Nootropics have become a popular trend throughout the world in and specifically within the realms of academics, biohacking, sports performance, and high-level occupational settings. Let’s face it, some people are competitive and may want to have a cognitive advantage over their competition. In order to gain this advantage, they may resort to taking supplements or pharmaceutical drugs in order to boost their cognition.
Most commonly used nootropics are in the form of psychostimulants (such as Adderall). Others that are frequently used include eugeroics (such as Nuvigil) and racetams (such as Piracetam). Those that take nootropics may consider them relatively safe and some believe that they actually offer neuroprotection over the long-term. Effects of nootropics include: memory enhancement, increased mental performance, vigilance, alertness, concentration, and motivation.
Comprehensive List of Nootropics (Smart Drugs)
Below is an extensive list of nootropics or “smart drugs.” It is important to understand that while many may improve cognition, there are concerns regarding long-term effects. Additionally among individuals without fully developed brains, the usage of these substances should be discouraged. Keep in mind that many of the substances listed below have not been medically tested, thus having scientifically unverified or poor evidence to support nootropic claims. Long-term effects and safety of nootropics haven’t been established.
This is a class of nootropics that inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase. The enzyme acetylcholinesterase is known to break down acetylcholine in the brain, thus lowering levels of this cognition-enhancing neurotransmitter. To prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, people take substances that inhibit acetylcholinesterase. By maintaining high levels of acetylcholine, cognitive functions improve. Some suggest that inhibitors of acetylcholinesterase may have neuroprotective properties.
- Galantamine: This is a substance that is primarily utilized as a treatment option for those with various forms of memory impairment, often as a result of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. It is derived from the plant Galanthus caucasicus and has been used as a form of medicine since the 1950s. It is well-known to have acetylcholinesterase inhibition effects and is also used to improve symptoms of motor dysfunction. Some research suggests that this substance improves memory functions in adults with brain damage.
- Huperzine A: This is another supplement that is thought to have some beneficial effects among those with neurodegenerative disorders. It acts as an antagonist of the NMDA receptor and inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase with reversible properties. Some studies have suggested the fact that this supplement is likely beneficial for improving cognition and quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s. However, it cannot be medically endorsed as a treatment until additional research is conducted.
- Huperzia Serrata: This is a plant that is commonly found throughout India and Southeast Asia. It is sold as dietary supplement and is thought to have nootropic effects as a result of acetylcholinesterase inhibition. It is essentially a substance that contains Huperzine A, which is thought to improve cognition and memory.
This is a class of nootropics that is suggested to improve attention, learning, memory, and vigilance. The classification as “ampakines” is derived from the fact that they influence the AMPA receptor, responsible for binding to glutamate. Many apakines have been thought to improve symptoms of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and even various psychiatric illnesses like ADHD, depression, and schizophrenia. The ampakines are thought to share common mechanisms with some “racetams” in that they both influence AMPA receptors, but differ in that their influence is significantly greater. These substances tend to have stimulant-like properties, with minimal side effects.
- Ampalex (CX-516): This is a nootropic that functions as an AMPA receptor modulator and was developed as a collaborative project between pharmaceutical companies Cortex, Shire, and Servier. It was initially thought to have some benefit in reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and was marketed as “Ampalex.” Some suggested that it may be tested among those with ADHD as a treatment option. Most evidence suggests that Ampalex would increase memory, vigilance, and attention, but its short half-life is regarded by some as problematic.
- CX-717: This is an ampakine-drug that was developed in 1996 by Cortex Pharmaceuticals. It is closely related to CX-516 and CX-691 and was even submitted for approval to the FDA for the treatment of ADHD. It mostly elicits an effect on the neurotransmitter glutamate, which is thought to help improve memory impairment and slow cognition. In studies with monkeys, those who took the drug had improved cognition and less fatigue. Toxicology disputes with the FDA have lead Cortex Pharmaceuticals to tweak this substance before resubmitting it for approval to treat ADHD.
- Farampator (CX-691): This was another drug that falls within the Ampakines classification. It was developed by Cortex Pharmaceuticals as a follow-up drug to Ampalex and it is still under development. Some suggest that it may be beneficial for treating cognitive impairment in disorders like schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Sunifiarm: In animal studies, this drug has been shown to reduce cognitive deficits. It is believed to be far more potent than Piracetam. Taking this drug results in acetylcholine release as well as neurotransmission of AMPA. Whether this is a safe substance to use in humans has not yet been established, therefore it should be used with caution.
- Unifiram: This is a drug that is thought to have nootropic effects based on research in animals. It is considered significantly more powerful than Piracetam, some sources suggest up to 1000x. Taking this drug is able to prevent amnesia and enhances cognition likely as a result of its influence on AMPA receptors.
This class of supplements influences the neurotransmission of acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with cortical excitement and is well-known to influence attentional tasks, alertness, as well as reward processing. Nootropics that influence choline tend to increase levels of acetylcholine.
- Alpha GPC: This is a natural compound of choline that is present within the brain. It is regarded as having potential to treat neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. This nootropic is able to deliver choline to the brain and allows it to pass through the blood-brain barrier. It is available as a non-prescription supplement in most countries and is thought to be safe. Some studies have found that Alpha GPC is beneficial for treating poor cognition as a result of stroke or neurodegeneration.
- Choline: This is a nutrient that is widely regarded as beneficial for brain functioning. It helps maintain signaling within the brain and communication between neurons. It promotes synthesis of acetylcholine in neurons and is commonly supplemented with “Racetams” to increase their efficacy.
- Choline Bitartrate: This is yet another formulation of choline that is sold as a supplement combined with tartaric acid. It is thought that the tartaric acid helps for better absorption of the choline. Despite the claims of better absorption, other sources suggest that much of the choline fails to cross the blood-brain barrier; thus eliciting minimal nootropic effects.
- Choline Citrate: Some people believe that nootropic benefits can be obtained by combining choline with citric acid. It is apparent that choline tends to increase the amount of acetylcholine in the brain, which results in improved cognition. Whether additional benefit is obtained from adding the citric acid is debatable.
- Citicoline (CDP-Choline): This is a nootropic that is thought to increase the density of dopamine receptors in the brain. It also is believed to prevent memory decline as a result of unfavorable environments. It is believed to increase concentration and overall brain activity in people who take it. Some have gone as far as to suggest it may be helpful in treating symptoms of ADHD. It is available as a supplement in most established countries and is believed to have significant neuroprotective properties.
- Lucidril (Meclofenoxate): This is a drug that is often prescribed to treat symptoms of neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia. The drug has stimulant properties and is known to boost memory functioning. Some people use the drug on an off-label basis as a nootropic. It is considered relatively safe, but it can cause some side effects such as nausea and dizziness.
- DMAE: This is an alcohol that is produced within the brain of humans, but can also be derived from various food sources including fish. It is related to choline and is thought to be an acetylcholine precursor, but there is insufficient evidence to back this claim. In various studies, DMAE has been noted as improving alertness and vigilance, while also improving mood among people with emotional disturbances. It has also been thought to provide some benefit to individuals with ADHD.
