We’ve all waited an hour in a doctor’s office (which seems much longer when you’re sick), just to speak with them for two minutes. Then, we pay a huge bill on our way out – just for a prescription of a few pills (which aren’t always effective). The reason we go through this torturous process is because there are thousands of different drugs and we need doctors to decide which drug is best for us and which poses the least amount of risk for us to take. Since nootropics have gained a lot of popularity in the last decade, many more smartdrugs are becoming well-known for their benefits and have created quite a broad selection. However, there isn’t one single nootropics that provides benefits for everybody’s needs. In this article, we’ll discuss different factors to consider and different cognitive issues that should help you choose the best nootropics for you and your personal needs.
What are Nootropics?
It seems that many websites out there are mistranslating the actual meaning of nootropics these days. Traditionally, the term nootropics has meant “a drug or supplement taken to enhance memory or cognitive function in the brain”. Several scientists throughout the past have gone on further to identify other characteristics used to classify nootropics, such as safety or low risk of adverse side effects. Many internet marketers use the nootropics niche, however, to continue to push general supplements under the label “nootropics” that do not pertain to the mind.
While there are many websites marketing a wide variety of nootropics that may not be entirely useful to the mind, there are still hundreds, if not thousands of drugs and supplements out there that have cognitive benefits and that do not pose the threat of negative side effects. There are many different aspects to the brain that affect its overall being such as memory, concentration/focus, motivation, anxiety, and depression. All of these aspects of the brain work in a perfect symphony when operating at peak performance. If one area of cognition is suffering, it is often likely to cause other areas to suffer somewhat as well. The best starting place, when looking for possible nootropic treatments, is to start with the biggest problem. Sometimes, by solving your biggest issues, you will find that other areas that are negatively impacted may start to rebound with the main cause.
Factors to consider when choosing the best nootropics for you
Like most drugs and supplements, there is no “one drug fits all” drug that will solve all of your cognitive issues. Some smart drugs are better at improving your memory, while some are able to alleviate anxiety and depression which may be causing distraction or creating brain fog. When choosing which nootropics you’d like to give a try, your fist step should be asking yourself what you would like to achieve by supplementing with nootropics. Are you having issues with your short-term memory; remembering small, but important tasks throughout the day? Do you wake up with brain fog in the morning and have difficulty focusing on important tasks until late in the day? Do you simply want to improve your already nearly-perfect memory so that you can be even more knowledgeable? These are some common reasons that nootropics are taken and most are able to achieve their needs, to some degree, with nootropics use.
After determining goals that you would like to accomplish with the use of nootropics, you may want to establish some sort of scorecard to track your progress with the use of your smart drug. The benefits of many nootropics often cannot be felt. Instead, their benefits are usually noticed through tests or by comparing to a baseline. An example would be a nootropic that increases memory performance. Since you cannot feel your memory, you may not notice the impact of the nootropic, but may notice that you’re remembering things that you easily forget. You may also start scoring better on academic tests due to better memory retrieval. Many nootropics experimenters will conduct a baseline test to determine their performance without nootropics use. Then, they will continue to take the same, or a similar, type of test during their use to see if the drug is actually providing them with a benefit.
Once you determine your goals and create a way to measure benefits, it’s important to do plenty of research on the different nootropics that are available because they all work in different ways. Choosing a nootropic that isn’t targeted to your specific needs could potentially worsen your problems rather than make them better. It’s important to read about the all of the potential benefits, as well as all of the potential negative side effects and drug interactions with other supplements, smart drugs, or medications that you may be taking.
Look into the amount of research that has been done on each nootropic. There are still many drugs out there that are being marketed for sale that have barely had any research conducted on their safety, let alone efficiency. Most studies are published and available to read, in detail, by the public. Internet forums can also be a good form of research. Users often share their experiences with nootropics experimentation/use and express the good as well as bad effects that they’ve experienced.
Most nootropics that are unregulated and sold in the United States are generally recognized as safe for consumption. Most are also safe enough to be consumed with other nootropics without any negative side effects. In fact, most nootropics users suggest that taking certain combinations of nootropics can actually work synergistically with each other to potentiate the effects of each other for greater benefits.
Consider your budget when deciding which nootropics may be best for you. While most nootropics are very affordable, there are also many brand name nootropics that have a very high retail price of almost $100 for just a month’s worth of use. There are many suppliers out there that sell nootropics in bulk powders. It can sometimes be difficult to gauge exact doses of a substance when purchased in bulk powder, but many experienced nootropics users typically buy an encapsulating kit or a digital scale to weight out exact measurements. Many nootropics users will stack multiple nootropics to make a nootropic cocktail that fits their exact needs. Then, they throw the contents into capsules for easy dosing/consumption.
