Smart Pills: Do they really exist?
28 January 2020
Are you interested in being able to recall names and numbers faster with more accuracy? Having more mental energy that lasts throughout the day? Being able to learn new skills and information quicker while retaining the information longer? If so, read on and welcome to the world of nootropics!
There was once a scholar, psychologist, and chemist from Romania who was often heard muttering under his breath “man is not going to wait passively for millions of years before evolution offers him a better brain”. His name was Corneliu Giurgea and he is credited as the father of brain pharmacology and mental performance research. In 1972 Mr. Giurgea coined the term “nootropic”. Almost a decade earlier he synthesized a new drug called Piracetam which he later labeled the first nootropic.
According to his definition nootropic drugs should include the following characteristics:
1. enhanced learning and memory effects!
2. enhance the ability of learned behaviors to resist disruption (AKA improved focus)!
3. protect your brain against various physical or chemical injuries!
4. enhance the efficiency of your brain functions!
5. and this one is important – they should lack the usual side effects of other psychotropic drugs, namely sedation, loss of motor control.
6. Nootropics should have very few side effects and extremely low toxicity.
Nootropics are any drugs, supplements, nutraceuticals, and any functional foods that help improve mental functions. That is the broad definition, but as Mr. Giurgea noted above in his list, they should have certain effects on your everyday life while limiting any negative side effects. Nootropics are commonly referred to as smart drugs, brain boosters, or cognitive enhancers. They have become increasingly popular over the last few years because they hold the great promise of improving your memory, your attention span, your mental energy, basically everything in your life.
Your brain is the control center for everything in your life. From your physical body functions to your emotions to your thinking, work, and relationships. If you can take a simple pill and improve all these areas in your life it would change everything. Hollywood has even made a movie about nootropics called Limitless. The movie was awesome, but not based in reality.
In the following article we are going to address what are good versus bad nootropics, what should you look for, what you should avoid, and show you exactly how to start improving your life with nootropics.
• memory storage and recall
• cognitive function or the ability to pay attention and comprehend ideas
• reasoning ability
• the ability to communicate
And, most importantly, it is believed that nootropics can help improve your overall health!
Sounds like a magic pill, which it isn’t, but you should think of nootropics like this, your brain controls all the functioning organs in your body and from your metabolism to your nervous system; your digestive system and every organ in your body is controlled by your brain. When your brain is healthier and functioning better your entire physical well-being is improved.
Not to mention your emotional makeup. Many of modern life’s maladies such as depression, anxiety, ADD, and addictions can be traced to unhealthy brains!
A critical definition of nootropics is that they convey some benefit to the brain and that they are almost completely non-toxic. This is your brain we are talking about, not something you want to experiment on. Warning: You need to be aware that many so-called nootropics available today contain stimulants like caffeine, ephedrine, or any other psychoactive drugs that temporarily increase your alertness. They do have a powerful effect on your brain, but not necessarily positive. They do not have any long-term health benefits (documented).
Adderall is specifically a schedule II controlled substance prescription drug prescribed for patients typically suffering from the effects of Attention Deficit Disorder, ADHD, and in some cases used for narcolepsy. Adderall is considered a stimulant drug with effects similar to cocaine. Because of this many people take Adderall without a prescription, illegally, and run a high risk of becoming addicted to the drug. You can also develop a tolerance for Adderall where the effects are felt less and less over time. The primary of these is Adderall, which is a medical drug associated with significant side effects and toxicity damage to your brain’s dopamine neurons, certainly not what you want!
Another commonly mislabeled nootropic is Modafinil. Many people think Modafinil is a natural and safe nootropic, but it too is a prescription drug known as Provigil. This is a prescription drug used to treat narcolepsy and other sleeping disorders. Although it has been written extensively online as a safe nootropic, it is considered a smart drug! Modafinil is regarded as a safe wakefulness inducing compound as it doesn’t produce the same withdrawal or tolerance as most stimulants have. The list of side effects of Modafinil is long and not to be disregarded, these include chest pain, anxiety, and hallucinating. Other Modafinil related side effects include stomach ache, anxiety, depression, dyskinesia, and in one documented case, psychosis.
While Modafinil is widely regarded as safe, it is still a prescription drug and should be administered and managed by a licensed physician.
