropics may become health risks in an irresponsible manufacturing environment. Quality manufacturing requires taking several steps to ensure supplement safety, such as those described under the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
How to get GMP certified. To get a GMP certification, nootropic supplement manufacturers must abide by certain rules, such as:
- Raw ingredient screening - contaminants and toxins may infiltrate poorly controlled ingredients, particularly herbal ingredients.
- Facility cleanliness - screening for contaminants and toxins also applies to the facilities used for manufacturing.
- Equipment maintenance - to ensure standardized formulas and concentrations, equipment needs to run smoothly and safely.
Nootropic supplements with a GMP certification further reassure their consumers that their ingredients are safe, effective, and high quality.
Are Nootropics Addictive?
The same principle of nootropic safety applies to the question, "Are nootropics addictive?" The answer: if a cognitive enhancing substance comes with a significant abuse risk, then it's not a true nootropic. At least, not by criteria laid out by Dr. Giurgea.
According to the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) and World health Organization (ICD-10), for a substance to be deemed "addictive" it must meet at least three of the following criteria:
- Tolerance - the need for increased dosages over time.
- Withdrawal - physical or emotion upon ceasing use.
- Limited control - frequently regretting using the substance.
- Negative consequences - using despite unwanted outcomes; e.g., poor mood, self-esteem, health, relationships.
- Neglected or postponed activities - putting off professional or recreational work, duties, activities, etc.
- Significant time/energy spent - an exceptional effort directed towards obtaining, concealing, using, or recovering.
- A desire to reduce use - including unsuccessful attempts at ceasing use of substance.
Substances with tolerance build-up risk require "on/off" cycles to mitigate addiction risks. However, natural nootropics generally don't entail tolerance build-up; on the contrary, they may increase in positive effect when used daily for a long period of time.
Do Stimulants Qualify as Nootropics?
Stimulants, including caffeine and prescribed "smart" pills, do not qualify as true nootropics, due to their risk abuse. While caffeine ranks a mild or low-risk cognitive enhancer with actual health benefits when used in moderation, more intense stimulants, such as those prescribed for ADD and ADHD, carry little to no actual health benefits. As compared to long-term nootropic use, long-term stimulant use may come with serious, long-term side effects even if they "feel good" in the short-term.
Long-Term Benefits of Nootropics
As suggested earlier, nootropics for long-term use may come with short-term brain boosting advantages as well. However, strictly focusing on the long-term benefits of nootropics, the health advantages of using such nootropics may include:
- Improved long-term memory recall
- Enhanced brain repair and maintenance
- Decreased oxidative stress (free radical damage)
- Reduced amyloid plaque build up
- Improved mitochondrial energy output
- Steadier mood and emotional balance
- Stronger stress resistance
- Increased cognitive longevity
And more. Admittedly, gauging the long-term benefits of nootropics is more difficult than measuring nootropics' short-term advantages, due to time constraints on clinical research. However, it isn't too hard to imagine the almost endless potential that comes with harnessing better cognitive output.
Or perhaps it is hard to imagine, in which case it's high time you found yourself an effective, quality nootropic stack for long-term use. Every day is always yesterday's tomorrow, so why not start tomorrow today?
Mind Lab Pro® Nootropics for Long-Term Use
As one of the best natural nootropics for a variety of cognitive health benefits, Bacopa monnieri offers a valuable lesson in patience. Compared to many other bio-active herbal nootropics, this Ayurvedic adaptogen is stubborn in releasing its brain boosting effects. However, once achieved, the cognitive enhancement results of long-term Bacopa supplement are undeniable.
Many nootropic users attempt using Bacopa then give up on it after a few days. This is a mistake, as Bacopa monnieri requires at least a couple weeks to build up in effect. Whereas synthetic stimulants come with tolerance concerns over time, Bacopa does the opposite: Bacopa increases in potency with long-term use.
And the long-term benefits of long-term Bacopa supplementation include<3,5>:
- Enhancing activity of brain-protective enzymes.
- Decreasing irregular protein clusters.
- Improving neurotransmitter acetylcholine activity.
Associated with memory and learning, acetylcholine plays a key role in high-order cognitive functions. In fact, impaired acetylcholine levels seem to strongly correlate with age-related neurodegeneration.
By sustaining acetylcholine activity, Bacopa may help with long-range cognitive performance.
Highly concentrated in the brain, Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a key cellular phospholipid required for brain cell membrane formation. As part of the cell membrane bilayer, phosphatidylserine helps maintain neuronal structure, fluidity, and permeability, regulating the intake of nutrients and outflow of neurotoxins.
Thus, when phosphatidylserine levels diminish, so does general cognitive health and performance.
The brain support benefits recall concepts learned in high school biology: healthy cell membrane structure, cell-to-cell neurotransmissions, myelin sheath protection, neuroregeneration, etc. However, the nootropic benefits of phosphatidylserine supplementation range from the short- to the long-term. One literature review published in 2015 suggests that PS may help with<6>:
- Short-term memory processing
- Long-term memory consolidation
- Information processing and retrieval
- Attention and concentration
- Reasoning and problem solving
- Language and communication
From brain energy to brain chemicals to brain protection, PS supplies a wide variety of cognitive health benefits, qualifying it as one of the best daily nootropics for long-term use.
