Brain AntiOxidant Stack Synergy

As counterintuitive as it may seem, one of the most vital elements to proper brain functioning is also one of the primary culprits in brain decline. Oxygen, as necessary as it is to our mental and physical functioning is also highly caustic, resulting in a condition known as oxidative stress. There are a number of supplements in nature however that have been shown to possibly alleviate or slow this sort of oxidative damage, which can be increased by stress and is more prevalent as we age.

Today we’ll be talking about the Ayurvedic adaptogen bacopa, green tea constituent l-theanine, naturally occurring enzyme acetyl l-carnitine and one of the essential brain foods, choline and how they can slow down and perhaps even reverse some stress, oxidation and age related decline issues. We will also discuss the unique synergy that allows these components to work together.

Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa, also known as Brahmi, is named after Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. It is a nerve, brain and memory tonic that has been used for improving memory, learning, focus and concentration as well as balancing mood for at least 3,000 years. Legend has it, it was used by ancient Vedic scholars to memorize hymns and scriptures. It’s also been used traditionally to support sleep, combat fatigue (especially adrenal fatigue, similar to the mechanism of Ashwagandha) and heart, lung and digestive system issues.

One of the main draws over the years for bacopa is the fact that it acts as an adaptogen, bringing balance to the adrenal system and three major neurotransmitter systems, that of serotonin (involved in feelings of happiness), dopamine (connected to focus, motivation and mood) and GABA (our brain’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, charged with calming the overactive mind and over-firing neurons).

In addition, Bacopa also acts as a cholinergic, increasing levels of acetylcholine, the learning, memory and movement neurotransmitter. Low levels of acetylcholine can result in brain fog, memory and recall issues and difficulty picking up new skills or learning. Acetylcholine is also central to the memory consolidation process, that is transferring short-term memories in long-term storage.

Bacopa is a neurogenesis inducing herb, meaning it sponsors growth of new nerve endings or “dendrites.” Dendrites are the branch like structures between the synapse that are involved in neuronal communication. A study of bacopa tested it against the popular Asian adaptogen and cognitive enhancer ginseng and the narcolepsy drug that has gained popularity with many biohackers, modafinil.The Ayurvedic adaptogen managed to outperform both.

Adaptogens are promoters of homeostasis, which is why they are considered balancing compounds. Adaptogens can improve the body and brain’s resistance to internal and external stress and the resulting corticosteroids that are released from intense stress. Bacopa has been theorized to be possibly helpful as an adjunctive therapy for anxiety and depression for this reason.

Mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress are two of the most detrimental factors in age related cognitive decline. Bacopa has several mechanisms of action. It is an adaptogen as well as a dietary antioxidant and potent brain antioxidant. Extracts of bacopa were shown in some studies to improve cognitive prowess in human trials. The full mechanisms are still not completely understood.
Oxidative stress is a major brain killer that is also implicated in many neurodegenerative and mental decline issues.  Positively affecting this oxidative stress may slow some signs of aging, lessen neurogenerative disorder risk and possibly even increase the lifespan of older adults.
Mitochondrial based issues are another issue to watch for when attempting to stave off the inevitable effects of aging, especially on the brain.

Bacopa does double duty here, not only positively influencing imbalances between prooxidant and antioxidant reactions (more homeostasis, or balancing effect) and scavenging free radicals, which are especially harmful in regards to cell function and DNA, protein, membrane lipid and mitochondrial integrity. The brain stays pretty busy, it is the intense turnover in metabolism that is to blame for the high sensitivity to the accumulation of oxidative damages.


Green tea has also long been accepted as one of the most highly antioxidant compounds due to its l-theanine content. Theanine was shown to reduce oxidation levels by 20% in a two-week  rodent trial. The study suggested that theanine was overall a safe and effective compound for reducing oxidation levels in the brain through its alteration of protein expression.
L-theanine, like bacopa, has also been used as a mild, non-sedative focusing agent. It’s chemical structure strongly resembles that of glutamate (which is also responsible for its pleasant taste, described by the Japanese as “umami” meaning savory to the point of habit-forming). L-theanine acts in an opposite way to caffeine due to its shape. Caffeine resembles adenosine which is responsible for the feeling of tiredness after work is accomplished. Like Caffeine, l-theanine sits in the chemical receptor spot for glutamate, the excitatory neurotransmitter, blocking (or antagonizing) it’s action. This results in an inhibitory action that is experienced as a sense of calm.

