Can Nootropics Improve Your Golf Game Part 3 – Plant Extracts

nootropicsThis is post #3 in this series so far.  In part one I discussed why nootropics have the potential to improve our golf game by outlining the mental/psychological demands of golf, and why increased psychological/cognitive capacity would no doubt improve our on course performance.  I also discussed some of the issues to consider when deciding to use supplements in the first place; mainly, you should not use banned substances, they should be the best quality supplements you can find, and all other aspects of your diet and lifestyle should be in check first.  Not to mention that you should always review any supplements with your healthcare practitioner before adding them to your routine.  In Part 2 of this series I reviewed the evidence surrounding specific amino acids that are commonly found in nootropic supplements, which are claimed to have cognitive enhancing qualities.  Today I will review the evidence for nootropic properties of plant extracts commonly used in nootropic supplements.

A list of common nootropic products that use some of the below ingredients (in this and future articles) include, but are not limited to: Golf Fuel, Golferaid, Golfer X Nutrition Round Control, Alpha Brain, Ciltep, Choline Force, and Natural Factors PQQ-10.  Please note that I have not listed the compounds in any type of hierarchical order.  Please remember to review any supplements with your healthcare practitioner before taking them.


Plant Extract Nootropics

Huperzine A

Huperzine A is an alkaloid extract from the Huperzia Serrata plant which has been used in traditional chinese medicine for centuries (1).  Most studies on this extract focus on it’s impact of Alzhemier’s disease.  Huperzine A acts in a similar fashion to cholinesterase inhibitors (AChEI) which have shown promise in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.  AChEI’s act by reducing the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine once it has been released into the synaptic cleft (the space between nerve cells); thus, Huperzine A can increase the total amount of acetylcholine in the brain (1, 2, 3).  It has also been shown to increase the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine (1), as well as being neuroprotective and possibly involved in nerve growth (1, 3).  Clinical studies shown that Huperzine A is, more often than not, more effective at treating Alzheimer’s related cognitive decline than pharmaceutical AChEI’s (1, 3), and is also effective at increasing memory and cognition in individuals with benign dementia as well as younger individuals with self reported memory impairments (1, 2, 3).  It also appears to have very little side effects or toxicity.  Overall, this appears to have good potential for nootropic actions.

Drug interaction information:


Bacopa, know as Bacopa monnieri, is a herb type plant that has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to treat a wide variety of mental ailments (4, 5).  In both human and animal studies Bacoba has been shown to increase cognition; specifically, memory, learning, and attention (4 -7).  It has also shown the ability to be an anxiolytic, reducing the subjective amounts of anxiety felt by participants during a stressful task situation (5, 7).  These results have been shown in healthy participants and participants with cognitive decline (5).  Bacopa has multiple lines of suggested mechanisms of action including: GABA regulation, anti-oxidant actions, increasing 5-HT, anti-inflammatory actions, neuroprotective actions,  and increasing cerebral blood flow (4-7).  It is thought to be superior to simply anti-oxidant supplementation of neurodegenerative pharmaceuticals because of the combination of the above synergistic actions it has versus the singular effects of say a pharmaceutical drug (5).

Drug Interactions:

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Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba is a tree that has been cultivated by humans since early history and used in traditional Chinese medicine.  Currently, it is toted as a supplement that can increase cognition in healthy individuals.  Unfortunately, there is a significant lack of evidence that ginkgo biloba provides any cognitive enhancements in a healthy population and limited evidence indicating it can provide improvements in cognition for those with neurodegeneration or dementia (8-10).  Overall the evidence is not promising for ginkgo biloba as a nootropic.

Drug Interactions:

Gotu Kola

Gotu Kola, or Centella asiatica, is a small plant native to Asia.  It has been used in traditional Chinese, African and Ayurvedic medicine.  Gotu Kola has been shown in multiple studies to have neuroprotective; and thus, cognitive enhancing effects (11-15).  This is particularly true for individuals with Alzheimer’s (11, 12).  It is suggested that Gotu Kola’s neuroprotective effects are related to it’s ability to stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis (creation of new mitochondria) as well as activating our antioxidant response genes.  Remember from Part 2 that mitochondrial dysfunction is one suggested root cause of neurodegeneration.

Drug interaction information:


Vinpocetine is a semi-synthetic plant extract from the lesser periwinkle.  The bioavailability of this extract seems to be controversial, with some sources indicating low bioavailability and others indicating it is readily absorbed (16). Overall, it seems that it is best absorbed when taken with food (16).  Since it was first extracted in the early 1960s, it has shown promise for cerebrovascular disorders, improving memory, improving hearing loss, and improving vision (16, 17).  Vinpocetin is neuroprotective due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (16, 17), while at the same time increasing the neurotransmitters noradrenaline, dopamine, and acetylcholine.  It also Increases cerebral blood flow, and thus, cerebral metabolism, providing the brain with more available fuel.  Studies show positive improvements in cognition with oral vinpocetine dosage; however, this has only been tested in individuals with cognitive impairments (18, 19) and even these studies are limited.

Drug interaction information:

Oat Straw

Oat straw extract comes from the common oat plant (Avena sativa) and is extracted from the green portions of the plant (stems, leaves, etc.).  Common oat preparations have been used for medicinal purposes since the middle ages (20).  Oat straw extract is theorized to increase dopamine and positively influence other neurotransmitters, as well as increase cerebral blood flow (20).  Because of these mechanisms of action, oat straw has been shown to improve cognition and memory in healthy and cognitively impaired populations (20, 21).

Drug interaction information

Artichoke Extract

Not so complicated, this is clearly an extract from artichokes (not jerusalem artichokes) and a very high source of a phytochemical/antioxidant by the name of luteolin.  Luteolin has been shown to have anti inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, anti allergy, immune modulatory, neuroprotective, and antidepressant effects (22, 23, 24).  The information I was able to locate was from in vitro and animal models, but does indicate that luteolin can help with depressive symptoms, and is possibly preferentially protective towards neuronal cells (22, 23).  Furthermore, due to it’s immune modulating properties, it may be beneficial for MS and also seasonal allergies! (24).

Drug interaction information

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Forskolin is an extract of the Coleus forskohlii plant and is a known activator to the enzyme adenylyl cyclase, and leads to an increase in cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) (25), which we know is important for neurological functions including memory in healthy and cognitively impaired populations (26).

Drug interaction information


Pterostilbene is a phytochemical/antioxidant/flavonoid closely related to resveratrol (the well known antioxidant in red wine).  It has been shown to have antioxidant, anti inflammatory, UV protective, anti cancer, metabolic regulatory, and cardiovascular disease preventative properties.  Specific to cognition, pterostilbene can improve dopamine levels, improve cognition, and modulate cognition and cerebral cellular stress (27)

Drug interaction information

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Well, there you have it, a comprehensive list of plant extract nootropics that seem to have good potential to increase cognitive performance and subsequently our golf game.  Remember to make sure you are medically cleared to take any of these substances prior to use.

My next post in this series will focus on choline, Q10, PQQ and the racetam group of nootropics.


The Barefoot Golfer




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  1. Pingback: Can Nootropics Improve Your Golf Game Part 4 - Vitamins

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