Edited and published by Wellness Monster Stacie
Nootropics (noo-TROP-pics) are substances, both natural and synthetic that can be taken to improve cognitive function (boost brain intelligence), memory, motivation, creativity, and performance in healthy individuals. Nootropics were originally intended for conditions and disorders, such as speech disorders, vertigo, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), ADD/ADHD, and issues related to aging, such as dementia and dysmnesia syndrome caused by alcoholism. The current focus, however, of nootropic research is directed at finding new drugs to reduce neuro-psychologic deficits. Meaning, the general aim of nootropic research to date is to extend the “shelf-life” of the brain.
In 1964, dedicated Romanian born cognitive research scientist, chemist, and psychologist, Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea, known as the godfather of brain pharmacology, synthesized the compound, Piracetam, which worked to improve brain circulation, learning, creativity, verbal fluency, and memory in neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s. Dr. Giurgea is often quoted as saying, “Man is not going to wait passively for millions of years before evolution offers him a better brain.” It was in1972 that he actually coined the word nootropic. According to Dr. Giurgea, there were certain things to expect from a nootropic.
- It should enhance the brain’s neurological function, even in the face of previously learned behaviors, shock treatment, and hypoxia.
- It should have extremely low toxicity and should protect the brain from injuries due to internal chemical toxins.
- It should increase the efficiency of cortical and subcortical control mechanisms.
- It should not impair motor function.
- It should not possess sedative qualities.
- It must have very few if any, side effects.
- It should enhance memory and learning ability.
In as recently as 2008, the most commonly used class of drug for improving cognitive behavior was stimulants, such as caffeine, which is found in coffee, tea, and colas. In 2015 the demand for these types of products exploded worldwide. International sales of mind-enhancing substances for conditions unrelated to medical uses exceeded one billion dollars. As of 2018, there are far many more substances being used to improve mental performance.
Because of the wide variety of nootropics readily available with and without medical prescription, there has been a great deal of controversy and debate surrounding the ethical use of nootropics, possible adverse side-effects, and whether nootropics for nonmedical uses, such as marijuana, should be prescribed.
Synthetic nootropics are known as Racetams, such as Aniracetam, Oxiracetam, Piracetam, Phenylpiracetam, and Pramiracetam and all share a similar chemical structure. They are often marketed as “smart drugs” (cognitive enhancers) and sold over-the-counter. However, they are not entirely understood. Some nootropics are made from natural substances, such as L-Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, and natural extracts made from medicinal plants, which are also sold over-the-counter as mind-enhancing supplements, which has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. Both synthetic and natural nootropics do appear to have substantiated reports as to their overall effectiveness.
So, are nootropics addictive? Yes and no. According to Dr. Giurgea, a true nootropic is not addictive, with the exception of caffeine, which when used periodically causes no ill effects other than becoming a little jittery directly after use, but can cause a headache and irritability when, after consuming regularly, one stops cold-turkey. Of the types of nootropics Dr. Giurgea is referring to, caffeine is the one a physical withdrawal might be expected to occur from. There can, however, be psychological withdrawals from nootropics when they are depended upon daily to accomplish mental tasks.
The problem lies in that the expectations Dr. Giurgea held for nootropics are no longer being adhered to and some nootropics on the market contain potentially dangerous compounds even though the manufacturers deem all of the ingredients to be safe. Take, for example, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), which is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands that help to produce other hormones in the body. DHEA isn’t a harmful ingredient in its own right. However, it can be harmful to the person who has “brain fog” due to cancer treatments, as DHEA feeds cancer tumors. So, the problem really lies in consumers not being aware or informed of the roles nootropics play in the body, especially when it comes to stacked compounds (more than one ingredient). Because of this, there can be side-effects to particular nootropics on the market today based on certain risk factors.
Some of these negative risk factors include:
- No GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) or unsanitary manufacturing conditions that pose the risk of contaminants (choose reputable vendors).
- Poor quality of ingredients (poor quality herbs, incorrect dosage, low-quality vitamins, or synthetic ingredients that are not easily absorbed and cause digestive complaints).
- Improper stacking (ie., an unsafe combination of nootropics included in a single product or a consumer using more than one product at a time).
- Lack of substantiated usage (no studies or no human studies, no cultural history, etc.).
- Unclean delivery forms. Meaning, the addition of unsafe additives, such as gluten, soy, carrageenan, sugars, dairy products, artificial colors, and preservatives.
