What Are Nootropics? – What You Need To Know
Nootropics are a classic of natural or synthetic compounds that enhance cognitive functions such as intelligence, memory, and/or focus.
These so-called “smart pills” and “brain supplements” have seen an increase in interest in recent years as people search for ways to maximize their brain’s potential, limit the affects of an aging mind, and improve their cognitive abilities in general.
The word nootropic is a combination of the Greek words nous and trepein and was coined by the Romanian psychologist and chemist Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea who first synthesized the nootropic piracetam more than half a century ago.
What Nootropics Are:
According to Dr. Giurgea, a substance categorized as a nootropic meets the following criteria:
- A nootropic may enhance learning and memory.
- A nootropic may help protect the brain from disruptive conditions such as hypoxia (low oxygen) or electroconvulsive shock.
- A nootropic may help protect the brain from various chemical or physical injuries such as the effects of barbiturates and anti-cholinergic substances.
- A nootropic may increase the efficacy of cortical and subcortical neuronal firing mechanisms.
- A nootropic must possess few or no side effects with very low toxicity.
What Nootropics Aren’t:
If you’re relatively new to nootropics, a nootropic “noob” if you will, you may have heard all kinds of rumors and exaggerated information about smart drugs and nootropic supplements. Here’s a brief Q&A style section that will demystify a few of the common misconceptions surrounding nootropics.
Q: Will Nootropics Give Me Superhuman Cognitive Abilities?
A: In short, not quite. There are plenty of new start-up companies trying to capitalize off the active imaginations of movie fans by pushing co-called “Limitless Pills”. Our fascination with possessing superior mental abilities goes well beyond Limitless and other sci-fi films like The Matrix and Lucy. While some users of nootropics supplements will notice improved powers of concentration, greater memory recall, and an overall improvement in mental perception, these results are often subjective and will vary greater from user to user and are dependent on the nootropic supplement(s) used. Just don’t let yourself be fooled by expensive packaging, cool-looking sacred geometry logos, or hyped-up venture capital backed advertising and media placement.
Q: Are Stimulant Drugs (Caffeine, Adderall, Cocaine, etc.) Nootropics?
A: Not quite. Many so-called nootropic stacks and brain supplements contain caffeine, typically well under the FDA suggested maximum dose of 200mg, but while caffeine may provide a burst of improved focus, many users experience restlessness, nervousness, insomnia, and tremors. Caffeine does show some improved performance possibilities, particularly when combined with L-Theanine. But think about stimulants as a way to over-clock your mind temporarily and with subsequent temporary or lasting ill effects. These substances don’t necessarily meet the requirements of having “few or no side effects” to be considered true nootropics; however, some users are more tolerant to the effects of caffeine to warrant using nootropic supplements containing reasonable amounts of it. The dangerous side effects of Adderall and cocaine have been well-documented and are not recommended by NooMind.org.
Q: Do Nootropics Really Work?
A: It depends on your expectations and what you use. Many well-known nootropic supplements have been extensively researched and have shown documented improvements to various cognitive functions. The issue comes down to dosages and how these substances are stacked and used. Many novice nootropic stackers run the risk of miscalculating dosages by using compounds of compromised quality and imprecise measuring tools. (Beware of Alibaba and shady suppliers if you’re going the DIY route.) Custom nootropic supplements also run the risk of not providing enough of the more beneficial compounds or too much of compounds that have little to no effect. It helps to understand your needs and what you want to get out of a supplement. Fortunately, many supplement companies have done the research to provide some quality products that offer a greater chance at producing desired results.
Q: Are Nootropics Safe?
A: A true nootropic should theoretically be safe in lower dosages, but each person has a different tolerance to different compounds. Consider the Alexander Shulgin method of starting with a fraction of a dose to rule out any allergic reaction, a half-dose to check for negative side effects, and then proceed to a full dose. Most pre-made nootropic brain supplements will be optimized for desired results and have clear directions indicating dosages, typically 1 or 2 capsules.
Q: How Do I Know If Nootropics Are Working?
A: Some nootropics may give you a distinctive feeling that they’re working; however these experiences are typically subjective, and results will vary. Many researched nootropics provide no feeling at all. Try keeping a journal of your experiences or taking cognitive tests from Cambridge Brain Sciences or Quantified Mind on a regular basis.
Q: Can I Take Nootropics Long Term?
A: Research on nootropics indicates that they may be taken for the long term; however few studies extend beyond a year period. Seek advice from your doctor or physician if you have concerns.
What Are the Best Nootropics for Beginners?
There are many excellent nootropic compounds that can produce positive cognitive benefits. Here are some of the more common modern components essential to creating a potent nootropic brain stack.
Bacopin Monnieri – Bacopa monnieri, from which bacopin extract is derived, is one of the nootropic supplements with a very long history of use. It can improve memory function and the speed of recall, like upgrading your brain from a clunky 5400rpm hard-drive to ultra fast flash storage. It is believed to be a powerful brain protectant with studies showing potential for treatment of dementia. Look for “bacopa” or “bacopin” in an effective nootropic stack.
Choline – Evidence suggests that choline can help improve memory and prevent memory loss making choline an essential ingredient in nootropic stacks that emphasize memory retention and improvement. Since this can have an effect of amplifying the potency of other nootropics, choline is a beneficial compound to look for in a well-rounded nootropic brain supplement.
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine – This amino acid is an essential component of cognitive performance, helping to support optimal brain function while reducing stress and improving the communication of your brain’s neural network. Another essential element of a potent nootropic cocktail.
Phosphatidylserine – This particular compound is quite fascinating in that it is found in every cell of the human body. As a supplement phosphatidylserine easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and has many beneficial effects including boosting memory and cognition, slowing brain aging, restoring and rejuvenating brain cells and neurons, and is also linked to reducing stress and anxiety. Phosphatidylserine is another essential nootropic.
NOT Huperzine A – Huperzine A has been used in treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, but it inhibits your brain’s ability to break down choline and is not recommended. Its long-term side effects and dangers are unknown. Huperzine A is on the list of blacklisted nootropics.
L-Glutamine – L-Glutamine is an essential neurotransmitter in the brain that’s vital to memory recall, focus, and concentration. Since many people have a deficiency of glutamine, this is another essential compound in a balanced nootropic stack.
DMAE – Studies suggest that DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol), a substance produced naturally in small amounts in the brain, may boost brainpower, improve memory, and even slow aging. It has found relevance in nootropic stacks due to its ability to easily cross the blood-brain barrier and for potentially aiding in the brain’s production of acetylcholine, an essential neurotransmitter.
These are just a few of the many nootropics out there. These and others can be found in powder form, in capsules, and in pre-made nootropic supplements that combine these and other compounds to create all-in-one nootropic supplement solutions.
For more detailed information about which of these supplements is right for you, check out the link below.