Nootropics are all the rage these days, so we thought it would be a good idea to give these brain pills some attention. We had our research team check out some of their most popular ingredients, look at possible side effects and take a peek at some scientific research – if any.
What Are Nootropics?
The word Nootropic was created in 1972 by a Romanian psychologist named Corneliu E. Giurgea. Nootropics are a class of supplements that are designed to enhance cognitive function, increase memory and boost concentration. Some nootropics offer increased energy, alertness and even the ability to help you cope with stress.
Popular Nootropics Articles
There are countless nootropics on the market and even more ingredients. Here’s a quick look at some of the most popular elements that we found to be in most nootropic supplements:
Huperzine-A is from a plant called club moss and used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. According to some research, “taking Huperzine A by mouth for four weeks improves the memory older children and teenagers who complain of memory problems.”
Ginkgo Biloba is a common Chinese medicine used to improve blood flow to the brain. It also acts as a powerful antioxidant. Being around since the early days of man, Ginko has since been used as a treatment for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, no compelling scientific research has backed this up.
5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a naturally occurring amino acid used as an antidepressant, appetite suppressant, and sleep aid. 5-HTP is also administered to individuals who are coming down from MDMA and to ease symptoms of post- MDMA dysphoria.
GABA – GABA (Gamma-Amino Butyric acid) is a neurotransmitter that inhibits nerve cell impulses. It can be used to treat anxiety, epilepsy, and chronic pain, but is more commonly sold as a natural tranquilizer.
L-Theanine – Theanine comes from tea leaves and is used to treat a variety of different ailments. These include stress relief, immune system, and cardiovascular benefits, as well as cancer prevention.
Potential Side Effects of Nootropics
Negative side effects can occur in anyone, and while most ingredients in nootropics are labeled as “possibly safe” there is always a chance for an adverse reaction.
According to WebMD, Huperzine-A has been known to cause restlessness, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, sweating, vomiting, blurred vision, slurred speech, cramping, contraction, and twitching of muscle fibers, increased saliva and urine, high blood pressure, and slowed heart rate. \
Ginkgo Biloba can cause behavioral changes, constipation, edema, bleeding after surgery, blood in urine, blurred vision, headache, bruising, cardiac arrest, coma, diarrhea, dizziness, dry mouth, gastrointestinal pain or irritation, heart palpitations, hemorrhage, and hypomania. Ginkgo has also been known to drop blood sugar levels, which is why individuals with diabetes and hypoglycemia should speak with a physician before taking any supplement with this ingredient.
Possible side effects of 5-Hydroxytryptophan include stomach pain, drowsiness, heartburn, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, vivid dreams or nightmares, and muscle issues.
What Does the Science Say About Nootropics?
There are studies out there pointing to the benefits of some of these ingredients. Depending on the nootropic you purchase (amount of ingredients, types of ingredients, etc…) you could find yourself taking advantage of its benefits, or failing miserably. So what are the studies saying?
Some reports on L-Theanine are quite promising. “L-theanine…has a significant effect…general state of arousal or mental alertness. Furthermore, alpha activity is known to play an important role in critical aspects of attention, and further research is therefore focused on understanding the effect of L-theanine on attentional processes,” writes one study.
Huperzine-A is another popular ingredient used in nootropic supplements. It has been given to patients with Alzheimer’s disease in an attempt to understand just how beneficial this substance can be. One clinical study found that, “About 58% (29/50) of patients treated with Hup showed improvements in their memory (P < 0.01), cognitive (P < 0.01), and behavioral (P < 0.01 functions. The efficacy of Hup was better than placebo (36%, 19/53) (P < 0.05),” going on to say that, “No severe side effect was found,” and that, “Hup is a promising drug for symptomatic treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Choosing the Right Nootropic for You?
There are more nootropic companies out there than there are stars in the sky – it would seem. The key is to research each company before buying a nootropic supplement so that you know you are getting a product you can rely on. Not every supplement works for everyone, so it’s important to keep in mind that if a product you ordered doesn’t necessarily work out for you, it doesn’t mean it fails for everyone. Read customer reviews and find real people with real testimonials before pulling out your credit card.