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Nootropic Definitions: What is a Nootropic and More

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


- Introduction

Type 1: Pharmaceutical 'smart drugs'

- Type 2: 'Natural nootropics'

- Our Favourite 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 natural sourced. In either case, they are also known as ‘nootropics’ - or cognitive enhancers.

If you are interested in this topic, you should also consider checking out our 13 Brain Power Supplements: Increase Brain Power And Concentration article.

smart pills
As mentioned, there are two main types of nootropic: Natural, and pharmaceutical.  

We will explain the main differences below:

Watch: A Complete Guide To Nootropic Supplements UK

Type 1 - the most talked about the past few years: Pharmaceutical 'smart drugs'**

Also known as 'pharmacological cognitive enhancement substances'. These are names given to prescription pharmaceutical drugs such as Modafinil, Ritalin or experimental pharmaceuticals such as Noopept that are used as study drugs.

Many of these drugs are sold illegally as 'smart drugs', either via dealers or 'internet pharmacies'.

Often '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 throughout 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 2019.


(Methylphenidate) 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 of time.

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 2019.


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 in 2019.

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.

Type 2: the new trend, growing in popularity, natural nootropics

'Natural nootropics' or 'natural cognitive enhancers'

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 with matcha, guarana, choline and vitamins/minerals.

It 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.

Learn more about BrainZyme here.


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 the user feel more awake and energetic.

Matcha Green Tea Powder

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

This is a form of green tea where 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, found in various foods including broccoli and kidney beans.


Quite often underestimated due to the 'everyday' nature of these ingredients, they 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

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.

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.

Our Favourite Nootropic

Our favoutrite nootropic is UK based BrainZyme.

All of their products have been scientifically proven to support concentration, mental performance and the reduction of tiredness.

Please click here to find out why we think BrainZyme is the best.

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 2019 Adderall UK Guide: Legality, Alternatives & 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.

Useful Resources:

[Definition of Nootropic from the Merriam-Webster dictionary]

[Definition of Nootropic from]

[Definition of smart drug from the Cambridge dictionary]

[For a comprehensive list of nootropic ingredients]

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  • Hi Nate,

    BrainZyme has an effect in an hour or less for most people. The effects should last for 4-6 hours – so you shouldn’t need to take it for several days to feel an effect!

    Beyond that, BrainZyme contains numerous vitamins and minerals which may provide longer-term benefits to your brain, but there will likely be tangible effects within an hour of taking your capsules.

    And, to Simon: We’d strongly recommend the ‘natural smart pills’ addressed in the second half of the article. They’re legal, safe and effective, while pharmaceutical ‘smart drugs’ are often illegal and can produce some significant side effects!

    Hope this helps,


    Robert (Mod) on

  • How long would it take for BrainZyme to have an effect?? Do I need to take it for a week or two?

    Nate on

  • So many good vitamins in this product, no wonder its good for the brain.

    Georgina on

  • This seems like a good list, but which ones are best to use?

    Simon on

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