Do Nootropics Work? All You Need to Know About These Smart Drugs

do nootropics work

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Nootropics: a drug that’ll transform you into a smarter, more focused version of yourself with a great memory. Basically, your ideal self. Does that sound too good to be true? Well, that’s mainly why they’re becoming so popular nowadays. But, the million-dollar question is, do nootropics work? Let’s uncover the answer below!

Classification of Nootropics: Then and Now

Nootropics, also known as cognitive enhancers, were first introduced as a criterion-based medicine — similar to ones available on a prescription.

However, today, nootropics have become an umbrella term for all synthetic medicines and natural supplements that promote better mental health. This could include memory boosters, and supplements for studying and improving productivity and focus.

To differentiate, nootropics are categorized as prescription drugs, dietary supplements, and synthetically-produced compounds.

Do Nootropics Work or Is It All a Placebo Effect?

do nootropics work

Yes, nootropics do work to improve cognitive function but the extent is hard to decipher. For instance, cognitive enhancers are usually given to ADHD and Alzheimer’s patients on prescription to lower the risk of impairment and they do work.

On the other hand, there’s no telling whether an over-the-counter nootropic will work on healthy individuals. This is because it’s easier to develop a drug for patients with known symptoms to control rather than create a cure-all for every single person.

Interestingly, nootropics operate on a ‘fake it till you make it deal. If you think you’ll feel more focused after downing a capsule, you’re most likely going to — a placebo influence. This is also why a smart drug that works for one may not work for others

What Are the Best Nootropic Supplements?

Now that we know what nootropics are and how they work, let’s narrow down the best supplements available so you know what to look for:


One of the most popular ingredients used in a nootropic, L-Theanine is best used in combination with caffeine. Not only does it impede the jitters, but it also helps you juggle multiple tasks at the same time. If you’re not a coffee drinker, the best way to enjoy the benefits is to drink green tea. It naturally has both elements seeped in!

Creatine Monohydrate

Mainly prescribed for energy, Creatine Monohydrate as a nootropic is usually taken to increase muscle mass but it has the added benefit of improving short-term memory, cognitive function as well as reasoning skills.

Water Hyssop or Brahmi

Also known as Bacopa Monnieri, this is an ayurvedic herb originating in India. Brahmi is widely employed to enhance mathematical skills, process information faster, and decode elements quickly. This is one nootropic that also affects the structure of the nerve cells, besides the way they process.

Ginkgo Biloba Extract

ginko biloba

Primarily used as a memory booster, Ginkgo Biloba Extract has a lot of benefits. It is known to improve heart health, and brain power and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.


Although it’s a prescription medication for patients with Dementia, CDP-Choline can be used by a healthy person to sharpen their memory, and improve concentration and attention span. The best part is, this cognitive enhancer actually has no known side effects! Just make sure to consult your GP before taking one if you’re on some meds.

Is Taking a Nootropic Supplement Risky?

Because there’s hardly any research done on the effectiveness of nootropic supplements on healthy people, there are no rules to taking them. Here are a few reasons why they may be a health risk:

Promotes Dependence

First and foremost, most nootropics like citicoline and caffeine are known to increase dopamine in your system. It promotes a sense of ‘high’ which may become addictive (as most popularly seen in coffee drinkers). Once the body is desensitized to it, you’ll need to increase the dosage to feel the ‘high’ again and that can lead to serious brain damage.

Loose FDA Regulation

Because ‘supplements’ aren’t required to pass the FDA-approval, manufacturers of nootropics do not have to actually prove or even disclose to the public what ingredients they’re using and whether they actually work. This is why it’s recommended not to follow the hype, instead do your research with diligence and trust your gut when you feel ‘off’ after taking a smart drug.

Lack of Information

Nootropics are medically provided as a combination of chemicals known as synthetic compounds. L-Theanine with Aniracetam is prescribed to patients with Alzheimer’s, and modafinil and acetylcholine are given as a stimulant to ADHD patients to reverse cognitive decline, etc.

But, they are also available over-the-counter as an attention booster. While they do work well in terms of cognitive enhancement, they should only be taken by older people for critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, because of the lack of information available, they are also used by the youth which can lead to common side effects.

What Are the Best Alternatives to Nootropics?

While taking a nootropic like L-Theanine with a cup of coffee every morning to improve overall brain performance and mood is quite convenient, the side effects may not be. There are a few natural ‘supplements’ that imitate the rush of a smart drug and they are:

Exercise Your Body


The easiest and most well-researched way of improving cognitive and cardiac function is to simply get moving. Go for a walk, try yoga or simply jog to your nearby store to complete an errand. It doesn’t take much time and feels great in the long run.

Maintain Your Blood Pressure

Health deficits like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and insomnia can negatively impact many body functions. Fortunately, with modern research, we’ve been able to crack down on easy treatments. Try some out, keep your health in check and you won’t even need a nootropic.

Challenge the Noggin

Before you let an ‘outsider’ like brain booster intrude on how your brain functions, jog the brain cells by learning a language, playing chess, or completing a puzzle. Not only does it clear brain fog, but it’s also quite skillful.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Foods are High in Nootropics?

The best foods to add to your diet to improve mental function are green tea, eggs, turmeric, blueberries, and red wine.

Do Nootropics Have a Permanent Effect?

No, nootropics do not have a permanent effect on brain health unless taken in an exceedingly high dosage. Some cognitive enhancers like Bacopa Monnieri or Brahmi do take at most six weeks to show results but even then, there are no long-term side effects.

Will Nootropics Keep You Awake?

Yes, nootropics can keep you awake but it depends on whether it works on you or not. While they are known to boost attention and make you more alert, nootropics won’t disturb your sleep cycle. In this case, it’s having a negative effect on your brain chemistry.

On the other hand, if you have sleep issues like sleep apnea, you might want to look into modafinil. It’s a nootropic available on prescription or simply gets adrafinil if you’d like an off-the-shelf option.

Brief Summary

So, do nootropics work? Yes, they are even prescribed for a number of mental disorders. Make sure to consult a medical professional before taking any though.

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