What Are Nootropics?
While the term 'Nootropic' (pronounced NO-uh-trOH-pik) may refer to a wide variety of brain-enhancing ingredients, the overall idea behind the term remains pretty straightforward. The name was originally coined by a Romanian psychologist named Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea in the 1970's. His first discovery was that of Piracetam, a synthesized nootropic.
Any nootropic ingredient should ideally adhere to all 5 of the tenets originally established by Dr. Giurgea:
- 1.It should be safe to use with little-to-no occurrence of motor-stimulation, side effects, toxicity, etc.
- 2.It should enhance cognitive ability such as memory and learning.
- 3.It should protect against conditions potentially disruptive to brain behavior, such as hypoxia, etc.
- 4.It should provide protection for the brain against injury (chemical or physical).
- 5.It should enhance the efficacy of the tonic cortical control mechanisms (ie., language, memory, learning.)
Because these five requirements are fairly broad, there are many ingredients that function as a nootropic substance in several areas. Some, as you might imagine, are more beneficial than others. For example, theanine (found in high concentrations in green tea) by itself may possess some calming effects, but won't contribute to a dynamic, impacting experience taken by itself. However, paired with other nootropic ingredients, it may amplify the user's overall experience. In fact one of the most common and basic nootropic "stacks" is simply the consumption of theanine and caffeine in a 2:1 ratio.
The Nootropic "Stack"
A stack is two or more nootropic ingredients taken together, serving to amplify each other. If you were to put an arbitrary numerical value of the efficacy of one ingredient by itself, that number would not be added but instead multiplied. It's not as simple as tossing back 2 nootropic herbal capsules and hoping for the best. On one hand, you're dealing with the chemical structures being complementary. On the other hand, you're dealing with your own personal experience with a stack. With that being said, in some cases nootropic stacks will be fine-tuned by the user to benefit their own personal physiology. This can be a complicated endeavor requiring a lot of testing and documentation to arrive at an optimal stack (which is also highly dependent on the particular target activity for the stack -- e.g. memory recall, focus, physical activities, etc.).
In the instance where a nootropic is stacked with a pre-defined array of ingredients (such as with products such as Zenigen®:FOCUS) those ingredients are chosen because they have been shown through testing to benefit a large majority of the general population.
Take caffeine for instance; many individuals have caffeine sensitivity. This sensitivity results in jitteriness, distraction, anxiety, and even an increase in heart rate and blood pressure when caffeine is consumed. If a nootropic stack contains caffeine, that caffeine-sensitive user will likely not have a positive experience (which is exactly why we excluded caffeine from our Zenigen®:FOCUS blend). For users less sensitive to caffeine, it is a simple enough matter to combine the use of such a nootropic stack with a cup of tea or coffee and in doing so control their own dosage.
Instead, a more physiologically accepted ingredient is Ginkgo Biloba (pictured above). A relatively low number of consumers tend report negative side effects with Ginkgo consumption. It possesses antioxidant properties, increases blood flow, supports memory, among other things. Ginkgo has also been shown to stack well with Bacopa Monnieri and B-Vitamins.
Of course, whenever investigating nootropic ingredients for potential consumption, you should always strongly consider consulting your doctor first, especially where you taking existing medications or have known ailments, allergies, or sensitivities.