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Basics of nootropics, part 3 – what’s good for your well-being?

Who of us would not like to feel good? Well, all our activities are aimed at improving the well-being – building relationships with people, work to get finance for the realization of dreams, entertainment, which gives us a smile. Often, however, these activities are so intense that fatigue paradoxically gives a noticeable drop in mood. It may also be that the disturbed brain biochemistry limits our ability to feel happiness and satisfaction with life. In some situations, properly matched supplements can effectively improve the quality of life, so let’s look at the popular products chosen for this purpose.

The appropriate levels of dopamine and serotonin are responsible for well-being. However, their levels are not the only important thing, another thing is the relationship between their different receptors, which makes the topic much more complex than some people think. It’s not enough, therefore, to ask “what about raising serotonin?”, because raising it will not always solve the problem. Other factors affecting the mood are, among others: the ratio of the action of the GABA system to glutamate, the state of the hormonal economy, levels of neurotrophic factors, calorie supply and energy management, and many others. So when choosing supplements for yourself one should consider what really can be the basis of poor well-being and what should be addressed in the first place. And what choices do we have?


One of the most popular herbal adaptogens. It can be particularly helpful for people who feel disturbed by high levels of stress in their lives or intense fears. Ashwagandha has the strongest effect on the GABAergic system, and more specifically, it enhances the action of GABA (A) receptors. This is one of the reasons for anxiolytic and relaxing effects. Other mechanisms are: lowering the cortisol level, the ability to raise testosterone, neuroprotective effect. Supplements with Ashwagandha are often used to improve social functions, and many people report improved contacts with people and greater openness.

Researchers tested the effects of administering 300 mg of Ashwagandha extract daily for 60 days. The results of the trial showed an improvement in depressive symptoms and anxiety disorders in all three used questionnaires. In addition, cortisol was suppressed by as much as 27%, which is an impressive result.

The most commonly used doses are in the order of 250-500 mg of extract per day. Daily adoption is recommended for the best results, and the time of use depends on your needs. People who want to relax in the evening and improve the quality of sleep can use the supplement at the end of the day. However, those who want to reduce stress and fears during the day may consider morning supplementation.

Sceletium Tortuosum

It’s an African plant, also known as Kanna. It has a unique mechanism of action, because it also acts as an SSRI and blocks the PDE-4 enzyme, thanks to which it improves mood and eliminates fears, but without deterioration of cognitive functions or even their increase. For this, it adjusts the VAMT2 transporter, which is responsible for the release of neurotransmitters into the synaptic space. Once a little-known measure, currently gaining more and more interest among manufacturers of dietary supplements.

In contrast to pharmacologic selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, Kanna works ad hoc. In studies using this plant, the amygdala was less active in response to stress stimuli, which means better control of emotions. It allows to limit the feeling of fear and aggression, which undoubtedly has a positive effect on the quality of life. Two times a day, 25 mg of extract is the most frequently used dose (Zembrin example), but it’s worth trying one portion at first, which can also be effective.

St. John’s Wort

It has long been used in medicine as an anti-depressant. In a large meta-analysis including 18 publications comparing the placebo extract and 17 comparisons with classic SSRIs or TCAs, it was concluded that St. John’s Wort is more effective than placebo, and efficiency is comparable to pharmacological drugs.

St. John’s Wort mainly works on dopamine, by inhibiting re-uptake and inhibiting the COMT enzyme. It also works on the growth of serotonin by inhibiting reuptake, but not in the SSRI-specific way, because it does not react with the SERT transporter. This action is based on modulating the activity of ion channels. St John’s wort supplements should be carefully considered when taking other medicines, as it shows numerous interactions with other substances, which can significantly increase their concentration and threaten their health.


Amino acid found in green tea. The standard dose of 200 mg of theanine increases the intensity of alpha brain waves, which can be seen in the EEG studies. Alpha waves are associated with mental relaxation, and their increase is noted, for example, during meditation. Thanks to this, theanine is sensational in people exposed to large amounts of stress and mental tension.

Many agents with similar effects have a side effect in the form of reduced cognitive functions. This is particularly undesirable when we need to reduce stress at work, where you cannot afford “stupefaction”. It can be said that theanine in this field is unique, because it can even improve cognitive skills. The recommended dosage is 200-400 mg per day.


The substance is the main donor of methyl groups for many biochemical reactions, also participating in the neurotransmitter synthesis pathways. One study compared the effects of taking SAMe for 12 weeks, escitalopram (an SSD antidepressant) and placebo in people struggling with depression. Many people know that SSRIs give mixed effects at first, which is also seen in this trial. In the first half of the study time SAMe’s advantage over escitalopram was visible, which was lost in the following weeks. Interestingly, the SAMe group had a better compliance rate (45%) compared to escitalopram (31%) and, of course, placebo (26%). Similarly in remission results, where SAMe was 34%, escitalopram 23% and placebo 6%. The results are very beneficial, which indicates the high therapeutic potential of SAMe in depression. It’s also beneficial to note that SAMe can favour cognitive functions in a manner similar to creatine (because it supports its endogenous synthesis).

Effective doses are usually in the 600-1200 mg range, but up to 3,600 mg per day are used in the studies. A factor that is unfavourable for the use of the upper dose range is the relatively high price of SAMe supplements, which is why the lower dose is used more often. To increase efficiency, supplementation can be extended with agents supporting SAMe’s own production, that is active forms of vitamins B6 and B12, and betaine anhydrous (TMG).

Vitamin D

Vitamin, which in recent years gained huge popularity, although it was far away from it in the past. This drastic change is well-motivated because scientists are gradually discovering newer and more surprising relationships between the state of health and the supply and level of this vitamin in the blood. One of these relationships is the effect of vitamin D on the mental condition, because its low levels are associated with a higher incidence of depression. Researchers argue that raising blood levels of 25 (OH) D3 from 41 to 91 nmol / L results in a significant improvement in symptoms such as depression, irritability, fatigue, mood changes, sleep problems, powerlessness, concentration disorders and pain sensation.

It’s ideal to choose the dosage of vitamin D3 adequately to its level in the blood, but 2000 IU a day can usually be taken prophylactically, without any negative consequences.

Rhodiola Rosea

A very interesting plant, but you should very carefully approach the selection of the right supplement with its participation. The vast majority focus on the high content of rosawins, which is puzzling, because based on research, the disruptions do not have a major impact on well-being. Salidrosis is something else, these have a very interesting effect due to the property of monoamine oxidase inhibition. For this reason, it’s optimal to select an extract containing at least 3% salidrosides to provide a sufficiently large amount of active substances. When we find such an extract, 500 mg per day taken in the morning should give a very nice effect, improving the mood with increasing energy and motivation.

Panax Ginseng

Ginseng seems to be a little forgotten herb, most likely due to the growing popularity of other adaptogens has been pushed into the background. However, you can speculate that thanks to its properties it will come back to the game and gain interest again. Ginseng has a slightly energizing effect, improves the quality of sex life, and increases life satisfaction. In the study with the use of 200 mg of extract, after four weeks there was an improvement in social functioning, in a subjective assessment of the quality of life and mental condition. Unfortunately, after eight weeks the effects are weakened, which indicates the legitimacy of cyclic supplementation with ginseng to enjoy effective action for a long time.


In summary, the well-being of our actions and decisions has a great impact on our lives, but to some extent we can also manipulate it with supplementation. The choice is extensive, and the number of potential causes of poor mood is also not short, so you should take a moment to think about and choose the right resources, tailored to your needs.

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