From Failing With Nootropics to Hacking My Brain With Mushroom Tinctures-It Worked?

I’ve been experiencing mental fog, cognitive decline, decreased focus and productivity, losing my long-term memories, and the erosion of my short-term memory formation. In Q4 2021 I became serious about trying to fix the issue. My issues are really that of depression, aging, and menopause, but they all wreak havoc on my brain function. I’ve been randomly experimenting with Nootropics since 2017. By the way, what is the past tense proper of to wreak? Wreaked? Wrought?

What Are Nootropics?

Cognitive enhancers, smart drugs, doots. Nootropics are supplements that are meant to increase cognitive function, enhance memory, promote neuroplasticity, regenerate neurons, promote neural development. All the fancy science. Nootropics can do many different things. Atlas Bio Med has a much better definition in their excellent article introducing nootropics, “What Are Nootropics And Can They Boost Your Cognitive Performance?”

Many in the biohacking community promote the use of “nootropics”, colloquially referred to as “smart drugs” or “cognitive enhancers”. The term Nootropic is derived from the ancient Greek words νόος (nóos), meaning “mind” and τροπή (tropḗ) meaning “a turning “. These are simply substances reputed to boost brain performance, including memory, concentration and mental speed.

You might have encountered the idea of nootropics in popular culture, most notably in the film and TV season Limitless. The plot revolves around a man who takes a fictional smart drug called NZT-48, allowing him to access his full mental capacity. In the film, the drug enhances memory, improves learning and leads to better problem-solving.

Believe it or not, you have probably taken a nootropic in your life. I am currently sipping on one of the most popular nootropics out there, 1,3,7-Trimethylpurine-2,6-dione, although you might know it as caffeine. Caffeine is a proven nootropic that can enhance focus and encourage wakefulness.

I’m not going to go into various formulations, deep science, or in-depth about biohacking, but rather share my experience with various tools I’ve defined as nootropics.

Bulletproof Coffee

During graduate school, I became obsessed with coffee and its consumption. My office husband used to special roast a death blend of ultra caffeinated coffee for finals week. My first real experience with doing nootropics, and not knowing it, was making bulletproof coffee. I did the whole thing with Kerrygold butter, coconut oil, and MCT oil powder. This actually improved the effects of the coffee and eliminated the crash. But I knew coffee wasn’t sustainable, so I struggle bussed it for a few years.

Roxiller/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Phenibut, My First Mystery Drug

You know what kind of drugs you shouldn’t take? The kind that aren’t well labelled and found inside an apartment when you move in! But guess what I did? A friend of mine had a supply of Phenibut. I just assumed it was some techy silicon valley drugs, and of course being the irresponsible adult that I was, I consumed them without a second thought. The Phenibut was bunk — it didn’t do anything. Maybe because I had no idea what I was doing and unsafely consumed a possibly contaminated or dangerous substance. But hey, those were the types of decisions I made before sobriety.

I think the Phenibut was in capsule form

HVMN Nootropics and Ketones

In 2019 I moved to an area known for its attention to nootropics, and the massive success people gained as a result of using nootropics. It’s no secret that to perform highly, we are all supplementing and improving ourselves, trying to find that extra edge. This town was full of edge — what else would you expect from Silicon Valley?

L-theanine, caffeine, and Panax ginseng

In Q1 2019, I began my foray into actual pill form supplements. It seems the environment I lived in always had someone talking about nootropics, ranging from the technocratic elite to Uber drivers. I was trying to find supplements to aid me during my comps (comprehensive exams for graduate school). I started with two HVMN brand nootropics: the Sprint nootropic energy and focus pills and Ketone-IQ ester shots. I found little success with either and found the effects comparable to coffee without a crash. I didn’t consume enough of the ketones to notice their effect on me.

GABA

In Q1 2020 I was diagnosed with menopause. I was experiencing a rapid cognitive decline from what I perceived as a bullet train to aging. I felt the aging process coming on quicker, and more slowly. If you want the good advice, go to Reddit. I focused my experimenting to treat my cognitive issues of menopause. I started taking GABA to help with the mental issues. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I took the supplements. I went through a 3–6 month supply of GABA and noticed no effects. I was trying to sort out many issues at once, though. I didn’t have my menopause fully under control physically, so I couldn’t really do the big work on my massive mental fog that seemed to appear suddenly.

