The No-Nonsense Guide to Nootropics

Disclaimer: This guide is intended to give a brief overview of nootropics. When taking nootropics, please follow the recommended dosage stated. If you have any concerns about taking nootropics we recommend speaking to a doctor.

Brite drinks are full of nootropics. But, what exactly are they?

Are they drugs? Medicinal herbs? Where do they come from? And what are the benefits of nootropics? We answer all your nootropic-related questions in this ultimate guide. Once you’ve absorbed all our information on nootropics you’ll be better equipped to find the nootropic that’s right for you. Why not grab a Brite drink and enjoy while you read?

Brite drinks are full of nootropics. But, what exactly are they? Are they drugs? Medicinal herbs? Where do they come from? And what are the benefits of nootropics? We answer all your nootropic-related questions in this ultimate guide. Once you’ve absorbed all our information on nootropics you’ll be better equipped to find the nootropic that’s right for you. Why not grab a Brite drink and enjoy while you read?

1. What are nootropics?

Nootropics are a natural way to boost your energy and focus. And, you can find them in many delicious forms such as drinks, supplements and foods. You can enjoy them on-the-go, before or during work or before bed to unwind. But, before we get into what nootropics are used for, let’s go back to the beginning.

What is the definition of a nootropic?

Nootropics aka ‘cognitive enhancers’ are any natural or synthetic substance that improves cognitive functioning and abilities. The word nootropic comes from the Greek word for mind - ‘noos’ - and the Greek word for turning or towards - ‘tropē’. The term ‘nootropic’ was coined by Romanian psychologist Dr Corneliu Guirgea in 1972.

How do they work?

Nootropics work by oxygenating the brain and improving blood circulation. They also reduce inflammation in the brain and protect the brain from toxins. Nootropics stimulate the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and GABA.

A quick history of nootropics.

As a professor of neurophysiology in the 1960s, Dr Guirgea was searching for a sleep-aid that was related to the neurotransmitter GABA. GABA decreases activity in the nervous system by blocking specific brain signals. It can decrease stress and improve sleep quality. It was during this research that Guirgea came across Piracetam. He observed that in clinical trials, Piracetam was effective in enhancing memory. This accidental discovery led to the paper ‘The “Nootropic” Approach to the Pharmacology of the Integrative Activity of the Brain’, being written in which Guirgea details the new class of drugs.

Although nootropics were used by ancient civilisations to enhance cognitive performance, it wasn’t until Dr Corneliu Guirgea’s discovery that research into brain enhancing pharmaceuticals began. Over time, the powers of nootropics have gained growing attention. The discovery of nootropics has led to the development of drugs that treat ADHD and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Are nootropics drugs?

Ancient civilisations in China, Thailand, India and South America used nootropics such as Bacopa Monnieri, Ginkgo Biloba and Ginseng for medical purposes. The ancient Indian system of medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, still uses nootropics as herbal medicines today.

So are they actually drugs? Malík and Tlustoš (2022) define nootropics as substances that interfere with the metabolism of neuronal cells of the central nervous system, which activate cognitive functions, such as memory. In other words, they state that nootropics are drugs because they have a physiological effect on the individual who consumes them.

Nootropics are often referred to as ‘smart drugs’ due to their ability to enhance brain power. However, typical smart drugs such as modafinil or ritalin don’t possess the five properties Dr Guirgea claimed made a substance a nootropic.

The five characteristics Guirgea identified in nootropics, include:

  • Enhancement of learning acquisition = boosting memory
  • Resistance to impairing agents = supporting brain health & function
  • Facilitation of interhemispheric transfer of information = improving neurological processes, such as recall
  • Enhanced resistance to brain aggressions = protecting the brain from ageing and external toxins
  • Increased tonic, cortical-subcortical control = improving focus and attention
  • Absence of usual pharmacological effects = low toxicity, no or very few side effects

In comparison, smart drugs only have one property, i.e. Ritalin helps with concentration but has lots of negative side effects, such as loss of appetite.

