Nootropics: Can They Improve Your Brain Power?

Nootropics: Can They Improve Your Brain Power?

This is a competitive world. You need to be on top of your game to stay ahead. And when it comes to doing that, you need your brain to be working at its best.

The problem is that different things can keep your brain from working as well as it should. Many people now turn to nootropics to help them overcome issues that are capable of keeping them from functioning at their best.

How much do you know about nootropics and how are they intended to help? We discuss here practically everything you need to know about them. Hopefully, the information we provide will be useful in helping you decide if they are worth using.

What Are Nootropics?

In a simple sense, nootropics are substances that people take to improve cognitive functions. They are things you use to help your brain function more effectively. People also refer to them as smart drugs, brain pills, brain boosters, or cognitive enhancers.

The word "nootropic" is of Greek origin. It is a combination of the words "nous" and "trepein." These together translate into something like "bending or turning the mind." Put differently, nootropic means mind bender or turner.

The term is credited to Corneliu E. Giurgea. He stipulated criteria that can make a substance qualify to be a nootropic. But the truth is that many of the things people now consider as nootropics are really not, if we are to follow the Romanian psychologist and chemist's strict definition.

For instance, anything called a nootropic must have few or no side effects. Many synthetic nootropics do not meet this criteria. Some quality natural alternatives seem to fit in here.

A true nootropic must be able to improve memory and learning capability. While natural offerings may be safer, a good number of experts doubt the efficacy of such. Certain drugs suggested for improving brain function have also not been proven to work.

In essence, most of what you we now know as nootropics are not, based on strict interpretation of Giurgea's description. The term is now more of a general term for anything that is offered to enhance mental function.

How Popular Are Nootropics?

Nootropics are becoming more and more popular. Many people are believed to be taking them these days. This, without doubt, is as a result of need to be on top of one's game always. Demand for these compounds continues to rise despite ongoing debates among experts on their usefulness.

People use nootropics for a variety of reasons. Some use them to deal with mental health issues. Other healthy individuals use these substances merely to improve how their brain works.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the mental health issues that people use nootropics for. It affects millions of people in the United States, especially children. The condition causes learning difficulties and often leads to anxiety.

The neurodegenerative condition Alzheimer's disease is one of the problems that are driving the popularity of nootropics. Estimate has it that this dreaded and most popular form of dementia affects roughly one in eight elderly persons in America.

Although estimates vary, more than 5 million people in the U.S. are thought to have Alzheimer’s. Nootropics are used to manage the cognitive decline associated with the disorder, which is the sixth-leading cause of death in America.

There are several other health issues that are helping to make nootropics more popular. They include depression, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease.

An increasing number of students are believed to also be taking nootropics to improve learning outcomes. This is particularly more so in highly competitive educational institutions.

How Do Nootropics Work?

Now, it is possible that you are already wondering how these compounds actually work. The truth is that there is no generic mechanism of action. Put differently, all the substances do not work in similar manner, even though the ultimate goal may be the same.

Some nootropics aim to alter the levels of neurotransmitters. These are natural chemicals that facilitate communication between brain cells. They transmit signals from a neuron to another (or others). Neurotransmitters bind to certain receptors, supporting mental functions and abilities. Nootropics that work this way has specific neurotransmitters they impact.

There are also nootropics that change the levels of certain hormones and enzymes. Some of these compounds improve brain plasticity. They can also improve brain power by boosting blood flow, making oxygen more available to the organ.

As you can deduce from the fore going, there are different types of nootropics available. We discuss the most popular offerings in subsequent sections.


These are arguably the most popular nootropics out there – at least, among those recognized by medical experts. Racetams were actually the first to make their appearance – you may call them the granddaddy of all cognitive enhancers. The term "nootropic" was originally coined for one of this kind.

There are dozens of racetams on the market. The most popular of these is Piracetam. Other more common ones include aniracetam, oxiracetam, and pramiracetam. These are all structurally similar, featuring a standard Pyrrolidone nucleus.

The mode of action of racetams is not well understood by researchers yet. However, they are thought to produce effect on the cholinergic system. These compounds function as positive allosteric modulators of AMPA receptors.

Racetams appear to promote the release of acetylcholine. This neurotransmitter is critical to cognitive function. It helps to carry signals across synapses. Acetylcholine has a crucial role to play in memory, learning, decision making, and focus.

One of the reasons racetams are quite popular is their availability over-the-counter. But the US Food and Drug Administration advises treating them strictly as drugs, not foods or as dietary supplements.


This is a class of substances that people often have in mind when they talk about smart drugs. Research has shown that stimulants can really help to improve mental performance. They range from something as common as caffeine to more powerful substances.

Sub-categories of stimulants that are used for their nootropic benefits include:

Let's examine a couple of the most popular smart drugs for improving mental function.

Modafinil – This drug is more commonly used for overcoming sleep disorders. It is an effective wakefulness agent. Modafinil also shows impressive potential for boosting cognitive functions. It is a eugeroic substance.

The prescription drug is believed to work by improving the amount of dopamine. This organic chemical helps to carry impulses and other signals between brain cells. Decline in dopamine levels has been identified as a cause of mental decline seen in people with Parkinson's disease.

Adrafinil – This is comparable to modafinil to a significant extent. It works by improving the levels of dopamine and serotonin. So, like the other drug, it promotes wakefulness. You may notice better productivity when using the compound. It is said to improve your reasoning and problem solving capability.

Adrafinil should ideally be taken under the guidance of a medical professional. This is because it is a bit toxic and can produce side effects.

Other stimulants often classified as nootropics include Adderall, armodafinil, and dextroamphetamine. Some of the members of this class are not really viewed as true nootropics by some experts.