By definition, according to Mr. Giurgea, nootropics are safe as they have no negative side-effects. This was the original definition and as with most things in life, it has both expanded and diluted as the research into nootropics pours in. Part of the challenge when talking about nootropic safety is that it covers such a wide range of substances and ingredients. In the following section we dive into the two main branches of nootropic interest and research, and quickly they are:
1. The immediate, short-term ‘help me today’ class of nootropics.
2. The long-term, healthier improve my brain functioning school.
You can guess where we fall in this world! While there are many prescription drugs and over the counter substances, as well as natural nootropics that have incredible positive impact on your thinking and mental well-being, we tend to favor the long-term, you can read more below about our beliefs on nootropics.
So yes, nootropics are safe if you follow both professional guidelines and the extensive research on most of the major nootropic substances. The trend that we see is that there is a bit of a cult mentality around nootropics that stems from the biohacking movements. That by creating the perfect ‘stack’ of smart-drugs you can achieve super-human results in your life. In order to discover ‘the perfect stack’ one has to do a good deal of experimentation. You either have to try many different supplements and dosages or take the word of some other biohacker that this will work for you. This greatly increases the safety risks associated with nootropics. Due to the incredible number of different nootropic substances you will have to do you own research on the individual ingredients you want to try.
One of the most asked questions that we get is “Do nootropics have side effects”? That’s a great question to be asking. We need to educate ourselves about anything that goes into our bodies. Before we talk about that though, let’s talk about the differences between two classes of nootropics. What are Nootropics and what do they do? Nootropics, also known as “smart drugs, brain boosters, or cognitive enhancers” are basically a substance that increases mental functions …without doing harm. That’s key. In other words, they are generally considered safe with little to no side effects. So far so good…what do they do?
Nootropics have a wide range of benefits including but not limited to:
• Enhanced memory
• stress reliever
• anxiety reliever
These brain boosting compounds are not all created equal though…some nootropics are synthetic (man-made in a lab), and some are natural, herbal nootropics that have been around for centuries.
For many, the first thing that comes to mind when they hear about nootropics is a drug with side effects….and those do exist … As a matter of fact they’re BIG business.
On the good side, there are a ton of naturally occurring compounds that are also classified as nootropics.
So, what are the natural nootropics, what are the artificial ones, and what’s the difference? Here are some of the most commonly used natural nootropics, you may have heard of them!
• Bacopa Monnieri
• Choline (Choline Phosphatidyl, Choline Bitartrate, Alpha GPC, and Citicoline)
• L-Theanine (from Green Tea)
• Rhodiola Rosea
• 5-Hydroxytryptophan (From the African plant Griffonia Simplicifolia)
• Chlorogenic acid (from Green Coffee Beans)
• Ginkgo Biloba
• Panax Ginseng
• Choline Phosphatidyl
One the other side of the coin you have synthetic nootropics such as:
When it comes to synthetic nootropics, I’m not the biggest fan. I think a lot more research needs to happen before we can say definitively that they are safe. For instance, the synthetic group of nootropics know as racetams have been removed from Amazon and Ebay for sale as dietary supplements following an FDA ruling in 2010. The supplement companies have basically gotten around that FDA ruling by still selling them on Amazon and Ebay, but as “not for human consumption”.
That is not to say that they are not legal in the US, but it’s a very grey area and that makes me uncomfortable. I mean we only have one body. I don’t want to experiment on it with something that even the FDA doesn’t seem to know how to classify.
Do millions use them? Yes, they do! Would I use them? No, but that’s my personal opinion, and I don’t really need to, when natural nootropics are just as effective but without the well documented side-effects.
Rhodiola rosea (also known as “golden root” or “roseroot”) is considered an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body adapt to stressors etc. The Greek physician, Dioscorides, first recorded medicinal applications of rodia riza in 77 C.E. in De Materia Medica his medical journal. It’s incredible to me, that we can find actual documentation about this little adaptogen being used in medicine, so far back in history. Rhodiola r. has been extensively studied for its various health-promoting effects, but most of that research has been outside of the U.S. Since 1960, more than 180 pharmacological, phytochemical, and clinical studies have been published.