- Lecithin: This is a substance made up of various fatty acids found in both animals and plants. It was initially discovered in the mid 1840s in which a French scientist extracted it from an egg yolk. It is found in the human brain and is considered a source of choline, which provides many health benefits. Some believe that since it provides choline, that it is beneficial for our brain and overall health. Most would agree that there are superior sources of choline with more health benefits than Lecithin.
- Phosphatidylcholine: This is a substance that can be found within Lecithin extracts and is known to increase choline, hence being classified as a cholinergic. Phosphatidylcholines are found within every cell of the human body and are considered essential for proper functioning. Although some scientists have thought that this supplement may slow aging and improve brain functioning among those with neurodegeneration, there remains insufficient evidence to make any significant claims. Further research must be conducted before we assume any benefit or non-benefit.
This is a classification of substances that influence levels of the neurotransmission dopamine throughout the brain. They can include dopamine reuptake inhibitors, enzymes, and other antidepressants. Many psychostimulants are of dopaminergic nature, and thus could also fit within this classification.
- Bromantane: This is a stimulant drug that is commonly sold under the name “Ladasten” and functions by inhibiting reuptake of dopamine and serotonin (DSRI). It has been used by athletes to improve their performance, but is universally considered a doping agent. The impact this drug has on both dopamine and serotonin results in simultaneous feelings of stimulation and relaxation. The degree to which it functions as a nootropic is poorly documented.
- DL-Phenylalanine (DLPA): This is an amino acid that is largely responsible for producing proteins within the body. It tends to influence stimulatory neurotransmitters such as dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. It also is capable of eliciting an effect on AMPA receptors. Those that take this substance may notice that their tolerance of physical pain increases. Other nootropic benefits include improved concentration, cognitive energy, and improved mood.
- L-Dopa: This is a chemical that is often sold as “Levodopa” to help treat Parkinson’s disease. In terms of nootropic effects, some research suggests that it may improve learning of new vocabulary. Most people do not use this drug as a nootropic simply because it can yield many unwanted side effects.
- L-Theanine: This supplement is known to increase overall cognition and can improve your mood. It easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and when combined with caffeine, it can actually increase your IQ. It has been suggested to be beneficial for reducing anxiety, improving mood, and overall mental functioning. Other research has discovered that it increases alpha brain waves, associated with relaxation and learning. In rat studies, it has been shown to have neuroprotective properties.
- Mucuna Pruriens: This is a legume found in rainforest climates that has been thought to contain medicinal properties. As a supplement, it contains the dopaminergic precursor L-DOPA and its seeds in the form of ground powder have been researched for treating neurodegenerative disorders. When taken in copious amounts, it is considered equally as effective as the drug “Levodopa” for Parkinson’s disease. Therefore, it will boost the amount of dopamine in the brain, leading to improved cognition and memory. Unfortunately the long-term effects aren’t well-established.
- Phenylethylamine (PEA): This is an organic compound that can elicit both stimulatory and psychoactive effects upon consumption. This compound is present in many living organisms and foods like chocolate. It is marketed as a dietary supplement, and is touted as being beneficial for mood when taken at adequate doses. Some have suggested that this supplement is akin to amphetamines in the way it increases norepinephrine and dopamine. This is an under-researched compound and has some preliminary safety concerns based on rodent studies.
- Rasagiline: This is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) that specifically influences MAO-B. In other words, it prevents the breakdown of the neurotransmitter dopamine, leading to increased levels within the brain. People with abnormally low dopamine levels such as in neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease may benefit from this medication. It is thought to boost mood as well as overall cognition.
- Selegiline: This is a drug that is approved in various forms to treat neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia, and also mood disorders such as major depression. It functions as an MAOI, specifically acting as an inhibitor of MAOI-B with irreversible properties. It is very similar to amphetamines in structure, and some believe it acts as a neuroprotective agent. It has also been tested for the management of attention-deficit disorder and may have nootropic properties.
- Stablon (Tianeptine): This is a pharmaceutical drug that is most often used to treat major depression and is classified as a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA). It affects the brain by modifying AMPA and NDMA glutamate receptors, stimulates the release of BDNF, and neuroplasticity. In animal studies, this drug was noted as being an effective cognitive enhancer. Research has shown that it prevents dendrites from reshaping in brain structures when under stress. It also is thought to antagonize any potential neurodegenerative effects associated with drinking alcohol.
- Sulbutiamine: This substance is derived from thiamine (vitamin B1), yet is synthetic and is sold under the brand “Arcalion.” It has been though to improve conditions such as chronic fatigue and erectile dysfunction. From a nootropic-perspective, it tends to increase both memory and alertness by acting on dopamine and glutamate.
- Suntheanine: This is a marketed synthetic form of L-theanine that has been found to improve sleep quality, and researchers hypothesize that it may be beneficial for improving ADHD symptoms. It increases levels of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, thus reducing overall stress levels. In addition to promoting anxiolytic effects with its GABA influence, it also raises the amount of dopamine in the brain. For this reason, some suggest that it can improve our ability to concentrate.
- Tyrosine (4-hydroxyphenylalanine): Many people are familiar with the amino acid tyrosine which is naturally produced within the body. You can increase your tyrosine levels by eating certain foods such as fish, turkey, milk, cheese, and avocados. Increasing tyrosine tends to influence neurotransmission of both dopamine and norepinephrine. Nootropic effects may be circumstantial and vary depending on the individual, but may include: reduced fatigue, improved mood when faced with stress, and cognitive enhancement.
This classification of drugs is known as “wakefulness-promoting.” Eugeroic drugs are often prescribed to treat those with narcolepsy, excessive daytime sleepiness, and chronic fatigue. Some have suggested that they may provide benefit for those with ADHD, but they are not FDA approved to treat attentional deficits. Most eugeroics influence arousal-promoting neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and dopamine.
- Adranfinil (Olmifon): This is a eugeroic drug (wakefulness-promoting) that is utilized to help those with wakefulness disorders such as narcolepsy and excessive daytme sleepiness. Many have discovered that in addition to decreasing fatigue, it can be used successfully as a nootropic. It helps people stay awake and metabolizes in the body as modafinil, resulting in the same effects such as increased alertness and concentration. Currently it is considered an unregulated substance in the United States.
- Armodafinil (Nuvigil): This is an improved version of its predecessor Modafinil and contains only the R-stereoisomer. It has been approved for usage as a eugeroic since 2007 in the United States for conditions like sleep apnea and narcolepsy. Some have found it beneficial to use on an off-label basis for treating ADHD, chronic fatigue, and depression. Many would consider it to enhance cognition, sometimes to a significant extent.
- Fladrafinil (CRL-40,941): This medication falls within the eugeroic classification and promotes wakefulness. It is very similar to the substance adrafinil, except a ring of the chemical has been altered. Among animals, this medication has been noted as reducing aggression. It is thought to act very similar to adrafinil, but research must be conducted in humans to verify any hypothesized nootropic effects.
