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What is a Nootropic?
Otherwise known as brain boosters, cognitive enhancers or smart drugs, Nootropic supplements are a broad range of natural or synthetic substances that have positive effects on mental skills and improve mental performance. The most commonly known and used is nootropic is caffeine.
Nootropics generally fall into three categories: dietary supplements, prescription meds and synthetic compounds. Until recently they were taken mostly by biohackers, bohemian CEOs and Silicon Valley tech types seeking to push the capabilities of the human mind. Now they are taken by healthy people across all walks of life and praised for improving alertness, attention, creativity, memory and motivation.
The name has its origins in Ancient Greece from the words νόος (nóos), which means “mind”, and τροπή (tropḗ), meaning “turning”. It was first popularized in 1972 by a Romanian chemist and psychologist Corneliu Giurgea who characterized a new classification of molecules that were positive towards brain health and activity. To qualify as a genuine nootropic it had to fulfil these criteria set by Giurgea:
- It must be non-toxic for humans
- Must protect brain cells from toxicity
- Enhances natural brain function
- Helps to improve learning and memory
- Support cognitive function under stress
- Facilitate cell to cell communication
In more recent times the requirements are not so strict; if a substance helps the brain in any way it can be called a nootropic. As the nootropics family has grown, so too has the range of their users who come from all walks of life to appreciate the benefits.