The Complete Beginners Guide to Nootropic Supplements

nootropics | no·o·tro·pics: substances that enhance mental cognition and learning

Before embarking on your nootropics journey take a few minutes to skim through this beginners guide. It will help you understand the benefits and potential risks of nootropics as well as identify whether or not you are someone who should be considering Nootropics in the first place. At the very least it may save you some headaches, both literally and figuratively.

Intro: Nootropics Uses

Nootropics are widely used to improve mental cognition. Common areas of mental cognition in which nootropic users seek improvement include increasing attention span, inducing wakefulness, improving memory, reducing anxiety, sparking motivation, and decreasing stress.

Be aware that nootropics are in no way miracle drugs. While many people have reported positive effects from responsible nootropics, you should not expect to gain super-powers. Consumers should be skeptical of any nootropic products making marketing claims that appear too good to be true.

Side Effects & Risks of Nootropics

The term “nootropics” encompasses a large variety of drugs and supplements intended to enhance mental cognition. [2] Many common nootropic substances, like creatine or zinc, have been extensively researched clinically, however, there are many of nootropics for sale today that have not been studied or tested for long term effects. If you are considering using nootropics, you should conduct thorough research on the substance you are interested in taking as well as the supplier you are purchasing from. Furthermore, you should take extra care when it comes to taking safe doses, and consider consulting your doctor for professional medical advice before listening to any source you find online.

Adverse side effects are a large area of concern surrounding the safety of many nootropics as long-term studies on a substantial number of nootropic substances are absent. That being said, there are quite a few common nootropic substances that are heavily researched, widely accessible, and considered safe when taken in appropriate doses. Many people have experienced cognitive benefits from taking common nootropics such as caffeine, L-theanine, and creatine, and chances are that you can too. [3]

It is important to understand that our bodies are unique to each of us. Most people can eat shellfish and be fine, but many people would die if they ate a single shrimp without receiving prompt medical treatment. While this analogy isn’t necessarily medically applicable to all nootropics drugs, consider it an example of how vastly different our bodies can respond to the same stimuli. Just because your friend or someone online has reported feeling an amazing clear-minded mental focus boost after taking 9 grams of Piracetam daily, does not mean that it’s appropriate in any way shape or form for you to start taking 9 grams of Piracetam per day, especially since the standard dose for adults is 1.2 to 4.8 gram per day. [1] Do you know which medications Piracetam interacts with? [18] If you don’t you should find out before you start taking it.

Some people can drink 6 cups of coffee in a day and sleep fine, while others will be up all night after just one.

Types of Nootropics

Herbs and Plant Derived Compounds

Dopamine Modulators




Wakefulness Enhancers



How Do Nootropics Work?

The brain is considered to be one of the most complicated organic structures known to man. It’s perhaps the least understood organ in the human body, though it’s been studied tirelessly.

What we do know is that the brain is a complex organ comprised of many different organic structures and pathways. When these structures ad pathways are operating in the most optimal manner, cognition, memory, ability to learn, attention span, and other mental abilities are increased. If your brain is a motor, then taking appropriate nootropics can be likened to cleaning out the gunk, changing the oil, and replacing the air filters.

Nootropics serve to optimize the brain’s efficiency.

Brain structures and functions that are believed to be improved by taking nootropics include:

Cerebral Blood Flow

Brain Energy

Brain Chemicals

Brain Waves



By optimizing these brain structures and functions nootropics can help users achieve improved mental cognition and other desired effects.

Nootropics are thought to achieve their pharmacological effects by “modulating neuronal metabolism, cerebral oxygenation, neurotransmitter availability, increasing neurotrophic factors and by affecting other cellular processes, though the exact mechanism of action will depend on the compound.” [4]

Nootropics are Supplemental to a Healthy Lifestyle

Nootropics should be used to supplement an already healthy lifestyle. To revisit the engine analogy, replacing your air filters isn’t going to change much about how your car runs if your engine block is cracked or your engine is flooded. Likewise, you can’t expect to feel great after taking nootropics if you’re sleeping poorly, not exercising, and have a bad diet.

Get 8+ hours of sleep. If you want to improve your mental cognition and you aren’t doing this then this is step number one. If you are an athlete or work out intensely and regularly you will likely need more than 8 hours to feel your best. You might be surprised how often you’re a few nights of good sleep away from having tons of energy and feeling well-rested througout the entire day.

Stay hydrated. This is equally, if not more important than sleep. Dehydration has been linked to severe decreases in mental performance in a plethora of different clinical studies. [5] You might be surprised how often you’re a glass of water away from being able to focus and feel alert.

