Many people are not familiar with nootropics. They’re hesitant to use ‘smart drugs,’ yet many of those same people consume a cognitive enhancer everyday. Your morning cup of coffee contains caffeine which increases cognitive function. It is an enhancer that is commonly taken in a stack, due to the effects it produces.
Caffeine itself is not technically a nootropic, but it most certainly improves mental performance. It is not considered a nootropic, because it is a stimulant. Due to its stimulating effects on the central nervous system, it increase one’s alertness.
History of Caffeine
Caffeine is nothing new, as it has been around for thousands of years. Depending on the country, each has its own story. Caffeine was first extracted from cocoa beans in the 1820’s by Friedrich Ferdinand Runge. This extraction was a white powder, as this is caffeine in its purest form. Today, it is easily extracted and used in a number of products on a daily basis.
How Is Caffeine Extracted?
There are three main processes used to extract caffeine. A few processes are no longer being used due to the environmental effects of solvents. The current processes include:
- Water extraction: Raw coffee beans are soaked in distilled water. Once soak for an extended period of time, the water is passed through a charcoal filter. The charcoal removes the caffeine, leaving behind flavoured compounds. The remaining solution is put back in with the beans, allowing for evaporation. This is how decaffeinated coffee is produced. The caffeine is collected from the charcoal and used in a variety of products.
- Carbon dioxide extraction: Carbon dioxide is an effective and safe solvent to use, especially in comparison to previously used solvents. Carbon dioxide is passed through the beans at a specific temperature and pressure. It then reaches a ‘supercritical’ state, having gas-like properties. This allows it to penetrate deep into the bean, while maintaining its liquid properties. It then dissolves approximately 98% of the caffeine. The carbon dioxide now contains caffeine compounds, which are sprayed with water. That water is then filtered, isolating the caffeine.
- Organic solvent extraction: Certain organic solvents such as ethyl acetate, are used to dissolve caffeine. The solvents are rinsed, leaving decaffeinated beans.
Sources of Caffeine
When we think of caffeine, we think of coffee. Although this is a main source, you can find caffeine in a number of other items. It is located in many natural sources, as it is found in more than 60 different plants.
You may consume caffeine without even realizing it, as many products will list it as another ingredient. It may be listed as coca, Camillia, guarana berries, or a number of other ingredients. It is also found in a number of diet products and energy drinks.
You will often find caffeine within nootropic stacks, as it promotes wakefulness, enhances energy, and improves concentration. The most common stack is caffeine and L-Theanine.
How Does Caffeine Work?
Caffeine works as a replacement to the chemical called adenosine. Adenosine’s main role is to ensure that your nervous system does not become over excited. Caffeine mimics this chemical, but in reverse. Whenever adenosine and caffeine target the same receptor site, caffeine wins.
When caffeine targets receptors, dopamine is often released. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is known to activate the pleasure centres of the brain. It also improves concentration and attention. This is helpful in terms of cognitive function.
Benefits of Caffeine
No matter what source you obtain caffeine from, the structure does not widely differ from source-to-source. Whether you drink a cup of coffee or take a supplement pill, you will experience the same benefits. The following benefits are seen when consuming caffeine:
- Increased alertness is the most well-known benefit. This benefit is only short-lived, and the effects decrease after the second consumption. This why many drink coffee in the morning, it gives you that extra mental boost.
- Caffeine may have neuroprotective properties. In a study, 80% of regular coffee drinkers were less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.
- Research is still ongoing, but it appears as though caffeine helps to protect against memory conditions, such as Alzheimer’s.
- In younger participants, caffeine has been found to improve mental performance when individuals are distracted. In elderly individuals, it was shown to improve mental performance during more complex tasks.
Caffeine and L-Theanine Stack
This stack is one of the most common and is recommended for beginner users. L-Theanine is found within green tea, helping to counteract some of the potential side-effects of caffeine. It helps to reduce restlessness and anxiety which is sometimes caused by caffeine.
This stack is so effective because the caffeine increases concentration and attention, while the L-Theanine helps increase feelings of calmness. Therefore, you gain mental clarity and brain energy, while eliminating withdrawal effects and feelings of anxiousness associated with caffeine.
The average American consumes different levels of caffeine daily. It’s hard to say what the average consumption is. Each person will have a different tolerance regarding caffeine consumption. It is advised that you do not exceed 300 mg. This is around three to four cups of coffee.
You can build a tolerance to caffeine, so if you’re taking it for its cognitive enhancing abilities, cycle it within your stack. This will ensure that its effects continue to work over time.
Caffeine is well tolerated and consumed often by the general population. It is fairly safe, but it does yield a few potential side-effects. Side-effects are usually experienced during long-term or continuous use. When used properly, side-effects are extremely limited. However, caffeine can cause; restlessness, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, nervousness, and increased respiration.
As mentioned, it is not recommended that you exceed 300 mg a day. If you do exceed this dosage, you may experience an increased heart rate and difficulty sleeping. Due to the six hour half-life of caffeine, a large cup of coffee at dinner would more than likely affect your ability to sleep. Deep sleep is crucial for your well-being, so this can harm your health.