Unraveling the Myths & Facts about Nootropics 🧠
A Comprehensive Guide to Nootropics, Their Myths, Facts, and Impact on Cognitive Health (5min Read)
Nootropics potentially enhance cognition.
They're not "magic pills" for instant genius.
They're not all the same.
They can't replace therapy.
They can have side effects.
Their impact varies between individuals.
Natural isn't inherently safer than synthetic.
Use nootropics responsibly with professional guidance.
As you know, the only nootropic I take and suggest to my clients, friends, and family is MindLabPro.
That being said, I’ve heard tons of different questions about nootropics overall from these people.
So, today, I want to cover the most common myths that I hear, and clear them up with some Neuroscience!
If you don’t remember anything about nootropics, I suggest you check out, “Nootropics: Do They Truly Augment Human Intelligence?”
I’ll cover some of the basics here, but that post dives much deeper into the science behind them.
So, what are nootropics?
Webster defines them as:
n: a substance that enhances memory and cognition and facilitates learning.
To put it simply, nootropics are substances that could potentially improve cognitive function.
Our ancestors used herbs and spices like ginseng, Ginkgo Biloba, Brahmi, and Ashwagandha for cognitive benefits.
Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea is considered the Father of Modern Nootropics, and was the first scientist to outline a criteria for what qualifies as a nootropic.
These criteria were:
Enhances memory and learning
Improves processing & cognitive function
Supports performance in adverse conditions
Protects and supports brain health
Is free from stims, toxins & side-effects
As a side note, this is actually why I like MindLabPro so much… It’s one of the only nootropics that checks the boxes on all of these criteria.
Back to what they do though…
Some nootropics provide neuroprotection, others promote neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity, and some even enhance cerebral blood flow!
However, as with any promising area, there's a swirl of myths that can muddy the waters of understanding.
Let's separate fact from fiction.
Myth 1: Nootropics are a "magic pill" for instant genius
One of the most commonly encountered myths is the idea of nootropics as a miracle, mind-enhancing 'Limitless' pill.
I’ve heard people mention the movie “Limitless” so many times when it comes to this myth…
The movie leads us to believe that nootropics will turn us into super-geniuses, effortlessly absorbing and analyzing vast amounts of information at breakneck speed.
Fact: While nootropics can enhance cognitive function, they are not magic
They work subtly by modulating various neurotransmitters in the brain, like dopamine in the mesolimbic pathway, affecting reward and motivation.
Other times they can affect acetylcholine in the basal forebrain, crucial for memory and learning.
Yet, no pill can instantly bestow genius. Cognitive enhancement from nootropics requires time and is usually coupled with healthy lifestyle changes.
I will admit though, when I take my MindLabPro in the morning, I can’t help but imagine myself as Bradley Cooper taking his first Limitless pill… 😅
Myth 2: All nootropics are the same
There's this pervasive belief that nootropics are 1 homogenous group of substances.
This couldn't be further from the truth.
Fact: Natural vs. Synthetic
Nootropics encompass a vast range of substances, from natural compounds like Ginkgo Biloba to synthesized products like Modafinil.
Each has a unique profile of effects and side effects, acting on different neural pathways.
For instance, the nootropic Aniracetam enhances glutamate transmission in the brain, which plays a significant role in neural communication, memory formation, and learning processes.
I personally prefer natural nootropics like the ones inside MindLabPro.
It’s just something about centuries worth of our ancestors using them before me that makes me feel better about natural nootropics!
Myth 3: Nootropics can replace therapy
Some believe that nootropics can be a stand-alone solution for mental health issues, especially when healing from traumatic experiences.
Fact: Nootropics ABSOLUTELY DO NOT Replace Therapy
While certain nootropics can potentially alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression by influencing brain regions like the amygdala, they are not a substitute for therapy.
One of my clients, who we will name Lisa, is a 30-something woman healing from an abusive relationship.
After introducing L-Theanine, a nootropic known for its calming effects, into her routine, she found that her anxiety levels dipped.
