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Cognitive Enhancing Supplements: What Are They?

The way people experience things, acquire knowledge and the overall understanding of the world that surrounds them, all come from the brain. A person’s cognitive ability is determined based on how well they can perform mental activities such as learning, problem-solving and memory.  For centuries, scientists have been testing ways to enhance cognitive ability and treat mental illness. One of the most popular methods used for cognitive enhancement is Nootropic drugs. Chemicals found in these substances are often very similar, but their effects can vary. Let’s get into the history of these substances.

Where Do They Come From? Brief History Of Nootropics

Ancient Man and Psychoactive Smart Drugs

The popularity of nootropic substances have greatly increased over recent years, however, substances like these have been around for thousands of years. “Smart drugs” is another term used to describe nootropics and their psychosomatic makeup. The oldest recorded use of smart drugs come from ancient humans, around 10 thousand years ago.

We don’t exactly understand how ancient man discovered that certain plants and fruits have cognitive-enhancing effects, but trial and error seems to be an obvious answer. By simply consuming certain natural foods, ancient man was able to discern that some of them have the potential to alter their thoughts, mood, and perceptions.

There has even been art found, drawn by ancient cavemen similar to the type of drawings created by artists now whilst under the influence of drugs.

A pattern called the “Turing Instability” (often recognized by subjects using hallucinogens), is one of the patterns found in these ancient drawings.

This research suggests that cavemen may have taken some type of mind-altering substance that caused them to create these drawings on rocks and cave walls.

The term “psychonaut” was invented by Ernst Junger. This term is used to describe a person who uses mind-altering substances and their effects to improve one’s self. The evidence found shows that some prehistoric men or tribes may have been psychonauts, and this may have caused them to expand/improve their knowledge and understanding.

Bowls found in South America were discovered and believed to have been used to prepare hallucinogenic drugs for consumption. Other objects like tubes for inhaling and powders were also found.

These bowls depending on their age, allowed researchers to figure out what time period they were from.

After testing the researchers found that these objects date back as far as 100-400 BC. This evidence shows that nootropic substances have been used by man since the prehistoric era.

Discovering Modern Nootropics

Fast forward to a few thousand years later, and humans are now starting to utilize these nootropic substances more frequently and with more control. One example of this is with the substance nicotine. Most people know that nicotine is found in cigarettes, but it actually originates from the tobacco plant. The earliest use of nicotine was by the Native Americans, as recorded by European explorers who learned this from them.

Many different cultures from across the globe all have different versions of substances like this. For example, the Chinese had used Ginkgo Biloba, a brain-boosting plant cultivated in China. The Indians also had developed something called Ayurveda, which was their system of medicine using plants.

Even though our human history is filled with examples of these nootropic methods taking place, science still has not yet completely understood why or how these drugs work so well.

Many like to consider the origins of these methods as stepping stones if it weren’t for ancient humans experimenting with these substances scientists would not have come so far in their research. Now, we have the ability to optimize these substances and tailor them for specific uses from memory enhancement to concentration.

The 1960’s was the time in which scientific research had hit a pinnacle in regards to nootropic research and testing.

Timothy Leary was the individual who established the idea that nootropic drugs could be the answer to humanity’s search for the perfect cognitive enhancer. At the same time, researchers in Belgium had been working on expanding the realms of human consciousness. They were able to achieve this by manufacturing a copy of the brains major neurotransmitter, (GABA).

From this experiment, the nootropic substance “piracetam” was born. At first, the researchers thought the drug they created failed to meet expectations since it wasn’t an exact copy of the GABA-like compound they sought out to create.

The creation of Piracetam is accredited to Dr. Corneliu Giurgea, a Romanian psychologist and chemist.

Its first uses were to try and combat feelings of motion sickness in patients. As scientific research and study of the drug advanced, people realized that the drug can have more uses, such as memory enhancement.

Subsequently, in 1971 a group of researchers tested how piracetam could indeed improve memory.

The amazing results showed that the drug was in turn, beneficial to mental performance, memory stabilization, and knowledge processing.

The word “nootropics” was first used by the same Dr. Corneliu Giurgea. The term originates from the Greek words “Noos” which means mind and “tropein” which means to bend.

“Man is not going to wait passively for millions of years before evolution offers him a better brain.” – Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea.

As quoted from the famous Dr. Giurgea in the early 1970’s, this statement shines a light on how certain men think, and this type of thought has been around since the beginning of man. The thirst for knowledge will only continue to grow as technology does, and these mind-altering substances may be the key to it all.

Getting back to piracetam, as scientists decoded the substance they were able to create a prototype of the drug, racetam. Even though racetams technically originate from Belgium, the term is often linked to Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov. Ivan was a physiologist whose research is highly controversial since he dabbled in mind control and the conditioning of the human brain.

Members of the racetam family include; oxiracetam, aniracetam and of course the original, piracetam. Racetam drugs were developed and used for the treatment of cognitive decline. There are many other related drugs that some may consider such as pramiracetam and coluracetam, but most of the known research and scientific studies were done using the original three mentioned. There are also other families of substances such as the acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, which have a similar function and have provided us with a plethora of information regarding the use and potential improvement of the human mind.

Effects Of Cognitive Enhancers

As stated by Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea, we must consider the following attributes whenever discussing the medicinal and technical aspects of cognition-enhancing substances:

  • First, they have to have the ability or potential to enhance memory and learning.
  • Second, they should help the brain’s functionality during stressful conditions for example (low oxygen) hypoxia or electroconvulsive shock to name a few.
  • Thirdly, they should have the ability to protect the brain from physical and chemical attacks like barbiturates and anticholinergic drugs.
  • Fourthly, they have to increase the effect of the brains neuronal firing control mechanisms located in the cortical and subcortical areas.
  • Lastly, they should possess little to no unwanted side effects or be at all toxic.

