What are Nootropics?
For years, people have been trying to find supplements to help their brains work better, faster and smarter.
In a society where everything is fast paced, it’s important to keep up otherwise you could get lost in the bustle. That’s why maximizing your brain’s potential is the key to success.
Supplements that can boost your brain power may sound like science fiction from an action movie, but such supplements are currently available. They won’t give you superhuman like abilities, but they can unlock potential you didn’t even know you had. These supplements are called nootropics.
But what are nootropics? How can they possibly improve your cognitive functions? Don’t fret. We’ve gathered all the information you need to know to begin your nootropic journey. Whether you want to know what a nootropic is or what it does, it’s all here.
Hopefully, once we’ve shed some light on the topic, you’ll be ready to start considering nootropics for yourself. Are you ready to begin?
A Brief History of Nootropics
In a way, Nootropics were discovered by accident. During the 1960s a group of scientists were trying to use a neurotransmitter called GABA to promote better sleeping patterns. Although the team didn’t succeed in creating a sleep aid, their ultimate discovery was a much more important.
While doing research, Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea noticed that the molecule Piracetam behaved in a unique manner. It was neither toxic nor did it work like a stimulant. He even noticed that there were very few side effects. Because it seemed inactive, Giurgea almost disregarded it. This was until he realized that it seemed to increase higher levels of integrative brain activity.
Upon further discovery, Giurgea found that Piracetam improved memory and helped the brain work more efficiently. As a result, in 1964 the study of “nootropics” was born and by 1965, extensive studies began in the field of brain enhancers.
Nootropics Around the World
Although Giurgea was the first scientist to create nootropics in the lab, nootropics were already being used around the world in natural forms. The coffee that you drink every morning can be considered a nootropic because it improves brain performance, even for a short period of time.
In many Eastern countries, nootropics were used as early as 10 000 years ago to improve learning capabilities and even prevent brain injuries. Gingko Biloba was used predominantly by the Chinese as a brain enhancer and it was clearly recognized that it improved cognitive function.
Even in Indian cultures, certain plants and herbs were used because they improved intelligence. These were referred to as Medhya Rasayanas and were often used by ancient scholars. Many of them are still used today.
Currently, nootropics are often used in more refined forms. Ingredients are specifically selected to have maximum impact on your brain activity. More and more research is being done to develop nootropics with a variety of benefits.
So, What Are Nootropics?
Simply put, nootropics are brain enhancers. They can be defined as any food, supplement or even drug that improves cognitive functions. Does this mean that everything you consume is a nootropic? Not really. But you’ll be surprised by how many nootropics are available.
Dr. Giurgea, the father of nootropics himself, defined nootropics as substances that:
- Enhance memory and learning potential
- Protect brain cells from damage
- Allow cells to communicate more efficiently with each other
- Give you peak cognitive abilities even while under stress
- Don’t have the same pharmacological effects as psychotropic drugs
- Is backed by research that indicated they influenced brain bioactivity
This definition of nootropics is a bit vast. Today, our understanding of nootropics has expanded, meaning that modern day nootropics might only meet one or two of Giurgea’s criteria. In some cases, nootropics are specifically designed for a particular purpose such as helping with anxiety or improving memory.
For this reason, nootropics have now been classified as any supplement that impacts the brain specifically. Many of these “smart drugs” have now been listed as nootropics.
Why the Hype?
There’s a lot of buzz forming around the use of nootropics, with the number of people taking them increasing daily. Even business tycoons such as Dave Asprey and Tim Ferris have been known to take nootropics. But what is all the fuss about?
Answering this question isn’t that simple. There are variety of factors that influenced this surge in popularity from the competitive marketplace to the vast number of beneficial applications of nootropics. By considering these factors individually, it might shed some light on what started the hype.
Competitive Marketplace Equals Better Research
One of the major factors influencing the nootropics hype is the competitive marketplace. In 2015, the nootropic market was valued at $2.3 billion and is expected to reach $11.6 billion by 2024.
Because the U.S holds most of the market, there’s still room to expand. Other continents that are still new to the hype have potential to encourage new customers. This means that this value can grow even more than expected.
As a result of this estimation, it’s clear that nootropics are a highly profitable which has led to more competition in this marketplace. So, how has this competition impacted this hype?
The competition has affected the hype in the following ways:
- Increased competition has led to more advertising which means that larger groups of people are aware of the benefits of nootropics.
- In order to give companies an edge in the market, more money is being spent on nootropics research. As a result, more evidence is available that nootropics actually work. With sound scientific studies, people have more reason to use them.
- The competitive market means that more companies are producing nootropics so they’re readily available and easily accessible. Many nootropic sales occur online, which is where a great deal of people do their shopping. It also means that nootropics can be accessed by people in countries where they wouldn’t normally be available.
In summary, competitive markets have resulted in better research and increased advertising. People are more aware of nootropics and the benefits of taking them. For these reasons, people are more inclined to try them. After realising the benefits for themselves, word of mouth leads to even more hype.
