Humans have always tried to be better, smarter, and healthier. In our constant quest for self-improvement, more people are turning to nootropics or “brain enhancers” that help boost mental functions. You’ve probably seen pop-up ads online or supplements in the health and well-being sector promising to improve mental focus and memory. In fact, we can expect to see more of these. A report by Markets Insider notes that Americans are expected to spend up to $11.6 billion on brain health supplements by 2024.
While nootropics are somewhat new to mainstream science, they have been around for many years. People in the tech world, as well as entrepreneurs, have been using nootropics to increase their concentration levels and focus, improve memory, and help boost their problem-solving skills. Whether you’re new to nootropics or simply want to learn a bit more about the world of “brain boosters” or “cognitive enhancers,” here’s what you should know:
What are Nootropics?
Also known as memory-enhancing drugs or smart drugs, Nootropics enhance cognitive functions like memory and attention. They work by essentially protecting the neurons in the brain from becoming damaged by toxins or the effects of aging. Nootropics fall under an umbrella term used for a class of drugs or chemicals – some that are naturally occurring and others man-made – that provide different cognitive benefits to the human brain.
To qualify as a nootropic, a substance has to meet these five criteria set by Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea, the Romanian scientist who coined the term “nootropic”:
- Enhance overall memory and the ability to learn
- Help the brain function more effectively under disruptive conditions, such as low oxygen (hypoxia)
- Protect the human brain from physical and chemical assaults
- Increase the overall efficacy of neuronal firing control mechanisms in the brain
- Be virtually non-toxic and possess few or no side effects
Types of Nootropics
Wondering what nootropics are and the categories available? There are two types of nootropics: natural-occurring and synthetic or man-made nootropics. Other smart drugs may fall in between each of these two categories. Some of the popular natural nootropics include caffeine, turmeric, and red reishi mushrooms.
Top nootropic supplements in the market include Adrafinil, Oxiracetam, Aniracetam, Creatine, Piracetam, Noopept, Phenibut, and Phenylpiracetam. Prescription brain-enhancing medications often considered to be nootropics include Ritalin, Adderall, Modafinil, and Concerta. It’s a good idea to find more information about each smart drug before using it.
How Nootropics Work in the Brain
Nootropics work in different ways to support overall brain function. As an umbrella term, each nootropic interacts with the brain in its own way. Now that you’ve understood what are nootropics, it’s time to look at how they work:
- Brain Energy Boost – Nootropics help boost brain energy by enhancing the metabolic activity of the mitochondria – the powerhouses of brain cells, reducing brain fatigue. They help transport fatty acids to brain cells, fueling your brain. Nootropics also increase brain uptake of life-giving oxygen and nutrients, supplying our brains with enough fuel to produce the energy we need.
- Regulation of Brain Chemicals -Any imbalance in cell-to-cell communication through your brain’s neurotransmitters can result in disrupted cognitive functions and emotions. Nootropics help supply brain chemical precursors, enhance receptor sensitivity, promote neurotransmitter synthesis and inhibit neurotransmitter breakdown.
- Support of Cerebral Blood Flow– A healthy circulation of blood flow in your brain is vital in achieving healthy cognitive functions and longevity. However, as you age, balanced cerebral circulation starts declining. By taking nootropics, you can promote your brain’s nitric oxide activation and relax your blood vessels. These smart drugs also inhibit blood vessel damage, improving your cognitive wellbeing and cerebral blood flow.
- Increased Brain Wave Activity – Brain waves are generally the electrical activity of your brain, and are responsible for different functions. From the basic activity that supports consciousness to fast thinking impulses, meditation, and deep sleep, having healthy brain wave activity is vital. Nootropics help improve your brain waves, promoting alertness and a state of mind that can be beneficial for creativity and productivity.
- Neuroprotection – Free radicals in the brain can be a risk to healthy neuroregeneration. Without sustained neuroprotection, your cognitive performance would be affected. The good news is, nootropics have been proven to support neuroprotection. They help increase the brain’s antioxidant capacity, clear brain tissue of damaging neurotoxins, and fight the formation of irregular protein clusters.
- Encouraging Brain Regeneration – There’s no doubt that aging slowly chips away at your brain’s functionalities. Injuries also do the same. Fortunately, the brain regenerates new brain cells, a process known as neurogenesis. While the brain does its part to maintain a balanced neurogenesis performance, nootropics further support this by boosting the natural cognitive-boosting growth factors like NGF, maintaining overall brain cell plasticity and flexibility, and providing raw neuronal building blocks like choline.
The Cognitive Benefits of Nootropics
With more users gaining interest in understanding what nootropics are, it’s easy to see why so many companies are venturing into this evolving market. To break down how nootropics can really help you, we’re going to share some of the known and proven cognitive benefits of taking nootropics:
- Improved memory retention, and learning
- Enhanced drive, mood, and motivation
- Enhanced creativity levels
- Improved focus capacity, concentration, and attention levels
- Better mental stamina and brainpower
- Improved mental composure in highly stressful, chaotic and distracting scenarios
- Improved and faster information processing or thinking
Tips for Nootropic Beginners
Now that you know what nootropics are, it’s time to learn about selecting the right ones for your needs, buying from the right sellers and learning how to stack different nootropic products to achieve the most effective results. Here’s a short guide on how to start.
- Determine your goals for the nootropics you take
- Review your budget so you can determine what products you’re buying
- Conduct your own extensive research on the nootropics you want and the company selling the products
- Start slow, with lower doses first to gauge the effects and results
- Try out different products to find what works best for you and consider “stacking”
- Have realistic expectations and understand that finding the right nootropic takes time
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