Nootropics are supplements that can help you increase your memory, sharpen your focus, raise your intelligence, and have an overall positive impact on cognitive abilities. But what makes one nootropic better than another? And which ones should you avoid? That’s where this article comes in!
Nootropics, or “smart pills” as they’re often known, are “cognitive enhancers” that promise to boost learning capacity, motivation, focus, and creativity. Do nootropics, on the other hand, function, and are they safe?
Nootropics have seen a significant increase in popularity in recent years, particularly among college students, new graduates, and even hardworking business executives. Nootropics are non-addictive “smart medications” or chemicals that aid in the effective functioning of the brain. So, which nootropic is the greatest on the market right now?
Many of the world’s most prominent nootropic sellers have only been around for a few years, mostly offering their goods online to individuals interested in “neurohacking,” or the capacity to use cutting-edge science and technology to improve how the brain and body operate. The phrase “nootropics” refers to a wide variety of brain-boosting medications, plants, and supplements that are all claimed to improve cognition.
When looking for the ideal nootropic for you, think about why you’re using nootropics in the first place, your objectives, medical history, and the hazards you could face. Adaptogen herbs, medicinal mushrooms, bacopa, ginseng, DHA/fish oil, and ginkgo biloba are some of the greatest brain supplements that seem to be both safe and efficient, according to research.
What Are Nootropics and How Do They Work?
“Smart pills,” “brain boosters,” and “memory-enhancing pharmaceuticals” are all terms used to describe nootropics. However, given that the actual definition of a nootropic is still up for question and the word is not closely controlled, there is currently a broad range of drugs on the market that are classed as nootropics. Even more confusing is that nootropics are often made as “stacks,” or concoctions containing various chemicals that interact in intricate ways.
The following are some examples of nootropics:
- B vitamins are essential for good health
- A, C, D, and E vitamins
- Balboa ginkgo
- Medicinal mushrooms such as chaga, cordyceps, and reishi
- Omega-3 fatty acids, such as DHA
- GPC Alpha
- Bacopa monnieri
- Extract of a cat’s claw
- Artichoke leaf extract
- Root of Rhodiola rosea
- Extract of Macuna Prurien
It’s difficult to explain how nootropics operate since they’re all different and have different modes of action. However, there are thousands of conceivable theories for how nootropics improve cognitive performance, given how many distinct “brain supplements” come under the nootropics category.
However, the majority of smart medications can change the amounts of particular neurotransmitters, enzymes, or hormones in the brain, such as acetylcholine, adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin, and GABA. Many boost energy levels (some with coffee), improve blood flow and protect the brain from oxidative stress.
Is it true that nootropics are natural and that they are even legal? Nootropics are non-toxic and non-addictive, which sets them apart from most stimulants, illicit narcotics, and mood-altering medicines. Many are made from plants or extracted amino acids present in commonly consumed protein-rich meals.
On the other hand, some nootropics aren’t natural (they’re synthetic), and as a result, they have more potent effects and are more dangerous.
Phenylethylamine (Phenylethylamine) is a little-known supplement that helps maintain brain health.
The Most Effective Nootropics
So, which nootropic is the most effective? The following nootropics have been investigated the most and have been proved to have actual mental health benefits:
1. Medicinal Mushrooms
Reishi, cordyceps, lion’s mane, turkey tail, and chaga are examples of medicinal mushrooms. In research, these fungi have been demonstrated to boost cognitive performance in the following ways:
- Combating cognitive decline in the elderly
- Having anti-oxidant characteristics that help to keep the brain healthy
- Adaptogens are substances that improve resilience in the face of adversity
- Assisting in the regulation of cortisol levels
- Battling tiredness and a weakened immune system
- Having anti-tumor and immune-booster characteristics
2. Herbs that act as adaptogens
Ginseng, holy basil, ashwagandha, astragalus root, licorice root, rhodiola rosea, and cordyceps are examples of adaptogens. For example, holy basil is an adaptogen that may help with stress management by reducing blood corticosterone levels (another stress hormone) and causing favorable changes in the brain’s neurotransmitter system.
Rhodiola and astragalus may aid with stress-related weariness and can improve mental function, especially the capacity to focus, while also lowering cortisol levels. In addition, licorice root may help improve the immune system and promote energy. In contrast, ashwagandha can help prevent stress-related stomach ulcers, poor cognition and memory, neurodegenerative illnesses, inflammation, and adrenal gland dysregulation due to excessive cortisol levels.
