What are Nootropics and Why Do We Use Them?

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For over five decades, Nootropics, also referred to as smart drugs and cognitive enhancers, have been in existence, albeit largely unknown. Despite originally being created to treat cognitive deficiencies, their commercial use has skyrocketed in recent years.

Today, the use of Nootropics has become increasingly popular among healthy individuals on college campuses, in tech and business, in sports, and even in households. The growing interest in Nootropics is evident from the numbers, as they are a part of the $1 trillion drug industry, with a 44.5% share in the US alone. The projected global spending on these drugs is estimated to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020, with a projected growth rate of 10% per year.

Before delving into what Nootropics are, it’s worth asking: what has caused this growing buzz around cognitive enhancement and the widespread use of Nootropics? And to what extent is this trend related to the fast-paced lifestyle of modern society?

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What influenced the modern way of living?

The answer to this headline question is certainly not simple.

But we can look for it in the technological advances that resulted from the industrial revolution that occurred in the nineteenth century.

Large factories and the first large enterprises began to be established. As a result, people left the natural environment even faster and began to inhabit urban areas, which over time became polluted and cramped for life.

In addition to this, the “standard of living” grew and the population of such settlements would often exaggerate their menus, including in it various processed products of animal origin.

Stress was also increasing due to the unnatural environment as well as various pressures, night shifts, and obligations in modern workplaces.

We can conclude the following from this brief introduction:

Unnatural living environment, poor diet, inadequate physical activity, stress, and especially improper rest, as well as disregard for several other natural laws, all were set to open the door to the use of various cognitive enhancers that come to our rescue.

Reduced attention span

source: pngtree.com

Recent scientific research says that in the internet age the average human attention span is even shorter than the attention span of a goldfish!

The researchers said that our attention span dropped as a direct consequence of the rise in technology and innovations of all sorts.

Following these trends, labor productivity demands continue to increase and people are at an unrealistic level of achieving work efficiency.

This is how a kinship relationship developed, with the desire to increase the strength of the brain by taking nootropics and various types of cognitive enhancers.

Nootropics can help us counteract the attention deficit, but let’s now define them and find what more are they capable of.

What are nootropics?

What are nootropic wallpapers
What are nootropics?

Nootropics are a class of nutrients, neurological enhancing supplements, herbs, extracts, medicines, and nutraceuticals.

We also called them smart drugs, brain boosters, memory boosters, neuroenhancers, drive drugs, study drugs, etc.

From both ends of the nootropic spectrum, there are pharmaceutical-like cognitive enhancers and natural nootropics that are healthier for the brain.

Each works with varying degrees of efficiency to improve different aspects of cognitive function. 

What do nootropics do?

This wide array of compounds targets the brain in three main ways:

Working that way, nootropics improve memory, attention, executive functions, perception, language, and psychomotor functions. All that refers to a brain’s capacity for information processing, applying knowledge, and changing preferences. 

What are nootropics used for?

Nootropic use has been discussed in the literature as either treatment or enhancement, although a clear delineation between the two has not been drawn.

The nootropic drugs in treatments mostly deal with cognitive or motor function problems attributable to disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s illness, Parkinson’s disease, and ADHD.

Other uses of nootropics refer to a category that crosses boundaries of neither pure enhancement nor treatment.

It is an improvement for those people who have basic cognitive impairments but are otherwise relatively healthy. That way the users can be morally justified to improve their functionality in major life activities and enhance their quality of life

Nootropics in community

Social networks and forums are full of questions that people from all walks of life ask about solutions to the universal problems of memory loss, mental fatigue, anxiety, sleep deprivation, stress, addiction, etc.

These problems have a cause in a variety of things. Nootropic compounds reportedly help address these conditions in an intriguing number of ways.

A number of factors favorably and adversely affect making use of drugs to increase cognitive performance. Among them are personal characteristics, drug qualities, and characteristics of the social context.

Stimulants and nootropics for ADHD

In the academic community, nootropics have been utilized to increase productivity, despite their long-term effects that do not have conclusive research study on healthy individuals.

Using prescription stimulants is especially common among students attending academically competitive colleges. Surveys suggest that 0.7-4.5% of German students have actually used cognitive enhancers in their lifetime.

Stimulants such as Dimethylamylamine and Methylphenidate are utilized on college campuses and by more youthful groups.

Based on research studies of self-reported illicit stimulant use, 5-35% of college students utilize ADHD stimulants, which are primarily used for efficiency enhancement instead of as leisure drugs.

Let’s explore now what is the original concept of nootropics?

What nootropic mean?

what is nootropics?
Dr Corneliu Giurgea

The word nootropic is derived from two Greek words: “nous,” which means mind, and ”tropein,” which means to bend or turn.

– Nootropic definition etymology

The first nootropic compound was formed in the lab. It is known as Piracetam and was synthesized by Belgian pharmacologists C. Giurgea and V. Scondia in 1963.

