Everyone Will Be Talking About Nootropics in 2020—Here's What They Really Do

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The first time I experienced nootropics was when I was testing out a brand-new product named Kin. As someone who is prone to hangovers and alcohol-induced anxiety, I was intrigued by this "euphoric" drink that could deliver feelings of relaxation and bliss (sort of like how you feel after the second glass of wine) without actually containing a single ounce of alcohol. Like how I feel about most wellness products, I was intrigued but cautious that it could deliver what it actually said it would and did my research. Kin is a pretty new product that doesn't bring up too much on Google, but I did do my due diligence by scouring the ingredient list and reading the product website in depth (you can read our full review of the product here).

One of the highlighted ingredients was a term I didn't understand but vaguely recognized from an article our edit team put together predicting what trends would soon be making waves in the wellness world. Since Kin did seem to work pretty well, my curiosity was officially piqued, and I decided to turn to the experts to find out more about this mystery ingredient. Shari Auth, DACM, LAC, LMT, from WTHN kicked things off with this definition: "Nootropics are herbs, supplements, or other substances that can enhance brain function—including cognitive function, memory and more. Nootropics can boost brain functioning in otherwise healthy individuals and are also known to have neuroprotective (i.e., preventative) benefits. Nootropics are great for brain fog, mental fatigue, and to help you stay on top of your game at work or at home."

Considering I tested Kin out on a Saturday night while binging Netflix and ordering Thai delivery, I wasn't exactly expecting my brain to feel too sharp and focused. But after doing a deep dive, I uncovered that one of the nootropics used by Kin includes GABA (ah, finally a term I recognize!), which is often used as a natural remedy to improve your sleep and mood.  

Okay, now I'm listening. Keep scrolling for everything else you need to know about nootropics and shop some of our favorite brands below. 

What are the benefits of taking nootropics?

Nootropics are typically used as a supplement that can improve many aspects of your everyday life, especially when it comes to improving performance and decreasing stress. "Traditional Chinese Medicine has used nootropic herbs to support and optimize brain function," shares Shari. "Nootropics offer a range of cognitive benefits, including faster reaction time, feeling more alert, improving memory, and decreasing mental fatigue and fog. Some nootropics are also adaptogenic, meaning they help your body manage stress, so you can calm your nerves and think clearly."

In other words, nootropics might be something to add to your routine if you're looking to improve focus at work, get a better workout in, or simply want to better handle stress. You'll get the most out of them when used daily, says Shari. "Most herbal nootropics are safe and can be used as a daily supplement for your brain. Nootropics can be taken as needed, but herbal supplements often work best cumulatively, so establishing a routine for consistency is key. You can think of nootropics as food for your brain."

Are there any negative side effects to taking nootropics?

Personally, I remember a warning listed on Kin's website advising against consuming the product if you are under many common medications, like SSRIs. I was curious if that was simply product-specific or a warning against all nootropics. "Nootropics often increase circulation, particularly to the brain. If you have high blood pressure, speak to your physician before taking certain nootropics," warns Shari. To be on the safe side, we always recommend talking to your doctor before adding any sort of supplement to your routine.

Have you given nootropics a try yet? Keep scrolling to shop some of our recommended products.

This supplement stems from WTHN's line of products and is a personal favorite of Shari's: "It contains popular nootropics including Cistanches (enhancing memory and cognitive capacity), Rhodiola (decreasing fatigue), and Eleuthero and Schisandra (adaptogens to help stay focused)," she says. Basically, this supplement contains all the nootropics you need to get through the workday.

Kin, the product I mentioned earlier, is basically a buzz without a drop of alcohol. It does contain a blend of adaptogens, nootropics, and botanicals that will give you that calm, feel-good feeling sans hangover. 

Described by one editor as a great alternative since "detoxing off Adderall," this cognitive supplement is touted as being just as good as a cup of coffee—without the caffeine. It's a super-clean supplement with a limited number of ingredients, including nootropics and psychostimulants. 

Personally, Bulletproof is one of my favorite coffee brands, but it is also one of the first well-known brands to educate consumers on the benefits of nootropics (if you've never heard of its founder Dave Asprey, I highly suggest you look him up). Its product line includes many items made with nootropics including its Unfair Advantage, which uses mitochondrial energizers to boost brain function and heart and nerve health.

Made up of two nootropics (L-theanine and caffeine), Goop's Nerd Alert product is the perfect addition to your morning routine if you've hit snooze one too many times. 

Developed by scientists, Qualia's Mind capsules are made up of six nootropic compounds, along with adaptogens, antioxidants, vitamins, and more.