- Misuse of the nootropic by taking improper doses (taking too much, taking too often, stacking nootropics, etc.).
- The overlap of nootropics and diet pills, which normally contain caffeine, which some individuals are sensitive to.
- Natural ingredients found in supplements interacting negatively with prescription medications.
- Lifestyle and genetic factors, such as medications, diet, activity level.
Side-effects as a result of negative risk factors might include brain fog, headache, nervousness, moodiness, digestive upset, problems sleeping (falling asleep, staying asleep, etc.), strange or lucid dreams, fatigue, and lightheadedness or dizziness.
The list of nootropics is quite extensive. In fact, there are thousands of nootropics each with their own reportable advantages. The following alphabetized list of nootropics provides a brief description of nootropics that are widely available, known to have associated studies or backing data, or are known in cultures worldwide as being effective based on experience.
5-HTP (Hydroxytryptophan) is a by-product of the amino acid, L-Tryptophan, and a precursor to serotonin in the brain. 5-HTP is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and once converted into serotonin helps to improve sleep, mood, appetite, reduces anxiety and helps to controls panic attacks.
Acetyl L-Carnitine is a derivative of the amino acid, L-Lysine, which is produced in the kidneys and liver. Acetyl-L-Carnitine is able to cross the blood-brain barrier to boost brain metabolism and the energy of mitochondria. It also highly antioxidant and protects neurotransmitters. It boosts memory, alertness, and improves thought processes.
Alpha-GPC (Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine) is a precursor to acetylcholine, which plays a role in cognition, sleep, memory, and muscular control, and naturally found in the brain. Alpha GPC is able to cross the blood-brain barrier to boost acetylcholine levels to boost focus and learning ability. It also protects against age-related memory loss. Choline is an essential nutrient the body cannot make on its own that is required for cellular health. It is also the precursor to the neurotransmitter, Acetylcholine. Choline Citrate is a slightly more concentrated form of choline which is a combination of choline and a derivative of citric acid. It helps with cognition, improving concentration, memory, and recall, as well as muscle repair. It may also help to prevent Alzheimer’s. Citicoline, also known as CDP-Choline (Cytidine Diphosphate Choline) is a highly bioavailable source of choline that easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and converts to Uridine in the body. Choline Bitartrate is a weaker source of choline than Alpha GPC or CDP-Choline. Another type of “choline” is Phosphatidylcholine (PC) is a phospholipid. High concentrations of phospholipids are found in the brain and liver. Phosphatidylcholine helps to build and repair brain cells to prevent conditions such as Alzheimer’s. It helps to improve memory and recall, increase focus, and relieve brain fog.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a synthetic version of Lipoic Acid, which is necessary for cellular energy. ALA protects brain cells from free radical damage, boosts energy levels, and improves memory.
Amphetamines, such as Adderall, are medically prescribed. There can be severe side-effects to using Adderall, such as anxiety, sweating, and, when mixed with alcohol, heart attack. There is evidence that Adderall improves brain function and enhances mental performance and recall, and motivation to perform a task in healthy adults and those with ADHD as long as it is taken properly in low doses.
Aniracetam is a derivative of Piracetam and a bit more potent than Piracetam. Aniracetam is fat-soluble. Meaning, it can build up toxicity in the body when taking doses higher than suggested. Aniracetam helps to reduce anxiety and depression by activating Dopamine receptors in the brain and helps improve learning ability and memory and heighten perception. It does not appear to have any negative side-effects.
Artichoke Extract (Luteolin) helps to prevent the breakdown of relay messaging signals in the brain. The nootropic benefits of Artichoke Extract are mental alertness, wakefulness, and improved thought and memory.
Ashwagandha is an herb that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. It helps to balance blood sugar, increase insulin sensitivity and protect against inflammation, which causes brain fog. It boosts energy, concentration, and memory.
Bacopa Monnieri is an ancient herb used in Ayurvedic medicine to protect neurotransmitters against oxidative stress and enhance cognitive function by speeding up thought processes, reaction times, and improving memory in the brain. It is also used to reduce nervousness, anxiety, and depression states. It has been shown especially effective in treating ADHD. It can take several months for this herb to work.
