Nootropic supplements have been around for decades as treatments for cognitive decline, but in recent years those wanting to enhance their brain function have jumped onto these brain boosting drugs like never before.
Everyone from anxious college students, stressed out tech employees, frazzled parents and worn-out older adults, are demanding solutions that can help them to function as well as they need to.
According to some, 2017 is the year that will see nootropics go mainstream.
Supplement manufacturers have scrambled to take advantage of this growing demand and there are new nootropic supplements hitting the market every week.
Which makes it more important than ever to do your homework. Remember, you’re taking substances that claim to alter your brain!
It’s important to note that everyone responds to nootropics differently. Substances that turn out to be miracle, life changing substances for some, do absolutely nothing for others. Nootropics aren’t clinical drugs and they don’t have the backing of large scale clinical trials which demonstrate their efficacy in large groups of people. When it comes to nootropics, it’s all an experiment, and you are your own lab rat.
Let’s take a look at some of the nootropics that are worth your consideration in 2017.
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) – Improve Your Mood And Enjoy Better Sleep
This isn’t a technically a nootropic, but it’s a good starting point.
Any attempt to “hack” the mind should begin with the least amount of intervention that could get results.
That’s why it’s a really good idea, before reaching for nootropic supplements, that you make sure that you have the basics covered. Basics like, eating a nutritionally balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, steering clear of junk foods, and limiting alcohol and other recreational drugs.
Once those are in place, the next step is to focus on getting a good night’s sleep and on lifting your mood.
Don’t underestimate the importance of restorative sleep on brain function. Research has shown that those who are sleep deprived face the same cognitive problems as those who are drunk! And other research has demonstrated that lack of sleep has detrimental effects on working memory and focus which are both areas that many nootropic supplements attempt to address.
Good sleep also leads to a better mood, and a better mood also improves brain function. And this is where 5-HTP comes in.
5-HTP is a chemical present in the body which enables serotonin to be synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan (found in your food). Serotonin is one of the happy hormones and the more you have (to a degree), the better your mood will be. Serotonin also has positive effects on sleep, anxiety, appetite and pain sensations.
5-HTP is used in clinical trials to evaluate the effectiveness of drugs that aim to affect serotonin levels, so you can have confidence in its effects.
By increasing 5-HTP levels you can generate more serotonin.
A standard dose is 50 mg taken 3 times a day. For anxiety or depression the dose used is 150 – 300 mg per day, and for sleep issues, researchers used 200 – 400 mg at night, however it should be noted that it could take at least 4 weeks before noticeable effects are seen.
Side effects of 5-HTP are usually mild and these may include nausea, gas, heartburn, feelings of fullness, and digestive rumblings in some people. At high doses, there is a possibility that serotonin syndrome could develop, so never take more than the recommended amount.
People with hypertension or diabetes should check with their doctor before taking 5-HTP. Those taking antidepressants should not take 5-HTP, nor should pregnant or breastfeeding women or those with liver disease.
Taking a 200 mg daily dose would cost around $6 a month.
Piracetam: The Grand Daddy Of Nootropics
Piracetam was the original Nootropic substance first synthesized in 1964, and it is the parent of all nootropics in the racetam family.
Newer racetams tend to be more powerful than their predecessor, but Piracetam has the benefit of having been studied more extensively than the rest.
Piracetam will be of most interest to older individuals as it has been demonstrated that it can improve general cognition in those suffering from age related cognitive decline.
There is scant evidence that it has any benefits for those with healthy brain function, although users of all ages anecdotally report that they feel sharper when taking Piracetam.
If Piracetam works for you, then the main benefits that you can expect include mild improvements in cognition and memory, as well as possible increased learning abilities.
Piracetam is well tolerated with few side effects, and those that do occur are known to be mild, and short lived. However, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you shouldn’t take this supplement.
A typical dose of Piracetam is around 1,200 – 4,800 mg a day. The largest effective dose used is 1,600 mg taken 3 times a day.
If you’re an older individual looking to improve your memory and ability to think clearly as well as prevent (as much as possible) further declines, then Piracetam is a safe nootropic that’s worth a look.
One other benefit that this supplement brings for older people is its ability to prevent blood clots, and when taken daily, Piracetam is as effective as Aspirin in this role.
If you wanted to take Piracetam at the maximum suggested dose then a monthly supply would cost a very reasonable $10.