Later, in 1972, Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea coined the term ”nootropic” to describe substances that improve cognitive functioning. He determined nootropic classification refers to cognitive stimulants with extremely low toxicity that can be taken for long-term use. 

By his definition, nootropics are safe and well-tolerated substances that are suitable for healthy individuals to take.

According to Dr. Giurgea, a nootropic should do the following things:

How has the modern definition of nootropics changed?

The compound is considered to be ‘nootropic’ only if it improves cognition and neuroprotection and doesn’t pose the threat of neurotoxicity when used appropriately.

This definition of ‘nootropics’ has changed over time.

Once only referred to as a very specific kind of drug that helps you perform better cognitively, it is now used to describe any cognition-enhancing substances. Today, pretty much every substance that is boosting the brainpower is considered to be a nootropic.

According to Merriam-Webster, the word ‘nootropic’ is defined as ”a substance that enhances cognition and memory and facilitates learning.” But there is no mention of side effects and neurotoxicity in that definition.

By the original idea of Dr. Giurgea, these substances wouldn’t have been considered to be nootropics.

Are nootropics safe?

Many decades after Dr. Giurgea discovered the original family of nootropics called racetams, today we have a documented system of nootropic effects. It is based not only on scientific research and human studies but also on anecdotal stories of people who have been using them for years.

While we can say that there is no great risk of addiction to nootropics, you should not self-medicate with either herbal supplements or research chemicals. Like all things that play with your biochemistry, this can be potentially very harmful.

Thus, it is always advisable to talk to a healthcare professional who will perform tests before you participate in a healthy culture of responsible usage.

What are natural nootropics?

A Ginkgo trees lane
Exercise or meditate with nootropics

Humankind has been taking herbs and various substances for the sake of healing, to alter the mindset, and linking to spirituality since the beginning of humanity. While there are natural nootropics believed to have their beginnings prior to recorded human civilization.

The earliest records of nootropic usage have been dated from traditional Chinese herbalism, Ancient Egypt, and Greece. Our ancestors collected the plants from their environment and utilized them in traditional mind-altering practices.

From that era remains coca leaves, chewed&brewed by South Americans for energy & alertness.

Kava drinks for mood & socialization may be one of the secrets behind the laid-back Pacific island lifestyle. 

Beloved native Americans were likely to have used peyote since at least five-and-a-half thousand years ago. Peyote serves primarily as an amplifier of emotions aroused by the ceremonies of religious and communal elements. 

Ayurveda, the ancient science of life is a comprehensive system of health care that also has its nootropics (Medhya Rasayana) that include Bacopa Monnieri, Ashwagandha, Celastrus paniculatus (an intellectual herb), and many others.

Some other herbs & substances that are well known from ancient times:

Nowadays, dozens of botanicals from ancient times may be considered nootropic herbs for advanced brain function. Also, the extraction methods brought by the modern era of neurotechnology can boost plant potential and efficiency.

What are nootropics drugs?

The terms ”smart drugs” and ”nootropics” are sometimes used interchangeably. Some people distinguish the two, but the vast majority of people use both terms to mean the same thing – any substance that improves cognitive performance.

Smart drugs are used illegally or are sometimes prescribed by a medical professional to address a variety of health issues related to lack of energy or focus. Choosing to take smart drugs is not an effective or long-term solution. They are not healthy for your heart or liver, as they are based on the amphetamine structure used in ADHD medications.

There are also unregulated synthetic nootropics. Some of which could easily be regarded as pharmaceuticals. Also, some nootropics are banned from athletic bodies, and certain exotic herbs and fungi further complicate their use.

Most nootropics are available online or in brick & mortar stores without a prescription in countries like the United States. Though in some parts of the world they are prescription drugs. Every culture has its own famous nootropics that are rooted in the tradition and practice of that culture. As well as the prohibited ones.

What are the side effects of nootropics?

Many substances we consider to be nootropics do in fact have potentially serious side effects.

Take for example harmful Adderall, or the somewhat safer Modafinil, prescribed smart drugs that are still favorites among students and high achievers. Though they certainly meet several criteria for being a nootropic, it doesn’t meet them all.

Many people in the nootropic community consider them powerful cognitive boosters. This is due to the ability to quickly improve mood, focus, motivation, and energy. But they come with a whole list of potential side effects including anxiety, insomnia, nausea, twitching, and even amphetamine psychosis that go with Adderall.

Also, the stimulants contain an element of dependence that develops into tolerance to the drug with constant use. Withdrawal symptoms from amphetamines can be quite bad.

So, normally, there is no need for that to happen, because there is a large list of safe natural nootropics that do not lag far behind synthetic stimulants.

Are nootropics good for you?

The man jumping in the exercise
Exercise or meditate with nootropics

If you are trying hard to keep your attention, having difficulty with the decrease in memory, stress management, or lacking good sleep, nootropics may very well be for you. But, also keep it safe when you start experimenting.

