Nootropics (Smart Drugs)

In this article we’ll look at what Nootropics are and the most popular non-prescription Nootropics.


This article has been medically approved by Pharmacist Sumaiya Patel - GPhC Reg No: 2215078

Nootropics, also known as smart drugs, are natural or synthetic substances that are believed to boost mental performance. In our article below, we’ll look at Nootropics, including the most popular ones, in more detail.

What are Nootropics?

Nootropics, also known as smart drugs or cognitive enhancers, and drugs, supplements, and other substances that are claimed to improve cognitive function.

They have gained popularity as they are typically claimed to help improve memory, focus, creativity, intelligence, and motivation.

There are 2 types of nootropics: prescription and non-prescription.

Prescription nootropics are medications that have stimulant effects. They are typically used to counteract the symptoms of certain conditions like ADHD, narcolepsy, or Alzheimer’s disease.

Non-prescription nootropics are substances like caffeine and creatine. They do not treat diseases, but may have an effect on cognitive function.

For this article, we’ll focus on non-prescription nootropics.


Caffeine is one of the most widely used drugs in the world, thanks to it being found in things like coffee, soda, and energy drinks.

Caffeine works by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain. These receptors are responsible for making you feel tired, so blocking them makes you feel less tired. [1]

A low to moderate caffeine intake of 40-300 mg can increase your alertness and attention and decrease your reaction time. This is especially true for people who are tired.


L-theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that is found in tea, but can also be taken as a supplement.

Studies have shown that 200mg of L-theanine has a calming effect without causing drowsiness. What’s more, taking just 50mg has been found to increase alpha-waves in the brain, which have been linked to creativity. [2]


Creatine is an amino acid that the body uses to create protein. It Is popular among bodybuilders as it helps to promote muscle growth, but it is also beneficial for your brain.

After you take creatine, it binds with phosphate in your brain to create Phosphocreatine. Your brain then uses Phosphocreatine to quickly fuel its cells, which is linked to improved short-term memory and reasoning skills. This is especially true for vegetarians and people who are stressed. [3]

The beneficial effects of creatine can be gained from 5 grams per day. Larger doses are also effective, but research on the long term safety of taking large doses of creatine is unavailable. [4]

Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa monnieri is an ancient herb used in Ayurvedic medicine to enhance brain function.

Several studies have shown that Bacopa monnieri can speed up information processing in your brain, reduce reaction times, and improve memory. [5] Bacopa monnieri contains active compounds called bacosides. Bacosides help to protect your brain from oxidative stress, as well as improving signalling in the hippocampus. This is the area of the brain where memories are processed. [6]

The effects of Bacopa monnieri supplements are not felt immediately. You should take 300-600 mg per day for several months to achieve the full benefit.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogenic herb that has been found to improve mood and decrease feelings of burnout in anxious and highly stressed individuals. [7]

It has also been shown that taking small doses of Rhodiola rosea every day can reduce mental fatigue and increase feelings of well-being in students during stressful exam periods. [8]

Panax Ginseng

Panax ginseng is an ancient medicinal plant used to boost brain function.

A single 200-400 mg dose of Panax ginseng has been shown to reduce brain fatigue and significantly improve performance on difficult tasks like mental maths problems. However, it’s not clear how Panax ginseng achieves this effect. [9]

Some longer-term studies have suggested that your body may adapt to ginseng, meaning it is less effective when used for several months.

Ginkgo Biloba

Extracts made from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree may have positive effects on your brain.

It has been shown that Gingko biloba supplements may improve memory and mental processing when taken daily for six weeks. [10] Taking Gingko biloba before a highly stressful task also reduces stress related high blood pressure and decreases the levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a type of stress hormone. [11]

It’s thought that these beneficial effects are achieved due to the increased blood flow to the brain after taking Ginkgo biloba supplements.


Noopept is a synthetic smart drug. Unlike some natural nootropics, the positive effects of Noopept can be felt within minutes and typically last for several hours.

Animal studies have shown that Noopept can speed up how quickly the brain forms and retrieves memories. It does this by boosting levels of brain-derives neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a compound that promotes growth of brain cells. [12]