A few years ago, “smart drugs” seemed like science fiction. Today, it’s a reality, and more people are turning to nootropic supplements to boost performance and promote overall brain health.
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In this article:
Nootropic Uses and Benefits
What Is a Nootropic?
Nootropic supplements or “smart pills” may support brain health and improve mental performance.
Dr. Giurgea, a Romanian psychologist and chemist, coined the term in 1972. His original criteria for nootropics included six features:
- Improve the capacity to learn and remember new information
- Supports brain health
- Protects brain cells
- Facilitate processing and cell-to-cell communication
- Enhance focus and attention
- Safe to use regularly (minimum side effects)
According to this nootropic definition, only a few supplements qualify. But, as science evolved, new criteria developed to include supplements that help the brain in any way. As a result, there’s a long list of nootropic supplements, but not all nootropics are created equal.
For example, amphetamines, such as Ritalin, are considered a nootropic according to the present criteria. However, it may cause adverse side effects, so some argue that it’s not a nootropic. Instead, it’s a cognitive enhancer.
Types of Nootropics
Films such as Limitless and Lucy often depict nootropics as synthetic compounds, but nootropics can come from natural sources as well.
Piracetam was one of the first synthetic nootropics on the market and paved the way for new racetams. Besides increasing blood flow, researchers think racetams makes it easier for cells to send and receive signals.
Wakefulness-promoting drugs called eugeroics may improve brain function, elevate mood, and reduce fatigue.
Botanicals are among the more popular nootropic ingredients. Two of the better-known brain-enhancing herbs are Bacopa Monnieri and Lion’s Mane Mushroom.
Adaptogens help the body adapt to stress and stabilize the effect of stress on bodily processes. One example is ginseng.
Essential Vitamins and Minerals
Essential nutrients are vital for biological processes, including brain function. B-vitamins, for instance, are crucial for brain metabolism (energy) and blood circulation.
Phospholipids are a type of fat that facilitates brain cell growth and repair. Sources include soybeans, sunflower seeds, egg yolks, and animal organs.
The body uses choline to make fat and helps form the chemical acetylcholine. Since the brain is nearly 60% fat, choline may support brain repair and regeneration.
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine and L-Theanine are two amino acids that may mitigate brain burnout, promote relaxation, and reduce stress. Creatine is another well-known amino acid that may have brain benefits.
How Does Nootropics Work?
A nootropic enhances brain function by affecting the following brain pathways:
- Neurotransmitters – inhibit brain chemical breakdown, optimize the production, and sharpen receptor sensitivity.
- Brain blood flow – blood vessel support, increased oxygen and nutrient delivery to the brain.
- Brain energy – improve mitochondrial efficiency and fuel delivery.
- Protection – increase resistance to stress and harmful compounds such as free radicals.
- Regeneration – repair and maintain brain cells and promote brain plasticity.
- Brain waves – adjust frequencies to achieve the desired cognitive state.
Skilled biohackers combine various nootropics simultaneously to enhance the effects. Combining two or more nootropics is called a stack.
Increase Mental Energy
The brain consumes 20% of the body’s energy and places a significant demand on energy resources. Nootropics may optimize the way brain cells use energy and increase glucose and oxygen supplies.
As a result, the brain receives more fuel and uses it more efficiently.
What’s more, it gives your brain an energy boost without the use of stimulants like caffeine. In other words, it increases alertness, quick thinking, and mental agility without the side effect associated with stimulants.
Some activities, such as studying or work productivity, require mental endurance. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to maintain focus.
Nootropics may enhance the ability to focus on one task while ignoring environmental stimuli. Furthermore, it may promote mental flexibility (switching between tasks) and improve multitasking.
Mood swings and anxiety can affect performance, memory, and quality of life. Some nootropic supplements seem to stabilize mood and reduce feelings of anxiety. Others, like L-Theanine, modulate Alpha brainwaves, which promotes relaxed alertness.
Memory loss is mostly associated with old age. However, memory-enhancing nootropics may improve memory regardless of age.
Research suggests creatine, an amino acid, may aid short-term memory in healthy individuals. According to another study, Bacopa Monnieri improves signaling in the hippocampus, an area in the brain that processes memories.
Improved Sleep Quality
Sleep deprivation leads to poor concentration and memory, weight gain, and an increased risk of heart disease.
Nootropic supplements may promote restorative, high-quality sleep.
Lower Stress Levels
Nootropics may reduce stress in various ways.
First, it increases the body’s resistance to stress and replenish brain chemicals. It also promotes relaxation. Furthermore, improved performance results in less pressure.
Adaptogens like Bacopa Monnieri and Rhodiola Rosea may be particularly beneficial to help the brain resist the effect of stress.
Whether natural or synthetic, nootropic supplements may offer cognitive benefits. Additionally, improved brain health may enhance virtually every aspect of your life.
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