What are Nootropics? A Comprehensive Guide To Their Uses, Benefits and Forms

Woman taking nootropics

Have you been searching high and low for ways to overcome procrastination, tackle mental fatigue, and boost your cognitive performance? If the answer is yes, then you're probably familiar with nootropics.

These potent substances, often referred to as ‘memory enhancers’ and ‘brain boosters,’ have been making waves in the health and wellness world for their potential to boost cognitive function.

But with so many out there, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and wonder which ones actually work. 

Intrigued? Great. Find out all you need to know about nootropics with our essential Smart Protein guide.

What are nootropics?

Nootropics—also known as smart drugs—can come in different forms, including certain prescription medications or nonprescription substances. 

These super supplements have the power to improve various aspects of mental functioning, like thinking, memory, mood, attention, creativity, and motivation (1).

In fact, the term ‘nootropic’ was coined back in the 1970s by a brilliant Romanian psychologist named Corneliu E. Giurgea. He came up with it to describe substances that activate specific brain functions—especially for those who may experience impaired functioning.

Some well-known natural variants that might ring a bell include Turmeric, Ginseng, Green Tea, and Caffeine. 

They may sound familiar because they are derived from plants or fungi, giving them that natural goodness we all love.

Fungi growing outside
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How do you take nootropics?

SmartFact: You can take nootropics in various different forms.

If your nootropic comes in capsule form, chances are you'll need to take them with a refreshing glass of water. Sometimes it's even recommended to have them with a meal. 

But, nootropics aren't just limited to capsules. They come in other exciting forms too, such as powders and pre-made drinks. 

With powders, you can easily mix them into your favourite drinks or even sprinkle them onto your meals for that extra brain-boosting oomph.

And let's not forget pre-made drinks, the ultimate convenience. Just grab and go, no mixing or measuring required. 

So, whether you prefer capsules, powders, or pre-made drinks, the choice is yours. Embrace the flexibility, convenience, and endless possibilities of these different forms to find what works best for you.

How do nootropics work?

Nootropics work by enhancing your cognitive function, which means they have the power to level up your memory, creativity, motivation, and attention.

They can be particularly helpful in cases of cognitive impairment where there is damage or degeneration.

They’re commonly used to treat memory issues, mild cognitive impairment, consciousness-related challenges, and learning disorders in acute or subacute conditions. Some nootropics go a step further and pack even more benefits.

These brain-boosting supplements are known to eliminate those pesky oxygen-free radicals, possess an anti-aggregation effect, and even improve the mental function of your red blood cells. 

So, what does that mean for you? It improves the flow of blood to your brain (2), enhancing its rheological properties, and ultimately supporting better cognitive performance.

Now, let's talk about natural nootropics. These amazing brain boosters act as vasodilators for the small arteries and veins in your brain. In simple words, they increase blood circulation, deliver essential nutrients, and ramp up the energy and oxygen flow to your precious brain cells.

Keep in mind, though, that further research is needed, and their long-term effects on healthy individuals are not fully understood. 

While some believers claim that nootropics can enhance cognitive processes and performance—it's important to approach these claims with caution.

Some of the alleged benefits may not have solid scientific backing, and the potential side effects could pose health risks. It's all about informed decision-making.

Different types of nootropics
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Types of nootropics

Right, let's dig into the exciting world of nootropics and discover the two main types that can enhance your cognitive performance. 

First up, we have prescription nootropics. These brain-boosting wonders are usually obtained with a prescription from a healthcare professional. 

Prescription nootropics often come with stimulant effects, meaning they can give you a mental kickstart when you need it most. They're carefully designed to target specific cognitive functions and can be a powerful tool for those who require additional support.

Then we have non-prescription nootropics—a category that includes a wide range of brain-boosting dietary supplements that you can buy online or find at your favourite health food stores. 

They're accessible to everyone, from seasoned experts to those new to the nootropic supplements game.

Prescription Nootropics

Prescription nootropics are typically prescribed by medical professionals to address existing medical problems. 

These powerful substances often contain stimulants, like amphetamine, that can help in treating conditions such as ADHD (3), dementia, narcolepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and other similar mental health issues. 

How? By targeting specific challenges and providing much-needed relief.

Let's take a closer look at a few examples of these prescribed variants:

  • Modafinil, like Provigil, is fantastic for combating sudden sleepiness or drowsiness caused by narcolepsy—those pesky sudden attacks of sleep. It keeps you alert and ready to take on the day.
  • Adderall, containing amphetamines, helps regulate the mood and behaviour of individuals with ADHD. It's a powerful tool for managing the symptoms and allowing you to fully engage in life.
  • Methylphenidate, like Ritalin, is another stimulating substance that works wonders in curbing symptoms of both ADHD and narcolepsy. It's like a superhero for mental focus and wakefulness.
  • Memantine, such as Axura, is specifically used for easing symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. It provides support to those facing cognitive challenges, allowing for a better quality of life.

