Table of Contents
What are Nootropics?
Nootropics are a class of supplements that have the ability to boost brain health and cognitive performance. Often referred to as "smart drugs", Nootropics are used by healthy people with the goal of boosting memory, creativity, focus, intelligence, mood, motivation and energy. Additionally, more and more older adults are becoming particularly intrigued with the long-term brain health benefits that many Nootropics provide.
First coined in 1972 by Romanian psychologist and chemist, Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea, the term "Nootropic" in 2020 is now widely used to describe any supplement that helps maximize the brain's potential. The popularity of Nootropics is rapidly increasing, as more and more people are looking for ways to maximize their brain potential without experiencing the negative side effects of prescription medications.
How do Nootropics work?
The brain is very complex, making this a complex answer. In simple terms, Nootropics are designed to improve and enhance one or multiple brain pathways. These brain pathways include energy, regeneration, protection, waves, chemicals, and blood flow. We will dive into these pathways below and describe how each can be influenced by Nootropics.
The brain is constantly in need for energy from the body and consumes approximately 20% of the body's total energy reserves on a daily basis. In many cases, fatigue and brain are a result of the brain not getting the sufficient energy needed. Many Nootropics provide brain energy by fueling mitochondria (organelles responsible for producing cell energy currency) increasing cerebral oxygen and nutrients and ultimately, supplying the brain with energy production.
Brain regeneration, also known as neurogenesis, is the process of new brain cell formation. This can be seen as a major benefit, as neurogenesis is essentially reversing the natural age-related changes to the brain. There are some Nootropics that can actually promote the increase of new neurons in the brain, which can lead to an increase of memory and overall preservation over time.
Many Nootropics have been linked to optimizing Brain Chemicals or Neurotransmitters in the brain. The main cognitive enhancing neurotransmitters include: Dopamine or mood and motivation pathway; Serotonin or relaxation pathway; GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) or sedation and calmness pathway; Epinephrine or adrenaline and energy pathway; Norepinephrine or focus pathway; Acetylcholine or memory and learning pathway.
Nootropics can have a number of neuroprotective qualities that can aid in the brain's long term health. As we discussed above with neuroregeneration, age-related changes to the brain naturally occur overtime. Nootropics have been linked to protect the brain over time against stress, ridding the brain tissue of neurotoxins, and increasing the brain's antioxidant capacity.
Brain Blood Flow
Blood flow is ultimately how oxygen, glucose, and other nutrients get delivered to fuel the brain's activities. A healthy blood flow to the brain also helps remove any damaging neurotoxins, a key process in cognitive longevity. Studies have linked certain Nootropics to an increase blood flow by the activation of blood vessels.
Brain waves, or electrical activity in the brain, range in definition of their different frequencies and associated states. Nootropics have been shown to promote one or more of the different ranges of brain waves. These are: Gamma, the highest frequency responsible for consciousness; Delta, the lowest frequency responsible for deep sleep and meditation; Beta, responsible for mental state and fast thinking; Theta, responsible for the transition of sleeping to wakefulness and deep mediation; and Alpha, responsible for mild state free thinking and creativity.
What are the different categories
Nootropics are categorized into 7 main classes with specific functions to improve and preserve brain health.
The first ever Nootropic that was created by Dr. Giurgea was piracetam, which is considered to be in the racetam category. Since then, there have been multiple additional racetams created that mirror similar affects of piracetam. Racetams provide many amazing cognitive benefits by acting as a stimulant to acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine is a very important neurotransmitter that helps the brain communicate. Some racetams also affect the glutamate receptor, which is an important neurotransmitter associated with memory and learning. Some additional benefits can include increased calmness, enhanced mental clarity, and quicker recall of ideas and data. Racetams are arguably the most popular class of Nootropics today and generally have the most profound effects.
Natural Nootropics are derivatives of herbal extracts or food products that can provide brain boosting Nootropic effects. Natural Nootropics are considered very safe and are often stacked well with Racetams. Along with the brain-boosting benefits, many natural Nootropics help with long-term brain health by improving blood flow, and restoring nerve damage.
Popular Natural Nootropics
Vitamin B Derivatives
Vitamin B Deratives is the smallest Nootropic class. They are primarily used to increase energy and focus while fighting fatigue. Studies have also linked Vitamin B Derivatives to improve memory by stimulating choline, glutamate, and dopamine levels in the brain.
Popular Vitamin B Derivatives
The Choline class of Nootropics is very popular and can found in many of the top Nootropic stacks on the market today. Choline is extremely important for both healthy brain function and enhancing cognition. Many of the notable benefits include improvements in memory and learning capacity. Choline Nootropics also stack very well with Racetams. When combined with racetams, acetylcholine receptors are stimulated, amplifying the effects of this Nootropic.
Popular Choline Nootropics
Peptides are similar to the Racetam class of Nootropics. This class of Nootropics specifically stimulates the release of Nerve Growth Factor, which is essential for growing and maintaining neurons throughout the brain. The most popular peptide is Noopept, which some consider to be more potent than Piracetam. Peptides offer similar cognitive boosting benefits as racetams, which include an improvement in memory, learning capabilities, motivation, energy, and alertness.
Ampakines are a synthetic class of Nootropics that are considered very potent. They enhance levels of glutamate in the blood and brain, which is essential for learning and memory. They are also synthetically designed to positively modulate the AMPA receptor and have recently been a potential treatment for Alzheimer's Disease. Unfortunately, Ampakines are not widely available on the Nootropics market today.