So…this natural nootropic has been used for centuries and is well documented as safe in a large body of research. But does it have any side effects. OK, I want to make a clear statement before we go any further: If you are thinking of trying ANYTHING new, and you are not sure if it may interact with something that you are already taking, please seek the advice of your doctor. I can’t say that with any more emphasis!
The people manufacturing supplements do not know what type of medications you may already be taking and don’t know the possible interactions of those medicines and their supplements-even though they have been tested as safe. For instance-Gingko Biloba is generally a safe, natural compound that carries oxygen to the brain more quickly. That’s because it’s a mild blood thinner. This is great for cognitive function, unless…you happen to be taking a prescription blood thinner already. You see where I’m going with this? You must do your research, and part of that is reaching out to your healthcare provider!
Lifestyle and other factors that may cause side effects or ineffectiveness with nootropic usage. People have so many variables that it’s almost impossible to say why one person has an experience with something that most others don’t. Perhaps it’s just their body chemistry, or they may be taking prescription drugs that interact with some of the properties in the nootropics.
A huge portion of the world can eat things like eggs, wheat, corn and shellfish as part of a healthy diet, right? So why then do a small portion have the completely opposite reaction even to the point of it being life threatening? I don’t know the answer to that but that can also be the case with nootropics and other supplements that are generally tested as safe with little to no side effects. That being said, some people do experience sensitivity, or side effects to all forms of nootropics both natural and synthetic.
• brain fog
• digestive problems
What’s interesting about these side effects are the fact that they are the opposite of what most people experience. If you are experiencing any of these types of issues, stop taking whatever it is that you are taking. You may be one of those people who reacts differently. I can’t eat wheat…and my daughter can. It is what it is. Safety comes first, so be sure to honor whatever your body is telling you. If you don’t like how it feels, then stop taking them.
Not all nootropics should be used together. Some nootropics may produce side effects when combined with each other or prescription medications.
As with everything that is generally safe if you abuse it by taking much more than the label suggests, or use it with some type of narcotic (prescription or street drug), stimulant, or steroids, alcohol etc. then you may certainly put yourself in danger of serious side effects. Side effects due to questionable manufacturers, we say this all the time…you have the power to know exactly what is in your supplements, why and if it’s the correct amount to actually do it’s job.
Unless you do your due diligence, and verify that everything that is supposed to be in there…IS, then you run the risk of ingesting rice, beans, pine, citrus, asparagus, primrose, wheat, houseplant and wild carrot according to an investigation, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, into claims of fraudulent ingredient manufacturing. In many cases, these ingredients were the only substances found in the product samples. None of the real supplement was actually in the capsules. You can request that the retailer give you a copy of their certificate of authenticity. This is verification done by a 3rd party lab that has tested the supplements and shown them to be what they are supposed to be. If the company is unwilling to show you this, walk away and find one that will. You can also check studies to see how much of your nootropic has been tested as being beneficial for what you want it to do. If the label on yours only shows a portion of that ingredient then it’s not worth the money.
If the nootropic ingredients are grown around chemicals/harsh pesticides then that may carry over into your formula. Synthetic forms of more bioavailable ingredients, like folic acid instead of the methylated form of folate, or cyanocobalamin instead of methylcobalamin (the more bioavailable form of B-12) may not be used by your body as efficiently and in some people with rare absorption issues, cause side effects. Standardized nootropic herbs are safe and reliable because they are measured to an specific percentage of active ingredient. Artificial colors , harsh preservatives, soy, wheat, dairy can all cause reactions is people sensitive to these ingredients. Look for labels that are clear about what they do and do not contain for allergen purposes.
Not with true nootropics taken in the correct dosage. One of the specifics of Nootropics is their non-addictive quality. That’s why people who take them, tend to love them.
To wrap up…nootropics by definition are safe. That’s why they fit into the category of nootropics. Most people only experience their amazing benefits, so if you’re thinking of trying them, just do your homework first. Two Schools of Thought on Nootropics. The first school, and probably the first to come to mind when you think about smart drugs or pills that make you think better is focused on the short term. “How can I improve my focus and attention, today“? Much like the movie Limitless, modern society wants a pill to solve a problem immediately. This isn’t necessarily bad. It is akin to weight loss. If you were overweight, of course, you are going to want a pill that will shed the pounds quickly right?
