Definition: A term for a substance that enhances brain health and/or cognitive functions such as memory, focus, processing speed, mental clarity, etc.
Word Origin: Greek noos (“mind”) + tropic (“affecting”)
Synonyms: smart drug, memory pill, neuronutrient, brain supplement, brain-booster
Definition: An individual with specialized expertise in, along with excessive excitement and enthusiasm for, a specific topic or activity
Pronunciation: “GEEEEEEK!” preferably. On a bullhorn. At max volume. With reverb.
Word Origin: Late nineteenth century, from Germanic English geck and Dutch gek
Synonyms: Guru, specialist, nerd, scholar, egghead, thinker, know-it-all
That about sums it up, folks:
I am The Nootropic Geek.
Nootropics are my expertise.
And on this site I am going to share all of the information I’ve picked up about nootropics, along with some of the awesome studies, papers, and resources I’ve used that you can explore on your own. Let’s get into it.
What Are Nootropics?
In the past, “nootropics” referred to a very specific kind of brain supplement: one that could help you perform better cognitively.
That definition is changing.
As the “nootropic” concept continues to skyrocket in popularity, it is expanding to include pretty much any nutrient that is beneficial for the brain. It makes sense because:
Today, by my count, there are about 70 brain nutrients that are considered to be nootropics.
The emphasis remains on brainpower-boosters for things like memory, focus, attention, concentration, motivation, etc.
But among the 70 nootropics are also nutrients that:
- Fight age-related cognitive decline
- Strengthen stress resistance
- Enhance mood
- Unleash creativity
- Way more…
… all of which help with brainpower, though in less immediate and direct ways.
I have tried a ton of these nootropics, and plan to try them ALL.
I will be sharing my experiences and findings with you along the way.
History of Nootropics
We humans have been taking herbs and various substances to alter our mindstates for a long time, with early records of “nootropics” dating back centuries.
But the real dawn of the brain-boosting Nootropic Age began in eastern Europe, with Romanian chemist Corneliu Giurgea credited with discovering the first of the modern nootropics: Piracetam.
Russia (USSR back then) pounced on the opportunity to develop brain-boosters further.. Since then, the nootropic movement has progressed through the 70s, 80s, 90s, and aughts, expanding to include a broader range of nutrients used to enhance more aspects of cognitive function than ever before. Read more on the History of Nootropics
Types of Nootropic Ingredients
Today, Nootropics can now be categorized in a bunch of different ways. Here’s how I tend to think of them:
Vitally important for brain health and function. Depending on your diet, you may be getting enough of these already.
- Vitamin B6 – Especially as the active form P-5-P, Vitamin B6 helps brain circulation and neurotransmitters.
- Vitamin B12 – As active methylcobalamin, it helps form nerve-protective myelin and maintains brain tissue.
You have probably already heard of these compounds, which are suggested to have antiaging benefits, including in the brain.
- Pterostilbene – Blueberry antioxidant for microcirculation and brain plasticity
- CoQ10 – Ubiquitous super-antioxidant fights brain degeneration
- PQQ – Up to 5,000X the antioxidant power of vitamin C; protects brain cells’ mitochondria
Help with raw materials, growth factors and energy that powers brain regeneration, which includes brain repair and new brain cell creation.
- Citicoline – Remarkable brain regenerator boosted neural membrane turnover by 26% in one study
- Phosphatidylserine – Probably the best memory nootropic; supports healthy brain cell membranes
- Lion’s Mane Mushroom – Boosts nerve growth factor & brain plasticity for cognitive enhancements
Help to power brain energy metabolism, potentially by fueling brain cells and protecting their internal power plants.
- NADH – Used to make ATP energy; good for brain fog associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.
- ALCAR – Funnels fatty acids into neural mitochondria to produce the energy that powers all thought
Cerebral Circulation Boosters
Boosting blood flow to the brain helps deliver oxygen for energy metabolism and nourishment for brain cell health & performance.
- Ginkgo biloba – Legendary brain circulation booster for memory may be a short-term brainpower enhancer, too
- Vinpocetine – My favorite nootropic for brain circulation; in larger doses it improves memory in only two days
Brain Wave Modulators
It sounds like sci-fi, but it’s not: some nootropics raise and “tune” your brain waves, especially Alpha brain waves, for desired mental states.