3. Bacopa Monnieri
This herbal treatment, also known as Brahmi, has been employed in traditional Ayurvedic therapy from India for hundreds of years. It’s used to treat various mental and mood-related health issues, including Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss, anxiety, ADHD symptoms, and more.
Bacopa is a natural stress reliever that has been demonstrated to assist control dopamine and serotonin levels. According to studies, bacopa is non-addictive and may increase memory, decrease anxiety and depression, and help with concentration, attention, learning, and memory. The best part is that it has few (if any) adverse effects.
4. Omega 3 fatty acids and fish oil
DHA and EPA, two omega-3 fatty acids, are important building blocks for a healthy brain and may protect brain cells from harm. They may also aid memory and concentration, as well as relieve inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids may be found in fish such as salmon or sardines, nuts such as walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and fish oil capsules.
Ginseng (or Panax ginseng) is a well-known adaptogen that has been demonstrated to help healthy young people increase their serenity and several elements of working memory function. According to studies, ginseng has considerable anti-stress effects and may be used to treat stress-related diseases such as anxiety, loss of concentration, weariness, etc. It also contains antioxidant properties, may provide neuroprotection, and has boosted mood, mental function, and blood sugar levels while fasted.
6. Gingko Biloba
Ginkgo biloba is one of the most widely used herbs for brain health. Its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, platelet-forming, and circulation-boosting properties have been extensively researched. Enhanced cognitive performance, a better mood, higher energy, improved memory, and decreased symptoms associated with various chronic conditions, such as ADHD and dementia, are all advantages of ginkgo biloba.
The following are some other safe, honorable mentions:
- Forskolin is an Ayurvedic plant that may help with memory and learning.
- L-theanine, which may help with arousal and alertness.
- Artichoke extract has been shown to improve motivation and learning abilities.
- Cat’s claw possesses anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, and antioxidant characteristics that protect the brain and may aid with weariness.
Why are nootropics beneficial if you wish to improve your cognitive performance and mental wellness? The following are some of the advantages of nootropics:
- First, improving the acquisition of knowledge.
- Increasing the brain’s two hemispheres’ coupling (how the left and right sides of the brain work together to process information).
- Improving executive processing abilities, including planning, organizing, concentrating, remembering, and spatial awareness.
- Mood, vitality, mental clarity, motivation, and creativity are all things that may be improved.
- It may work as a natural ADHD treatment.
- Increasing the body’s and mind’s resistance to a stressful and hazardous environment.
- Advantages that protect your brain from injury and degeneration are known as neuroprotective benefits.
- Increasing one’s determination.
- Long-term memory and short-term memorization of knowledge are both improved.
- Affecting synaptic plasticity in the brain, or how the brain changes from experiences.
- Increasing the fluidity of cellular membranes.
- Increasing the flow of blood to the brain.
- Providing metabolic assistance, such as assisting mitochondrial ATP generation (the body’s primary “energy currency”).
What nootropics should you take to increase your memory, reasoning speed, and attention span? Ginkgo biloba, green coffee extract, and matcha green tea are some of the alternatives. In addition, black tea contains both caffeine and L-theanine, which might aid with focus and potentially mood.
What is the greatest nootropic pill for stress relief, mood stabilization, and overcoming brain fog? Adaptogens and medicinal mushrooms such as chaga, cordyceps, and reishi, as well as Rhodiola, ashwagandha, and astragalus, are all good options.
The Worst Nootropics
When it comes to the efficiency of nootropics, it’s crucial to note that there’s a lot of variation. The effect and benefit of a nootropic pill on someone’s cognitive performance is determined by their neurochemistry, genetics, weight, sleep habits, and mood.
Each individual will respond differently to various nootropics; however, using more strong, synthetic nootropics is typically riskier. Synthetic equivalents, which may or may not need a prescription depending on where you reside, may have various negative effects. Some of them are also strong stimulants that might be addictive or interact with drugs, creating unforeseen adverse effects.
