Coffee is already the key to many people’s productive mornings–but what if you could level it up? Meaning, what if your coffee could do more than boost your energy? What if it also improved cognitive function on all levels, boosting your memory, processing speed, and cognitive endurance while also improving your brain’s response to stress to help your day go smoothly?
That, my good friend, is the power of a high quality nootropic coffee, a supercharged coffee beverage that’s jam packed full of nootropics, or “smart drugs” that help to regulate neural functions.
If an endlessly customizable coffee beverage that improves every facet of your brain function sounds appealing to you, here’s what you should know about his magical coffee + nootropic combination:
Table of Contents
What is Nootropic Coffee?
Nootropic coffee is just as simple as we explained–coffee blended with any number of nootropic supplements. Nootropic coffee can come as fresh grounds or as an instant coffee blend–but the latter may be better since nootropic supplements are often added in a soluble powder form.
The true qualifier for a good nootropic coffee mix, though, boils down to the type of nootropics used, and there are plenty of options.
What are nootropics?
The term “nootropic” refers to any number of substances, both natural and synthetic, that are known to impact the nervous system and neurotransmitter production in a positive way. Many synthetic nootropics exist, but many health conscious consumers gravitate toward natural nootropic substances–and there are a lot–because they usually come with far fewer potential risks.
Many substances that we know as nootropics (caffeine being the most widely used) are plant derived compounds with relatively sound safety profiles. Each nootropic supplement has its own potential benefits based on how it’s used by the body. Nootropics are usually stacked into unique blends that offer diverse benefits, as opposed to enjoying the specific benefits of only one nootropic compound.
To better explain the concept behind nootropic coffee, let’s take a look at the most popular natural nootropics used in coffee blends:
Caffeine is the most well known natural nootropic in the world, and it has undeniable benefits for boosting energy and focus. It works by blocking the production of adenosine which can help you feel less tired and more alert.
Caffeine doses range from 20-400 milligrams per day, with larger doses leaning towards more severe side effects. In fact, regular doses of caffeine can lead to dependence or other unwanted side effects, like adrenal fatigue, which is the opposite effect from what most people are trying to accomplish when taking natural nootropics.
This is where stacking comes in–caffeine can be even more powerful at smaller doses (and may have fewer side effects) when paired with some other nootropic supplements. L-theanine is a perfect example of a nootropic that pairs well with caffeine, and it’s next up on the list.
L-Theanine is an amino acid that's found in most kinds of tea leaves, and it’s the compound that’s most often associated with the health effects of green tea. Green tea is known for providing a caffeine boost that’s smoother and less jittery than what you may get from coffee or synthetic energy drinks–and it’s probably because of the L-theanine content.
L-Theanine is known for its relaxing effects that are soothing without making you drowsy. According to research, taking L-theanine with caffeine may reduce caffeine’s impact on your blood pressure or anxiety levels. Another study found that L-theanine may help to regulate your sleep schedule, which can be helpful for anyone who’s sleep schedule is sensitive to caffeine consumption. Overnight, L-theanine may help you get more low-wave sleep, the sleep cycles that help you feel more rested, thus decreasing the need for caffeine over time.
Plus, the two compounds synergize like no others. According to research, a combination of L-theanine and caffeine has been associated with improved reaction times, improved word recognition, and improved attention, improved ability to switch between tasks more easily, and higher accuracy upon completing tasks.
- Calming effects
We mentioned ginkgo earlier as an example of how natural herbal compounds have been used as nootropics for centuries. It is, in fact, one of the oldest nootropic supplements we have and it comes from one of the world's oldest trees–the Ginkgo tree.
Traditionally, ginkgo was used for many reasons, like improving kidney health, treating respiratory conditions, and managing memory loss and cognitive decline in elderly patients. Now, researchers believe that ginkgo’s ability to improve blood flow in the body, and especially to the brain, is behind its diverse health potential.
In one study, researchers used a standardized ginkgo extract called EGb 761 to effectively manage dementia in 216 outpatient subjects. A later study confirmed these results using the same standardized extract, and added that it may help improve both cognitive function and social patterns in adults with dementia.
Ginkgo may also be healing for the brain and nervous system, which can help it to provide greater cognitive benefits over time. In animal animal models and test-tube models, it’s been shown to help promote the growth of neurons. Ginkgo may also have preventative effects that help keep cortisol and blood-pressure levels low during stress-related experiences, which can help decrease the risk of tissue damage and improve overall performance.
Alpha-GPC helps to increase acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps facilitate learning and memory. That’s why Alpha-GPC has come to be known as a powerful nootropic for improving memory. So much so that it is sold as a prescription medication for managing Alzheimer’s Disease in some other countries. Of course, it exists as a natural dietary supplement in the U.S. and can be purchased without a prescription, which is why it still fits on this list of natural nootropics.
One study suggests that alpha-GP. may have an even wider range of cognitive benefits. More specifically, it found that alpha-GPC may target four primary areas of cognition–verbal memory, visual memory, verbal learning, and executive function.
Another study comparing the impact of caffeine and alpha-GPC found that alpha GPC supplementation increased mental performance speed in young adults by 18%.