Possibly works, but taken at a bad time

Menopause Supplement Failures

Ah, there were so many menopause supplement failures. I experimented with various natural remedies. I was trying to treat hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings (if I was lucky). There are three popular remedies that didn’t work for me: black cohosh tincture, soy isoflavones pills, and sage (Salvia officinalis) tincture. I can say that these natural treatments had no bearing on my physical menopause symptoms, and did not appear to have any mental effects — positive or negative.

My dad was there for me during menopause, Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

After the significant failures to treat my menopause naturally, I said fuck it and sought the big guns: HRT (hormone replacement therapy). I started with progesterone and estrogen pills. My doses were increased, and I was given spironolactone for support (and acne).

I was switched to estrogen patches when my body wasn’t absorbing the levels I needed. My progesterone was increased and so was my spironolactone. I was still not absorbing enough estrogen from my patches, so I decided to get the Biote estrogen pellet implant (in my ass cheek).

After running hormone labs, my testosterone was boosted. I started applying a hormone cream all over my pussy (my dad filled the prescription for me, we’re close-ish). The testosterone cream didn’t work out. So my hormone replacement therapy journey ended with a solid combination of progesterone and spironolactone pills, and a Biote pellet implant for estrogen and testosterone. So every three months, I return to have my ass sliced open and have hormones implanted into my butt. And I have to deal with a twitchy ass cheek for a few days.

The hormone pellet implant procedure

Nuclear Option: A Total Hysterectomy

This isn’t a nootropic perse, but part of the journey, so it’s worth mentioning here.

After many years of taking hormones on and off, I finally had a HRT management routine. I simply could not bear the stress my uterus was under, the taking ibuprofen and acetaminophen on and off in four hour cycles at their maximum dosage. I absolutely couldn’t function without excruciating cramps that would leave me debilitated for days. After enough of my uterine tissue collecting in my uterus, my OBGYN sent me in for an ultrasound because of suspected cancer. It was not cancer, it was my own uterine lining unable to expel itself.

At that point, I was so fed up with the whole hormones and menopause thing. I was infertile anyway and failed to bring any of my pregnancies to term. I took the radical route and underwent a total hysterectomy with salpingo-oophorectomy. My ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, and cervix were removed. The nuclear option was best for me, but did cause me a lot of self-doubts, twinges of regret, feelings of permanent loss, and took months of healing.

Psychiatric Meds

I’ll be brief — it took over ten years and many suicidal thoughts and medicines to find a combination that worked for me. I spent my life being treated for depression with SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), and only in the past few months did I learn that I’m highly sensitive to serotonin. I actually have a dopamine regulation problem! So now I’m on medications that work on dopamine and I stay away from serotonin medications.

Three cheers for Ziprasidone

Ketamine

Well, this whole blog is geared to how my life looks after ketamine. The ketamine IV infusions, and maintenance troches I take at home, are definitely nootropic in effect for me. All the gears finally click, the snow in the globe settles. I developed a more acute awareness of my body after ketamine, and was able to really listen to what my body was saying.

It tunes with my biofeedback, I adjusted my routine, sought help from medical professionals, and began journaling — trying and doing all the things to make daily life healthy and better. I began eating healthy too and switched to a mostly plant-based in early 2022.

Finally, Mushroom Tinctures

In 2021 I was going through depression, still getting a hold of my menopause, recovering from a hysterectomy, trying DMT, and moved twice. I was quite stressed out. In the end, I ended up living in a soothing living environment, healed from my surgery, and living the sober life. I started making a routine after my ketamine treatments.

I started trying to visit the farmer’s market every weekend. There’s a local company that makes mushroom tinctures. I had just watched the amazing Fantastic Fungi docu on Netflix, and was eager to try mushrooms in my life. I wasn’t really hip with eating them as a meat substitute. So when I learned I could ingest the mushrooms without needing to eat them, I was captivated.

I bought my first mushroom tinctures during the transition from fall to winter. The mushroom company had a special blend to boost the immune system in the winter months. Now during the pandemic I never caught COVID, nor did I experience any cold or flu. Since my area was lax in mask enforcement, I thought the tinctures could be a good way to protect my health during the upcoming winter months.

Here’s the thing about mushroom tinctures. They don’t work right away, it takes time.

