Do Nootropics Actually Work?

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Investigating whether cognitive enhancers deliver results

In today’s fast-paced and stressful world, it’s no wonder that many people are looking for ways to optimize their cognitive function and enhance their mental performance. Nootropics, also known as cognitive enhancers, are getting attention for their potential to boost focus, memory, and overall brain health.

The term “nootropics” originates from the Greek words “noos” (meaning mind) and “tropein” (meaning towards). It’s fitting that this term has Greek roots, considering that improving executive functions like memory, decision-making, and creativity has been a goal of many generations and civilizations throughout history.

But there are so many options available, and it gets confusing and challenging to separate the effective nootropics from the hype. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of nootropics to better understand them and if they actually work.

Types of Nootropics:

Over time, nootropics have expanded from their original definition, and now many people include a variety of substances in the definition. There are three broad categories:

Natural Compounds

This category includes natural compounds that can be found in everyday substances such as caffeine, ashwagandha, and the amino acid L-Trypophan. These natural compounds are available over the counter (OTC) and are among the most popular (and safe) options for cognitive enhancement.

Natural Compounds
Synthetic Compounds

The second category of nootropics consists of synthetic compounds that target neurotransmitters such as glutamate and acetylcholine. Examples of these compounds include Noopept and racetams like piracetam. Racetams are known for their memory-enhancing effects in individuals with brain injuries or age-related cognitive decline.  

Another crucial step toward a healthier mind is quitting smoking. Nicotine addiction creates a constant cycle of withdrawal and cravings that significantly impact mood. While addressing the initial symptoms of nicotine withdrawal may require time, your brain chemistry will adapt over time.

By breaking free from smoking, you open the door to improved mood and reduced anxiety (and more cash). The journey may have its challenges, but the rewards for your mental well-being are worth it.

Stimulant Drugs

Typically called ‘smart drugs’

This category includes well-known medications like Ritalin and Adderall, as well as non-stimulant options like Modafinil. These medications have the ability to increase alertness and focus in individuals from all populations, although the effects may vary for those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), for whom these drugs are commonly prescribed. These drugs should only be used under the supervision of a medical doctor.

How do Nootropics Work?

Regulation of Neurotransmitters
Nootropics can modulate the activity of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers in the brain. By enhancing the release or inhibiting the reuptake of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine, these compounds can promote improved communication between brain cells, leading to enhanced cognitive function.
Improved Blood Flow in the Brain
Proper blood flow is crucial for optimal brain function. Some nootropics act as vasodilators, widening blood vessels and increasing blood flow to the brain. By improving oxygen and nutrient delivery, these substances can enhance cognitive performance, memory, and overall mental clarity..
Reduction of Inflammation

Inflammation in the brain can impair cognitive function and contribute to various neurological disorders. Certain nootropics possess anti-inflammatory properties, helping to reduce inflammation and protect brain cells from damage. By mitigating neuroinflammation, these substances support optimal brain health and cognitive function.

Increased Brain Protection

The brain is vulnerable to oxidative stress and free radical damage, which can negatively impact cognitive function. Nootropics with antioxidant properties help neutralize harmful free radicals, protecting brain cells from oxidative damage. This safeguarding effect promotes long-term brain health and may contribute to improved cognitive performance.

Enhancement of Brain Growth Factors

Nootropics can stimulate the production and release of brain growth factors, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). These factors support the growth, development, and maintenance of brain cells and neural connections. By increasing the levels of these growth factors, nootropics facilitate neuroplasticity, which is vital for learning, memory, and cognitive flexibility.

Natural nootropics are being studied all the time as alternatives to prescription medication, particularly in children and Alzheimer’s patients.

In an interesting study from October 2022, Belgian researchers compared Methylpenidate (Ritalin®) to Maritime Pine Bark in young children and reached the following results:

  • Assessing the value of French Maritime Pine Bark Extract (PBE) in ADHD therapy as compared to methylphenidate (MPH) and placebo in a 10-week randomised trial;
  • Teachers reported significant improvement of total and hyperactivity/impulsivity ADHD-RS scores (primary outcome) by PBE and MPH after 10 weeks compared to placebo;
  • Adverse effects reported five times more frequently for MPH than for PBE;
  • PBE is a valuable treatment option in paediatric ADHD especially for those not willing to take standard medication or experiencing side effects.

Read the publication here:

By incorporating evidence-based nootropics into your lifestyle, you can potentially unlock your cognitive potential and achieve improved mental performance. Nootropics can provide a wide variety of cognitive benefits, such as anti-anxiety, stress management and improved memory. A crucial step in finding the right one for you is to identify the effect that you would most like to achieve. If you are looking for the best nootropic formulation in South Africa, give FLOW a try. You won’t regret it.