What Are Nootropics? – Whole Nootropics Series
*Fair Warning – We tackle a topic here that is a little more underground and less well known in the popular culture. We are not doctors and are not providing health advice. Always speak with your preferred health partner before doing anything rash. We provide our own real world experience and anecdotal evidence gathered first and second hand as well as refer to specific studies where they exist. We encourage you to do your own research and always consult with a professional before experimenting. Within the limits of the law, your health and your own experience, we encourage you to experiment.
What if there was a pill you could take that would light up your brain and make you Super smart?
What if you could take a supplement that made you so creative that you could get to work and focus for hours at a time without distraction and then look up knowing your art, writing, or major project was completed with new insights and at a level where you felt all your faculties were hammering at 110%?
All of us could benefit from a little extra edge.
What if there was something that could help you focus more at work, improve your memory, reduce your stress, and improve your cognitive function?
Would you take it?
What if it was available over the counter. As a supplement.
And had no detrimental side-effects.
Is this for real?
Let’s explore what’s real and what’s myth.
Called The Drivers of Silicone Valley, Secrets of the World’s Tech Billionaires, these legal and often extremely safe substances are one secret that you deserve to know about.
Welcome to the ancient and also cutting edge field of nootropics!
Nootropics (/noʊ.əˈtrɒpɨks/ noh-ə-trop-iks)—also called smart drugs, memory enhancers, neuro enhancers, cognitive enhancers, and intelligence enhancers-are drugs, supplements, nutraceuticals, and functional foods that improve one or more aspects of mental function. Specific effects can include improvements to working memory, motivation, or attention. The word nootropic was coined in 1972 by a Romanian psychologist and chemist, Corneilu E. Giurgea, from the Greek words νους nous, or “mind”, and τρέπειν trepein meaning to bend or turn. To hear it pronounced, click here. According to Dr. Giurgea, nootropics should have the following characteristics:
- Little to no side effects and low toxicity
- Enhance learning and memory
- Protect the brain against physical and chemical injuries
- Enhance resistance to conditions that disrupt learned behaviors
Nootrpoics run the spectrum from substances most of use every single day, to readily available supplements to harder to obtain supplements and even prescription and illegal drugs.
DO THEY WORK
Many Nootropics have been used safely and effectively for thousands of years. 
It is our experience talking with many people who have used nootropics and our own experience using these that they absolutely work!
Some people are quite skeptical when they are first introduced to nootropics. Not all nootropics will work for everyone, and some lose their effect over time if they are used continuously or often. Just like 200mg of Tylenol doesn’t work for everyone and not every prescription will work for you, nootropoics are the same way.
You may have to experiment and try different supplements and different combinations to find what works best for you.
You also may not feel the effects right away. Some nootropics take four hours to begin working while others may take a week or two to start having noticeable effects because they have to build up in your body. I’m not saying that they will do things like in the movie and tv show Limitless or like in the movie Lucy. That is science fiction and to my knowledge there doesn’t exist anything that even approaches that level. They will however have noticeable effects on your memory, attention, alertness, focus, mood and anxiety.
I have been experimenting with them for a couple years now and can undoubtedly say they work.
If you want a little extra boost getting to work writing a chapter in your book, creating an important presentation, getting on stage in front of 100s of people, cranking out a blog post, rapidly learning a new skill, or just having an extra edge on your work colleagues then you might want to explore nootropics a bit further.
HOW DO THEY WORK
In layman’s terms, they work by changing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain and also the way those chemicals interact with each other, modulating neuronal metabolism, cerebral oxygenation, and neurotransmitter availability. The exact method of effect will depend on the specific nootropic.
The brain is filled with neurotransmitters. They are responsible for focus, memory, learning, mood, anxiety, motivation, appetite, pleasure, pain, libido, just to name a few. Brain chemistry is very complex and we are only starting to scratch the surface of how it actually works. We do know however, that we can change the the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain, and that will lead to changes in the way feel, think and act.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS INVOLVED
Most smart drugs are known to be very safe. Many are considered supplements, and some are even everyday foods for most of us that have been used for millenia (like the caffeine in coffee and L-theanine in tea). Others are prescription drugs in some counties but not in Canada or the US and can be purchased over the counter. Other smart drugs may be prescription based or have addictive or other qualities that the user must know about and understand before deciding whether or not to try out. And finally there is a class of nootropics considered illegal substances, at least in the US.
Everyone’s body and brain is different, so there is no guarantee that you won’t have an adverse reaction to a compound, even if other people have reported no problems.
Chances of an adverse reaction can increase when mixing different compounds together in what is called a “stack” (more on stacks later). The risk of most normal stacks is very slim.
The possibility of addiction is only a concern when using specific stimulant type compounds, but a very large body of research on the therapeutic use of the “more addictive” psychostimulants indicate that addiction is fairly rare in therapeutic doses.
Some nootropics may have a negative effect on other supplements or prescription drugs. If you aren’t sure, do your research and speak to your preferred health advisor.
It it not advisable for children or young adults to use nootropics, especially the chemical and lab manufactured ones. Our brains are not fully developed until around the age of 25, so the use of nootropics may have a negative impact on the complete development of someone’s brain. It is much more important to make sure you are getting adequate sleep, exercise and a nutrient dense diet diet. That alone will help you much more than nootropics.
HISTORY OF USE
It is hard to say exactly how long nootropics have actually been in use. We do have accounts that they have been used in some form or another since the beginning of modern civilization. People have been using caffeine, herbs, and mushrooms to affect their cognitive abilities and mood for a very long time. The more recent compounds like piracetam, which was the first in the family of racetams, was first created in 1964, and became available in the early 1970’s. Other things like modafinil and andrafinil were first created back in the 1960’s but did not start to be used as nootropics until the 1990’s.
WHO USES THEM AND WHY
People from all walks of life use nootropics today. From top level CEOS, professional athletes, college students, all the way down to the normal person just wanting a little edge. Other people that are showing signs of cognitive decline like Alzheimers and dementia use them to try to slow or reverse the process. Some people that have anxiety or mood disorders also use them to help lessen some of these symptoms. Here is a short list of things people use them for:
- Increase attention, focus, concentration and alertness
- Improve memory, learning, mood, and overall cognitive function
- Treat age related cognitive decline, brain injuries, and brain fog
- Increase creativity, logical thinking and problem solving
A nootropic stack is a combination of supplements designed to synergistically create a specific effect that one supplement alone cannot perform.
Biohackers and experimenters from all over the world try out and share stack combinations with each other to improve the field of nootropics.
A common stack many people use is caffeine and L-Theanine created most often by drinking a coffee and popping an L-theanine pill or drinking a coffee followed by a cup of green tea. This stack is said to reduce the jitteryness and intense high from coffee and provide a more mellow and relaxed focus.
There exist stacks for many brain states people wish to achieve such as stacks for: creativity, socialability, recall, retention, stage performance, increased learning capacity, writing and more.
We’ll explore the world of stacks in future nootrpic posts.
Nootropics have been used for increase cognitive functions in some form or another for a very long time. Most of them are very safe and effective, but everyone reacts differently to supplements, so do your research and consult with your doctor if you aren’t sure.
Hopefully you learned something and enjoyed this article, which is the first in our nootropic series. Don’t hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, or just to tell us if you liked it or not.
Check out the rest of the series!