The Ultimate Guide You Need for Nootropics

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Table of Contents [Jump to Sections]

What are nootropics?
The history of nootropics
The 5 key characteristics of nootropics

The difference between Nootropics and Smart drugs
Key types of nootropics
What’s a nootropic stack?
An example of a nootropic stack
What’s the best nootropic?

Nootropics Cycles
Frequency of Nootropic usage
Tolerance to Nootropics

What are nootropics?

Nootropics have been gaining a lot more attention in recent years. They are supplements and other substances which may improve cognitive function, such as memory, creativity and motivation. Nootropics are relatively new to the mainstream and more so their use has not been widely documented in large scientific studies. Therefore their effectiveness isn’t totally clear but anecdotal evidence from thousands of users indicates there may be a large improvement in cognitive performance after using them. They tend to target specific cognitive processes and have also been found to promote brain health and reduce the effects of ageing.

Their demand has been increasing a lot recently due to the pressures we now face daily. From long office hours to extended periods of studying as well as athletes looking to improve performances. Nootropics seem to be showing a lot of promise for healthy individuals in improving and protecting brain health.

The history of nootropics

The person to coin the term, nootropic, in 1972, was Corneliu E. Giurgea, a Romanian chemist and psychologist.

The word itself actually has roots in Greek and French, the French word nootrope comes from the Greek words (noos, meaning mind and trope, meaning turning). This roughly translates to mind-bending.

Natural nootropics have been used all over the world even with early civilisations. They’ve been known to be used in China, Thailand, India and South America to name a few. Some of the key nootropics were plants and herbs such as Ginkgo Biloba and Ginseng. It’s really only now that we’re starting to catch up with our ancestors.

The 5 Key Characteristics of Nootropics

Giurgea made a claim that in order for something to be called a nootropic it would need to have each of these five characteristics.

  1. Enhance memory and learning.
  2. Enhance resistance of learned behaviours/memories to disruptors of electroconvulsive shock and hypoxia.
  3. Protect the brain against chemical or physical injuries.
  4. Increase the efficacy of tonic cortical/subcortical control mechanisms.
  5. Have very few side effects and extremely low toxicity.

Aside from these characteristics being used to identify what is and isn’t a nootropic, they have a number of different cognitive functions which includes.

Nootropics help to improve focus

A study found not too long ago that the average human being’s attention span wasn’t too far off of a goldfish, probably thanks to our instant dopamine hits from the use of technology. Using nootropics can mean that you stay focused for longer and are less susceptible to giving in to distractions.

If you’re a busy person, focus is key. Getting into that flow when you need to get essential tasks done is oftentimes hard to achieve. Nootropics can help to keep you in that flow.

Nootropics help to boost your energy

Using a lot of brainpower can sometimes take it out of you and make you feel exhausted. Investing that brainpower into one task can take its toll and usually isn’t the most effective use of your energy. Similar to caffeine, nootropics can give you that boost of energy that you might need. The benefit is that there’s no crash once its effects begin to wear off. An increase in energy can mean that your focus lasts throughout the day, making sure you still get a lot done.

Nootropics make you feel relaxed

You can tend to feel less anxious or irritable because of the calming properties in a wide range of nootropics. You’ll tend to feel stressed before key tasks, be it a presentation, an exam or even a slight feeling of general anxiousness during everyday life. Some nootropics, such as Rodhiola or Ashwagandha, can suppress these distracting stressors and make you feel much more at ease.

Nootropics can aid your memory

We tend to forget minor details from time to time. This is okay but if you want to be at your optimal level you’ll want to keep your memory sharp. Not only can they help with short-term memory but also long-term. Using nootropics can allow you to retain new memory for longer and recall old ones even faster.

Nootropics can help to improve sleep

Sleep has always been very important, even more so now in our busy lives. A lack of sleep can lead you to feel unfocused, irritable, and prone to anxiety. Instead of having to use caffeine to get that energy boost during the day, nootropics can have the same effect and make sure you’re still able to fall asleep okay in the evening.