- Fluorenol: The company Cephalon investigated Fluorenol in comparison to the popular eugeroic drug modafinil. In their comparison research with rodents, they noted that Fluorenol was significantly more effective than modafinil (up to 39%). It has dopamine reuptake properties, but they tend to be pretty weak. Currently there have been no studies conducted in a human population to evaluate this drug.
- Modafinil (Provigil): This is considered one of the first groundbreaking eugeroic drugs to hit the market. It has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of various wakefulness disorders such as shift work disorder and narcolepsy. Those without wakefulness disorders often use this drug on an off-label basis for cognitive enhancement, whether it improves cognition though is debatable. Research has shown that it boosts working memory, but the long-term effects are relatively unknown.
This is a classification of nootropics that contains any substances that elicit GABAergic effects within the brain. In other words, they tend to influence the neurotransmission of GABA, which is known for decreasing levels of arousal and stress in the central nervous system. GABA reduces mental activity and over-excitement within the brain – typically eliciting an anxiolytic response.
- GABA: This supplement is often sold as a dietary aid and its claim-to-fame is that it can reduce anxiety, resulting in feelings of calmness. Whether GABA supplements for anxiety work is somewhat up for debate considering that some sources suggest that it does not actually cross the blood-brain barrier. Certain research shows that GABA supplements calm the brain and can be beneficial – especially with Picamilon (a supplement combining GABA with niacin). The degree to which this acts as a nootropic is somewhat controversial.
- Phenibut: This is a supplement often sold under the brand “Noofen” that is related to the neurotransmitter GABA. It crosses the blood-brain barrier and is believed to have psychotropic properties. Some research has suggested that it has nootropic effects, but these reports are controversial. It tends to produce a calming effect, resulting in decreased anxiety and reductions in stress. Additionally, studies have shown that it elevates levels of dopamine in the brain.
- Picamilon: This is a compound supplement that consists of GABA and niacin. It was created in the late 1960s in Russia and is actually utilized as a prescription there. In the United States, it can be purchased as a supplement. It is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and it breaks down as GABA and niacin, which is thought to result in anxiolytic effects. Some believe that the GABA within this supplement is a beneficial nootropic.
This classification is defined as organic compounds that have been extracted from various plants and/or other foods. Each tends to have a direct effect upon cognitive processes. Many of these natural options are used as herbal medicines for a variety of ailments and health conditions. These herbal nootropics influence a variety of neurotransmitters to promote optimal brain functioning. Most herbal nootropics may provide antioxidants, but nootropic claims are highly controversial due to insufficient human trials.
- 2C-D: This is a drug classified as a phenethylamine and its effects have been documented as “nootropic” when used at low doses. It has been used in several (poorly established) experiments and was said to improve attention and learning. These claims should be taken with a significant degree of skepticism as it is generally regarded as a psychedelic substance.
- AC-11: This is a substance extracted from various species of the plant “Cat’s Claw” and provides antioxidants that are capable of repairing damage throughout the body as caused by stress. It also is thought to stimulate the production of enzymes and has a number of physical health benefits. Some believe that it may reduce brain inflammation and offers neuroprotective properties.
- Artichoke Extract: This is a supplement that is created by extracting leaves from an artichoke. It is known to improve cholesterol, and provides the body with a variety of necessary antioxidants. It can be taken with other herbal supplements for synergistic effects (e.g. Forskolin). It has been thought that the antioxidative properties could improve mental functioning in some people.
- Ashwagandha: This is a popular Indian herb that is used to reduce stress and a variety of other conditions. It has powerful antioxidant effects and it is known to specifically target and obliterate some unwanted bacteria within the body. It is capable of reducing psychological stress, and is thought to act similar to GABA by which it reduces activity in the central nervous system. The nootropic benefit that could be attained is likely that of a “calm” focus.
- Bacopa monnieri: This is a perennial herb that is considered medicinal for various conditions. Throughout history it has been used as an alternative treatment for asthma and epilepsy. Some have suggested that it may be useful to help indigestion, inflammation, and other conditions. It wasn’t until recently that this herb got attention as a potential nootropic supplement. It is thought to enhance cognition and act as a neuroprotective substance. Some double-blind studies have demonstrated efficacy at providing memory enhancement in humans.
- Forskolin: This is a supplement that has anti-inflammatory properties and is thought to clear the body of harmful bacteria. Some believe that when taken with other herbs, it can have a synergistic effect. It promotes production of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), which improves cellular communication. The improvements of cAMP may have a positive impact on memory functions.
- Ginkgo biloba: This herb has been consumed throughout history as a food source and has been used in traditional medicine for various conditions. The degree to which this herb acts as a nootropic is up for debate. Some studies have suggested that it doesn’t provide adequate cognitive enhancement, but others have said that long term administration improves attention, executive functioning and long-term memory.
- Grape Seed Extract: This supplement can lead to numerous health benefits including better skin, reduced blood pressure, and improved blood flow throughout the body. Some believe that the polyphenols within this extract provide the body with antioxidants, which serve to protect the brain. While nootropic benefits may be negligible, some consider this extract beneficial for cognitive function.
- Green Tea: This type of tea has stimulating properties and is associated with both mental clarity and stimulation. Many people who drink green tea note increased ability to concentrate, without the jitteriness that they may have gotten from a more potent stimulant. This can be taken in the form of a powder supplement as well and is known to contain L-Theanine – a substance known for improving cognitive function.
- Panax ginseng: Most people are aware of the herb “ginseng.” It is found in North America and throughout Asia and has been used throughout history as a form of alternative medicine. Traditionally it was used as an aphrodisiac or to help with sexual dysfunction, and others have suggested that it can help control Type 2 diabetes. In any regard, ginseng is commonly found in products like energy drinks, teas, and certain types of coffee. The specific “Panax” species of ginseng has been found to: improve accuracy of memorization, increase quickness in attentional-task performance, and enhancing performance of complex arithmetic tasks.
- Hordenine: This is a substance that falls under the phenethylamine classification and is a derivative of barley. It is an herb that is sold in many supplements and touted as improving metabolic functions and stimulating the central nervous system. It is thought to increase arousal, and when taken in significant dosages, it may increase blood pressure. There is a lack of research involving hordenine supplementation among humans, so any nootropic claims of increased concentration should be taken with skepticism.
- Isoflavones: This is a class of natural compounds that are of the same family as isoflavonoids. Some people consider them to provide an array of health benefits including cancer reduction among certain populations. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, supplementation of isoflavones resulted in better spatial working memory. Other studies have shown that “soy isoflavone” is capable of improving other aspects of cognition, most notably: verbal fluency, dexterity, and spatial memory.
- Kava Kava: This is an herb with significant anxiolytic properties that contains an active ingredient called “kavalactones.” It is the kavalactones that influence the neurotransmission of GABA in the brain and reduce arousal in the central nervous system. Individuals facing cognitive impairment as a result of high anxiety may benefit from this herbal supplement.
