3 Key Nootropic Families
It can get confusing trying to get your head around the different types of nootropics there are out there but once you start digging a little deeper, you’ll soon discover that there are really just a handful of nootropic “families” derived from certain ingredients and that’s how you will come to understand them.
Each “family” therefore performs a certain function for example cognitive enhancement, wakefulness or increase in memory.
Here we will break them down into 3 families.
To kick off let’s begin with the Mother of all Nootropics – the “Tams”.
1. Racetam Family
Function: Cognitive enhancement
Patented by Russia in 1982, Piracetam was the very first racetam to be developed and by just doing a quick skim of the popular online noot forum’s you will see that piracetam gets its fair share of attention.
The birth of piracetam spawned many sister tams, but they essentially have the same chemical structure that promotes cognitive enhancement and improves one or more aspects of mental function.
Now for the part which to most of us makes little sense: All racetams share a 2-pyrrolidone nucleus and being derivatives of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) – this means that they are not naturally occurring; rather they are synthesized through a chemical process.
However, despite piracetam being the most popular of racetams, it’s not the fastest acting or most powerful.
Three of its sister tams rank higher on these scales, with aniracetam, oxiracetam and pramiracetam next on the popularity scale.
Of these, oxiracetam is perhaps the daddy here, considered highly potent and fastest acting.
Alternatively, pramiracetam is rated 30 times stronger than piracetam, while noopept is considered on par with pramiracetam, where the recommended dosage is as low as 10 to 20 milligrams, 1 to 3 times a day.
Racetams while available over-the-counter – OTC – in some countries should be used with caution. They are used as prescription medicines worldwide as neuro-enhancement agents for those with impaired intellectual abilities.
Most racetams are not approved in the U.S for medical use and in 2015 Amazon and Ebay suppliers accounts were ordered to shutdown.
There is just one racetam however that has received due respect and delivers essential treatment to epileptics helping them control their seizures through the use of an anticonvalusent known as Keppra, which harnesses the racetam levetiracetam.
Other than Keppra, you’ll be hard pressed to get your hands on any racetam nootropics in the U.S OTC, which is why their sales are potentially flourishing online.
2. Eugeroic Family
Function: Stimulants, wakefulness, alertness
The eugeroic family behave more like smart drugs, where modafinil and adrafinil for example install a sense of wakefulness, promoting a prolonged state of alertness, allowing you to stay up longer and temporarily abstain from sleep.
Unlike smart drugs though they do not display significant spikes in heart rate or a boost in blood pressure nor do they encourage the propensity for abuse or the addiction for the euphoric state.
The word “eugeroic” which has its roots in Greek meaning “good arousal”, is a good definition for this family of nootropics as they are designed for you to avoid sleep and induce a wakefulness that will help facilitate productivity.
Very useful if your attention span’s waning during an important class or a monotonous task or you simply lack the get up and go to crack on with your work at home job.
Unlike Dexedrine, Ritalin and Adderall, all compounds that are in some way a cacophony of amphetamine salts, Modafinil and Adrafinil are two of the more popular eugeroic nootropics, where side effects are rare however not unheard of so while adrafinil can be purchased in most countries OTC, modafinil normally requires a prescription.
3. Cholinergics Family
The cholinergic family are perhaps the most talked of in terms of the nootropics.
They work on 2 fronts:
a) A cholinergic of which Choline, Alpha-GPC, CDP Choline and DMAE are some of the more well-known, is the precursor to acetylcholine, acetylcholine being the key neurotransmitter for memory function.
While your own body produces acetylcholine it is often not always enough hence a cholinergic booster will increase levels of acetylcholine in the grey matter department.
b) Cholinergics also block the production of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme responsible for reducing acetylcholine levels.
Galantamine, Huperzine A and Donepezil are popular cholinergic nootropics that both inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase while replenishing acetycholine stocks in the brain.
Vitamins, Minerals & Nutrients for Cognitive Enhancement
Function: Mood, cognitive health
Omega-3 fatty acids
So there you have the 3 families of nootropics but getting a decent diet is also important for neurological enhancement.
While there is much hocus-pocus in the field of alternative health, there is also rock solid evidence to support vitamin intake for brain health, specifically for mood, motivation, clarity and alertness.
Vitamin B stands above the rest for influencing mood in a positive manner, whereas low levels of Vitamin D in the brain may impair cognitive function.
Omega-3 fatty acids may help protect you from the onset Alzheimer’s and dementia plus help lower your risk of heart disease and cancer.
However, don’t overdo it when it comes to taking your multi-vits, just because most assume that they’re all natural, this doesn’t mean you can’t over-supplement yourself.
Too much vitamin B or D will cause physiological toxicity and/or neurotoxicity, while an excessive omega-3 intake that has to be consumed through food or supplements as we are unable to produce it ourselves may lead to risky levels of mercury in the blood, which is an anti-nootropic if you like as it impairs cognitive health.