Phenibut – Quieten Anxiety
While many nootropics are stimulating, Phenibut gives you a cognitive boost thanks to its calming properties. An anxious mind is a less productive and less focused mind. Taking Phenibut promotes relaxation and also helps to give you a better night sleep, which is another important factor for better cognition.
As well as being a general anti anxiety substance, Phenibut is also said to help with social anxiety situations.
Phenibut is a synthetic nootropic compound which is a derivative of the naturally occurring neurotransmitter known as Gamma-Aminobutyric acid, or GABA.
GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in humans and is responsible for reducing the excitability of the neurons in the central nervous system. When GABA is released in the brain, it promotes feelings of calmness.
Phenibut isn’t a suitable nootropic for everyday use as dependance issues can occur. It’s best to take it for a short time, then take a break for a week or more, cycling on and off regularly.
At lower doses Phenibut can increase wakefulness, attention and focus, while at higher doses it acts as a sedative.
Phenibut should not be taken by pregnant or breastfeeding women or by those who use alcohol or opioids due to a risk of potentially fatal respiratory depression.
Typical doses of Phenibut tend to fall around 500 – 2000 mg per day, depending the effects that you want to achieve.
Phenibut costs around $9 for 25 grams.
Huperzine A – Can Boost Your Learning Ability
Huperzine A is natural nootropic substance which is extracted from the herb Huperzia serrata. This nootropic acts as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, preventing the breakdown of Acetylcholine in the brain, which results in a mild stimulant effect and improved cognition and memory.
Acetylcholine, is known as ‘the learning neurotransmitter.
Huperzine A is currently in the early stages of investigation for its use as an Alzheimer’s treatment and has shown neuroprotective abilities.
A usual dose of Huperzine A is between 50 – 200 mcg per day which can be taken as divided doses, but is generally taken in a single dose.
Side effects appear to be rare, though you should check with your doctor before use if you are taking any anticholinergic drugs, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, or cholinergic drugs.
Available as easy to take capsules, Huperzine A comes in an 80 mcg dose, and 30 capsules cost around $7.
If your dietary choline intake is low, or you are taking nootropics that draw heavily on choline then supplementing with a choline source will be beneficial. Choline is an essential nutrient, and the body needs it to function properly
When you take choline, you’ll notice improved memory and improved cognitive performance. Choline is also a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and is particularly effective at protecting the liver from stress.
Choline’s main method of action comes from it being a precursor to the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine activates areas of the brain responsible for motivation, attention, arousal, and memory formation, among other cognitive tasks
To obtain the antioxidant benefits of choline, a daily dose of between 250 – 500 mg daily is considered a good level to take. For stronger nootropic effects, you can take a higher dose of around 1 – 2 grams per day. It’s a good idea to start with a lower dose and work your way up if you need to.
Taking doses that are too high for your particular needs can result in headaches.
Choline Bitartrate is commonly stacked with Piracetam, and costs around $10 for 250 grams.
Noopept: The Strongest Racetam
Noopept is possibly the most potent Nootropic available, except for substances that are sold for research use and are sometimes available from specialist vendors. But as far as mainstream nootropics go, Noopept is the number one. It is said to be up to 1000 times more powerful than Piracetam and is able to exert beneficial effects on memory and learning capabilities.
This nootropic is known to interact with the glutamatergic system, where it modifies receptors to become more sensitive to glutamate. Glutamate plays a key role in cognitive processes such as memory formation and focus.
Noopept stimulates blood flow to the brain which produces stimulant properties, it’s also neuroprotective, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory, and it possess strong anti-anxiety effects.
The main benefits of Noopept are:
- Improved memory formation
- Faster memory recall
- Improved learning and retaining of information
- Improved focus and increased attention span
- Clarity of thoughts and lifting of brain fog
- More motivation and drive
- Improved mental energy and productivity
- Reduced anxiety and stress
When taken at the recommended dose of 10 – 30 mg per day, Noopept is mostly without side effects, although it must be said this nootropic hasn’t been intensively studied yet.
A 5 gram jar of Noopept costs around $8 which makes this a very affordable nootropic.
Coluracetam – The Productivity Nootropic
Coluracetam, as you might have guessed from the name, is another of the racetam family nootropics. The supplement was originally developed some decades ago in Japan as an anti Alzheimer’s disease drug, but the drug didn’t live up to expectations during its clinical trials. In addition to some ongoing areas of investigation Coluracetam is now used as a nootropic.
