Nootropics refer to drugs, supplements or food that boost brain functions such as memory, focus, and intelligence. Colloquially known as ‘smart drugs’, there is a growing interest over nootropics for the past years due to its ability to augment the brain’s capabilities.
The term ‘nootropics’ was coined by Dr. Corneliu Giurgea, a Romanian chemist and psychologist who created the first nootropic Piracetam more than 50 years ago. Dr. Giurgea described nootropics as a drug that can:
- Enhance learning abilities and memory
- Offer protection from different chemical or physical injuries
- Enhance brain’s resilience against harmful conditions
- Enhance the ability of the brain’s control mechanism in the cerebral cortex
- Won’t cause toxicity or many side effects and will not exhibit sedation or any motor-stimulation effects
Until today, Piracetam, which is known by the brand name Nootropil, is still recognized as one of the best nootropics in the market, especially among first-time users. However, since then, those characteristics of nootropics described by Dr. Guirgea have changed and broadened the field of nootropics to a larger degree. Several more nootropics have been made and are now available in the market, which means that today there’s a plethora of options when choosing nootropics.
How Nootropics Work
Although nootropics shouldn’t be considered a magic pill that can transform an ordinary lad into an Einstein overnight, they can enhance your brain’s mental energy, especially learning absorption, which makes a person smarter. While learning requires hard work, Nootropics improve your cognition, so you can retain information and solve problems at an advanced rate.
Furthermore, nootropics are recognized for promoting overall brain health. The brain’s performance depends on the billions of brain chemicals, receptors, and transmitters, and modulating their activity can result in enhanced mental function.
Apart from providing improved learning ability, boosting neurotransmitter activity equals better resistance to age-related cognitive decline and disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some nootropics increase the blood flow to the brain while others increase the brain’s level of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter mainly responsible for mood, memory, and learning.
There are certain types of nootropics that can trigger the production of nerve growth factor to grow new neurons or dendrites. Growth of dendrites – the long filament branches that are extensions of neurons can make communication throughout the central nervous system much faster which in turn leads to improved learning, memory and the ability to multi-task.
Different Classes of Nootropics
Like any other drug or supplement, nootropics come in different types and they all have different effect mechanism of actions on the brain. Anything that provides a mental edge, whether its focus, learning absorption, memory or drive, are considered nootropics.
We will take a deeper lens on some of the categories of nootropics and find out the mechanisms that these substances operate:
Racetams. As mentioned, Piracetam was the first compound to be called a nootropic. Over the past years, a series of similar compounds have been synthesized and they are known as the Racetam supplements. These include Piracetam, Oxiracetam, Aniracetam, Phenylpiracetam, and Pramiracetam.
Racetams works on the acetylcholine level of the brain and therefore, influencing mood, focus, memory and mental agility. When using Racetams, a person may notice an increase in memory capacity, greater concentration, enhanced mental clarity, increased calmness, better recall and enhance problem-solving skills. Racetams also reportedly allow creative and analytical work to be done simultaneously, for instance when answering long essays that demand facts and proper presentation of the facts to bring a message.
Stimulants. Unlike Racetams that rev up the brain’s capacity to collate various ideas and understand them, stimulants works by increasing alertness and attention to make focus and concentration easier. Further, stimulants allow the brain to have a higher tolerance against stress by increasing heart rate and breathing, energy level, and blood pressure. The downside with stimulants is that they have a short-term effect compared to other nootropics.
Nutraceuticals. Nutraceutical nootropics are food products that contain compounds that exhibit some of the effects of stimulants and racetams. Among all classes of nootropics, they are the safest type since they come from nature. They are cognitive-enhancing products derived from food or plant sources.
Examples of nutraceutical nootropics with the most impressive scientific backing are Bacopa Monnier, Lion’s Mane mushroom, and American ginseng. Although they are already proven to be effective in improving brain activity, they may be used as an adjunct treatment for severe cognitive health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
It can be a little confusing if you are wondering how to start using nootropics. Combining different nootropics, which is known as nootropic stack, can be done to achieve a potent synergistic effect from the different compounds.
When it comes to stacking, much of it depends on what your needs are. Are you working on a computer code every day and need something for an extended period of time? Do you need to prepare for an exam next week? Or, are you a senior who wants to enjoy mental alertness? Nootropics may be the key you need.