Natural nootropics, namely Ginkgo Biloba or Ginseng, can be used daily without harm or risk of addiction. Whereas smart drugs or synthetic nootropics can become addictive and consumers can become dependent.

So that’s a brief history of nootropics! It’s a lot of information to take in. If you found your mind wondering you could try taking nootropics to boost your focus. Brite is the world’s first natural productivity drink that can help you concentrate. Brite drinks are a delicious way to take your nootropics.

2. Types of nootropics.

Are all nootropics natural? The simple answer is no.

One way to categorise nootropics is synthetic vs natural. Nootropics available with prescription – Adderall, Memantine, Provigil and Ritalin – are synthetically made. Synthetic/chemical compounds such as piracetam (discovered by Dr Guirgea) are available over the counter in most pharmacies.

Natural nootropics include:

  • L-theanine - an amino acid found in green and black tea, as well as some mushrooms. It boosts alertness and brain performance.
  • Caffeine - yes, caffeine is a nootropic! And, it’s the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world. It increases alertness and focus.
  • Ginkgo Biloba - a popular herbal supplement made from leaves of trees in China, Korea and Japan. It can fight brain fog and improve dementia symptoms.
  • (Panax) Ginseng - derived from a shrub in China and Siberia, Ginseng has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for centuries. It is known to reduce the risk of certain brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.
  • Ashwagandha - taken from an evergreen shrub native to Asia and Africa, this nootropic helps lower blood pressure and calm the brain.

Adaptogens or mushrooms? Pick your nootropic fighter.

Another way to categorise nootropics is dividing them into adaptogens or mushrooms. This categorisation is only for natural nootropics.

Adaptogens are compounds that help the body deal with stress by regulating cortisol levels and supporting ‘normal’ physiological functioning. Ginseng, Ashwagandha and Rhodiola are examples of adaptogens. In the past, adaptogens were used to help people adapt to environmental stressors.

Nootropic mushrooms were first used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat various diseases. Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps and Reishi are popular nootropic mushrooms. Lion’s Mane is used for cognitive performance and has been found to enhance focus. Cordyceps are known to treat fatigue and reduce brain fog. They are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat respiratory and kidney diseases. Reishi helps reduce anxiety and fatigue. Today, Reishi is being used for treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The terms adaptogens and nootropics are used interchangeably. Although you can classify nootropics as adaptogens, some experts argue they are different because adaptogens work with the body rather than boosting brain function. But, mushrooms such as Reishi have antibacterial, antiviral and anti-tumor properties, which make it more than just a brain-boosting substance.

Want to know what nootropics are used in Brite drinks? Click on one of our tasty products and read the nutritional data and ingredients to find out. All the ingredients inside a Brite drink are natural and vegan friendly. The active ingredients are all organic. Just a head’s up!

3. The benefits of nootropics.

Nootropics are well known for their brain-boosting qualities. They typically boost cognition, enhance alertness, improve sleep quality and increase attention span and concentration. Nootropics contain anti-inflammatory properties and have been found to protect the brain from toxins and support healthy ageing. Some nootropics even increase blood flow to the brain, causing energy levels to remain consistent – preventing dips or ‘energy crashes’.

The benefits do depend on which nootropics you take and how frequently you take them. Different nootropics have unique properties. To help you find the right nootropic, we have grouped and categorised nootropics based on their positive qualities.

Best nootropics for concentration and focus.

The best nootropics for concentration and focus include citicoline, L-theanine and plant-derived caffeine.

Citicoline is found naturally in every cell in the human body. It’s a nutrient-bioactive hybrid that, when taken as a supplement, increases attention span and improves focus. For people with ADHD, citicoline has been found to reduce ADHD-related brain fog and it boosts dopamine levels.

Caffeine and L-theanine are a powerful combination that provides consumers with an energised focus. On its own, L-theanine reduces mental fatigue by amplifying alpha brain waves. When paired with caffeine, the effects of L-theanine are strengthened. They are found in matcha and other green teas.

