noh-ə-TROP-iks)—also called smart drugs or cognitive enhancers—are
drugs, supplements, or other substances that improve cognitive function,
particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in
A Beginners Guide To Understanding Nootropics
Remember that movie Limitless, about a guy who
discovers a drug that can unlock the 80% of his brain that humans
supposedly don’t use? He becomes a financial wizard, gets tangled up
with angry hit men, gets addicted to the drug, experiences some weird
side effects, and has to outwit a lot of people who want to kill him.
It was about as realistic as it sounds.
But in recent years, there has been a surge in people taking
nootropics, or “smart drugs”. Those taking these drugs believe they
increase their mental stamina and clarity, allowing them to achieve more
in less time. While the idea of nootropics isn’t new (the term was
coined in 1971), they have increased in popularity as more and more
people are interested in “body hacking” for optimal performance.
So what are these drugs? Are they safe? Who should take them?
In this post, we’re going to break down the who, what, when and why
of nootropics. We’re going to bring clarity to the topic so that you can
make informed decisions.
What Exactly Is A Nootropic, and Who Is Taking Them?
According to Dr Corneliu Giurgea, who created the first nootropic, piracetam, a nootropic must adhere to these rules:
- The substance should enhance memory and ability to learn.
- The substance should help the brain function under disruptive
conditions, such as hypoxia (low oxygen) and electroconvulsive shock.
- The substance should protect the brain from chemical and physical assaults, such as anti-cholinergic drugs and barbiturates.
- The substance should increase the efficacy of neuronal firing
control mechanisms in cortical and sub-cortical regions of the brain.
- The substance should lack a generalized sedative or stimulatory
effect. It should possess few-no side effects and be virtually non
As Vice puts it:
Due to the wide variety of supplements classed as nootropics, there’s
no single way of explaining how they work. Broadly speaking, however,
nootropics achieve their effects by altering the supply of
neurochemicals, enzymes, or hormones in the brain.
In 2013, the Daily Telegraph reported
that up to 25% of university students had experimented with Modafinil,
which is a drug typically used to treat narcolepsy. They used the drug
to stay awake for long periods of time and boost performance while
studying for exams.
It’s increasingly common
for young techies in Silicon Valley to microdose LSD for improved
cognition and creative skills. Many people report that when taken in
miniscule doses, LSD drastically improves their ability to get things
Of course, most people don’t want to experiment with pharmaceutical
or illegal drugs and thus resort to a variety of nootropic supplements
which are fully legal and can be beneficial to the brain. These
supplements can range from the common, like ginseng, to the exotic, like
Many people report huge benefits when taking these nootropic
supplements, and use them on a regular basis for improved productivity
and mental performance.
Think of nootropics as mental steroids, of sorts.
As with all supplements, you should consult with your doctor before using nootropics.
What Types Of Nootropics Are Available (And Why Should You Use Them)?
There are a variety of nootropics widely available that can be taken on a regular basis for increased cognitive performance.
A vast majority of people are significantly deficient in choline,
which is a nutrient normally found in eggs, meat, seafood, and dairy
products. It is an integral part of a neurotransmitter called
acetylcholine (ACh), which is essential for memory encoding and
retrieval, cognition, and mood regulation.
People deficient in ACh may encounter:
- Low memory capacity
- Sluggish thinking
- Overall sense of being in a fog
If you want to increase the amount of choline in your brain, you may
want consider supplementing with Alpha-GPC, choline citrate, or choline
Generally speaking, when it comes to choline, the more inexpensive
supplements don’t function as well on their own and need to combined
with racetams to achieve noticeable effects. However, Alpha-GPC or
Citicoline can create a noticeable difference even when taken without
anything else. Our overall favorite is definitely Alpha-GPC, as it
easily crosses the blood-brain barrier.
The racetam family of nootropics contains a variety of different
compounds, with piracetam being the most studied and aniracetam and
phenylpiracetam being some of the most effective.
Many people say that racetams provide the effects of amphetamines without the wicked crash afterwards.
