Where Do Nootropics Come From

About Nootropics and Their Origin

Edited and Published by Wellness Stacie

About Dr. Corneliu E Giurgea

To understand where Nootropics come from, one first needs to understand the definition of a nootropic. Nootropics, pronounced as nōəˈträpik, is a term used for a specific class of chemicals, whether man-made or naturally occurring, that give cognitive benefits to the human brain (SmartDrugSmarts.com). Nootropics were first created by a scientist named Corneliu E Giurgea in 1972. The first known Nootropic created by Dr. Giurgea was Piracetam, reportedly created to be used for epilepsy (Wikipedia.org). This was the first in a long line Nootropics to be created.

To be classified as a Nootropic, Dr. Giurgea set up five specific criteria needed for researchers to be able to successfully classify their discovery as a Nootropic.

  • The drug must enhance memory and learning
  • The drug must improve the way the brain operates under disruptive conditions
  • It must protect the brain from physical or chemical injuries
  • It will improve the function of cortical/subcortical (outer layer of the cerebrum and below the cortex) control mechanisms
  • It lacks conventional pharmacology of psychotropic drugs, and possesses little or no side effects.

Essentially, the drug must improve brain function without causing any toxic side effects.

Nootropics as they are known today would be unrecognizable when they were initially created in the 1960’s, though they still meet the same criteria. But still, and as an example: Dr. Giurgea initially created the drug Piracetam to treat motion sickness. Piracetam was then tested for memory enhancements. This was when Dr. Giurgea named the drugs “Nootropic”. It is derived from the Greek terms “nous” meaning “mind” and the term “trepein” which means “bend”. The drugs were able to bend the mind (PureNootropics.net).

The term “Smart Drug” can be slightly misleading, as the word “drug” is frequently associated with a prescription, narcotic or illicit substance. The term “Nootropics” can sometimes be used interchangeably with the term “Smart Drug,” creating further confusion. However, just because a substance is a nootropic, does not mean that the substance is illegal (or even controlled). In fact, many nootropics are sold under the label of a “dietary supplement” and remain legally available in the United States. It is not against the law to own or consume Nootropics anywhere in the US (less for synthetic nootropics that are considered prescription-only substances).

Who Uses Nootropics?

The most commonly used Nootropics are those that act as stimulants, such as caffeine. Though there are many dietary supplements which utilize a number of nootropics (both synthetic and natural) (Wikipedia.org). Caffeine naturally occurs in the coffee bean and some tea leaves. Those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may seek medical assistance with treating their symptoms with either stimulant dimethylamylamine and/or methylphenidate.

Nootropics are most commonly used by students, professionals or entrepreneurs since they are often used to enhance the brain. These types of people are looking for enhanced focus, attention span and information retention. They want to stay awake longer and in peak performance. The range of drugs that fall into the category of Nootropics can include anything from caffeine and Omega-3 fatty acids (both over the counter) to Adderall, which is highly regulated. Adderall prescriptions can be found by the boatload throughout college campuses. Students often turn to drugs like Adderall, as they are frequently looking for ways to improve concentration and attain better grades.

Common Natural and Synthetic Nootropics

model of nootropic L-Theanine

One may be surprised to learn some of the most popular Nootropics. As mentioned previously, the most commonly known Nootropic is caffeine for its ability to increase alertness and attention. L-Theanine is another commonly used Nootropic. This one naturally occurs in the amino acids found in tea. It increases the feeling of calmness one may find after having a cup of tea. A popular body building supplement contains Creatine, found in amino acid. Bacopa monnieri is an herbal supplement shown to improve memory and information processing. And last, Rhodiola Rosea is another herb which may help the body to adapt to periods of high stress and assist in reducing mental fatigue (Healthline.com).

Other popular nootropics include Huperzine A, Green Coffee Bean Extract, Guarana Extract, and Maca Extract. These are all naturally occurring examples of Nootropics. This means they were not synthesized by man, despite being chemically extracted from a plant in a lab.

Piracetam (mentioned at the beginning of this article) is known as the first Nootropic, but also is a synthetic and created in a lab. Another example, Aniracetam, is used to boost memory and mood. Oxiracetam is considered an improvement to Piracetam and improves memory, attention span and concentration. Pramiracetam is most commonly used in medications such as Ritalin for ADHD. Many ADHD medications are considered synthetic Nootropics. Though synthetic nootropics may be equal in efficacy to naturally occurring Nootropics, many people seem to prefer to use natural nootropics over man-made one options.

Conclusion: Everywhere and Anywhere

Between the lab and earth itself, Nootropics come from everywhere and anywhere. From the cocoa bean to tea leaves, to the lab, they all have one thing in common: nootropics enhance the brain. They offer the ability to enhance thinking, concentration, information retention, and so many other improvements to cognitive function. Whether one prefers natural or man-made nootropics, the options are nearly limitless.


SmartDrugSmart.com [https://smartdrugsmarts.com/faq/nootropics/]

Wikipedia: Piracetam [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piracetam]

Wikipedia: Nootropic [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nootropic]

PureNootropics.com [https://www.purenootropics.net/general-nootropics/history-of-nootropics/]

Healthline.com [https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/nootropics#section5]

Photo Credits:

Nootropics in Hand [ID 126477276 © Irinayeryomina | Dreamstime.com]

L-Theanine Model [By Ed (Edgar181) – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68772947]