Maintain good nutrition. There are tons of different lifestyle diets out there that work for different people. In general, they all agree on what you shouldn’t be eating in large quantities: processed foods, refined sugar, simple carbohydrates. In other words, cut out the pizza, fries, soda, and candy. You might be surprised how often you’re a few healthy meals away from better mental and physical performance.

Exercise regularly. Regular exercise has been shown to improve cognitive performance and over all health. [6] You’d be surprised how often you’re a good workout away from feeling less stress and anxiety.

What nootropics won’t do: Nootropics won’t give you super human focus or mental acuity. They won’t turn you into a genius overnight. They won’t let you see into the future. They most likely won’t cure your ailments.

What nootropics can do: With appropriate dosing and a healthy lifestyle many nootropics experience a mental edge in the form of increased focus, reduced stress and anxiety, better memory, and more energy and motivation. [3]

Commonly Used Nootropics

If you are seeking a solution to a common cognitive problem, it’s likely there is an effective nootropic, or combination of nootropics, that commonly work for a lot of people. Below are links to some of these common problems, or desired effects, and their corresponding nootropics:

Mental Focus – Cognition – Brain Fog Reduction

Piracetam [7]

Citicoline [8]

Noopept [9]

Anxiety Reduction – Stress Relief – Relaxation

Ashwagandha [10]

L-Theanine [11]

Phenibut [12]

Wakefulness – Energy – Motivation

Caffeine [13]

Phenylpiracetam [14]

Adrafinil [15]

This list is beginner friendly, but incomplete. Refer to the Nootropic Resource Library and supplier guide for the key consumer information you need to know before making any nootropic purchase.

How to Store and Measure Nootropics

When you purchase nootropics in powder form the supplier will usually include a scoop. It is very important that you do not use the scoop size as a serving size. In most case the included scoop is intended to be used to transfer the powder over to a scale to be measured. It is recommended that you use an accurate digital milligram scale to measure your nootropic powder doses. These are relatively cheap and can be purchased from a number of different online retailers, though it’s important to purchase from a trusted supplier that does good quality control.

When storing nootropic substances make sure you keep them out of reach of children and pets. We’ve already discussed the risks of nootropics, but all to often they are seen as harmless herbs and nutrients. Many are, but many can be dangerous or potentially lethal if taken in large doses. Treat them the same way you would aspirin or other potentially dangerous medication.

Label your nootropic supplements if they are not already labeled. Never ever under any circumstances have an unlabeled powder laying around. Once it’s unlabeled it can easily get confused with other powders or be mistaken by you or someone else for sugar, flour, or cinnamon. Store nootropics that have similar dosage sizes together and away from powders that have higher doses. Don’t be the person who wakes up and sleepily scoops themselves a lethal dose of caffeine thinking it was creatine or protein powder. The same goes for pills.

Always make sure containers are 100% sealed and stored in a cool dry place. If you live in a hot and/or humid area consider researching whether your nootropics can be stored in the refrigerator (assuming you have no children). Lastly, when traveling always put extra thought into where you plan on keeping your nootropic supplements. When possible opt to keep them in your carry-on luggage to avoid exposure to heat in a cargo hold. [16]

When in doubt, defer to the instructions on the packaging, from the supplier, or do your own research online.

How to Track Cognitive Performance When Taking Nootropics

If you’re very serious about maximizing the positive effects from nootropics then it’s recommended that you keep a journal of everything. Throughout the day you should be tracking sleep, exercise, nutrition, hydration, emotions, mood, energy levels, and nootropic dosages taken. Additionally there are resources online that are designed to measure your level of cognitive performance.

Understandably, this a lot of effort for most people, however, nootropics are going to be the most beneficial for people willing to go the extra mile to optimize their performance. This being said, a more casual approach can still be useful when trying to find nootropics that work for you. Consider logging what nootropic you took and your mood and energy throughout the day before you go to sleep each night.

The Yerkes-Dodson Law

The Yerkes-Dodson law is an interesting bit of performance psychology that suggests we perform our best when we are at an optimal level of arousal (not to be confused with sexual arousal), or stress [17]. If we feel too much anxiety we perform poorly, but if we don’t feel any stress we get bored and also perform poorly. This would suggest that if you naturally have anxious disposition you may benefit from nootropics that reduce anxiety. Alternatively, if you have a naturally bored an inattentive baseline you may benefit more from stimulants. Once again, this is where it’s important to remember that everyone’s body and mind is unique and will respond to nootropics differently.

