The Brain Mood Connection

Ultimately, our goal in life is to be happy. Even if we don’t identify the goal as such, it always boils down to finding and feeling happiness. We all just want to feel good, right? Brain health plays a key role in maintaining a positive mood and vice versa. Read on to find out how herbs can support a healthy brain-mood connection. We’ll focus in on one in particular, known as nature’s mdma. 

At Amoda, we look at brain health as three key areas: focus, cognition and positive mood. Of course, there are layers upon layers within that, but for ease we’ll go with the three. With mood being one of the main areas, it was essential to make mood (and therefore stress) support a key influencer in formulating Brainiac Chai.

Let’s take a quick science break

The nervous system is made up of a complex system of nerves and neurons that transmit signals between different parts of the body. The central nervous system is made of the brain, the spinal cord and nerves. Neurons send signals via neurotransmitters and the three most common neurotransmitters are dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Keep all that in mind when reading on!

Nature’s mdma 

The drug mdma gained popularity because of the positive feelings it creates, its heart-opening ability and general bliss. Mdma has a lot of negative side effects though. It works by flooding your body with neurotransmitters in a short period of time in order to give you that “blissful” feeling. This flood isn’t normal though, so your body needs to recover and build back the reserves after, leaving you feeling depleted and depressed for the day(s) following. 

Nature’s mdma is actually a legume. A legume known as mucuna pruriens, or the velvet bean. It’s safe and non-psychedelic.  We use it in our Brainiac Chai along with lions mane, rhodiola and bacopa - all herbs known to support brain health (focus + cognition + positive mood). 

Mucuna is sometimes referred to as nature’s mdma because of its ability to help boost your mood. Mucuna pruriens contains levodopa (l-dopa), an amino acid and precursor to dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter. [1] Dopamine ignites the brain’s pleasure centres, happy feelings and reward learning processes. 

Mucuna pruriens is also considered a nootropic (cognition enhancing). It not only boosts your mood, it increases focus, can minimize the effects of stress, increase energy, act as a mild aphrodisiac and can improve mental capacity. 

What happens during stress 

Stress interferes with memory functions and can have long term effects on memory systems. [2] Enduring ongoing stress and facing multiple different stressors decreases serotonin production, which can affect your mood. Serotonin is another one of the body’s other feel-good neurotransmitters. Its role in your sense of wellbeing is in the brain, but serotonin is also found in your gut. The serotonin systems play an essential role in how you respond to stress. It also plays a part in memory and learning.

Rhodiola is a perennial plant used in traditional medicine systems for hundreds of years. We use it in our Brainiac Chai blend for its benefits on the brain. Rhodiola stimulates dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine and enhances their effects on the central nervous system. More specifically, the cognitive functions (like thinking, analyzing, planning) and attention, memory and learning functions are enhanced.

Rhodiola is known as an adaptogen, a category of plants and mushrooms that support our body’s ability to respond and adapt to stress. By improving our response to stress, and combined with cognitive stimulation, rhodiola can have immediate and long-term benefits to brain function and mood.

What else can you do?

Don’t forget about the inner work. Herbs are amazing for their ability to support our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing and are invaluable when you need a little extra help or you need a first step to make enough of a shift that will allow you to do the inner work. Ultimately, no amount of herbs will permanently fix a low happiness baseline. If you put effort into several areas and tackle your happiness from multiple angles, you’ll see the biggest and permanent shifts.

Here’s a few suggestions to go with your daily cup of Brainiac Chai:

    • A walk in the sunshine - research has shown that Vitamin D plays a part in serotonin production. [3]
    • Write in a gratitude journal - Consistently practicing gratitude has been shown to increase overall wellbeing, positive emotions, ability to deal with adversity, and your happiness level. 
    • Get some exercise - research suggests that regular exercise, including exercise to fatigue, increases serotonin levels and serotonin function in the brain.4  (p.s. Brainiac Chai will get you super focused for that workout too)
    • Talk to strangers - You likely know that connecting with others increases happiness, but did you know the power that distant social interactions have on happiness? [4] There have been several studies that show that even short connections with strangers on trains, in waiting rooms or store lineups creates a more positive effect than not connecting and waiting in solitude. (listen to episode 4 of the Happiness Lab Podcast - it’s surprising!)
    • Read The Happiness Advantage book.
    • Listen to The Happiness Lab podcast.

    Looking to incorporate Mucuna Pruriens and Rhodiola into your daily routine? Try our Brainiac Chai. Just add water or mix a sachet into your morning coffee or matcha. 

    SHOP BRAINIAC CHAI  

     

     

     

     


    [1] Ayurvedic, Phytochemical, Therapeutic and Pharmacological overview for Kapikacchu (Mucuna pruriens Linn.) Pansare. T. A1 , Sadabal. B. G2 Associate Professor1 , PF Scholar2 Department of Dravyaguna Government Ayurvedic College, Osmanabad, Maharashtra, India

    [2] Rhodiola rosea: A Phytomedicinal Overview, Issue: 56 Page: 40-52 by Richard P. Brown, Patricia L. Gerbarg, Zakir Ramazanov, HerbalGram. 2002; 56:40-52 American Botanical Council

    [3] How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs Simon N. Young,J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2007 Nov; 32(6): 394–399.

    [4] Epley, N., & Schroeder, J. (2014). Mistakenly seeking solitude. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(5), 1980-1999. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0037323

    Additional research:

    Darbinyan V, Kteyan A, Panossian A, Gabrielian E, Wikman G, Wagner H. Rhodiola rosea in stress induced fatigue: a double blind cross-over study of a standardized extract SHR-5 with a repeated low-dose regimen on the mental performance of healthy physicians during night duty. Phytomedicine 2000;7(5):365-71. The Magic Velvet Bean of Mucuna pruriens,Lucia Raffaella Lampariello, Alessio Cortelazzo, Roberto Guerranti, Claudia Sticozzi, Giuseppe Valacchi, J Tradit Complement Med. 2012 Oct-Dec; 2(4): 331–339.

     

     

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