Imagine if you could think faster, focus longer and make better decisions in less time.

Imagine if you could maintain, a positive mood for longer periods of time and effortlessly feel comfortable in any social situation.

Most believe that there are no shortcuts to self-improvement.

However, that’s not strictly true. For lasting, permanent improvements that aren’t dependent on external aids it is true that you have to work hard and make changes on, the inside.

However, that’s not always what we need.

Sometimes we just need to relentlessly focus for a day to pass some exam or test.

Sometimes we have really garbage days and we have to go to some social event and need a little help to socialize in a friendly manner without venting at someone a little too loud.

That’s where nootropics come in.


I left my Adderal in my Ford Fiesta. Now it’s a Ford Focus.


Humans have always used different herbs and compounds to alter their consciousness.

It’s only recently that scientists have been able to extract the active compounds from these substances to isolate the desired effects.

With advancing science came the optimization of these natural compounds for specific purposes within humans.

This shift started with the research of a chemist named Corneliu E. Giurgea.

He was attempting to synthesize a derivative of the body’s major inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA to cross the blood-brain barrier and induce relaxation and a reduction in stress.

Instead, he created piracetam, the very first nootropic.

Dr. Giurgea coined the term nootropic from the Greek “noos” for mind and “tropein” for towards or to bend.

Since then countless nootropics have been discovered like antiracetam and oxiracetam.

However not every psychoactive compound is considered a nootropic.

Modafinil, for instance, is not considered a nootropic as it causes damage if used in the long term.

Dr. Giurgea created the most widespread definition of what a nootropic is.

He defined a nootropic as a compound that must;

  • Enhance learning and memory,
  • Enhance learned behavior under conditions known to disrupt them,
  • Protect the brain from physical and chemical injury,
  • Enhance the tonic cortical/subcortical control mechanisms,
  • Exhibit few side effects and extremely low toxicity, and be lacking the pharmacology of typical psychotropic drugs (sedation, motor stimulation etc.)

Basically, they need to promote long-term brain health and enhance the basic functions of the brain.

They’re cognitive enhancers without the side effects like strange hallucinations or uncomfortable anxieties that many other cognitive enhancers have.


I just inject this, right?


Nootropics are very simple to take.

They don’t require needles, bongs or complicated paraphernalia.

For the most part, you just pop them in your mouth and you’re set.

There are really only two ways you can take nootropics and both involve putting them in your mouth.

These two methods are;

  • Orally – Most nootropics are either powdered or in capsules which can be hard pressed or gel capsules filled with powders.
    • Taking these types is a simple as it seems, down the hatch.
    • If taken orally something called solubility comes into play.
    • Basically, its the medium that the substance breaks down in.
    • For some nootropics its water and for others its fat.
    • The water-soluble nootropics like oxiracetam you want to take on an empty stomach.
    • The fat-soluble nootropics you want to take after having eaten something with fat in the last 15 minutes.
  • Sublingually – Some nootropics need to get into your bloodstream and across the blood-brain barrier to work their magic.
    • The simplest way to take these varieties is sublingually or by putting the powder under your tongue and letting the powder dissolve and be absorbed.
    • Solubility is irrelevant to sublingual nootropics as they avoid the digestive system entirely and go straight into the bloodstream.


Which one do I put in my mouth first?


There are several different types of nootropics out there, each of which has many different options.

These categories with a few prominent examples are;

  • Racetams – These are the most common and popular type of nootropics.
    • Racetams increase the users cognitive ability by stimulating the Acetylcholine receptors.
    • Acetylcholine is a compound throughout the nervous system, which functions as a neurotransmitter.
    • Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain which sends signals between brain cells.
    • This increased activity helps with: memory, learning, focus, motivation and other areas of cognition.
    • Some prominent examples of Racetams are Piracetam, Pramiracetam, Oxiracetam, Nefiracetam and Phenylpiracetam.
    • A recently created class of nootropic falls roughly into this category as well, named Ampakines.
    • However some consider it its own category since these compounds have higher risks of neural damage than Racetams and they effect the Glutamine receptors more than the acetylcholine.
  • Choline and acetylcholine intermediates – These help potentiate the effects of the Racetams by increasing the amount of acetylcholine in the brain, which gives the Racetams more acetylcholine receptors to stimulate.
    • The choline options like Choline Bitartrate are cheaper but have higher chances of causing unwanted side effects.
    • Whereas the acetylcholine options like Alpha GPC or Centrophenoxine can cause effects similar to Racetams as well as potentiate the Racetam effects.
  • Synthetic B-Vitamin Derived nootropics – These are derived from B vitamins and like B vitamins promote a better energy level, mood and memory.
  • Natural nootropics – These nootropics occur naturally without any sort of chemical intervention.
  • Peptide nootropics – There are various nootropics that fit into this category which includes the likes of Noopept which is a nootropic peptide derivative and Semax which is a heptapeptide derived from corticopin or the stress horomone.
  • Smart Drugs – Some would say smart drugs aren’t nootropics at all, but for clarity’s sake I’ll include them.
    • Smart drugs like Adderall and Modafinil aren’t typically thought of as nootropics because they can damage the brain if used long term.
    • However, they are usually extremely effective and promote intense levels of focus and clarity of thought.
    • If you’ve heard of Modafinil you know how widely regarded it is as the de facto smart drug and you may also know its illegal to purchase in North America. To get around that you can buy Adrafinil, which metabolizes into modafinil in the liver.
    • Its slightly hemotoxic or damaging to the liver but if taken on occasion its no more damaging than a drink or two.

