Nootropics are a broad category of drugs, supplements and substances that can serve to improve cognitive abilities and overall brain function. They’re primarily used for their effects on executive functions
, memory, productivity, motivation, and creativity.
The word itself, “nootropics” was coined relatively recently (circa 1970) by a Romanian chemist and psychologist, Dr. Corneliu Giurgea and derives from the Greek word “nóos”, meaning “mind”, and “tropḗ” meaning “turn” or “bend”. So together, nootropics would mean “mind-bending”.
Due to the name, the uninitiated often confuse it with psychedelics such as cannabis, magic mushrooms, and the like.
While psychedelics have been used since the dawn of time for their potent mind-altering properties, they don’t actually fall under the category of nootropics, however they are an interesting category that we’ll be exploring further in the future.
Nootropics won’t alter your state of mind nor intoxicate you. Since they’re designed to boost performance, they can be stimulating, but that’s the extent of their “altering” abilities.
According to Dr Giurgea, for any food, drug, supplement, or substance to be considered a nootropic, it needs to meet the following criteria:
- Enhance learning and memory
- Protect the brain and support its health
- Improve the brain’s processing power
- Boost attention and focus
- Have low toxicity
So, a nootropic has huge application and use to any one of us that intend to live on form and improve our cognition.
Man will not wait passively for millions of years for evolution to offer him a better brain.
Corneliu E. Giurgea
Most Popular Choices
While the interest in nootropics is starting to reach ever-increasing heights, the chances are that you’ve used nootropics before, even if you didn’t know it.
Take coffee, for example. About 95 million cups of coffee
are consumed in the UK per day and caffeine is a nootropic. Whilst a relatively mild one, it can still help to boost your cognitive performance and increase your processing power.
If you’re not a coffee drinker, you likely belong to the 84% of the UK population
that drinks tea daily. The amino acid L-theanine
that’s present in green and black teas is also a nootropic that could serve to increase alpha waves in the brain and promote a feeling of relaxation and alertness simultaneously.
Not all nootropics are as mild as tea or coffee, however. Potent pharmaceutical nootropics are often prescribed for treating a variety of medical conditions.
Adderall is one of the most commonly prescribed nootropics, but common prescriptions also include Provigil, Axura, Ritalin, and Piracetam.
Since they’re potent medications that could have adverse effects on healthy individuals these are prescription drugs only. it’s crucial only to use them when you have a prescription and to heed your doctor’s advice.
Some other conventional and non-pharmaceutical nootropics you’ve likely encountered before include:
You don’t need a prescription for any of the nootropics from this list, as they’re considered safe to use (unless you have allergies or medical conditions that would prevent you from using them).
Does Science Back up the Use of Nootropics?
Since there’s still so much that we don’t know about our brains, it can be difficult to conclude with certainty the extent of certain nootropics’ effects. Still, there’s scientific evidence that supports their use.
Evidence suggests that caffeine, for example, can act as a neuroprotective agent and go so far as to lower the risks of developing Alzheimer’s
disease and even Parkinson’s. It improves memory recall and increases focus.
A study found that L-theanine found in teas can have a significant effect on the general state of mental alertness
. Vitamins and minerals such as zinc, iron, B6, B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and others have proven to be beneficial for brain health
and can boost cognitive functions and even improve test performance.
Dark berries, including blueberries, are a rich source of phytochemicals
and pterostilbene. Anthocyanins are thought to be the probable reason why dark berries can influence brain activity
. It has also been shown that older people can eat dark berries to improve memory
Prescription nootropics for medicinal uses had naturally gone through extensive testing and reviews before they received approval, and they’re effective in fighting a variety of different conditions, including narcolepsy, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s, among others.
Who Uses Nootropics?
A wide variety of people use non-pharmaceutical nootropics for a variety of different purposes but the main purpose still revolves around the priming of cognitive function. People uniformly want to perform better in their day to day lives and nootropics may assist in facilitating that.
They can be used safely by healthy individuals who want to improve their work performance or even boost their creativity.
Are There Any Side-Effects?
Mild nootropics typically don’t have negative side-effects when used responsibly. However, just like anything when consumed in excessive doses, adverse effects can occur.
Too much caffeine for example can lead to
increased blood pressure, headache, symptoms of anxiety, and more. A vitamin B overdose can lead to gastrointestinal problems; Magnesium overdose can lead to nausea, fatigue, and muscle weakness. All these side-effects typically occur when too many nootropics are taken, so responsible usage is critical also the use of effective and clinically proven doses.
Prescribed nootropics have their list of adverse effects that are generally greater. Side-effects can include hypertension, increased heart rate, insomnia, vision problems, and even addiction.
What HMN24 says.
Nootropics serve to enhance and prime our cognitive function, improving our day to day performance. They almost become a staple and, pardon the pun, a “no-brainer” to use.