Nootropics can improve your productivity

All of these benefits can add up to result in better productivity. Having sustained energy throughout the day and more focus makes it much easier to feel calmer and more determined to accomplish some of your more challenging tasks of the day.

Nootropics can aid cognitive health

In the same way that we need protein in order to build muscle, our brains need the right nutrients and stimuli to reach their optimum state. Due to instant gratification from technology or lower food quality, this can be harder and harder to achieve that than ever before. Promoting brain health is key to nootropics properties, not only in the short term but also for the long term with the protection they can offer.

Nootropics can protect the brain’s neurons from damage caused by various toxins or the effects of ageing. The primary way it does this is by stimulating blood and oxygen flow to the brain.

The difference between Nootropics and Smart drugs

A lot of smart drugs can also come under the group of nootropics in the material you might read online. Smart drugs often don’t contain the five characteristics of nootropics meaning that they’re not considered the same.

Smart drugs, such as modafinil or Ritalin, are typically only used for increasing concentration rather than the host of benefits from nootropics. They also tend to stimulate the central nervous system rather than stimulating neurotransmitters that nootropics enhance. Due to the power of smart drugs, they also tend to have lots of side effects, from messing up with sleeping patterns and causing increased irritability to side effects related to the heart. Smart drugs are often only given out as treatments by prescription. Nootropics, on the other hand, may or may not be prescribed, but the chance of them being addictive is so much lower compared to smart drugs, and smart drugs of course have been a contentious topic of discussion.

Key types of nootropics

The key groups that nootropics can be split by are adaptogens and mushrooms. Adaptogens are non-toxic compounds that help the body adapt to stress and restore normal physiological functioning, such as Ginseng, Ashwagandha and Rhodiola among the most popular. Medicinal Mushrooms, like Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps and Reishi, emerged through traditional Chinese medicine and have been used throughout the history of mankind for treatment of various diseases. Dr Giurgea sadly passed away in 1995 but his work on advancing and highlighting the benefits of these nootropic groups has helped us significantly in the ever-present desire to improve ourselves.

With that being said, there are now large communities who focus on nootropics and discuss the optimal way to use them. This is where stacks come in.

What’s a nootropic stack?

We all have our own unique challenges so our needs can vary quite a bit. Therefore, not every nootropic will have the same effect on everyone.

It’s best to experiment with different options to see which gives you the best cognitive benefit.

Nootropic stacking is when you combine two or more nootropics. If your goal is to improve lots of different types of cognitive performance then you’ll want to try out some different combinations to see what helps you to reach that goal. There’s no one set rule for stacking nootropics but various online communities constantly share their experiences with different stacks and have helped to identify some key stacks for different uses.

When you stack nootropics in a combination you can get closer to the maximum achievable effect. Nootropics are compounding, which means that some are activated with the use of others and together, their synergistic effect can be more than the sum of the individual parts.

An example of a nootropic stack

One of the top stacks is a combination of Ginkgo Biloba, Bacopa Monniere, and Lion’s Mane. This particular blend helps to boost focus, learning and memory with cognitive performance also reducing anxiety. Some estimates say that to feel a stack’s full potential a grace period of 12 weeks is best to follow.

A common dose for this combination is 240mg of Ginkgo Biloba, 200mg of Bacopa Monnieri and 500mg of Lion’s Mane.

If you’re not starting to see results after 12 weeks, try adjusting the dosages in small increments. Be patient when experimenting, don’t expect results straight away, it can simply be a matter of trial and error.

All-natural nootropics stacks are recommended if you’re looking at nootropics combinations, put together wisely with a goal in mind these can be very effective.

What’s the best nootropic?

Fish oil for healthy brain function

Fish oil is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These are both crucial for healthy brain function.