Other Nootropic Drugs

There are several other drugs that are used to boost brain function, apart from those cited earlier. Two of these, ampakines and noopept, perhaps, deserve special mention.

Ampakines – These are a class of agents that modulate neurotransmitters in the brain. They share some affinity with racetams, aniracetam in particular. Ampakines are especially known to improve glutamate. They improve the amount of the natural chemical in your brain.

Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter and the most abundant of its kind in the nervous system. Sufficient amount is required to boost memory and learning capacity. It promotes alertness and attention span.

Ampakines are less likely to produce awful side effects associated with some other drugs promoted as brain enhancers.

Noopept – First synthesized in the 1990s, this is a cycloprolylglycine prodrug. Many regard it as one of the best nootropics you can get on the market. Noopept is more or less an improved piracetam alternative.

Research has shown that this synthetic peptide may improve cognition. It offers potential for memory improvement. However, most, if not all, of studies on it focused on effects in animals.

Natural Nootropics and Supplements

One of the reasons some smart drugs are not viewed as real nootropics are the side effects they often produce. This has led to rise in popularity of natural nootropics and supplements, which are thought to be safer.

Below are some suggestions you may work with if you wish to try out some of these natural alternatives.

Huperzine A

This comes from Chinese club moss plant that has passed through purifying process in a laboratory setting. It is regarded among the safest nootropics to use and produces minimal side effects, if any.

Huperzine A inhibits the activity of acetyl cholinesterase. AChE is the main cholinesterase in the human body. The enzyme catalyzes the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and some other choline esters that serve as neurotransmitters.

By inhibiting acetylcholine breakdown, huperzine A enhance learning. It offers potent neuroprotective effects. You may benefit from improved memory and cognition from use.

Ginkgo biloba

The medicinal potency of this herb is now well known. Chinese people have been using it to promote health for thousands of years. Evidence suggests that the leaves of Ginkgo biloba contain nootropic properties. It is believed to help fight anxiety and boost cognitive function.

Bacopa monnieri

Also known as water hyssop, this creeping plant is found in wetlands across the globe. It has been promoted as a being helpful for controlling anxiety and fighting cognitive decline due to Alzheimer's. In addition to improving memory, Bacopa monnieri may enhance concentration, focus, and hand-eye coordination.


This amino acid is arguably among the nootropics with most research. It helps to control anxiety and boost your immune system. This also means L-Theanine can reduce your risk of having cold and flu.

Evidence suggests that the amino acid can help to fight neurodegeneration. Its efficacy appears to improve when used together with caffeine. It was found in a 2014 systematic review and meta-analysis in the journal Nutrition Review that the concurrent use of the two improved alertness, attention, and task switching.

Choline bitartrate

This is an essential nutrient for not only your mental health, but overall health. It is the salt variety of choline, a water soluble compound analogous to the B vitamins. You can get it from your diet, but supplements offer greater amounts.

Choline bitartrate helps to improve the production of acetylcholine. Higher amount of this natural compound in your brain boosts cognitive function, comprehension, and memory.


Cannabidiol (CBD) is a rather new, but promising, compound being promoted for cognition enhancement. It is a major cannabinoid found in the cannabis or hemp plant. However, it is believed to lack the psychoactive properties of the plant that produce the "high" feeling.

CBD oil is said to offer amazing neuroprotective properties. It may help to protect against cognitive decline from depression and Alzheimer's disease, among others.

Emerging evidence is showing that CBD oil can help with anxiety (including social anxiety), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), addiction, and sleep disorders.


If you are in need of a dietary supplement, you can check out BrainPill by Leading Edge Health. This is a blend of natural, well researched ingredients that support mental health. The target users are especially people who desire to roll back the effects of aging brain.

BrainPill supposedly helps you remain sharper, mentally flexible, and relevant. Its gives you the "unfair advantage," according to its maker. The natural nootropic supplement improves your working memory, reduces distractions, promotes faster information processing, and enhances effective decision making. It is endorsed by multiple Jeopardy! Champion Ken Jennings and a celebrity doctor.

Do Nootropics Really Work?

There is a big question mark hanging over the efficacy of many products promoted as nootropics. Experts are divided on whether these help, among other issues.

Modafinil is probably the most powerful nootropic available. People who have used it reported quick step-up in cognitive function and alertness. They also talk of better problem solving ability.

But Modafinil is a prescription drug strictly for particular mental conditions. This is why many people turn to the OTC alternative Adrafinil, even though it's less effective.

Racetams and choline can also help to improve your mental health. Their potency improves when they are used together.

Some experts view the use of nootropics as dubious. They say research does not back a good number of them. There is also ethical concern that those that do work confer an unfair advantage on users.

Furthermore, synthetic nootropics often produce side effects. There is practically no information on their long-term safety. Addiction may also develop, although less likely.

If safety matters a lot to you, you may want to stick with natural nootropics. BrainPill and CBD oil are two of the natural products that could potentially enhance your brain power. The kinds are best for healthy individuals who desire extra boost in their mental function.



Nootropic - Wikipedia (

What are "Nootropics"? ¨C (

Beginner's Guide to Nootropics | Brain Upgrades - Healthy Living Benefits (

The Best Nootropics For Depression and Mood Boosting (

What is Alzheimer's Disease and How Does It Link to Nootropics? (

How Effective Are Nootropics and ¡°Smart¡± Drugs? (

How Do Nootropics Really Work? (

Guide to Different Types of Nootropics (

CBD: Powerful Alternative Treatment for Mental Illness (

Brain Pill? - Your Unfair Advantage (

Do Nootropics Really Work? What Does it Really Feel Like to Use Brain Pills?




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