Health Optimization Nootropics (HONs)

Health Optimization Nootropics (HONs)

May 19, 2022 | Written by Scott Sherr, MD | Reviewed by Marion Hall

Before starting Troscriptions in 2019, we did a huge amount of research into the history of nootropics, the many varieties out there, and we tried many of them along the way.

Although our brains usually enjoyed the ride (with some notably terrible exceptions), it became clear that no one could agree on what a nootropic really was and what it wasn’t.

Most people knew (and agreed) that there were classic nootropics like the racetams, amphetamines (Adderall, etc.), caffeine, and nicotine

But what about other compounds that optimize and/or support brain function like tyrosine, B-vitamins, cannabidiol (CBD), and methylene blue? 

Or how about psychedelics that induce neurogenesis, synaptogenesis, and neuroplasticity like DMT, ketamine, and LSD, respectively? 

In 2020, Dr. Ted, Chief Daydreamer and Master Bluer (i.e., formulator) at Troscriptions, decided to to grab nootropics by their horns and wrangle them into some updated and easy to understand categories: Health Optimization Nootropics (HONs), Performance Optimization Nootropics (PONs), Bluetropics + a bonus category: Bluetropic Stacks. 

This article will mostly be about HONs with some teasing of the other categories along the way. Do not fret though! In subsequent articles, we’ll be discussing PONs, Bluetropics, and Bluetropic Stacks in detail. 

Okay, are you ready? Off we go to the world of HONs! 

Just kidding… First, A Brief History of Nootropics (and a New Definition for the 21st Century)

The use of compounds to aid and improve cognitive performance is a practice that has been going on for millennia. However, the term “nootropic” wasn’t coined until 1964 when Romanian chemist Corneliu E. Giurgea synthesized piracetam and classified it as the first “nootropic” [1]. Giurgea derived the word from the Greek words for mind (νουσ) and bend (τρɛπɛιν). In 1972, Giurgea stated that nootropics must have these five characteristics: 

  1. Enhance learning and memory
  2. Enhance the resistance of learned behaviors/memories to conditions which tend to disrupt them
  3. Protect the brain from various physical/chemical injuries
  4. Increase the efficacy of the tonic cortical/subcortical control mechanisms
  5. Lack the usual pharmacology of other psychotropic drugs and possess very few side effects and extremely low toxicity

The current "cosmetic neurology" definition (colloquial: smart drugs and cognitive enhancers) is drugs, supplements, and other substances that may improve cognitive function, particularly executive function, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals. 

Both definitions, however, focused primarily on performance-enhancing compounds. And there are many nootropics that fit the 1972 definition but not the cosmetic neurology definition.

So in 2021, Dr. Ted decided it was time for a 21st century definition that was able to truly encompass the breadth of nootropic possibilities. 

Nootropics: Any agent which helps optimize the health of the brain and/or optimizes the ability to perform a task. 

  • Agents that optimized the health of the brain, Dr. Ted categorized as Health Optimization Nootropics (HONs)
  • Agents that optimizes the brain’s ability to perform a task, Dr. Ted categorized as Performance Optimization Nootropics (PONs)
  • Agents that did both, Dr. Ted categorized as Bluetropics

Health Optimization Nootropics (HONs) 

Think of your brain like your desktop computer’s CPU. If you continually overclock your CPU to maximize performance, you will quickly burn it out. However, if you optimize your CPU first by either improving its cooling system or upgrading it entirely, then you can push your CPU to higher limits without fear of overclocking. 

A HON, as defined by Dr. Ted is any agent which helps optimize the health of the brain (or CPU in example above). They contribute to overall health and/or optimize the health of the brain and neural networks, neurons, cells, and the basic cell itself.

Here’s an illustration:

Did you know that there can be no brain performance optimization without prior brain health optimization? Because the brain is made up of neural networks.

And… 

  • There can be no neural network performance optimization without prior neural network health optimization. Because neural networks are made up of neurons.
  • There can be no neuronal performance optimization without prior neuronal health optimization. Because neurons are really basic cells with specialized functions.
  • There can be no basic cell performance optimization without prior basic cell health optimization.

Why?

While providing a quick spike in performance, deliberately overclocking the performance of an unhealthy brain will inevitably lead to further deficits and possible damage in the long term.

The key is optimize your basic cell using HONs prior pushing it to perform greater feats of strength/ability. Because, as we mentioned earlier: There can be no true brain performance optimization without prior brain health optimization! 

Examples of Health Optimization Nootropics

HONs are molecules/compounds that help optimize and support cellular function. One such example is the amino acid tyrosine.

Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid derived from phenylalanine [2]. It is metabolized into dopamine and catecholamine neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine [3]

Tyrosine can work to: 

  • Replenish brain catecholamine levels [4]
  • Enhance working memory [4]

Another example of a HON is CBD. CBD is the non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant that modulates our body’s natural endocannabinoid system. It works primarily by decreasing the breakdown of anandamide, our “bliss” neurotransmitter. It also has several direct effects on the CBD1 and CBD2 receptors. The end results is reduced stress, decreased inflammation, and neuroprotection.

Psychedelic HONs

Over the last several years, there has been a lot of interest in the use of psychedelics like DMT, ketamine, LSD, and psilocybin for PTSD, treatment resistant depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and many more conditions. But what hasn’t gotten as much press is the way that these psychedelics actually work in the brain. 

DMT induces neurogenesis, meaning that new neurons will grow after its administration. Ketamine administration induces synaptogenesis, meaning that neurons can make new connections with other neurons. And both LSD and psilocybin have shown to induce neuroplasticity, meaning that neurons will create new connections and pathways, rewiring the brain.

So, in short, these psychedelics are HONs! They optimize and support brain function, especially (and most importantly) when combined with other modalities like psychotherapy.

HONs in Health Optimization Medicine and Practice (HOMe/HOPe) 

Pioneered by Dr. Ted Achacoso, who also happens to be the Chief Daydreamer at Troscriptions, HOMe/HOPe is the first clinical framework to optimize health rather than treat disease. 

Instead of diagnosing and treating disease, HOMe/HOPe instead detects and corrects subtle toxicities and toxicities in nutrient, gut, and hormone networks that directly impact basic cell function. When basic cell function is optimized, all higher order functions improve as well, including (but definitely not limited to) neural network function. As such, many of the interventions in HOMe/HOPe, such as when it’s required to optimize levels of tyrosine, vitamin B6, and even magnesium qualify as HONs.

Side note: HOMe/HOPe is the non-profit arm of Troscriptions and a portion of all proceeds from the Troscriptions company goes to supporting it.

HONs at Troscriptions

Here at Troscriptions, we use the HON CBD in Blue Cannatine because it is neuroprotective and will give you a bit of bliss along with your limitless ride. It’ll also soften the off-ramp after you’ve launched into productivity, focus, verbal fluidity, and enhanced memory for 3 to 5 hours.

We also launch you into the Blueniverse with methylene blue. As you’ll hear in subsequent blogs, methylene blue works as both a HON and PON simultaneously. Because of this, we have created a separate classification for methylene blue: a Bluetropic.

As a HON, methylene blue supports your system by optimizing energy production via several mechanisms, including: 

  1. Modulating hemoglobin’s binding affinity to oxygen (and thus allowing more oxygen to get into tissue)
  2. Its ability to accept an electron from the electron transport chain in your mitochondria just like oxygen and make more ATP
  3. Increase the pool of NAD+ available 

Methylene blue is also an antioxidant and protects your cells from oxidative stress/reactive oxygen species (i.e., it's a HON in these ways too!). 

However, methylene blue also increases neurotransmitter release and revs up complex IV of your mitochondria. In these ways, it works as a PON.

Conclusion

Long short story? Don’t PON until you HON. And figure out which HONs you need by measuring or, if you’re feeling adventurous, find some DMT or go drop acid. Okay, don’t do the latter two. They are illegal!

 

References

  1. Arce, E., & Ehlers, M. D. (2017). The Mind Bending Quest for Cognitive Enhancers. Clinical pharmacology and therapeutics, 101(2), 179–181. https://doi.org/10.1002/cpt.524 
  2. Matthews D. E. (2007). An overview of phenylalanine and tyrosine kinetics in humans. The Journal of nutrition, 137(6 Suppl 1), 1549S–1575S. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/137.6.1549S 
  3. Fernstrom, J. D., & Fernstrom, M. H. (2007). Tyrosine, phenylalanine, and catecholamine synthesis and function in the brain. The Journal of nutrition, 137(6 Suppl 1), 1539S–1548S. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/137.6.1539S 
  4. Hase, A., Jung, S. E., & aan het Rot, M. (2015). Behavioral and cognitive effects of tyrosine intake in healthy human adults. Pharmacology, biochemistry, and behavior, 133, 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pbb.2015.03.008 

Authors

Dr. Scott Sherr

Dr. Scott Sherr is a Board-Certified Internal Medicine Physician Certified to Practice Health Optimization Medicine (HOMe), a specialist in Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT), and COO of Troscriptions (a Smarter Not Harder company). His clinical telepractice includes HOMe as its foundation alongside an integrative approach to HBOT that includes cutting edge and dynamic HBOT protocols, comprehensive testing (using the HOMe framework), targeted supplementation, personal practices, synergistic technologies (new, ancient, psychedelic), and more.

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