Popular Cognitive Boosters

Nootropic substances are known to enhance cognition and improve the functionality of the brain. Find below a list of nootropics that are known to improve cognitive ability:

  • Modafinil
  • Noopept
  • Oxiracetam
  • Aniracetam
  • Ginkgo Biloba
  • Centrophenoxine
  • Pramiracetam
  • Citicoline
  • Huperzine A
  • Phosphatidylserine
  • Vinpocetine
  • Piracetam
  • L-theanine

You can also combine these with other substances to form something referred to as a “nootropic stack”. Stacking allows the user to experience multiple desired effects.

Nootropics For Work And Business

There are many reasons for stress in the business world. Businesses from small to large all have to deal with stress on a daily basis. What with all the disorder of competition, growth targets to achieve, and overall profitability. Running a business can be extremely overwhelming and stressful for some people. What’s even more important to understand is that in order to get through any of that stress one must have the necessary motivation to do so. The overall productivity and profitability of a business depend highly on each members motivation to succeed. This is why many people in the business world find it easier to deal with these problems when they take certain nootropic drugs. The most common substance used by professionals is phenylpiracetam. Phenylpiracetam allows the user to stay clear-headed, think logically and process large amounts of information without becoming overwhelmed. Phenylpiracetam is also known to be used as a common cure for jet-lag, and as we know in some businesses travel can be frequent. Phenylpiracetam is one of the most potent of all racetams and is considered to be the best for professionals. If you are interested in learning more about how Phenylpiracetam and other nootropic substances can increase workplace productivity please read the following article. ( ).

Nootropics for social anxiety

There are many people in the world who suffer from different types of anxiety. They have trouble interacting and speaking with others. There can be certain instances in which this type of scenario can cause stress for these types of people. Some examples of these types of scenarios are job interviews, exams, and announcements. For these people taking nootropic substances can allow them to feel relaxed and comfortable in these types of situations. There are many nootropic related supplements that contain anxiolytic properties which reduce social anxiety and boost confidence. Moreover, there are some nootropic drugs proven to improve speaking skills which would allow these types of individuals to communicate more easily.

Nootropics for health

As we stated earlier, damage protection from physical and chemicals was one of the conditions said needed to be included when discussing any type of nootropic drug, according to Dr. Corneliu Giurgea. Let us go into a bit further detail about that requirement and fact. Certain nootropic substances tend to work as antioxidants neutralizing the free radicals within the body.

Free radicals are essentially molecules missing electrons, causing them to become potentially dangerous and highly reactive.

The Noopept substance is supplemented to increase BDNF production and the growth of nerves. These two ingredients are essential to the life and death of neurons since a low level of neurons can result in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Nootropics as a study aid

For students, racetams are some of the most widely used forms of medication. Since racetams are known to improve focus, attention, and motivation, they can be extremely useful for students studying for extended periods of time. Also, they can help with anxiety, and as we mentioned earlier about anxiety, many students suffer from this due to the high-stress environment that college and universities are known for.

The Benefits Of Cognitive Enhancers

Below you will find a table that lists the desired effect of certain nootropics.

Desired Effect Nootropics that can provide you this benefit
Memory and Memorization Improvement Centrophenoxine




Huperzine A

Ginkgo Biloba





Enhanced Learning Ability Oxiracetam



Cognitive Improvement in Declining Minds (Elderly) Centrophenoxine

Ginkgo Biloba

Memory Recall Enhancement Pramiracetam

Bacopa Monnieri

Reduce Mental and Physical Fatigue Alpha GPC
Enhanced Concentration and Focus Noopept





Ginkgo Biloba


Increase Productivity Noopept
Reduce Levels in Anxiety and Stress Bacopa Monnieri





Wakefulness Modafinil
Subjective Mood Enhancement Modafinil




Increased Attention Sulbutiamine
Sleep Harmonization Phenibut

The Downside Of Cognitive Enhancers

Though widely used in the United States, UK, and Canada, there are some side effects related to nootropic use. To minimise these potential side effects, users are should not to exceed the recommended dosage. Also, users should always check with their doctor if they have any kind of existing health problems. One of the major problems reported by users is headaches, and some may also experience stomach pain, due to gastrointestinal problems.

How Safe Are These Drugs?

Nootropics are the latest medical trend, and are widely covered within the media. College students, business people, and professionals alike, almost everyone appears to be using some form of nootropic nowadays. However, new users can be skeptical and may want to find out how safe these drugs actually are.

Are Such Medication Safe?

Nootropics help improve focus, morale, confidence, and attention levels. A large majority of experienced users report that the drugs are safe, and most people don’t have any issue with them. New users, who have just started using the drug also do not usually experience any side effect other than maybe a minor headache. As long as you stick with the recommended dose, and consult your doctor you will most likely not experience any problems using these substances.

Are There Side Effects?

In some rare cases, advanced users, who have been using nootropics regularly may experience migraines and intestinal problems. In these cases, it is advisable to get professional medical advice before continuing the use of these supplements.


Nootropics are an excellent way to boost brainpower and enhance your natural abilities. Systematic use of these drugs can help a person overcome many of the problems that he or she faces. Though nootropics are a trending fad in medicine, we believe they are here to stay.

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