Nootropics 101: Why Smart People Are Using Smart Drugs to Get an Edge

Nootropics 101: Why Smart People Are Using Smart Drugs to Get an Edge
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Humans have been wired to compete ever since the dawn of mankind -- after all, back then, being faster or smarter could mean the difference between life and death.

And since the dawn of time, we’ve been using natural substances to enhance performance.

If you think about Chinese traditional medicine, many different herbs are used to help ensure healthy energy is flowing through the body.

And South Americans have been drinking Yerba Mate, a herbal stimulant that has plenty of other health benefits, for eons.

As humans, we are always looking for new ways to boost performance, yet synthetic stimulants can be highly addictive, not to mention have dangerous side effects.

There are plenty of natural and safe ways to boost our performance, and nootropics (or smart drugs) are on the leading edge of this phenomenon.

But what exactly are smart drugs and can they really help us feel and perform better? Keep reading to find out.

What are Nootropics?

Nootropics, also sometimes referred to as “smart drugs,” are natural compounds that can make our brains work better.

They can help us think more clearly, give us more energy, boost concentration, and may even help us feel happier.

What’s more, many of these smart drugs have the potential to protect our brains and bodies from diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's.

Most researchers don’t quite know how these substances work on our brain.

We do know that they increase blood flow to the brain, enhance neuron signalling, and promote neurotransmitter production, making our brains work more efficiently overall.

But don’t be put off by the name “smart drugs;” while nootropics may not literally make us “smarter,” they can certainly help us think and function at a higher level. [1]

How Nootropics Evolved

Nootropics are not that new. Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea, the “father” of nootropics, actually gave them this name way back in 1972.

His intention at the time was to find a new drug that could further our evolution.

Dr. Giurgea developed the first synthetic nootropic, Piracetam, which is still used to enhance memory.

As part of his research, Dr. Giurgea created five guidelines for classifying nootropics.

Nootropics may be synthetic or natural, but in either case should have the following characteristics: [2]

  • Improve memory and learning
  • Help us be less distracted
  • Protect the brain from damage
  • Enhance wakefulness
  • Be non-toxic with little to no side effects.

Nootropics Today

Nootropics have experienced a recent surge in popularity, particularly because of biohacking movements in Silicon Valley

The best example of a popular "nootropic" is the (fake) NZT-48 as used in the Bradley Cooper movie (and later the TV show) Limitless.

So is there a “real life” version of NZT-48, the drug that turns us into some sort of uber productive superhuman?

Well, some claim that NZT-48 is similar to a drug called Modafinil (used to treat narcolepsy), but this is not quite accurate and what’s more, such claims should not be trusted.

The truth is that no nootropic will change us into superheroes overnight!

But in a more general sense, NZT does illustrate the type of effect that nootropics can have on us: we might think more clearly, we may be more observant, and our senses may be more alert.

The Benefits of Nootropics

Why do people take nootropics?

For me, it kind of feels like that moment when I realize the caffeine from my first cup of coffee hits -- suddenly I’m more awake and able to concentrate.

But nootropics are superior to coffee, since that same feeling of wakefulness and focus lasts for an entire day. What’s more, I can take them regularly without side effects.

This isn’t to say they’re perfect for everyone, of course -- even natural substances can have side effects and become addictive if not used as directed.

For the most part, nootropics have been proven safe to use and non-addictive.

Here’s more about how they can help us stay clear and energized.

Beat Brain Fog

Whether you realize it or not, you’ve probably experienced brain fog before: you’re unable to think clearly, you have trouble making decisions, you can’t articulate your words, you have trouble remembering things…

Yup, this is brain fog. So, what causes it? It could be a number of things: a lack of sleep, a nutritional deficiency, a lack of exercise, or even your environment.

Nootropics can help to clear up that foggy head. HOw?

Remember we said above that nootropics improve blood flow to the brain? This means that more nutrients and oxygen are able to get in there, helping it work better.

A brain with high quality “fuel” is going to be more alert.

Improve Memory

Memory can be affected by a lot of different things -- lack of sleep and stress are just two of many examples.

Nootropics offer the brain much-needed micronutrients for improved functioning and neural maintenance.

