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What Are Nootropics? An Overview

6 Mins read

Nootropics are most commonly known as brain-boosting supplements. Although these capsules can work wonders for your brain function, many of them are completely plant-based and all-natural. 

So, what if you can pop a pill to boost your mental capacity and fight brain fog? That could certainly come in handy when you have a large to-do list, a test to ace, a presentation for clients to nail, or you’re concerned about your lack of mental alertness. It is indeed very appealing to take nootropics (also known as cognitive enhancers) because of their ability to boost your brainpower.  

Some people refer to nootropics as smart drugs, which is apt because they supposedly increase your cognitive abilities. Today, brain boosters such as Limitless Life’s supplements are trending on social media. They are a blend of organic, brain-enhancing ingredients that are specifically formulated to support your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. For instance, Limitless Life’s KATY brand is a mood-boosting capsule that triggers dopamine and serotonin production to magnify your experiences. You could take a capsule and feel positive, optimistic, and motivated, in spite of life’s stressors.  

With the proliferation of prescription and over-the-counter nootropics, you can’t help but wonder how truly safe these products are. Will they actually work to enhance your mental prowess and fight mental fatigue? Are they safe for the body or will they result in side effects? When the ingredients are all organic and plant-based brain enhancing ingredients, does that mean they’re safe to take regularly? If you’re interested to learn more about nootropics, let’s dive in:

What Exactly Are Nootropics?

The term ‘nootropics’ was coined by a Romanian neuroscientist, Corneliu Giurgea, in 1972. He believed that these ‘smart pills’ should be produced and made available to the public to boost brain power, improve the mood, and increase both productivity and intelligence. Since then, these smart drugs have been available to people for supplementation. 

Technically speaking, nootropics are natural or synthetic substances that may have the power to amplify brain performance. They potentially have the capability of having a positive influence on your mental skills, cognitive abilities, mood and well-being. In general, nootropics fall under these categories:

  • Dietary supplements 
  • Natural and plant-based products
  • Prescription drugs
  • Synthetic compounds

Although they may differ in composition, these substances share the commonality of having the possibility of increasing an individual’s mental function. Research suggests that nootropics can enhance cognition, resulting in better memory, focus, attention, creativity, motivation, and performance.

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Nootropics and ADHD: Do Nootropics Help You Focus?

There are both prescription and non-prescription forms of nootropics. Both are said to be good for those with ADHD, as they can help you focus.

Prescription nootropics include ADHD medication such as Adderall or Ritalin. This should only be taken after careful review with your doctor and an accurate diagnosis of ADHD.

Non-prescription, all-natural, plant-based nootropics can be a good option for those who have trouble focusing or have low energy, but haven’t been officially diagnosed with ADHD. L-theanine, for example, is an essential amino acid commonly found in green tea. It’s a natural nootropic because it increases the brain’s alpha waves which contributes to a relaxed, yet focused and alert mental state. L-theanine is taken by many people in capsule form as a brain-boosting wellness supplement. 

Many people report that nootropics help them focus, and help them be more productive.

Popular Branded Nootropics

The grinding, fast-paced modern lifestyle has resulted in mental fatigue and stress. For this reason, companies have been inspired to utilize the above brain-boosting nootropics and combine them into multi-ingredient pills to offer even better cognitive benefits. You will find various formulations to improve productivity, memory recall, focus, learning, attention span, and overall brain activity. Below are three of the popular nootropics brands on the market today:

Mind Lab Pro

This is one of the most popular OTC nootropics today, with its catchy tagline: 100% Brainpower! They promise to unlock your brain’s full potential, whether you’re a senior citizen or pro athlete. This supplement targets all of your brain’s cognitive areas, unlike other nootropics which supposedly only address 2 or 3 brain pathways. It also prevents oxidative stress with 11 brain-boosting ingredients like CDP choline, l-theanine, B-vitamins, etc. It doesn’t merely reduce brain fog but it mitigates oxidative stress, which results in damaged brain cells. The recommended dosage is 2 to 4 capsules per day. It makes sense to try it, because they offer a 100% money-back guarantee.

