Nootropics are substances that enhance cognition, by boosting the ability to learn, the memory, and concentration.
Nootropics are often named in the same class as smart drugs, and substances which can potentially boost the power and potential of the brain are attracting an increasing amount of interest.
The word nootropic was first used by a Romanian chemist, who created the first ever nootropic, Piracetam, over 50 years ago, and the word is made up of 2 Greek words, ‘nous,’ meaning mind, and ‘tropein,’ which means to turn.
Even though nootropics and smart drugs are referred to as being one and the same, the criteria for a substance to be classed as a nootropic is stricter. To be a nootropic, a substance must:
- Enhance learning and memory
- Protect the brain against physical or chemical injury
- Improve the efficiency of the brain’s neurons in sending messages to each other
- Cause very few or no side effects
How Do Nootropics Work?
Nootropics won’t make you a genius in the blink of an eye, but they do boost brain power, particularly the memory and ability to learn. You will also find that you can retain information much easier.
They also have a protective effect on the brain. They act on the neurotransmitters and receptors, which can improve the brain’s function. If the neurotransmitters are functioning optimally, not only will you be able to learn and concentrate better, you’ll also be more resistant to cognitive decline that usually occurs as you age.
Some nootropics can also increase the supply of blood to the brain, which provides it with more oxygen and nutrients, and helps you to concentrate better for longer.
Other nootropics, can even promote the growth of new brain cells and improve the connection between them, which results in faster learning and better memory.
Not all nootropics have an immediate effect, though drugs like Noopept and phenylpiracetam do, so you need to do your research to find the drug that meets your needs.
Types of Nootropics
Nootropics fall into 3 categories; racetams, stimulants, and nutraceuticals. Each type of nootropic has various functions that help to boost cognitive function and overall brain health.
Racetams: Racetams act on the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain and so they have an effect on memory, mood, mental agility, and concentration. The main benefits of using racetams include increased memory capacity, better concentration, and faster recall.
Stimulants: Stimulants increase alertness and focus, which make it easier for you to concentrate. They also make the brain more able to tolerate stress, as they boost your energy, and raise your heart rate and blood pressure. The effects of stimulants tend to last longer than the cognitive enhancers.
Nutraceuticals: These are foods or food products that combine some of the effects of the racetams and stimulants. Their effects tend not to be as strong however. They have been proving to be effective in improving brain activity and brain health, and so they may be a useful additional treatment for neurological conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
You can use each nootropic on its own or you can combine it with other complementary nootropics to enhance its effects in what is known as a nootropic stack.
Are Nootropics Safe?
Nootropics are some of the safest supplements that are available.
They have neuroprotective effects on the brain which may slow down signs of brain ageing and so prevent the signs of cognitive decline that is associated with getting older. As well as protecting the brain tissue and cells, some nootropics can also boost nerve growth factor levels which boosts the development of new brain cells and improves the connections between them.
There is current research into using nootropics to treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and many other cognitive impairments.
Most Nootropics don’t interact with medications or worsen existing health conditions.
Hardly any of the supplements led to tolerance, addiction, and withdrawal symptoms.
Regardless of this, you should always talk to your doctor before taking nootropics, just as you should before you begin taking any substance.
Nootropics are growing in popularity given that they enhance cognition so effectively yet there are very few side effects associated with taking them. That is not to say that you won’t experience side effects however, and before you start using nootropics, it’s a good idea to learn about the possible side effects that you might experience. Side effects are more likely if you are taking a larger dose, and they can include headaches, digestive upsets, fatigue, insomnia, and anxiety.
Nootropics and Headaches:
Headaches are the most commonly reported side effect of nootropics, especially with use of the Racetams.
This likely to be due to the fact that the brain is working harder and there is more of a demand for Acetylcholine than the body can produce.
This causes the Acetylcholine receptor sites to ‘burn out,’ and it is believed that this causes the headaches. This side effect can be easily remedied. All you have to do is add a source or choline to your supplement regime. This will increase the amount of Acetylcholine in the brain and it should relieve the headaches.
