What are Nootropics?
In a simple sense, nootropics are drugs and supplements that improve brain power or provide some degree of positive change for our minds.
While there are a few definitions to what a nootropic really is, most people will agree that they are smart drugs that boast a low side effect profile when used correctly.
There are several different types of nootropics – natural as well as synthetic – ranging from herbal remedies such as tea to more “hardcore” compounds that produce very pronounced effects. The best nootropics are often the most-researched, being potential treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer’s or other cases of dementia.
Nootropics hold the promise of helping with:
- memory storage and recall
- cognition or ability to pay attention and comprehend ideas
- reasoning ability
- ability to communicate
Some people use nootropics for medicinal reasons, to combat a deficiency caused by a disease or a genetic problem. Sufferers of debilitating mental illnesses may find that nootropics help to improve their mood and outlook on life.
On the other hand, there are a vast number of people who use nootropics to push their limits – to break down any remaining barriers between their wills and what they can achieve.
Even still, some users are involved for recreational or creative purposes because of the mind-expanding effect that nootropics can have.
In this article:
- What Nootropics Are Not?
- How Do Nootropics Work?
- What are the benefits of taking Nootropics?
- Are Nootropics Safe?
- Nootropic Varieties
- Getting Started
- Best Natural Nootropic Ingredients
What Nootropics Are Not?
A critical definition of nootropics is that they convey some benefit to the brain and that they are almost completely non-toxic.
Warning: You need to be aware that many so-called nootropics available today contain stimulants like caffeine, ephedrine, or any other psychoactive drugs that temporarily increase your alertness. They do have a powerful effect on your brain, but not necessarily positive. They do not have any long-term health benefits. The primary of these is Adderall, which is a medical drug associated with significant side effects and toxicity damage to your brain’s dopamine neurons. Certainly not what you want.
Another commonly mislabeled drug is Modafinil. This is a prescription drug used to treat narcolepsy and other sleeping disorders. The list of side effects of Modafinil is long and not pretty; including chest pain, anxiety, and hallucinating.
These compounds all fall into the category of cognition enhancer because they do or may increase cognitive abilities but only in the short term and with no long-term health benefits. Please stay away from such brain health supplements that contain these stimulants as mention above.
How Do Nootropics Work?
Nootropics work like any other drug would – to cause a chemical change within the body to achieve desired effects.
However, the mechanism through which they act is much more complex than that of a drug for peripheral use such as ibuprofen. The structure of the human brain is a complicated matter, with many features and concepts that scientists still largely don’t understand.
Mainly, nootropics affect our neurotransmitter systems, which are responsible for creating physical pathways that determine our mood and the way we think. Some of them either increase levels of neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, or prevent current levels from dropping below an optimal amount.
There are even some nootropics that can lower certain neurotransmitter levels. Either way, the chemical balance of our brains is altered in order to attain a degree of higher intelligence, at least on a temporary basis.
The cognitive enhancement observed by many users can be permanent, especially with the ones that affect nerve growth coupled with a balancing of neurotransmitters.
As psychology tells us, an effort towards a change in behavior plus the help of a drug can achieve extraordinary results in bettering one’s self.
What are the benefits of taking Nootropics?
There are many areas of cognition that nootropic substances can help a person improve. Many of them are noticeable, such as mood and our basic five senses. Extra memory and speed are traits that are commonly sought after, although they may not always be noticeable without doing tests of mental function.
People have claimed that nootropics are helpful in everyday life, being providers of mental clarity that is needed to carry out simple routines.
Everyone has times where it’s harder to think than usual, or they need an extra kick in the cognition department in order to carry out activities with finesse. Perfectionism is occasionally the goal when it comes to cognitive enhancers, since it’s a competitive world for students and skilled workers.
Since nootropics exert very positive effects on the brain, they also tend to be very good for mood. They can improve the functionality of crucial nervous mechanisms such as the dopamine system, and enhance communication between different parts of the brain.
Many supplements that are labeled nootropics are also great for overall health. There are countless antioxidants available (many of which are abundant in nature) that help to maintain integrity of cells across the body.
One special antioxidant called Acetyl L-Carnitine has numerous benefits including improved muscle function, heart health, and sustained focus. It is one of the best nootropics available that could be recommended for anyone to take, especially for athletes who gain energy-boosting effects.
A good Nootropic can influence neurochemicals that are already found in the brain. Nootropic supplements work by increasing low levels of hormones and neurotransmitters in our brains which help us improve our cognitive functions by increasing the blood flow and oxygenation in the brain.
