brain_training_500x515pxMind bender or mind turner. That is one way to translate the word “nootropic”, which the Romanian chemist and psychologist Corneliu Giurgea used to name the cognition-enhancing process. Why? Because let’s face it! Humanity has always looked for ways to bend/turn/stimulate the mind into performing at a higher level.

Starting from in childhood, we are engaged in taking part of competitions which are dedicated to stimulate our need to succeed and be” better” than others.

Ranking is seen in schools, in sports, at work and even when we talk about certain hobbies so isn’t it natural that we tend to want more from ourselves? We are always looking for ways to improve our looks and rank in society throughout various methods thus wanting to be sharper is only natural.

What are the Nootropics?

Nootropics, also known as “cognitive enhancers” or “smart drugs”, are drugs, supplements or any other form of substances, that have the power to improve cognitive function, more correctly to improve memory, creativity, executive functions and motivation in healthy individuals. [1]

Sometimes, the human body needs help in performing its normal tasks and that is when we turn to medicine. Nootropics are, purportedly, drugs known to improve aspects of cognition, thus are used in treating cognitive and motor function difficulties faced by individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease or ADHD.

Some nootropics reduce fatigue and increase motivation, enjoyment and well-being feelings as well as, to some degree, the attention span. This gives the individual more energy and drives into performing any mentally challenging tasks which usually produce “brain strain”.
There are nootropics which help you focus on the task at hand and ignore distractions by raising your alertness and awareness. Some of these brain-Boosting nootropics speed up your thought process and help the memory by making more connections between knowledge accumulated, excellent benefits for individuals struggling at school or work in this regards.

Natural vs. Synthetic Nootropics

As you have seen, there are different types of Nootropics which can be used according to the need of the individual. The main classification existent is: Natural Nootropics (herbal nootropics), Smart drugs and Racetams. [2]

Herbal Nootropics

The Natural nootropics ( herbal nootropics) are the best options for users who wish to enhance their cognitive abilities in noninvasive, natural ways. They are herbs or plants which have the potential to improve your brain’s health.

Although they do not have the same effectiveness comparing to the synthetic ones, the herbal nootropics have a huge value and can be even more powerful when combined with the synthetic ones.

Before deciding which of the options is more suitable for your needs, you should reach out to doctor recommendations and make sure you are aware of all natural options available.

Smart drugs

Not all smart drugs are nootropics due to the existence of side effects in some cases. Adderall, although a highly used cognitive enhancer, is not a nootropic, however, smart drugs as modafinil and adrafinil are considered nootropics.


The most popular of all nootropics, racetams include Piracetam, Oxiracetam, Pramiracetam and Aniracetam. As a chemical structure, they share a standard Pyrrolidone nucleus, and they act similarly when stimulating the brain receptors in charge of releasing acetylcholine.

Huperzine-A is often classified as a natural nootropic as it is obtained from the Chinese club moss plant after certain laboratory manipulation. The process appears to be extremely beneficial as the final substance is highly purified. Medical studies state that Huperzine-A has minimal or even no side effects and no toxicity, making it appreciated as safe for human consumption.

Bacopa Monnieri is extracted from a plant called Brahmi and is used in purposes as supplemental Alzheimer’s treatment and as a way to reduce anxiety. It is stated that this natural nootropic is improving hand-eye coordination and memory and up to some extent helps in reducing anxiety, concentration issues, and insomnia.

Lion’s Mane is an edible mushroom which can be found in gourmet food stores or as a supplement version. As many other mushrooms, Lion’s Mane is considered to offer benefits which go beyond nutrition. A small clinical study presented the possibility that the mushroom can help reduce anxiety and depression.

Ginkgo Biloba Leaves have been proven as useful in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The Mayo Clinic, after analyzing data, broadcasted the fact that there is a good amount of scientific evidence that suggest the fact that Ginkgo Biloba helps to improve cognitive performance and reduce anxiety.

L-Theanine is an amino acid naturally found in green tea. It is believed to reduce anxiety symptoms when taken as a supplement.[3] Studies also suggest that neurodegeneration can be reduced by drinking green tea or taking L-Theanine. There are nootropic enthusiasts who stack caffeine and L-Theanine as it is reported to have benefits such as enhanced attention and cognition.

CBD Due to the properties proven to help protect nerve cells, cannabinoids, specifically the cannabidiols derived from CBD, help slowing and preventing the damage to the human brain in Alzheimer ’s disease, dementia, depression, and neurodegeneration. [4]

Nootropics as treatment


Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorders are cognitive deficits which can affect both adults and children. They manifest through unusual levels of impulsiveness, inattention or hyperactivity for the degree of mental or physical development reached by the individuals.

Estimations say that between three to five percent of all school-aged children have such deficit (more than 2 million children in US) and, although boys are up to three times more likely to develop this disorder than girls, it does affect both genders and all nations and cultures.

Anxiety and learning disabilities are not the only repercussions needed to focus on. For adults, there is a high risk of accidents, anti-social behavior or, to some extent, drug abuse and criminal activity.

As nootropics work on different neurotransmitters which are not seen as stimulants but have the ability to increase motivation, concentration, and energy, they can give same effects associated with ADHD medication and no side effects.