Performance Lab Mind

Pulling an all-nighter for work? This nootropics brand is known for supporting brain recovery and helping you bounce back after immense pressure and stress. It helps by restoring brain chemicals that get depleted during times of mental exertion. This is designed to give you an edge so you can be at your best and brightest for whatever occasion. Its claim to fame is that it doesn’t contain any caffeine, but you get brain-boosting benefits from CDP choline, phosphatidylserine, l-tyrosine, and maritime pine bark extract. One capsule on an empty stomach is enough to give you dynamic brainpower to prevent burnout, brain fog, and stress. 

Noocube

If you’re desperate to improve your mental processing speed, mental energy, memory retention, and concentration, Noocube is slated to help your mind achieve the best results. This brand pledges to “upgrade your brain,” with many happy customers sharing that the pills work. It combines 7 potent ingredients from l-theanine to cat’s claw to boost brain function within 30 minutes of drinking the pill. The recommended dosage is 2 capsules per day. This brand provides free shipping if you order more than a 1-month supply. Best of all, you can try it risk-free because they offer a 60-day money-back guarantee. 

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What Research Says About the Efficacy of Nootropics

There are conflicting results when it comes to the efficacy of nootropics. Barry Gordon, both an MD and Ph.D., serving as the director of cognitive neurology and neuropsychology department at Johns Hopkins states there is “no strong evidence” that any of these brain-boosting supplements are helpful. Their efficacy and safety are not proven. He remains skeptical about the supposed benefits of nootropics because the brain circuitry that involves cognition is complex and not fully understood. Those who believe their mental performance peaked due to nootropics may be benefiting from a placebo effect, wherein you believe the pills are working so you naturally do better. 

On the other hand, Chris D’ Adamo, Ph.D., who serves as the research and education director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Integrative medicine holds a contrasting view. Though nootropics may not provide superhuman brain abilities, he notes that they can potentially offer people the edge they’re looking for. The right nootropics will complement good habits like getting sufficient sleep, mitigating stress, and eating a good diet. All of these combined can boost your performance and minimize your chances of cognitive decline that’s associated with the natural aging process. 

If you look up nootropics on platforms like Reddit or Quora, you’ll find plenty of testimonials of people who struggled with mood disorders, concentration issues, and fatigue who claim nootropics helped them.

Potential Side Effects of Nootropics to Consider 

Bear in mind, though there are studies on nootropics, they fail to take into consideration that every individual’s brain chemistry is unique. Hence, what may work for one person, may not be as successful for another. Moreover, be forewarned about taking many supplements in one go because most of these combinations have not been well-studied as the single-ingredient nootropics noted above. 

Another concern is that you can become tolerant to nootropics like caffeine. This means taking it daily means your body will need more milligrams to make it work. Moreover, the FDA doesn’t closely regulate nootropics like prescription medications, which are clinically tested. Thus, if you’re interested in venturing into nootropics, look for a reputable brand and do so with the guidance of your doctor. More importantly, listen to your body. Take note of the following side effects:

  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Tachycardia or fast heart rate
  • Insomnia (inability to fall asleep) and other sleeping disorders
  • Vision problems
  • Possible addiction or dependency
  • Higher risk of impulsive behavior 

If you notice any of the above, it would be wise to stop taking nootropics. Furthermore, if you don’t see any noticeable improvements within the expected timeframe, pause and reexamine your nootropics choice. 

Not everyone is a good fit for nootropics. For example, if you already have too much energy and you already have trouble sleeping, nootropics might not be a good fit. However, if you have low energy, nootropics might help you. 

Pay Attention to Details for the Best Results

Since nootropics vary a lot in composition, dosage may depend on the brand. For instance, naturally-derived nootropics like Ginkgo biloba or ginseng assure that individuals will not develop a tolerance so they’re relatively safe for daily use. Meanwhile, synthetic nootropics may lose their efficacy over time unless the dosage is increased. To ascertain you get maximum results, be mindful of these little details. 

If you’re thinking of taking nootropics, aside from speaking to your doctor and nutritionist, you may also want to consider taking a CircleDNA test to determine your genetic strengths and weaknesses. Your DNA test results can help you figure out if you might be a good fit for nootropic use. 

Team CircleDNA
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The editorial team behind CircleMagazine, dedicated to bringing you bite-size health tips, real-life health stories and the latest genetic-related findings at this digital health hub.
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