A Field Guide to Consumer Nootropics


noun no·ot·ro·pic \ˌnō-ə-ˈtrō-pik\

  1. :  a substance that enhances cognition and memory and facilitates learning

If you're not familiar with nootropics, that definition is really as simple as they are. Despite the technical sounding name, they're just substances to help give your brain a bump in performance. What creatine and protein powder might be to a body builder, nootropics are for those whose most powerful muscle is their mind.

While there are now consumer friendly nootropics like Optimind and Alpha Brain, the nootropics community spent its early years trying out various prescription drugs for things like ADHD and narcolepsy. It was a more dangerous time. Adderall was one of these early nootropic hits, and like many other amphetamines, it had a lot of associated risks.

Read: What causes brain fog?

Since the early days though, research has exploded in the field of cognitive enhancement, and there are now plenty of options for the savvy nootropics user, or even someone looking to dip their toes into the pool to test the water.

Here we'll go over some of the current consumer nootropic compounds found in Optimind and Alpha Brain, and the benefits they provide.

Bacoside A

Bacopa Monnieri comes from an herb native to India that has been used for centuries in medical practices, but has only recently been studied for its memory boosting functions. It is currently known for its anti-aging effects on the brain. Bacoside A essentially protects neurons from damage, as well as improving the actual transmission of impulses along synapses.

Bacopa is found in both Alpha Brain and Optimind.


Found in the periwinkle plant, vinpocetine is also found in Optimind, where they claim it helps increase blood flow to the brain, as well as providing antioxidant properties. It is believed to improve blood flow to the brain, and has seen use in attempts to enhance memory and prevent Alzheimer's onset. It has also been used in reducing the risk of stroke.


Read more here: 10 Amazing things you didn't know about caffeine

Huperzine A


According to Alpha Brain "Huperzine A is a naturally derived acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Acetylcholinesterase (AchE) is responsible for the breakdown of Acetylcholine, and so by inhibiting AchE, more acetylcholine is made available to the brain." It is present in both Optimind and Alpha brain, and according to WebMD, Huperzine A is also used for Alzheimer's to improve memory and learning, as well as in patients with muscles diseases for its ability to increase alertness and energy, while protecting against nerve damaging agents.


Tyrosine is found in Optimind, as well as plenty of foods such as dairy, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, beans, oats, and wheat. It is an amino acid that is a basic building block for proteins. Its use as a nootropic is attributed to its necessity in creating the chemical messengers that lead to mental alertness.

Tyrosine has seen usefulness in treatments for many neurological conditions, including ADD/ADHD, depression, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, withdrawal, chronic fatigue, and more.


Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid or GABA is a chemical that has seen use for its reduction of PMS symptoms, relief of anxiety, and treating ADHD. It has also been used to promote lean muscle growth and burning fat. It functions as a neurotransmitter, and increases "neuronal excitability" according to Wikipedia. GABA is found in Optimind.


Used to build cell membranes, we get most of the phosphatidylserine from foods according to WebMD, however it is added to Optimind for its benefits to ADHD, depression, improving thinking skills in young people, as well as preventing exercise induced stress.


Also known by its awesome nickname "Cat's Claw", AC-11 has some of the most varied uses on this list. Found in Alpha Brain, AC-11 has been used to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract, treat leaky bowel syndrome, help with shingles and other viral infections like shingles and cold sores, hah fever, cancer, asthma, and more. Its primary purpose for being in Alpha brain however is its use in helping with Alzheimer's.

According to Nootriment, the mechanism is not fully understood at this point, however it is believed that the benefits are derived from AC-11's ability to repair DNA damage.

Alpha GPC

Alpha GPC is found in Alpha Brain, and is used in improving memory, thinking skills, and learning. It has been used in the treatment of Alzheimer's patients, and is a chemical found in a fatty acid present in soy and other plans when broken down by the body. It functions by increasing acetylcholine in the body, which is a neurotransmitter, helping send signals throughout the nervous system.

 Read more: 5 Foods you should eat every day

Hi! We’re Team Neuro, aficionados of all things brain-related, from creativity to working out. With backgrounds in art, science, and athletics, we love delving into all the potentials of the human body.

We also created the world’s first nootropic caffeine gum, made help you optimize your mind — anywhere, anytime. Find out more here.


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