Nootropics and Digestive Problems
When a high dose of nootropics is taken, it can be tough on the digestive system. The digestive system might try to eliminate the nootropic and you might experience nausea, diarrhoea, and pain or general discomfort in your abdomen. To reduce this side effect, try reducing the dose you’re taking at first. If this doesn’t help, try eliminating the nootropic for a few days to see if this reduces your symptoms. You could also try using a more potent nootropic such as noopept, and you’ll only need a smaller dose, so it will be gentler on your system.
Nootropics and Fatigue or Insomnia:
Many nootropics can increase energy levels and boost alertness, but this can sometimes result in getting side effects which are polar opposites, fatigue and insomnia.
Insomnia can occur when a stimulating nootropic is taken close to bedtime, which boosts your brain activity and makes it hard for you to fall asleep. Once you fall asleep, it may not be restful, so you can wake up feeling tired. So, this is why the timing of your dosing is important.
If you have Pramiracetam, CDP Choline or Noopept before you go to bed and you are very likely to experience insomnia. Don’t take your nootropic in the late afternoon or early evening.
You can also try taking some of the nootropics that encourage sleep later on in the day, including Phenibut, Inositol, Melatonin, and L-Theanine.
Acetylcholine supplements taken early in the day can also promote deep, refreshing sleep since the neurotransmitter is involved in inducing REM sleep.
A good tip is to take stimulating nootropics when you need to be productive and use relaxing supplements later on in the day. This will bring a better balance to your regime.
Some nootropics can cause excess fatigue, especially when an excessive dose of alertness boosting nootropics has been taken. Remember that what goes up must come down eventually.
The way to solve this problem is to spread the dose out during the day. If you find that the fatigue persists, come off the nootropic for a week or two, or consider changing nootropics altogether.
Other Known Side Effects of Nootropics
Each supplement works in a unique way, so it might come with a unique set of side effects. You should always do your research on your chosen supplement before taking your chosen nootropic. Other side effects you may experience include anxiety, nervousness, mood disturbances, and depression. Side effects are quite rare, but when they do occur, they tend to be quite mild. There have been reports of some drugs causing skin rashes, high blood pressure, and lightheadedness however.
Side effects are more likely with higher doses and are often the result of combining nootropics that don’t work well together in stacks.
Nootropics are safe if they are used correctly. If you follow the guidance on dosage and usage, they offer a lot of benefits with very few side effects.
DMAE, or Dimethylaminoethanol, is an organic compound that is produced in the human brain naturally, and found in food sources like fish, especially salmon and sardines.
It’s a nootropic supplement and it’s very similar to choline, but as it has a different structure, it can cross the blood-brain barrier a lot more easily.
Many people who use DMAE say that it increases cognitive abilities more than choline, and they tend to use an enhanced and more potent version of the supplement called Centrophenoxine.
DMAE is reported to have a positive effect on the memory, focus, and attention span.
DMAE Supplements: The Lowdown
DMAE is very similar to Choline, but it only has 2 methyl molecules attached to its nitrogen molecule rather than 3. As a result, DMAE crosses the blood-brain barrier much more easily than choline.
When DMAE enters the brain, it is converted into Acetylcholine. This is a potent neurotransmitter that plays an important role in several different mental processes like memory and learning.
Acetylcholine is thought to be one of the most important neurotransmitters for the formation of new connections between neurons, and therefore, a more powerful and efficient brain.
An estimated 90% of people are thought to be deficient in the nutrients needed to make Acetylcholine and in elderly people, it may be even higher than this. In these cases, supplementation is necessary to ensure the brain is functioning normally.
DMAE is one of the best supplements you can take to boost levels of Acetylcholine, so you can boost memory, cognition, reasoning, focus, and learning capacity.
Centrophenoxine, which is an enhanced version of DMAE, has been studied as a potential treatment for repairing damage to the brain caused by Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.
