Nootropics are a relatively unknown supplement but one that could have a big impact in 2016. They are often referred to as “smart drugs” and anything with a headline like that will definitely grab the attention of many.
The word “nootropic” was first suggested in 1972 by pharmacologist Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea. The term nootropic is actually derived from two Greek words: “noos”, meaning “mind”, and “tropein”, meaning “towards” – so its actual meaning is “to turn towards the mind”.
Nootropics have been given this name due to their huge list of potential benefits including increased intelligence, motivation, concentration, focus, memory formation, attention, learning capacity, ability to recall complex information, clarity of mind and mood. With upsides like that who wouldn’t want to know more.
What Are Nootropics?
Nootropics haven’t really been given a conclusive definition, however most have agreed that for any substance to be considered as a nootropic they have to hit the qualifying criteria:
- Improve learning and memory, especially under conditions of impaired cognitive function
- Have no adverse side effects
- Have no detectable toxicity
- Increase the resistance of the brain to physical and chemical injuries
How Do Nootropics Work?
It’s not a case of popping a few pills and you IQ increasing by 50. However, the way they bring about their benefits is from increasing the production and signalling of neurotransmitters. Now to explain this properly, it is time for a bit of science…
Your brain is in essence a network of neurons (nerve cells making up the nervous system) connected by synapses (link between nerve cells). These neurons transfer information and work together through neurotransmitters. When these neurotransmitters are capable of sending signals more efficiently, you experience all the benefits of improved concentration, better memory, mood elevation, increased processing ability for mental work, and longer attention spans.
Do Nootropics Work?
With their continued supplementation, you can improve this process even further, causing long lasting improvement to the health and functioning of your brain. However other nootropics work in different ways. They bring about vasodilation which simply means they increase the blood flow to your brain. This provides your brain with more oxygen, nutrients, and glucose – glucose being the primary energy source used by the brain during sustained periods of focus and concentration.
By raising bloodflow and oxygen levels in the brain, you can instantly experience greater ability for memory and focus. This type of nootropic is especially favored with anyone studying as the effects are felt immediately.
Types of Nootropics
Next let’s look at the most common nootropics that are on the market today.
Racetam: The reason racetams work is they substantially increase the production of neurotransmitters and other chemicals that support proper brain function such as acetylcholine. They have been shown and tested to improve cognitive function, prevent damage to brain cells from alcohol consumption and even increase the communication between the two hemispheres of the brain.
Choline: Choline, similar to racetam, causes an increased production of acetylcholine. Due to this fact it is often stacked with racetam to give even better results. Studies have also shown that choline supplementation can improve performance on memory tests as well as help with social behaviour.
Pyritinol: The primary advantage to taking pyritinol is its ability to increase glucose uptake to the brain during prolonged periods of mental strain. When you’re studying, concentrating and focusing for long periods your brain’s levels of glucose (its primary energy source) diminish. Studies have shown that increased and continuous refueling of glucose to your brain will improve concentration and focus during long periods of work. Pyritinol has even been shown to support the long term health of the brain due to its anti-oxidant effects.
Side Effects of Nootropics
Like any supplement there are some side effects to nootropics that can be experienced – the first being headaches. This side effect has been shown to most prevalent in nootropics such as racetam. The main reason for this is the brain is working much harder than usual and its demand for acetylcholine is much greater than the body can actually produce. This leads to the receptor sites for acetylcholine getting “burnt out”. However, this side effect can be easily countered by stacking racetam with choline to help increase production of acetylcholine.
If taken in excessive quantities, nootropics can also lead to nausea, diarrhoea and pain in the stomach. This is because the body sees that is it has far too much of this nootropic and simply tries to rid the body of it. The remedy here is to reduce the dose you are taking.
Lastly it is recommended to not take nootropics close to bedtime or in the late evening as they can cause insomnia and fatigue. This is due the mind being overactive and being unable to “switch off”. When you do fall to the sleep the quality might also be affected and you may wake tired due to a lack of REM (deep sleep) sleep. Therefore, to combat this simply look to take your nootropics during the day rather than the evening.
If you’re looking to study hard for an upcoming test, work harder or simply improve brain function, nootropics could help you out.