Omega-3s enhance whole-body health in many ways, they help to improve blood flow and make sure that the good nutrients are let in abundantly and the waste nutrients are flushed out.

Improved circulation can have an immediate effect and have a great positive impact on both mood and cognition. Fish oil is an excellent addition to any stack for maintaining overall brain health.

We recommend: Solgar Omega 3-6-9

Multivitamin for plugging deficiency gaps

Multivitamins are very well-known and as a result, are often overlooked when it comes to nootropic supplements. However, their scientific research is fast and it’s a great addition to any stack. A 2014 study showed that for healthy individuals between 21 and 39 there was a noticeable increase in attention and enhance brain activity within hours of a multivitamin dosage.

We recommend:Terranova Full-spectrum Multivitamin Complex

Lion’s Mane for Neuron Growth

Lion’s Mane is a mushroom variant which derives from ancient Chinese medicine. It’s not your normal looking mushroom by any means, it gets its name from a mane-like appearance. It has strong brain benefits too. It’s linked to Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) too, through the active components it possesses, erinacines and hericenones.

NGF is a small protein which is essential for the growth and survival of neurons. This is a primary building block for neuroplasticity. NGF encourages the growth of axons (nerve fibre) and the more axons there are the more rapidly and efficiently impulses can be transmitted between neurons. Think of it as a really complex electric circuit.

In addition to this, Lion’s Mane exhibits a neuroprotective effect which can help to protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinsons or Alzheimers.

Lion’s mane is even more effective when taken in combination with fish oil and is an excellent addition to natural nootropic stacks. A lot of people comment on the superhero mind that this mushroom seems to enable. You should notice a distinct boost in focus, attention, creativity and overall cognitive performance.

We recommend: Mushrooms For Life Organic Lion's Mane Powder 60g or Mushrooms For Life Organic Lion's Mane 60 Capsules

Ashwagandha for reducing stress

As an ancient Ayurvedic herb, this is a powerful adaptogen, capable of preventing the physical and chemical effects of stress. It’s a herb of the nightshade family and it primarily found in India, Nepal, Yemen and China.

Its primary use can be attributed to reducing anxiety but it’s also been shown to improve physical performance by inhibiting cortisol, which causes stress, and therefore allowing for increased testosterone production, reduce fatigue, and enhance the formation of memories. In a recent study over 73 participants suffering from long-term anxiety were divided into 2 groups. The group who received dietary counselling, deep breathing relaxation techniques, a standard multivitamin, and the herbal medicine, Ashwagandha, saw the level of anxiety reduced by 56.5%, compared to the placebo group, which only noticed a decrease in anxiety of 30%.

As well as being effective in tackling anxiety, other smaller studies showed that Ashwagandha has significant anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, anti-stress, antioxidant and rejuvenating properties.

In conclusion, it’s an excellent addition to any stack which contains stimulants such as caffeine.

We recommend: Solgar Ashwagandha Root Extract 60s

Rhodiola Rosea for combating fatigue and stress

Rhodiola Rosea is a Eurasian herb with the ability to increase levels of neurotransmitters associated with mood, pleasure, motivation and energy.

The demand we put on our mind is very high, making fatigue commonplace. Rhodiola Rosea has been used for thousands of years to combat the many adverse effects of stress. If you’re feeling the effects of stress and/or fatigue, this might be one worth trying.

We recommend: Living Nutrition Rhodiola Alive 60s

Ginkgo Biloba to improve cognitive function

This comes from the Ginkgo tree, a huge tree native to China which can grow in excess of 65 metres tall. It’s not found all over Asia, Europe and North America. It was used as a traditional Chinese herbal remedy for thousands of years. Today, Ginkgo extracts are now stabilised in a form called EGb 761 which is 24% flavonoid and 6% terpenes.

These have a cognitive benefit via two different mechanisms:

  • Helps to function as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor
  • Increases cerebral blood flow.

