What is a Nootropic Substance - Sunlight Shining through Tree Foliage

What is a Nootropic Compound?

“Man will not wait passively for millions of years before evolution offers him a better brain.” – Corneliu Giurgea

Every day, more and more people are asking, ‘What is a nootropic compound anyway?’.

Who would have thought that the movie ‘Limitless’ would create so much interest in Nootropics?

When the popular film first came out in 2011, everybody suddenly started asking the most interesting ‘What if?’ questions.

Questions like, “What if I could become a genius overnight by taking a magic pill?”, or, “What if I could invent a ‘smart pill’ to give people a competitive edge?”.

The truth is, the idea of cognitive enhancement has been around long before Bradley Cooper strutted his stuff in front of the camera.

It’s just a concept that’s been restricted to certain circles until recently.

Monks in China have used Gingko Biloba for greater mental focus, and Ayurvedic practitioners have used Ashwagandha to manage stress for thousands of years.

Research on psychotropic substances has been ongoing since the birth of science, really.

What are Nootropics?

So what makes a substance a nootropic?  How do we recognize them?

The term ‘Nootropics’ was first coined by the Romanian psychiatrist Dr. Corneliu Giurgea in 1972.  It comes from the Greek word ‘noos’ meaning mind and ‘tropein’ meaning towards.

The proper way to pronounce nootropics is (know-eh-troe-piks), but most people pronounce it (new-trah-piks).

Don’t worry, I doubt anyone will judge you; most people don’t know how to say it correctly anyway!

Specifically, in order for a substance to be considered a nootropic, it has to possess these characteristics:

  • Improves Memory & Focus
  • Enhances Speed & Efficiency
  • Protects the Brain from Damage
  • Virtually No Side Effects

If you distill this down to it’s bare essentials, you could say Nootropics are:

‘A class of compounds that improves cognitive performance with virtually no side effects’.

Benefits of Nootropics – Who should take them?

Nootropics are definitely growing in popularity, and they can be very useful for:

  • Students
  • Working Professionals
  • Seniors
  • Athletes
  • Tired Moms

Interestingly enough, some nootropics are very common, and get used every day.

Caffeine and Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, are both considered nootropics.

Personally, I like to put nootropics in one of 3 categories:

  • Herbal
  • Natural
  • Synthetic

Herbs like Ginseng and Bacopa Monnieri are both nootropics, for example.

The natural nootropics are very interesting.

There are several compounds in the body that, when taken as a supplement, can help us perform better.

Phosphatidylserine(PS) and choline are good examples.

They’re both found in just about every cell in the human body, but we usually use them up faster than we can ingest them or produce them.

When we take supplements containing these natural compounds, they boost our energy and brain function.

Then there’s the synthetics.

These compounds are quite often prescription medications used to treat specific medical conditions.

Adderall, for example, is often recommended for ADHD to improve attention and motivation.  Ritalin is also considered a nootropic because of it’s beneficial effects for brain function.

Herbal, natural, and synthetic nootropics are used in various combinations in nootropic supplements.

But they can also be purchased individually to achieve certain results.

Single Nootropics vs Pre-Formulated Supplements

A lot of neurohackers will combine several different solo nootropics, and ‘stack’ them on top of each other to create a synergy between them.

You see, some nootropics are able to support one another so that using them together makes them more effective than if you took them alone.

A good example is caffeine and theanine.  Caffeine makes you more alert, and gives you physical endurance, but it can also make you jittery.

L-Theanine is a natural nootropic found in green tea that calms the nerves and helps people focus their mind.

When taken together, Caffeine and L-Theanine make a great nootropic stack.

L-Theanine takes the edge off the caffeine, and the caffeine allows the L-Theanine to provide more energy and focus than if it were taken by itself.

What is a Nootropic Stack?

The term, ‘Nootropic Stack’, is used to describe a specific combination of ingredients in any one formula.

There are a lot of stacks out there, and you have to find one that works well for you.

A lot of supplement companies are trying to win the ‘Secret Recipe Lottery’ by putting together the next household name in nootropics.

It takes a lot of my time and effort to put together a good product review, so I’m only going to review products that I think show some promise.

The rest are probably not worth your money.

If you’re interested in checking out some solo nootropics, you should check out the DoubleWood website.

They have some pretty comprehensive write-ups on the different products they offer, and their prices are reasonable.

Nootropics – Final Commentary

This article started out exploring the basic question, “What is a nootropic compound?’, but so many other concerns came to light.

Do nootropics actually work?  Are they safe?

What’s the best way to use them for best results?

One thing is for certain; nootropics is a growing area of interest for a lot of people.

The modern day world places a lot of importance on personal achievement and productivity.

When you give that some consideration, isn’t our newly found obsession with enhancing cognitive performance inevitable?

Let’s be honest; who doesn’t want to be smarter?

Who doesn’t want to ace that next exam?  Who doesn’t want to get that promotion at work?

Using nootropics makes life a little bit easier, and allows you to really stand out.

They can help you be your best.

In any case, I hope this post has given you a basic understanding of what nootropics are, and some of their potential benefits.


In my next article, I’ll go over some of the best supplements for cognition, and what they can do for you.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions at all, please leave a comment below.

Until next time,



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