“Nootropic” is a word used to describe any substance which can enhance cognitive performance in some way.
Typically, it is used to refer to substances which can help you focus and concentrate more effectively, for longer periods of time, or with less effort. It is also commonly used to describe substances which improve memory function – recall speed, accuracy, formation speed, and so on.
However, nootropics do much more than this.
A substance may also be reasonably considered a “nootropic” if it significantly improves mood, reduces stress, or attenuates anxiety.
Stress is, after all, the enemy of clear-headed thinking and focus. If you’re feeling anxious, then you probably aren’t going to be performing very well mentally. You’ll be forgetful, you will make bad decisions, and you’ll struggle to concentrate fully on the task at hand.
Substances which can reduce stress and allow you to be more mentally effective can definitely be said to be nootropics. It is just that their mechanism of action is a little more indirect or round-about than most substances thought of as nootropics.
History Of Nootropics
The term “nootropic” was first coined in 1972 by a Romanian Psychologist and Chemist by the name of Corneliu E. Giurgea.
He was the man to create Piracetam – one of the most widely used and best known nootropics in the world.
It was Piracetam for which he created the word, which he derived from the Greek (a rough translation being “mind turning”).
So while cognition-enhancing substances are by no means new, nootropics as we understand and use the term are definitely a novel invention.
Unbeknownst to many, Giurgea actually laid down some strict criteria for what counts as a nootropic and what doesn’t.
According to him, a nootropic is defined as a substance which does the following:
- Enhances learning and memory
- Enhance the resistance of learned behaviors or memories to conditions which tend to disrupt them
- Protect the brain from physical and chemical injuries
- Increase the efficacy of the tonic cortical or subcortical control mechanisms
- Not be sedatives
- Not cause side effects
- Have an extremely low toxicity
- Lack the usual pharmacology associated with psychotropics
Very few substances meet all of these criteria, obviously.
But many meet more than one.
Make sure you consult this definition when exploring the world of nootropics. We believe it is extremely important. Many people today forget that nootropics should enhance learning and memory without causing serious side effects.