This makes our nerve cells more responsive, but they operate in a calm way without causing side effects like nervousness and jitters. In fact, one of the best parts about nootropics is that they are safe to use and that they don’t have any side effects.
Nootropics help protect the brain by keeping it safe from chemical and physical injuries. They also improve cognitive abilities and affect areas like memory, energy levels, overall mood, and they can even help people with depression. Nootropics are also used to improve concentration and learning abilities, as well as focus.
When we take a nootropic, we flood our brain with the chemicals it needs to work properly. Once the chemical levels in our brains are optimized, we think more clearly, we have more motivation and energy to cope with the problems of everyday life. There are no side effects that could compromise your health.
Are Nootropics Safe?
By most definitions of a nootropic, yes, they are very safe to take. The majority of them feature both extremely low toxicity and very few to nonexistent adverse effects.
The range between a therapeutic dosage and a dangerously high one stretches far, with most accidental overdoses being unnoticeable.
At worst, it seems that overdoing most nootropics results in a temporary decrease in concentration or mood, and this will normally go away once the drug has left the person’s system. Typically, this is only a few hours due to the short half-lives of many cognitive enhancers.
Besides that, there are some situations where a person can briefly drain their brains of neurotransmitters – such as acetylcholine – with racetam use. This can be solved by additional supplementation to boost neurotransmitter generation.
Nevertheless, it is still important to be very careful when dealing with any sort of chemical that enters your body. Anyone who decides to take on the enigmatic world of nootropics should have basic background knowledge in chemistry and physiology, plus have a keen sense of measurement to get the dosing right if bulk powder is used.
A small mistake in dosage can make a nootropic fail to work or even create side effects, so taking care is a must! Using a scale is also highly recommended, if using powdered nootropics.
Even if only pre-measured pills or capsules are used, it’s important to be sure of the dosage you’re taking, and definitely read the provider’s instructions where applicable.
There are many varieties of nootropics that exist, each type holding true to the basic concept of a cognitive enhancer but acting in a certain way. As everyone has different particular body chemistry, a certain class may work better for one person than another. The most prominent types of nootropics provide a solid base for many users’ needs:
Perhaps the most well-known and classic set of nootropics, the racetams, are typically used to enhance memory. This is applicable to the learning of a subject that requires memorization, and great for increasing the “fluidity” or speed of information already in the brain.
Some people find that the racetams speed up their thoughts and speech, which can be attributed to the faster recall in the memory. It is recommended to take a choline source with any racetam, due to its nature of depleting choline levels in the brain, which can often lead to headaches.
Racetams vary greatly in strength per dosage. For example, basic piracetam requires a higher amount taken to have the same power as a tiny bit of the more complex phenylpiracetam. Some of them even have significant mood effects, such as the anxiety-relieving aniracetam or speedy-feeling oxiracetam.
Besides their use as a nootropic, racetams are being used as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease – combating the deficit of memory that patients acquire.
Nerve-Growth and NGF Agents
A remarkable feature of nootropics is the ability to help form new thought patterns, which can mean changed behaviors, new stored information, or making more efficient pathways through the brain.
This is all done through the connection and reconnection of nerve cells, which can be sped up using certain chemicals. The word to describe the brain’s ability to change its pathways is called plasticity.
Huperzine-A is quite notable for this purpose, increasing amounts of NGF (nerve growth factor) to help form new memories. The nerve growth is assisted by its ability to preserve acetylcholine levels.
Noopept is another agent which increases NGF, and it also acts on the NMDA receptors, which further enhance the plasticity effects. Noopept is a favorite among some of the more hardcore nootropics users, being quite strong at a low volume.
While most nootropics are specially-designed by humans, there are a number of chemicals found in nature that are known to produce nootropic effects.
Unique plants and mushrooms provide the majority of these organic substances, which gives another reason for why we should protect the environment.
The word “herbal” can be used to describe any of the plant-related supplements that people can take, while “adaptogen” refers to a natural substance that fights fatigue or even brain fog.
Some of the most common natural nootropics are ginkgo biloba, rhodiola rosea, and magnolia bark extract. The ginkgo is often used as a memory and wakefulness supplement, while the last two are both great for lowering feelings of stress and promoting healthy energy.
Amino Acids and Neuro-precursors
This group’s status as a class of nootropic is debatable, although members of it certainly have their contributions to brain function. Amino acids (including vitamins) provide the raw material to form proteins which the body needs to function.