That’s why it has taken me so long to write and document my experiences using the tinctures. There was nothing to report. The tinctures were a part of my daily supplement routine, taking up to three different tinctures daily. Overall, it took about 3–5 months to notice the results. There’s little to report, but there’s finally something.

At no point during my tincture taking did I ever become sick. I had no cold, flu, UTIs, or sinus infections — none of the things I might usually get during that time. Several things had changed in my routine. I had created enough healing and biohacking through trying supplements and hormones over the years. I finally had some stability to speak of.

After my ketamine treatments, I used my ability to listen to my biofeedback, and find what was present and what was not present. I made a list of complaints and symptoms I had before taking mushrooms. Brain fog, decreased energy, cognitive decline, stuttering, lack of energy, fatigue, mental haze.

After taking the mushroom tinctures for a few months, I experienced a significant improvement in my brain fog. I have more energy. I am making mental connections. I still stutter sometimes, but I no longer suffer from tip of the tongue syndrome and forgetting the correct word to say.

Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels

The Final Result

Of course, since so many things changed, could it be something other than the mushrooms having an effect on me? Yes and no. In my opinion, I was able to identify which substances had which effect on my body, and during which time frame. While changes with ketamine and my psych meds caused immediate changes, the mushrooms did not.

It’s possible that I am experiencing latent effects of all the substances combined used over time. But right now, I stand convinced that the mushrooms have been one dimension of my healing journey. Saying this in writing makes me feel like I built up the whole nootropics thing, then had no substantial hard evidence from my life.

But what I can tell you is my experience. One day when I woke up, the fog was just kinda noticeably gone. It was like when you get a haircut and your hair starts growing, and finally, you notice yourself having long hair. I feel like there were many small and unnoticeable changes that finally culminated in the noticeable experience of having days without brain fog.

I can’t say at this point that I suffer from no brain fog. And there is much more physical and mental work to be done. I must see this experiment through and come up with some hard facts.

Upcoming 3-Month Mushroom Tincture Challenge

A few days ago, on April 17th, 2022, I began a new course of mushroom tinctures: Reishi and Sharp from HiFi Mycology. The suggested use for both tinctures is one dropper full once daily. I will be doing two dropper fulls daily, once in the morning and once in the evening. I might forget I’ve taken a dose and take the third dose. Sure this isn’t the most sound science, but hey I want the mental focus and clarity and everything. Perhaps I can continue my mushroom work and amplify its effects, and verify them, instead of trying a new supplement in my routine.

Sharp and Reishi mushroom tinctures from HiFi Mycology

Reishi Tincture from HiFi Mycology, $26 for 1 oz.

The Reishi is a medicinal liquid mushroom double extract. It is made with reishi mushrooms in 30–40% alcohol, according to the label. According to the website:

An adaptogenic mushroom with an ancient history. Reishi helps the body adapt to stress and enhances the immune system.* Studies have shown this mushroom to have anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-tumor activity.* Reishi is also anti-inflammatory and promotes good sleep.*

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Sharp Tincture from HiFi Mycology, $26 for 1 oz.

The Sharp is a medicinal liquid mushroom double extract for “mind & body fitness,” according to the label. It is made with cordyceps and lions mane mushrooms in 30–40% alcohol.

Our bespoke blend for mental clarity and physical fitness. A 1:1 blend of double extracted Lion’s Mane and Cordyceps fruitbodies; this combo is the perfect mind/body enhancement.

Lions Mane for the brain; enhancing memory and focus.*

Cordyceps for the body; increasing available ATP and helping to remove lactic acid.*

Whether it’s a hard day of work ahead or you need to be on top of your game, Stay Sharp.

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Do The Work

I am five days into my new mushroom tincture journey. I’ll report back if anything exciting, or anything really, happens. The next few months will be hard for me. I am improving my time management and remembering more frequently to take my morning supplements, but I usually don’t eat breakfast. The morning has never been a great time for me.

If you are on your own mushroom journey, not the magic kind, I’d love to hear your experiences. What kind of mushrooms do you take? How are they made? What do you take the tinctures for? What effects have you noticed, if any? Do you have any advice or knowledge to share?

Trading Sex for Death is an anonymous blog documenting my life with mental illness/disorder, how ketamine iv infusion therapy helps me, and the ways menopause breaks my heart. I hope being public about my story can help others who are looking for answers to similar questions.

If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, there is help available from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1(800)273–8255. Help is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week by phone or chat.

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