Lastly, it’s important to investigate the different nootropics suppliers out there. The majority of nootropic suppliers on the internet import their ingredients from other countries. Many of them conduct quality assurance studies to verify that the drug in question is nearly pure. They will also do testing for harmful chemicals and heavy metals. Other suppliers may just trust their suppliers in other countries, taking their word for the purity, and immediately putting it up for sell on the internet. It is easy for factories in other countries to mistranslate a customer’s needs, so it may be wise to ask the supplier to see a certificate of analysis on the batch of the product before purchasing. It is also wise to read reviews on the internet to make sure a supplier is legit and that they’re supplying top-quality nootropics.
Best Nootropics for Memory
Neurotransmitters play a huge role in the memory process. Especially acetylcholine which is responsible for signaling brain cells to communicate with each other. Many Alzheimer’s disease studies have concluded that decreased acetylcholine levels may play a pretty big role in the progression of the horrible disease. Other neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin most likely have important roles in processes for memory storage and retrieval as well. Below are some of our favorite choices for the best nootropics for memory:
Bacopa Monnieri — Bacopa is an “adaptogen” herbal supplement that multiple studies have shown to increase memory in both healthy individuals as well as those experiencing cognitive decline. Several studies also suggest that it may be beneficial for people that experience acute forgetfulness (ex: where you put your car keys). However, Bacopa Monnieri may take up to 12 weeks of use to reach the desired effects. While Bacopa has shown to be a great nootropic supplement for memory, it tastes terrible so buying this supplement in the capsule form is highly recommended.
Bacopa is thought to enhance memory formations by increasing expression of the serotonin transporter and by the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase. The effects on the serotonin system likely influence the acetylcholine system as well. Bacopa has also shown to increase NGF (Neural growth factor) in areas of the brain that are responsible for memory formations. NGF encourages neurons to grow which may increase the amount of possible synaptic interactions in your brain.
Vinpocetine — In addition to antiepileptic, anti-inflammatory, and antidepressant effects, Vinpocetine has shown to increase blood flow to the brain without altering intracranial pressure systematically. It is also thought to improve memory processes by depleting dopamine storage levels inside the cell, thereby inhibiting dopamine uptake and by altering signaling of AMPA and NMDA receptors which could positively impact glutimate levels.
Huperzine A — Huperzine A is a naturally-occurring alkaloid that is currently being studied as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s and has long been reported by users as having the ability to increase cognitive function (especially with increases in memory functions).
Huperzine A is a reversible acetylcholinerase inhibitor and also acts as an NMDA receptor antagonist. Acetylcholinerase is an enzyme that is produced by the body that breaks down acetylcholine in the brain. Huperzine may impact memory function by preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine in the brain.
Huperzine A also has also shown to work as a neuroprotective agent against agents like glutamate, h2o2, or beta-amyloid pigmentation. The nootropics may also aid in neurogenesis (growth/development of nervous tissues) in hippocampal neural stem cells.
Alpha-GPC — As stated above, choline is thought to play a very important part in memory development/function. Alpha-GPC (a-GPC) is a choline-containing compound that is found in foods with high amounts of choline sources. Alpha-GPC not only improves memory function, but has also shown to increase power output in athletes. Many nootropics users that take racetams (Piracetam, Aniracetam, etc.) add alpha-GPC to their stack because racetams are believed to increase choline consumption. By supplementing alpha-GPC, they are ensuring that their brain has significant choline levels to support memory function and increased choline consumption caused by the racetam drugs.
Best Nootropics for Concentration
Concentration is a key-player in general cognitive enhancement. The best nootropics for studying are the nootropics that increase your ability to concentrate. Whether you realize it or not, our brains are constantly filtering everything that our eyes see. You may have seen spy movies where a spy walks into a room and can tell the other person in the room 10 things that they could use to kill the person with. This type of training is actually taught by the CIA. Parts of your brain do actually encounter everything in our vision; however, the brain is forced to choose what is important enough for your consciousness and what not to pay attention to. If your brain was to take in all of the data/information that it encounters, it would become overwhelmed and you would likely have a grand mal seizure that led to your death. That may sound pretty gruesome, but it is true.
You’ve probably heard of the body’s fight-or-flight (stress) response. This works in the same manner – the Thalamus determines foreign objects that pose a threat. The body then releases neurotransmitters such as dopamine and epinephrine to tag importance to the subject, bringing it to consciousness (or actual thought). For this reason, nootropics that elevate dopamine and epinephrine, or that stimulate synaptic transmission, often increase the ability to concentrate.
