Nootropics are compounds that are protective of the brain and increase cognitive function, such as recall, focus, mood or alertness. While there are many dozens of nootropics, many fall within three major categories: cholinergics, eugeroics, and racetam. Although there is some overlap in the effects of nootropic supplements in each of these categories, members of each family provide much-needed benefits for modern life.
Cholinergics and the Neurotransmitter Acetylcholine
Neurotransmitters are the chemicals responsible for carrying messages from nerve cell to nerve cell. One of the most important neurotransmitters is acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is pretty much the sole neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the central nervous system that allows your heart rate to slow, your digestion to increase and your body to basically relax. You can think of the parasympathetic nervous system as being in control during your body’s default state. Conversely, the sympathetic nervous system takes over during times of stress or “fight or flight.”
A cholinergic is a supplement or medication that has an effect on acetylcholine by either stimulating or blocking it. Increased acetylcholine levels are linked to better memory and recall and have been used in Alzheimer’s patients. Yet, the benefits of cholinergics are not limited to those with illnesses. Cholinergic nootropics to increase memory and focus are available to help with daily life. These are supplements that provide you with acetylcholine precursors, or molecules that your body uses to produce acetylcholine. Some of these include:
• Alpha GPC
Cholinergics are often “stacked” or combined with racetams to provide a memory boost along with increased focus.
A eugeroic is simply a wakefulness agent. In other words, they help to keep you alert and energized. When someone uses the term eugeroic, they are typically referring to a substance that gently promotes wakefulness without the side effects of typical stimulants. Although caffeine may be technically considered a eugeroic, its side effects of jitteriness, nervousness and dependence mean it is not generally included in this category.
Besides providing energy, eugeroics also promote executive functions, like attention, focus, time management and decision making - all processes that occur in the frontal lobe of the brain. The chief eugeroic supplement is modafinil, which has shown extremely few side effects. Additional ones include adrafinil, flourenol and pitosolant.
Racetams are a family of compounds that promote information retention and also have neuroprotective properties, preventing damage to brain cells. This is of benefit to anyone suffering from memory lapses and is particularly useful for older individuals.
The racetam group contains one of the first recognized nootropic supplement, piracetam. Piracetam serves as a parent molecule to several other racetam compounds.
People who use racetam supplements for better recall often find that racetam and cholinergic stacks give them not only improved memory but also increase cognitive function, attention and focus. A few examples of racetam supplements are:
Powerful Nootropic Similar to Racetams
While racetams are popular for cognitive enhancement, they are not the only effective nootropic for this function. Huperzine A, for example, helps improve memory and cognitive function. Similar to racetams, Huperzine A is a neuroprotector and is used to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. In fact, according to recent clinical trials of Huperzine A, “patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and various other memory disorders gain significant benefit, both in terms of memory and life quality.” If it can help improve these patients, just think of the cognitive and healthy-aging benefits it brings to healthy individuals!
Nootropic supplements can provide many benefits to people of all ages and walks of like. Whether you are a busy mom trying your best to balance the stress of a job with the demands of an active family life, or you are a busy executive fighting for that latest promotion at work, nootropics can provide you with the edge you need to stay on top of your game and make the most of each day. However, you should always consult with your physician before starting any supplement regimen, especially if you have a medical illness.