What Are Nootropics? An Introduction To “Smart Drugs” and Brain Supplements

Simply put, a nootropic is a brain supplement (or “smart drug”) you can take to enhance brain function, such as increasing focus, energy, mood, or lowering anxiety, hyperactivity, and inattention. You may be taking a supplement for muscle growth such as
whey protein, or something for increased muscle endurance, such as creatine.

Nootropics are supplements that keep your brain feeling sharp and healthy. There are many ways this is done and we will touch on their history, which ones to take, stacking nootropics together for synergistic benefits , and who the most common users are.

History of Nootropics

Let’s start off with what Nootropics are; Nootropics is a term that was coined in 1972, by Dr. Conelius E. Girugea. He took two Greek words “nous” and “trepin” which mean ‘mind’ and ‘bending’ respectfully, together these two words when combined in his eyes mean ‘mold the mind into shape’. He also set aside a set of rules for substances to be classified as nootropics, such as: they should have minimal side effects and potentially increase cognition and protect the brain from oxidative damage.

Now that we are caught up on the history and their purpose, let’s discuss how they work.

How Nootropics Work

In a nutshell, different nootropics do different things; take for instance, Lions Mane Mushroom, known to help increase BDNF, short for brain-derived neurotrophic factor. It is a protein found in the brain and spinal cord that promotes the survival of nerve cells (neurons) by playing a role in the maintenance of the cells. Other Nootropics can help increase neurotransmitters and
increase other neurological factors such as recall and learning.

Keep in mind, natural nootropics should be looked at as ‘vitamins’ rather than ‘pain killers’, which essentially means they take time to become noticeable and thus don’t work instantly. The reason for the delay is because of low potency of the active ingredient in many of the plant extracts, as opposed to the high potency of the chemicals in pills.

This is where health and medical tracking platforms such as our friends over at TrackMyStack come in handy. It is absolutely vital for you to adhere to your stack daily and to log any effects of your stack. This will help you and others learn about the effectiveness (if any) of your supplements and keep you active in managing your own health. You may additionally log things such as your mood, sleep, side effects as well or view other people’s experience in taking them and if they had a positive outcome or not (and even drill down further to determine based on age, gender, health condition, and more).

You mentioned stacking…so what is it?

Many nootropic users like to stack supplements together for a synergistic effect.

For example, caffeine and l-Theanine are known to be synergistic and is possibly the most popular nootropic stack. This is because caffeine provides a steady stream of energy, whereas l-theanine works to remove the jitteriness, thus leaving you more focused yet still energetic.

READ  What Is Phenylpiracetam? An Introduction to One of the Best Nootropics Ever

Stacks can essentially be seen as homemade concoctions to help you solve your goal in a more personalized way, and there are sites and thousands of users spending time finding out the perfect stack for their overall health or for very specific goals.

The second most common supplement stack when it comes to nootropics is the piracetam and choline stack which is one of the oldest and original nootropic stacks. Piracetam is known to have an involvement in the activation of choline, which helps the brain take up oxygen and improve blood flow.

Since choline may get depleted in the body while supplementing with piracetam, it is useful to supplement with a choline source such as: Alpha GPC.  This is done to avoid the headaches of choline depletion. However you may obtain choline from food sources as well such as eggs, beef liver and cauliflower.
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An interesting thing to note for those working out and looking to get fit who think brain health may not be relevant: People claim that when it comes to physical performance, having an optimal mind body connection allows them to perform better during workouts. Some supplements such as Alpha GPC have an added benefit of promoting Human Growth Hormone as well. Other supplements that can help your mind and workouts include creatine, caffeine, and oxiracetam.

Who are nootropics for and why would you need it?

Since nootropics may help prevent or aid in helping those with age-related cognitive decline, seniors seem like the ideal candidate. Students and high performance individuals such as those that work on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and even surgeons may find that taking them before a hard task can yield optimal results for a short period of time.

Some nootropics such as bacopa monnieri have been taken for thousands of years as part of Ayurvedic medicine. Bacopa is known to promote neuronal communication by increasing the rate at which the nervous system communicates, leading to improved cognition and particularly improving memory formation.

In Conclusion

The overall benefits of nootropics are multi-faceted, they can help with memory, focus, mood, fatigue, reasoning and creativity. However sticking to your routine requires discipline and a good ‘overall health stack’, such as sleeping well, meditation, and maintaining a clean diet.

Supplements, as has been said before me, are there to supplement your overall health stack, these supplements are not miracle pills. Also with supplements, it is important to buy quality supplements, make sure the active ingredients are bioavailable and perhaps standardized, otherwise you will not feel any benefits and waste your time. By now, I want to congratulate you on taking your health into your own hands and have fun working on improving yourself one step at a time.

About the author


Netflix enthusiast, horrible speller, jiujitsu hobbyist, weekend drinker, and occasional poker player. Favorite quote is "[o]ut of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars."