Billions of people use them but don’t always know that they do or that the are addicted to them. Stimulants are also known as psychostimulants are psychoactive drugs that induce temporary improvements in either mental or physical functions or both. Some are natural, herbal, or prescription. Examples of these kinds of effects may include enhanced alertness, wakefulness, and locomotion, among others. Due to their rendering a characteristic “up” feeling, stimulants are also occasionally referred to as “uppers”. Depressants or “downers”, which decrease mental and/or physical function, are in stark contrast to stimulants and are considered to be their functional opposites. Stimulants are widely used throughout the world as prescription medicines and without prescription both as legal substances and illicit substances of recreational use or abuse.
Stimulants produce a variety of different kinds of effects by enhancing the activity of the central and peripheral nervous systems. Common effects, which vary depending on the substance and dosage in question, may include enhanced alertness, awareness, wakefulness, endurance, productivity, and motivation, increased arousal, locomotion, heart rate, and blood pressure, and the perception of a diminished requirement for food and sleep. Many stimulants are also capable of improving mood and relieving anxiety, and some can even induce feelings of euphoria. However different effects are often dose related, such as amphetamine causing anxiety, dysthymia, hyperactivity and potentially heart failure at high doses, but relieving anxiety, producing euthymia or euphoria, reducing hyperactivity and being generally free of serious side effects at moderate doses used in clinical medicine. Stimulants exert their effects through a number of different pharmacological mechanisms, the most prominent of which include facilitation of norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and/or dopamine activity (e.g., via monoamine transporter inhibition or reversal), adenosine receptor antagonism, and nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonism.
Stimulants are used both individually and clinically for therapeutic purposes in the treatment of a number of indications, including the following:
- To counteract lethargy and fatigue throughout the day while at work or while doing other activities
- To reduce sleepiness and to keep the person awake when necessary, as well as to treat narcolepsy
- To decrease appetite and promote weight loss, as well as to treat obesity
- To improve concentration and focus, and reduce restlessness and hyperactivity, especially for those with attentional disorders such as ADHD
- To treat clinical depression, in particular, non-typical depression and treatment-resistant depression
- To relieve nasal congestion and to treat orthostatic hypotension and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.
- To aid in smoking cessation. (bupropion, nicotine)
- To counteract fatigue and maintain alertness for extended periods and critical operations in military aviation and space flight.
- To offset sedative effects of opioids used long term at higher doses such as in cancer or AIDS patients. (May also have synergistic effect on opioids.)
- To relieve headache, in part by potentiating other drugs. (caffeine)
The stimulant and thermogenic effects of Ephedra is due to the presence of the alkaloids ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. These compounds stimulate the brain, increase heart rate, expand bronchial tubes (making breathing easier), boost your thermogenic rate to increase metabolism. Ephedra is widely used by athletes as a performance-enhancing drug. Ephedra is best used as a weight-loss aid, sometimes in combination with aspirin and caffeine. Studies in regulated and supervised environments have shown that ephedra is effective for weight loss. Ephedra is the most widely used diet pill ingredient.
This is almost certainly the most well known of natural stimulants. We have written about guarana, and described it as the natural Ritalin. A common misconception is that guarana simply provides caffeine, but its more active ingredient is actually guaranine. One study tested improvements in cognitive function from the guarana plant and it concluded that, “The effects cannot be attributed to caffeine alone”. The Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit conducted another study, showing improved memory, concentration, and increased task performance. Researchers concluded that “the effects are unlikely to be attributable to its caffeine content”. Unlike caffeine, guarana does not usually cause jitters, and its effect typically lasts for 8-10 hours, instead of the usual 2-3 hours as experienced with caffeine. Instead of just stimulating, it enhances all cognitive functions. Guarana is currently being tested for post-radiation therapy, in an attempt to provide energy and improved cognitive function in those who are suffering from “chemo-brain”.
Before guarana became popular, ginseng was the most common herbal stimulant. Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) is believed to be much more stimulating than American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). The ingredients label on ginseng supplements will reveal which type it contains. Asian ginseng has also been shown to reduce blood sugar levels and improve cognitive performance. American ginseng has likewise been shown to lower blood sugar and appears to be useful for the treatment of attention deficit disorder, particularly when combined with ginkgo biloba. Studies have shown that it boosts the immune system. According to the University of Maryland, American ginseng is an adaptogen, which means that it helps the body to better deal with various types of stress. Ginseng is also an appetite suppressant, which makes it ideal for dieters. The quick summary is that overall, American ginseng is better for health, but the Asian varieties are more stimulating.