- Kratom: This is often used to help individuals dealing with opioid withdrawals and minor pain because it acts as an opioid receptor agonist. It has long been utilized in traditional medicine as a treatment for many conditions. Kratom produces both stimulating and depressant effects in a simultaneous manner. It is capable of increasing the amount of blood flow to the brain, but effects can vary based on the dosage.
- Lion’s Mane: This is a mushroom that has been used in Chinese traditional medicine. It is believed that various properties of the mushroom act as antioxidants. Some research has suggested that this mushroom is able to improve mental functioning in those with impaired cognition. The long-term effects of this mushroom aren’t well documented.
- Lemon Balm: The “Melissa officinalis” (lemon balm) is an herb that can be used as a supplement among humans. In studies, it has been shown to significantly reduce stress levels and produce an anxiolytic response. Some studies have found that people perform arithmetic with increased speed and no reduction in accuracy when taking a 300 mg dosage. Its inhibitory response is likely a result of stimulating the neurotransmission of GABA.
- Oat Straw Extract: Some believe that “green oat grass” is capable of improving cognitive function, specifically concentration. Some people use this for joint pain, while others find that its stimulating properties provide mental benefit. Due to the lack of research surrounding this specific herb, there is debate as to whether it should be considered a nootropic.
- Piperine: This is a component of pepper (the spice) and can be taken in the form of a supplement. It tends to improve metabolic functions and supports the transportation of essential nutrients within the body. It has some MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibition) properties, and can influence levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. In rodent studies it clearly acts as a cognitive enhancer and is capable of reducing depression.
- Pterostilbene: There isn’t much research regarding this nutrient-based substance, but in studies with rats, it reversed cognitive decline and improved motor skills. It is found primarily in blueberries and grapes, so if you eat plenty of blueberries, you are likely getting this substance in your diet. Whether it provides a nootropic boost among humans warrants further research. It is thought that it may protect various parts of the brain due to the antioxidants it contains.
- Resveratrol: This particular substance has been suggested to have anti-aging properties. It is commonly found in grapes, and is believed to carry powerful antioxidants that protect cells throughout the body. It is capable of enhancing the release of the stimulatory neurotransmitter norepinephrine and is believed to improve mental functions such as vigilance and concentration. Whether this supplement offers adequate nootropic benefit is largely debatable.
- Rhodiola Rosea: This is a common supplement sold to improve mood and depression. Studies have shown that supplementation is capable of reducing cognitive fatigue and improving mental performance. It is believed to stimulate various AMPK enzymes, which results in increased cognitive energy. It has become a relatively popular supplement for those with mild depression and/or mild mental fatigue.
- St. John’s Wort: This is a supplement that is widely used to treat mild depression, and is considered pretty effective. It inhibits the reuptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin, leading to greater levels between synapses. Supplementation may result in increased levels of relaxation, improved mood, and reductions in depression. It is believed that the mood improvements may also lead to increased focus and improved attention.
- Yerba Mate: This is a natural herb that is commonly included in health beverages and is touted as having a number of beneficial effects. It is said to improve mental focus and stimulate the central nervous system. It is believed to provide the brain with increased energy and create a sense of being alert and calm at the same time. It also delivers a significant number of antioxidants which are believed to help protect the brain and nervous system.
This classification of nootropics involves hormonal-based nootropics. In other words, specific hormones are known to improve cognition when they are released within the body. When hormones are released, they can elicit a response from certain neurotransmitters and alter brain activity. Certain hormones may increase arousal and brain activation, while others may promote a sense of calm concentration.
- Cortisol: When taken in small quantities, cortisol is capable of providing mental stimulation and increased levels of arousal. It is thought that it may lead to a temporary increase in concentration and performance. When taken in too high of quantities, it may produce a noticeable “fight-or-flight” response in the body. Long term consistent usage is not considered healthy, but over the short-term, some advanced biohackers may use it for improved focus.
- DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone): This is a steroid hormone that is produced via the adrenal glands, gonads, and the brain. When taken for nootropic benefit, it stimulates testosterone and/or estrogen and can lead to increases in energy, mental performance, and memory functioning. Many athletes use this substance to improve their performance.
- Desmopressin (DDAVP): This is a synthetic form of vasopressin that is known to decrease production of urine. It is prescribed by doctors to help mitigate conditions in which frequent urination is common. Although infrequently used as a nootropic, some biohackers have made claims that it may offer short-term memory boosts and quicker reaction times. No evidence is available to support these claims.
- Melatonin: This is a hormone produced naturally in humans and is often supplemented to help with insomnia and improve quality of sleep. It is highly tied to circadian rhythm functioning and is also suggested to have antioxidant effects. Some have suggested that it offers a nootropic benefit by restoring the brain after significant stress. It may have some neuroprotective properties as well.
- Pregnenolone (P5): This is considered a neurosteroidal hormone that is produced in the adrenals, brain, and liver. It is prevalent at receptors of NMDA and is thought to promote efficient signaling between brain cells as well as induce synaptogenesis. Some speculate that when taken as a nootropic supplement, it may improve memory, mental performance, and reduce any potential damage from stress.
- Vasopressin (AVP): This is a hormone that is common among mammals and primarily serves the purpose of aiding with water retention and blood vessel constriction. There is some evidence suggesting that vasopressin may be released within the brain and could accumulate to influence motivation, bonding, and social functions. A potential nootropic benefit is that of improved memory functions.
This is a classification of nootropic supplements that increase metabolic processes and energy among neurons. Some of these substances function by boosting cellular membrane functioning and oxygen within cells. In other words, these supplements are able to give brain cells more energy, and have been thought to improve cognition. Some are thought to eliminate toxins and act as neuroprotective agents.
- Acetylcarnitine: This is a form of L-carnitine that is produced within the body naturally. It is sold as a dietary supplement and has been suggested to improve cognition among those with dementia. It may have neuroprotective properties among individuals with Parkinson’s disease. In studies with rodents, it has been found to significantly reduce neurotoxicity and possibly prevent substances from killing brain cells.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA): This is a compound that is naturally produced in animals and is also sold as a dietary supplement. It is believed to prevent damage from free radicals that may lead to tissue damage and/or inflammation in the brain. It is known for its antioxidant properties, and is considered beneficial for brain health. In some countries it is even manufactured as a pharmaceutical drug. In regards to any nootropic claims, further scientific investigation is warranted.
- Creatine: Taking creatine has been shown to boost cognitive function among those who eat primarily a vegetarian diet. Double blind, placebo-controlled studies have verified this finding, but it is unknown to what degree meat eaters would experience benefit because meat provides omnivores with a significant supply of dietary creatine. It is also considered relatively safe, despite some controversial claims that it can affect the liver.
- Pyritinol: This is a supplement that is created with 2 vitamin B6 compounds. It is used as both a prescription and over-the-counter drug depending on the country. Many believe that it offers benefits for improving cognition and other learning disabilities. People have been experimenting with it as a nootropic in the U.S. since the 1990s. Several countries support its usage for treating cognitive impairment associated with dementia. Other studies have shown that it improves reaction time and that it may even help reduce hangovers. It is believed to carry some minor adverse effects such as nausea and headaches.