- Oat straw – Alpha brain wave modulator shown to help with mental processing and attention
- L-Theanine – Great for promoting “wakeful relaxation” for creativity, productivity and quiet focus.
These popular synthetic nootropics associated with Russia are in a class by themselves when it comes to both brain for performance and brain health.
- Piracetam – The most popular and widely researched racetam; helpful for memory, mood and cognitive performance.
- Noopept – Similar to piracetam but offers deeper support of memory; may have a mild psychostimulatory effect.
As such, Noopept qualifies as bona fide nootropic for boosting motivation.
These nootropics can help improve your brain’s ability to resist stress, and can also help replenish brain chemicals that are drained by stress.
- Rhodiola – Legendary Russian adaptogen blunts hormonal responses to stress; good for mind-body performance.
- L-Tyrosine – The Ultimate Anti Stress Nootropic because it is backed by tons of research and replenishes stress-depleted brain chemicals.
Read my list of nootropics that work to learn about more of my favorites.
This little summary of nootropic classes is not even close to telling the whole story.
It actually gets a lot more complicated, when you consider that individual nootropics may fall into several different categories. We get into these intricacies when we start
Are Nootropics Drugs?
Holy crap, what a complicated (and good) question, right off the bat.
The unsatisfying answer is, “yes and no.” It depends on where you are in the world. Your location also determines if nootropics are legal; don’t assume that they all are, ’cause they’re NOT.
Legal vs. regulated nootropics remains a confusing topic, with so-called “nootropic drugs”, nootropics banned by athletic bodies, and exotic herbs muddying the waters even more. More on nootropic legality.
In my opinion, philosophically you might say, the line between nootropics and drugs is, in some cases, quite blurry.
This is especially true of the nootropic synthetics, some of which could easily be regarded as pharmaceuticals (and are, depending on what country you live in).
At the end of the day though, I think of nootropics more as “nutritional supplements” than anything else.
Who’s Regulating This Stuff?
For the most part, you are. And I am. And some 80,000+ other nootropic geeks on Reddit–or more specifically the subreddit /r/Nootropics. You see, most food & drug agencies reserve their policies for drugs & substances that treat disorders. Nootropics aren’t necessarily intended to treat, they’re used for enhancement, a category not officially regulated by the powers that be. Thus, it’s on you and me and the 80,000+ /r/Nootropics redditors to keep each other clued in on the goings-on of nootropics & cognitive enhancers.
It’s not a perfect system, but, I mean, come on… let’s take it easy with the whole “standards” thing, okay? More on Reddit’s Nootropic Community.
Do Nootropics Have Side Effects?
By definition, nootropics are safe and well-tolerated. I would say that most nootropics are side effect-free… but there are outliers, too. In general though, side effects associated with nootropic supplements seem pretty mild, usually involving headaches, insomnia, fatigue, nausea and stomach issues. More on Possible Nootropic Side Effects.
Types of nootropic supplements
In my system, there are 3 main types of nootropic supplements:
Pretty self-explanatory here; these supplements supply one ingredient only not very exciting, but useful big doses or creating customized stacks. Sometimes the standalone supplements can be very cheap.
Homemade stacks supplements
This is where you purchase a bunch of individual standalone supplement and combine them for specific mental performance benefits. It really helps to know what you are doing if you choose to attempt this route.
Premade stack supplements
These are formulas where a manufacturer does the combining for you. They are way more convenient than making your own stacks, and some of them are very good; the downside is that you usually have to sacrifice dosage in order to fit so many ingredients into a capsule
How to Take Nootropics
My Personal nootropic supplement strategy
I buy and try a TON of nootropic products. They have their own cabinet in my house, which is literally piled high to the point of overflowing with pills, capsules, powders, liquid extracts… you name it.
It is kind of ridiculous. What can I say, I am obsessed, and I have a good vitamin store by my house. Anyway, my personal approach to supplementing with nootropics:
- I like to take one broad spectrum nootropic stack every single day.
- I keep my favorite standalone nootropic supplements on hand to augment my stack with targeted support when needed, every once in a while.