Nootropics that May Aid in ADHD Treatment

The lightest combination of nootropics in ADHD, probably the best to start for newcomers or children, according to users, involves using Piracetam ( first Nootropic ever discovered) combined with the usage of Alpha GPC and Fish Oil.

Piracetam helps to increase the levels of Acetylcholine, the main chemical involved in cognitive processes like learning, memory and even increasing the attention span. It also increases the blood flow and oxygen uptake thus increasing energy level.

Alpha GPC helps improve the Acetylcholine level and improve the Piracetam effect while, at the same time, the usage of Fish oil helps in balancing it all.

The medium combination includes using Anitracetam, Acetyl-L-Tyrosine, Huperzine and high-quality choline source.

Aniracetam, which is a stronger version of Piracetam, has stronger effects on raising attentiveness.

Huperzine (extract of a plant grown in China, highly purified under laboratory conditions) increases the levels of Acetylcholine within the brain, improving memory and attention levels. Some studies on adolescents show that this can help to improve memory retention and performance.

Tyrosine helps in the synthesis of neurotransmitters Norepinephrine, Dopamine and Epinephrine, which lead to increased, motivation, mood, focus and energy.

The most powerful, and probably best reserved for only severe cases of ADD/ADHD, requires the base is to be either Modafinil or Adrafinil (they both act in basically the same way, although Modafinil is a little stronger). Then, add the high quality choline source and Acetyl-L-Tyrosine .
Acting as a stimulant, Modafinil/Adrafinil is actually used as a wakefulness agent for the treatment of sleep disorders ( as sleep apnea and narcolepsy).

Although when it comes to promoting greater concentration and increasing attention span Nootropics are efficient and safe speaking to a doctor to receive their recommendations is highly recommended.

Alzheimer’s Disease

It is a fact that, with age, our brains become less efficient. Alzheimer is a cognitive decline, believed to be associated with oxidative stress, which affects millions worldwide (it is estimated that one out of eight elderly Americans have Alzheimer’s) and is the sixth most common cause of death in North America.

As the condition of an individual suffering from Alzheimer gradually declines in time, the disease affects not only the individual himself but everyone around them.

There have been numerous studies and researches made in time regarding the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s and although no cure is yet to be found, the main focus is on strategies to decrease progression .

Various nootropics have been extensively studied for the positive effects they have in cognitive diseases, including Alzheimer’s.
It is believed that the patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease are actually experiencing damage to their cholinergic system. Many nootropics target the cholinergic system, working to increase the efficiency and amount of acetylcholine (which is believed to be in direct correlation with mental decline).

Nootropics that May Aid in Alzheimer’s Treatment


Plenty of studies have demonstrated that, even though the benefits of Piracetam usage on patients with Alzheimer’s disease varies from one case to another, there is a tight correlation between the usage of the nootropics and patient state.

Huperzine A has been found to have a high success rate in studies ( one study proved that out of 103 patients tested 60% have shown improvements in memory and thinking.

Side effects

The founder of nootropics, Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea’s, originally defined, as main criteria of the family of compounds, that they must promote and protect brain health. That is why several “smart drugs” do not qualify as nootropics.

As each nootropic has a unique working mechanism, most of them have unique side effects also.

The most common side effects are addiction, anxiety, nervousness, restlessness, depression or mood disorder. In rare cases, some drugs may cause lightheadedness, rashes and skin irritation or increased blood pressure.

The main concern, when it comes to nootropic side effects, is the possibility of addiction to stimulants. A large amount of research has demonstrated that, while administrated in recommended dosage, for therapeutic purpose, even the use of the “more addictive” psychostimulants cause addiction in relatively rare occasions.

To keep up with the demands of society, which are every time harsher, the embracing of nootropics has bloomed presently, having a huge request from either tech gurus startups, exhausted interns and ambitious college students.

Using inappropriate dosage is the main issue when it comes to side effects. For example, highly concentrated caffeine is nothing like the caffeine in your morning coffee (even with an extra shot). The FDA has officially stated that pure caffeine is lethal even in small amounts thus the perception that the nootropics are, for the most part, safe is not quite accurate.

The thought that dietary supplements as Nootropics do not have to meet FDA standards, and manufacturers and distributors are not required to obtain FDA approval before marketing their products, nor is a doctor prescription required, is enough to raise concerns.[5]

Is it ethical for healthy people to use Nootropics?

Society is faced, at this point in time, with a constant growth in the usage of cognitive enhancers by healthy individuals. We cannot tell if people are using them to help reach their potential or to comply with the external pressure of the global competitive environment.

There are professions in which individuals are made feel as if a” day off”, caused by lack of productivity, sleep or stress, is not something they can afford thus nootropics are the sole alternative. [6]

The most common stimulant used by people is caffeine. However, it is not the most efficient or recommended by doctors, due to side effects. We are made to believe that coffee is a healthy enhancer to be used on a daily basis, to comply with daily requirements and routine. The fact that society has imposed standards which imply that higher education, obtained through competition, will help you secure a satisfying lucrative future, is directly creating the feeling that an individual ( student) is to learn things not for own development, but to best others.

Some believe nootropics will get you “unfair” advantages while, at the same time, others believe that one should benefit from all possible stimulants to achieve his goals.

Truth be told, humanity should be on a constant search to create equal opportunities for everybody but, at the same time, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins once said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

References   [ + ]

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