These prescription smart drugs are highly effective in addressing the specific medical conditions for which they’re prescribed. But, it's essential to remember that they come with risks and potential side effects.

Non-Prescription Nootropics 

Natural substances are nature's gift, packed with powerful cognitive enhancers. These non-prescription nootropics offer a range of options that can enhance your mental performance without the need for a doctor's visit. 

So, let's dive into a few different types of nootropics that you can explore…

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Caffeine

You might be surprised to know that it's not just an energy booster but also a nootropic superstar. As the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world, caffeine can increase attention and alertness, giving you that extra edge when you need it most.

Creatine

This amino acid has gained quite a reputation for its potential effects on memory and reasoning abilities. It's like a personal trainer, helping you to boost brain function, and helping you stay sharp and focused.

Ginkgo biloba

A herbal supplement derived from the leaves of beautiful trees native to China, Korea, and Japan, Ginkgo Biloba has gained popularity for its potential brain-enhancing effects, from boosting cognition to fighting that pesky brain fog. Plus, it may even help improve symptoms of dementia. 

L-theanine

Coming in the form of an amino acid found in dietary supplements and green or black teas, L-theanine has the power to boost alertness and cognitive performance, making those mental challenges a walk in the park.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Found in healthy fats of fish oil supplements and delectable fish like salmon, sardines, and cod, Omega-3 fatty acids are true brain food, linked to improved cognitive function, memory, and mood. 

Panax Ginseng

Explore the wonders of this Chinese and Siberian shrub with a rich history of medicinal use. It's believed to improve memory and brain health and reduce the risk of brain diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Panax Ginseng is your ally on the path to a thriving mind.

Rhodiola

Introducing a plant that has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy for fatigue, stress, and anxiety. But that's not all! Rhodiola has also shown promise as a nootropic, improving memory, learning, and overall brain function in healthy people.

What are the benefits of Nootropics?

When it comes to reaping the benefits of nootropics, we generally categorise them into two exciting groups.

Let’s take a look.

Short-term benefits

Let's talk about performance-driven functions such as… 

  • Improved focus
  • Heightened attention
  • Turbocharged short-term memory
  • Increased resistance to stress

These benefits are perfect for those productivity-packed moments, intense competitions, looming deadlines, and nerve-wracking exams.

Long-term benefits

Now let's turn our attention to the long game. Nootropics have the power to promote overall brain health and function, keeping you sharp and vibrant throughout the ageing process. 

They're like your personal brain trainer, supporting memory, combating age-related cognitive decline, uplifting mood, and ensuring crystal-clear mental clarity even in your golden years. 

Now that we've explored the incredible benefits of nootropics, let's take it a step further and take a look at the main benefits…

Increased Energy Levels

When it comes to improving your energy levels, nootropics have got your back. If you find yourself feeling fatigued way too often, and it's affecting your day-to-day activities, it might be time to give a nootropic a try. 

Of course, it's always a good idea to check in with your GP to rule out any underlying medical issues.

Better levels of focus

Now, let's move on to another marvellous benefit of nootropics…focus. In our fast-paced modern world, staying focused can be quite the challenge.

These brain-boosting supplements have been shown to support attention span and focus.

Man focused and concentrating after taking nootropics
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Creative boost

Numerous studies show that L-theanine can increase alpha wave activity in the brain, which is associated with increased creativity. 

But, to truly get the most out of L-theanine, it's often recommended to combine it with caffeine. Studies suggest that this combination can have even more positive effects on creativity and cognitive ability.

If you're interested in trying out this dynamic duo, you can easily consume them together naturally by drinking black or green tea.

These drinks contain both L-theanine and caffeine, making them a tasty and healthy way to boost your brainpower.

Are nootropics safe?

Yes, all in all, nootropics are safe, and you can take most supplements daily. For many, nootropics will only offer a variety of brain-boosting benefits.

But, there are some fairly rare and relatively mild side effects you should know about—which brings us to our next point.

What are the side effects of nootropics?

When it comes to nootropics, there are common and long-term potential side effects. It's important to be aware of the ones that may arise. 

Each nootropic is unique, just like you are, so the side effects can vary depending on factors like dosage, sensitivity, and existing health conditions.

Here's the silver lining, many of the most common side effects of nootropics are actually the same ones associated with other neurotransmitter-regulating drugs, like those prescribed for ADHD or mental health conditions, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Digestive issues
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
SmartTip: It's essential to remember that not everyone experiences these side effects, and for many, they're usually temporary and subside as your body adjusts to the supplement.

Boost your brain the Smart way

If you’re looking to take steps towards a clearer mind and get your day off to a better start, try The Booster.

Formulated by neuroscientists, use this advanced cognitive blend as recommended, letting the high-quality nootropics, added vitamins, and amino acids nourish your mind and boost your brainpower. Be Smart and give it a try.

Sources

Smart Protein is committed to sourcing only the best and scientifically-backed research in our articles.

1. Ncbi:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5021479/

2. NIH:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9415189/

3. Psych Central:

https://psychcentral.com/adhd/nootropics-for-adhd

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