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What are nootropics, and do they work?

Nootropics are growing in popularity. But what are they? And do even the best nootropics work as well as they claim?

Joel Freeman
Joel Freeman
October 31, 2020
4 min read

Increased creativity, sharper focus, endless bursts of energy, and a cheery mood even before your morning coffee—nootropic supplements are touted as the best way to boost brain function. And if the long list of promised benefits sounds too good to be true, it’s likely because they are—before you splash out on seemingly magic pills, we consider why they might be a good solution for today, but not tomorrow.

Let's look at what are nootropics, whether they are safe, and what may be a better alternative.

Article breakdown

What are nootropics and what do they do?

Nootropics are billed as any substance that alters the brain, and—although often used as prescription medication—over-the-counter and natural options are gaining traction with claims of boosting concentration and sharper focus.

While the thought of popping a pill for a quick way to supercharge your output sounds like an easy solution, everything from nicotine and caffeine through to vitamin powders and synthetic drugs can be classed as a nootropic, leaving the space wide open to unregulated substances.

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Do nootropics work?

For the moment? Not much. Nootropic supplements do not have to prove their claims and that they work, meaning many of the ingredients have not been scrutinised or subject to rigorous testing. This means that not all nootropics are as safe as they may seem.

The other problem is the promise of a ‘brain boost’. If you are feeling a kick, it may be due to the large amounts of caffeine in some supplements, which will only last as long as the substance is in your body. They are only a short-term brain booster and do not work in the long run.

Caffeine, a common natural nootropic ingredient, is also extremely addictive, and while small doses have been shown to help with memory and concentration, experts recommend no more than 400mg per day to be safe.

Read what a neuroscientist recommends for ultimate brain health.

The different types of nootropics

Nootropics can be split into two categories—natural and synthetic. Natural examples are often based around caffeine, or other plant derivatives. These can work to some extent, but are often limited in their effects and long-term impact.

Synthetic nootropics tend to have more range. Some are highly effective, and available on prescription only—amphetamines (sold under the brand name Adderall) being one of the most famous. Modafinil is another common synthetic, and while it was found to enhance performance in the immediate term, it comes with the long term risk of altering brain plasticity and impairing cognitive function in the long run.  

Other synthetic nootropics can be completely untested. In one instance, a study by “biohacking” HVMN found that its nootropic supplement SPRINT was less effective than coffee (but with a heftier price tag), whereas another piece of research discovered that several brain boosting supplements contained various levels of piracetam—an unapproved drug which can lead to diarrhoea, anxiety, insomnia, and potentially kidney problems. Not ideal.

A smart supplement that works for the long term

Unlike many nootropics, Height’s supplements have been formulated using the latest studies to ensure improved metabolism and brain function in the long term—rather than a quick-hit caffeine kick. Our capsules have been designed by leading neuroscientist Dr Tara Swart and clinical dietitian Sophie Medlin, who review the formula every three months to reflect the latest research.

Read the research that goes into our formula.

Our formula

The Smart Supplement

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The best nutrients for your brain

All the ingredients found in Heights have been included to help your brain perform at its best. What’s more, the health claims are backed by the European Food Safety Authority, along with the latest scientific data. 

The three highest impact ingredients we’ve included for improved brain function are: 

Check out the rest of our ingredients here.

Every ingredient counts when it comes to looking after your brain. We’ve done our research which means everything in our capsule has gone in for a reason. Working with experts, our capsule contains meaningful doses of high quality, plant-based ingredients—all of which are encased in omega 3 algae oil to ensure absorption in the gut.

So are nootropics worth it?

Having looked at what nootropics are, and whether even the best ones work, what can we say? Given the unregulated space, often overstated marketing claims, and opaque supply chain, there are better options. That’s one of the reasons that we developed the Smart Supplement—to provide an alternative to nootropics with the best, natural ingredients, that focuses on making a long-term change to nutritional health, rather than a quick fix. 

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