- Vincamine: Some believe that this drug can be used as a nootropic to minimize the effects of aging. Some people may combine this substance with “racetams” to maximize potential cognitive improvements. It has vasodilation properties, meaning it boosts the amount of blood in the brain by increasing the size of blood vessels.
- Vinpocetine: This is a semisynthetic drug that contains extracts from the periwinkle plant. It is a vasodilator, meaning it increases the amount of blood flow within the cerebral cotrex. Some suggest that it may have neuroprotective properties and improve memory impairment associated with aging. It also has anti-inflammatory effects, which may make it useful in combating symptoms of neurodegenerative disorders. Several clinical trials have been conducted with this drug on those with neurodegenerative disorders, but results are controversial. It works via the inhibition of voltage-sensitive sodium channels, thus preventing damage to neurons. It is considered tolerable in humans, but the tolerability over the long-term is unknown.
This is a classification of nootropics that are known to promote healthy brain functioning by repairing damage, promoting nerve growth, and maintaining neuronal health. Many of these supplements are taken for their antioxidant properties and are thought to help maintain optimal cognition and prevent cognitive decline. These help increase the likelihood of long-term healthy brain functioning.
- Co-Enzyme Q10: This is an enzyme that maintains healthy cellular functioning and generates energy. Organs in the body that need a lot of energy tend to require this substance to function optimally. It functions as an antioxidant and has been studied for the treatment of multiple neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. It was suggested that it may provide benefit to those with neurodegenerative disorders.
- Idebenone: This is a drug that was created by Takeda Pharmaceutical Company as a treatment option for neurodegenerative disorders and cognitive deficits. It is considered a synthetic form of CoQ10 and in rodent studies, administration lead to improved ability to learn and memorize. Some have suggested that this substance may offer similar nootropic benefits among humans. Additionally some believe that it may actually provide neuroprotective benefit as well.
Many nutrients are thought to have nootropic effects on the human brain. Many nutrients have been suggested to improve focus, prevent cognitive decline, and promote neuroprotection. The proper intake of various healthy nutrients is thought to enhance overall cognitive function.
- Agmatine: This is a natural compound that was discovered in the early 1900s when scientists decarboxylated the amino acid arginine. From a nootropic perspective, agmatine is known to aid in neurotransmission within the brain. It accomplishes this by influencing ion channels, membrane transportation, modulation of nitric oxide, and metabolic processing of polyamine. It is also known to influence the Alpha-2 receptor in the adrenergic system and can inhibit some NMDA receptors.
- Carnosine: This substance is found in high quantities throughout brain tissue and muscles. Some scientists believe that it contains significant antioxidant properties which may slow aging. Additionally some suggest that carnosine could offer numerous physical and psychological health benefits. It has been noted to decrease wrinkling of the skin and preserve telomeres. While research is uncertain, some believe that it may help prevent neurodegenerative disorders like dementia.
- Glycine: This is considered among the smallest of amino acids and has inhibitory properties as a neurotransmitter, acting as an NMDA receptor co-agonist. Some reports have suggested that glycine can improve sleep-related fatigue and enhance cognition – particularly aspects of memory and attentional processing. One study found that glycine (in the form of Bioglycin) improved attention-tasks as well as memory, yet didn’t affect mood. It has been thought to decrease jet lag, sleep disorders, and some neurodegenerative disorders.
- Iodine: This is an element that humans need for optimal functioning. Specifically, it helps in the synthesis of thyroid hormones and consumption is considered beneficial to prevent deficiency. In order for the thyroid to perform optimally, it needs adequate amounts of iodine to produce T3 and T4 hormones. Food sources containing iodine include: seafood, dairy, and various plants. Inadequate consumption of iodine can lead to cognitive problems, whereas adequate amounts are believed to help with motor skills, problem solving, and learning new information. Some have suggested that there may be a link between low iodine and low IQ.
- L-Glutamine: This is an amino acid that is generally found in large quantities within the human body. It serves to help in the building of protein, and gives cells energy to carry out necessary functions. It affects the brain by providing neurons with glutamic acid and is considered beneficial for producing GABA and glutamate. Intake of L-Glutamine is thought to improve cognitive processes such as logic, creativity, and lead to reduction in stress levels.
- L-Lysine: This is considered an essential amino acid, but is not naturally produced by your body. This amino acid is able to improve digestion and is well-known as an off-label anti-viral treatment for herpes outbreaks. Some suggest that it even may improve athletic abilities such as endurance and strength. In regards to its nootropic properties, some believe that it improves memory and/or organization of thoughts.
- Magnesium: This considered an essential element for humans and influences a significant number of reactions within the body. It helps regulate function of muscles, blood pressure, metabolic processes, and influences NMDA receptors. Some have argued that adequate magnesium supplementation can improve memory, thinking, learning, and result in less anxiety. While it may not have nootropic superpowers, those who are deficient may notice a major improvement in their cognition with magnesium supplementation.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These are considered “fatty acids” and are most notably found in seafood. They are considered polyunsaturated and specifically contain both EPA and DHA, which improve brain health. Many studies have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids may help physical conditions such as heart problems as well as cognition. Some studies suggest that increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake could reduce depression, other mood disorders, and attentional deficits. Assuming you don’t eat enough fish, these can be obtained through pure (good quality) krill or fish oils.
- Krill Oil: This is a form of omega-3 fatty acids that is extracted from krill – a tiny form of crustaceans that are abundant within oceans. It is thought that omega-3 fatty acids are better absorbed by taking krill as opposed to fish oil. Supplementation of krill oil may lead to improved neural connections and synaptic processing within the brain.
- Fish Oil: This is yet another form of omega-3 fatty acids and perhaps the most common. Although many people are hopping on the krill oil bandwagon, there is still evidence supporting the usage of purified fish oil for mental benefits. Although improvements in cognition are not usually immediate, many individuals have noticed improved attention, mood, and organization of thinking as a result of fish oil supplementation.
- Phosphatidylserine: This is considered a phospholipid membrane that promotes healthy cellular signaling. There is some evidence suggesting that it may lower risk of developing dementia or cognitive impairment among the elderly. Some believe that it may contain neuroprotective properties, while others suggest better studies need to be conducted before any claims can be verified or disproven. It is thought that phosphatidylserine could raise levels of cognitive enhancing neurotransmitters like acetylcholine and dopamine.
- SAMe (S-Adenosyl Methionine): Many people take SAMe supplements as a treatment for mild depression. Nootropic benefit is thought to be derived from the fact that SAMe may reduce brain inflammation, which preserves optimal brain functioning. This substance is believed to help the brain to produce and absorb the neurotransmitter serotonin.