When using nootropics such as:
- Modafinil (Provigil) is a “wakefulness-promoting” medication that is prescribed to aid with attention, motivation, clarity, and memory. It’s presently only available as prescription medicine in nations like the United States, but it’s also available online in places like India. Before taking this medicine, talk to your doctor about possible side effects such as immunological responses, fever, sore throat, headaches, vomiting, hallucinations, and strange thoughts (whether the brand name or generic form).
- Adrafinil — Adrafinil is a non-prescription medication that has comparable effects as Modafini. Adrafinil is a stimulant and eugeroic drug that is used to improve alertness, attentiveness, wakefulness, and mood in older people. Interfering with sleep and perhaps straining your liver are two risks connected with this drug.
- Armodafinil (Nuvigil) – Armodafinil is a refined version of Modafinil with many of the same stimulating properties as Modafinil. It is used to treat narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and symptoms associated with night shift employment. It’s a restricted chemical that may induce delirium, panic, psychosis, and heart failure, among other things.
- Piracetam is a synthetic racetam substance that was developed in the 1960s and is currently only accessible through prescription in the United States. When it comes to battling cognitive impairment, studies show that piracetam is most beneficial in elderly individuals, although it has limited benefits in healthy people. Anxiety, sleeplessness, sleepiness, and agitation are all potential side effects, but they normally don’t last very long. It may be safe to take for up to 18 months, although long-term safety has been shown. It may also interfere with drugs that thin the blood, such as blood thinners.
- Lucidril (Meclofenoxate) – While this medication has been promoted as having anti-aging, neuroprotective, and cognitive advantages, it has also been linked to mood-related adverse effects such as despair and hopelessness. It may also have teratogenic (birth deformities) consequences; thus, women of childbearing age should avoid using it.
- Phenibut — Phenibut is a chemically comparable supplement to the natural brain chemical GABA and is used to treat anxiety, sleeplessness, tension, stress, exhaustion, PTSD, and alcoholism. Many individuals quickly build a tolerance to this medication and need higher doses to maintain the intended benefits and avoid withdrawal symptoms. It may also interact badly with alcohol, narcotics, and tranquilizers, increasing the risk of overdosing.
- Nicotine — Nicotine is used by some individuals to improve mitochondrial function, alertness, and stress management; regardless of how nicotine is consumed, whether by smoking, tobacco products, or extracts, it is associated with dangers such as addiction, elevated heart rate, dizziness, and nausea.
- Drugs containing amphetamines and dextroamphetamine (the trade name Adderall is a mix of these two stimulants). (See below for further information on these stimulants.)
- Stimulants, such as caffeine in high amounts (more on this below).
Adderall vs. Nootropics
- Adderall is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine that is only lawfully prescribed in a few countries, principally the United States and Canada.
- Ritalin, Adderall, and Modafinil are stimulant drugs that were initially created to assist control symptoms of certain illnesses like ADHD or narcolepsy. Today, there is rising worry about how these medicines are being abused by teens and adults who want to be more productive, motivated, and focused.
- One distinction between nootropics and these drugs is that nootropics are designed to progressively boost brainpower in healthy individuals over time rather than acting quickly and having just transient benefits.
- Adderall has both advantages and disadvantages. When taken correctly by persons with a prescription, for example, the medicine may help alleviate symptoms of ADHD by boosting the availability of specific neurotransmitters in the brain, such as norepinephrine and dopamine. This may aid with test-taking and performance at work or school by increasing alertness, attentiveness, and energy levels.
- Adderall may also boost your stamina and give you a boost of energy and vigor by increasing your heart rate and blood flow to your muscles. Additionally, since Adderall may provide gratifying sensations of exhilaration, some people may have a mood-enhancing impact after taking medication.
- On the other hand, even when used as recommended, Adderall may be very addictive and hazardous. Appetite suppression and undesirable weight loss, increasing tolerance and reliance, withdrawal symptoms, irritability, anxiety, restlessness, twitching and involuntary movements, difficulty sleeping, and potentially severe heart difficulties are all possible side effects.
- Adderall should be taken with care since amphetamines have the potential to become addicted and may induce sleeplessness, tension, and worry.
Stimulants vs. Nootropics
- A stimulant is defined as “a chemical that increases physiological or neurological activity in the body.” Because they help you feel less drowsy and more alert, stimulants are commonly referred to as “uppers.” Caffeine (found in coffee, tea, and certain soft drinks or energy drinks), nicotine, diet pills, amphetamines like Adderall, methamphetamines pharmaceuticals, Ritalin, over-the-counter stimulants like NoDoz, Vivarin, and Caffedrine, and illicit drugs like cocaine are all examples of stimulants.
