Nootropics which are also called attention drugs, smart drugs, cognitive enhancers or “miracle drugs”, are becoming increasingly popular worldwide. They are a category of special chemical substances which may be naturally occurring or made by combining chemicals, and which greatly improve the functioning of the human brain. Research indicates that nootropics are improving the brainpower of the user, in a variety of ways ranging from improving memory, concentration, cognitive ability to preventing neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. From the blue collared workers to highly paid professionals like doctors, almost everyone is using nootropics in some form or the other. This guide hopes to provide all the information a person requires to improve his or her brainpower, health, and wellness, by optimally using nootropics.
What Are Nootropics?
In 1972, the psychologist and chemist from Romania Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea first proposed the word “nootropics” to describe drugs which enhance brain power. The word ‘nootropics” is a combination of the Greek words, “Noos” or “Nous” for the mind and intellect, and “Trepein” which means bending or turning; as these drugs make the brain cells bend to enhance their performance. Nootropics which are smart drugs may be available in different forms such as supplements, vitamins, minerals, or other substances which enhance the operation of the brain. Memory, motivation, and creativity are usually enhanced using these drugs.
Dr. Giurgea stipulated that a particular substance or chemical can be considered a nootropic only if it conformed to the following criteria:
- Boosts the memory and enhances the learning capacity of the user.
- Helps the brain function even where conditions are extremely adverse like convulsions due to shock, and low oxygen levels.
- Protects the brain from chemical and physical damage caused by drugs like barbiturates, and anticholinergic chemicals.
- Boosts the efficiency of the users’ mechanism for control of neuronal firings in the different areas of the brain.
- Contains almost no toxins, and has few or no side effects.
Types of Nootropics
It is very important to make the right decisions while dealing with any health-related issue because any error can result in many problems which are often very expensive to resolve at a later date. For using supplements, it is highly recommended that the user himself does extensive research to find out what is the best option, and how often it should be used. It is also important for the user to have realistic expectations before taking the drug. The supplement will never be a substitute for hard work, a replacement for lack of sleep and it will not make the person a genius overnight. The supplement will not increase height, health and fitness levels, and users should be aware of the side effects as well.
There are many different types of nootropics. However, most of the popular nootropics can be divided into families which are listed below.
- Racetams: Racetams are considered as the mother of all different nootropics as they were of the first group of chemicals to be synthesized. They are widely used by pharmaceutical companies for making medicines, however many of these drugs are not approved for use in the United States. Some of the side effects of these drugs are asthenia and dizziness.
- Eugoric Stimulants: Smart drugs which are stimulants, however unlike other stimulants they do not cause a sudden increase in blood pressure levels or heart rate.
- Cholinergic Family: Some of the early drugs in this family provide choline for boosting brain power. Acetylcholine helps to create the optimal functionality of the memory of a person and their neurotransmitters.
- Omega 3s and Vitamins: Because they are considered nutrients, omega 3 vitamins are not always included in the list of nootropics. However, they do play an important role in boosting memory, energy levels, and positively help mental health by reducing stress levels and mood swings.
How To Take Nootropics
In addition to selecting the right kind of nootropic, it is also essential to consume the nootropic in the right manner for optimal effect. Some of the tips to be considered while researching nootropics for personal use or for use by family and friends are listed below:
Increase your dosage slowly. It is advisable to take a small dose of the nootropic and gradually increase it over a period of time. Many people rush to take large doses of nootropics as soon as they hear about how these drugs can enhance the cognitive functioning of the brain. However this can lead to major side effects, so it is not necessary to consume large quantities of these substances initially. Only the recommended dosage of nootropics should be consumed, along with a balanced diet containing all the essential nutrients.
Specify your personal reasons for using the nootropic: Users should specify the reason(s) why the nootropic is required for them. Many people confuse enhancing cognitive ability with other functions, so the right drug may not always be selected. For example, a depressed person may require a nootropic to reduce stress and anxiety levels, or to improve their sleeping patterns to get undisturbed sleep. Conversely, a student may look for a supplement that boosts memory and brain functions. The choices you make will also determine the right dosage of the nootropic being consumed.
