Creativity is a gift we all have, but some of us don’t know how to access it. Supplements for creativity and brainstorming can help you turn on the centers in your brain that allow for out-of-the-box thinking.
But which ones work, and which brain-supportive supplements are just hype? With all the buzz around brain-boosting nootropics, choosing which supplement is right for you can be a challenge. When it comes to creative work, however, there are a handful of clear winners.
This article will discuss what makes a supplement helpful for creative work and which supplements are on the market today that can help you break through to new levels of imagination and creativity.
What Makes a Supplement Helpful For Creative Work?
Creativity is an incredibly subjective skill. What sounds like a waste of time to one person might be the idea of a century to another — depending on the vision behind it. Can you take a pill to give you the imagination of Walt Disney? Short of psychedelics, it’s unlikely. However, you can support your brain with nutrients that open up channels to your own unique creative powers.
Most people get tripped up when trying to access their ability to be creative and brainstorm not because they lack creativity. It’s that something else is in the way. Often, that something comes in the form of stress. In fact, it would be fair to say that stress is the number one enemy of creative thinking.
Likewise, since the creative process can be energy-intensive, when you’re drained and don’t have the reserves to fuel your creative fire, you’ll come up blank when tasked with creative thinking.
And perhaps one of the most overlooked keys to creative development is your ability to paint a new picture in your mind from old memories. You can only create with the tools you have, and in one way or another, many of those “tools” come from your stored memories. For instance, if you were asked to close your eyes and picture a meadow, the scene that displays in your mind may be a place you’ve never been, but the components of the meadow will likely be pieced together from your memories.
At work, when up against a seemingly impossible hurdle, you may come up with a novel new approach, but if you dig a little deeper, that fantastic idea likely comes from a mix and match of other ideas you’ve seen work before.
Taken together, it’s fair to say that a relaxed mind that has the energy to churn away new ideas and is able to access its warehouse of memories is primed for creative thinking.
Below are six research-backed supplements that can help to prime your brain for creativity.
6 Best Supplements For Creative Work
Have a big brainstorming session coming up? Do you want to add some sizzle to your next campaign? Do you want your next design project to surprise and delight? You might be surprised at what these supplements can do for your creative flow.
L-theanine is an amino acid that’s found in green tea and is known for its stress-reducing activity. Research shows that taking l-theanine when you’re stressed or anxious can calm your mind and improve stress-related cognitive dysfunction. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352385915003138?via%3Dihub https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6836118/ As a result, l-theanine may help you access creative centers that would otherwise be turned off due to the stress response.
In order to access creative thinking, your mind needs to be expansive. When you’re stressed or anxious, all of your mental energy goes to survival — how do I manage what’s happening in my life that feels like a threat?
This level of thinking is contractive and makes you narrow in on one object, event, person, or fear. Calming your brain so you can relax is absolutely crucial to creative thinking. When your mind is relaxed, you’re open to the flow of new ideas because your immediate environment feels safe. “Nothing to worry about out over there, so I can become expansive here.”
When you’re feeling drained and tired, the last thing your brain wants to do is put energy towards creative thinking. Luckily, nature provided us with an antidote to fatigue that works incredibly well — caffeine.
Drinking a cup of coffee or tea will not only help you feel more energized, but research shows that caffeine can enhance your ability to problem-solve. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32086187/
Furthermore, studies show that caffeine consumption can enhance mood and overall cognitive performance. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12404081/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3114783/
A cup of coffee can be just the quick-hit creativity hack you need, but if you’re getting into your third or fifth cup, you might want to address other areas of your life that are slowing you down, such as stress or nutrition.
Ginkgo biloba is one of the most well-known cognitive-enhancing plants, with its use dating back thousands of years to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Ginkgo may support your creative process in a number of ways.
First, research shows that taking ginkgo may support stress levels, allowing you to work efficiently even under stress. In one study, ginkgo reduced stress-related high blood pressure, along with the stress hormone cortisol in participants when taken before a stressful task.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12369732/
Along with its stress-reducing activity, ginkgo may also enhance your ability to recall memories. As mentioned, memory recall is vital to creative thinking. It’s theorized that ginkgo works by enhancing blood flow to the brain, allowing for more efficient processing and recall.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21802920/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21061003/
And finally, ginkgo has been shown to have a beneficial impact on overall mental functioning and wellbeing.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14602503/
Supplements are highly individual, and what works for you may not do much for your coworker. Here’s how to zero in on which supplements will work for you.
Theobromine is a chemical compound found primarily in the cacao plant and exists in coffee beans and certain types of tea.
If you have trouble accessing memories, theobromine is an excellent ally, as research shows that this compound may activate certain pathways in your brain that help with recall. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6520707/
Furthermore, theobromine has a similar structure to caffeine but exhibits its effects much more mildly. If you find that you’re caffeine-sensitive but still want some of the nootropic benefits of caffeine, theobromine may be the way to go. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00213-019-5172-0#:~:text=Major%20evidence%20on%20theobromine%20effects,inflammatory%20and%20a%20neuroprotective%20action
Aniracetam is a non-prescription drug that’s gained popularity as a nootropic for its role in enhancing cognitive functions like learning and memory. https://www.nature.com/articles/1301496/ Some research even shows that it may be effective in treating symptoms of dementia. https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/00002512-199404030-00007
Although creativity is subjective, and therefore difficult to measure scientifically, many enthusiasts in the nootropic space claim that aniracetam is the golden ticket to support creative processes due to its unique impact on the brain.
Specifically, aniracetam not only improves learning and memory, but it also appears to increase motivation by improving overall mood. Research shows that taking aniracetam may increase levels of dopamine and serotonin in your brain. These two chemicals are intimately related to feelings of wellbeing, with dopamine acting as a driving force for motivation. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11702095/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11597608/
Accessing your creative faculties is rarely an effortless process, so having the motivational fuel to get going can make a world of difference.
Lion’s mane is a type of medicinal mushroom that actually looks a bit like a brain when you slice it in two. Research shows that lion’s mane may be beneficial for overall brain health and neuroprotection as it contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. It’s also been shown to support the growth of new brain cells, which is vital to your brain development. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24266378/
When it comes to the creative process, lion’s mane offers an all-in-one package with studies supporting its ability to improve memory and concentration, reduce anxiety, and enhance mood (especially in those suffering from depressive states). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20834180/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6982118/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5237458/
Studies also support lion’s mane as a general cognitive enhancer in mild cognitive impairment. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18844328/
Which Supplement Is Best For You?
Choosing the right supplement for you often comes down to trial and error. However, you can start by identifying which area of cognitive support you might benefit from the most. If you think a calm mind could be the key to your creativity, try l-theanine or lion’s mane; if it’s your memory and retention that need a boost, aniracetam or ginkgo may be what you’re looking for.
If you want to skip the trial-and-error process, take this quiz to go straight to a personalized solution.
Many people benefit from a combination, so be open to trying a couple of different supplements until you get what you’re going for.