While there may be hundreds of nootropics out there the ones mentioned here are for the most part widely thought to be the most effective and safest out there.

As you can no doubt imagine you rarely take a single nootropic alone.

What you do is stack them in order to benefit from their complimentary effects.

For instance by stacking Alpha GPC and Piracetam you potentiate the effects of the piracetam and reduce the likelihood of unwanted side effects from both as well as getting some benefit from the Alpha GPC in its own right.

Whats controversial about nootropics is that everyone seems to get different results from different nootropics.

Because things like mood, memory and motivation level out in the real world are subjective most people have very different experiences with all of these nootropics.

While they’re usually good, sometimes they’re not, but given the potential advantages of them its worth the risk.

The best way to start with nootropics is to get a few different varieties and experiment with the effects.

For instance by grabbing some Piracetam, Alpha GPC, Vincpocetine and stacking them you get the focus, mood lifting and energy of the piracetam.

The Alpha GPC potentiates the piracetam and makes it safer.

Then the Vinpocetine increases blood circulation in the brain which potentiates the effects of both, boosts memory in its own right and reduces the risk of damage even further from the piracetam.

You can see how mixing and matching these can get you some potent and incredibly effective combinations.

For more information about nootropics in general you can go to Nootriment, and Powder City is where I buy all my nootropics.

However if they’re not to your liking you can also order bulk powders from Peak Nootropics or Ceretropic and if you’re interested in premade stacks the most popular brand is Onnit and their Alpha Brain.

They have minimal shipping costs to Canada, without any sort of payment on delivery like stuff from the U.S normally has and there prices are great.

A note for shipping to Canada, you’re only legally allowed to buy nootropics for personal use.

If you attempt to import them in quantities for resale they’ll confiscate them at the border, which is never fun.

They don’t tell you your package has been confiscated so you’re left waiting for weeks before you finally realize your beloved package isn’t showing up.


I’m not sure… Nootropics seem sort of dodgy.


There was once a time when lifting weights was considered strange.

Where people thought moving heavy iron around just put the body at risk for damage and changed things that weren’t meant to be changed.

Now time has passed and enough evidence has come up to prove the benefits of weight lifting and exercise in general.

But to those who were first experimenting with the practice they didn’t have the knowledge we do now.

All they had was the will to safely experiment and the drive to improve themselves even though they may expose themselves to some small amount of risk.

Nowadays to anyone making a living athletically lifting weights isn’t a choice its a requirement.

Unlike athletes we don’t all use our bodies to make a living, however every single one of us uses our minds.

By using nootropics you can be like those first athletes who started lifting to get an edge and get ahead of the game.

Theres a reason nootropics are becoming more and more ubiquitous its because they work and they work well.

And while they can be dangerous if used smartly and if research is done before using them you can minimize the risk to almost nothing while still getting the crazy benefits.

I tried writing this article for an hour and barely wrote a word, but since taking 4.8 grams of piracetam a few hours ago I’ve been creating a consistent stream of words, thoughts, citations and ideas for comics.

Nootropics do work, you just have to use them in moderation and only when you truly need them.

From a fellow striver,



Key Points

  • Nootropics can be selectively used to improve a variety of areas of cognition.
  • These areas of cognition are: focus, mood, recall, socializing and learning.
  • Humans have always tried to advance their cognition using herbs and natural flora.
  • Giurgea synthesized the first nootropic piracetam.
  • To be a nootropic a compound must promote long term brain health, and enhance the basic functions of the brain.
  • Nootropics can be taken orally or sublingually.
  • If taken orally they can either be water or fat soluble. If water soluble take on an empty stomach, if fat soluble eat within 15 minutes before taking.
  • If taken sublingually allow to dissolve under the tongue to allow the substance access to the blood stream.
  • There are several different types of nootropics: Racetams, Choline and Acetylcholine intermediates, Synthetic B-vitamin derived nootropics, natural nootropics, peptide nootropics and smart drugs.
  • Mix and match different nootropics in stacks to achieve desired effects such as focus for studying or social ease and recall for socializing.
  • Nootropic effects are subjective so take small doses at first and experiment to find what works for you.
  • Research the various types of nootropics at Nootriment and buy bulk powders from Powder City or designed capsuled stacks from Onnit.
  • Nootropics are like weight lifting used to be. The positive effects are gradually being appreciated in spite of the slight danger and eventually their use will become ubiquitous and expected.

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Andrew is a design graduate student in Toronto who writes about leadership, design, and startups. Visit his blog Lead Boldly for exclusive content. Or say hey on Quora | Instagram | FaceBook | Twitter | LinkedIn.

1 Comment

Eli Bain · October 31, 2018 at 7:07 am

A good overall introduction to the basics of the world of nootropics. In the interest of adding value I thought I’d leave a little critical analysis :).

A good summary of the research into how nutritional compounds can support, rather than force cognitive performance can be found at this website This gives us a way to work around the biological costs of extreme mental effort.

The definition of nootropic you give in is direct conflict with a lot of the compounds on your list, just scratching the surface here but:

-Extenuate calcium influx into neuronal cells. Extended calcium influx promotes cell death.

-No evidence for a cognitive improvement for healthy individuals, small benefits to those with various degenerative illnesses.

-Uses up the brains acetylcholine stores. Low acetylcholine can generally impair mental function, result in memory loss, induce insomnia and hyperactivity.

Guaranteed cognitive performance in a pill is pretty seductive, but unlikely in practice. There’s no single chemical with strong evidence when it comes to general intelligence. Just because most nootropics have weak evidence behind them doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be done though, because some nutritional compounds really do set the stage to take advantage of the intelligence you already have access to.

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