Ask The Pharmacist: Nootropic supplements - nature’s smart pill

Suzy Cohen

Last month I wrote an article entitled, “Alzheimer’s is a guessing game.”
Afterward, many of you emailed and shared your personal stories about this, and some were delightful, others heartbreaking. I truly understand. It brings to the forefront of my mind a woman named Mary, who I met at a Florida nursing home in the ‘90s. I am going to tell you her story soon, so be sure to sign up for my newsletter at
Today’s column will focus on natural remedies that support brain health and memory. Keep in mind that anything you want to try, please ask your physician if its right for you since I am not a doctor and besides, individual response varies. Now for some intelligent brain-loving options, all available at health food stores nationwide (and possibly in your garden!). 

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Lion’s mane

This is a medicinal mushroom, not an animal-derived furry ingredient. It is classified as a nootrope. Have you ever heard of that word before?

Nootropics (“noah-trope-icks”) are defined as substances that can improve cognitive function. Nootropic substances, whether they be medications or supplements, simply contain supportive nutrients that will help you maintain optimal brain function.
Lion’s mane is known botanically as hericium erinaceus, and it possesses well-known regenerative effects. There’s an active ingredient in lion’s mane mushroom promotes the growth of nerve cells in the brain. When you grow new nerve cells, it’s helpful right?
Nootropes are the way of the world, and even kids know about them because on the street, they are termed “smart pills.” Some college kids like nootropic supplements to help them get through finals and exams.

Herb-of-grace's flowers appear creamy white, but a close look at the center reveals subtle colors of lime and rust.

Bacopa monnieri

There is a gorgeous white flower that is a nootropic herb. It helps you maintain optimal brain function due to its strong, protective effect on one particular memory-compound called acetylcholine. 

Bacopa blocks acetylcholinesterase (which breaks down acetylcholine), and remember now, that acetylcholine is a highly desired neurotransmitter.

Gotu kola at Gaia Herbs farm in Brevard.

Gotu kola (centella asiatica)

Gotu kola, commonly called pennywort, contains compounds that support neurotrophin secretion. Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor or BDNF is the most well-studied of the neurotrophins. It helps maintain brain integrity, and signals nerve cells to survive and differentiate. Gotu kola seems to help with mental fatigue. 

I have a longer version of this article (plus big news) so to read that, go to my site and sign up for my newsletter. If your practitioner approves of these gentle remedies, you could certainly try them independently, or you can find multi-tasking formulas that contain these as well as other key nutrients and amino acids.  

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Just be careful because some nootropic supplements are dangerous and in fact, some are not supposed to be on the market anymore. Buy from trusted brands and companies. It’s completely within your rights to ask for a company’s certificate of analysis for purity and heavy metal testing. If they don’t provide that document to you, run. 

Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit