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Piracetam is a cyclic derivative of the neurochemical GABA. This original nootropic is a positive modulator for receptors of the acetylcholine neurotransmitter which plays a role in fluid intelligence and short-term working memory capacity. Piracetam is also believed to improve the membrane permeability of neurons which enhances overall neuronal function as it relates to communication, healthy development and synaptic plasticity. This nootropic is reported by users to improve focus, attentiveness, memory formation and recall, information processing as well as several factors related to mood. It is used as an off-label ADHD treatment and remains to this day the most popular nootropic among first-time users.
Phenylpiracetam was synthesized by adding a phenyl group molecule to Piracetam’s chemical structure. This alteration has made it significantly more bioavailable than its progenitor and with a 60x greater potency. It is a positive modulator of acetylcholine and glutamate synaptic receptors and may be able to increase the density of hippocampal NMDA receptors. These receptors are integral to the process of Long-Term Potentiation which is how memories are stored as connections between neurons. Phenylpiracetam also raises Dopamine and Noradrenalin levels in the brain which gives it both mood-enhancing and mentally stimulating properties. It is described as producing intense focus, mental drive and motivation while also enhancing memory consolidation and physical performance.
Aniracetam is a derivative of Piracetam that is said to be 5x more potent than its parent compound. Unlike Piracetam, it is fat-soluble which may contribute to its faster onset of effects as well as a shorter half-life. It shares the common Racetam effects of enhancing memory and focus by activating Nicotinic Acetylcholine receptors in the brain. It also stimulates AMPA receptor sites which are implicated in learning as well as memory encoding processes. This unique mechanism of action has made Aniracetam the model for another class of nootropics known as AMPAkines. Finally, it is believed to activate D2 and D3 Dopamine receptors as well as the 5-HTP (2a) receptor involved in Serotonin processing. This explains why user reviews say Aniracetam is effective as an anti-anxiety and anti-depression treatment in addition to its traditional nootropic benefits.
CDP-Choline Citicoline is an acetylcholine precursor with high bio-availability that occurs naturally as an intermediary in the conversion of choline into phosphatidylcholine in the liver. Phosphatidylcholine is a phospholipid that is incorporated into neuronal cell membranes and can be used in acetylcholine synthesis. Citicoline increases the availability of choline in the brain by freeing up quantities of choline that would otherwise be used in the generation of phosphatidylcholine. It can therefore indirectly increase acetylcholine levels while also improving cell memebrane function in neurons and preventing depletion of phospholipids which can lead to brain damage and mental decline. This supplement also protects against oxidative stress, reduces inflammation in the cerebral cortex, and stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain. It is an effective component of nootropic stacks designed to enhance memory, thinking, concentration and mood.
Noopept is not technically a racetam, though it is derived from this class and use a similar mechanisms of action. It has a different chemical structure which technically makes it a neuropeptide, said to be over 1000x times more concentrated than Piracetam. The effective dosage for Noopept powder is between 10 – 40 mg which is exceptional small in comparison to other Racetams. Noopept demonstrates very high affinity for ACh, AMPA and NDMA receptors that relate to short-term and long-term memory. Like Aniracetam, it also activates D2 an D3 receptors for Dopamine as well as selective Serotonin receptors. These systems are involved in mood and motivation which is why Noopept is seen as being effective for disorders such as depression and anxiety. Noopept further increases Nerve Growth Factor levels which is a hormone involved in the maintenance and repair of healthy brain cells. It is being investigated as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders including Age-Related Memory Loss.
L-Theanine is a type of L-glutamic acid which is produced in green tea (Camellia Sinensis) and some mushrooms. This relative of glutamate is a precursor to serotonin, and stimulates higher levels of dopamine. It works to inhibit over-stimulation in neurons and regulate healthy oxygen levels in brain tissue. It is also a potent anti-oxidant. L-Theanine supplements can create an overall feeling of well-being, generating a sense of tranquility, contentedness, and optimism. Theanine has powerful circulatory effects, which it creates through the release of nitric oxide, a vasodilator. It improves circulation, lowers cholesterol reduces blood pressure, and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. L-Theanine is commonly used in a nootropic stack with caffeine to balance some of the potential side effects like anxiety and restlessness caused by this stimulant.
Acetyl L-Carnitine – is an acetylated form of the compound L-Carnitine. Unlike Carnitine, Acetyl L-Carnitine is able to cross the blood-brain barrier. Once it reaches the brain, it is converted into Acetyl-COA, which binds with choline already present to become acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter closely tied to many important cognitive functions, such as the formation of memory, reasoning skills, processing of perceptual data, and the ability of neural structures to grow. Acetyl L-Carnitine is more bioavailable than non-acetylated forms of Carnitine, which cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. Acetyl L-Carnitine benefits include enhanced memory, mental alertness, and easier access to thoughts. It also has strong anti-oxidant properties.
Phenibut is a derivative form of GABA, also known as aminobutyric acid. GABA is a key inhibitory neurotransmitter which balances stress signals in the brain by binding to receptor sites before other stress hormones can. GABA is not able to cross the blood-brain barrier and is thus difficult to supplement with. However, Phenibut is fully bioavailable, and is able to directly stimulate both GABA-A and GABA-B receptors non-selectively. The resulting benefits for users involve a reduction of stress and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect. Phenibut contributes to a state of mental calm and tranquility, while enhancing brain communication across hemispheres and improving sleep. It must be used properly to avoid side effects as well as withdrawal and tolerance concerns.
Picamilon – also referred to as nicotinoyl-GABA, is a nootropic supplement made from niacin and GABA. GABA is the key inhibitory neurotransmitter in the body. It exerts powerful calming effects by preventing stress reactions due to over-excited neural activity. GABA is unable to cross the blood-brain barrier on its own, so this supplement incorporates bioavailable Niacin as an effective delivery device. Niacin also has vasodilation effects, increasing circulation and delivering more oxygen and nutrients to the brain. By preventing nerves from over-firing due to stress, Picamilon promotes a sense of peaceful relaxation. It increases mental clarity and emotional balance, and its sedative effects can also enhance natural sleep patterns. Picamilon also has excellent anti-oxidant effects, ridding the brain of toxins and increasing blood flow. The result is natural anxiety relief and heightened mental focus.
Ashwagandha, also known as the “Indian Ginseng,” is a supplement derived from the root of the Withania somnifera plant native to India, North Africa, and the Middle East. The plant has natural antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. It scavenges the body for harmful bacteria and destroys it. For this reason, it has been used as a cure-all medication in Indian medicine for thousands of years. Ashwagandha also creates similar effects to natural GABA, a neurotransmitter which restricts over-excitement of nerve cells. Ashwagandha’s primary nootropic benefits include cessation of anxiety symptoms and restlessness. It is often taken as an antidote to drug withdrawal. Ashwagandha also boosts memory, promotes good sleep, and can make learning easier.
Rhodiola Rosea is the root of a high altitude plant known as Golden Root, Rose Root, or King’s Crown. When extracted for consumption, the root works as an adaptogen, bringing physical stress reactions and emotional states into balance. Rhodiola Rosea stimulates AMPK enzymes, which boost cellular mitochondria and in turn create greater energy. The root also is an MAO inhibitor, helping to maintain levels of serotonin and dopamine. Rhodiola Rosea interacts with the opioid peptide beta-endorphin to positively impact mood. Its natural benefits include stress relief, management of depression symptoms, and strong anti-fatigue effects. Rhodiola Rosea induces heightened concentration and mental focus. It can increase motivation, while delivering the energy necessary to follow through.
Adrafinil is a part of a class of drugs known as eugeroics. These compounds foster wakefulness and alert mental states, but do not carry the side effects of common psychostimulants. Adrafinil affects the adrenergic system by stimulating catecholamine hormones, like epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Not only do these hormones create fight or flight responses in the body, they also promote heightened attention span, motivation, and mental stamina. Adrafinil is the precursor to Modafinil in the body. While it has previously been formally prescribed as a treatment for narcolepsy, Adrafinil has gained popularity as a nootropic supplement for improving cognitive function and fostering intense concentration abilities in users. It is available in the United States without a prescription, making it a popular alternative to Modafinil and Armodafinil.
Alpha Lipoic Acid is an antioxidant and fatty acid, derived from octanoic (caprylic) acid. ALA creates energy in the body through the Krebs cycle – the metabolization of carbohydrates. It further contributes to enhanced cellular energy by stimulating mitochondrial enzymes. It also potentiates the effects of vitamin E and vitamin C. Alpha Lipoic Acid is most frequently taken for its anti-aging effects. One of its main benefits is the repair of damaged neurons. It also has a strong neuroprotective qualities and can prevent this damage from happening as a result of age, injuries, or thyroid issues. When used with ALCAR< ALA has been shown to facilitate communication between neurons across synapses, generating some cognitive benefits like improved states of alertness and better memory formation.