Racetams: Everything You Need to Know


Modern-day professionals making their living on the cutting-edge of their cranial capacity are raving about nootropics and its potential to boost brain function. The term nootropic has been used to cover a wide range of natural and synthetic compounds that contribute to optimal cognitive function, improved memory, mental stamina, and even a better mood.

Racetams are a family of synthetic chemicals with a promising selection of nootropic capacities. While each racetam is a bit different from the others, their functions are similar. By boosting the oxygen, nutrients, and brain-fuel (glucose) traveling through the blood, the brain is better supplied. This improves the brains stamina to function longer, reduces degeneration of brain cells, and increases focus and concentration.

What are Racetams?

Racetams are a family of nootropics identified by their similar chemical structures which produce an array of therapeutic effects in the body. These synthetic molecules are composed of nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen. While most racetams have nootropic capacity, some have anticonvulsant properties like levetiracetam and seletracetam to prevent or reduce the severity of seizures.1

Synapse and Neuron cells sending electrical chemical signalsRacetams and Neurotransmitters

Generally speaking, racetams activate glutamate receptors that exist in the same cells with cholinergic receptors. These receptors are at the receiving end of two very important neurotransmitters. Glutamate and acetylcholine play essential roles in human action and cognitive function.

Glutamate is the most prominent neurotransmitter of the human body. It has the highest concentrations in the brain and nervous system, but exists in other parts of the body as well. Glutamate is also a precursor for GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which is an important inhibitory neurotransmitter.2

Acetylcholine activates cholinergic receptors and is the most widely applied neurotransmitter in the body. This neurotransmitter is at the center of the parasympathetic nervous system.3 It works to restore calmness and normality after episodes of stress.

How Do Racetams Work?

Furthermore, acetylcholine is essential for signaling muscles to flex and contract. In other words, it is required for muscles to communicate. Finally, and most importantly, this neurotransmitter is required for cognition. It connects and applies acquired information and memories.4

As mentioned previously, racetams interact with acetylcholine and glutamate receptors and modulate their functions. Medical science has observed much of how this interaction works to improve the brain and the function of the nervous system.  

colorful nootropics, smart drugs, cognitive enhancers in one's handTypes of Racetams

It should be noted that racetams are not exactly stimulants, though some varieties have stimulating effects. These nootropics can allow the mind to have extensive stamina and endurance. It does so without the adverse effects of excessive caffeine or prescription medications like Ritalin or Adderall.

The racetam family is a large group of compounds. Some of the most popular racetams used as nootropics are piracetam, aniracetam, oxiracetam, pramiracetam, and phenylpiracetam. Even though these compounds are all in the same group, they vary in their uses.

The variations of nootropic experiences are important to consider for anyone looking to bolster their mental output with these potent drugs. The most effective plan for increasing mental function in any capacity is tailor-made for the needs of the individual. Remember this as you look over the following overview of the most important racetams on the markets today. Some of the benefits of each nootropic racetam are highlighted below.


Piracetam was the first of the racetams to be discovered. Piracetam works to improve brain health and processing capacity through its interaction with choline receptors. Piracetam has also been considered safe due to its low toxin content.

Memory Enhancer

Improving the processes of storing useful information and accessing this information for creating novel ideas and associations is the primary reason piracetam is in high demand. The effects of piracetam on cholinergic receptors has been observed in lab mice and shown potential to improve memory collection.  

Tests have also been performed on humans with similar results. However, acute memory skills from piracetam do not occur immediately. According to studies, the best results were observed after a 14-day regiment of supplementation.5


Brain activity can become seriously impacted by injury or from the onset of certain conditions. Some of the symptoms of cognitive impairment include loss of coordination, memory loss, and even severe depression. Studies have shown that piracetam is an effective treatment for preventing neurodegeneration caused by a number of conditions.

One review examined 19 different placebo-controlled, double-blind studies on the efficacy of piracetam on treating dimension and age-related cognitive impairment. The conclusion confirmed the use of this racetam in global treatments to prevent cognitive decline.6  

Other tests have proven piracetam can play an important part in effectively treating damage to the cranium or cerebrum in adolescents. Patients treated with piracetam showed improvements in memory and attention as well as motor functioning.7

focused young man at laptopAniracetam  

Widely considered a more powerful nootropic than piracetam, aniracetam is geared toward improving concentration and focus when studying or working. It has also been known to improve the mood with its anxiolytic (stress reducing) properties.

