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Herbs/supplements for academic writing?
February 17, 2012 9:01 PM   Subscribe

I am in the last two weeks of writing my master's thesis and I was wondering what herbs or supplements others have found useful for writing. Focus is part of it, but I also need to produce and get in the flow, so to speak. It comes sometimes, but I can never force those really productive moments. I have a cupboard full of various herbs, but no time to experiment. Wondering what has worked for other, including combinations.

I have tried rhodiola, ashwaghanda, piracetam, siberian ginseng, fish oils.... not sure what's working.. some of these are overstimulating.
posted by cejl to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by empath at 9:05 PM on February 17, 2012


A good night of sleep is best.
posted by sanka at 9:08 PM on February 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


NOW True Focus
posted by Wordwoman at 9:08 PM on February 17, 2012


Yerba Mate - either done traditional style, or make a weak tea with some buckwheat honey added and keep a jug of that chilled in the fridge.
posted by Rumple at 9:09 PM on February 17, 2012


Guarana would be good, if you're dead-set on using some kind of healthfood store solution. I personally find coffee and tea more pleasant ways to caffeinate.

I would worry more about eating regular meals (as putting the pencil down and eating a real, full meal), staying hydrated, and sleeping a reasonable amount. If you need to supplement this regime chemically, try to score some ADHD meds. Someone at your university is selling them. Do not use them to put off or replace sleep. Instead use them when you are well-rested but flagging a little bit.
posted by LiteOpera at 9:12 PM on February 17, 2012


Not an herb or supplement, but the scent of oranges is supposed to help concentration. Maybe keep orange sections nearby? Or a cut up orange, since a lot of the oils are in the peel?
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:22 PM on February 17, 2012


Not an herb, but meditation is a good way to clear the mind. Ditto exercise and sleep.
posted by elizeh at 9:23 PM on February 17, 2012


According to some studies, Ginkgo can significantly improve attention in healthy individuals. In one such study, the effect was almost immediate and reaches its peak in 2.5 hours after the intake.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 9:30 PM on February 17, 2012


...and I've found this to be the case 75% of the time, as well.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 9:30 PM on February 17, 2012


So, none of us are medical doctors, and all the appropriate disclaimers apply, but I've found a successful combination to be rhodiola, gotu kola, along with cayenne pepper capsules, of all things; plus, fish oil. FWIW, ginkgo and ginseng left me wired in a twitchy sort of way that made (productive) writing much harder, not easier; same with cafenine. Needless to say, everyone's metabolism's a bit different, so YMMV.
posted by 5Q7 at 10:21 PM on February 17, 2012


I've had good results with a big mug of black tea and 200 mg of L-theanine.
posted by dialetheia at 10:37 PM on February 17, 2012


Supplements aren't what you need here, and worrying about them is counter-productive. Just try to relax (though it's difficult) and focus on what you're writing about. 'Getting in the flow' is psychological. Like you said, you can't force it, but by putting everything else out of your mind, you can let it happen.

And by "putting everything else out of your mind", I mean everything but the topic of the thesis. Just focus on what you need to think through to write this. Not the deadline (You know that already. That's not what you need to focus on.)

Stop experimenting with supplements. Some of them are stimulants or mild depressants and they'll fuck with your head in a way you don't need right now. Don't experiment with anything any of us recommend. Eat and drink normally. If you drink coffee, or tea, etc., do that normally and when you feel like you need or want some.

What questions do you need to answer, what do you need to think through, what do you need to rephrase in order to finish your thesis? That's all you need to be thinking about now.
posted by nangar at 12:50 AM on February 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


Redbull works for me.
posted by fshgrl at 12:52 AM on February 18, 2012


I'd just like to confirm from experience that a combination of stimulants and focus is definitely what works. (Mine are coffee, tea, ginseng and occasional inversions off furniture.) For me it's hell to apply good mental energy to achieve flow yet to find that I have no physical energy/stamina to sustain it. Don't be afraid to do what you think is best for you.

Other useful things have been water in a good large carafe, late-night walks, and swing-dancing alone in my kitchen at 4am.
posted by lokta at 4:35 AM on February 18, 2012


If you find yourself clicking over to the internet periodically, try Freedom (written by a CS PhD student to help him finish his dissertation). It turns off your computer's networking for a specified period of time, so you can really focus on your writing. Specify an hour, put placeholders in the writing wherever you need to put something that you don't have access too, and look up those things after the hour's up. Then enable Freedom again.
posted by The Michael The at 5:42 AM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Walks help me regain focus.

While probably not for everyone, and as long as you have time to edit, a couple drinks can aid the writing process quite well.
posted by handbanana at 10:27 AM on February 18, 2012


It really depends on what kinds of problem you are having. Protein can help you focus and carbs may make you scattier. Fish oil has lots of data to back it up but it's not some magic pill that you will see the effects of immediately unless you are just that special chemical bag. ADD medications are going to help you actually focus far more than something like caffeine. Ginseng can give you energy. A shot of booze can get you over the inhibitions that keep you from starting and just get you to business, restricting your ability to be distracted, if you are the kind of person who hasn't programmed themselves to think alcohol dissolves all self control.

So do you need focus or do you need motivation or do you need to just make your ass get to work?
It may not be a chemical that you need so much as a clear goal and a stern talking to.
Or you could take up smoking.

Remember, work that placebo effect.
posted by provoliminal at 12:00 PM on February 18, 2012


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