This article will share the most vital facts about various cognitive enhancers and ‘natural nootropics’. It will look at what cognitive enhancers are, what kinds of cognitive enhancers there are and how cognitive enhancers can boost your brainpower.
What Are Cognitive Enhancers?Cognitive enhancers are substances that you can take, or things that you can do, which can enhance your cognition or mental performance. ‘Cognitive enhancers’ is a phrase that is often used interchangeably with ‘nootropics’.
Over The Counter vs Illicitly Sold Cognitive Enhancers
There are two sorts of cognitive enhancers that are currently available, which we will expand upon in this section.
Type 1: Cognitive Enhancing Drugs Or Pharmaceuticals
The first type are cognitive enhancers made from drugs or pharmaceuticals. These are ‘synthetic cognitive enhancers’, which are also known as ‘smart drugs’.
These ‘Smart drugs’ are generally bought or sold illicitly, by an unlicensed offshore pharmacy or drug dealer. They're also distributed and used quite often at universities, particularly around exam time, as these sorts of cognitive enhancers may be used as ‘study drugs’.
‘Pharmaceutical cognitive enhancers’ include:
Modafinil* is probably the most talked-about ‘synthetic cognitive enhancer’. It is a ‘eugeroic’, but function in a very similar way to a stimulant. It is prescribed for the sleep disorder narcolepsy. See this review of Modafinil.
Modafinil is used to keep people awake and alert, and is thus used by some students as a ‘study drug’ to try and help them work into the night.
Modafinil’s exact mechanism of action isn’t known, but it is believed to prevent the dissipation of dopamine in the brain, as well as increasing histamine, serotonin and norepinephrine levels. However, it may cause some side effects.
People selling Modafinil illegitimately may receive a two year prison sentence if prosecuted. Modafinil is legal to supply if it has been prescribed by a doctor, but it is not a cognitive enhancer that is available over the counter.
Ritalin, also known as methylphenidate, is a treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It may also be used for chronic fatigue, narcolepsy and depression that is resistant to traditional antidepressants.
Ritalin works by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.
Ritalin works in a similar way to amphetamines like Adderall, and may thus prevent sleep for long periods of time. This ‘synthetic cognitive enhancer’ can also have some side effects.
Ritalin is a Class B drug in the UK, and possession without a prescription can lead to a maximum five-year prison sentence or an unlimited fine. Illegally supplying or producing Ritalin can result in a 14 year prison sentence or an unlimited fine. If this puts you off, you might want to try cognitive enhancers that don't contain drugs and can be bought over the counter - see our favourite cognitive enhancer of this type.
NoopeptNoopept was developed in Russia and claims to boost learning abilities. Some users snort Noopept powder, which is alleged to increase its effects.
This drug is believed to be a cognitive enhancer as it's claimed to aid recall by increasing the levels of a brain receptor chemical called acetylcholine.
The new Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 makes it an offence to sell this 'smart drug' in the UK, with sentences of up to 7 years.
Adderall is made from amphetamine salts, and is used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. It increases levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, in a similar way to Ritalin.
Adderall is used off-label as a ‘synthetic cognitive enhancer’ because it is meant to increase alertness, improve cognition and help users stay awake. However, it can cause side effects. You can read this article for more on Adderall.
In the UK, Adderall is a class B drug like Ritalin. Possession of this ‘synthetic cognitive enhancer’ can lead to a 5 year prison sentence, and distribution can result in a 14 year sentence. This cognitive enhancer is also rarely prescribed, and is far from available over the counter in a pharmacy - it is generally sold by drug dealers or people prescribed it in a foreign country. For a legal, drug-free alternative, see our favourite natural cognitive enhancer.
Type 2: ‘Natural Cognitive Enhancers’
The second type of cognitive enhancers is made from natural-sourced ingredients. These cognitive enhancers might contain superfoods, amino acids, herbals, vitamins or minerals - and these ‘natural cognitive enhancers’ do not contain any pharmaceuticals or drugs. As a result most of these cognitive enhancers are available over the counter as they do not contain restricted ingredients.
‘Natural cognitive enhancers’ include:
Nootrobox makes numerous ‘natural cognitive enhancers’. They have been called one of the hottest startups in California by The Times, and are one of the first and leading manufacturers of ‘natural cognitive enhancers’ in America. Unfortunately some of their cognitive enhancers would not be available over the counter in the UK, as they contain the restricted drug vinpocetine.
BrainZymeminimal side effects.
Learn More About BrainZyme "natural cognitive enhancers"
See these articles for more on biohacking with natural nootropics, and what natural nootropics are.
Some of the ingredients that may be used in natural nootropics are:
Matcha Green Tea PowderMatcha, which is made from specially selected whole green tea leaves ground down to a superfine powder, contains a number of nootropic components which can help the brain such as Theanine.
Guarana Fruit Seeds
Guarana, from a plant native to the Amazon, can positively affect the brain and central nervous system, making you feel less tired and more alert.
CholineCholine, which can be found in broccoli, is required to produce acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in regulating cognitive processes, mood and intelligence. For a cognitive enhancer with matcha, guarana and choline, see our favourite natural cognitive enhancer.
Ginkgo BilobaGinkgo Biloba is an incredibly popular supplement that many people take to boost their brain power.
L-TyrosineL-Tyrosine, which can be found in avocado, is an amino acid that’s required for the development of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that influences mood, motivation and performance.
Panax Ginseng, a herbal remedy from China, has a reputation for stimulating brain function and increasing energy.
Acetyl L-CarnitineAcetyl L-Carnitine, which can be found in asparagus, is a mitochondrial energy optimizer, supporting energy production at the cellular level.
CurcuminCurcumin has been the subject of a recent BBC documentary and a groundbreaking clinical study linking it to beneficial effects on brain function.
Quite often understated due to their 'everyday' nature, vitamins and minerals should not be overlooked, especially in because a substantial number of adults may be deficient in them.
For example, note the UK's National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) data which shows deficiencies in iron across the population (in the data for 2013-2014, 27% of women had low iron intakes https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/national-diet-and-nutrition-survey). A deficiency can have an impact on cognitive function.
Those under stress or not eating properly will also suffer shortfalls in essential nutrients that can support cognitive function. Cognitive-enhancing vitamins and minerals include:
Vitamin B5 - (Pantothenic acid)This essential nutrient contributes to normal mental performance and synthesis of some neurotransmitters.
Vitamin B6 - (Pyroxidine)This essential nutrient contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.
Vitamin B12 - (Cobalamin)This essential nutrient can contribute to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.
Vitamin B1 - (Thiamine)This essential nutrient contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism and function of the nervous system.
IronThis essential mineral contributes to normal cognitive function and the immune system.
ZincThis essential mineral contributes to normal DNA synthesis and cognitive function.
IodineThis essential nutrient contributes to normal cognitive and neurological function.
This essential nutrient contributes to normal psychological and nervous system functioning.
How Cognitive Enhancers Can Boost Your Brainpower
Cognitive enhancers can boost your brain in numerous ways. The best cognitive enhancers can help you think more clearly, concentrate more, have more energy, support your memory, perform better under pressure and lift your mood.
They can also help reduce the ‘afternoon slump’ and alleviate ‘brain fog’. They can work very quickly, with effects within an hour, have very few side effects, and these cognitive enhancers are generally available over the counter without a prescription.
Cognitive enhancers, when formulated properly, can have all of these effects without using any pharmaceuticals or drugs. They can help you be more successful, work harder, study for longer and many other benefits.