- Memory and learning
- Improved physical performance
Lion’s mane was once one of the more obscure medicinal mushrooms, but it’s gaining some traction thanks to its natural nootropic benefits. The mushroom is chock full of polysaccharides that help support a healthy gut microbiome–a colony of good bacteria that experts now know plays a role in most aspects of both mental and physical health.
Most notably, though, Lion’s Mane is thought to stimulate neurogenesis, the growth of new nerve cells, which may help to improve nerve signaling speed and heal damage within the nervous system.
This may be the working factor behind many of Lion’s Mane’s benefits, though more research is needed to understand how the mushroom truly works. According to the research we have, though, lion’s mane is thought to improve memory, focus, and mental endurance, and may be in the running for new medications designed to treat dementia.
- Memory and focus
- Increasing Neurogenesis
Cordyceps is a more popular functional mushroom with an age-old reputation. It was first used by herdsmen to combat the effects of low oxygen levels while working at high altitudes, and researchers now believe that it can improve many aspects of both mental and physical health by improving blood flow.
In fact, it was once given credit for helping the Chinese Olympic women’s running team break several work records. Cordyceps is most often linked to increased endurance, though research has also found it to have possible benefits for improving memory and learning in animal models thanks to extraordinary antioxidant properties.
Rhodiola is another age-old remedy that’s chock full of active medicinals–including rosavin and salidroside, two compounds known to be potent adaptogens. Adaptogens are compounds that help the body respond to stress.
In traditional medicine, Rodiola was used to treat psychological conditions, but its benefits may span even further. One review of 36 animal studies stated that “R. rosea L. can improve learning and memory function” possibly due it’s “antioxidant properties, cholinergic regulation, anti-apoptosis activities, anti-inflammatory, improving coronary blood flow, and cerebral metabolism.”
Thanks to its adaptogenic effects, taking it daily has been linked to reduced mental fatigue and increased feelings of well-being while under stress.
- Improving stress response
- Increasing mental endurance
Curcumin is the yellow substance that gives turmeric its brilliant color–and it’s well known for its potential anti-inflammatory effects. You may not know, however, that it’s been shown to have a positive impact on serotonin and dopamine levels, and has been highlighted as a potential treatment for depression and related disorders.
Other research has linked curcumin to total body benefits, like prevention against cancer, arthritis, and heart disease.
- Managing mental health
Bacopa monnieri is another ancient remedy we’ve added to the list thanks to continual research that proves it may have a multitude of benefits. For instance, bacopa monnieri has been linked to improved processing speed and reduced reaction times, as well as memory enhancement and the prevention of age-related cognitive decline. Researchers believe that it has powerful antioxidant properties that can help prevent oxidative stress, a primary cause of neurodegeneration as we age.
- Improving memory
- Increasing processing speed
Ginseng is easy to find on nutrition labels for energy drinks and brain-boosting supplements–and for a good reason. It’s often linked to reduced mental fatigue and improved cognitive performance, especially when doing difficult tasks.
Like other nootropics on this list, it may not act directly on any neurotransmitter pathway, rather it may increase blood flow to the brain. Others believe that many of its benefits may have to do with its anti-inflammatory effects, which may help to reduce oxidative stress.
- Anti-inflammatory effects
Omega-3 fatty acids (which can be divided into two main categories–DHA and EPA) are necessary for most brain function. In fact, they are required for brain development, which is why they can be found in most infant formulas and toddler supplements.
Omega-3 is known to help improve many facets of cognitive function, from increasing focus to decreasing anxiety and depression. A lack of omega-3 is associated with cognitive dysfunctions.
One study published in Neurology® measured the mental function of 1,575 people with an average age of 67. These tests also evaluated their brain structure, body mass, and the omega-3 fatty acid levels in their blood.
The researchers concluded that people with low Omega-3 levels had lower brain volume and scored lower on tests involving visual memory and executive function, like tasks involving problem solving, multi-tasking, and abstract thinking.
Another study looked at the impact of a fish oil diet (or a diet containing plenty of omega-3) on fruit flies’ ability to learn. In this study, fruit flies fed the fish oil had a positive impact on learning and memory compared to fruit flies fed a standard diet.
- Brain development
Benefits of Nootropic Coffee
As we mentioned above, the benefits associated with a particular nootropic coffee formula have everything to do with the specific nootropics involved. Generally speaking, nootropic coffee will always have benefits focusing on cognition, but some nootropics are a double whammy, offering support for the entire body.
We can’t speak on every nootropic formula available, but we can speak on our own–Lucid Mushroom + Nootropic Instant Beverages–to help you see how our nootropic stack breaks down and shapes up to support both cognitive and physical wellbeing.
Lucid contains a symbiotic blend of medicinal mushrooms (a couple of which double as nootropics, like Cordyceps and Lion’s Mane) and natural nootropics–none of the synthetic stuff. More specifically, the Lucid formula includes the following mushrooms, nootropics, and offers these benefits:
- Cordyceps (increases endurance)
- Lion’s Mane (improves cognition and nerve growth)
- Tremella (boosts hydration and has anti-aging properties)
- Maitake (increases immunity)
- Alpha-GPC (boosts cognition + athletic performance)
- L-Theanine (reduces stress)
- L-Tyrosine (supports cognition and stabilizes mood)
- Ginkgo Biloba (improves circulation and nerve growth)
- BCAA’s (supports muscle energy and growth)