Nootropics may also reduce brain inflammation, a situation which some experts is linked to Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases. [3]

Enhance Focus

I don’t know about you, but I’m easily distracted by “all things internet” on a day-to-day basis and if I don’t keep myself in check, this can be a serious detriment to my productivity.

Mood and lack of sleep can play a big part in our capacity to concentrate, too.

When the brain is functioning well, we have our best chance at succeeding. So ensuring adequate blood flow to the brain (via exercise or supplements) is one way to ensure better focus.

Nootropics like CILTEP can do this, and they can also help to balance or boost certain neurotransmitters to improve our mood and aid in overall efficiency.

Boost Energy

Do you ever wish you had more energy and were less tired? You’re not alone.

Almost half of Americans report feeling tired or fatigued a few days a week -- and these are just the ones who do get 7-8 hours of sleep a night! [4]

Being low in energy can result from a number of different things, sleep being just one of them.

Nootropics can help you to get a more restful sleep and help you feeling more energized in the mornings. They also supply your brain and body with important micronutrients which may be lacking in your diet, which can also cause fatigue.

Lessen Anxiety

All of us suffer from anxiety now and then and it can be triggered by a huge variety of things.

Some of us are trying to function with a constant level of anxiety that raises our heart rate and raises cortisol levels, which only increases our stress more.

Nootropics can help by balancing the uptake of chemicals released by the body when stressed, thus minimizing stress reactions.

Reducing anxiety frees up a lot of energy and mental load you can use on other things, and allows us to concentrate and sleep better, thus promoting a positive cycle for focus and concentration.

Nootropics and Longevity

Can nootropics really help us live longer? It’s quite possible.

Research suggests that nootropics may have a similar effect as drugs used to treat age-related diseases, thus acting as effective treatment and possibly even prevention mechanisms. [5]

Other factors that can contribute to aging include shortening telomeres, general cell damage, and inflammation.

By helping nutrients get to the brain, nootropics could mean that they lessen or even diminish things like cell damage and inflammation.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that nootropics are a one-size-fits-all cure -- you still need a nutritious diet and adequate exercise for the best chance at longevity.

A Full List of the Best Nootropics

Now that we’ve offered an overview of what nootropics can do for us, it’s time to jump into a conversation about the different types.

You should be aware that not all are made equal, and effects can even vary between individuals.

Here’s a list of the top nootropics.

Remember that many of these formulas may not be legal in your country, so always do your research before trying them out or even looking to purchase them.

Remember, too, that this is not medical advice. Consult your doctor if you are thinking of trying anything new, especially if you are already taking prescription medication, are pregnant or even suspect other health problems.

Certain compounds may not interact well with each other, with medications you are taking, or with your own metabolism or body chemistry.

Modafinil (Drug / Synthetic)

Modafinil is a lab-made drug that has been used to treat sleep disorders such as narcolepsy for the past few decades.

It’s probably the most popular smart drug in that it’s known to be effective in boosting cognition without causing many side effects.

Research shows that it can work wonders when it comes to mental alertness, and it may even improve higher cognitive functions such as executive decision making and learning. [6]

Dosage: around 200 mg / day.

Possible side effects: insomnia, anxiety, irritability, stomachaches (basically, common stimulant side effects).


Armodafinil is similar to modafinil in that is has more of the active ingredient, R-modafinil. This means you can take a smaller dose and still get the same or stronger results.

Users report fewer lapses in attention taking armodafinil versus modafinil.

But it’s important to note that, because this drug is stronger, the side effects can be more pronounced.

Dosage: About 150 mg / day

Possible side effects: The most common side effects include headache, dizziness, stomach upset, anxiety and dry mouth, and less commonly can include muscle pain, weakness, skin rashes, and heart palpitations.

Racetam Family (Drug / Synthetic)

The racetam family of drugs is also synthetic and is used to improve memory.

There are many different racetams, and they each have slightly different modes of action leading to slightly different effects.


Aniracetam is a fat-soluble compound with a higher potency than piracetam, but it doesn’t last as long.

It is prescribed to help with symptoms of degenerative cognitive disorders and for general memory or attention disorders.

Dosage: between 50 and 100 g taken over 2 or three doses a day

Possible side effects: digestive problems, insomnia, and headache.


While not well studied yet, phenylpiracetam is thought to improve memory and learning while elevating the mood and lowering the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Dosage: between 200-600 mg / day

Possible side effects: Headache, stomach upset, and irritability have been reported but are rare.


Piracetam improves both short and long-term memory by boosting the production of acetylcholine as well as protecting the brain’s cell membranes.

It works by making our brains process glucose more efficiently.

Dosage: 1200-4800 mg / day

Possible side effects: drowsiness, irritability, and sleep disturbance.

Panax Ginseng (Natural)

Ginseng is a natural nootropic that is well known to help improve cognitive function and long-term memory. It’s been used as a remedy in Asia for thousands of years.

Dosage: 400 mg.

Possible side effects: excitability and hormone reactions.

Ginkgo Biloba (Natural)

Often paired with Panax ginseng, Ginkgo Biloba is also a natural nootropic used to help memory and brain function in general.

Dosage: between 240 – 480 mg.

Possible side effects: mostly gastrointestinal discomfort.

Bacopa Monnieri (Natural)

Bacopa is another natural product for improving memory recall and reducing forgetfulness.

Dosage: 150 mg of full concentration bacopa.

Possible side effects: gastrointestinal issues, dry mouth, and temporarily reduced sperm count.

Huperzine-A (Drug / Synthetic)

Huperzine-A may slow or reduce cognitive damage in patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Outside of medical treatment, it may be used to enhance memory and prevent memory deterioration.

Dosage: 200 – 400 mg a day and it should be cycled on and off.

Possible side effects: digestive issues and blood pressure changes.

Curcumin (Natural)

Curcumin comes from an Asian plant called Curcuma longa, the same plant that the spice turmeric is made from.

Curcumin is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The compound prevents damage and helps balance the body’s natural processes.

Dosage: a minimum of 500 mg / day.

Side effects: gastrointestinal issues and elevated liver enzymes.

Other Nootropics to Check Out

Honestly, there are so many products on the market that we don’t have room to list them all here!

Here’s a rundown of some of the others that you may have heard of or want to spend more time researching.

  • Semax
  • Selank
  • Butyrate
  • Glucose
  • Citicoline
  • Selegiline

Where can you Buy Nootropics?

Are you trying to figure out the best place to buy nootropics? It’s best that you do your research to ensure you’re getting a quality product from a reputable company.

Also, depending on what part of the world you’re in, you’ll want to check to make sure that what you’re ordering is legal.

Here are a few reputable places to start.

Nootropics Depot

Nootropics Depot offers a range of products in capsule and powder form.

Products include cholinergic, fish oil supplements, medicinal mushroom extracts, dietary supplements, and nootropic compounds.

Nootropics Depot has both third party and in-house testing to ensure their products are real and effective.

Lift Mode

Lift mode is a company based out of Chicago and is a division of Synaptent LLC. They have many products either from plants and natural compounds or synthetic compounds.

One cool thing about their site is that you can search by the benefit you want --- for instance, mood-lifting, energizing, etc. They’re also incorporating Bitcoin as a purchasing option.

Natural Stacks

Natural Stacks is an open source supplement company. What does this mean?

We’re committed to full disclosure and third-party testing. In fact we have the most rigorous quality control standards

When you buy from us you know exactly what’s in our product -- there’s absolutely nothing to hide.

Natural Stacks also donates a portion of their profits to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. Each product you buy does double duty by helping both you and Alzheimer’s research.

What’s not to feel good about there?

The Nootropics Potential

If you’re anything like me, you know that a hectic lifestyle can easily create dents in your mood and cause high stress levels.

In fact, sometimes running around like a chicken with its head cut off all day seems so normal that I don’t even know I’m stressed!

Know what I’m talking about?

The world is a hectic place full of demands on our time, energy, and bodies.

Taking the right supplements can boost your mental performance, giving you the edge that you need to get everything done in a day, without dangerous side effects.

But supplementing with nootropics isn’t all about pushing yourself to the limit; it’s about having enough energy and focus to live a balanced, happy life.

If you could get more done in a day, what would you do?

Please leave me a comment, I always read every one of them.


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