You may have heard of nootropics, or more likely, you’re aware of them by another name; smart drugs. Perhaps you know someone who’s used them. But many people, despite having heard about these supplements, are a little sketchy on the details of what exactly they are, and what they can do for you. Do they actually make you smart? Sounds good, but that isn’t the only purported boost they can provide.
Easily available from places such as nootropics UK, access is no problem, but it’s important to be fully informed about what you’re ordering, and to have a comprehensive background knowledge of any supplements that you decide to purchase.
What They Are
Nootropics are substances that may be natural or synthetic, and which can affect brain performance, cognitive function, and mood. They might be used as supplements–to give a benefit to someone who is already healthy–or as treatments, bringing relief from an existing medical condition. Many nootropics are openly available to anyone who wishes to purchase them. A few, such as caffeine, are used on a daily basis by billions of people who have no idea that they’re taking a kind of nootropic. And some are available by prescription only to treat specific medical disorders.
As for that alternative name they go by–smart drugs–well, it’s partly accurate, but a little misleading overall. While there are certainly substances that are claimed to enhance cognitive function and memory, in effect making you smarter, this definition by no means covers the entire scope of nootropics, which are actually used for a wide variety of reasons, by all kinds of people.
The Most Common Nootropics
If you get up in the morning and wake yourself with a freshly-brewed coffee, or start the day with a mug of fragrant tea, then congratulations, you already have a working knowledge of nootropics. Caffeine is a psychoactive substance, the most commonly used in the world, and its effects are famous: mental alertness, improved concentration and memory, and an antidote to fatigue. But the negatives are well known too. An excess of caffeine can make you jittery and nervous, and prevent you from sleeping well. Additionally, caffeine is addictive, and can cause temporary withdrawal symptoms in people who go without their daily dose.
If you’re a tea drinker, then you’ll be getting a nootropic cocktail, as in addition to caffeine, tea contains L-theanine. This is a natural amino-acid which has a calming effect and is also said to aid creativity. Reportedly, its effects are enhanced when combined with caffeine, so that afternoon cup of Earl Grey really could be doing wonders for you in all kinds of ways.
At the other end of the scale from widely used psychoactive substances such as caffeine and L-theanine, there are prescription nootropics, used to treat diagnosed medical conditions.
Modafinil is used to treat narcolepsy, a disorder which causes sufferers to be unable to stay awake. Modafinil has been shown to be an effective treatment for this condition, but has also come to be known as a so-called smart drug, reducing fatigue while enhancing memory and a sense of task-oriented focus.
Adderall is a potent medication used in the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy. It contains amphetamines and, like Modafinil, it has been used off-prescription as an alertness enhancer, to suppress appetite, and to ward off fatigue.
Drugs such as Modafinil and Adderall are strong, can cause serious side effects, and should not be used without medical advice, approval and supervision.
There are many nootropics that can be purchased over the counter and have a wide range of purported benefits. Among the many reported positives are increased focus, a better memory, calmness and anxiety-relief, improved mood, better sleep, and enhanced creativity.
In addition to the above-mentioned caffeine and L-theanine, some common, naturally occurring nootropics include:
- Turmeric: a herb used to improve mood, well-being, and focus.
- Bacopa Monnieri: a rice field weed said to boost learning rate and memory, and help with anxiety and insomnia.
- Lion’s Mane Mushroom: a white mushroom that is taken to optimize brain function and prevent cognitive decline.
- Magnesium: A mineral that keeps your brain healthy, to ensure good cognitive ability.
Many nootropics, in particular those that occur naturally, are mainstays of alternative medicine and holistic treatment regimens. Their effects may be subtle and increase gently over time. Other nootropics, specifically those that are synthetic and require a prescription, should only be used after professional consultation, to treat specific disorders. And then there are the nootropics that we use every day, and don’t even think about, such as tea and coffee.
In order to be safe and healthy, speak to your healthcare provider or an experienced professional before using anything you’re unsure about, and keep a personal record of the benefits, and any side effects, that you experience, so that you learn what works best for you.