Relaxed, Alert, and Feeling Good
Finding the key to inducing pleasure and energy came about somewhat by accident. As it turns out, sometimes in formulating, you just get lucky. Sometimes, something totally unexpected just walks through the back door. Sometimes, it's a little like the discovery of penicillin. You look for one thing; you get another. And instead of throwing it out as old mold, you recognize in that mold a whole new class of healing potential. Well, my formulation for inducing pleasure and energy was a bit like that. Even better, it opened the door to a whole new class of nutraceuticals—neural enhancers. That means that even as I worked out pleasure and energy without stimulants, it came along with being able to encourage states of relaxed alertness, being in the zone, satiety, de-stressing, and just plain feeling good. It turns out, they’re all connected. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's go back to the beginning.
From Soda Pop to Miracle Tincture
About 10 years ago, I was contacted by a start-up company. They asked me to design an energy drink for them but make it healthy. As fate would have it, during the previous year, I had been exploring some exotic brain enhancement herbs for use in a neural enhancement "brain tonic." So I developed a tincture for the start-up using two of those exotic herbs: mulungu from the Amazon Rainforest and bacopa from the Indian Ayurveda tradition. But even as we got the first test batches ready to go, the start-up company closed its doors.
Not wanting to waste the samples, I sent out a number of bottles to my network of "testers." I got back some very surprising responses.
- Many of the testers got back to me within a couple of days and demanded immediate access to be able to buy the product. They "loved how it felt." They didn't "want to be without it."
- A large number said, "It's a great appetite suppressant. Not that it actually suppresses appetite. It just makes me feel so good physically and mentally, I don't need to eat comfort food or midday snacks for energy."
- Others said that the "energy boost and mental clarity lasted for hours" and with no jitters.
- Smokers noticed a decreased urge to have a cigarette.
- Those who tended to suffer from post prandial dip every afternoon, noticed that the formula provided just the "relaxed energy" they needed to get through the day--without having to jack up on caffeine or other stimulants.
- Still others said that it was "wonderful with wine." What they actually said was that "a couple of droppers swished in the mouth a few minutes before drinking a glass of wine amplified and extended the pleasant feelings of that single glass of wine for 3-4 hours." The net result was that they drank far less (a major positive), felt better, had no drop-off during the evening, and were much less affected in the morning.
- And finally, a number of people said the tincture was a perfect way to unwind at the end of a hard day.
Back to Basics
At this point, I began to realize that I had something here that was significantly more than I had expected when I formulated it--although, to be sure, most people did indeed report an increase in energy and mental clarity. So I decided to continue working on the formula and see if I could improve what it did.
It's important to understand that the hardest part in developing a "new" formula is that there are no reference points. You have no guide in selecting ingredients, other than your own personal knowledge base and your own intuition. (You can't just mix and match exotic ingredients from what you read in a book.) And you have no guide in determining how much of each ingredient to use other than lots and lots and lots of trial and error. With that in mind, I continued to work on the formula for the next six months to "perfect" it. In addition to the mulungu and bacopa, I added green tea to sharpen the effect of the mulungu, and stevia to help maintain blood sugar levels, thereby keeping energy levels up.
When I originally produced this formula, as I already mentioned, I used mulungu, which is traditionally used for anxiety and stress. In addition, mulungu induces a strong physical sensation of well-being. It is experienced as a very pleasurable warmth and tingling in the body. It is this pleasurable sensation that works so well as an appetite suppressant. You just feel so good that you don't want to eat. However, in 2012, I was forced to look for an alternative as mulungu was placed on the endangered species list.
I found it in ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), which provides all of the same benefits as mulungu, but does not cause drowsiness or dopiness, which mulungu can do in some people. Also, there are far more clinical studies supporting the benefits of ashwagandha than there are for mulungu. Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng, has been part of herbal medicine for at least the last 4,000 years; and like ginseng, it functions as a general tonic, an "adaptogen," which means its potential benefits are wide ranging. Studies support its use as a:
- Cognitive function enhancer.1, 2
- Stress,3 anxiety,4, 5 and depression reducer.6
- Legal athletic performance enhancer via significant improvement in cardiorespiratory endurance.7, 8, 9
- Sex enhancer.10
- Immune enhancer.11, 12
- Antioxidant.13, 14
- Anti-inflammatory.15, 16
- Stimulates nerve regeneration.17
- Possibly extends lifespan.18
- And like mulungu, ashwagandha stimulates the body's pleasure centers. It just plain "feels" good.
Note: ashwagandha: is part of the nightshade family. That means if you have an allergy to potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, or bell peppers, you will probably not be able to use this formula as it is likely to stimulate the same allergy.
