Nootropics – also referred to as smart drugs, memory-enhancing drug, or brain boosters – are essentially substances and compounds that when ingested increase mental performance. The mental performance result can be any or a combination of increased attention, motivation, creativity, and/or memory.1
The term nootropics was first used by a Romanian chemist and psychologist Corneliu E. Giurgea. This is how he phrased what a nootropic is and what it is not:
“A nootropic drug is characterized by a direct functional activation of the higher integrative brain mechanisms that enhances cortical vigilance, a telencephalic functional selectivity, and a particular efficiency in restoring deficient higher nervous activity. In contradistinction to other psychotropic drugs, nootropics do not induce direct reticular, limbic, or other subcortical events.”2
- It is unlike psychotropic drugs and medications that affect a person’s mental state.
- It demonstrates brain bioactivity backed by human research.
- Cell-to-cell communication is facilitated by nootropics.
- Nootropics provide brain cell protection.
- Even under stress, nootropics can improve cognition.
- With nootropics, there is an enhanced learning and improved memory.
What are Nootropics Made of?
To better explain what nootropics are made of, let’s break down these smart drugs into two broad categories. The first is composed of a herbal variety in which the nootropic is ingested in its natural form. Examples of herbal nootropics are American ginseng and Ginkgo biloba. The second category are synthetic substances created in a laboratory. An example of such a synthetic substance is Piracetam, known as the grandfather of nootropics.
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The next question to be answered is what the most powerful nootropic is? This is a tough question because there is no one nootropic that delivers all of the benefits mentioned above. That’s why you will see nootropic stacks sold online or talked about extensively. A nootropic stack is a nootropic supplement that contains a variety of nootropics that delivers different benefits and enhancements that cover all areas talked about. The better question to ask would be, what is your goal? Is it to improve memory? Attention perhaps? Or maybe to lessen the stress while cognitive performance is enhanced? A combination of two or all?
The Different Types of Nootropics
To better understand nootropics let’s look at the different types available. By knowing the types, it is easier to link them to how they work with our brain to bring about the desired benefits. And from there you can see which smart drugs are useful to gain each benefit.
These are vitamins and minerals that support a healthy brain, metabolism, immunity, and function. In layman’s terms nootropics that are considered essential nutrients are basically your vitamins and minerals. You may get them in your daily diet, but some people also need to add supplements to their diet to reach the needed daily allowance. Here is a complete list of nootropic essential nutrients:4
In the brain, iron is crucial for regulation of sensory perception, behavior, mood, and attention span. It is important in the brain’s oxidative metabolism, a process that converts sugar into energy. It also supports neurotransmitter synthesis as well as myelin synthesis. Myelin is a fatty casing around brain cells that provides protection.
A recent breakthrough research showed that vitamin K dependent proteins rely on this vitamin to fully function in the brain. This vitamin is needed in the creation of sphingolipids that provides protection against oxidative stress and inflammation.
This is not found in food and can only be gotten from supplementation or sunlight. It has neuroprotective properties by clearing amyloid plaques responsible for memory issues, persistent mood problems, as well as cognitive decline.
This vitamin is found in high concentrations in the brain. A potent antioxidant that can help clean up the brain of toxins that can cause nerve damage, memory problems, and long-term disorders. With Vitamin C you increase overall brain health, memory, intelligence, and mood.
A large amount of zinc is found in the brain and crucial for healthy RNA and DNA formation, protein synthesis, synaptic and axonal transmission, as well as brain cell communication.
Calcium is used by the brain for hormonal secretion, nerve transmission, and cellular communication. There are more calcium issues with directly linked to high levels than low levels and they are language, attention, learning, concentration, and memory issues.
Magnesium is needed in blood glucose regulation, energy metabolism, and over 300 enzymatic processes. It supports optimal sleep, stress reduction, mood regulation, enhanced learning, and memory.
