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Do Nootropics Work?

6 June 2023
Thrivous Admin

Cognitive Enhancement

In recent years, nootropics have received increasing attention. Also known as "smart drugs" or "brain boosters,” nootropics aim to enhance cognitive function. That could include better memory, focus, and creativity. And there are countless practical benefits in our lives, if we can improve how the brain processes information.

However, it is important to examine scientific evidence to help us understand the opportunities. In this blog post, we will explore the effectiveness of nootropics, including prescription drugs and dietary supplements. And we will consider how they may work to enhance brain function and support brain health.

Understanding Nootropics

We need to begin with an understanding of what nootropics are. They include a wide range of substances. Among them are natural herbs, vitamins, minerals, and synthetic compounds.

These substances improve how the brain functions. The term “nootropics” literally means “mind turner.” Doctors sometimes prescribe nootropic medications for conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). And healthy people can use nootropic supplements to enhance cognition.

Evaluating the Evidence

Extensive research has focused on various cognitive enhancers, both natural and synthetic. One of the goals has been to find those with the most brain boosting potential.

Many studies have demonstrated cognitive benefits from dietary supplements. Examples include Omega 3 fatty acids and L Theanine. These substances affect brain chemicals involved in vital brain processes such as memory formation. And they are among the most well-researched and effective nootropics.

Prescription nootropics have been extensively studied. For example, drugs like modafinil may help people with sleep apnea and shift work. These medications promote wakefulness and may even improve cognitive performance for healthy individuals. However, it is important to note that prescription nootropics should only be used under medical supervision.

Enhanced Memory and Mood

Certain nootropics demonstrate potential to improve memory and other learning abilities. For instance, Bacopa Monnieri is an herb that has been found to enhance memory. Research suggests it works by promoting the growth of nerves, helping them communicate, and reducing their stress from toxins.

In addition, Omega 3 fatty acids are associated with improved cognitive function, especially mood enhancement. They are crucial for making brain cell membranes, which contributes to optimal brain health. Omega 3 can be found in fatty fish and dietary supplements.

Fatty Fish

Boosting Focus and Attention

Nootropics such as Caffeine, L Theanine, and Ginkgo Biloba have been studied for their ability to enhance focus and attention.

Caffeine is a widely consumed stimulant that increases alertness and improves performance on tasks that require sustained attention. L Theanine is an amino acid, found naturally in green tea, that promotes relaxation. When combined, Caffeine and L Theanine promote a state of calm focus without the jitters commonly associated with caffeine alone.

Ginkgo Biloba is a popular herbal supplement. It is believed to improve blood flow to the brain, providing essential nutrients and oxygen to support focus and attention. Some studies suggest that Ginkgo may be particularly helpful if used for a long time before normal cognitive decline from aging. However, more research is needed to establish its effectiveness and determine the optimal dosage.

Mechanisms of Action

Nootropics exert their effects on cognitive function through various mechanisms of action. They involve interactions with brain chemistry and neural pathways. Identifying these mechanisms can help us understand how these substances enhance cognitive performance. Here are some common mechanisms for different types of nootropics.

Brain Chemistry Changes

Many nootropics influence the levels or actions of chemical messengers that help with communication between neurons. For example, L Theanine and Caffeine affect chemicals such as GABA and adenosine, respectively. By doing this, such substances can promote a state of calm focus or increase alertness and attention.

Brain Plasticity Enhancement

Brain plasticity refers to the brain's ability to change its neural connections in response to learning and experience. Some nootropics, such as Bacopa, are believed to enhance brain plasticity. They may promote the growth of nerves and help them communicate. This may improve memory, learning, and overall cognitive function.

Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Stress from normal life activities can harm brain health. Some nootropics have properties that help to protect neurons from damage and maintain optimal brain function. Examples include substances like Curcumin, found in Turmeric. Such substances have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that may support brain health for better aging.

Turmeric Curcumin

Brain Blood Flow Enhancement

Blood flow is crucial to provide nutrients and oxygen to the brain. Some nootropics, such as Ginkgo, are believed to improve brain blood flow, leading to better cognitive function. By improving circulation, such substances may optimize the brain's energy supply and support various cognitive functions.

Enhancement of Energy Processes

The brain requires energy to sustain its complex functions. Some nootropics, such as Creatine, may increase energy in brain cells. They do this by increasing ATP, which is the main fuel source in cells. Such substances may improve cognitive performance, especially in tasks that require mental effort and focus.

It is important to note that mechanisms of action can vary depending on the nootropic. Also, individual variations in brain chemistry and other factors may influence how these mechanisms affect each person. More research is needed to understand how different nootropics affect brain function.

Limitations and Considerations

Individual Variations and Side Effects

Individual responses to nootropics can vary based on genes, lifestyle, and overall brain health. It is important to approach nootropics with realistic expectations. And remember to consult with a doctor about the best approach for your specific needs.

Also, it is crucial to be aware of possible side effects from nootropics. The long term opportunities and risks are not yet fully understood. Side effects can range from headaches and digestive issues to insomnia and increased heart rate. To minimize the risk of adverse effects, start with low doses and slowly increase.

Intelligent Person

Lack of Regulation and Safety Concerns

The nootropics market does not have much regulation and lacks consistent quality control. This warrants caution when choosing products. Some products exaggerate claims without evidence, leading to poor expectations. Careful research and reputable brands can help to ensure that chosen nootropics are safe and effective.

Also, while nootropics offer potential cognitive benefits, they should not be viewed as a substitute for a healthy lifestyle. Brain health requires a balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep. It also helps to stimulate the mind with mental activities. Nootropic supplements can support cognitive function but should be part of a holistic approach to brain health.


While nootropics hold promise in enhancing cognitive function and brain health, the science is still evolving. Prescription nootropics and dietary supplements have both shown cognitive benefits. But individual responses may vary. And ongoing research will continue to help us optimize their use.

If you are thinking about nootropics, it is crucial to consult with a doctor. They can provide medical advice based on your personal needs and health condition. As the field of nootropics advances, future research will provide more insights into their opportunities and risks.

Thrivous is committed to ongoing development of the most effective and highest quality nootropics on the market anywhere in the world. Our algorithms use decades of science to stack rank nootropics by levels of evidence and magnitudes of effect. And we include in our formulas only the highest ranking nootropics at doses used in human studies. The full Nootropic Stack is available online in the Thrivous store.

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