- Sarcosine: This is an amino acid and is considered a direct metabolite of glycine. It can be attained from various foods including: turkey, eggs, and legumes. It has been thought to help improve various symptoms of schizophrenia as well as depression when used as an adjunct treatment. It is known to increase levels of glycine in the brain, which in turn can improve memory functions.
- Phenylalanine: This is an amino acid that is converted into L-tyrosine, and ultimately increases levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine within the brain. When supplemented at significant levels, it may actually disrupt serotonin production. Due to the increase in neurotransmitters that are commonly involved in concentration, critical thinking, and memory, it is thought to have a minor nootropic effect.
- Taurine: You’ve probably seen this substance listed as an ingredient in many popular energy drinks, but can also be attained via consumption of fish and meat. It crosses the blood-brain barrier and is associated with inhibition of the CNS. It achieves this effect by attaching to GABA receptors. It is believed to promote stabilization of membranes, protect us from excitotoxicity, and have antioxidant properties.
- Uridine: This is considered a part of RNA and is organically produced within the liver of humans. It is responsible for synthesis of Phosphatidylcholine (PC) and the regulation of various enzymes within the brain. Some believe that it may aid in the process of neurogenesis as well as synaptogenesis. Increasing the amount of uridine may also boost levels of dopamine and acetylcholine. Whether supplementation offers nootropic benefit is debatable.
The psychostimulant class of drugs contain medications that are known to treat attention-deficit disorders as well as wakefulness disorders like narcolepsy. They stimulate the production of dopamine in the brain and activate the sympathetic nervous system, leading to increased physical and mental arousal. When taken for ADHD, many of the psychostimulants are considered safe long-term treatment options. However, among individuals taking them solely for nootropic benefit, they may lead to a significant crash characterized by dysphoria and inability to concentrate upon discontinuation.
- Adderall: This is another phenethylamine drug that is primarily used to treat ADHD and wakefulness disorders such as narcolepsy. It works extremely well for improving cognition and can even improve mood. When taken at the correct dosage, it can increase productivity, cognitive organization, and cognitive resources. The mechanism of action results in increasing levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. It is considered well-tolerated and there appear to be no adverse long-term effects other than reduced dopamine.
- Caffeine: At low doses, caffeine is able to significantly increase alertness. When consumed in higher amounts, many people experience major performance enhancement. This is why many people who perform cognitively demanding tasks such as writing, studying, or test-taking get a fix of caffeine.
- Cylert (Pemoline): This is a stimulant drug that has been around since the 1930s as a treatment for ADHD and narcolepsy. It was withdrawn from United States markets after various cases of liver failure were reported from users of the drug. The drug tends to increase dopamine in the brain and many people liked it for the fact that it had favorable side effects. It may function as a nootropic in that it enhances prominent memory centers within the brain.
- Dextroamphetamine: Like other amphetamines, this acts as a stimulant and is generally used to treat symptoms of ADHD. It is highly stimulating and is considered effective for treating fatigue and preventing sleepiness. It generally improves cognitive performance, especially related to working-memory and motivation.
- Ephedrine: There is some evidence that ephedrine can be used to help improve ability to concentrate, study, and think critically. Like other stimulants, this substance boosts activity in the central nervous system, leading to increased arousal and fast-paced beta brain waves. It provides individuals with increases in both physical and mental energy. Its effects are relatively similar to amphetamines likely as a result of its structure. It is thought to increase levels of adrenaline as well as norepinephrine in the brain.
- Guanfacine (Intuniv): This is a drug that is primarily utilized for the treatment of ADHD and has also been approved for hypertension. It functions as a selective Alpha-2A receptor agonist which results in improvements in concentration. It is thought to have nootropic effects through its interaction with receptors in the prefrontal cortex region of the brain.
- Methylhexanamine (DMAA / Geranamine): This substance was created by the drug company Eli Lilly and was promoted as a nasal decongestant. It was eventually withdrawn from the market and re-marketed as a an energy-boosting supplement. It promotes increased arousal within the central nervous system and is considered a performance enhancing drug in athletics. As of now it is considered a completely legal supplement in the United States, but several reports adverse effects have been documented.
- Nicotine: Several studies have demonstrated cognitive enhancement from nicotine usage. In particular, nicotine was shown to increase fine motor skills, alertness, and working memory. It is considered to be less potent than drugs within the amphetamine class. However, nicotine itself is problematic in that it is regarded as being among the most addictive drugs. Also, there are many health concerns with tobacco products (a common source of nicotine).
- Octopamine: This is a substance that primarily stimulates the release of norepinephrine, leading to increased cognitive arousal. It is derived from the amino acid tyramine, and is known to affect various adrenergic receptors. It is marketed as a sympathomimetic drug under various brand names and is believed to transport fat cells, which is why those who take it tend to lose weight. There isn’t significant evidence regarding its potential nootropic benefits, but some speculate that increased norepinephrine and metabolic response within the brain can result in improved cognition.
- Ritalin (Methylphenidate): Most people are familiar with Ritalin as a medication used to treat ADHD. Its mechanism of action involves inhibiting the reuptake of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This leads to increased amounts of dopamine between synapses, thus improving focus, motivation, alertness, and energy. It is approved by the FDA for the treatment of ADHD and other fatigue-related disorders. From a nootropic perspective, taking this substance increases efficiency of cortical networks and memory functions. Other commonly marketed names for this chemical include: Focalin and Concerta.
- Vyvanse (Lisdexamfetamine): This is a stimulant drug that is considered an amphetamine prodrug. In comparison to Adderall, it is thought to have a smoother, more stable absorption and a longer-lasting effect without as many unwanted side effects. It is clinically effective for treating ADHD and is sometimes used off-label as a cognitive enhancer. At proper dosages, this drug improves efficiency of cortical networks, thus leading to significant improvements in working memory and motivation.
- Yohimbine: This is a substance that is extracted from the bark of the yohimbe tree, commonly found in Africa. It is used often to treat erectile dysfunction and is known for its stimulant effects. In addition to its stimulating effects, it also functions as an aphrodisiac and antidepressant. The fact that it acts as a stimulant results in increases in cognitive energy. It is believed to sharpen memory, verbal skills, and improve critical thinking skills.
Racetams are a class of compounds that are typically touted as having the ability to significantly improve cognition. These compounds are of similar structure, hence all of these contain “racetam” in their chemical name with differing prefixes. In some cases, these can be purchased over-the-counter. In any regard, the racetam class of nootropics aren’t well understood and researchers aren’t sure how some of them work.
- Aniracetam: This is a nootropic in the racetam class that is regarded as being significantly more powerful than piracetam. In animal tests, it has been documented as eliciting anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects. These are likely achieved through its effects on the D2 dopamine receptors, acetylcholine receptors, and 5-HT2A receptors. It is under investigational usage for treating various neurodegenerative disorders. It also has an effect on the AMPA receptor and is a drug that is thought to offer benefits for individuals with neurodegenerative disorders. Throughout European countries, it can be obtained with a prescription, but it has never gotten any approval by the FDA for usage in the U.S. It is sold under the following brand names: Draganon, Sarpul, Ampamet, Memodrin, Referan.