L-theanine not only mimics the action of GABA due to its resemblance of the primary excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, it also actually stimulates GABA production. Many anti-anxiety drugs mimic the action of GABA but most are addictive, sedating and impair motor function whereas l-theanine has been shown to improve alertness, attention, focus and concentration, all the while reducing stress.

Theanine has also been shown to prevent blood pressure spikes experienced under duress and in extreme stress. Excessive glutamate can lead to excitotoxicity which can lead directly to brain cell death. This and the balancing effect of theanine have made it a subject study for conditions including mood disorders, PTSD and even schizophrenia.

Anxiety, stress and cognition are closely linked and calming, focusing compounds like the brain antioxidants bacopa and theanine may be potentially able to help support cognitive function by combatting the fight or flight related stress that can lead to brain fog or even neuronal death. Stress has an incredibly powerful effect that can make thinking clearly difficult. Animal experiments have shown stress significantly reduces performance on standard learning and memory tests as well as adding to oxidative stress and elevated blood levels of stress-response hormones like the corticosteroids, catecholamine or adrenaline (the primary hormonal “fight or flight” trigger). Animals treated with theanine before stressors applied resulted in reversal of cognitive impairment.

As if all this wasn’t enough, l-theanine ahs also been shown to exhibit stroke prevention mechanisms as well as inhibiting tumor necrosis factor alpha, resulting in a decreased risk for arterty-blocking clots or other obstructions that could result in a stroke.

Acetyl L-Carnitine

Acetyl l-carnitine is an endogenous enzyme that is also known as a cholinergic (like bacopa) and brain antioxidant. It has a tendency towards synergy with other cholinergics, so it may improve the effectiveness of bacopa. ALCAR improves alertness through affecting the mitochondrial capacity and providing neuronal support. Mitochondrial support and brain antioxidation through ALCAR make it a great addition to a rejuvenative stack.

ALCAR on its own or within a stack like the one described here can decrease neurological decline in some cases as well as improve fatigue issues that have mitochondrial roots. In addition, it’s considered highly safe for those with heart issues and may help repair certain damage related to diabetes or diabetic neuropathy. Like Bacopa and theanine, mentioned before, ALCAR has multiple mechanisms of action that affect multiple neurotransmitter systems in a positive way.

ALCAR is a cholinergic, positively affecting the production of acetylcholine and synergizing with other cholinergics. It was shown to increase serotonin levels in mice studies by 20% as well. When using cholinergics, there’s always a concern of not having enough choline to feed the production of acetylcholine. Choline is a primary brain food as well as a precursor to acetylcholine so stimulating acetylcholine production without having enough choline can be counterproductive and even result in brain fog or headaches, the last thing you want if you’re looking to improve your mental functioning. In addition, dietary choline may assist the antioxidant effects. In an animal study from 2014 dietary choline was shown to decrease oxidant damage while regulating the antioxidant system.

Overall Brain Stack

This naturally based brain antioxidant stack works with internal synergy to improve cognition, assist in neuroprotection as well as offering side benefits related to other neurotransmitter systems and mitochondrial energy. Each of the ingredients are considered safe to consume with relatively high tolerance and minimal side effects. Overuse of anything can lead to issues of course and the most likely side effects to this rejuvenating stack would be some stomach upset, possible headache or dizziness if you consume more than the recommended dosage. As a result, taking the stack after a full meal is advised. Always check with your doctor before altering your wellness regimen. Pregnant or breastfeeding women are advised to avoid this and any other supplement. Though there are no known negatives related to using these while pregnant, there are also no conclusive results proving the combination safe during gestation.

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