If you’ve ever felt like your brainpower could use a boost, then you might have come across nootropics. Also known as “smart drugs”, nootropics are substances that are used to improve attention, creativity, motivation, and other important cognitive functions.
Nootropics are usually designed for another purpose – to treat a health issue, for example – but are taken “off-label” as cognitive enhancers. One popular example is modafinil, a drug designed to treat narcolepsy but often used as a stimulant or study aid.
Nootropics don’t have to be medicines, though. You might be taking one every day in the form of your morning coffee! Caffeine is probably the most popular nootropic in the world, as you’ll know if you’re one of the many millions who reaches for a coffee to power up first thing!
Strictly speaking, CBD is not a nootropic, but many people wonder if it can also work to improve your cognitive function. In this article, we’ll look at how CBD affects the brain, and talk about if and how you can use it as a nootropic.
CBD and the endocannabinoid system (ECS)
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of many substances called cannabinoids found in the hemp plant. Others include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), also known as the substance that gets you high when you smoke cannabis.
You can also find cannabinoids in your very own body! They’re part of your natural endocannabinoid system (ECS), with “endo” meaning endogenous, or internally produced.
The ECS is a recent discovery, but it’s a biggie. In fact, it’s one of the most complex and important systems in the body. Its main job is to maintain homeostasis, or balance, in the body, and it’s involved in regulating everything from your appetite and metabolism, to your mood and memory, to your reproductive and sleep cycles.
Endocannabinoids are the chemical messengers of the ECS, travelling around the body and attaching to receptors. They signal that the ECS needs to take a specific action. And when the job’s done, they’re broken down and removed by dedicated enzymes.
Every endocannabinoid has a unique job and mode of action. It binds to specific receptors, it causes specific effects, and it’s broken down by specific enzymes. When you take external cannabinoids – e.g. you take CBD oil or smoke cannabis – they can mimic the effects of your internal cannabinoids.
The result depends on which cannabinoid it mimics. THC, for example, mimics an endocannabinoid that binds to several receptors, stimulating endorphins and giving that characteristic high feeling.
We know that CBD doesn’t hit these same receptors, which is why it doesn’t get you high. The exact mechanisms are still being studied, but it does interact with serotonin receptors, and there’s growing evidence of pain-relieving, anti-anxiety, and anti-depressant effects.
Is CBD a nootropic?
CBD is not a nootropic because it doesn’t directly boost your cognitive function. However, those aforementioned anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects could indirectly lead to a boost in cognitive performance.
If you’ve ever suffered from anxiety or depression, you’ll know just how detrimental they can be to your day-to-day functioning. Both can affect your motivation and make it difficult to focus your attention, not to mention a host of other unpleasant cognitive effects like “brain fog”. They can also wreak havoc on your sleep patterns and energy levels. With these problems alleviated, it stands to reason that your cognitive performance might improve significantly.
You can also combine CBD with other nootropics for enhanced cognitive results. This is known as “stacking”, and you’ve got lots of options to choose from. Here are some of the most popular:
- Racetams – considered the “holy grail” of cognitive enhancement thanks to reported effects on brain health, learning, memory and many other cognitive functions.
- L-theanine – an amino acid used to promote relaxation, creativity and focus.
- Lion’s Mane – a mushroom believed to stimulate brain cell regeneration and protect against cognitive decline.
- Creatine – an amino acid that helps to recycle ATP, the body’s energy currency, and may improve short-term memory.
- Gingko biloba – a Chinese herb believed to improve memory and attention.
Those are just a few of the many nootropics that may help to boost your cognitive performance, especially when combined with CBD. If you’re interested in adding CBD and other nootropics to your daily regimen, check this deep-dive into the best nootropic supplements.
Are nootropics safe?
When taken as directed in the recommended dosage, CBD is widely considered to be safe for healthy adults.
A good rule of thumb for CBD, nootropics, and supplements in general, is to consult your GP if you have any pre-existing conditions, you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or you’re taking medications. This is especially important if you’re taking an off-label medication as a nootropic, as you can never be sure how it will react with a particular condition or medication. Always best to be on the safe side!
A final note…
CBD and nootropics can be powerful aids in supporting cognitive performance and overall wellbeing. However, it’s important to remember that they’re not “magic pills”, despite what marketers might tell you! As we mentioned, research into the effects of CBD on the brain is still ongoing, and the evidence for many nootropics is still anecdotal at this point.
Always do your research, check in with the doc if in doubt, and buy from reputable sellers, Here at CBD Shopy we hold our brands to incredibly high safety and quality standards, so you can have the fullest confidence in what you’re buying.