Supplements that enhance ASMR response

[Total: 13    Average: 4/5]

ASMR is great for relaxing and decreasing stress, but many of us find that it only works for a certain period before it stops working, almost like a tolerance has formed. Alcohol consumption, coffee, tobacco, and drugs all have this in common, they work great for a few days and then stop working. In some cases the brain becomes dependent on these drugs just to function normally. The brain always like to be in homeostasis and regulates the receptors for these drugs. However, ASMR is not a drug, so why does tolerance develop to it? Furthermore, why do some people respond to ASMR while others don’t? And can you enhance ASMR response?

In my experience, I’ve found that my ASMR response greatly increases after I take serotonergic compounds. Serotonin regulates social connections and is involved in the release of oxytocin, a hormone that makes us feel connected. When you watch an ASMR video and you respond to it, it’s because you are forming a social connection to the person(s) in the video, sort of like empathy. That’s why it’s impossible to feel ASMR from yourself, it’s like you’re tickling yourself, it just does not work. Different people have different brains with different neurotransmitters. Some people are more dopamine-inclined (the go-getters), some are GABA-inclined (the relaxed laid back kind), some are serotonin-inclined (the social ones) and the list could go on.

Common drugs like caffeine and alcohol affect our neurotransmitters. Caffeine can increase dopamine and make a lazy person more productive, but dopamine has no relationship to oxytocin and is therefore not likely responsible for ASMR’s effects. Alcohol increases GABA and can make an anxious person laid back and easygoing, but also does not increase oxytocin. Serotonin, however, does increase oxytocin. Increasing serotonin may make an ASMR non-responder a responder, and can amplify a responder’s effects. Aside from exercising, eating right, and getting enough sleep to improve serotonin function there are a few different supplements that can increase serotonin levels in the brain and can thereby potentially increase ASMR response.

Supplements that increase serotonin and oxytocin

Bacopa

Bacopa monnieri leafs and flowerBacopa is a herb that’s used in ayurvedic medicine to treat a myriad of things from insomnia to depression to memory loss. Bacopa is well known for its beneficial effects on memory in healthy individuals.[1] It’s also well known for treating insomnia and even improving sleep in those with no sleep problems. Aside from these benefits, what makes Bacopa useful for increasing ASMR response is its ability to increase serotonin in the brain. In fact, Bacopa extracts up-regulate tryptophan hydroxylase and the serotonin transporter in the brain.[2] Tryptophan hydroxylase is the rate-limiting enzyme for serotonin production meaning the more of this enzyme we have, the more serotonin we produce.

This increased availability of serotonin means more serotonin receptors are activated. One of these is the serotonin 1A receptor. Activation of these receptors increases sociability, libido, energy, and the all important oxytocin. Increased oxytocin levels can enhance ASMR response.

Anecdotal benefits of Bacopa:

  • Improved memory
  • Improved learning
  • Increased sociability
  • Decreased stress
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Improved mood
  • Improved sleep

Buying Bacopa

When buying Bacopa look for brands that use the Bacognize extract. This extract is one of the most potent on the market, but more importantly it’s the safest. Bacopa has a tendency to collect heavy metals and poor extracts can contain heavy metal contaminants. Bacognize is free from heavy metal contaminants and is standardized to usually 45% bacosides, the active compounds in Bacopa.

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Rhodiola Rosea

Leafs of Rhodiola Rosea herb Also known as Golden Root, this herb has been coined the term adaptogen because of its ability to help the body adapt to stress. Many people have reported increased energy, improved mood, better memory, and a decreased response to stress. Stress is the number one killer of the many pleasurable activities we try to enjoy every day and that includes ASMR. In the short-term it causes an increase in the release of norepinephrine, adrenaline and cortisol. This puts us in the flight-or-fight mode and as a result we tend to focus on one thing and one thing only, the stressful task at hand. For many of us, the stressful task is usually our job or school work and just thinking about it when we’re trying to relax can stress us out. And unfortunately, for most of us this is a long-term problem and this is where the issue of long-term stress comes in.

Chronic stress can cause many problems including but not limited to depression, anxiety, fatigue, memory problems, sleep problems, and many more. Chronic stress also affects the hippocampus, a part of the brain that’s important in emotional response and since ASMR is an emotional response, chronic stress effectively decreases ASMR response by decreasing the size of the hippocampus. Luckily, the hippocampus is one of the few parts of the brain capable of growing new brain cells. In fact, Rhodiola Rosea has been shown to reverse chronic-stress induced shrinkage of the hippocampus, but more importantly, Rhodiola is able to restore normal serotonin levels in the hippocampus.[3]

Anecdotal benefits of Rhodiola Rosea:

  • Increased energy
  • Decreased fatigue
  • Decreased stress response
  • Improved focus
  • Improved mood
  • Increased sociability
  • Increased libido
  • Enhanced memory and learning
  • Improved sleep

Not only does Rhodiola Rosea increase serotonin levels in the brain but it also increases the number of serotonin 1A receptors.[4] This is extremely important as serotonin 1A receptors are heavily involved in the release of oxytocin.

Buying Rhodiola

When buying Rhodiola Rosea, look for brands that standardize to at least 3% Rosavins and 1% Salidroside. These are the active compounds in Rhodiola that are responsible for its beneficial effects.

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St. John’s Wort

St-Johns-Wort-FlowerA popular herb that almost everyone knows about. It’s an antidepressant and an anti-anxiety substance that’s been used for hundreds of years. St. John’s Wort, also known as SJW, contains a myriad of compounds that are active in the human body, but only two compounds have been shown to cause the antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects. They are hyperforin and hypericin. Hyperforin is a complex compound that increases many neurotransmitters including norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and even glutamate. Hypericin, on the other hand, decreases norepinephrine and increases dopamine. It may also increase serotonin but only by a small amount. Hypericin is a rather weak substance and you have to ingest large quantities for it to work. Hyperforin, on the other hand, is a strong compound and is active in small doses. This is why it’s important to buy a SJW product that’s standardized to hyperforin and not hypericin. Futhermore, hypericin may cause photosensitivity meaning your eyes will become sensitive to lights. This means you’ll need to wear sunglasses even if the sun isn’t particularly bright.