Smart Drugs are synthetic stimulants that are used to treat ADHD. This class is different than most Nootropics as they are typically heavily regulated and prescribed by doctors. Eugeroic drugs, like Adrafinil and Modafinil, are loosely considered Nootropics due to their increasing effects of neurotransmitter levels in the brain.
Popular Smart Drugs
What are the benefits of Nootropics?
There are many short-term and long-term benefits to Nootropics. Some of the most popular short-term cognitive enhancements are an increase in Focus, Memory, Creativity, Mood, Energy, and Motivation. Long-term benefits include neurogenesis, brain-protection, and anti-aging. One important note is that there are many different Nootropics out on the market that can have one or more short-term or long-term benefits. Many seek out the benefits of Nootropics to enhance productivity with work or school, others see Nootropics directly benefiting their social life, and then there are those who seek the long-term health for their brain. The key is to find the supplement that works best for you.
**Please note that we are not recommending any Nootropics to be a cure to any medical condition. It is important to consult your doctor before taking any supplements.
Are Nootropics safe?
The big question that a lot of people ask when exploring Nootropics is whether or not they are safe. As there are such a wide range of different Nootropics out on the market, one must consider a variety of factors before choosing the right supplement. Some Nootropics have extensive research suggesting little to no side effects associated with usage, while other Nootropics have very little long-term research to suggest that they are 100% safe.
One positive outlook that should be considered is that Nootropics are classified as "nutritional supplements" and differ from pharmaceutical drugs that are sold with a doctor prescription. Remember, the majority of Nootropics are sold over the counter and through online retail. Most Nootropics on the market today are considered safe until proven otherwise.
Things to consider
There are a few important aspects to consider when researching the safety of Nootropics, the first being the amount of research done on the particular supplement. Typically, the longer a particular supplement has been in a clinical setting for research, the more trusted it can be when reviewing potential side-effects of long-term use.
Another important consideration is the quality of ingredients in the particular Nootropic. Both Nootropic herbs and branded Nootropics that are backed by a patent have an increased level of safety due to the high quality process of calibrating ingredients. You also want to make sure that you are purchasing your Nootropics from a reputable brand or company with trusted and safe manufacturing.
Also, while one individual might experience positive side-effects and little negative reaction, another individual may have mixed results with a certain Nootropic. The physical condition of the individual user can make a huge difference in both the benefits and side-effects of certain Nootropics. It is also recommended that users should be 18 years or older to safely use Nootropics.
Finally, as simple as it sounds, staying within the recommended dosage is extremely important. All Nootropics need to be taken the right way, following the manufacturer's direction on cycling, dosage, stacking, etc. Nootropics are NOT meant to treat medical conditions, so consulting your doctor first is always going to be the safest route.
What are Nootropic Stacks?
Nootropic stacks are a combination of two ore more supplements taken together, or in a sequence. The idea is that Nootropics taken in stacks will create more profound effects, and yield greater benefits, than taking them on their own.
A Nootropic as a single supplement typically provides one main benefit, which can be an improvement in cognition, energy, mood, sleep, etc. Many Nootropics compliment each other, so stacking them can provide additional effects and benefits.
There are two common avenues for Nootropic stacking. Regardless of what you choose, it is important to do your own research on how certain supplements work synergistically with others.
Premade Nootropic Stack
This is definitely the most popular and safest route to go down when you are looking to combine 2 or more Nootropics. Many of the well notable brands that offer Nootropic Stacks are diligent about using high-quality ingredients, that are safe and effective. These manufacturers are also very precise in measuring out the right amount of ingredients for each single Nootropic that makes up their unique brain boosting blend.
It is important to stick to reputable brands when considering premade Nootropic Stacks. Mind Lab Pro and Alpha Brain are two of the most notable on the market today. If you would like to learn more about these two amazing stacks, you can refer to our Alpha Brain review, and Mind Lab Pro review.
DIY Nootropic Stacks
Customizing your own Nootropic stack gives you the ability to be as flexible and creative as you would like. One big advantage to creating your own stack, is that you can curate the effects and benefits to your specific need. This is especially important, as the effects of single Nootropic supplements can be different for each individual.
This is also a lot more cost-effective. Many single Nootropic supplements are very affordable in bulk and you won't be paying the extra cost of the brand name.
When creating your own custom stack, it is very important to precisely measure out each ingredient and pay attention to the dosage of each single Nootropic. This is why we recommend the DIY stack for more experienced Nootropic users.
As a starting point, you can find our favorite customized Nootropic stacks here.
Today there are many different Nootropics that serve one or multiple purposes and benefits. Remember, each Nootropic has it's own unique set of benefits, uses, and side-effects. The key is to find what works best for you from a trusted provider and to do your own research.
Nootropics have a very profound effect on our brain, with some being more prevalent than others. When deciding on what Nootropics to start with, a good thing to consider is if it is natural or synthetic. Natural Nootropics tend to be on the safer side, and don't come with as many serious side-effects, but the overall benefits are usually more subtle. Synthetic Nootropics can have very profound benefits, but have less overall research, which can lead to an increased risk of side-effects.
Finally, always purchase Nootropics from trusted providers. Quality ingredients is extremely important, so it is best to always purchase through reputable brands and companies. We recommend many of the most popular Nootropics on the market here and base our recommendations on some of the most trusted Nootropic companies in the world.