Want to learn more about caffeine and L-theanine, the dynamic duo? The ingredients in our drinks are backed by scientific research that backs the potency of these two nootropics.

Best nootropics for energy.

The most favoured nootropic for energy is caffeine. Every year, 400 billion cups of coffee are consumed all over the world. In the UK alone, 98 millions cups of coffee are drunk per day.

Guarana is a nootropic derived from a plant native to the Amazon rainforest. Guarana contains the highest concentrations of caffeine of any plant. Research suggests, guarana has up to six times more caffeine than coffee beans.

But, caffeine isn’t the only nootropic great for combating fatigue. Ginseng, a herb grown in Northern America and Asia, supports energy production and reduces tiredness. Ginseng improves blood flow, and provides the brain with increased oxygen, glucose and other essential molecules for stimulating the brain.

Lion’s Mane also increases energy. The fungi contains polysaccharides and antioxidants which stabilise energy levels and prevent spikes in blood sugar.

Best nootropics for sleep.

Need help drifting off? We’ve all been there. We understand how frustrating it can be and how disruptive a poor night’s sleep is to your daily life. Instead of counting sheep, you could try these top three nootropics for sleep.

L-theanine has been found to affect sleep by encouraging relaxing brain activity. Research suggests that L-theanine doses (50-200 mg) increase alpha brain waves, which are prevalent in drowsy and relaxed people. If trouble sleeping is related to stress, L-theanine is one of the best nootropics for sleep as it affects brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. These are responsible for a person’s mood and mental state.

Lemon balm is a natural nootropic that contains beneficial compounds such as rosmarinic acid and hydroxycinnamic, which support relaxation, enhance cognitive function and improve sleep quality. Similarly to L-theanine, lemon balm relieves sleep disturbances by minimising stress and nervousness. These benefits are caused by lemon balm supporting the production of GABA, a neurotransmitter which helps the body deal with stress.

Best nootropics for anxiety.

Many of us experience feelings of stress and anxiety in our personal or professional lives. If anxiety is prolonged it can cause mood swings, irritability, depression and physical illness. There are a number of nootropics that can help anxiety symptoms become much more manageable by reducing feelings of stress and nervousness.

Bacopa Monnieri is an adaptogenic herb native to East India, Australia, Africa and parts of Europe. It has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. It decreases feelings of stress by reducing cortisol, the stress hormone. Recent research has emphasised its effectiveness at treating anxiety by promoting the production of GABA and serotonin.

Ashwagandha is another adaptogenic herb, which is well known for its anti-anxiety properties. It works by reducing activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, a structure that regulates the body’s stress response. Further research has found that Ashwagandha has GABA-mimicking effects on the brain, which regulates cortisol levels and calms nervous brain activity. When taken daily, ashwagandha reduces blood adrenaline levels, and slows heart rate. It’s also been found to reduce the likelihood of adrenal fatigue (a term to describe your adrenal glands being overworked under stress). Adrenal fatigue causes fatigue, brain fog, insomnia and a compromised immune system. In ayurvedic medicine ashwagandha has been used to treat inflammatory conditions, cure sleep problems as well as help remedy anxiety.

Other nootropics for reducing anxiety include the adaptogenic herbs Gotu Kola and Rhodiola Rosea.

So many benefits… Where to start? If you’re looking to try nootropics, try a Brite drink. With guarana, ashwagandha and green tea extract they’ll keep energised all day long. Unlike coffee or mainstream energy drinks they won’t cause your energy levels to crash. Plus, they’re full of superfoods and natural ingredients. Not to mention, they’re tasty and refreshing.

4. Using nootropics.

Before trying nootropics, you’ll want to know ‘are nootropics safe?’.

As mentioned above, one of the criteria for nootropics, as identified by Dr Guirgea, is that they are safe. Though of course, it depends on the type of nootropic, the user’s health and how long you take the nootropic.