Pramiracetam — Pramiracetam, a derivative of the famous nootropic Piracetam, is among the best nootropics for optimal concentration and prolonged focus. This chemical compound shares pretty much all of the benefits that piracetam has to offer, and more. Pramiracetam is fat-soluble vs. water-soluble which gives it a very long half-life of up to 6 hours and is said to be 5 to 30 times more potent than piracetam.
Caffeine & L-theanine — Caffeine is, by far, the most well-known and most used nootropic that’s available today. Some studies suggest that up to 90% of American adults currently use caffeine daily for increased concentration, alertness, and focus as well as for a boost in their mood/well-being. However, caffeine also comes with a list of unwanted side effects such as an increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, irritability, and jitters. For concentration purposes, we highly recommend taking L-theanine in combination with caffeine. Not only does L-theanine help negate the unwanted side effects of caffeine, but its positive nootropic effects act synergistically with caffeine to potentiate the benefits of both nootropics.
L-theanine is an amino acid that is commonly found in green teas. Studies show that it has anti-anxiolytic properties (helps reduce anxiety) and may also promote alpha brain waves which are known to exist when we are in a relaxed state of mind with our brains operating at peak performance. This nootropic combination is one of the most common and popular nootropic stacks among those that use smart drugs and is also one of the most studied combinations as well. Many popular branded nootropic supplements also contain this combination.
Sulbutiamine — Sulbutiamine is a modified form of thiamine (Vitamin B1) which is essential for many metabolic processes in the body and brain. When you think about having to cram for a test, you have to be able to focus for very long periods of time. Long-term concentration can be exhausting as it requires serious mental endurance and a full load of neurotransmitters to support the huge amount of synaptic transmissions that occur. Sulbutiamine aids in the mental endurance needed by promoting cellular energy in the brain, thereby increasing the overall output of the brain and giving you the energy needed for optimal concentration. Sulbutiamine also affects acetylcholine, glutamate, and dopamine neurotransmitters, all of which play an impact on memory, concentration, and focus.
Best Nootropics for Motivation
At some point in our lives, we all experience problems with motivation. Whether your challenges are with education, employment, or standard everyday tasks, it’s pretty easy to get burned out when you experience repetition. Factors such as diet, exercise, or depression can also affect our need to get our butts in gear to accomplish goals or less than exciting tasks. The important factors in the brain that are thought to be responsible for motivation are the neurotransmitter dopamine and the mesolimbic pathway. The mesolimbic pathway is the path in which our brains are rewarded for accomplishing tasks. Studies suggest that dopamine is not only the main neurotransmitter that gives us happiness (or a reward) when we accomplish something, but also suggest that dopamine is associated with consequences for poor actions as well. Many studies have shown that there is a clear correlation between lack of motivation and low dopamine levels. With these considerations in mind and from our personal experiences, we have listed some of the best nootropics for increased motivation below:
Adrafinil — Adrafinil is a personal favorite and one of the most popular choices among other nootropics users as well due to its high potency and obvious benefits. As mentioned earlier in this article, most nootropics aren’t easily felt like most psychotropic drugs, but adrafinil is a nootropic that actually can be felt. It really seems to give you a kick in the butt when you’re slacking.
Adrafinil is a precursor to modafinil (or Provigil), meaning that it converts to modafinil after ingestion. Modafinil is only available by prescription in the United States, but Adrafinil is not a controlled substance and is available by many suppliers on the internet. Adrafinil is a stimulant, but does not work like most stimulant drugs and does not cause hyperactivity. Adrafinil, like modafinil are both used to promote wakefulness. In fact, it’s most commonly prescribed to those with narcolepsy, jet lag, or long work shifts (example: doctors pulling double shifts in the ER that need to remain alert and motivated to save lives).
Several studies also suggest that adrafinil may increase memory performance as well. Adrafinil affects the brain’s adrenergic system (adrenaline) and the body’s catecholamine hormone levels. Unlike most central nervous system stimulants, it does not produce anxiety effects and is less likely to cause other unwanted side effects such as irritability, jitters, or a crash when effects of the drug wear off. The drug has a very long half-life and can produce extra energy, motivation, and wakefulness for up to 13 hours. It is recommended to dose early in the morning and no later due to the long half-life of the drug.
Phenylpiracetam — Phenylpiracetam is another member of the racetam drug family, which are all known to provide a long list of cognitive benefits. Phenylpiracetam’s effects seem to be one of the most noticeable of the racetam family. The drug decreases anxiety/stress while also providing very stimulating effects. Phenylpiracetam is also a great mood booster and positively affects dopamine levels/transmission which makes it a great pick for those experiencing issues with motivation. This drug is perfect for students that are having issues with motivation to study because it not only helps you get started on the task, but also helps you retain the information and think in a creative manner.
