What Are Nootropics?

Written by Laura Brooks

Natural nootropics are substances known to improve cognitive performance, whether it’s focus, energy, memory and/or creativity. In modern times, they’ve gained popularity among overachievers and biohackers to boost memory, focus, creativity, intelligence, motivation and energy levels. There are both natural and synthetic nootropics — here at NAPJITSU, we only use natural nootropics.

The Romanian psychologist and chemist Dr. Corneliu Giurgea coined the term “nootropic” in 1972, deriving it from the Greek nous (“mind”) and trepein (“to bend”). Dr. Guirgea defined these “mind-bending” nootropics as substances that enhance learning and memory, indicating that they should increase natural cognitive processes.

Let’s explore some common nootropics.


Caffeine

You’ve probably heard of this one — caffeine is a nootropic, and it’s technically the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world. Caffeine is naturally found in coffee, cocoa, tea, kola nuts and guarana, and it’s extracted and added to many sodas & energy products.

Caffeine works by blocking adenosine receptors in your brain — it mirrors the shape of the hormone adenosine, thus preventing adenosine from latching to your brain. The result is that you feel less tired. A low to moderate caffeine intake of 40–300 mg increases your alertness, your attention, and decreases your reaction time. 


L-Theanine

L-theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in tea, especially matcha. L-theanine is known to have a calming effect and improve focus, without causing drowsiness. Even just 50 mg helps to increase alpha-wave activity in the brain, which is linked to creativity. L-theanine has a synergistic effect with caffeine, which it’s paired with in NAPJITSU energy products.


Ginkgo Biloba

Extracts from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree have been shown to improve memory and cognition, and it also reduces stress-related high blood pressure and decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol.


Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)

GABA is a calming amino acid and nootropic found in NAPJITSU’s energy blend. It’s an inhibitory neurotransmitter produced by glutamate in the brain, meaning it prevents other neurotransmitters from being released, which has a calming, anti-anxiety effect.


Calcium D-Pantothenate (Pantothenic Acid)

Pantothenic Acid (aka Vitamin B5) is a water-soluble B-Vitamin found in every cell in your body, where it helps turn food into energy, and more energy means more neural activity. Vitamin B5 is essential for synthesizing acetylcholine (ACh), which boosts mood, focus, memory, improves alertness and reduces brain fog.


Niacinimide

Niacinamide is a water-soluble B-vitamin, and a form of Niacin, aka Vitamin B-3. It’s a critical player in turning food into energy, and it helps the body better absorb and utilize other nootropics for cognitive function — so it is a nootropic, and it also provides support for other nootropics. Because B-vitamins are destroyed during the cooking process, many people are deficient in B-vitamins (unless they’re regularly eating raw food), so extra B-vitamins are always welcome.


Cordyceps

The Cordyceps mushroom has been integral to ancient Chinese medicine for centuries, owing to its purported mental and physical benefits. This “medicinal mushroom” has been studied in Asia and the U.S. to better understand its wellness properties, and it’s been shown to improve cognitive function, blood pressure, and athletic performance.


Guarana

Guarana is extracted from the seeds of the Amazonian guarana (paullinia cupana) plant. Rich in caffeine (even more than coffee) and energy-boosting elements (including saponins, polyphenols and methylxanthines), it’s widely used for its stimulant properties — you might recognize it from energy drinks. Some studies have found that guarana extract can increase attention, focus and alertness, and it’s these cognitive improvements that compelled us to include guarana in our energy mix. 


Ginseng

Panax ginseng  or just “ginseng” is an adaptogen and potent nootropic that’s known to significantly improve your focus. A go-to element of traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, ginseng has been used to improve mental performance, focus and memory.

Try it for yourself