Berberine is an alkaloid extracted from plants traditionally used in used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat diabetes, obesity, and conditions affecting cognitive function. It is reported to work just as well, if not better, than Metformin for treating diabetes. It increases over-all stamina and helps to prevent late afternoon energy crashes.
Blueberries contain a class of compounds called Anthocyanins which have been shown to increase learning capacity and protect the brain against aging.
Broccoli Sprouts contain Sulforaphane and are effective in alleviating problems associated with inflammation in the brain, such as poor memory. Sulforaphane also helps with symptoms of depression and autism.
Cacao comes from the bean of the Cacao tree and Cacao powder is at the base of all things made of chocolate, but Cacao is not chocolate. Cacao stimulates the release of Phenylethylamine (PEA) and Anandamide which boosts focus, awareness, and bliss. Cacao is a source of Tryptophan which is the precursor to Serotonin. It is also a source of Theobromine which increases blood flow in the brain.
Caffeine is the most widely accepted and consumed nootropic in the world. It’s naturally found in coffee and tea and is used in carbonated beverages and listed as an ingredient in medications. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors in the brain relieving fatigue and increasing alertness and mental focus. Studies show regular use of caffeine may help to prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Because caffeine positively influences receptors in the brain involving GABA, dopamine, and serotonin it elevates the mood in a positive way.
Cannabidiol (CBD Oil) is extracted from the Cannabis plant but without the main plant compound THC (Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol). In other words, there is no “high” to be gained from CBD Oil, which works well for pain, anxiety, depression, neurodegenerative issues, and even schizophrenia. CBD oil also works against inflammation and oxidative stress in the body and the brain which contributes toward improved cognition.
Cat’s Claw (Uncaria Tomentosa) is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant herb that support the repair of DNA and encourages normal cell division. It has been used to improve circulation in the brain, prevent inflammation, and prevent the formation of amyloid plaques that contribute toward Alzheimer’s, which supports healthy cognition.
Centrophenoxine is a natural chemical occurring in the body and a precursor to acetylcholine in the brain. It’s a water-soluble derivative of DMAE that, once metabolized by the liver, can cross the blood-brain barrier. It boosts cognition, memory, and mood. In Europe, it is marketed as a prescription medication named Lucidril for treating ADHD and Alzheimer’s.
Coconut oil is extracted from the Coconut Palm (Cocos Nucifera). The antioxidants in Coconut oil help to protect the brain from oxidative stress. Coconut oil helps to produce Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). ATP fuels mitochondria throughout the body and brain, which improves alertness and memory. Coconut oil also helps to increase serotonin, which serves to relieve stress and improve mood, and assists in preventing Alzheimer’s.
Coluracetam is one of the newer racetams on the market. It works to enhance cognition, focus, concentration, and memory as well as to treat anxiety disorders. It also seems to have a stimulant effect which improves mood and motivation. It is slightly stimulating.
Coffee (or, rather, the caffeine in it) blocks the activity of Adenosine, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain that reduces mental stamina and causes drowsiness. Coffee has been proven to help reduce inflammation, enhance cognition and to increase alertness and concentration. It is a widely used nootropic and may help to fight against Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Green Coffee Bean Extract is the preferred method of nootropics-coffee intake, being a more effective, pre-roasted version of the coffee bean and antioxidant.
Creatine is best known for promoting muscle growth but is also beneficial for the brain. Creatine is an amino acid made by the liver that acts as fuel for the cells in the body. As a supplement, it is delivered straight to the muscles for instant energy and performance. It helps to increase energy, reduce stress, improve both cognition and short-term memory, and is anti-aging.
Dark Chocolate contains flavanols (a type of polyphenol) and has the ability to increase blood flow to the brain, is associated with improving cognitive functions, such as reasoning ability, performing well on tests, improving memory and recall, as well as improving overall mood.
Dark Leafy Greens are a top source of Lutein and Zeaxanthin, two carotenoids which have the ability to speed up mental performance. Best sources are Kale and Spinach.
DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) is a steroid hormone that declines as the body ages. Supplementing with DHEA often increase cognition and motivation, provide an overall sense of well-being and relieve fatigue and depression. However, prolonged elevation of DHEA can cause gynecomastia and increased abdominal fat in men.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil helps to reduce oxidative stress by boosting levels of glutathione, which improves cognition and helps to correct learning deficits.
