Nootropics are getting a lot of attention right now.
Every day a new article gets published on these so-called ‘smart drugs’. Whether it’s an exposé on silicon valley entrepreneurs running on Modafinil, or a hard-hitting piece about young college kids using Ritalin to ace their finals, the media just can’t get enough of nootropics.
A quick search on Google will reveal hundreds of blogs dedicated to cognitive enhancement.
Some of them focus on natural methods to boost brain power; they talk about brain training, meditation, and herbal supplements. Others exclusively focus on the more powerful side of nootropics – the pharmaceutical drugs and research chemicals designed to significantly increase focus, alertness, learning capacity, energy, and more.
Obviously, the media’s attention is focused squarely on the more exciting, dangerous world of pharmaceutical drug use.
Practically every serious journalistic investigation into the use of nootropics starts and ends with drugs like Modafinil, Aniracetam, and Noopept.
Almost nobody talks about the less dangerous but equally interesting side of nootropics – the natural nootropic substances which can promote brain function in various ways without causing serious harm in the process.
Let’s take a look at some popular natural nootropic supplements and see if they are really worth all this hype.
Do Popular Supplements Work?
There are about a dozen or so extremely popular natural nootropic supplements on the market right now. People all over the world are using these products, herbal extracts, and natural concentrates to enhance their cognitive function.
These are typically pre-made stacks; their formulas contain multiple different substances known to enhance brain function. Manufacturers mix and match substances to create a stack which enhances multiple different aspects of cognition at the same time.
Some focus more on short-term benefits like energy and concentration, while others prioritize long-term mental functionality and brain cell health.
For example, most products will contain a natural substance known to improve cerebral circulation. This is typically Ginkgo biloba, although some will use vinpocetine. These substances have been scientifically proven to boost brain blood flow, and by extension, increase brain cell performance.
Some nootropcis will combine ingredients like Gingko biloba with substances known to rapidly increase focus and attention. Citicoline or Alpha-GPC – which raise neurotransmitter levels – are popular choices among the bigger brands.
There is plentiful research backing these substances up. They are not as powerful as the big pharmaceutical nootropics like Modafinil or Piracetam. But they reliably improve scores on memory tests and more intense focus tasks in clinical conditions.
The issue isn’t with the ingredients, but with the doses and labelling practices the manufacturers use.
For instance, a big problem with some of the most popular nootropic supplements is that they use proprietary blends. If you read this Alpha Brain review, you’ll see what we mean. Even major brands like Onnit are refusing to disclose their ingredient serving sizes to customers.
This is extremely worrying as many other nootropic manufacturers are happy to do so. Most of the top selling nootropics on the market today disclose their formulas – in full – on the labels and on their respective websites. Yet a small number still refuse to show us how their ingredients are dosed.
If you contrast Onnit Alpha Brain with Qualia or Mind Lab Pro, for example, you’ll see what we mean.
Another issue is the doses used.
Many of the best selling pre-made nootropics on the market today contain some great natural cognitive enhancers. The problem is that they contain far less than the doses used in the clinical trials that manufacturers quote to support their use.
Let’s use Alpha Brain as an example again. This stack cannot contain any more than 100mg of Alpha-GPC. The clinical trials which found the strongest effects from Alpha-GPC (without side effects) used more than 300mg per day. Most nootropics enthusiasts agree that about 250mg per day is enough to get optimal results from Alpha-GPC.
Should You Use Pre-Made Stacks?
With all these problems to consider, is it really worth buying premium-priced, pre-made nootropic stacks?
Is there a better, more cost-effective option?
The answer to these questions is both yes and no. It all depends on which stacks you use, what your priorities are, and what it is you’re looking to achieve.
Not all nootropics are the same. There are some really high quality natural nootropic supplements out there. They are much more expensive than your average multivitamin, but they actually deliver the results most brain hackers are looking for – better memory function, heightened focus, etc.
There is also always the option of choosing a couple of herbal extracts and buying them individually. This means you completely avoid the problem of proprietary blends and low doses that you have to deal with when buying some pre-made nootropic stack.
The bottom line is, don’t rush into using nootropics. Don’t just buy the most expensive stack, or the one with the biggest presence on social media. That is rarely a true sign of quality. Do your research carefully and try experimenting with your own stacks first.