Ah, yes, another wellness trend sweeping the nation, promising to change your life and/or empty your bank account. Nootropics, lovingly referred to as “smart drugs,” are the latest wellness supplement being sold at top retailers and being flashed on the feed of your favorite influencers’ Instagrams (in fact, the nootropics market is expected to reach $6 billion by 2024 — now that’s trendy).
Take Kin, for example. The now Instagram-famous and buzz-worthy drink has garnered attention and taste tests from the trendiest platforms for its promise to cut stress and produce bliss (without alcohol!) — it’s like you’re getting a buzz without the next-day hangover. Too good to be true? I’m not one to always buy into the latest trends (especially something nicknamed “smart drugs,” sounds sketchy?), but I have to admit — nootropics do sound promising.
Nootropics only sound intimidating — they’re actually herbs, foods, and supplements that enhance brain power (like memory, function, etc.), and have protective benefits (keeping the brain sharp and functioning, especially as we age). While the trend is popping up in supplement form, there are more than 80 different substances that can fall under the nootropics umbrella. Many food-derived ingredients that you’ve probably heard of are included, like omega-3s (shoutout to walnuts!) and flavonoids (a molecule in foods like blueberries and green tea).
As a supplement, they have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries as a way to optimize brain function. A pill that boosts human intelligence — sounds like science-fiction, doesn’t it? But there’s a lot more science than fiction to nootropics.
Enhancing brain function can mean decreasing mental fatigue, improving focus, boosting memory skills and reaction time, and overall feeling more alert. How exactly does this work, you ask? The brain is constantly regenerating (growing new brain cells), and the regeneration may be optimized with nootropics. You might be thinking that a brain boost just means beating that afternoon brain fog and improving memory, but the brain affects so many aspects of health and well-being, which means nootropics have a lot more benefits than just boosting focus.
Some nootropics are also adaptogenic (like bacopa monnieri and lion’s mane), so they help you feel calm and deal with stress. Many people seek out the brain-boosting powers of nootropics to aid various aspects of mood like depression, anxiety, and chronic stress, and nootropic L-Theanine is also proven to improve sleep quality. When it comes to preventative benefits, nootropics have antioxidants that help protect the brain against the effects of aging.
As with any food, supplement, or change in lifestyle, it’s important to talk to your doctor to find out if it’s right for you; just because it’s a trend and everybody’s doing it doesn’t mean that everybody should do it. While nootropics are natural, definitely talk to your doctor before trying if you’re on certain medications, like SSRIs. Also, the herbs work by increasing circulation to the brain, so if you’re prone to high blood pressure, it may not be the best option for you.
But if you’d like to improve focus at work, get over brain fog and fatigue, deal with stress, or want preventative measures to keep your brain at peak performance, nootropics may be worth looking into as natural food for your brain. Herbal supplements work best when taken cumulatively, so add nootropics into your daily routine to feel the effects build up overtime.