- Caffeine is classified as a nootropic for a reason. Caffeine fights exhaustion and may improve attention, mental clarity and even alleviate sorrow symptoms. It’s a stimulant belonging to the methylxanthine family of psychoactive medicines that affects the central nervous system (CNS). Caffeine impacts blood pressure, brain activity, hormonal balance, blood sugar levels, and general mood, and although it has advantages, it may also have harmful consequences in excessive doses. Excess caffeine may make you feel physically ill, dizzy, anxious, and out of control.
- Is nicotine considered a nootropic? Nicotine is a powerful nootropic that may be found in various plants, including tobacco. Nicotine enhances the production of “feel-good” neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, by acting on acetylcholine (ACh) receptors in the brain, which improves alertness, memory, and mood. Nicotine is often used for cognitive improvement in tiny dosages such as a lozenge or gum; however, smoking or using tobacco is seldom employed for this reason. While nicotine has certain advantages, it may also be addictive and produce symptoms such as dizziness, coughing, sneezing, sinus issues, upset stomach, constipation, and headaches.
- If nootropics are also stimulants, might they induce anxiety? Stimulants have both physical and mental negative effects, particularly when they are taken excessively. Dizziness, tremors, headaches, flushed skin, chest pains with palpitations, excessive perspiration, vomiting, and stomach cramps are some of the physical adverse effects. Agitation, anger, panic, aggressiveness, sleeplessness, and anxiety are some of the mental/psychological impacts.
Adaptogens vs. Nootropics
- Adaptogens are regarded as some of the greatest nootropics since including them in your daily routine will help you become more resistant to the negative effects of chronic stress and protect your body from chronically high cortisol levels.
- Adaptogens may help control the release of cortisol, the “stress hormone,” which can damage every physiological system in your body, including your digestive system, reproductive system, thyroid, and adrenal glands, if it is raised for lengthy periods.
- Adaptogens are a special kind of healing plant that helps the body balance, recover, and defend itself as it adapts to diverse stresses, restoring physiological processes such as blood pressure and hormonal balance. They can also assist in boosting antioxidant activity, reducing the harmful effects of oxidative stress on the brain.
- Panax ginseng, holy basil, ashwagandha, astragalus root, licorice root, rhodiola rosea, and cordyceps are adaptogenic herbs that may help enhance resilience and mental performance.
- On the other hand, Adaptogenic herbs may interfere with certain prescription drugs and are not suggested for persons with specific diseases, so speak to your doctor first if you’re on any prescriptions.
What to Look for and How to Use
Depending on the sort of nootropic you take, you may get nootropic compounds in various formats, including capsules, powders, extracts, oils, teas, and syrups. If you want the safest and most effective nootropics, go for natural items (such as those derived from plants) rather than synthetic ones, which have greater effects.
Choose a recognized brand that clearly discloses all of the ingredients on the label. If you’re going to use a herbal product, be sure it’s organic or wild-crafted to avoid contamination and GMOs.
Because each nootropic product/stack works differently, it’s important to follow the dose instructions attentively. Pay attention to whether the product should be taken on an empty stomach or with meals and if it should be taken too soon to bedtime.
The optimal nootropics for you will be determined by your goals, such as improving attention or increasing creativity. Consider attempting a common approach for how to utilize nootropics: cycling. To cycle nootropics, take them for a certain amount of time (for example, 5–7 days), then stop taking them for two days. You may then repeat the cycle, taking a week or two off in between. This is done to reduce the danger of addiction, withdrawal, or tolerance build-up.
- Homemade Bacopa Tea – This tea will energize and calm you simultaneously. To create tea, simmer a few fresh leaves or a generous handful of dried bacopa leaves in one cup of boiling water for up to 10 minutes. When using fresh leaves, rip and bruise them to release the fragrant oils into the water. Remove the leaves from the infused water before drinking, so they don’t get in the way. If you wish to mask the flavor of bacopa, add some raw honey.
- Mushroom Coffee — A powdered blend of instant coffee and mushroom extracts is now available that may be mixed with hot water to make a cup of mushroom coffee. Packets of mushroom extracts containing healthful elements, including organic peppermint and anise extracts, as well as stevia, are also available. To make a hot cup of mushroom tea, add a packet like this to your favorite tea.