There have been unsubstantiated reports that aniracetam improves sensory experience allowing colors, flavors, sights, and other sensory stimulus to be perceived with greater sensitivity.  

Improved Learning and Memory

As a nootropic, aniracetam can improve the cognitive processes of learning and applying information. This is perfect for those looking to maintain a sharp mind after hours and even years of intense application. Various tests were employed in a preclinical study of models with impaired cognitive functions. The results showed aniracetam to improve memory and performance at various stages of the learning process.8


Stress and anxious conditions can impair smooth mental processing on a wide range of severities. While stress is a fairly normal part of life, our modern society is characterized by out of control stress and the various mental conditions it can cause. Aniracetam works to counter this through its activation of AMPA receptors which are important to regulating mood and fighting depression.9

One study performed a variety of tests to analyze the potential of aniracetam to ameliorate stress, anxiety, and fear in several test models. In the end, researchers concluded that aniracetam was a suitable treatment for anxiety, depression, and social failure or impairments.10

Forgetful Brainy Girl with glassesNeuroprotective

Dementia is a life-altering condition. It begins with a small decrease in cognitive function but can eventually impact an individual’s capacity to live a normal productive life. Forgetfulness is a primary symptom and can be accompanied with emotional issues, communication difficulty, and a decreased motivation for everyday life.

Aniracetam works to treat and prevent the onset of these debilitating health issues using powerful neuroprotective agents. Clinical studies have suggested that aniracetam may be effective in improving a functional mind suffering from cognitive impairment of cerebrovascular origin.11


Oxiracetam is considered the top tier nootropic from the racetam family. It is relatively potent so much less is needed to enjoy its full benefits.

Proponents of oxiracetam extol its motivational properties and capacity to banish mental fatigue even after prolonged hours of application.  

In addition to its performance enhancing effects for the brain, oxiracetam plays an important role in protecting the nerves and nervous system from degeneration.

cognitive improvement with different tree colors as headsCognitive Improvement

Improving the function of the mind when learning new information is the mainstay of nootropics and racetams in particular. Oxiracetam provides very specific benefits in this regard.

In vitro studies showed that oxiracetam could provoke prolonged neurotransmissions as part of a process called long-term potentiation (LTP). LTP works to strengthen the synapses and improve communication between neurons. This has important implications for acquiring information and storing it in the long-term memory.12

Neuroprotective Agent

While all the racetams work to improve and preserve cognitive performance, oxiracetam features an especially effective neuroprotective profile. In addition to treating an impaired brain and preventing the onset of degenerative conditions, oxiracetam can increase the resilience of the brain to traumas.

Scientists use small quantities of a drug called scopolamine to induce brain trauma. Then they test the brain’s capacity to retain neurological pathways under the influence of this substance. Oxiracetam showed a remarkable capacity to protect the brain from damage during this test on humans.13

Clinical studies have also highlighted the potential benefit of oxiracetam to help with conditions like Multi-Infarct Dementia (MID), also called vascular dementia. This type of cognitive impairment is caused specifically by a lack of blood flow and is the second most common cause of degeneration. Clinical trials on over 200 patients suffering from dementia indicated oxiracetam is a potential benefit to treating this condition.14


Pramiracetam is a potent nootropic valued for its enduring benefits and memory-protecting power. Much like oxiracetam, this premium nootropic has been tested for its capacity to protect neural networks from disruption and repair them after sustained injuries. In addition to protecting accumulated memory, pramiracetam may also benefit the memory collection process.

Cognitive Function

Pramiracetam works to improve cognitive function through a process called high-affinity choline uptake (HACU). All you need to know about HACU is that is helps to produce more chemicals that play a role in processing and accessing information.15 Other tests have shown that pramiracetam could improve the way the brain learns about its immediate environment.

