You’ve probably heard of adrenaline, the hormone that is released during the “fight or flight” response. Its release can be triggered by everything from a verbal argument to a good horror movie to an encounter with an angry bear. What you might not be aware of is that adrenaline is also called epinephrine. Epinephrine has a “sister” hormone, norepinephrine, which is sometimes known as noradrenaline.
What is the Function of Norepinephrine Produced in the Body?
Adrenaline affects a large number of the body’s processes. For example, it causes blood vessels to contract, raising blood pressure, and also increases pulse rate and slows digestion. Norepinephrine actions are more limited - it constricts blood vessels to maintain blood pressure, especially during times of stress. For this reason, it is often used in emergency medicine, especially in combination with other drugs.
However, this hormone also serves as one of the body’s neurotransmitters, helping to conduct messages between nerve cells. After it is synthesized in the adrenal glands, which sit atop your kidneys, it functions to stimulate nerve cells in the sympathetic nervous system, or the “fight or flight” system. Although this system kicks into overdrive during stress, your sympathetic nervous system is always functioning at a low level in the background to maintain your body’s life processes.
Norepinephrine is largely responsible for your baseline alertness as you go about your day, keeping you “bright eyed and bushy tailed” without the hyper-alertness or panic caused by adrenaline. Not surprisingly, norepinephrine secretion levels are at their lowest during sleep, and norepinephrine actually plays a major role in the sleep cycle.
Aside from the adrenal glands, norepinephrine is also produced in certain brain areas where it can affect wide-ranging parts of the brain. This allows it to act in mood enhancement, vigilance, focus and concentration.
What is this Hormone’s Effect on Mood?
The term “mood” can be difficult to define. Does it mean you are generally happy or sad? Or is it more of an encompassing term for your general outlook on life? In reality, your mood changes day to day and minute by minute, based on your environment and life occurrences. Although norepinephrine certainly plays a role in mood enhancement, it is not a “catch-all” solution that will automatically provide you with absolute contentment.
What this hormone can do, however, is help promote alertness, attention, focus, concentration and recall memory. It is a catecholamine, in the same family of neurotransmitters as dopamine. In fact, there are several prescription drugs for ADHD that function by increasing norepinephrine levels.
There is even research in animal models to support the theory that norepinephrine may stimulate neuron production in the hippocampus, a brain region that is responsible for memory and emotion. As researchers stated in a 2010 paper, “Here we show that norepinephrine but not serotonin directly activates self-renewing and multipotent neural precursors, including stem cells, from the hippocampus.”
Which Nootropics Promote Norepinephrine Production?
Prescription medications come with side effects, and directly injecting yourself with norepinephrine would be incredibly harmful. How then can you naturally stimulate your own noradrenaline production? The answer is through nootropics. These are supplements that provide your body with the building blocks it needs to synthesize noradrenaline on its own.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of nootropics available. Each has a different function and intended use. Some of the best for naturally raising your norepinephrine levels include:
Tyrosine - This is an amino acid, or protein building block. Your body directly synthesizes norepinephrine from tyrosine, so a tyrosine supplement could be very helpful for boosting norepinephrine levels.
Phenylpiracetam - This compound enhances levels of both norepinephrine and dopamine. Therefore, it can provide intense focus and mood enhancement.
Vincamine - A natural plant alkaloid, vincamine is used the balance the circadian rhythm, or sleep/wake cycle. It does so by stimulating norepinephrine production, as this hormone helps you to awaken and stay awake.
Green Tea - Completely natural, green tea is a mild stimulate that helps focus as well as weight loss. These functions are due to green tea’s ability to raise norepinephrine levels.
Remember, supplements alone are rarely sufficient to provide the complete benefits you seek. An active lifestyle, healthy diet, and mind/body practices like meditation and yoga are just as important for attention, focus, and a balanced sleep cycle.
Even the natural increase of your norepinephrine levels may be hazardous for certain individuals, such as those on blood pressure medications. The above article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Always consult with your physician before starting any supplement regimen.