While there are, indeed, drugs that can increase your thinking, focus, and attention like Adderall, they do work, but at what cost? Adderall is a Schedule II drug specifically for its addictive nature and potential for abuse. All these short-term “pills” typically come with a high price tag. Even a simple substance such as caffeine from coffee. Studies do show that it will improve your focus and attention, but if you drink excess amounts of coffee you will not only burn out your adrenal system, you will probably be a hot mess as well and many of the racetams fall into this category. Mainly students looking to improve testing results like these types of nootropics. Again, they do work, well, but they come with a price extracted from your brain and body. We don’t suggest anyone take it on a long-term basis, or any of these types of nootropics long term for that matter. The second school of thought, and the one we fall into stakes its claim in the long term health of your brain.
Quite literally your brain controls everything in your life. These types of brain health supplements can help improve your brain health and thus your memory, your focus, your attention, your emotions and moods, even your metabolism but instead of extracting a price from your health they actually benefit you in the long-term, and, the best part, when you give your brain the proper nutrition to function properly you…
• Can shift every area in your life into high-gear – your thinking, your health, and your emotions. Everything just starts working better. Here’s what to expect:
• More respect and love from the people in your life now that your memory works better and you stop forgetting all the important stuff.
• Glide through the hardest tasks and your focus and attention are laser sharp.
• Your health may start to improve as your body systems begin to function better.
• Improved moods, along with your attitudes, making the world a much better place.
You will probably not experience a rush, or sudden sharpening of your thinking. You will notice the effects of a healthier brain within a few days.
People like to experiment with different kinds of nootropics. These combinations are referred to as “stacks”. It is a slang term, but you still see it used around the internet.
The field of nootropics is relatively new and growing rapidly as the promise is so great. Health improvements and science around Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia are also driving the research. You can think of nootropics like other supplements, there are hundred of varieties to choose from, each with different objectives. If you are looking to purchase and try some nootropics, the basic building blocks are varied.
Studies suggest that Bacopa Monnieri supplements increase the cerebral blood flow and activates choline. Choline affects the dopamine receptors in your brain which gives you a sharper focus and attention. Ginkgo improves blood flow to the brain and acts as an antioxidant.
Specifically, in the last 50 years, Bacopa monnieri has been the focus of a great deal of scientific research on brain health, memory improvement, cognitive enhancement, and anxiety reduction. This recent science is pointing to bacopa monnieri as one of the most powerful and natural nootropic substances you can find. We would speculate this is why you see it used in such a wide variety of traditional treatments.
Which has been shown to promote cognitive function and reduce mental fatigue. It’s very safe and effective.
One, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of the effects of Rhodiola rosea on students during an examination period showed “.. the overall conclusion is that Rhodiola rosea gave significant results compared to the placebo group”. Another study documented the anti-inflamitory and neuroprotective effects of Rhodiola Rosea in microglial and neurons. They found that “The protective effects of R. rosea against neurotoxicity may provide the pharmacological basis of its clinical usage in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.” Study after study shows the incredible effects of Rhodiola Rosea. Folic Acid is essential for many biological functions. It has also been found to improve cognition in health adults. Folic acid may lower the risk of cognitive decline.
B vitamins, particularly vitamin B-12, have been shown to positively influence brain functions. Vitamin B-12 is a brain nutrient that appears that it may lower both the risk and rate of cognitive decline. Data suggests that Vitamin B-12 supplementation may have a positive impact on global brain functioning particularly on performance of memory tasks.
Our Olive Leaf Extract is a high hydroxytyrosol extract. This is a type of phenolic pytochemical with potent antioxidant properties. Olive Leaf Extract helps lower odds of cognitive decline.
Green Tea Leaf Extract, specifically polyphenol extracts are powerful antioxidents.They are known to improve memory, executive function and information processing speed as well as cognition. Some studies have also shown that green tea may reduce cognitive decline.
The goal of taking nootropics is for long-term brain health improvements. You want to experience the benefits of better memory, thinking, and focus. Have sharper attention. Be more mentally awake while protecting your brain from the ravages of time and disease. Don’t invest in any brain enhancing pills who’s ingredients are not backed by science. You will have a risk of side effects, and toxicity. You definitely do not want to take prescription medications or other dangerous stimulants which make you believe you are mentally sharper but are burning out your brain at an ever increasing rate.