A classic brain and nerve tonic, bacopa is a medicinal herb that has been used effectively for hundreds of years as a brain and nervous system restorer. It is known to increase mental clarity and promote improved memory and intelligence. It also assists in heightening mental acuity and supports the physiological processes involved in relaxation. Bacopa is thought to help nourish neurons as it restores depleted synaptic activity. Studies have indicated that Bacopa can help:
- Increase learning speed and learning capacity.22, 23, 24
- Balance emotional states by working to relieve stress and anxiety.23
- Support healthy cerebral function and help forestall the pathologies of the aging brain.25
- Improve concentration and attention span, and diminish attention-deficit problems.26
- Protect the brain from free-radical damage, thus preventing cognitive impairment and/or decline.27, 28, 29
- Contains biochemicals that specifically work as anti-inflammatories in the brain.30, 31
- Help in the handling of increasingly difficult tasks.32
- And the most interesting of the many effects of Bacopa is its ability to help increase novelty-seeking behavior, an attribute of intelligence associated with increased mental pleasure and increased lifespan.
And it probably should be noted that supplementation with bacopa probably doesn't just make you "feel" smarter; indications are that it seems to actually "make" you smarter. Specifically, studies have shown that bacopa supplementation stimulates a significant increase in dendritic length and dendritic branching points along the length of dendrites of the amygdaloid neurons. In other words, bacopa seems to stimulate a measurable increase in the number of neuronal connections in your brain!33
Green tea contains alkaloids including caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline. These alkaloids provide green tea's stimulant effects. Just a small amount of green tea provides enough of these stimulating alkaloids to work perfectly with the ashwagandha to enhance its sensation of physical pleasure, while at the same time augmenting mental clarity.
And the benefits of green tea don't stop there. It has also been shown to be effective in regulating blood sugar, reducing triglycerides and in reversing the ravages of heart disease. (Incidentally, the Japanese, who drink large amounts of green tea, have some of the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease in the world.) It also plays a protective role in the brain, serving as an effective MAO inhibitor, protecting against brain-cell death from glucose oxidase, over-production of nitric oxide, and lowering the amount of free iron reaching the brain (a bad thing). The net result is that there are strong indications that green tea extract may play a major role in protecting against both Parkinson's34 and Alzheimer's disease.35
In addition, green tea antioxidants are of the same family as grape seed and pine bark extracts. They are polyphenols, chief of which are the flavonoids called proanthocyanidins. In green tea, the main proanthocyanidins are the catechins, and the most powerful of the catechins is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), found in the highest concentration in green tea.
Green tea also works to prevent tumors from developing the blood vessels they need to survive, while at the same time inhibiting metastasis.36 And it is the first known natural telomerase inhibitor.37 That is to say, it eliminates the "immortality" of cancer cells which is their trademark and which makes them so deadly. Green tea is particularly effective in destroying the causes of leukemia, prostate cancer, and breast cancer. In addition, green tea seems to be able to almost totally prevent cancer causing DNA damage in smokers -- a possible explanation as to why the Japanese, who are among the world's heaviest smokers, have such a low incidence of lung cancer.38
But in this formula, all of the above are side benefits. The primary reason for using green tea in this formula is because it contains L-theanine. Research on human volunteers has demonstrated that L-theanine creates a sense of relaxation through at least two different mechanisms. First, it directly stimulates the production of alpha brainwaves, creating a state of deep relaxation and mental alertness similar to what is achieved through meditation.39 Second, L-theanine is involved in the formation of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma amino butyric acid (GABA).40 GABA influences the levels of two other neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin, producing the key relaxation effect. L-theanine has been used to:
- Improve the quality of sleep -- without inducing drowsiness
- Promote relaxation
- Create a sense of well-being
- Stimulate alpha brainwaves
The use of green tea in this formula, then, is primarily for its ability to de-stress and to stimulate the production of alpha brainwaves to induce a state of relaxed alertness.
Stevia is included for its ability to help the body regulate blood sugar.41 Researchers have reported that stevia seems to correct both high and low blood sugar. This helps prevent midday energy dips caused by shifting blood sugar levels that normally encourage people to snack throughout the day.
When you consider the combined effect of these ingredients, you see that this formula has the ability to induce a state of relaxed alertness. Many people will probably end up using this formula as an appetite control or as a stop-smoking aid because it:
- Helps control the desire for snacks/cigarettes by offering the body a more pleasurable experience than comfort food or smoking.
- "Feels" good both mentally and physically, which means it lessens the desire for comfort food.
But its real uses go far beyond that. For example, it:
- Provides an instant low-stimulant, brain boost at any point in the day you feel a dip.
- Helps put athletes "in the zone."
- Works as a study aid when a prolonged period of relaxed alertness is beneficial.
- Helps you quickly chill out at the end of the day.
- Both Increases and prolongs the pleasurable feelings associated with alcohol consumption, while at the same time allowing you to drink less to get there.
- And again, it just plain feels good--both mentally and physically.
Note: if swished in the mouth for about 30 seconds before swallowing, this formula begins to take effect in about 60 seconds. If just swallowed, as when taken with a drink, it starts working in about 15 minutes.
(Originally published 02/01/2004. Updated 12/15/2014.)
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