Fatty Fish are rich in Omega-3s, which promote optimal function of the brain. Of the fats found in fish, it is DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which helps to maintain healthy neuronal membranes and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) that is known for is a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. Both help to prevent and combat ADD, obesity, anxiety, and depression. Also, both wild salmon and shellfish contain a compound called Astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant that protects the brains cells and promotes the growth of nerve tissue.
Ginkgo Biloba has been used since ancient times to improve the overall function of the brain. It helps to improve blood flow, boost alertness and cognition, and reduce stress and anxiety. It may also work to improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Ginseng (Panex Ginseng) is a medicinal plant with strong anti-inflammatory properties that has been used since ancient times to relieve anxiety and to improve focus, concentration, and memory. It also boosts stamina and endurance, which is probably why individuals over the age of 40 seem to reap the most benefit from using it. Studies show the body can adapt to Ginseng over time making it less and less effective. Siberian Ginseng is a different strain, even a different scientific name, but far more effective.
Gotu Kola (Centella Asiatica) is an herb popularly used in Ayurveda medicine. Clinical trials show Gotu Kola extract can promote cell growth in the brain. It also improves circulation, relieves anxiety, and promotes longevity.
Green Tea is known for its Catechin and L-Theanine content. Catechins are flavanols which seem to promote healthy brain function, while L-Theanine promotes relaxation without causing sleepiness or fatigue. It is high in antioxidants and helps to protect the brain from oxidation. Green tea helps with memory and recall.
Guarana Extract is typically used for its natural energy production. It metabolizes in the body as natural caffeine, making it invaluable in many nootropics stacks and supplements.
Huperzine-A (Chinese Club Moss) boosts levels of acetylcholine in the brain. It enhances cognition, helps to improve memory, and can cause lucid dreaming.
Kava Kava (Piper Methysticum) is a plant Pacific Islanders have used for hundreds of years for reducing anxiety and panic attacks, promoting a sense of well-being, and improving mood.
L-Dopa (L-3, 4-Dihydroxyphenylalanine), also known as Mucuna Pruriens, is a precursor to the formation of dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine in the brain. It is synthesized from the amino acid, L-Tyrosine. L-dopa easily crosses the blood-brain barrier helping to increase Human Growth Hormone (HGH) levels, enhance memory and learning retention, and preventing Parkinson’s.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) contains Rosmarinic acid, a compound that inhibits the GABA transaminase enzyme, which helps to maintain adequate levels of GABA in the brain, resulting in a calmer mood. Lemon balm is most commonly used for stress relief and reduction of panic attacks. It encourages a good night’s sleep.
L-Cysteine (NAC) is an amino acid that regulates the amount of dopamine and glutamate in the brain and is the precursor to glutathione, which reduces free radicals in the brain. It and has the ability to help remove toxins from the brain, such as chemicals and heavy metals, and is used to treat Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, and depression.
L-Glutamine increases the effectiveness and activity of neurotransmitters in the brain by boosting glutamic acid and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and helps to improve cognition, focus, mental stamina, and retention. L-glutamine also helps detoxify the brain, which reduces overall stress.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom has been used for centuries and has been deemed safe and tolerable for increasing cognitive performance with minimal side-effects. It helps to prevent nerve cell damage, repair brain cells, and boost cellular growth (neurogenesis). Lion’s Mane helps to relieve anxiety and depression and to help prevent, manage, and improve dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Muscular dystrophy.
Lithium Orotate is a trace mineral required for healthy cognition that consists of Orotic Acid (produced naturally in the body) and an alkali metal. It has been used for centuries to treat a wide variety of mental conditions. Available as a dietary supplement, Lithium stimulates the growth and repair of all cells in the brain from all types of injuries and affronts, protects against toxins, and calms norepinephrine receptors, which prevent severe mood swings and improve cognitive stability.
L-Theanine is an amino acid that works quickly to increase dopamine and serotonin in the brain. It naturally occurs in the body, but can also be found in tea and can be taken as a supplement. L-Theanine increases creativity, cognitive performance in regard to focus and attention, feelings of calm alertness. It is even more effective when combined with caffeine and tends to reduce the chance of “coffee jitters”.
L-Tyrosine (NALT) is an amino acid that is directly involved in creating dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine in the brain. L-Tyrosine is a precursor to Thyroxin (a thyroid hormone) and plays a role in the creation and regulation of adrenal and pituitary hormones. It also helps to improve mood and concentration, sharpen memory, relieve anxiety, and protect the nerve cells of the brain from neurotoxins. It also works, as well as amphetamines, for treating ADHD.