If you take synthetic or prescribed nootropics there is an increased risk of experiencing side effects. Before taking these types of nootropics it’s best to speak to a healthcare professional. It’s advisable to check that nootropics won’t interfere with underlying health conditions or other prescription drugs.

Natural nootropics are typically safe to consume daily for a period of 8 - 16 weeks. Evidence suggests most people will be able to use nootropics safely on a short term basis. More research is needed to confirm the safety of natural nootropics long term.

Which nootropics are safe? Nootropics side effects:

If you experience difficulty breathing, swelling of the lips or tongue seek medical assistance immediately.

Side effects vary depending on the type of nootropics you consume. If you have any underlying medical conditions, are taking medication or are pregnant and/or breastfeeding, it’s best to seek medical advice before taking nootropics. Nootropics can interact with certain medications and worsen certain health conditions.

Ashwagandha - is not considered safe to consume if you are pregnant. Taking ashwagandha while pregnant can cause miscarriage, early birth or uterine contractions. It’s recommended individuals with autoimmune diseases avoid ashwagandha as it increases the immune response. People with hyperthyroidism should take care when consuming ashwagandha. It’s also noted that people who have grass allergies are less likely to tolerate ashwagandha.

Side effects: dry mouth, upset stomach, stomach ulcer, fever or skin rash.

Lion’s Mane - there isn’t enough evidence or information confirming the safety of Lion’s Mane during pregnancy. Lion’s mane may interact with diabetes medication as it is known to lower blood sugar. Seek medical advice if you are taking anticoagulant/antiplatelet medication because if combined with Lion’s Mane it could cause bleeding or bruising.

Side effects: abdominal pain, nausea or a skin rash.

L-theanine - is generally safe. Taking high doses of a L-theanine supplement (green tea extract) or drinking lots of green tea can cause gastrointestinal issues and, in some cases, lead to liver problems. Interactions between L-theanine and other medications are not yet known. However, consuming high quantities of green or black tea have been found to interact with antidepressants, asthma medications, anti-seizure medications and medication for blood pressure. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult their healthcare provider before taking green tea extract or L-theanine supplements.

L-theanine is a key ingredient in Brite drinks. Please consult a doctor before consuming Brite if you are taking other medications.

Cordyceps - people who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid taking cordyceps. If you have cancer, diabetes or a bleeding disorder you should seek advice from a healthcare professional before taking cordyceps.

Side effects: nausea, dry mouth or digestive issues.

Ginkgo Biloba - If you are elderly, pregnant or postpartum you should take Ginkgo biloba with caution as it can cause bleeding. It is also known to interact with blood thinning medications. Ginkgo biloba should be discontinued 2-3 weeks before elective surgery.

Side effects: headaches, stomach upset or skin rashes/sensitivities.

Ginseng - not recommended for young children, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. People with diabetes or blood disorders should take care when using ginseng and monitor effects.

Side effects: feelings of nervousness, insomnia, breast pain or menstrual problems (such as spotting). These side effects are less likely if users stick to a 2-3 week cycle of use.

Guarana - contains high amounts of caffeine. When taken for long periods of time, it can become unsafe. The side effects of Guarana are the same as other caffeine sources, such as coffee.

Side effects: restlessness, anxiety, quickened heartbeat and stomach upset.

Guarana is an ingredient in Brite drinks.

Please seek advice from a healthcare professional before taking Gurana if you
have a heart condition.

We want all Brite consumers to be safe and enjoy their products. We hope the information in this guide helps understand our ingredients and highlights any potential risks. If you have any questions about our ingredients, please get in touch!

Brite-r days are here.

Spring is here! And with it, warmer weather and longer, brighter days. But you can make your days brighter no matter the weather with Brite. Brite drinks are hydrating, energising and healthy. One in the morning and one at noon will help you shake off brain fog and fatigue, helping you stay focused and alert. You can enjoy a 10% discount on all subscription purchases. Here’s to your Brite future with us!