Consider how you may incorporate more brain-boosting items in your diet to naturally increase attention and memory, in addition to introducing nootropics into your routine. Vitamins, phytonutrients, and antioxidants are just a few examples of nutrient-dense “superfoods” that might help with cognitive function:
- Wild Salmon
- Bone Broth
- Egg Yolks
- Liver with other organ meats
- Olive oil
- Greens with plenty of leaves
- Green tea and organic coffee
Fungi and adaptogens are examples of natural nootropics that have been used for thousands of years. However, scientists in the United Kingdom and the United States started experimenting with mind-altering chemicals in the 1950s to aid military personnel and maybe fight illnesses. One of the earliest use of nootropics was to aid the CIA. Substances were coupled with shock treatment and hypnosis techniques, but these attempts mostly backfired and resulted in negative consequences.
In 1972, Dr. Corneliu Giurgea created the term “nootropics.” He looked into nootropics to see whether they may help with memory and cognitive functions, but he also wanted to make sure they were safe and non-toxic. Giurgea coined the term nootropics by combining the Greek terms for “thinking” and “bending.”
In 1964, Giurgea created piracetem, a drug that has been licensed for medicinal use in dozens of nations for adults and the elderly. According to Giurgea, piracetam was discovered to be “active rather than calm the brain,” and he proclaimed it to be part of a new class of medications.
Many of the first nootropic developers worked in Silicon Valley in the 1990s and 2000s, when the “Information Age” was just getting started. “Smart medicines might be considered as the key to unleashing our full potential inside the restricted limitations of a civilization dependent on technology,” according to a 2014 VICE article.
There are now a plethora of cognition-enhancing medications (nootropics) accessible to the general population, some of which are prescribed, some of which are available over-the-counter, and others that are only available online on the “gray market.” Onnit, Nootroo, Nootrobox, and truBrain are some of the current leaders in the nootropic category.
Side Effects and Risks
The possible long-term adverse effects of utilizing numerous nootropics, particularly when used in “stacks,” are unknown (complex formulas that combine various products). While most nootropics are deemed safe, there are some potential negative effects to be aware of. These include building a tolerance (meaning you’ll need more to get the same effects), withdrawal symptoms, brain fog on stopping nootropics, hyperactivity, anxiety, and sleeping problems.
Certain nootropics might have a disagreeable taste and induce gastrointestinal distress if taken without meals. Also, remember that nootropics are designed to provide cognitive advantages gradually, so you may not see any improvement for eight to twelve weeks.
Always see your doctor if you’re worried about any potential interactions between nootropics and drugs you’re taking. If you develop negative effects from nootropics, stop using them immediately, particularly if you’re taking them with other medications.
- “Smart pills,” “brain boosters,” and “memory-enhancing pharmaceuticals” are all terms used to describe nootropics. In addition, nootropics are sometimes produced as “stacks,” or concoctions containing various chemicals that interact in complicated ways.
- What is the most effective smart medicine available today? Of course, this depends on why you’re taking nootropics in the first place — to combat anxiety and brain fog or boost concentration, attention, and memory, for example.
- Enhancing learning, increasing the coupling of the brain’s two hemispheres, improving executive processing (planning, organizing, focusing, remembering, and spatial awareness), improving mood, energy, mental clarity, motivation, and creativity, and protecting the brain from oxidative stress are all possible benefits of nootropics.
- Adaptogen herbs, medicinal mushrooms, fish oil/omega-3s, ginkgo biloba, bacopa, and ginseng are some of the greatest nootropics.
- Modafinil (Provigil), Adrafinil, Armodafinil (Nuvigil), Piracetam, Lucidril, Phenibut, nicotine, and stimulants like Adderall or even high quantities of caffeine are all nootropics that might induce negative effects and should be taken with care.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most effective nootropic?
A: There is no such thing as an effective nootropic, only ones that are more useful than others. The most reliable and natural way to boost your cognitive functions would be through exercise.
What is the number one nootropic supplement?
A: Pyrrolo-quinoline is the number one nootropic supplement. It has been shown to be an effective cognitive enhancer in studies conducted on animals and humans.
Which nootropic is best for memory?
A: I recommend phenylpiracetam.
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