Have you ever wanted to harness your brain power to be more creative, remember new information more easily or even increase your intelligence? Nootropics might be able to help. These medications are also known as smart drugs. They can improve your mental performance in a variety of ways. Most are available without a prescription.

Different nootropics work on various aspects of your brain. Some help you connect new synapses. Some increase the levels of specific neurotransmitters that allow your brain cells to communicate. Many can be stacked together to increase your mental prowess dramatically.

Are Nootropics FDA Approved?

Dietary supplements are never approved by the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA. Over-the-counter nootropics are considered to be dietary supplements, and they are not regulated by the FDA. Neither are vitamins, amino acids, botanicals or herbs.

Three smart drugs are FDA approved. These are the prescription medications Adderall, Ritalin and Modafinil, which are approved for the following conditions:

  • Adderall: attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD
  • Modafinil: sleep disorders
  • Ritalin: ADHD and narcolepsy

Most over-the-counter have fewer side effects than these prescription medications. They tend to be well tolerated and safe for use. Many even have healing and protective effects on the brain.

1. Aniracetam

Piracetam was the first synthetic drug to be officially labeled a nootropic. Other iterations of the chemical have since been created.

Aniracetam is a more potent version of piracetam. It has been extensively studied for its benefits in treating dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Although many people still take piracetam, aniracetam may deliver more intense effects. Conversely, piracetam is more subtle but can last longer. If you’re just starting out with nootropics, taking piracetam can give you a good idea of how the racetam family of drugs affects you.

According to Examine, many people who use aniracetam say that it enhances their creativity. The supplement also allows them to sort and analyze complex information, causing holistic thinking. The drug has also been shown to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety in rats.

2. Alpha-GPC

Alpha-GPC is known for enhancing neuroplasticity. As you learn new things, your brain forms new connections and pathways. Although this happens much more during childhood than adulthood, it is still possible throughout life. Alpha-GPC can help that happen.

This supplement contains choline, which is a powerful nootropic. Taking this supplement along with aniracetam can also increase the amount of choline that’s available in the body. Because racetams use up choline quickly, taking them without a choline supplement can lead to headaches.

It also stimulates the release of human growth hormone, which can help athletes recover after a strenuous workout.

3. CDP-Choline

This supplement is similar to Alpha-GPC. In addition to boosting cognition, it can reduce pain. It has also been shown to suppress the appetite. It can reduce cravings, which may help you concentrate during a late-night study session.

CDP is metabolized differently than Alpha-GPC. Some people report that they get better nootropic effects with one compared with the other.

4. Ampakines

Ampakines produce stimulating effects while they help prime your brain for learning. Research shows that these nootropics are especially helpful in pruning synaptic connections. This means that they create more efficient pathways of communication within your brain.

They also give you energy. However, they don’t have the same side effects as other stimulants, such as caffeine or amphetamines.

5. Adrafinil

Adrafinil is a precursor to Modafinil. Because it is available without a prescription in the U.S., many people use it to promote wakefulness, concentration and learning.

Research shows that Adrafinil has stimulating qualities without producing nervousness or jitteriness. It lasts long and doesn’t seem to encourage a tolerance.

Be careful if you’re an athlete, however. Adrafinil is on the World Anti-Doping Code’s list of prohibited substances.

6. 5-HTP

According to WebMD, 5-HTP increases the body’s production of serotonin. It can be used to enhance the mood as well as to increase focus and attention.

This supplement can also help to regulate sleep cycles. That makes it an ideal addition to nootropics that primarily exert cognitive benefits. When you’re sleeping regularly and experiencing less anxiety, you may be more productive and motivated.

Some researchers say that 5-HTP delivers inconsistent results. You may want to avoid this nootropic if you have depression or are taking medications for depression and anxiety.

7. Vinpocetine

Although it’s one of the more common nootropics, vinpocetine has not been extensively studied. It has, however, been reported to help in the formation of memories.

According to Examine, this drug comes from the periwinkle plant. In fact, the periwinkle plant has been used for hundreds of years as a headache remedy because it can improve blood circulation in the brain without affecting blood pressure throughout the body.

Although vinpocetine is not completely absorbed by the body, the amount that is absorbed delivers rapid effects. It is absorbed more effectively when it’s taken with food.

Vinpocetine increases blood flow to the brain. This brings oxygen to the brain cells, which helps optimize cognitive performance. The enhanced oxygen also helps remove toxins, helping to protect brain cells.

The supplement also increases production of adenosine triphosphate, which is the primary energy source for cerebral neurons. The enhanced brain fuel is responsible for increasing clarity of thought and concentration.

Still, some case studies have associated vinpocetine infusions with a dramatic drop in blood pressure. This side effect has not been noticed with oral administration.

Which Nootropic Is Best For You?

It’s worth looking into the benefits of each of the nootropics described here. Each works via a different mechanism. Therefore, one may be better suited for your needs than others. Also, there is a great deal of variation in the way that nootropics affect different people.

The best way to determine which one is best for you is to start with one. Keeping track of the dosage and effects in a journal can be helpful. As you find out what works, you can experiment with different nootropic stacks to further optimize your cognitive potential.

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