The Celebrity Factor
Other than larger volumes of advertising, the celebrity influence can’t be ignored when it comes to the hype surrounding nootropics. As mentioned earlier, big names in the business industry are advocates of nootropics. On top of this, familiar names, such as Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, have also been reported using nootropics as well.
Additionally, nootropics have become associated with Silicon Valley. Highly successful tech gurus use nootropics to boosts their productivity and the results are clear in the billions that they make in profit. The idea of drugs making users super productive was even tackled in the movies Limitless starring Bradley Cooper and Lucy starring Scarlett Johansson.
Current nootropics aren’t going to give you superpowers like Bradley or Scarlett (yet). But if so many intelligent, successful people are claiming that they work for them, why shouldn’t you give nootropics a try?
There’s Something for Everyone
Anybody can use nootropics. There are so many nootropics available, that your selection can be tailored to suit your needs. The most popular demographics that use nootropics are:
- Scholars and children
Although nootropics are most commonly used by students as well as employees in high stress careers, they’re useful for anyone wishing to improve their cognitive performance. Even if you want to be more focussed or less distracted, nootropics can help you.
There’s even research that shows that nootropics can aid certain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Nootropics are viable in a variety of applications where they improve performance and can even enhance your quality of life.
There’s Always Room to Improve
Using nootropics is a form of “biohacking.” This means that it’s a way to take charge of mental evolution by increasing your intelligence and accessing your peak mental capabilities. As a result, you’re able to achieve more and do more, beyond biological limitation.
For this reason, the hype surrounding nootropics rests in humanity’s desire to be better. Nootropics allow consumers access to skills and levels of intelligence that they didn’t know they could perform. It’s a means of improving oneself.
What are Nootropics Used For?
Nootropics have a variety of everyday applications. Have you been feeling stressed lately? Try nootropics. Do you want to be more productive? Nootropics are the answer. That’s what makes nootropic supplements so unique. Your selection of nootropics can be designed to fit your individual needs.
Nootropics can be used for:
- Cognitive & memory enhancement: Whether you want to improve your short term or long-term memory, nootropics can help you retain information more effectively. They also assist you with recalling information.
- Attention & focus: Not only will nootropics help you retain info, but they also help you remain focussed. This way you can dedicate all of your attention to a task so that it can be completed more efficiently and thoroughly. You’re also able to ignore distractions.
- Anxiety & stress management: Nootropics can help you feel more relaxed in stressful situations. Because stress often inhibits one’s ability to be productive, this also allows you to get more work done even when feeling overwhelmed.
- Mood & depression: Dips in mood that lead to depression are often the result of unbalanced brain chemicals or poor blood circulation. Using nootropics promotes these processes so that you’re less likely to feel drained and your brain will feel healthier as well.
- Longevity & antiaging: Although nootropics are meant to improve your mental capabilities, they also keep your brain healthy in the long run. This means that by using nootropics it will take longer for you to experience memory impairment and cognitive decline associated with aging. As a result, you’ll remain quick thinking and alert long into your golden years.
- Sleep, recovery & dream enhancement: Nootropics can put your mind into a relaxed state which allows you to sleep more soundly and also avoid insomnia. Because you’re sleeping deeply, your dreams will be enhanced as well. Being well rested also improves your productivity and optimizes your cognition while awake.
- Libido: If you have a low sex drive or a lower sex drive than your partner, certain nootropics can help you keep up or feel more in the mood. Even if your have a healthy libido, some nootropics increase your energy so that you can last longer and enjoy your time with your partner more appreciatively.
- Improved energy levels: Another benefit of using nootropics is that the right ones will improve your energy levels. This makes them ideal for athletes. At the same time, nootropics can improve the brains energy consumption. The brain uses 20% of the body’s energy so by improving this consumption you have more energy for other tasks.
- Alleviating cognitive decline caused by disease (such as in Alzheimer’s & dementia) : As mentioned earlier, using nootropics can reduce symptoms experienced by people with diseases that cause cognitive decline. This allows them to live fuller lives.
- Improving creativity & learning capabilities: With improved focus, mood & relaxation that comes from nootropics, you’ll find that you’re more creative. This is because you’re no longer weighed done by mental blocks and your brain is reaching its peak performance. For this reason, studying or learning information is also easier.
- Improving energy consumption by enhancing mitochondrial processes and delivering more oxygen to the brain
- Optimizing neurotransmitters so communication in the brain is faster
- Circulating cerebral blood flow so that the brain remains oxygenated and neurotoxins are removed for better longevity
- Raise or lower brain waves to reach certain cognitive states
- Promoting neuroprotection or neurogenesis by encouraging the formation of healthy brain boosting chemicals such as choline or antioxidants
- Racetams: These are synthetic nootropics that are created in a lab. They are the most popular and most widely used ones available. Racetams are specifically designed to enhance cognitive performance and all share a similar chemical structure.
