There are many ways to maximize performance that include eating the most nutritious foods, exercising and using mindfulness practices like meditation.
Supplementation is an additional tool that can be used to enhance physical performance and mental cognition. Nootropics are a class of supplements designed specifically for the brain that can form part of that strategy. This guide will help you get started by outlining the different types of nootropics and how you can use them to enhance your performance at work, school and all other areas of life.
What are Nootropics?
Nootropics, also known as “smart” drugs or cognitive enhancers, are supplements that can improve brain functions such as creativity, memory and motivation.
They have become mainstream in the last decade, particularly since the release of the movie Limitless that depicted a seemingly regular individual that was able to transform into a supreme version of himself after taking an experimental drug.
Ten years have passed since that movie was released, and while a drug like the one shown in the film has not emerged, the market for nootropics has grown into a billion-dollar industry.
The History of Nootropics
The term “nootropic” was initially coined in 1972 by Corneliu E. Giurgea, a Romanian chemist and psychologist that first synthesized a drug called Piracetam. He used it to describe a substance containing molecules that acted specifically on the parts of the brain associated with integrative “high level” activity.
Giurgea stated that the following characteristics must be present in order for a drug to be classified as a nootropic:
- It must aid the learning and memory capabilities of the brain
- It should support brain function under hypoxic (oxygen-deficient) conditions or after electroconvulsive (electro-shock) therapy
- It must protect the brain from chemical or physical toxicity
- It should enhance natural cognitive functions (memory, focus, learning capability)
- It must be non-toxic, without any depressive or stimulation effects
Nearly 50 years have passed since the initial use of the term and while a drug fulfilling these requirements has not been discovered, some have emerged that have been marketed as “nootropics”.
“Nootropics” in the marketplace today now refers to a supplement that has some sort of effect on the brain, and these drugs can be divided into different categories.
Types of Nootropics
There are many supplements across several categories that are considered to be nootropics. They include:
Central Nervous System Stimulants
Central nervous system stimulants work on dopamine receptors and/or adrenoreceptors in the prefrontal cortex, the front part of the brain that is responsible for intelligence, problem-solving, memory, emotional control and verbal communication.
The nootropic drugs associated with this category include:
- Eugeroics (armodafinil and modafinil)
While benefits have been noted in healthy individuals using these drugs, their abuse has been correlated with mental decline.
Cholinergics are popular nootropic substances that are typically compounds and analogs of a substance called choline.
Choline is considered to be an essential nutrient that is used by the body to synthesize a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine along with a brain cell membrane component called phosphatidylcholine. Some cholinergics include:
- Choline bitartrate
There are dozens of drugs on the market that are prescribed for brain-related conditions that include mood enhancement and neurotransmitter stabilization. They include:
While many of these drugs have been reported to have stimulatory and/or enhancing effects, they have not been studied extensively for their long term consequences. Accordingly, some (such as Atomoxetine) can produce up to 70 side effects that can range from “abnormal bleeding” to “convulsions”.
Psychedelic drugs affect key regions of the brain associated with perception and cognition. While some have been used in high doses in recreational settings, the practice of “microdosing”, or taking small amounts, is attempted by some individuals to enhance mood and cognition. Drugs in this classification include:
- LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide or “acid”)
- Psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”)
- Mescaline (from Mexican peyote and San Pedro cactus)
- DMT (Dimethyltryptamine)
- 25-NBOMe (N-methoxybenzyl)
Reports from researchers have found mixed results for some users of psychedelic drugs while others have reported severe episodes of anxiety, disorientation and emotional discomfort.
Nootropic Herbs & Mushrooms
Various herbs used to enhance physical and emotional wellbeing in traditional medicine have been traced back thousands of years. Some examples of herbs used worldwide to enhance cognitive function include:
- Ginkgo biloba – used in traditional medicine to enhance cognitive function
- Salvia officinalis (Sage)
- Lion’s Mane Mushroom – prescribed in Asia to improve brain function
- Bacopa monnieri – an Ayurvedic traditional medicine used to improve memory
- Panax ginseng – used in traditional Asian medicine
- Rhodiola Rosea – a traditional herb prescribed for stress and fatigue
Other Nootropic Supplements
There are many nootropic supplements that do not fall in the above categories. These include:
Magnesium l-threonate – a special form of magnesium designed to easily pass the blood-brain barrier
L-theanine – the key ingredient in green tea, used for thousands of years by monks to sharpen their focus during meditation
5-HTP – a precursor to serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that is essential for many brain/body functions
Ashwagandha – prescribed in Indian medicine for thousands of years to treat stress-related conditions
DHM – used to treat alcohol-related effects such as nausea, brain fog and anxiety while protecting the liver from damage
Choosing the Best Nootropics
When choosing the best nootropics for you, it’s best to talk to a holistic health practitioner that understands your condition and lifestyle. While many nootropics can have negative side effects, others can enhance your performance when other lifestyle factors such as exercise and diet are optimized.
There are many groups that can obtain special benefits from nootropics that include:
Our store contains special categories that cater to the special needs of our customers. Whether you are looking for nootropics that can improve focus, enhance memory, increase energy, improve mood, or promote longevity, there is something we offer that can help support your specific lifestyle and goals.
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