Imagine taking a supplement that promises to improve your memory and recall, enhance your creativity, or elevate your mood.
We live in a competitive world, and anytime we see an opportunity to do better, think faster and more creatively, or ultimately feel better, many of us will take advantage of it.
Of course, there is no such thing as a magical pill that can morph us into the next Einstein or Hawking. However, there are promising, evidence-backed nootropics, aka “smart drugs” on the market, and demand for them is growing.
Depending on where you live or which research or website you study, the term “nootropics” could mean a dietary supplement, vitamin, prescription stimulant, smart drug, performance enhancer, or adaptogen.
Whilst this may be confusing when you’re trying to choose the best nootropic for your own needs, it’s important to remember there are several common components among each of those terms—starting with their ability to affect your mental state or stamina.
What are nootropics?
Nootropics: A definition
The word nootropics comes from noos meaning “to mind” and tropein, meaning “to monitor.”
Nootropics are natural or synthetic substances that can enhance cognitive functioning, improve mental performance, or impact our mood. This term is a catch-all phrase and can apply to numerous substances sold over the counter, such as caffeine, nicotine, herbal supplements, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and creatine.
Under the same umbrella, prescription stimulants used to treat ADD and ADHD, such as Adderall or Ritalin are technically considered nootropics because of the way they affect the brain (improving focus, concentration, and promoting calmness), but these nootropic stimulants are controlled substances that require a prescription to obtain.
Are nootropics legal?
Nootropics legislation in the UK
Nootropics usage and availability in the UK is a complicated topic.
When Parliament passed The Psychoactive Substance Act (2016) it banned all substances that can cause a “psychoactive effect” in its user. Technically, this included “nootropics.”
Despite the legislature’s intent to create a ban, en masse, it did allow for key exceptions, such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements.
Many argue the Act’s problem is its broad scope, allowing for what would otherwise be a safe nootropic to be banned.
The Association for Counselling and Therapy Online argues that if the government’s concern were really about “safety,” then tobacco wouldn’t have been on the list of exemptions.
Natural nootropics like Ashwagandha, L-theanine, and complexes like Earths Secret’s Calm supplement, on the other hand, benefit from the “dietary supplements” label and can be readily purchased online or in wellness shops across the country.
That is to say, they’re completely legal.
Nootropics legislation in the US
The natural nootropics market is soaring in the United States.
In general, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate natural nootropics. In some ways, similar to the UK, natural nootropics (i.e., vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements) enjoy the dietary supplement label.
Although nootropics are legal and widely available across the country, not all nootropics can use the dietary supplement label, and therefore fall into the “research compounds” category.
Take the synthetic nootropic, Piracetam, for example. Whilst the FDA has not banned this nootropic, it has disallowed manufacturers to sell it as a dietary supplement.
Nootropics legislation around the world
The legality of nootropics varies widely from country to country because there isn’t a set, universal definition of nootropic.
In the European Union, whilst nootropics are available, they are also deemed “novel foods” and subject to intense regulation before the public can purchase them, especially in Germany and France.
China boasts one of the biggest nootropics markets in the world––however, its government places strict controls on production and dissemination. Despite this, many nootropics are available without a prescription and are in high demand from students of all levels, and parents who want their kids to excel academically.
With this in mind, global legislation around nootropics regulation will likely continue to develop as we learn more about the capabilities of these ingredients.
5 nootropics questions answered
How do nootropics work?
This is a fundamentally difficult question to answer because our brains are so complex.
The simple answer is, research shows that natural nootropics do have a positive effect on our cognitive functioning, which can include: memory recall, focus, concentration, verbal acuity, and learning/information processing.
Some nootropics may accomplish this by increasing the alpha or beta waves in our brains and improve executive functioning (as with L-Theanine), or by lowering our cortisol levels (as in an adaptogen like Ashwagandha), which can help increase our focus, concentration, and leave us feeling calmer and less stressed.
Can nootropics turn me into a genius mastermind?
Just the thought of taking a pill that could significantly enhance our intelligence and creative thinking is exciting—not to mention straight out of the pages of an HP Lovecraft novel.
Whilst not a single nootropic on the market can turn you into a “genius mastermind,” many evidence-backed nootropics may improve your memory, help you concentrate, strengthen your mental stamina, or enhance your creativity.
For instance, L-Theanine is an amino acid found naturally in black and green tea that can boost the alpha waves in our brain. Research indicates it can relax the brain without causing drowsiness, which could be ideal for the creative process.
Other nootropics like KSM-66 Ashwagandha work as an adaptogen on the body by lowering our stress levels, boosting our mood, and ultimately relieving symptoms of anxiety. When our minds are free from excessive worrying, it may liberate us to be more proactive and productive at home and work.
How do I find a nootropic that works for me?
First, it’s important to determine what you would like to take a nootropic for.
If you want to feel calmer and more focused, for example, an adaptogen like Ashwagandha may be a good fit.
Consulting your doctor and discussing why you want to begin taking a nootropic is especially crucial if you are currently taking other prescription medications, such as antidepressants or other psychoactive medications which could lead to negative side effects such as extreme anxiety, etc.
Finally, always conduct research before taking a specific nootropic.
Determine who the manufacturer is and if they’re credible. Are they using safe ingredients? Have they researched the ingredients they’re selling? Natural, evidence-backed nootropics are available, and it’s worth doing your research to make sure you know what you’re purchasing.
Are nootropics safe?
If we define nootropic to mean a “natural herbal supplement or vitamin, mineral, or amino acid that can improve our cognitive functioning,” then, largely, yes.
These nootropics are almost always safe because they are often classified as dietary supplements and treated as if they were a food product, and they often do not come with serious adverse side effects.
More often than not, synthetic nootropics may cause acute or in some cases, severe side effects and because of this they often land on the scheduled or banned lists in many countries.
Where can I buy nootropics?
A range of natural nootropics can be purchased over the counter, without a prescription on the internet, or in health and wellness stores in the U.S., UK, Canada, Brazil, and the EU (though subject to regulation, and sometimes strict regulation, as in Germany).
Looking for an evidence-backed nootropic?
With the demand for nootropics on the rise globally, and with new manufacturers popping up to meet that demand, it’s important to invest in an evidence-backed nootropic that’s safe and doesn’t overpromise or underdeliver.
A combination of nootropics and Ayurvedic herbs is at the heart of Earths Secret’s Calm Complex.
This vegan-friendly, preservative, and GMO-free formula fuses five all-natural adaptogens and natural nootropics into a single capsule, that includes KSM-66 Ashwagandha, Holy Basil Leaf, Rhodiola Rosea, L-Theanine, and Black Pepper.
We may not be able to magically transform into super-geniuses by taking a nootropic, but we can boost our mental performance, concentration, executive functioning, and stamina by choosing a natural nootropic that bases its promises on scientific research, and can deliver real, mind-bending results.
Check out Earths Secret today to learn more about the benefits of natural nootropics.