Lisa wasn’t one to complain. After 1.5 years of debilitating headaches, she assumed the severe pain would feature in the rest of her life.
Clamoring through the woods of Northern Ontario, she accidentally stumbled on her ultimate nerve growth factor stack (NGF) in the woods.
Finding a large patch of lion’s mane mushrooms in the woods, she harvested, cooked, and froze them for later. After eating them over the course of 1 month, the symptoms from her ruptured brain aneurysm were gone.
Lisa experienced few headaches, which were far less severe. She had more energy than ever before and her general well being was improved.
Such is the power of nerve growth factor.
What is Nerve Growth Factor?
Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a molecule called a neurotrophin, which is responsible for both the maintenance of existing neurons and the formations of new ones .
In 1986 Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini discovered nerve growth factor and created NGF eye-drops to increase her lifespan. Her research on the NGF helped garner a Nobel prize .
Increasing nerve growth factor in your own life is not necessarily positive, but there is evidence it can influence many aspects of your life including:
- Increased memory ability and learning
- Reduced symptoms of depression
- Prevents symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
Below is the ultimate nerve growth factor supplement stack, the clearly defined benefits, downsides, and lifestyle habits to incorporate into your life.
Ultimate Nerve Growth Factor Stack
There are four main ingredients for optimizing nerve growth factor within a single nootropic stack.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom – as our friend Lisa Eriksen found, lion’s mane mushroom is an excellent source of nerve growth factor. Instead of providing NGF, lion’s mane simply improves the expression of this molecule within certain regions of our brain .
A 2008 study in the Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin suggests increased NGF in the hippocampus, a region largely utilized for learning and storing memories. An alternative medicine study from 2011 showed lion’s mane could reverse brain trauma as well .
Lion’s mane mushroom is the cornerstone of any nerve growth factor stack. Many other studies don’t correlate with NGF directly, but are byproducts of this molecule. Examples include reduced feelings of anxiety and depression , which are side effects of greater NGF.
PQQ (Pyrroloquinoline quinone) – this tongue twister of a molecule is typically used for improving mitochondrial health (the powerhouse of the cell). It is mostly used for longevity, aging, or as an antioxidant, but evidence suggests it’s a great NGF hack as well.
A 2005 study found PQQ increased NGF and had side benefits of regenerating axons (electricity signals between cells) and thickening the myelin sheath . All of these are related to the increase of nerve growth factor.
Butyrate – while you may have never heard of butyrate, you have most certainly eaten this compound. Found primarily in butter, ghee, and other dairy products, butyrate can have a NGF boosting effect .
There is no need to add a butyrate supplement to your stack. Just consume some ghee or butter (perhaps in bulletproof coffee) and you will increase NGF.
Altogether, a daily nerve growth factor stack might look something like this:
- 500 mg lion’s mane mushroom (20% beta-glucans)
- 20 mg PQQ
- 2 tbsp grass fed butter or ghee
Going All Out: NGF Eye Drops
The Nobel laureate and neuroscientist, Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini popularized the use of NGF eye drops. Because she lived to be 103, many interested in longevity suggested the NGF eye drops could be the source of her long age.
To get your own NGF eye drops, it would not be easy. Community research suggests NGF in eye drop form would cost $80 per 20 micrograms or $1000 / mg .
The reason NGF eye drops are so effective is because they use the optic nerve to bypass the blood brain barrier. Some studies show safety with the drops , but the cost is currently too high to even make any difference.
Nerve Growth Factor Benefits
Nerve growth is more than neurogenesis. NGF is used throughout the body for the maintenance and production of various types of cells. One nerve growth factor benefit includes reduced symptoms of depression, which occurs by increasing the serotonin producing cells in a certain region of the brain called the brain stem .
This is a major reason lion’s mane mushroom treats symptoms of depression. The downstream effect of nerve-growth factor makes lion’s mane a potential treatment in mild cases. In another correlating study, those with Major Depressive Disorder had far less NGF than healthy adults .
For major diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and Alzheimer’s, a nerve growth factor stack holds promise as well. In MS, the myelin sheath (a layer of protection for neurons) is damaged. NGF not only reduces tissue injury to the myelin , but promotes repair of the damage .
The benefits for Alzheimer’s patients are more challenging to observe. NGF can protect neurons associated with acetylcholine systems, which are usually impaired in Alzheimer’s patients . However, many times Alzheimer’s patients are unable to convert proNGF into the mature form , which is where NGF gene therapy has shown great promise .
These specific cases suggest NGF can be used as a treatment for a number of disorders, but also provides an understanding of the mechanisms that make an NGF stack useful for cognitive enhancement.
Protecting our myelin sheath, maintaining healthy neurons and creating new ones is imperative for both healthy adults looking to enhance mental performance and elderly looking to protect themselves from aging.
Downsides of NGF
More nerve growth factor isn’t always a good thing, unfortunately. Because NGF proliferates the growth of neurons, it can contribute to more pain. NGF can exacerbate arthritis, psoriasis, and other chronic pain injuries .
In some cases, NGF can increase the spread and life of some tumor (cancer) cells as well . Unfortunately, NGF has a hard time discerning which cells to maintain and protect versus the ones that it should not. In the case of some tumors, nerve growth factor helps increase the health of bad cells.
In general, NGF has a protective effect, though at times it can be detrimental for optimizing longevity.
NGF Lifestyle Hacks
For those worried about those downsides, there is an alternative to a nerve growth factor stack. Rather than consuming nootropics that may increase NGF, you can create the lifestyle habits that affect this aspect of cognition. Here are a few simple ideas:
- Exercise – any kind of exercise will help to increase nerve growth factor (in addition to another neurotrophin called BDNF) . Even simple yogic breathing can stimulate NGF .
- Reducing stress – anything that can reduce stress will also aid in NGF production . Try not to reduce stress via unhealthy means (i.e: alcohol consumption) as there are other ways.
- Falling in love – early stages of a romantic relationship show high levels of NGF  and while this may not be an effective long-term strategy, it is an interesting factoid nonetheless.
Perhaps the first two combined with a healthy dose of wild picked lion’s mane mushroom as Lisa found, can create optimal levels of NGF, enhance memory, learning, and boost cognitive function.
- References (Click to Expand)