However, she emphasized that it was the combination of this, her sessions with me, mindfulness practices, and her support network that truly fostered her healing process.
Nootropics, therefore, play a supportive role in mental health management.
And they can boost brain function and promote neural health, but they are not a panacea!
Myth 4: Nootropics have no side effects
A common misconception is that nootropics are completely free of side effects, given that many of them are derived from natural substances.
Fact: Like any substance affecting brain chemistry, nootropics can indeed have side effects
These range from mild (headache, digestive upset) to more serious ones, especially when taken in excessive doses or without appropriate guidance.
Some nootropics like Piracetam might cause nervousness or agitation in some people.
Whereas others, like high doses of caffeine, can lead to sleep disturbances & anxiety.
This is one that I see a lot, nootropics packed with caffeine that then gives you this nervous/anxious type of energy… I hate it.
This is why I only suggest nootropics like MindLabPro because it’s stimulant free, which is very important when working in the trauma space like I do.
As always, if you’re worried or nervous about nootropics, consult your MD first!
Myth 5: Nootropics provide the same benefits to everyone
The idea that nootropics act universally, providing the same cognitive benefits to all, is another myth surrounding this field.
Fact: The impact of nootropics can be highly individual
Factors like genetics, overall health, diet, and lifestyle play a significant role in determining how someone responds to a nootropic.
For example, a study showed that the effects of Modafinil, a popular nootropic, varied greatly among individuals, with some experiencing enhanced cognitive function while others saw no significant improvement.
You can’t imagine how unique and complex each of our minds, brains & bodies are, so this one shouldn’t be a surprise!
Myth 6: Natural Nootropics are Always Safer than Synthetic Ones
A widely held myth is that natural nootropics are inherently safer than synthetic ones, purely due to their origin from nature.
Fact: Natural Doesn’t Automatically Mean Safer
While it's true that natural nootropics are derived from herbs, plants, and other naturally occurring substances, this doesn't automatically make them safer.
Safety and efficacy depend on a variety of factors, including dosage, an individual's health status, and potential interactions with other substances.
For example, kava tea is derived from a naturally occurring root in the South Pacific Islands.
Its nickname is “Natures Xanax” because it’s so good at reducing anxiety levels, but mixing it with alcohol can be deadly.
Similarly, synthetic nootropics are not inherently dangerous.
Many synthetic nootropics are designed to target specific neural pathways and may have more predictable effects.
It's essential to remember that 'natural' doesn't necessarily equate to 'safe,' and 'synthetic' doesn't automatically mean 'dangerous.'
Both natural and synthetic nootropics should be used responsibly, and ideally under the guidance of a healthcare professional!
By unveiling the myths surrounding nootropics, we get a clearer picture of their role.
They're not magic pills or universal cures but can be powerful allies on our journey toward optimal mental health.
As we continue exploring the intricate realm of the brain and the potential of these cognitive enhancers, one thing is certain:
The story of nootropics is still being written, and it's a narrative worth following.
If you would like to try some MindLabPro, which again, is the only nootropic with my stamp of approval, you can use the button below!
And as always, until next time… Live Heroically 🧠
Ritsner, M. S., Miodownik, C., Ratner, Y., Shleifer, T., Mar, M., Pintov, L., & Lerner, V. (2011). L-theanine relieves positive, activation, and anxiety symptoms in patients with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder: an 8-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, 2-center study. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 72(1), 34-42.
Gualtieri, F., Manetti, D., Romanelli, M. N., & Ghelardini, C. (2002). Design and study of piracetam-like nootropics, controversial members of the problematic class of cognition-enhancing drugs. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 8(2), 125-138.
Wong, Y. N., King, S. P., Simcoe, D., Gorman, S., Laughton, W., McCormick, G. C., & Grebow, P. (1999). Open-label, single-dose pharmacokinetic study of modafinil tablets: influence of age and gender in normal subjects. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 39(3), 281-288.