Magnesium is a mineral that supports the plasticity of synapses in the brain and, thus, helps to prevent brain fog, anxiety, and depression. Magnesium helps improve memory and cognition. However, the only form of Magnesium that appears to be able to cross the blood-brain barrier is Magnesium-L-Threonate, which enhances brain receptors and is recommended for nootropic use.
Methylene Blue was the first synthetic “smart drug” ever developed and was used to treat malaria in 1891. Methylene Blue is a potent antioxidant that increases cellular oxygen and inhibits oxidative stress in the brain. It helps to create intercellular energy (ATP) and boosts serotonin and acetylcholine in the brain by way of inhibiting Monoamine Oxidase (MAOI) and Acetylcholinesterase activity. Methylene Blue helps to increase cognitive function, relieve anxiety and depression, and to increase overall energy.
Methylphenidate (Ritalin) is a prescription drug used to manage symptoms of narcolepsy and ADHD. It is similar to Adderall in that it increases dopamine and noradrenaline in the brain, but without amphetamines. Methylphenidate improves focus, short-term memory, and processing speed. It has a host of negative side-effects when taken in too high of a dose.
Modafinal is sold under the brand name Provigil and is a prescription drug used to treat narcolepsy. Studies show that Modafinil improves memory and alertness. It significantly reduces fatigue, enhances cognition and task management. It also helps youths with ADHD. However, it does not help mood or motivation in sleep-deprived individuals.
NADH (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide + Hydrogen) is a coenzyme related to the Vitamin B family that is used in forming the production of dopamine, norepinephrine, and intracellular energy (ATP). High levels of NADH are found in the brain. However, levels decline with age. Healthy levels of NADH boost cognition, alertness, memory, and energy.
Nefiracetam is one of the newer nootropics in the racetam family of nootropics. Nefiracetam is structurally similar to Aniracetam, but much more potent. It is fat-soluble and easily crosses the blood-brain barrier to protect the cells of the brain, boost memory and recall, relieve severe depression, and prevent seizures.
Nicotine is a naturally occurring chemical found in plants, namely tobacco. Studies show nicotine can help to boosts dopamine levels in the brain, which is why it is particularly effective in treating Parkinson’s, Tourette’s, schizophrenia, and other neurological disorders. It can treat ADD/ADHD, improve motor function, and boost alertness.
Noopept is a synthetic “smart drug” supplement related to the racetam family that works within minutes to enhance mental clarity by boosting a compound in the brain, Brain Nerve Growth Factor (BNGF), which promotes the growth of brain cells. Noopept also appears to stimulate dopamine, serotonin and nicotinic receptors in the brain, which increases logical thinking, memory, and retention and improves cognitive reflex. Research suggests Noopept helps people recover from brain injuries more quickly, but more study is necessary to determine what it does for the healthy brain.
Oat Straw (Avena Sativa) comes from green Oat Grass that stimulates testosterone production. It is an MAO-B inhibitor and increases dopamine levels in the brain. Oat Straw helps improve cognition, focus, and concentration.
Oxiracetam is a member of the racetam family and is more potent than Piracetam, but not as potent as the Russian version of Piracetam. Oxiracetam stimulates the use of acetylcholine use in the brain and helps to boost cognition, focus, memory, mental agility.
Phenibut is an anti-anxiety medication developed and prescribed in Russia in the 1960s, which binds to GABA receptors and has a sedating effect. Phenibut is known to relieve depression, improve mood and motivation, and increase cognitive function. It also helps to relieve insomnia and fatigue, reduce tension related to stress, and correct irregular heartbeat.
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is produced in the brain and found most highly concentrated in cell walls. Phosphatidylserine helps in all cellular activities to do with the storage, release, and activity of neurotransmitters and receptors. Phosphatidylserine helps to boost focus, memory, recall, and overall cognition. Phosphatidylserine production declines in the body as a result of aging. Supplementation with Lecithin can help to reverse this.
Picamilon (Nicotinyl-Y-Aminobutyric Acid) was developed in The Soviet Union and is a combination of Vitamin B3 (Niacin) and GABA. Once in the body, Picamilon divides into Niacin and GABA and produces a calming effect, due to blood vessel dilation. It works similarly to Phenibut and helps to improve concentration, memory, and mood.