Citicoline (CDP Choline)
CDP Choline, or Citicoline, binds two brain healthy compounds in one, charging brainpower for both now and later. The two nootropic compounds united in citicoline include:
- Choline - precursor to neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
- Cytidine - precursor to nucleotide uridine, an energy booster that may improve ATP energy production and synaptic plasticity.
Whereas other nootropic cholinergics simply supply choline, citicoline's additional cytidine attachment gives this cognitive enhancer an edge in the brain booster game by simultaneously improving cell-to-cell communication and long-term neuroregeneration.
To sustain proper neuron maintenance and regeneration levels, the brain needs ATP energy. One human study found that Cognizin® Citicoline increased frontal lobe brain energy levels by 13.6%.<7> This is a remarkable advantage over synthetic stimulants, which overwhelm the brain with an excess amount of energy to the detriment of long-term cognitive energy levels.
Likewise, Cognizin® Citicoline seems to also stimulate phospholipid synthesis, accelerating neuron formation by as much as 26%.<7> This bio-benefit in particular makes citicoline a great stack option with phosphatidylserine.
Lion's Mane Mushroom
Lion's Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is a unique nootropic fungus, and a unique nootropic altogether, for its potential support on the synthesis of neuroregenerating Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). Involved in the genesis and repair of neurons, NGF plays an important part in brain development.
NGF works in several ways<8,9>:
- Signals for neuron growth and organization
- Enhances long-term potentiation (LTP)
- Maintains healthy hippocampus function
- Regulates nerve cell myelination
By promoting the formation and release of NGF, Lion's Mane Mushroom may help with brain plasticity within memory and learning regions. NGF is essential for hippocampal plasticity, which degenerates with age.
Lion's Mane Mushroom's potential for long-term brain regeneration and protection qualifies the mushroom as a premium cognitive longevity extender worth daily supplementation.
Maritime Pine Bark Extract
Similar to citicoline, Maritime Pine Bark Extract seems to double as both a short- and long-term cognitive enhancer, with its short-term benefits primarily geared towards improved attention under conditions of attention disorder. Even so, while the antioxidant-rich extract may acutely improve attention performance, one study suggests that long-term MPBE supplementation may have lasting effects<10>:
- Administered to children with ADHD, maritime pine bark extract significantly improved attention and visual-motoric coordination and concentration. The benefits remained for one month following termination of maritime pine bark extract supplementation.
What's more, maritime pine bark extract's bio-active profile of proanthocyanidin flavonoids possesses an antioxidant capacity 20x greater than that of vitamin E and 50x greater than that of vitamin C.<11> The long-term protective advantages of this extract's antioxidant status are further compounded by the nootropic's indirect promotion of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF).
One part neuroprotector, another part neuroregenerator, maritime pine bark extract may significantly replenish cognitive health for the long run.
Mind Lab Pro® supplies a premium, comprehensive stack of nootropics for long-term use and short-term brain boosts.
Here's a safe rule of thumb for cognitive enhancing substances: if it's easier to consume and feels really, really good, odds are it's not good for long-term use. Natural nootropics work subtly, enhancing mental performance in ways that feel good but require ongoing daily effort to reach peak effect.
Fortunately, Mind Lab Pro® reduces the effort required on your part by supplying a Universal Nootropic™ supplement stack for 100% Brainpower™ that you may take everyday. All natural, safe brain boosts with no requirement for cycling or tolerance breaks.
- Smith JE et al. Storm in a coffee cup: caffeine modifies brain activation to social signals of threat. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2012 Oct; 7(7): 831-40.
- Giurgea C, Salama M. Nootropic drugs. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology. 1977; 1(3-4): 235-247.
- Bhattacharya SK, et al.Antioxidant activity of Bacopa monniera in rat frontal cortex, striatum and hippocampus.Phytother Res. 2000 May; 14(3): 174-9.
- Dhanasekaran M, et al. Neuroprotective mechanisms of ayurvedic antidementia botanical Bacopa monniera. Phytother Res. 2007 Oct; 21(10): 965-9.
- Goswami S, Saoji A, Kumar N, Thawani V, Tiwari M, Thawani M. Effect of Bacopa Monnieri on Cognitive functions in Alzheimer’s disease patients. International Journal of Collaborative Research on Internal Medicine & Public Health. 2011; 3(4): 285-293.
- Glade MJ, Smith K. Phosphatidylserine and the human brain. Nutrition. 2015 Jun; 31(6): 781-786.
- Silveri MM et al. Citicoline enhances frontal lobe bioenergetics as measured by phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy.NMR Biomed. 2008; 21(10):1066-75.
- Conner JM, et al. NGF is essential for hippocampal plasticity and learning. J Neurosci. 2009 Sep 2;29(35):10883-9.
- Kolotushkina EV, et al. The influence of Hericium erinaceus extract on myelination process in vitro. Fiziol Zh. 2003;49(1):38-45.
- Trebatická J et al. Treatment of ADHD with French maritime pine bark extract, Pycnogenol. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2006 Sep; 15(6): 329-35.
- Bagchi D. Free radicals and grape seed proanthocyanidin extract: importance in human health and disease prevention. Toxicology. 2000 Aug 7;148(2-3):187-97.