This concept was observed in a test where rats had to memorize their environment and possible sources of food. It tested the rat’s capacity for long-term versus short-term memory under the effects of pramiracetam. Pramiracetam had a significant positive effect of long-term memory whereas no change was observed with short term memory.16

woman putting head puzzle piece togetherProtects and Improves Memory

Clinical studies show that pramiracetam could be the most effective racetam for decreasing the likelihood of forgetfulness especially for people with brain damage. In one study, subjects were induced to a state similar to amnesia. The study showed that pramiracetam allowed the test subjects to retain their stored information despite the forgetfulness agent. The results were also the same regardless of the age of the healthy humans who participated.17

Another study exemplified the capacity of pramiracetam to improve cognitive function in young adults suffering from head traumas.18 This might result from contact sports or semi-hazardous work environments. Stored memories can be adversely affected by toxins, sickness, injuries, and even relatively benign conditions like poor sleep. Pramiracetam has applications to alleviate these effects and improve a wide variety of lifestyles.


Phenylpiracetam, also known as phenotropil, is reputed to be 60 or even 100 times as potent as piracetam. The stimulatory nature of phenylpiracetam makes it effective at boosting the nervous system. It does not provide the jittery type of energy boost that can be associated with caffeine or other amphetamine-based nootropics.19

As an all-around nootropic, phenylpiracetam performs exceptionally well, featuring antiamnesic, anticonvulsant, and anxiolytic actions. Phenylpiracetam was originally developed in 1983 to protect and empower the minds of Soviet Cosmonauts enduring the mentally rigorous environments of space. Therefore, many of the studies elaborating on the application of phenylpiracetam are available in Russian.20

young redheaded woman enduring plank exerciseStimulant and Antidepressant

Phenylpiracetam takes the center stage in the nootropic world with all the brain-boosting benefits of the racetam family and a signature stimulating quality like nothing else. Unlike caffeine, you can expect an increased endurance in both mental and physical activities that endures past quitting time. This effect has also been observed to carry mood improving features as well.21

Memory Enhancer

Phenylpiracetam has been studied for its anti-amnesic properties. One study displayed the memory-enhancing capacity of this effective nootropic. Phenylpiracetam completely got rid of the amnesia effect. Additionally, it allowed the brain to retain its integrity by increasing the density of dopamine receptors, which enhances its use.22


Phenylpiracetam protects and preserves the brain to avoid cognitive decline. One study observed the benefits of phenylpiracetam in treating brain lesions caused by encephalopathy, which is a disease that affects the function or structure of a brain. The participants saw significant improvement in their cognitive function through treatment with phenylpiracetam.23

Another study described phenylpiracetam as “more potent than piracetam in treating a wider range of cognitive indications.” Some of the indications of the central nervous system mentioned included neurodegenerative diseases, conditions of cognition,  memory, stress, and anxiety.24


As you can see, the potent effects of racetams have been researched and recorded by several scientific studies. You may need to do some research and even try out a few different products before choosing the best racetam for your needs.

A single racetam may take a few weeks for the full effects to flourish, make sure you study the specifications for all products and consider consulting a valid medical authority.

Photo credits:  Jirsak/shutterstock.com,  AndriiVodolazhskyi/shutterstock.com, GaudiLab/shutterstock.com,  NicoletaIonescu/shutterstock.com,  Lightspring/shutterstock.com,  OrawanPattarawimonchai/shutterstock.com, IrynaImago/shutterstock.com, fizkes/shutterstock.com

By Krista Burton

Krista is an aromatherapy enthusiast who enjoys writing and researching about all the new aromatherapy trends. When she’s not busy writing and researching you can find her dreaming about being on the beach.

Favorite MONQ blend: Ocean

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The above information relates to studies of specific individual essential oil ingredients, some of which are used in the essential oil blends for various MONQ diffusers. Please note, however, that while individual ingredients may have been shown to exhibit certain independent effects when used alone, the specific blends of ingredients contained in MONQ diffusers have not been tested. No specific claims are being made that use of any MONQ diffusers will lead to any of the effects discussed above.  Additionally, please note that MONQ diffusers have not been reviewed or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. MONQ diffusers are not intended to be used in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, prevention, or treatment of any disease or medical condition. If you have a health condition or concern, please consult a physician or your alternative health care provider prior to using MONQ diffusers. MONQ blends should not be inhaled into the lungs.

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