Racetams stimulate the acetylcholine receptors, as well as stimulating glutamic receptor activity. The end results may be:
- Improved memory
- Ability to learn more effectively
- Increased focus
- Elevated cognition
Studies have suggested that phenylpiracetam can improve cognition of those recovering from strokes, improve memory and counter depression, and improve verbal learning.
Granted, some of these studies are small and in the early stages, but the results have been promising to say the least.
People often take a variety of racetams and stack them together for maximum effectiveness.
This is an amino acid with cognitive- and -relaxation-inducing
abilities, found in green and black tea. Additionally, it can be used as
a sleep aid (though the impact here is so slight that it probably
should not be an initial choice; talk to your doctor to see if you can
safely combine it with a sleep aid).
Its effects in increasing
cognition and attention tend to be more subtle, so ideally it should be
combined with caffeine. Taking 200 mg of each can help enhance the best
qualities of both.
Many people speak of combining L-Theanine and coffee for a “clean”
caffeine boost, meaning they get the stimulant effects of caffeine
without the jitters
You can ingest L-Theanine via green tea (which is the only dietary
way to receive it), or via capsule. Green tea grown in the shade is best
for this as these leaves tend to be very high in this amino acid.
This is the brand name of something called a “mitochondrial
energizer.” Your mitochondria are the little powerhouses that animate
Unfair Advantage has two extremely helpful
ingredients: The first, called CoQ10, enhances cell energy production in
your cells, and Active PQQ™ , which promotes both the growth of new
mitochondria, and helps the body clear out old ones.
Often, its healthy effects on brain and heart function make it an excellent pre-supplement for your daily workout.
This is an extract from a water plant located in India. Depending on
where you purchase it, it may also be called brahmi (so be careful to
not confuse it with other drugs that can go by that name).
primary effect of bacopa is its ability to enhance memory and lower
stress in healthy adults–but note that you probably won’t notice its
effects until about four weeks of consistent intake (at last 750 mg
daily, taken with a source of fat).
Medical researchers advise users to stop talking bacopa after three months, at only 300 mg per day.
Forskolin and artichoke extract
Forskolin is a plant extract that has been used in Indian forms of
medicine for thousands of years. It’s also been suggested to increase
cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), which is essential for memory
formation and better learning.
When combined with artichoke
extract, forskolin is even more effective, because of enzymes in the
artichoke that break down the cAMP and make it more available to the
Be careful, though: Some users get bad headaches and an
energy crash when the effects wear off. You can buy a commercial
combination of the two called Ciltep.
This is the brand name for a molecule with similar effects as
Piracetam. It provides a small cognitive boost after intake and its
distinctive contribution is a neuroprotective effect that helps the body
heal from stress.
The vast majority of studies
done on Noopept have been within the last fifteen years, and all
suggest very positive and helpful insights on the supplement. Many
people find it most helpful if consumed with a dose of choline.
Where Can I Find Safe Nootropics, and How Can I Start?
Some nootropic experts say the easiest place to begin is by combining
Piracetam with a choline supplement. (Please make sure to talk to your
primary care provider first to see if any of these drugs will negatively impact you or have bad reactions with current medications.)
simple regular vitamin intake can be very effective with lots of
positive effects. If you do decide to take nootropics, it may be best to
do it simultaneously with exercise and better diet–not only will the
healthier eating and physical activity be beneficial in themselves, but
as you grow healthier the nootropics will have a better effect on your
As far as finding safe nootropics: Common sense is key here. Most of
us don’t read labels (or don’t read them closely if we do). Some
companies push products with food coloring, fructose, even pieces of
Make sure your nootropics are pure and purchased from
companies with high standards. Be wary of purchasing things off of
catch-all online stores like Amazon, as well. Anyone can sell anything
with little oversight or regulation.
And don’t forget to frequent your local health food store for
excellent natural supplements, vitamins, and (hopefully) tasty food, all
with the personal interaction and service from committed, face-to-face
Do you want to have better memory, clearer thinking, relief from
anxiety, more energy, and just feel better? Nootropics, like anything,
don’t work for everyone, but lots of people are finding them an integral
part of a healthful lifestyle. With common sense and patience, you
might be one of them!
Originally appeared HERE
Don’t Be Left Out!
Subscribe to get latest educational news and updates for free: