Are Nootropics safe?

Before tackling the best nootropics, let’s learn a bit about the safety of them first. The truth is, there are a variety of different supplements that may have very diverse benefits as well as side effects. Some of them even may have serious withdrawal symptoms and can cause severe illness. Before trying to start using a particular nootropic supplements (smart drugs) , read as many articles or research as you can and make sure that the products you want to include in your daily diet will not cause harm.

The most common mistakes that evoke unwanted side effects are related to dosage and ignorance. Bear in mind to familiarize with all the possible side effects. Some of the articles might be not fully comprehensive, especially regarding side effects. However, you may find some points near the section about benefits, for instance, L-theanine supplement regulates one's blood pressure by lowering it, which is beneficial for those experiencing high levels of blood pressure. But for people facing too low blood pressure, L-theanine can worsen a health condition. We, therefore, suggest you read a lot and pay attention to the details.

We have also mentioned the importance of the dosage, which can be crucial in some cases. When talking about such supplements as Phenibut, the dosage is more than the primary point. Not following the established daily dosages or making suggested breaks might cause severe withdrawals. Because of this we always recommend you to start with the lowest dosage and then gradually raise it. Some of the supplements demonstrate its potential after a while, so be patient.

If the previous points are not enough for you to make a decision, the official position of such organisations as Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) maybe will help to decide. If the FDA considers a particular nootropic as safe, you may find the mark of GRAS (generally recognized as safe). In some cases, nootropics can be not approved for clinical usage, but you can freely purchase it online. Furthermore, a few nootropics are illegal in several countries, which could also be a considerable point.

Traditional medicine usually receives diverse opinions about the safety and effectiveness of its supplements. The alternative nutrition rarely reaches the drugstore, but exceptions are possible. Various opinions do not prove the inefficiency, so we would recommend you to do a profound research and gather experiences to ascertain whether it is what you are looking for.

When you are purchasing online, take a look at clients reviews or descriptions of nootropics. We always put a mark CERTIFICATED near every nootropic, which means that this supplement is laboratory tested and carries a Certificate of Analysis. Moreover, we try to make supplements suitable for as many people as possible, by looking closer you can notice such marks as GMO or GLUTEN FREE, and SUITABLE FOR VEGETARIANS.

Active ingredients that give us more power, improve our performance, strengthen concentration and much more are called smart drugs or nootropics. Perhaps, the best known are these two: caffeine (coffee and tea) and taurine (energy drinks).

We have compiled the most tried and tested smart drugs for you. Here are the 11 best nootropics and how they work.

Smart Drugs - 11 best nootropics:

1. L-theanine

L-theanine is an amino acid found mainly in green and black tea. It's also hugely popular as a dietary supplement. The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) approved L-theanine for sale as a safe dietary supplement in 2007. Exceptions are of course pregnant and breastfeeding women.

One of the particular benefits of L-theanine is its positive influence on our mind and mood - it ensures calmness and serenity and is sometimes also used to treat high blood pressure.

Studies have shown that L-theanine improves cognitive function in the brain and reduces anxiety and stress. L-theanine can also enhance alertness and response. It is considered a kind of natural antagonist of caffeine - just like a cup of green tea, L-theanine tends to wake you up and relieve tension.

The calming and balancing effects appear due to the increase of alpha waves and GABA concentration in the brain.These neurotransmitters influence the central nervous system and promote relaxation as well as regeneration and restful sleep.

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2. Caffeine

Probably the most popular legal stimulant in the world is caffeine. It is one of the best-known and most effective nootropics, as it not only wakes you up but can also improve alertness and shorten reaction times.

That is why the morning cup of coffee is part of the daily ritual for almost all of us. According to statistics, around the world, about 2.25 billion cups of coffee are drunk every day.

Caffeine is a natural substance that can be found not only in coffee beans and black and green tea but also in guarana and cocoa beans. Caffeine is also available as a dietary supplement, mostly in tablet form.

It is a classic nootropic that stimulates blood circulation by causing the vessels to widen briefly. Even a small amount is enough to stimulate the cardiovascular system and the nervous system alike, but the effect does not last too long. While the blood vessels in the body's periphery are dilated, caffeine also helps narrow the vessels in the brain, thus having a positive effect on headaches and migraines.