Anecdotal benefits of St. John’s Wort:

  • Improved mood
  • Increased energy
  • Improved focus
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Decreased depression
  • Increased sociability

The increased sociability and decreased anxiety is what we are looking for. By decreasing anxiety you can relax more easily and this in turn can allow you to get immersed in ASMR videos and experience ASMR more easily or more strongly. Increased sociability means increased serotonin and increased oxytocin. Again, ASMR is a social experience so substances that increase sociability should increases ASMR response.

Buying St. John’s Wort

When buying SJW look for brands that are standardized to hyperforin rather than hypericin. Avoid brands that are standardized to only hypericin. Again, hypericin is not only less potent than hyperforin, meaning you don’t get most of the benefits of SJW, but it can also cause photosensitivity leaving you unable to go outside without wearing sunglasses. There is a brand of St. John’s Wort that’s standardized to hyperforin and also contains a little bit of Vitamin C to stabilize it and prolong its shelf-life; it’s called Perika. This brand is one of the best on the market today.

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L-Theanine

A cup of steaming hot tea An amino acid found in tea, theanine has been shown to increase GABA and dopamine release in the brain. While it may not increase serotonin levels, theanine can help enhance ASMR by increasing relaxation. Tea contains caffeine much like coffee, but thanks to L-Theanine, many find tea to be soothing and relaxing rather than stimulating. Theanine is also beneficial for enhancing sleep or even treating mild insomnia as it increases GABA levels in the brain. GABA is the neurotransmitter that many sleep medications target, but theanine does so without the dangerous side effects of sleep medication.

Buying L-Theanine

Because it’s an amino acid and not a herbal extract, most brands of theanine are going to be comparable in both efficacy and safety. There is a particular extract that some people on the Internet have reported better benefits with, but it could just be a placebo effect. It’s called suntheanine.

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5-HTP

5-HTP bottle of capsules A direct precursor to serotonin production, 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), is an amino acid that’s metabolized from tryptophan. You may have heard of tryptophan before, particularly during thanksgiving when people get sleepy after eating turkey and blame it on the tryptophan found in turkey. Fortunately, this is a simple myth. Tryptophan is found in almost all foods that contain protein. It’s nothing more than an amino acid and doesn’t directly cause sleepiness at all. The reason people get sleepy during thanksgiving is because they overeat.[5]

Anyway, tryptophan has to be converted into 5-HTP before it can be used to produce serotonin so taking 5-HTP is a more efficient approach to increasing serotonin. You might be thinking why not just take serotonin in a pill? Unfortunately, serotonin does not bypass the blood-brain barrier and would only affect the body and not the brain. This is the same reason why parkinson’s patients taking levodopa and not dopamine. Also, increased serotonin levels in the body are not desirable and can cause heart problems because activation of the serotonin 2B receptor in the heart can cause heart valvular dysfunction.

5-HTP can increase serotonin levels in the body, but it’s probably not enough to cause heart valvular dysfunction. If you are worried about it you can take 5-HTP with EGCG, a compound found in green tea that inhibits the conversion of 5-HTP to serotonin in the body.

Buying 5-HTP

Again, since 5-HTP is an amino acid and not a herbal extract, most brands will be comparable in efficacy and safety. Look for brands with good reviews.

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Buying EGCG

It is recommended that you buy EGCG with 5-HTP to not only enhance 5-HTP’s effects, but also to eliminate any possible heart problems due to increased serotonin levels in the body. EGCG prevents 5-HTP from being converted into serotonin in the body but not in the brain. Therefore, more 5-HTP can reach the brain and as a result becomes more potent at increasing serotonin levels in the brain. As an added bonus, EGCG can increase weight loss and increase energy levels.

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B-Vitamins

Chemical structure of Vitamin B12 Commonly known as the energy vitamins, the B-Vitamins play an important role in metabolism, energy production, but more importantly in neurotransmitter production. An example of this is Vitamin B6 which is used to convert L-Dopa to dopamine. Folate is another example and is probably one of the most important b-vitamins for mood and neurotransmitter support. Folate increases a co-factor called Tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) that works with the serotonin and dopamine producing enzymes tryptophan hydroxylase and tyrosine hydroxylase to produce serotonin and dopamine in the brain.

Increased riboflavin, pyridoxine, and thiamine blood levels through supplementation have been shown to improve mood and agreeability in healthy young adults.[6]

Buying B-Vitamins

Look for a B-complex product that contains the active b-vitamins, often called coenzymated b-complex or fully active b-complex. Make sure it contains folate in the form of 5-methyltetrahydrofolic acid. Many people have a mutation in the gene called MTHFR and as a result their bodies cannot adequately convert folic acid to the active folate form that is 5-methyltetrahydrofolic acid.

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References

  1. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20590480
  2. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21129470
  3. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19403286
  4. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22921986
  5. //deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/99129/doesturkeymakeussleepyPBSNewsHour.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
  6. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7477807
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3 Comments

  1. My friend kept telling me to try rhodiola for stress and energy but I kept throwing it off cus I’m not really all that stressed out. Buuuut enhanced ASMR sounds awesome, I think I’m gonna try it out

  2. What do you think about melatonin for ASMR?

    • I think melatonin can enhance ASMR response by inducing relaxation, but it would not make an asmr non-responder into a responder since it does not increase serotonin and oxytocin.

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