To know which supplement is right for you, you need to inform yourself and know your needs. So read the facts and opinions about smart drugs from various sources.

Find a good neurologist if you’re lacking information. You cannot escape responsibility as it is your own health and your own risk at the same time.

The good news is that the responsible use of nootropics has already given results in many people’s lives.

How do nootropics make you feel?

Although magic pills exist only in the movies, neuroenhancement can be very effective for some individuals. In most cases, nootropics will block out distractions and increase productivity with a few side effects, if any.

No matter what class of nootropics you use, the bottom line is that you will need to achieve a healthy lifestyle to get them to work for you. It is a prerequisite for taking them.

You can maximize the efficiency of nootropics if you exercise or meditate, sleep better, and diet healthier.

The statistic indicates the healthy habits of users and non-users of dietary supplements and nootropics among U.S. adults. This statistic is based on a survey conducted in August 2017.

Statista research
Source: Statista

Nootropics by effects

Nootropics can be grouped according to their specific effects on different cognitive processes. We use them for the benefits of memory, clean energy, focus and attention, mood, sleep, longevity, and more.

Many nootropics lists write about less than a hundred well-researched nootropics that are used to enhance some parts of cognition.

But when playing with neurotransmitters and neuromodulation you better know what you are doing. Therefore, nootropic blends are created by neuroscientists and pharmacologists and designed with safety and efficacy in mind.

This is the most recommended route for beginners. Pre-made nootropic stacks are commercially made for one or a few of these effects:

The majority of people are at first attracted to nootropics for their memory-improving effects.  Nootropics are considered to have the ability to enhance all features connected to memory including new memory development, short-term working memory as well as long-term recall.

You can improve the capacity of your mind in 3 approaches to develop new memory links: by elevating acetylcholine levels as well as performance, by raising glutamate levels and efficiency, as well as by increasing blood and oxygen circulation to the brain.

The nootropics for studying and learning are well-known for their memory-boosting effects. Especially at increasing acetylcholine receptors as the Noopept. However, there are lots of others that are effective as well. You could include a choline supplement like Alpha GPC, Citicoline, to increase levels of acetylcholine. Stacking various different supplements together will help you achieve these outcomes. But, as we said there are nootropic blends for that.

Nootropics may enhance attention and alertness via brain pathways that are related to the acetylcholine neurotransmitter and its synthesis. The cholinergic system of neurons is widely implicated in various aspects of cognition, learning, and memory.

Others may do it by optimizing catecholamine bio-pathways, supporting the brain’s natural ability to synthesize, convert and utilize catecholamine brain chemicals.

Some nootropics such as pine bark extract improve antioxidant status, cerebral circulation, and brain regeneration which also help with cognition and reduce hyperactivity and inattention.

Typically, a person with a low attention span can be incredibly smart, however, if their level of attention and focus is low, they will not be able to reach the max potential their cognition could allow.  

Reach for: Citicoline, B1 and B12 vitamins, L-tyrosine, L-theanine, Caffeine, Rhodiola, Maritime Pine bark extract, Phosphatidylserine 

Stress and anxiety can be turbulent parts of one’s cognition. They don’t go hand in hand with mental performance.

Regardless of how intelligent an individual could be, these cognitive functions will suffer.

  • memory
  • formation
  • memory recall
  • attention span and focus
  • logical reasoning
  • situational awareness
  • decision making
  • learning

Nootropics for mood can support reducing stress and potentially restrain anxiety by enhancing the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. These neurotransmitters are recognized to create sensations of wellness, joy, delight as well as bliss.

Many natural ingredients have a small but positive impact on mood. 

Sleep is another essential component of improving your cognition to the max!  The good news is, there are many nootropic supplements that are great to take at night to improve your sleep, and recovery as well as enhance your cognition. Rest is necessary because that is when most of your neurogenesis takes place, i.e., brain development and recovery. Your connections are strengthened and reinforce while your body repairs itself. 

Ah, long life. These are nootropics that increase your general level of health and well-being. They promote maximum levels of efficiency in your body. These nootropics are even believed by some to prolong one’s lifespan and cognitive capacity before a decrease can set in. Tremendously important, these nootropics should be in every person’s stack. At the minimum, multivitamins and fish oil should be included daily.


Due to scientific innovation in the preparation of concentrated extracts, bio-compound synthesis, standardized forms of nootropics, and formulated nootropic stacks made with complex systems in mind, today we have plenty of solutions. 

Each individual has a unique biochemistry, so expect that nootropics will not work in the same favor for everyone. It is not a miracle pill that will quickly solve all your problems. You must earn it.

But, if supplemented wisely it can be a hack to improve the mental condition, daily mood, focus and attention, energy levels, and brain health.

With nootropics, it’s not that we reinvented the wheel, we just gave it a new look. The natural rules stay the same.

A human’s attention span must be longer than a goldfish’s!

Pick up nootropics that best reflect your goal

Read our next article to get you started

Types of nootropics

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