This includes nerve cells, which enable thoughts and feelings. Examples of these include acetyl l-carnitine (ALCAR), and thiamin, an essential B-vitamin.
Neurotransmitter precursors are the building blocks from which our brain chemicals are made. As supplements, the precursors can be used to augment the creation of new neurotransmitters which influence different systems of the brain.
An example is tyrosine, which eventually transformed into dopamine, the chemical that provides us with motivation and pleasure.
Ampakines are a relatively new addition to the nootropic family, and are the least-well understood. They enhance learning ability and attention span through the activation of the AMPA receptor, and are highly sought after for nootropic effectiveness and potency.
Some brand new compounds such as sunifiram and unifiram are members of this class, although the much older aniracetam reportedly shows some AMPA activity.
Sometimes, only one nootropic doesn’t get the job done. Maybe someone is looking to achieve multiple effects, or the strength of one substance needs a boost from another. A technique used to do this is called stacking, which is the combined usage of different nootropics (or other supplements) in order to get a joint or heightened effect.
Strength boosts often come about by choosing two drugs that act on the same neurotransmitter system. For example, taking a choline supplement and Huperzine A at the same time will dramatically increase acetylcholine levels. The choline becomes synthesized in vivo to acetylcholine, while the Huperzine prevents already-existing acetylcholine from naturally breaking down.
Additionally, stacking is often used to attain nootropic synergy, which is a successful combination of more than one substance where the different factors boost each other’s effects. This can lead to some serious cognitive enhancement, when multiple areas of improvement multiply by each other.
Supplement and vitamin companies are aware of the benefits of stacking, and some of them have utilized extensive research to come up with excellent products which use synergy. For example, Perceptiv is a stack created by Dr. Thomas Shea, who discovered a powerful blend of nutrients that conquer many of the mental problems related to stress and aging.
Many people may wonder – with all of this detailed information available – where they are supposed to start!?
Nootropics can be a complex world, with a ton of guidelines that are recommended to be followed. Everyone has to start somewhere, and begin to learn from bottom to top.
The first and most important thing about starting to use nootropics is research. Getting started with crucial information is a must, and finding a reliable source of information is imperative.
Not only is it good to have trusted information, but have alternative places to check out too – get the word from many different people before settling on a decision or fact. Here at Corpina, we put great amounts of effort into presenting reliable information based on scientific studies, along with providing some anecdotal evidence from trusted sources.
You may not find the best nootropic for you right away, so it’s important to try several different ones and get a broad level of experience. Still, don’t go with something you think probably won’t work as your first-try nootropic.
Do your research on nootropics blogs like Corpina, forums like Longecity, Erowid, and Bluelight, and connect with other nootropics experimenters online and find out what should work well for you based on your needs and wants.
Best Natural Nootropic Ingredients
As people experiment with different nootropics, these combinations are commonly referred to as stacks. It is a slang term, but you still see it used around the internet.
You can think of nootropics like other supplements, there are hundreds of varieties to choose from, each with different objectives. If you are looking to purchase and try some nootropics, the basic building blocks are varied.
The most effective nootropics are:
This nootropic is commonly added to a stack with the goal of improving memory retention. A long list of lab tests has showcased Huperzine A’s ability to boost memory retention, and it has even been shown to help reverse cognitive deficits in test subjects that have diabetes. Although each person’s exact results may vary, there is more than enough research into Huperzine A to make it a good choice if you are concerned about your ability to retain information.
Is a natural herb that has traditionally been used as a neurological tonic and cognitive enhancer. Supports cognitive attention, memory, learning and health.
ALCAR is a popular nootropic for cognitive functionality, and many reviews have stated that this supplement is a good way to enhance memory and learning. The medical community has also taken a strong interest in ALCAR, and a wide variety of tests have linked it to everything from reversing memory loss to minimizing the damage that alcohol can cause to the brain.
Is an Eastern European dietary supplement that promotes cerebral metabolism. Research suggests vinpocetine may improve cognitive performance and short-term memory loss that is sometimes experienced with stress or aging. (Maintains healthy cerebral blood flow for improved memory recall.)
Found in Lecithin, Phosphatidylserine is a naturally-occurring chemical believe to be beneficial in supporting memory and thinking skills.
L-Glutamine is important for removing excess ammonia (a common waste product in the body). It also helps your immune system function and may be needed for normal brain function and digestion.