Nootropics [2024]: The Ultimate List of Top 50 Smart Drugs

What are Nootropics? Nootropics, also known as smart drugs or cognitive enhancers, are substances specifically formulated to enhance various aspects of brain function, such as memory, focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation [1]. Originally developed to improve memory and overall cognitive abilities, some have even been prescribed to address neurological disorders. The term “nootropic” was coined in the early 1970s by Romanian chemist Dr. Corneliu Giurgea. He defined nootropics as substances capable of enhancing memory, improving behavior, safeguarding the brain from physical or chemical harm, all while exhibiting minimal side effects. Since then, the nootropic market has experienced a remarkable surge and is expected to reach a value of $35.03 billion by 2030, compared to an estimated $12.41 billion in 2022. This growth trend is expected to continue, with a healthy rate of over 14.6% from 2023 to 2030. Nootropics are available in various forms, including natural supplements, minerals, vitamins, synthetic compounds and prescription medications. Prescription nootropics, requiring a doctor’s prescription, include stimulant drugs like Donepezil for Alzheimer’s and Adderall/Ritalin for ADHD, often misused for their stimulating effects. In contrast, non-prescription nootropics are designed to enhance brain performance without significant bodily effects. Common natural options include bacopa monnieri, Ginkgo biloba, Panax ginseng, and Rhodiola Rosea. Synthetic nootropics, such as Vinpocetine, modafinil, and Racetams, are laboratory-produced cognitive enhancers. (I will discuss all these latter in detail in this post). Nootropics offer a range of benefits, including increased motivation, focus, creativity, and energy, all without notable side effects or addictive potential. However, these advantages often come at a higher cost. It’s important to understand which nootropics are best suited for your needs before making a purchase. This article will explore into the top ingredients used in various nootropic brands and their mechanisms, providing you with the information you need to make an informed decision. Disclaimer:  This is an unsponsored article written by Manzoor (certified pharmacist) and medically reviewed by Dr Sajid Ali (PhD in Pharmacognosy).  You can also read our infographic about medicines and supplements for memory improvement. How Do Nootropics Work? While the exact workings of these brain-boosting supplements remain a mystery, researchers suggest that nootropics may enhance brain performance by targeting various systems simultaneously. One theory proposes that they enhance blood flow, allowing better oxygen delivery to the brain, ultimately improving its function. This boost in cerebral blood flow helps cognitive longevity by facilitating the transport of brain-nourishing compounds. They optimize brain oxygen and glucose levels, offer anti-hypoxic benefits, and shield brain tissue from toxins. While, certain cognitive enhancers, such as Caffeine, activate noradrenaline neurons and influence dopamine release locally [2]. This is why Caffeine helps us stay awake without jitters. Other nootropics enhance memory and learning by inhibiting Acetylcholine activities, blocking Ca channels, and boosting antioxidants [3]. Some nootropics may amplify the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. Others prevent the reuptake of these neurotransmitters, leading to higher levels in nerve terminals. For example, dopamine is linked to pleasure and reward and is mostly released during enjoyable activities. Elevating dopamine levels can positively impact mood and brain function. Considering the brain’s energy needs, certain nootropics support brain energy by enhancing mitochondrial metabolic activity, aiding the transport of fatty acids into brain cells, and increasing cerebral oxygen and nutrient uptake. Nootropics may enhance cerebral circulation by promoting nitric oxide activation and blood vessel relaxation, while inhibiting homocysteine and oxidative damage. These actions reduce blood cell stickiness, minimizing clumping. Furthermore, nootropics may facilitate neuro-regeneration by boosting natural brain-boosting growth factors like nerve growth factor (NGF), supplying neuronal building blocks like choline, and maintaining brain cell membrane flexibility and plasticity. Here are top 5 ways on how nootropics enhance cognition.  Let’s have a look at some of the common brain boosting ingredients used in most of the nootropic brands; Non-Prescription Natural Nootropics Supplements As discussed above, natural nootropics, also called nonprescription nootropics, can improve your condition and brain performance without causing adverse effects. Here is a commonly used Nootropic list; Bacopa Monnieri Caffeine Ginkgo Biloba Panax Ginseng Omega 3 Fatty Acid Rhodiola Rosea Nicotine Citicoline Phosphatidylserine Apoaequorin Cera Q Lion’s Mane Mushrooms Maritime Bark Extract Dimethylethanolamine bitartrate (DMAE) Huperzine A Inositol Vitamin E Ashwagandha Alpha GPC Theobromine Artichoke extract Forkolin Gotu Kola Guarana Kanna Kratom Lemon Balm Magnolia MCT oil Passionflower Oatstraw Rosemary Vitamin B6 Resveratrol California Poppy Cat’s Claw CBD (Cannabidiol) Clitoria ternatea 1. Bacopa monnieri Bacopa monnieri is a herb used in Ayurvedic medicine to enhance brain function with the help of active compounds called bacosides. It can speed up information processing in your brain, reduce reaction times, improve memory functions, and relieve anxiety with its calming effects. Bacopa monnieri is one of the most studied and the best supplement for brain. Let’s see what the research say about it;  Many recent studies have shown to improve cognitive function, reduce reaction time and increase memory retention. Other animal studies suggest that taking this ingredient can help improve conceptual learning and the ability to retain information. According to another human study, supplementing 300mg of bacopa for three months can significantly improve visual information processing, learning rate, and memory. The recommended dietary intake is 300 mg 3 times daily or 600mg 2 times throughout your daily routine. [4] So, based on human and animal studies, this natural nootropic can help improve brain performance, visual information, and memory functions. Please remember it can take up to 6 months for users’ brains to adapt fully, so don’t expect immediate results from taking bacopa at low doses. Some of the most common brands that use bacopa monnieri in their list are BrainPill, Dynamic Brain, Boston Brain Science Cerebra, Onnit Alpha Brain, Avantera Elevate, and Alpha Brain Black Label. 2. Caffeine Caffeine is a naturally occurring and one of the most widely consumed psychoactive stimulants humans have consumed for centuries. From the moment we wake up to powering through workouts and easing our headaches, Caffeine has done it all. But what exactly does it do? The all-natural energy boosts you need to focus—without the crash.

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