L-tyrosine (or just “tyrosine”) is a building block for many neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine and epinephrine. Neurotransmitters enable communications between nerves and they effect moods. Tyrosine has been shown to help with alertness, particularly following sleep deprivation. It can help to provide energy, improve focus and aid concentration. Successful dosage in studies has been 150 mg. per kg. of body weight. Do not mix tyrosine with hormone medications, because tyrosine naturally increases the amount of thyroid hormones produced. The combination of tyrosine and prescription thyroid medications can result in an excess of thyroid hormones. It causes fatigue in some people, so it would be wise to experiment before incorporating tyrosine into a daily routine. It is most likely to have this effect upon people who have attention deficit disorder (heightened toxicity sensitivities).
Gotu kola is a mild stimulant which improves circulation. It has been found to augment the memory, improve mental clarity, and reduce anxiety. It also strengthens the veins and capillaries. It is popular amongst people with varicose veins, and was historically used by the Chinese to reduce scarring when applied soon after a wound. Like ginseng, it is an adaptogen, which means that it boosts the immune system in times of stress.
Fo-Ti Fo-ti stimulates a portion of the adrenal glands, which provides energy. It is often used to help with erectile dysfunction, and is used as an aphrodisiac. In addition, the root of the plant has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and reduce hardening of the arteries.
Vitamin B-12 is special. Be sure to get B-12 in the form of methylcobalamin, if possible. Hold it in the mouth or chew until it dissolves. Avoid the so-called “food-based” vitamins, which are usually yeast based and genetically engineered.
Chlorophyll is responsible for the pigmentation of green plants. Chlorophyll extract can be purchased in health food stores, and it is sometimes so concentrated that it may actually look black until diluted. Chlorophyll provides mental clarity and physical energy by increasing the rate of oxygen absorption into cells. This is also an important component for the prevention of cancer, as oxygen deprivation is a primary cause of cancer. The Linus Pauling Institute discovered that chlorophyll speeds the healing of wounds when applied topically.
Organic coconut oil can be purchased from a health food store or online. It provides energy rapidly, warms those who have cold-sensitivities, and it even kills candida. Coconut oil testifies to the phrase “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. You can cook with it or eat it plain. In many cases, a quarter of a teaspoon is adequate to get a dramatic energizing effect. An improvement will be felt both mentally and physically. There are very noticeable quality differences between organic, cold-pressed coconut oil, and the highly-processed coconut oil that is sold in most grocery stores. The cold-pressed organic coconut oil is much more effective in providing energy and health benefits.
Taurine is an amino acid, which has been shown to improve athletic performance, energy, and stamina. It is responsible for regulating the mineral salts in the body. It is used with magnesium to regulate the pulse. It also protects against damage to the central nervous system. It is naturally found in all proteins. In another article, we wrote about how taurine is an effective antidote for monosodium glutamate (MSG). Taurine has been shown to be depleted in people with diabetes, so supplementation will be particularly helpful in those cases. One of the most interesting facets of taurine supplementation is that it has been shown to reverse some of the damage caused by smoking. Taurine has been known to stop heart attacks, especially when combined with cayenne pepper.
DHEA has been extensively studied, and has been shown to provide energy, improve mood, reverse aging and improve memory. It has become very popular for its ability to improve sexual stamina and for its use as a weight loss aid. DHEA supplementation should be avoided in those who have adrenal fatigue or male pattern hair loss, because it can dangerously overdrive the adrenal glands of those who already have adrenal stress. Extreme doses in women can lead to the growth of facial hair.
Ginkgo is known primarily for its beneficial effect on circulation, and it is through this function that it increases the energy of those taking it. At the same time, it can actually increase the oxygen capacity of the blood and improve mood. According to the National Institutes of Health, ginkgo has been shown in numerous studies to alleviate leg pain that is caused by clogged arteries. It has also been shown to be very beneficial for those with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. It improves the vision of those with normal tension glaucoma.
Hoodia is used primarily as a weight loss aid. It is powerful stimulant that does not cause jitters. This cactus-like plant from South Africa naturally suppresses the appetite and provides energy. Always read the ingredients on hoodia supplementation packages, and be sure to avoid chemical additives. Deceptive advertising is frequently used to trick people into taking minute amounts that are too small to be effective.
Iodine Iodine deficiencies are rampant, which is largely due to fluoride poisoning. Fatigue is a symptom of both. Fluoride neutralizes iodine and simultaneously causes a body to need more iodine. Iodine supplementation should be used carefully and cautiously. Before supplementing with iodine, please reference the H.W. Report about iodine deficiencies. Supplementing improperly with iodine can be dangerous and even fatal for people having certain conditions.
Arginine is a mild stimulant for most people, but it tends to be more helpful for people aged over 40. This amino acid is produced by the bodies of young people, but it is produced less with age. In men, arginine can a very helpful supplement for both increasing energy and for remedying erectile dysfunction. It is also useful for preventing heart attacks, clearing blood clots, and for strengthening the heart. However, as a strong notice of caution, arginine should never be used in the months following a heart attack, because it increases the chance of another heart attack during that period.