The enzyme, monoamine oxidase, can reduce levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, meaning that Ginkgo Biloba can facilitate an increase in dopamine by way of regulation and dopamine is known to improve cognitive function and suppress symptoms of anxiety.

Cerebral blood flow to the brain is crucial for delivering oxygen, glucose and other nutrients for cognitive function. This helps to aid memory recall and can ensure neuroprotection.

We recommend: FSC Ginkgo Biloba 500mg 60s

Chaga Mushroom for immune health and cellular function

The Chaga Mushroom looks a little more like burned wood than it does a traditional mushroom. The Chaga mushroom produces a wood-like growth called a conk and is grown all over the world. The conk is dark in colour due to its high melanin content.

Chaga is one of the most unique mushrooms since it doesn’t form traditional fruiting bodies when it grows, instead, it forms masses of mycelium and it has been used as a medicinal mushroom in Northern European and Russia for centuries. The Chaga fungus is rich in essential nutrients like Vitamin D, fibre, potassium, calcium and even magnesium too. It can potentially provide a whole host of health benefits, particularly in supporting our immune system. Chaga mushroom also helps to promote optimal cellular function and produces very low toxicity levels. This makes it one of the best mushroom supplements for optimal cellular function.

We recommend: Mushrooms 4 Life Organic Chaga 60s

Cordyceps for increased energy

Cordyceps comprises several species of fungi described as endoparasitoid, meaning they grow and feed on other organisms. Cordyceps comes from the Greek word kordyle, roughly translating to the clubhead. Cordyceps was previously used in traditional Chinese and Tibetan practices to help support the potential of a more positive emotional outlook and promote energy.

Nowadays it’s used more often for those looking to achieve an energy boost. This is because it can boost adenosine triphosphate levels which are used to promote cellular energy. Among its benefits, cordyceps mushrooms can also reduce the buildup of lactic acid, the compound your muscles produce when fatigued.

We recommend: Mushrooms For Life Organic Cordyceps 60 Capsules

Red Reishi Mushroom

Also known as lingzhi mushroom, these are soft, flat, red and kidney-shaped mushrooms. They’ve been used for thousands of years in Chinese practices and are one of the older nootropic mushrooms known, believed to be used in the Han Dynasty around 206 BC - 220 AD. Red Reishi mushroom has been studied for years and has been found to have various benefits from cognitive function to improving the immune system and our response to allergens. Red reishi has a very rich portfolio of available bioactive constituents and makes it a favourite amongst nootropic stacks.

We recommend: Mushrooms For Life Organic Reishi 60 Capsules

Nootropics Cycles

Nootropics aren’t addictive but they can result in habit-forming dependency. Some users recommend that they’re only taken on the days where you really need the brain boost, and skip them on the other days. This gives your body and brain a break by cycling them. If it’s becoming less effective, this is a good indication that you should stop using them for a little while to reduce your tolerance. Again, studies on this are limited to it may vary from person to person but having a week or so off from using them has been recommended by many in the nootropics community, particularly those in the reddit nootropic community.

Frequency of Nootropic usage

The most common nootropic is caffeine. Drinking a cup of coffee before you head to bed is likely to make sure you don’t sleep for another few hours. This principle applies to a lot of nootropics, they won’t all keep you up at night but it’s best to use them as and when you really want to benefit from them.

Tolerance to Nootropics

Using a nootropic repeatedly can mean that the body adapts to it. To overcome this, larger and larger doses become necessary. You’ll also be likely to experience different effects from those that you got when you first took the supplement in question. Be careful not to exceed the recommended doses and as mentioned before, try cycling your usage to get the desired effects again.

It’s recommended that you speak to a medical professional or pharmacist before starting a new supplementation routine. The results of nootropics use can vary from person to person, but these nootropics are all purported to result in positive cognitive function and keep you working, thinking, and feeling at your best.

Written by Giulia Guerrini