- Choline Nootropics: Choline is a water soluble nutrient with brain boosting capabilities that is found naturally in the body. It’s necessary to produce Acetylcholine. Some people have a choline deficiency so replacing it can help your brain function more efficiently.
- Ampakines: Although ampakines are relatively new, they’re one of the strongest nootropics available. These supplements increase glutamate production and are usually designed to assist with memory & learning.
- Vitamin B Derivatives: Vitamin B is necessary for energy production in the body so although the Vitamin B Derivative subclass is small, it’s important. It also helps improve mood and lessen fatigue so it has a variety of viable properties.
- Peptides: These nootropics are very rare but they’re naturally occurring which is a benefit. Their properties are similar to Racetams but they’re more potent. Along with these advantages, they also have a high bioavailability and encourage the production of glutamates & acetylcholine.
- Natural Nootropics: Any nootropics used in an organic state are considered “natural.” As a result, they tend to be a lot safer to use. Their one downfall though is that they’re not as strong as synthetic nootropics and their benefits may not be as noticeable.
- Smart Drugs: Not all nootropics are smart drugs but all smart drugs can be considered nootropics. Smart drugs are distinct because they have stimulants which are not found in true nootropics. This means that they have powerful effects but that they also have more side effects and often require prescriptions.
- Improves your learning and memory
- Keeps your brain protected from either physical or chemical damage
- Leads to your neurons firing faster
- Have little to no side effects and aren’t toxic to humans
- Allows the brain to function optimally even under duress
- Choline supplement
- Natural or herbal nootropic
Because different nootropics have different effects, it’s important to do your research. Find the nootropic that works best for you and has the desired result that you’re looking for. You can even use a nootropic “stack” for a combination of effects, but we’ll discuss that a bit later.
How Do Nootropics Work?
Briefly, nootropics can enhance brain performance in the following ways:
Different Types Of Nootropics
In the world of nootropics, there are seven types. These include:
Often, nootropic stacks will combine multiple types. This increases the strength of your nootropics and also helps you create a more targeted effect.
Attributes & Characteristics Of Nootropics
True nootropics have the following five characteristics:
If your nootropic meets all of these criteria then it’s a true nootropic. These supplements will have the bests benefits and help you make better use of your brain’s potential.
Stacks Vs. Individual
What Are Nootropic Stacks?
Simply, a nootropic stack is combining two or more cognitive enhancing supplements. Many nootropics have targeted effects on their own. This means that although one might help improve your memory it might not enhance your focus or assist you with stress management.
By combining certain nootropics, you can create a more well rounded combination of supplements. As a result, you can maximize the benefits of your nootropic usage. You can feel energetic while relieving stress and still remaining hyper focused.
Stacking is the epitome of biohacking. With the right stack you’ll enhance your cognitive function and the effects will be more long-lasting. It’s all about maximizing your brain power in the long run and not only for short bursts.
For this reason, the benefits of stacking far outweigh those of using individual nootropics. Evolving your mind is the ultimate goal.
Types Of Nootropic Stacks
There are two main nootropic stacks to consider. You can either purchase a premade stack or you can build your own. Although premade stacks are perfect for beginners, the effects aren’t specialized for your unique needs. You also have less control over the ingredients as well as the dosage.
On the other hand, you have a lot more control over what’s going into your body when your build your own stack. There’s more risk involved in this as some ingredients may not work well with others. That’s why abundant research is a necessity.
The greatest advantage is that with a built stack you know exactly what and how much you’re consuming. It takes time to perfect a stack but the final result will have the most impact on you as an individual.
The Best Nootropic Stack?
There is no ‘best’ nootropic stack. What works for you might not work for someone else. Instead, when building a stack, try to include at least one of the following:
Combining one supplement from each category allows you to experience benefits from all three subgroups. It can enhance the effect of the natural nootropic, have the bioavailability of the racetam & increase your natural choline levels.
Of course, this combination isn’t the be all end all of nootropic stacks, but it’s a start. As mentioned earlier, it’s always important to do your research.
Are Nootropics Safe?
Recently, there has been controversy surrounding students abusing smart drugs such as Ritalin or Adderall at college level. This has given nootropics a bad reputation. It’s important to note, that although this situation is an issue, most of these drugs must be taken with a prescription and this situation doesn’t account for all nootropics.
For a nootropic to be considered a nootropic, it usually has very few side effects and low toxicity. This means that most nootropics are unlikely to harm you when used properly and in moderation. Clinical trials have even indicated that nootropics are safe to use.
Once again, research is a necessity. If you experience side effects that make you uncomfortable, stop using that supplement. When in doubt, speak to a trusted advisor or medical professional and always buy your nootropic supplements from a trusted source.
Nootropics won’t make you Superman, but nootropic research is still young, so who knows where nootropics might take us in the future? What we do know for now is that using nootropics has a visible impact on your brain and cognitive development.
Finding your perfect combination can make you more productive and give you a better chance at success. All you need to do is find the nootropic that unlocks your mind. Who knows where nootropics will take your future.