Nootropics Suppliers Guide

There are a number of unreliable nootropics suppliers operating online. You should always do some preliminary research on the track record of any supplier you buy from. At Nootropics Resource we keep an up to date list of trusted suppliers as well as blacklisted suppliers that you should avoid.

Product Rankings and Reviews

Many people don’t like the idea of experimenting with nootropics by buying single ingredients and slowly adjusting the dosages, and understandably so. To help consumers many companies have created nootropics products that combine multiple nootropic ingredients combined in their suggested doses in a pill or powdered mix form. Some of these products are great, while others are not. Supplement regulation is an area of hot debate and often times supplement companies can get away with making outlandish marketing claims or even manufacturing unsafe or impure products.

At Nootropic Resource we put Nootropic products through the ringer. We research their ingredient profiles, track down their suppliers, research their ingredient purity and integrity, question their manufacturing process, and test them firsthand for 30 days, scrutinizing every marketing claim they make along the way. If it’s a good product we’ll let you know, if it’s a bad product we’ll make sure you know.

Devices and Treatments

There are a number of different devices and treatments that are purported to affect mental cognition in a positive manner. This website is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information on the subject of nootropics. Mental cognition devices and treatments are a tangential topic and understandably one that readers here may be interested in. Here are several resources for the following treatments:

Transcranial Direct-Current Stimulation – a stimulation treatment that uses direct electrical currents to stimulate specific parts of the brain.

Low-level Laser Therapy – application of low-level lasers to the surface of the body intending to relieve pain or stimulate and enhance cell function.

Transcranial Focused Ultrasound – a technique for non-invasive neurostimulation that uses pulsed ultrasound to try to influence neural networks

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation – a noninvasive form of brain stimulation in which a changing magnetic field is used to cause electric current in a specific area of the brain through electromagnetic induction.



  1. (2018, October 1). Piracetam Supplement – Science-based Review on Benefits, Dosage, Side Effects.
  2. Brody, B. (2019, July 24). Nootropics (“Smart Drugs” or “Cognitive Enhancers”): What to Know.
  3. Suliman, N. A., Mat Taib, C. N., Mohd Moklas, M. A., Adenan, M. I., Hidayat Baharuldin, M. T., & Basir, R. (2016). Establishing Natural Nootropics: Recent Molecular Enhancement Influenced by Natural Nootropic.
  4. A Beginner’s Guide to Nootropics. Reddit
  5. Adan, A. (2012, April). Cognitive performance and dehydration.
  6. Mandolesi, L., Polverino, A., Montuori, S., Foti, F., Ferraioli, G., Sorrentino, P., & Sorrentino, G. (2018, April 27). Effects of Physical Exercise on Cognitive Functioning and Wellbeing: Biological and Psychological Benefits.
  7. (2018, October 1). Piracetam Supplement – Science-based Review on Benefits, Dosage, Side Effects.
  8. Gareri, P., Castagna, A., Cotroneo, A. M., Putignano, S., De Sarro, G., & Bruni, A. C. (2015, September 3). The role of citicoline in cognitive impairment: pharmacological characteristics, possible advantages, and doubts for an old drug with new perspectives.
  9. Ostrovskaya, R. U., Vakhitova, Y. V., Kuzmina, U. S., Salimgareeva, M. K., Zainullina, L. F., Gudasheva, T. A., … Seredenin, S. B. (2014, August 6). Neuroprotective effect of novel cognitive enhancer noopept on AD-related cellular model involves the attenuation of apoptosis and tau hyperphosphorylation
  10. Pratte, M. A., Nanavati, K. B., Young, V., & Morley, C. P. (2014, December). An alternative treatment for anxiety: a systematic review of human trial results reported for the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha (Withania somnifera).
  11. L-theanine Reviews & Ratings at (n.d.).
  12. Lapin, I. (2001). Phenibut (beta-phenyl-GABA): a tranquilizer and nootropic drug.
  13. O’Callaghan, F., Muurlink, O., & Reid, N. (2018, December 7). Effects of caffeine on sleep quality and daytime functioning.
  14. (2018, October 2). Phenylpiracetam Supplement – Science-based Review on Benefits, Dosage, Side Effects.
  15. (2019, September 18). Adrafinil Supplement – Science-based Review on Benefits, Dosage, Side Effects.
  16. Storing your medicines: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (n.d.).
  17. Piracetam: Side Effects, Dosages, Treatment, Interactions, Warnings. (2017, June 15)