Quality of the product: Before consuming any supplement, it is highly recommended that the user checks the quality of the product, as this could adversely affect their health if the quality does not conform to regulatory requirements. Users should ensure that the nootropics they are consuming are approved by the FDA, and if they are not approved, they should check with their local healthcare professional before purchasing them. Healthcare regulating bodies only approve supplements after checking their quality, and this ensures that consumers do not face any health problems at a later date. Additionally, research can be done online, on various websites where users may have posted reviews, and other sources, to see what other users who have tested the supplement have to say.
Consider stacking: Stacking involves combining a number of nootropics together to obtain desired results. Often, stacking can be very effective because the nootropics in the stack (if selected properly) combine to boost the advantages, and the side effects may decrease. Users may design their own stacks but should be aware that combining supplements from the same family may not be very effective. It is more effective to combine chemicals from different families as they have different effects. However, there are some disadvantages to stacking also. For instance, if substances are stacked incorrectly, or if an incorrect dosage is taken, the side effects may adversely affect the health of the user.
Nootropics for Memory
Initially, nootropics became popular because they were very effective in boosting the memory of their users. The supplements from the racetam family are considered to be the most popular for enhancing the memory of potential users. However, there are also other supplements which have been proven to help improve memory as well. Some of the most popular memory boosting nootropics are listed below.
- Acorus Calamus
- Bacopa Monnieri
- Celastrus Paniculatus
- Choline Citrate
- Choline Bitartrate
- Ginkgo Biloba
- Huperzine A
- Lion’s Mane Mushroom
- Rhodiola Rosea
Depending on affordability and other factors previously mentioned, these supplements may be consumed separately or combined to form a nootropic stack for enhancing brain power and memory.
Nootropics for Attention and Focus
Another reason why nootropics are widely used is for enhancing attention and focus. Though a person may be innately intelligent, if he or she cannot focus on specific tasks or if they have trouble paying attention to different things or activities, they will not be able to achieve as much as they could. The best nootropics for improving attention and focus, which are also in the same category are listed below.
- Gotu Kola
- L-Tyrosine (and NALT)
- Mucuna Pruriens
- PEA (Phenylethylamine)
- Rhodiola Rosea
Nootropics for Mood and Depression
A person who is depressed, upset, or in a generally bad mood will not be productive and have a poor memory (despite being healthy, young and intelligent). Subsequently, over an extended period of time, depression, anger, and bad moods will eventually affect the physical health of the person. Some of the most effective nootropics for preventing mood swings and depression are listed below.
- Fish Oil
- St. John’s Wart
Nootropics for Anti-Aging and Longevity
Over a period of time both the human body and the brain age, and this does lead to health problems. These problems, in turn, can affect the cognitive ability of the brain. Research has proved that some nootropic drugs will help to slow down brain aging and this helps the users live longer and healthier lives. Some of the nootropic drugs used for slowing down the aging process and improving longevity are:
- Alpha GPC
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
- Fish Oil
- Green and white tea
- NAC (N-Acetyl-Cysteine)
- R-Lipoic Acid
- Turmeric (Curcumin)
Nootropics for Anxiety
High anxiety levels can cause both mental and physical damage to a person. In addition to adversely affecting physical health, anxiety can also affect the memory, attention span, and overall functionality of the brain. A number of nootropics are available for reducing anxiety and stress levels. These substances can help the user to attain their full potential, and lead a long and healthy life to fulfill their goals. Some of these supplements are listed below.
- Rhodiola Rosea
- Saint John’s Wort
Nootropics for Sleep, Recovery, and Dream Enhancement
Enjoying a restful sleep at night is vital for the human body to recover from the damage it incurred during the day. This sleep is necessary for repair and growth. When a person sleeps they undergo a process called neurogenesis, this process is what causes said brain recovery and growth. So having a proper sleep (including dreaming) is essential for a person who wishes to have a productive mind and remain healthy. Some of the nootropics used for sleep and dream enhancement are:
- Magnesium Aspartate
- Mucuna Pruriens
- Saint John’s Wort
- Valerian Root
Nootropics are becoming increasingly popular worldwide, and these “miracle” drugs or “smart” drugs can greatly improve the functionality of the most important organ in the human body, the brain. While there is no dispute that nootropics are useful, it is extremely important to find the right nootropic for each specific individuals requirements. So a person should do thorough research and set realistic personal goals of what he or she wishes to achieve. Once the right substance is chosen, continue to use the right nootropic to improve your health physically and mentally, and enjoy leading a stress-free and happy life.