Selegiline — Selegiline (also known as Deprenyl or Ensam, in transdermal patch form) is a very interesting smart drug. This drug is being studied in a wide variety of studies today that range from possible treatment for those with depression to possible life-extension abilities in humans. Selegiline is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. Monoamine oxidase is an enzyme that breaks down many of our beneficial neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. There are many studies coming out that show that the majority of humans may be deficient in at least one of these important neurotransmitters. For this reason, selegiline is also being studied for life extension purposes. One study conducted on rats even showed selegiline to have almost doubled the lifespan of rats. It is thought that the increased levels of dopamine in the latter stages of life may help extend life because dopamine levels reduce in the brain as we age.
Deprenyl/selegiline should be used with caution, however. Certain foods and drinks may interact with the medication to cause dangerous spikes in blood pressure. For this reason, selegiline is not as easily available for purchase as other nootropics, but is still somewhat unregulated in the United States and available to buy online. The transdermal patch (branded as Ensam) was created to reduce these possible dangerous interactions which may make it a safer version of the drug. Please do plenty of research on this drug if you are considering using for motivational purposes!
Best Nootropics for Anxiety
Most people probably do not think of anxiety as a factor that would affect our cognitive abilities, but more and more research is revealing the negative effects that anxiety may have on our cognition. Anxiety is a form of stress that causes feelings of worry, unease, restlessness, or helplessness, particularly pertaining to an event with an uncertain outcome.
We all experience anxiety at times – some more often than others and some may experience anxiety to a higher degree than others. However, frequent anxiety, whether we realize it or not, can interfere with almost every aspect of cognition including memory, concentration, motivation, etc. Chronic anxiety can take a toll on our minds and bodies and can even lead to depression. As we mentioned earlier in this article, alpha-brain waves are typically emitted when your brain is in a relaxed state and operating at peak performance. Anxiety is well-known to interfere with this type of mindset that allows alpha brain waves from occurring.
Many psychologists today recognize two forms of Attention-Deficit Disorder. One form of this disorder is believed to be caused by neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain. The other form is believed to be caused by stress, anxiety, or depression. There have been recent FDA approvals for antidepressant drugs and blood pressure medications to be used as treatments for the latter form of ADD. Below are a few nootropics that can help reduce anxiety and stress so that you’re able to focus on the necessary subject at hand:
Aniracetam — Aniracetam is another popular member of the racetam family of smart drugs. Aniracetam is one of the three most purchased racetam drugs. Aniracetam also provides the long list of benefits that piracetam offers, but also seems to have the most pronounced anti-anxiolytic effects of all racetam drugs. It is also frequently reported to boost feelings of well-being as well. Aniracetam is thought to reduce feelings of anxiety through mixed dopaminergic, cholinergic, and serotonergic mechanisms.
There are also many reports that aniracetam helps reduce depression. Several studies have been conducted on mice for the efficiacy of its antidepressant effects, but no official studies on humans have been conducted. The study conducted on mice did show that aniracetam significantly reduced anxiety in adult, but did not show significant results in the young mice.
Picamillon — Picamillon is a synthetic chemical compound containing niacin (vitamin B5) and GABA. The combination of the two chemicals allows GABA to easily cross the blood-brain barrier, delivering more GABA to the brain than a standard oral dose of GABA would allow.
Human brains are stimulated by the neurotransmitter, glutamate. GABA works in the opposite effect to counter glutamate and depress neurological transmissions. By increasing GABA levels, picamillon is able to help reduce the overstimulation of the brain. Benzodiazepines, the drugs that are commonly prescribed for anxiety, also increase GABA transmissions in the brain. However, these drugs often have adverse side effects, can leave patients with a hangover after the drug wears off, and can even cause seizures in individuals that discontinue use after long periods of treatment. Picamillon works in a more natural way which reduces the risk of dangerous side effects.
Nootropics are generally inexpensive and affordable, however, I have spoken to many users that have tried several smart drugs and did not receive any benefit from their use, so they threw in the towel and continue to struggle or sought prescription drugs from a medical doctor. After discussing their trials further, I found that most of them tried nootropics in the earlier days when the plethora of information and many studies that exist today were non-existent. Hopefully this article helps you determine your goals, find a reliable supplier with quality products, and gives you a good idea of which smart drugs are best for the different factors of cognition that you wish to improve. Most likely, you’re not going to find the best nootropics for you on the first try, but this information should help eliminate some of the blindness that many of us experienced during our trial and error searches for effective nootropics.