Piracetam is the first racetam ever developed by Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea, which affects learning and memory processes in the brain. Piracetam encourages certain receptors in the brain to be more sensitive to acetylcholine and, as a result, increases focus, learning, and recall ability. Piracetam also protects neurons in the brain. However, there does not appear to be any backing to support these findings in healthy adults. The Russian derivative of Piracetam, which is estimated to be several more times potent was created by adding an extra molecule from the Phenyl group. It easily crosses the blood-brain barrier, is fast-acting, and is proven to support these claims, as well as other health benefits, including relieving epileptic seizures.
PQQ (Pyrroloquinoline Quinone) is the only nutrient proven to facilitate the growth of new mitochondria in your brain cells. It promotes neuroplasticity and assists in the development of connections necessary for learning and memory. It also reduces oxidative stress and inflammation, and improves learning and memory.
Phenylalanine is an amino acid that is not produced in the body and must be obtained through foods or supplements. It easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and assists in producing the amino acid, L-Tyrosine, which helps in the formation of dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and melatonin. As a nootropic, Phenylalanine helps to improve mood, focus, and motivation, increase energy, relieves anxiety. It also helps to alleviate chronic pain and manage symptoms of ADHD and Parkinson’s.
Pramiracetam is included in the racetam family and said to be several times more potent than Piracetam. Pramiracetam is a fat-soluble nootropic and highly bio-available. It is thought to increase acetylcholine receptors in the brain. Pramiracetam stimulates choline uptake in the brain, improves memory and verbal recall. Because it is fat-soluble it can build up in the body and should be taken as directed to avoid toxicity.
Resveratrol is an antioxidant found in the skin of grapes. Studies show it can improve blood flow in the brain, enhance cognition, increase learning ability, and improve memory. It specifically works to protect the cells in the hippocampus section of the brain.
Saint John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) has been used for hundreds of years for treating mood disorders, especially anxiety and depression. St John’s Wort easily crosses the blood-brain barrier to prevent or, at the very least, slow down the uptake of serotonin. Saint John’s Wort may be “stacked” with others, but it may best be used alone as it can negate the effect of any other nootropics being taken at the same time. Saint John’s Wort does cause photosensitivity and certain foods should not be eaten while taking it to avoid nausea. Just one more word of caution: St. John’s Wort can render oral contraceptives less effective.
SAM-e (S-Adenosyl Methionine) is a naturally occurring compound in the body that helps to generate the neurotransmitters dopamine, melatonin, norepinephrine, and serotonin. It also assists in the process of cell division and repair. SAM-e is used to improve energy levels and mood, relieve depression, and relieve myalgias.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and precursor to Melatonin, Niacin (B3) and Serotonin. Tryptophan is easily found in foods. However, taking an L-Tryptophan supplement may prove to work better at increasing serotonin levels. Tryptophan improves memory and mood in general and works well to relieve anxiety, depression, insomnia, ADD/ADHD.
Turmeric is well known for its anti-inflammatory compounds. However, it also helps to improve memory in those who are prediabetic, helps to relieve depression, and fights off Alzheimer’s by breaking apart the brain plaques that cause the disease.
Ubiquinol is a version of Coenzyme Q10 that is highly bioavailable and easily crosses the blood-brain barrier. As a nootropic, it fuels mitochondria in the body’s cells by producing Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), protects against free radical damage, and battles fatigue and depression.
Uridine Monophosphate (Uridylic Acid) is a precursor to Ribonucleic Acid (RNA), which helps to facilitate connections between brain synapses (neurons). As the body ages, RNA levels decrease. Uridine Monophosphate as a nootropic that can cross the blood-brain barrier to work against aging to improve memory function.
Vinpocetine is derived from the Periwinkle plant that easily crosses the blood-brain barrier to enhance blood flow to the brain by, both, dilating blood vessels and thinning the blood. Better blood flow promotes higher brain oxygen levels for better memory, concentration, and focus.
Vitamin B-3 (Niacin or Nicotinic Acid) supports chemical reactions in the body, including acetylcholine production and cellular energy production. It is the only B vitamin that can be synthesized in the liver from the amino acid, Tryptophan. Niacin can help to improve memory, including senility issues. It also promotes sleep.
