What is a Nootropic? | Nootropic Definitions and More

Nootropic Definitions: What is a Nootropic and More...

Nootropic? Smart Pills? Smart Drugs? Cognitive Enhancers?

Are they the same thing? Are they different? What's the difference between a nootropic stack and a nootropic supplement?

At first glance, it's not so clear.

This article cuts through the noisy nootropic market to break down each term in a simple and easy to understand manner. This article will set out the definitions of the most common kinds of smart pills that you may encounter.

Furthermore, it will also explain some of the pharmaceutical and natural ingredients you might find in a smart pill.

There is a world of difference between pharmaceutical smart drugs and natural cognitive enhancers or natural nootropics.

We divide cognitive enhancers into two main types and give definitions and examples of each. The key is knowing whether they are pharmaceutical or naturally sourced. In either case, they are also known as nootropics - or cognitive enhancers.


- The definition of nootropic

- Synthetic or pharmaceutical nootropics

- Natural nootropics

- Concluding thoughts

smart pills is one of the term used for a cognitive enhancing substance

The definition of nootropic

Simply put, a nootropic is "a substance used to enhance memory or other cognitive functions."

This definition is vague as it suggests that any substance that enhances cognitive functions can be classed as a nootropic.

This includes smart pills, smart drugs, nootropics, cognitive enhancers and any other similar terms.

Watch: A complete guide to nootropic supplements in the UK

Synthetic or pharmaceutical nootropics

Classic nootropics that you first think of when thinking of smart pills.

They are also known as pharmacological cognitive enhancement substances. These are prescription pharmaceutical medicines that people use as study drugs, such as modafinil, Ritalin or experimental pharmaceuticals like Noopept.

Many of these drugs are sold illegally as smart drugs either by dealers or internet pharmacies. Often the term 'smart pills' is used interchangeably for ‘smart drugs,’ but the key is whether they are pharmaceutical or not.

Demand for these brain-enhancing drugs has been rising over the past few years, due to increasing pressure placed on students and professionals around the world.


Modafinil is a prescription-only stimulant and is one of the UK's most talked-about pharmaceutical smart drugs.

It was first approved by the US FDA in 1998 for the mental disorder narcolepsy. However, interest in its off-label use as a smart drug has peaked in recent years. Modafinil's primary mechanism is to prevent the dissipation of dopamine, which in turn keeps the user awake.

Anyone in the UK selling prescription-only medicines on the black market faces a jail sentence of up to 2 years. However, the supply of modafinil is legal if prescribed by a doctor.

Click here to see our complete guide to modafinil in 2020.


Methylphenidate, sold under the trade name Ritalin, is a treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Ritalin is a psychostimulant that increases the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.

It has an amphetamine-like effect with some users preventing sleep for long periods. Ritalin is a Class B drug, and possession without a prescription can lead to a maximum five-year prison sentence or an unlimited fine.

Click here to see our complete guide to Ritalin in 2020.


Developed in Russia and claimed to boost learning abilities, some users snort Noopept powder for added effect.

This drug claims 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 drug, with sentences up to 7 years.

Click here to see our complete guide to Noopept.

There are numerous other types in this category, such as racetams. However, for the sake of this blog post, we covered the main three in the UK.

Natural nootropics

The newest wave of smart pills to hit the world are natural nootropics. Find out if they are good below.

These cognitive enhancers are made from naturally sourced ingredients.

They are designed to support your mental performance and improve concentration.


This is the UK's first natural cognitive enhancer made with matcha, guarana, choline and vitamins/minerals.

Brainzyme is a natural nootropic that can help support your mental performance and improve concentration.

It's made in the UK, safe, legal and affordable and has been scientifically proven to support concentration, mental performance and the reduction of tiredness.

Click here if you'd like to learn more about Brainzyme.


They are described as one of the hottest startups in California, according to the UK’s The Times Magazine article, “The Brain Hackers”, and are one of the US’s first and leading manufacturers of natural cognitive enhancers.

Investors include the CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer and reviews are very positive.

Some of the ingredients that may be used in natural cognitive enhancers:


You might be surprised to learn that coffee, and in particular, caffeine is one of the oldest and best-known nootropics or cognitive enhancers.

It works by blocking the adenosine receptors and thus prevents the feeling of drowsiness, whilst elevating your blood pressure, heart and respiratory rate, which in turn makes you feel more awake and energetic.

Matcha green tea powder

Matcha is an ingredient that has been attracting a lot of consumer and media attention in the past few years.

In matcha, specially selected whole green tea leaves are ground down to a super fine powder, delivering compounds such as Theanine, which are associated with health and increased focus.

Guarana fruit seeds

Guarana is a plant native to the Amazonian region. Its seeds contain natural caffeine which is released in a sustained manner, providing alertness throughout the day.


An important nutrient that is helpful for brain health, choline is found in various foods, including broccoli and kidney beans.

Vitamins and minerals

Quite often underestimated due to the 'everyday' nature of these ingredients, vitamins and minerals should not be overlooked, especially in the context of a substantial number of adults being deficient.

For example, note the UK's National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) data which shows deficiencies in iron across the population (in the latest data for 2013-2014, 27% of women had low iron intakes https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/national-diet-and-nutrition-survey).

A vitamin or mineral deficiency can have an impact on cognitive function.

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.
Iron - This essential mineral contributes to normal cognitive function and the immune system.
Zinc - This essential mineral contributes to normal DNA synthesis and cognitive function.
Iodine - This essential nutrient contributes to normal cognitive and neurological function.
Magnesium - This essential nutrient contributes to normal psychological and nervous system function.

Concluding thoughts

When weighing up which nootropic to try, we usually recommend the following criteria:

  • Efficacy (has it been scientifically proven to work?)
  • Value for money (is it going to cost you an arm and a leg?)
  • Side effects (is it going to make you less productive in the long run?)
  • Legality (is it easy to buy and legal?)

Most synthetic nootropics fall short of this.

For example, modafinil has been shown to work quite well, but is expensive, has lots of side-effects and is illegal without a prescription in most countries. Therefore, we do not recommend it.

However, something like Brainzyme, a natural nootropic, which has been scientifically proven to work, is great value for money starting at 33p per capsule, has minimal side effects and is legal around the world. Therefore, we recommend Brainzyme.

Of course, we encourage you to do your research into nootropics before taking them for the first time.

Click here if you'd like to learn more about Brainzyme.

Related articles

Or, you may consider checking out the following related articles:

Smart Pill UK 2019 Review - Which Ones to Try and Which to Avoid

The Ultimate 2020 Adderall UK Guide: Legality, Alternatives and More

The Ultimate Modafinil UK Guide: Effects, Side Effects, Dosage and More

* = Anecdotally, the improved concentration from Brainzyme enables increased motivation.
** = Important note - whilst Brainzyme is scientifically proven to support concentration and mental performance, it is not a replacement for a good diet, moderate exercise or sleep. Brainzyme is also not a drug, medicine or pharmaceutical. It is a natural-sourced, vegan food supplement with ingredients that are scientifically proven to support cognition, concentration, mental performance and reduction of tiredness. You should always consult with your doctor if you require medical attention.


[Definition of Nootropic from the Merriam-Webster dictionary]
[Definition of Nootropic from dictionary.com]
[Definition of smart drug from the Cambridge dictionary]
[For a comprehensive list of nootropic ingredients]

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