This nootropic appears to have anecdotal benefits for those with a healthy mind as opposed to those experiencing age related cognitive decline, however it must be said that there is no research that shows this to be the case.
Coluracetam enhances choline uptake in the body and brain. Choline is an essential neurotransmitter that plays a role in memory, attention and focus and learning.
Phase IIa clinical trials appear to suggest that Coluracetam could potentially help manage symptoms of major depressive disorder comorbid with generalized anxiety disorder. 36% of participants in the clinical trials noted significant improvement in depression symptoms, and they also felt they had reduced anxiety levels.
Coluracetam could potentially help those with ischemic retinopathy (a blood-related condition of the retina), as well as help other types of eye injuries. Coluracetam gets its name from its ability to affect eyesight, typically making colors more vivid and shapes more distinct.
Anecdotally, Coluracetam seems to offer cognitive benefits to healthy adults, users report that this nootropic offers a calm yet energized feeling which improves productivity and working capacity, as well as providing easier memory recall.
Other benefits reported include, improved vision, a greater enjoyment of music, improved sociability with the ability to follow multiple conversations and to come up with appropriate responses,
Coluracetam acts quickly (within 30 minutes) and its effects last for about 4 – 5 hours, although the improved memory lasts for much longer. When taken in higher dose during the day, drowsiness can ensue.
The dose available when purchased in capsules is 20 mg, and 30 capsules cost around $20.
Sunifiram For Attention Span And Focus
Sunifiram is another derivative of Piracetam but it is not classed as a racetam. This AMPakine drug displays anti amnesic properties, and while studies so far are limited, it appears to show promise as a cognitive enhancer.
Its memory preserving actions are several orders of magnitude greater than Piracetam, and early research suggests that it has a similar low toxicity profile.
Sunifiram is thought to be effective in enhancing memory function, attention span, decision making and alertness. Its ability to improve cognition is linked to its ability to enhance long-term potentiation – the persistent strengthening of synapses based on recent patterns of activity – via the stimulation of AMPA and NMDA receptors.
Users say that Sunifiram is helpful for overall memory enhancement and as an aid to concentration for those who get distracted easily. There are reports of users finding multitasking easier (although multitasking may not be an effective way to work!)
Some concentration enhancers create an almost tunnel vision like effect that blocks out too much of the world, according to users this is not the case with Sunifiram, making this supplement a good choice for those who wish to avoid the problems associated with over focus and who want to concentrate but at the same time be able to “switch threads” if they need to.
This fairly new nootropic costs around $45 for 10 grams. The suggested dose is between 5 – 11 mg.
The popularity of Phenylpiracetam increased in 2016 thanks to price drops which made this nootropic much more affordable. Its new lower price has made it a particularly attractive substance for students.
As you may have guessed from the name, phenylpiracetam is another piracetam relative. Phenylpiracetam is a modified form of piracetam, given a phenyl ring. This addition increases the bioavailability of the supplement many times over, which means that a much lower dose can be taken to get the nootropic effects. It is also reported to be more neuroprotective than Piracetam.
First created in Russia in 1983, Phenylpiracetam is used as a cognitive enhancer in the elderly and as an athletic performance enhancer. It is still a prescription drug in Russia and is typically prescribed as a general stimulant or to increase tolerance to extreme temperatures and stress.
Because Phenylpiracetam increases stamina it has been included on the list of stimulants banned for competitive use by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Research on Phenylpiracetam conducted in Russia shows that it may help to improve cognition in those who have experienced brain lesions and epilepsy, as well as improving cognition and memory in those suffering age-related cognitive decline.
Anecdotal evidence shared by users suggests that Phenylpiracetam can generate cognitive benefits for young, healthy individuals including, improved focus, clarity, and alertness.
Animal research has revealed that Phenylpiracetam may have antidepressant, antianxiety, antipsychotic, anti amnesic, and anticonvulsant properties.
The standard dose for Phenylpiracetam is 100 – 200mg taken 2-3 times per day. The lower dose appears to be effective, but the optimal dose is not yet known. In order to avoid over stimulation the supplement may need to be cycled.
Some users find that Phenylpiracetam works well in isolation, while others prefer to stack it with other supplements like the choline sources, Alpha-GPC or CDP-Choline and with other members of the racetam family.
This supplement is available in easy to take 100 mg capsules which cost around $17 for 30.