For example, the stack that I take is great for day-to-day stress, but if I have to give a speech or something, I am going to temporarily augment that stack with some extra anti-stress and memory nootropics.
The stack I take is great for general work productivity too, but if I’m on deadline and working on very little sleep, damn straight I’m going to augment that stack with some extra nootropic brain energizers, mental clarity boosters, alertness enhancers and attention sharpeners.
Students, in particular, may benefit from my list of academic-enhancing nootropics.
I let my cognitive state determine my course of nootropic supplementation.
A Word on Nootropic Cycling:
Importantly, every once in a while I stop taking all nootropics for a week or two.
There’s nothing really scientific about this I just KNOW when it’s time to take a break, and I do – and I always feel like I come back from these little breaks stronger mentally than I was before.
- Everything in moderation, dear reader. Give your brain a break from nootropics (among other things) every once in a while. Your brain deserves a vacation every once in a while, too.
What are the Best Nootropics?
I have got some good resources for you when it comes to picking out brain supplements for specific mental performance concerns:
Best Overall Single Nootropic Ingredient
Citicoline, hands down. This single ingredient is metabolized into 2 unique nootropics, phosphatidylserine and uridine. Together, they do so many different things for the brain, from energy metabolism to brain regeneration. Of all the top memory-spiking choline donors, citicoline ranks as my favorite.
Here’s a breakdown on which choline sources are the best.
Best Nootropic for Anxiety, Including Social Anxiety
The Geek gets anxiety every once in a while. My daily nootropic stack supplement has some good anxiety nootropics in it, but I also keep standalone nootropics for a little boost to fight the beast when necessary; my favorites for this purpose include Bacopa, rhodiola, ashwagandha, L-theanine, aniracetam, B-vitamins and others are sometimes used for anxiety.. More on the best nootropics for anxiety
Best Nootropics for Depression
Yeah, The Geek deals with depression sometimes too! You gotta suffer if you wanna sing the blues, amirite??
So I always have some standalone mood-enhancer nootropics on hand, as well, to beef up my daily nootropic supplement at times when I’m feeling down. For example, during the holidays, when Game of Thrones season ends, when I drop my toast and it lands butter-side down, etc.
Of all the natural nootropics for depression, I find 5-HTP to be the most helpful… but that’s just a starting point. St. John’s Wort, GABA, SAMe, and other nootropics may help with mood, too. More on the best nootropics for depression
Most Popular Homemade Nootropic Stacks
The best — and mos famous — nootropic stack is probably Caffeine + L-Theanine. You get alertness without jitters, along with a clear, creative mindset associated with L-Theanine’s alpha brainwave support. Piracetam + choline is another common nootropic stack (and Citicoline serves as a great choline source). More on nootropic stacking
My Nootropic Reviews
Throughout Nootropic Geek are my reviews of a bunch of different nootropic ingredients and supplements. Many of the nootropics I review I have actually taken. In these cases, I can share my personal experiences on those nootropics. On others that I haven’t taken, I take a close look at the supplement facts and science, and analyze if it stacks up — leveraging every ounce of my geeky expertise.
Nootropic Ingredient Reviews
- The best way to peruse my individual nootropic reviews is to start and my list of Nootropics that Work, and then click the “More On” links for each ingredient to read the full write-up. More on Nootopic Ingredients & Reviews
Premade Nootropic Stack Supplements Reviews
- Hey, you’ve seen my nootropic supplement cabinet. You know The Geek is obsessed with trying nootropic stacks and rating them for you, so you can buy one that works! More on my top-rated nootropic stacks to buy for 2020
Do Nootropics Work?
SOME of them do. There are several beneficial bioactivities that have been identified across the 70+ nootropic ingredients that are out there. Some of them even have strong human clinical research studies demonstrating their brain benefits.
But the thing is, everybody’s brain is unique. I think the key is to ultimately experiment and find out what works for you. But on this site, I am happy to share what worked for me.
But keep this in mind, dear reader:
Am I a doctor? No.
Am I a scientist? No.
I am a GEEK, geeking out over brain-boosting nootropics.
And I am here to help you find the quality nootropic supplements that work.