Nootropics are the modern way of “hacking” your brain to ramp up the creativity, memory, motivation, or executive functions of your brain. The term was originally applied to pharmaceutical drugs, but those who wish to experiment with improved cognitive function without dramatic side effects have also turned to natural supplements as well.
Below are several of the most common nootropic “smart drugs” and supplements for use in brain boosting.
Adderall – This medication has been prescribed for ADHD patients for many years, and it is often abused by non-ADHD people as well, especially on college campuses. Adderall is an amphetamine, which stimulates normal brains, but helps those with ADHD to calm down and focus better. There are a lot of risks to taking amphetamine, such as feeling jittery, increased anxiety and stress, and it can be addictive. It’s not the most effective nootropic option.
Modafinil – This drug improves your memory, boosts motivation, increases focus, and gives you more clarity. Modafinil makes you feel like “more” of who you really are which could get you into trouble if you’re not a nice person. One benefit to modafinil is that it helps with the release of dopamine while binding to dopamine receptors in a different way than cocaine and amphetamines do, which makes it less likely to cause addiction or symptoms of withdrawal. This medication does have a slight risk of having an immune reaction that could be life-threatening, particularly if you’re already sensitive to NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) medications like ibuprofen.
Bacopa monnieri – Bacopa is a water plant originating in India. This natural supplement lifts the mood, improves memory, reduces stress, and increases your attention span. Bacopa has a cumulative effect and may take 4 weeks to see results. In order to be effective, it should be taken in amounts of 750 mg per day, so the small amounts found in many nootropic combination supplements aren’t likely to be effective. Bacopa also may suppress sperm production, so those hoping to conceive may want to avoid this supplement. Since it is a fat-soluble supplement, it should be taken along with some form of fat.
L-theanine – This is one of the active components in green and black teas. When combined with caffeine, it can improve memory, increase reaction time, and boost mental endurance. L-theanine can be consumed in its natural form, green tea, or taken in a capsule.
Huperzine-A – Derived from a Chinese club moss, huperzine-A actually comes with a little bit of laboratory processing, and so may be considered by some to be a semi-natural nootropic. With little to no side effects and no toxicity like most medications, huperzine-A has shown dramatic results in memory for patients with vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Forskolin – As an ancient Ayurvedic medicine, forskolin is a supplement that can increase cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), which is crucial to forming memories and learning. Forskolin works synergistically with artichoke extract, which inhibits PDE4, the enzyme that breaks down cAMP. Together, they give you a significant increase in motivation, learning, and memory. Some people may experience a headache and a drop in energy when “coming down” off forskolin and artichoke extract.
If you decide to try pharmaceutical nootropics, it’s essential to consult your physician first, to make sure that there are no contraindications to you taking it. If prescribed, take the nootropics only as much and as often as it is prescribed. If you can’t decide which nootropic stack to start first we recommend either Qualia or Nootrobox. Make sure you read a Qualia review and A Nootrobox review first to find out which stack best fits your body.
If you prefer a natural method of boosting memory, focus, and energy, consider one of the natural supplement options, which may be easier to find than their pharmaceutical counterparts, and safer for you in the long run.