What Are Nootropics & How Do They Work?

Are you looking to boost your focus and mental clarity? If so, you may have come across something called nootropics. These “smart” supplements are increasingly popular with students, busy professionals, gamers - really anyone looking for an edge when it comes to cognitive performance.

But what are nootropics exactly and do they live up to the hype?

Here we break down everything there is to know about brain-enhancing compounds like nootropics including their potential benefits and risks as well as how you can incorporate them into your own life safely.

What Are Nootropics & How Do They Work?

Nootropics refer to a broad category of substances that are used to enhance cognitive function. They can be organic or synthetic, and they are designed to improve various aspects of brain function, such as memory, focus, mood, and energy.

The term "nootropics" was coined in 1972 by Romanian chemist Corneliu E. Giurgea, who described them as compounds that enhance learning and memory while being safe and non-toxic.

Nootropics work by enhancing brain activity and improving the communication between neurons. They can do this by increasing the availability of neurotransmitters, promoting the growth of new brain cells, or protecting existing cells from damage. They can also enhance blood flow to the brain and stimulate the production of energy.

The effects of nootropics can vary depending on the type and dosage of the supplement, as well as the individual's genetics, lifestyle, and overall health.

Synthetic vs Natural Nootropics

Synthetic nootropics are created in a laboratory using chemical compounds that mimic or enhance the functions of the neurotransmitters in the brain.

These compounds are often designed to cross the blood-brain barrier and directly affect the central nervous system. Examples of synthetic nootropics include Modafinil, Piracetam, and Adderall

One potential benefit of synthetic nootropics is that they are often more potent and have a faster onset of effects than natural nootropics. However, they may also have more potential side effects.

Natural nootropics are derived from plants or other natural substances and are often labeled as "herbal supplements." They work by supporting or enhancing the brain's natural processes through natural compounds like Ginkgo Biloba, Bacopa Monnieri, or Rhodiola Rosea.

One potential benefit of natural nootropics is that they are generally considered safe and do not require a prescription. However, they may take longer to take effect and may not be as potent as synthetic nootropics.

The Benefits of Taking Nootropics

From improved memory and learning capacity to heightened creativity and mood stabilization, the benefits of taking nootropics are remarkable — especially for beginner users.

Improved Memory

One of the significant benefits of nootropics is that they can improve your memory power. Some nootropics like Bacopa Monnieri and Ginkgo Biloba can boost long-term memory recall and information retention by increasing blood flow and oxygen levels to the brain.

Increased Focus and Concentration

Nootropics like Modafinil, Caffeine, and Piracetam can help improve mental alertness and concentration levels, allowing you to focus and complete tasks more efficiently.

Mood Enhancement

Nootropics like L-Theanine and Phenibut can help to reduce anxiety, stress, and improve mood levels by regulating the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Better Brain Health

Nootropics also have anti-inflammatory properties and can protect the brain cells from damage, improving brain health and reducing the risk of age-related cognitive decline.

Performance Enhancement

Nootropics like Creatine, Nitric Oxide boosters, and Rhodiola Rosea can help improve endurance, strength, and physical performance, making them popular among athletes.

Different Types of Nootropics

Natural nootropics

Natural nootropics are derived from plant or mushroom sources, and they are the safest option available. These nootropics include Ginkgo Biloba, Bacopa Monnieri, and Rhodiola Rosea, Lion's Mane mushroom, Ashwagandha, L-Theanine, and many more.

Natural nootropics are ideal for improving cognitive function, reducing anxiety, and enhancing memory.


Racetams are a popular nootropic, and they are synthetically produced. Piracetam is a common racetam, and it is known for improving memory, cognitive function, and enhancing creativity.

Other racetams include Aniracetam, Oxiracetam, and Phenylpiracetam. These types of nootropics are known for their immediate effects, fast onset, and short-lived effects.

Peptide nootropics

Peptide nootropics include Semax and Selank. Nootropic peptides, such as Semax and Selank, are short chains of amino acids that enhance cognitive function by mimicking brain neurotransmitters.

They improve memory, focus, and learning, making them ideal supplements for studying, working long hours, or combating age-related cognitive decline.

Cholinergic nootropics

Cholinergic nootropics are supplements that increase the levels of acetylcholine, a brain chemical. This group includes Alpha GPC, Citicoline, and Centrophenoxine.

These supplements are known for improving attention, memory, learning, and creativity. They also aid in reducing age-related cognitive decline.

Synthetic nootropics

Synthetic nootropics are lab-produced nootropics that are known for their potent effects and fast onset. Modafinil and Adderall are well-known synthetic nootropics that are used for cognitive enhancement and staying awake.

These supplements have a significant potential for abuse and addiction. Consulting with a healthcare professional is crucial before taking any synthetic nootropic.

Recommended Dosage and Safety Tips for Taking Nootropics

Because nootropics can alter brain chemistry, it’s important to be aware of potential safety risks, dosage guidelines, and proper usage.

Mind Your Dosage: Start Low and Go Slow

One of the most common mistakes new users make when using nootropics is taking too high of a dose. There is no one-size-fits-all dosage for nootropics, as it varies from individual to individual.

Start with a low dosage and work your way up, so you can gauge how your body responds before increasing the amount.

Stick to a Schedule and Avoid Skipping Days

One of the critical elements of using nootropics is to create a regular schedule to follow, so you remember to take the supplement consistently. Skipping doses or taking the supplement sporadically can result in ineffective dosages, which can impede your results.

Know What You're Taking: Research Your Nootropic

Informed consent is essential when taking any supplement, including nootropics. Research thoroughly before taking any nootropic supplements to know their safety, effectiveness, and potential side effects. Be aware that different types of nootropics can result in different side effects.

Be Mindful of Your Body's Reactions

Supplements can affect people differently, and it's no different with nootropics. Listen to your body and pay attention to the way it responds to the nootropic supplement. Take note of any adverse reactions or changes in your mood, and discontinue use if necessary.

Consider Combining Nootropic Stacks

If you are considering taking multiple nootropics, you may want to consider combining them into a nootropic stack.

A nootropic stack is a combination of two or more supplements that are designed to create synergistic effects when used together. However, when stacking, make sure to know how each supplement works to avoid any adverse side effects.

Nootropics Side Effects

Not all nootropics are created equal, and some may have more severe side effects than others. Some possible side effects include headaches, digestive issues, and sleep disturbances.

That being said, not all nootropics have the same side effects and some individuals may experience none at all.

While these side effects may be manageable for some, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating nootropics into your daily routine.

Final Thoughts On Nootropics

Ultimately, nootropics can be an effective tool for improving cognitive performance, but they must be taken responsibly.

Remember that nootropics are supplements and should not be relied upon as a sole source of mental enhancement. Proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep for optimal brain health should always be first priority.

Your brain health is important - consider nootropics as part of an overall wellness plan focused on optimizing mental performance and protecting it against future decline.

Much like anything else in life, balance and moderation are key. 

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About the author 

Mallory Milne

Mallory is a 38-year-old mom of two and the founder of HGHH. After battling through challenging complications from Essure, a permanent form of birth control that has since been pulled from the market, Mallory underwent a hysterectomy in 2020 and experienced difficulty losing weight. Understanding the roadblocks women face when trying to achieve their fitness goals after a hysterectomy, she created HFHH to provide support, tips and guidance for other women on their journey to weight loss and better health.

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