Vitamin B-5 (Pantothenic Acid) helps to synthesize coenzyme-A for the production of the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine. Vitamin B5 must come from, either, diet or supplements as the body cannot make Vitamin B-5 on its own. Vitamin B-5 helps to support fatty acid synthesis and cellular energy production in the body and the brain. As a nootropic, Vitamin B-5 helps to reduce brain fog and confusion and to increase focus, learning, and memory.
Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine) helps the body to absorb B-12 and aides in the production of melatonin, serotonin, and norepinephrine. It also helps to control homocysteine levels in the blood, which are associated with heart disease. Vitamin B-6 helps to balance mood, concentration, and memory loss.
Vitamin B-8 (Inositol) can boost serotonin levels which lends toward feelings of calm. It helps to increase mental energy and promote thought flow. Vitamin B8 supports synaptic messages throughout the entire body and brain and helps to correct anxiety and compulsive disorders.
Vitamin B-9 (Folate) helps to make serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, which are all crucial for healthy brain function. It assists in the synthesis of DNA, RNA and SAMe. Vitamin B-9 is also involved in repairing the myelin sheath, the protective layer that covers and protects nerves in the body and brain.
Vitamin B-12 (Cobalamin) helps to convert fatty acids into energy. However, as the body ages, it becomes more and more difficult to absorb vitamin B-12. Therefore, it may become necessary to take a supplement. Cobalamin helps with concentration, memory, energy production, mood, depression, Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Vitamin D-3 is a fat-soluble form of Vitamin D and crucial for the synthesis of dopamine, GABA, glutamine, and glutamate. It is directly involved in the regulation of brain development early in life regarding memory formation and retrieval. Vitamin D-3 protects the brain from DNA damage and prevents oxidative damage to DNA. The skin normally synthesizes Vitamin D-3 from ultraviolet-B (UVB) sunlight. However, in colder climates and countries located further away from the equator sunlight may not be enough to maintain optimal levels in the body. Vitamin D is most known for promoting energy and a more positive outlook. It is often used for relieving depression.
Water is necessary for preventing dehydration. Dehydration affects cognitive function negatively. Drinking an ample amount of water daily has been proven to improve energy levels, thought processing, and mood.
Zinc is an essential trace element required for optimal brain health and memory formation. Zinc helps to create neurotransmitters, as well as to improve the efficiency of neurons and neurotransmitters. It protects the body and brain from oxidative stress. Zinc is involved in DNA repair, helps to relieve depression, and improve memory.
Consumers credit the following nootropics as working the most successfully.
- Amphetamines (Adderall; a prescription drug)
- Bacopa Monnieri (an ancient herb)
- Caffeine (stimulant found in coffee, teas, and chocolates)
- Creatine (an amino acid)
- Ginkgo Biloba (an extract from the leaves of the Ginkgo tree)
- Huperzine A (comes from a Chinese moss)
- L-Theanine (an amino acid)
- Maca root
- Noopept (a synthetic “smart drug”)
- Nicotine (a naturally occurring plant chemical found in tobacco and other plants)
- Methylphenidate (Ritalin; a prescription drug)
- Modafinil (a prescription drug)
- Phenotropil (a “smart drug”)
- Piracetam (a “smart drug”)
- Rhodiola Rosea (an adaptogenic herb)
- Panax Ginseng (an ancient medicinal plant)
- Yohimbe (energy)
As neuroscientists are only just beginning to understand the process of brain enhancement as it applies to cognitive function, it is still recommended to take care in choosing which nootropics are included in any nootropics stack. In the end, there does appear to be a genuine health benefit to using nootropics for enhancing mental clarity, mood, creativity, memory and learning.
Human head with the brain and pills. [ID 91205537 © Ivan Trifonenko | Dreamstime.com]
Ball-and-stick model of the 5-hydroxytryptophan molecule. [By Jynto – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:5-Hydroxy-L-tryptophan-3D-balls.png]
CBD oil cannabis extract. [ID 127860546 © Olga Volkovaia | Dreamstime.com]
Lion s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus). [ID 68271543 © Nikolai Kurzenko | Dreamstime.com]
ginseng root. [ID 28143328 © Kooslin | Dreamstime.com]
Ball-and-stick model of piracetam molecule. [By MarinaVladivostok – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Piracetam_ball-and-stick.png]
Ability of the mind. [ID 85567624 © Nataliia Mysik | Dreamstime.com]