- Coluracetam: This is another racetam drug that works primarily by influencing the uptake of choline. It has been documented as improving learning abilities in rodents. Some go as far as to suggest that animals who are administered this drug may develop long-lasting improvements in cognition. Some research has suggested that it may help improve cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia. It is currently being developed to treat people who have major depression with comorbid anxiety disorders.
- Nefiracetam: This is a drug that works by enhancing GABA, choline, and various monoamines in the brain. Some studies suggest that it works well to decrease apathy and increase motivation among stroke victims. It is non-toxic even when used over a long-term in humans, but in other animals it can be toxic. It tends to prevent amnesia and improve memory in humans.
- Oxiracetam: This is another drug of the racetam class that functions as a stimulant. Some research has show that it is safe at high doses for a long-term. The drug is currently not approved by the FDA for any conditions in the United States. It has been suggested that this drug may be beneficial for those with dementia and other neurodegenerative disorders. Those who take this drug tend to notice improvements in attention, memory, focus, orientation, and logic. One finding highlighted that this drug was superior to that of piracetam among individuals with brain injuries and dementia.
- Parecitam: Of the racetam class, this is perhaps the most discussed and utilized nootropic. Its mechanism of action is poorly understood, but many speculate that it improves cognition without stimulating or sedating properties. In other words, it doesn’t seem to affect a person’s arousal. It is a modulator of the AMPA receptor and may work on various ion channels within the brain to excite neurons. Additionally, it improves acetylcholine functioning and may influence NMDA glutamate receptors. There is some evidence that it increases the amount of blood flow and oxygen to the brain. It is not approved in the United States for any condition, but is approved in the United Kingdom. In recent years it has gained popularity among students as a way to increase academic performance.
- Phenylpiracetam: This drug is very similar structured to the drug Piracetam, but is slightly different. It was created in the early 1980s in Russia where it is still used as a prescription medication. It is regarded as a stimulant and has been documented as having the potential to improve athletic performance. It is thought to be anywhere from 30 to 60 times as powerful as Piracetam. It is considered to help improve brain injuries and reduces amnesia. It has a low potential for abuse and is unregulated in the United States. An interesting effect of this drug is that it increases a person’s ability to handle temperature extremes (e.g. cold weather).
- Pramiracetam: This drug was first created by the pharmaceutical company Parke-Davis in the 1970s, and was patented by 1980. In Europe, it is sold under the brand names Remen, Neupramir, and Pramistar. In the United States it has not been approved for any medical uses. Researchers have considered that it may be useful to help treat memory deficits among those with neurodegenerative disorders and brain injury.
This is a classification of nootropic substances that elicit their effects via the serotonin system in the brain. Substances that fall within the serotonergic classification include supplements like 5-HTP, enzymes, and various antidepressants. Certain serotonergic substances boost serotonin to improve cognition and brain functioning, while others reduce it.
- 5 HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan): Many people take 5-HTP to improve symptoms of depression, suppress appetite, and improve quality of sleep. Throughout Europe the supplement is used for major depression and actually sold under pharmaceutical brand names. Some research indicates that it is effective at reducing symptoms of depression, but the evidence is controversial due to the fact that most of this research was small-scale.
- Griffonia Simplicifolia: This is a plant that can be found throughout various parts of Africa. Its seeds can be taken as an herbal supplement due to the fact that they are a source of 5-HTP. In other words, they can increase the amount of serotonin in your brain, thus potentially improving mood and reducing levels of anxiety.
- Tryptophan: This is a common amino acid that is naturally created by the body. Many things you eat contain tryptophan including eggs, milk, and nuts. Upon consumption, the tryptophan is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and influences serotonin, which is thought to influence mood and arousal. This substance is considered necessary for optimal brain functioning and when supplemented, it can reduce anxiety and increase feelings of well-being.
Many times nootropics are sold as “stacks” or various combinations of supplements that work synergistically to improve cognitive function. Some people believe that stacks are superior to individual nootropics when the correct combination is administered. Several companies have created and marketed “stacks” in hopes that they would outperform standalone nootropic options. Whether these specific stacks are superior to standalone nootropic options is debatable.
- Alpha Brain: This is a nootropic formula developed by Onnit Labs with the intention of improving neurotransmission and promoting neural growith. The stack includes the following: Alpha GPC, Huperzine A, Vinpocetine, AC-11, Bacopa Monnieri, Pterostilbene, L-Tyrosine, L-Theanine Oat Straw and Vitamin B6. With this stack you are getting many nootropics in one formula that is supposed to improve attention, boost mood, and optimize mental performance.
- CILTEP Stack: The name of this stack is an acronym for “Chemically Induced Long Term Potentiation.” The purpose of taking this stack is to improve memory and produce an antioxidant response. It includes things like: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Artichoke extract, Forskolin, Vitamin B6, and Phenylalanine. Some suggest that it may improve all aspects of memory functioning and boost overall mental performance.
- Epiphany D1: This is a nootropic stack that was created to improve memory functions. It includes the following ingredients: Aniracetam, Oxiracetam, Sulbutiamine, Bacopa Monnieri, Vinpocetine, Mucuna Pruriens, and Alpha GPC Choline. Aniracetam and Oxiracetam. It is thought to improve memory, attention, and increase blood flow to the brain.
- New Mood: This is yet another creation from Onnit Labs and was developed (as the name suggests) to boost mood. The product includes the following: L-Tryptophan, 5-HTP, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Vitamin D3 and Magnesium. It also includes an anxiolytic herbal blend of Valerian Root, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, and Jujube Seed Extract. It is clear that the actions of this stack will influence the serotonergic and GABAergic systems within the brain.
- Shroom Tech Immune: This particular stack was developed with mushroom blends to enhance mental performance. The following are included in this product: Reishi Mushrooms, Chaga Mushrooms, Astragalus, Echinacea, Zinc, and Selenium. Some believe that it may improve energy levels and ability to relax. Whether there are notable nootropic benefits from this “mushroom” stack is up for debate.
- Shroom Tech Sport: This product was created to combine a variety of nootropic substances including: Cordycep Sinensis mushrooms, Rhodiola Rosea, Green Tea Extract, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Magnesium, Chromium Picolinate, and Vitamin B12. It may improve brain energy and help increase mental performance with its antioxidants. Once again it is unknown whether this blend provides synergistic effects.
There are many other drugs and supplements that may not fit particularly well within any classifications. While some drugs like clonidine could fit within a classification of “atypical” its better to describe the substances below as uncategorized.
- Cerebrolysin: This is a neuropeptide formulation that is often injected to produce a nootropic effect. It is believed to improve communication among brain cells, aid in neurogenesis, and result in superior memory functioning. In some cases this formula is administered to individuals with neurodegenerative disorders to help with various symptoms. The degree to which this substance works as a nootropic isn’t well established among humans.