The European and American food authorities classify caffeine (with moderate consumption) as harmless. Moderate means that the consumption should not exceed about 400 mg of caffeine per day, which corresponds to about 4-5 cups of coffee a day. Pregnant women and people with certain pre-existing conditions are excluded. Too much caffeine can also have undesirable side effects, including insomnia, restlessness, and the urge to urinate. In addition, a slight dependency can arise with regular heavy caffeine consumption.

JDepending on the type of coffee and the preparation method, the caffeine amount in a cup is around 90 to 150 mg. For comparison - a can of Red Bull contains 80 mg, black tea 50 mg and a glass of Coca Cola only 20 mg of caffeine.

Those who need to be particularly alert and focused quickly prefer to use caffeine in tablet form. These are usually available as tablets with 200mg per serving, which is equal to 1-2 cups of coffee.

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3. Omega-3

Of course, omega-3 should not be missing from the list of the best and nootropics. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in such foods as fresh fish and oils (e.g. linseed oil, rapeseed oil or chia seeds) but can also be taken in higher doses as a dietary supplement.

Consuming omega 3 is not only considered safe, it is essential for a healthy lifestyle. The US health authority recommends 100-600mg as a daily dosage and the European Food Safety Authority - an intake of around 250mg per day.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential components of cells and have anti-inflammatory effects that protect the brain from damage. Other benefits of Omega-3 is related to anti-ageing. If you take too little omega-3, the flexibility and permeability of the brain membrane cells decrease as well as decrease the communication speed between the brain cells.

That means that you may have difficulty concentrating and memorizing. A study by Lunds University in Sweden tested cognitive performance in older people. The test groups that received an omega-3 dietary supplement achieved better results on the cognitive tests. Other risk factors such as blood sugar levels, high blood pressure and inflammation levels in the test subjects were also improved.

Furthermore, omega-3 fatty acids are also important for our general wellbeing - with their help, the happiness hormone serotonin is formed. Many people who suffer from serotonin deficiency have low DHA levels, which can be replenished with a sufficient intake of omega-3 fatty acids. The more omega-3 the brain has, the more serotonin can be produced.

Other positive effects of omega-3 fatty acids:

1. Production of vital hormones, e.g. serotonin
2. Improvement in blood lipid levels, e.g. cholesterol; Blood sugar levels and clotting
3. Necessary for cell metabolism
4. has an anti-inflammatory effect
5. for healthy skin and hair
6. helps in the formation of the body's own defense cells
7. protection against infection
8. eyesight protection
9. lowering blood pressure
10. thrombosis prevention
11. and much more

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4. Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that plays a significant role in the human body. Light inhibits the release of the hormone, while darkness causes the production of melatonin to increase again. The increased melatonin level in the blood makes us tired and takes us to sleep. When the morning light appears, the production of the hormone drops again, and we slowly wake up.

Melatonin is therefore crucial for your sleep-wake rhythm and your internal clock. But as we get older, the natural production of melatonin in the body decreases: While it can be up to twelve times higher in children and adolescents at night, production in older people is only three times higher at night than during the day. That is also one of the reasons why sleep problems often develop with age. But not only that, artificial light, e.g. bright screens on the PC, the smartphone or many hours in front of the television, also affects the body's melatonin production. And shift work or night work completely disrupt this natural rhythm.

This is why melatonin is very popular as a dietary supplement.

If you are struggling with a sleep disorder, a melatonin supplement could help regulate your sleep cycle again. Melatonin is one of the best-selling nootropics and should therefore not be excluded from any best nootropics list.

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5. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha (also known as sleeping berry) is a plant that has been used in Indian and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years and has powerful balancing effects. The active ingredient is often used in natural sedatives. It alleviates the physical and chemical effects of stress. According to users, Ashwagandha not only reduces anxiety and fatigue but can also improve physical performance. Ashwagandha is also valued by many users for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.

To stay productive despite the stress and hectic pace of everyday life, you also need restful sleep. Ashwagandha not only has an anxiety and stress-relieving effect, but it also promotes our sleep quality and shortens the time it takes to fall asleep. So you can start the new day with extra power and be deeply relaxed.

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6. Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa Monnieri has been used in Asian traditional treatment of many diseases and physical disorders, such as asthma or epilepsy.

The small herbaceous plant contains an abundance of medicinal ingredients that are primarily obtained from its leaves.

In the meantime, Bacopa Monnieri is becoming more and more popular in Europe and America due to its nootropic properties. Among other things, it is used to support memory and the ability to learn i.e. cognitive performance, but it is also supposed to relieve anxiety.

Clinical studies have shown that the smart drug Bacopa significantly reduced anxiety and depression in study participants. It also has a calming effect, as it regulates the activity of specific neurotransmitter receptors for serotonin, which, among other things, affects our mood. Bacopa Monnieri is a herbal nootropic, an excellent addition to other brain supplements.It is considered to be one of the most proven and best nootropics on the market.

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7. Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea (also known as roseroot, golden root or royal crown) is a medicinal plant that has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries in Russian, Baltic and Scandinavian countries to improve well-being and promote healthy brain function. It is primarily known for reducing stress-related exhaustion and at the same time increasing mental or cognitive performance (e.g. concentration and memory).

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) also comes to the conclusion that the smart drug Rhodiola Rosea can help relieve symptoms of stress, irritability, tension and fatigue.

The root extract of the medicinal plant helps your body cope with high stress or overwork. The nootropic Rhodiola Rosea can be taken for up to 6-12 weeks.

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8. Alpha GPC

Alpha GPC is naturally already present in the body, in the kidneys and the brain. Alpha GPC is converted into the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involved in crucial brain functions, including our memory.

Alpha GPC deficiency is often associated with degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. Conversely, it has been observed that an increased intake of Alpha GPC can contribute to cognitive performance and learning speed, moreover, prevent tiredness and exhaustion. In addition, studies on the effectiveness in dementia are ongoing.

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9. Lion's Mane

Lion's Mane (also known as lion's mane, monkey head mushroom or Yamabushitake) is an edible mushroom: Hericulum erinaceus.

Its healing powers were appreciated for 2000 years. In Chinese medicine, during the Han dynasty, 200 years before Christ, the mushroom was already used as a food with exceptional medicinal properties.

Lion's Mane has potent nootropic effects due to its association with NGF, also known as the Nerve Growth Factor. NGF is a small protein that is important for the growth and survival of nerve cells and is beneficial for the health of our brain. The more nerve cells there are and the better the general health, the faster and more effectively impulses can be transmitted.

The brain supplement Lion’s Mane also promotes cognitive functions in old age and is intended to counteract dementia. The active ingredient of the mushroom is particularly potent when it is taken with a source of choline such as the nootropic Alpha GPC, as it supports the production of acetylcholine (neurotransmitter at the nerve endings).

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10. Phenibut

Of course, Phenibut should not be missing from our list of the best nootropics. Phenibut is a nootropic that was developed in Russia to treat anxiety disorders, stuttering and restlessness. This smart drug is a derivative of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is the primary neurotransmitter in our body that regulates the excitability of the central nervous system. GABA ensures that our brain does not overreact. Phenibut crosses the blood-brain barrier more effectively than GABA, which is why it is very popular as a dietary supplement.

The smart drug Phenibut mainly increases our motivation and concentration.

As a strong anxiolytic (anxiety reliever), Phenibut is also used to help cope with: panic attacks, stuttering, balance disorders, spasticity, epilepsy, hyperactivity, insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorders.

Phenibut also improves the quality of sleep and has mood-enhancing effects. Its antidepressant effects can reduce irritability and fatigue. Phenibut is one of the best and best-selling nootropics because it provides balance and at the same time can strengthen mental focus. For more information about Phenibut, check our other article.

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11. Noopept

Many users consider the Noopept dietary supplement to be the best nootropic in the world, as its effects can be felt almost instantly.

With this smart drug, you can increase intellectual performance, concentration and memory in the short term. This supplement is therefore ideal during studies, exams, before graduation, etc.

The components of this synthetic nootropic molecule stimulate energy impulses in the brain that strengthen neuronal connections. So it improves communication between the two hemispheres of the brain, thus fastening the information processing. Great mental exertion with Noopept becomes easier, the ability to think and learn as well as short and long-term memory improves.

According to recent studies, Noopept also has neuroprotective powers and protects the brain from age-related deterioration or the consequences of alcohol abuse. Noopept is also used for depression due to its anti-anxiety effect.

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Text Author:
Kay Svegler
Communications, PR, American Studies, University of Leipzig
Journalist and freelance writer (e.g. Süddeutsche Zeitung, BILD, MDR etc.)
Former Senior PR Manager for Fischer Appelt, Sustainability and Diversity Manager for DKB