Vitamin B12, also known as Cobalamin, is involved in red blood cell creation, metabolism, brain communication, brain circulation, neuroprotection, and signaling in the nervous system. A deficiency in this vitamin causes vision problems, anxiety or depression, dizziness, confusion, poor memory, and fatigue.5
Vitamin B9, known as folic acid or folate, it has key roles in neurotransmitter management, overall brain health, and cerebrovascular function. What this means is folate supports a healthy cognitive performance and support a balanced mood.
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, it is one of the powerful vitamins that provides a crucial role in optimal brain chemical synthesis such as melatonin, norepinephrine, GABA, and serotonin. As a matter of fact, the volume of Vitamin B6 found in the brain is 100x more than in the blood. Thus, it is a potent nootropic that supports all cognitive functions. It provides brain protection, increases brain circulation, and provides brain chemicals for optimum cognitive function.
Botanical nootropic herbs are amongst the popularly used smart drug. They are found in roots and leaves to be steeped, brewed, or eaten. Sometimes, they are also found as extracts of their bioactive compounds. These are some powerful nootropic herbs.
Bacopa Monnieri (BM), also known as the brahmi herb, has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for a long time. It contains bacosides, the bioactive compound that supports brain health. In a study conducted, BM shows an immense potential in the improvement of cognitive disorders. It is also a good prophylaxis for oxidative damage, cognitive enhancement, and neural tube modulation in healthy individuals.5 Benefits include better cognition even under stress, mood balance, promotes a speedy processing of visual info, better retention of new data, increased learning rate and increased memory.
Ginkgo Biloba can help aid in stress management. It also can help improve mental processing and memory.
Panax Ginseng is taken orally, and only the root is used. This plant is found in far east Siberia, northeast China, and Korea. It possesses strong anti-inflammatory properties, significantly improve mental performance, reduce brain fatigue, and boosts overall brain function.6
Lion’s Mane is a mushroom that promotes nerve growth factor (NGF) which is key to building a healthy brain. The bioactive compound found in Lion’s Mane are erinacines and Hericenones. Through the promotion of NGF, Lion’s Mane helps in the myelination of nerve cells, healthy function of the hippocampus, brain plasticity, enhances brain signaling, and growth promotion of brain cells.
Only the root of Rhodiola Rosea is used, and it is native to the Arctic region. It has been used for centuries by Scandinavian and Russian countries to treat depression, fatigue, and anxiety.7 It is shown to improve brain function, reduce symptoms of depression, fight fatigue, and decrease stress.
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Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins in the body, without them a lot of bodily functions will not work and eventually, the body will fail to thrive. There are two ways that amino acids help boost brain activity, indirectly and directly affecting physiological processes. Here is a list of powerful amino acid nootropics.
L-Carnitine is the precursor to methionine and lysine amino acids. Naturally made in the kidneys and liver, it is also available synthetically as Acetyl-L-Carnitine or ALCAR. ALCAR easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and is more bioavailable to provide brain protection, boost mental alertness and memory, as well as enhance fluid thought and mental energy.8
L-Theanine is a non-essential amino acid and has the ability to boost alpha brain waves. With Theanine, you can improve cognitive health, balance brain chemistry, improve mood and focus, boost thinking ability, as well as relax yourself.9
L-Tyrosine is an amino acid that is key to building all neurotransmitters related to catecholamine. Therefore, it has potent effects that helps you stay productive, organize your thoughts, increased concentration, and preserves your brain’s optimal cognition.
Nootropics in Review
Nootropics can be a great addition to a diet if used correctly and responsibly. Their many benefits and many uses can produce a healthier, more active mind in your life, and prolong your mind’s function later in life, thereby avoiding the onset of things like memory-related diseases. MONQ promotes healthy brain activity, and healthiness in general, through the use of essential oils to lead a purer, calmer life. MONQ’s Active Blend encourages activity and mental sustainability in everyday life with every breathe.
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