- Clonidine: This medication is primarily used to reduce blood pressure among those with hypertension. It has been approved by the FDA to treat ADHD and can be used for anxiety disorders. It acts on Alpha-2 receptors in the brain and is thought to increase cognitive function by enhancing stimulatory neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine in the prefrontal cortex. Like other ADHD medications, it may enhance cognition among those without attentional deficits.
- Hydergine (Ergoloid mesylates): This is a mixture of various methanesulfonate salts and alkaloids and was created by Albert Hofmann (the guy who invented LSD). It has been thought to offer treatment for various neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia and other forms of cognitive deficits. Many people use Ergoloids as a nootropic supplement or as part of a “stack” to enhance cognition. It is believed to act in synergy with various “racetams” thus boosting the effects.
- Nicergoline (Sermion): This is an ergot type drug that was created for the treatment of dementia and other forms of neurodegenerative conditions. It is thought to boost mental dexterity and improve perceptual abilities. It may also increase blood flow within the brain, and provide neurons with increased oxygen and glucose for optimal functioning. Some speculate that it may promote nerve growth, which may promote healthier brain functioning.
- Noopept: This is a peptide that is primarily marketed throughout Russia and has been patented. It is sold as a dietary supplement in the United States and throughout Europe. Although it carries a mechanism of action similar to that of “racetams,” it does not fall within the “racetam” classification. It is considered significantly more powerful than the drug Piracetam – some suggest up to 1000x. In various animal studies, it improves memory and promotes neuroprotection.
- Propanolol: This is a well-known beta blocker that inhibits the sympathetic nervous system, leading to decreases in physical symptoms of anxiety. In someone with high levels of stress, it would eliminate the physical effects of the “fight-or-flight” response and is known to reduce blood pressure. Some have considered this drug a slight nootropic in that it increases mental performance in stressful situations such as public speaking.
- Selank: This is a drug with anxiolytic and nootropic properties and is classified as a peptide. It was developed in Russia and is similar to the peptide tuftsin in that it results in very similar effects. Some research shows that it may promote BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor), but this is only among rodents. It is considered a beneficial anxiolytic medication in that it doesn’t result in sedation and is said to have no withdrawal symptoms.
- Semax: This is a drug that was developed in Russia and investigated for a variety of conditions. Based on existing research, it is known for its nootropic, neruoprotective, and neurorestorative effects. It is considered unscheduled in the United States, meaning it is currently legal to use as an import. In addition to providing a number of physical health benefits, it can increase levels of BDNF and is known to improve serotonin and dopamine transmission. Some speculate that it may boost mood, reduce anxiety, and improve attention among individuals with ADHD. It is also thought to protect the brain by repairing damaged neural regions.
- Strattera: This is a drug that is approved to treat ADHD, yet has unique properties as a reuptake inhibitor of norepinephrine. In other words, it increases the amount of norepinephrine between synapses to help those with ADHD increase focus and concentration. Whether it acts as a nootropic in those without ADHD is debatable, but it may enhance certain aspects of cognition.
- Tricyanoaminopropene: This is a nootropic drug that works by increasing growth of nerves and regeneration of tissues in the brain. It also increases the amount of acetylecholine that is produced in the brain. A drawback to this drug is that it can lead to hypothyroidism, but this condition is known to resolve upon discontinuation. Its nootropic effects are up for some debate considering it was tested among mentally disabled children and no benefits were documented. Some believe that it is ineffective in humans due to the fact that it decreases thyroxine production. It has been hypothesized that supplementation of thyroxine may increase its efficacy in humans, but as of now more research is warranted.
These are compounds that are thought to have nootropic effects, but haven’t been studied enough. The safety and efficacy of these substances should be questioned until further evidence is obtained.
- IDRA-21: This is a compound that has been newly investigated as a nootropic. It is considered a stimulant of the ampakine class, but is severely lacking in clinical trials among humans. Some evidence suggests that it may increase memory functions, cognition, and elicit a neuroprotective effect.
- NSI-189: This is a chemical that was developed by the company Neuralstem, Inc. and is a derivative of pyrazine and nicotinamide. Taking it results in neurogenesis, or growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus of the brain. In rodent testing, it increased both short and long-term memory functions and increased hippocampal volume by approximately 20%. The degree to which it would be beneficial in humans is relatively unknown. Some researchers hypothesize that it improves cognition as well as mood.
- PRL-8-53: This is a compound that was originally developed in the early 1970s. It was initially patented and most research was conducted by the patent-holder. Preliminary findings indicated that ingestion of this substance resulted in better word recall after a memorization task. It was also found that this substance improved speed of solving math problems, geometric patterns, and verbal abilities. Therefore there is some subtle evidence to suggest that this substance has nootropic benefit.
Vitamins are used to maximize aspects of both physical and mental functioning. Nootropic vitamins are considered vitamins that can be taken to improve cognition. Although the body produces many vitamins and we obtain vitamins through various sources of food, some would argue that supplementation is optimal for maximizing brain health. Potential benefits from supplementing vitamins include: concentration increases, memory enhancement, and increased alertness. Some would suggest that vitamins maximize cellular health and can act as neuroprotective agents.
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): This is one of the B complex vitamins that is involved in synthesizing various neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine and GABA. It is considered an essential nutrient, and deficiency in B1 intake has been linked to an array of health problems. Foods containing B1 include various freshwater fish. It is thought that B1 may help improve memory processes and prevent cognitive decline. The nootropic Sulbutiamine tends to be preferred by many over Thiamin supplements.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): This is another of the B complex vitamins that help improve cognitive energy. It can be obtained through a variety of foods including: beef, chicken, eggs, brocoli, dates, nuts, and more. Some believe that supplementation may improve brain circulation and reduce unhealthy cholesterol. Most nootropic enthusiasts are more likely to take Picamilon as opposed to standalone Vitamin B3 due to the fact that it also contains GABA.
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothetic Acid): This is yet another B complex vitamin that is considered beneficial for brain health. It processes sugars and uses them for energy, which gets delivered to the brain. It also may also aid in the metabolic processing of choline into acetylcholine. Although not extensively studied, some sources suggest it could reduce foggy thinking.
- Vitamin B6 (Pyrodoxine): There are significant health benefits that can be derived from intake of this vitamin. Some researchers believe that adequate consumption of Vitamin B6 reverses impaired cognition and other forms of neurodegeneration. It is thought to improve brain functioning among those with cognitive decline by decreasing the amount of homocysteine in the blood. Whether it actually improves brain functioning is controversial and any significant claims should be approached with skepticism.
- Vitamin B8 (Inositol): This B complex vitamin is found in a variety of foods including nuts, certain fruits, as well as whole grains. It improves choline activation and can bolster communicative processes between neurons. Some have suggested that like other B-vitamins, B8 could improve mental energy and concentration to a minor extent.
- Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): In regards to nootropic benefits, some perceive this supplement as having beneficial effects on memory and neural speed. Like other B-vitamins, it may increase overall mental energy and improve physical health. Whether there are significant nootropic benefits from any of the B-vitamins, including B12 is relatively controversial.