Recently, I came across something call Nootropics. It’s a topic that has nothing to do with saying no to the sunny tropics. Nootropics refer to smart drugs which contain compounds that enhances your brain function. Have you watched the movie “Limitless”? The protagonist is introduced to a nootropic drug called NZT-48, which gives him the ability to fully utilize his brain and vastly improve his lifestyle. Yes, 100% brain power. Or something close to that and will make you feel like a Superman or Wonder woman.
Nootropics can give a brain boost and make you feel like a Superman.
New Year has come and gone, and Chinese New Year is preparing backstage for its grand celebration on February 16. With these constant holidayish days, I feel that I’m constantly on a post-holiday mood (even though I didn’t even go on a holiday!). Do you get this kind of “brain fog” around this time of the year too?
So how is nootropics perceived in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)? In TCM, the brain is related to the Kidney and Heart. The word Kidney is spelled without the ‘s’, because in TCM, we view the organ as a system and not the two bean shaped organs. TCM is an elegant healing system that is based on an energetic model (unlike the biochemical western model). When you see symptoms of a disease, they are thought to be manifestations of imbalances of Qi (vital energy) in that particular organ.
In TCM, brain is related to the Kidney.
The brain is often called the “Sea of Marrow” which comes from Kidney essence and is an extension of the spinal cord filling the skull. On the other hand, the Heart, is referred to as the “House the Mind” and guards the “Shen” or the spirit of the mind. So, any symptoms that is affecting the mind or the brain is identified as Kidney and/or Heart problems.
For a healthy happy mind, the “Sea of Marrow” and “Shen” must be in harmony.
So, how get rid of brain fog and keep your brain healthy?
In TCM treatments, there are 3 aspects that need to be considered.
Tonify and safeguard your Kidney
In TCM, we don’t talk about shortening of telomeres when it comes to ageing of the brain. (Telomere is like a ‘cap’ located at the end of our chromosome, which protects it from deterioration and ageing.) We age because the congenital essence which we get from our parents and acquired essence which comes from food are depleting. Both of these essences are stored in the Kidney power house and slowly released for our daily functions.
A healthy mind need not decline with age. You just need to safeguard the Kidney yin, yang, and jing (adrenals, hormone balance, and genetic endowments) throughout the life span.
Lack of nourishment of any organ can lead to mental distress, due to the fact that the internal spirits cannot rest if their associated internal organs are “empty”. Other than the Kidney, the Liver, Spleen and Heart can easily cause disturbance of the mind too.
Clear phlegm and pump Qi to the Brain
The body and brain are connected by channels. When these channels get blocked, the brain doesn’t receive enough power to operate. The reason why it gets blocked can be due to weak Stomach/Spleen. As you may have read on my previous blog, a weak Stomach/Spleen can lead to accumulation of phlegm (think thick mucus) This phlegm is block the clear Qi to ascend to the brain and block the clarity in your brain thus making you feel that sluggish brain fog. Aromatic herbs can clear the obstruction and phlegm-resolving herbs can help prevent the orifices from becoming obstructed again.
Stay calm and enjoy Heart’s Happy Hour
Besides the problems caused by deficiency (weak Kidney, Liver, Spleen) that lead to brain fog and unsettling mind, the mind/brain can be agitated by excess syndromes.
Excess syndromes such as too much Qi, too much Yang, too much internal Liver wind, too much heat or fire can add onto your brain fog mania. In these types of cases, herbs that can use to clear heat, sedate the wind and settle the upward rising of Qi and Yang can help to clear the brain fog.
Besides taking TCM herbs, here’s a lifestyle tip that you can add into your busy days. According to the TCM circadian cycle of Qi, a good time to nourish the mind is between 11am to 1pm. And a midday nap is beneficial. Midday is Heart’s happy hour. This is because the Heart organ system grounds the spirit in the mind; during sleep the brain detoxifies, and adrenal glands recharge.
Heart’s Happy Hour is around noon. Time to take a nap!
When I was studying in Beijing, the teachers and students used to take naps during lunch time. I never had a napping habit so I couldn’t fall asleep but if your schedule allows, take a power nap after lunch to give a quick recharge to your brain. #batteryfull #byebrainfog
TCM “Nootropics” herbs for Brain
Powerfully reinforce original Qi, induce tranquilization mind and improve the intelligence.
He Tao Ren
Also know as the yummy walnut we usually eat. It looks like a brain and it’s packed with omega-3 fats, linoleic acid, vitamins, and antioxidants, to help lower cholesterol and improve memory.
Relieves Liver Qi stagnation to induce tranquilization.
He Shou Wu ,Nu Zhen Zi
Good tonic to power up you Kidney and Liver.
He Huan Pi,Suan Zao Ren
Relieve Liver Qi stagnation (aka stress) to induce tranquilization and help you to sleep so your brain gets a rest. They are the key herbs for nourishing the Heart too.
Chang Pu, Hou Po
This is the most commonly used TCM herb for treatment of mental disorders. Hou Po is used to get rid of phlegm due to weak Spleen function.
Nutrients Nootropics for Brain
It is a precursor to GABA which is the main calming neurotransmitter in our bodies. Found in almonds, wheat bran, and mackerel.
It is a non-essential amino acid that enhances memory and cognition. Found in high-protein foods such as fish, dairy, and gelatin.
An antioxidant that improves memory and cognition, and prevents neuro-degeneration. Found in in organ meats, collard greens, and chard.
Silica is essential for brain health because it binds with the element aluminium which decreases brain function. It strengthens the nerves to benefit neurasthenia, a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. Found in oats.
Ginkgo has a long history of use in treating blood disorders and memory issues. It is best known today as way to potentially keep your memory sharp. Laboratory studies have shown that ginkgo improves blood circulation by opening up blood vessels and making blood less sticky. It is also an antioxidant too.
Found in green tea, it is perhaps the most famous and common nootropics. The caffeine in tea increase alertness, while the L-theanine reduces the caffeine jittery effects. Together, it has a powerful alert relaxation.
Fun fact: L-Theanine is known for increasing alpha brainwaves. What’s that you may ask. Alpha waves occur in the brain when you are calm, put you in a state of flow just like when you’re daydreaming. But you are awake, clear and calm. No wonder it has been used for spiritual traditions and monks drink them to clear the noise going in their head.
Okay, I’m craving for a fresh brewed tea now. I like Gryphon’s Pearl of The Orient jasmine green tea.
For those with sleeping problems like me, don’t drink green tea (or any other caffeinated food or drinks) after 3pm or you’ll find yourself rolling your mattress flat all night.
Acupressure Nootropics for your Brain
Apply pressure to this acupuncture point that is in between the eyebrows–a significant point to calm and clear the mind.
Some believe it corresponds to the pineal gland, which links the nervous system and hormone system for mental and spiritual harmony.
Pineal gland is shaped like a pine cone, hence its name. It is a small endocrine gland located in the brain. It produces melatonin, which is a hormone that regulates your sleep. If you have a deficiency in melatonin, you may have trouble sleeping and you can take small dosage of melatonin supplements. Consult your doctor first and it’s advisable to only take it you really need it as you can become dependent on it.
Also known as the point of “Hundred Meetings’. It is located at the top of the head.
Draw one imaginary line up from your nose and another line from the top of your ear. The point where these two lines cross is Bai Hui.
Say bye to brain fog and hello to happy healthy brain! And remember to sleep early to give your brain hardware a rest.
If you feel like you need to “Ctrl + Alt+ Del”, try rebooting with a good night’s sleep and some TCM herbs and acupuncture.
Thank you for reading as always 🙂