DMAE is also known to bind to phospholipids in the brain, so it can help the brain nerve function, and it acts as an antioxidant too to further improve brain health and prevent and reduce damage to the brain cells and tissues from free radicals. This can prevent or slow down the ageing of the brain.
There are many benefits associated with DMAE supplementation, including improved mood, better energy, and improved alertness. This is likely to be down to the increased efficiency in the communication between the nerve cells.
Using the supplement has also been reported by users to reduce stress and anxiety. Some studies have shown that it reduced anxiety in students who are taking exams. Other users reported that they had better recall, most likely down to the memory boosting effects that the supplement has on Acetylcholine levels in the brain. This potent neurotransmitter can increase the formation of memories, it can boost learning capacity, attention span, and concentration.
There is evidence to suggest that the supplement might benefit people with cognitive problems, like ADHD or even age-related issues, but more evidence is needed as research is limited.
DMAE has been shown to improve creativity and problem-solving abilities, and in athletes, or other high-level competitors, it has been shown to boost focus and concentration.
It’s not only good for the brain, it has effects on the skin too, and it appears to offer some anti-ageing benefits. It’s used in many skincare products, as it can also keep skin clear and reduce inflammation. DMAE has been shown to slow down the production of chemicals that lead to skin ageing.
Research on DMAE is promising in a number of areas, but it’s limited, and more research is needed. It’s currently sold as a health supplement and not as a treatment for any health conditions.
DMAE to Treat ADHD
In the 1970s, DMAE was sold as a prescription drug throughout Europe. It was initially researched as a drug that could treat ADHD in children. In some studies, it appeared to improve behaviour and reduce hyperactivity, but in others, it had mixed results.
In 1975, one study looked at the effects of DMAE on 74 children diagnosed with learning disabilities and hyperactivity. The children were treated for 3 months with either a placebo, 500 mg of DMAE, or 40 mg of the ADHD drug Ritalin.
The children who were given either DMAE or Ritalin demonstrated improvements in tests of concentration and skills, while those given the placebo saw no improvements. This suggested that DMAE could potentially be a safer alternative treatment for ADHD than Ritalin, a stimulant with considerable side effects.
In 1976, another study examined the effects of giving 500 mg oral DMAE dosages to children with hyperactivity. The children were not clinically diagnosed with ADHD, but today, they would probably have been considered to have the condition.
The children were given 300 mg of this product in the morning and 200 mg at lunchtime and their behaviour was observed for 12 weeks. Those given the DMAE experienced greater improvements in behaviour compared to those given the placebo.
Other studies demonstrated inconclusive results however, and after these studies, there has been only limited further research into DMAE. This is due to the fact it is not a prescription medication, and it was judged that the cost of further research was too high.
Because the compound is found in fish, getting a patent for the product would have been difficult. As a result, it’s classed as a nutritional supplement, and it is not approved for the treatment of ADHD or any other medical conditions.
DMAE is used for a wide range of reasons and in different situations. So, the dosage that will work for you will be dependent on what you’re using it for. Always speak to your doctor before taking it, just as you would with any supplement. Most people start off taking around 150 mg per day and work up to higher doses of 750 mg or more. The general rule is to start with the lowest dose that has a beneficial effect, and only increase the dosage when you are sure there are no adverse side effects.
DMAE Side Effects
DMAE is classed as being quite safe when used correctly and in the proper doses. However, there are some circumstances where you should either avoid it or use it with particular caution.
People who have depression, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, or any type of seizure disorder might notice that their conditions becomes worse if they take DMAE.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not take this supplement unless it has been expressly allowed by their doctor. This is because DMAE can cause birth defects, as compounds it contains can compete with choline and cause developmental problems.
Some users have reported stomach upsets, high blood pressure. Drowsiness, depression, and an unpleasant body odour.
DMAE may interact with other medications, especially cholinergic or anticholinergic medications, and medications called Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitors, which inhibit the body from breaking the neurotransmitter acetylcholine down.
DMAE use with the use of an AChE inhibitor could cause high levels of acetylcholine to accumulate in the brain, which can cause unpleasant side effects.