A couple of years ago a new film came out called Limitless, in this film the main character is offered a drug that enables him to use 100% of his brain and by doing this he is very aware if his surroundongs, can recall all of his memories and can learn much faster than before. Before I saw this film I had never even considered that there may be these kinds of things out there but a quick google search shows up all kinds of drugs that claim to boost memory (obviously not to the extent of this film) but they are available to anyone with access to the internet.
For this blog I will only concentrate on the herbal drugs that are out there, this is because herbal drugs are potentially widely available to students and we will find out if they can be beneficial.
From my google search I found a herbal Nootropic drug called Doxiderol. This drug claims to improve memory, enhance focus, increase attention span, generate intense energy and improve the retention of new information. Doxiderol claims to start to work in only 15 minutes and improves both short term and long term memory.
What is in these drugs?
So by now you may be wondering what is in these miracle drugs that can work so fast, well you may be surprised, most of these things you will probably find in your kitchens already! Doxiderol, like many others like it is made up of caffeine, L-Theanine, vitamin B5, citcicoline, vinpocetine, and Acetyl-L-carnitine.
Can these different herbal supplements work?
- Caffeine – in these drugs caffeine is used to improve the concentration and focus of the person taking the drug. Caffeine is widely available in the form of coffee or in most fizzy drinks such as Coca-cola. Nehlig (2010) found that caffeine only faciltates learning when information is presented passively (think of lectre theatre), and when information is purposely being learned (think of revision) caffeine has been shown to have no effect on learning. Although caffeine can improve concentration and focus at low doses (Nehlig, 2010) it has been shown to cause headaches in young children and adolences when consumed excessively (Hering-Hanit & Gadoth, 2003). Thus possibly having a negative effect on students trying to use it as a stimulant.
- Acetyl-L-carnitine – in these drugs acetyl-l-carnetine is used as an antioxident as it can pass the blood-brain barrier. In the brain acetyl-l-carnetine has been shown to prevent the deterioration of brain cells (Ishii, Shimpo, Matsuoka & Kinoshita, 2000). A more natural way for a student to obtain acetyl-l-carnitine is to incorporate it into their diet. This can be found in red meats and (for vegetarians) small amounts can be found in fruits, vegetables, grains and eggs.
- L-theanine – in these drugs L-theanine is used for its capabilities of reducing stress and stabilising moods. It is mainly used as it counters some of the negative effects brought on by the consumption of caffeine. Owen, Parnell, De Bruin & Rycroft (2008) found that when ceffeine and L-theanine are combined it improved the speed and accuracy of their participants. Haskell, Kennedy, Milne, Wesnes & Scholey (1973) studied this combination on headache and fatigue ratings and found that when used together these ratings reduced. Green tea is a good source of L-theanine.
- Vinpocetine – in these drugs this is described as the viagra for the brain. This is becasue is it a vasodialotor and increases blood flow to the brain. There is not a way to take this naturally in food as it is a plant.
- Citicoline and vitamin B5 – in these drugs these are used for their effect on the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is involved with the learning and retention of new information, and decreased levels have been found to prevent recall (Kramer et al, 1992). Citicoline increases the levels of choline, which then increases acetylcholine. To do this vitamin B5 is essential as it is used to breakdown the choline into acetylcholine. The best sources of vitamin B5 is liver, bran and sunflower seeds. The best sources for citicoline is beans, meats and eggs.
Is it worth it?
After looking at what is in the natural drugs that claim to improve memory it is not worth buying them (they can be very costly), and it is not worth giving them to students to improve their performance in Education, this is because a lot of what these drugs contain are already present in foods that can be consumed easily. Perhaps these foods could be incorporated in dinners that are offered at the education centres such as schools, colleges etc. to boost the students memories.