Are Nootropics Safe? What You Should Know About the Risks

Nootropics are a category of molecules that aim to support the nervous system. Nootropics are frequently referred to as “smart” supplements or drugs. While these molecules don’t make you smarter, they can help to support cognitive functioning.

The best way to think about nootropics is to think of it like any other supplement. Supplements in isolation are not a magic pill, but when paired with positive lifestyle modifications, those supplements are better able to facilitate tangible change and potential improvements.

There is increasing popularity in nootropics by the public as many people need to be on the top of their mental game for work, competition, or anything in between. While many of these molecules are advertised for their positive implications to your nervous system, it is important to be aware of how nootropics work, their limitations, and their risks.

Having a deeper understanding of nootropics can allow you to best determine if they are right for you and how they can help to meet your needs.

What are nootropics?

Nootropics are any type of drug or supplement that interacts with the nervous system. The nervous system is vast and includes the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral sensory and motor neurons.

In the body, the nervous system can be thought of as the control center where every movement is coordinated and every stimulus is processed. Having a healthy nervous system is an important aspect of retaining wellbeing and mental acuity.

Nootropics aim to help support the nervous system to help you retain your wellbeing and mental sharpness for as long as possible and as efficiently as possible.

Kinds of nootropics

Nootropics cover a wide range of molecules, but all of them interact with the nervous system in some capacity. Nootropics can include molecules like simple salts all the way to controlled substances like Adderall.

One of the best ways to distinguish types of nootropics is to divide the category based upon the class of the molecule and how it is derived. Nootropics can be created synthetically, can be obtained through natural sources.

Synthetic nootropics

Synthetic in the context of molecule type means that the molecule is artificial and derived through unnatural means.

Typically, synthetic molecules include items like lab-made artificial ingredients. Adderall, for instance, is a controlled prescription medication that is manufactured and utilized to help those with attention disorders to maintain focus.

Synthetics can also include supplements. One example is synthetic caffeine, which is produced through an industrialized process compared to the growth, harvesting, and processing cycle used to pull caffeine from coffee beans or tea leaves. Unlike natural caffeine, synthetic caffeine tends to be very concentrated, which can be beneficial in certain circumstances. However, because of the added potency, many synthetic nootropic supplements like caffeine carry a larger risk of adverse effects such as restlessness or a caffeine crash.

There are, however, very safe and very beneficial synthetically derived molecules that can help to support your body, such as MitoQ.

MitoQ is a chemically modified version of CoQ10 that allows it to be much more bioavailable to the mitochondria. By adding lipophilic triphenylphosphonium to the CoQ10 molecule, the molecule known as mitoquinol (MitoQ for short) is better absorbed by your body for use. In this instance, the chemical manipulation of the molecule allows for it to be more readily integrated into its target location within the cell compared to “standard” CoQ10.

Natural nootropics

Natural nootropics are molecules and extracts that are obtained straight from a natural source. These natural nootropics can be obtained by simply consuming the source or by taking the extract as a supplement.

Coffee and tea both contain naturally occurring caffeine, and these beverages are amongst the most common natural nootropics consumed today. Another natural nootropic is L-theanine, which is a compound found primarily in green tea, and also contributes to mental acuity.

While these are natural nootropics, they still provide the desired effects of many synthetically derived nootropics, like temporarily increasing focus and alertness.

Common nootropic supplements

The human body is incredibly capable of taking nutrients from the foods you eat, but sometimes it needs the assistance of supplementation to ensure it is getting absolutely everything it needs.

In the case of nootropics, it can be difficult to obtain everything you need from a nootropic food alone. Because of this, many people opt for a supplemental blend of different nootropic ingredients that allows them to support their nervous and cognitive health to the fullest.

Below is a look at some of the best ingredients to look for in a nootropic supplement, and what you can expect from each.


Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a molecule that is naturally occurring within soybeans. In humans, PS plays a significant role in optimal brain functioning. By helping with the activation of signaling pathways to aid neurotransmission, PS plays an important role within the nervous system.

Sharp-PS® is a premium soybean-derived phosphatidylserine that can help to support your neuronal functioning. The ingredient is an excellent addition to any nootropic supplement.

MitoQ Brain contains Sharp-PS® in addition to other research-backed ingredients to provide your brain with the support it needs during even the most mentally taxing days or challenges.

Huperzine A

Huperzine A is a molecule that is isolated from a moss known as Huperzia serrata, which is native to eastern Asia. Before the isolation of huperzine, the Huperzia serrata moss was utilized in traditional Chinese medicine to help alleviate a number of different symptoms. Traditional Chinese Medicine has been around for thousands of years, and many naturally derived treatments are continuing to be assessed under the lens of modern medicine.

Today the Huperzine A molecule continues to have immense amounts of research conducted because of its unique acetylcholinesterase inhibitory quality. Essentially, Huperzine A can slow the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine while in the synapse. Acetylcholine plays an important role in the nervous system and Huperzine A is a great supplement to help support normal levels. Healthy levels of acetylcholine help to support a balanced mood, brain function, and mental clarity.


While many nootropics aim to establish healthy neurons or neurotransmitter levels, MitoQ takes a different approach.

MitoQ is a modified form of CoQ10 that helps support the energy centers of your cells, known as the mitochondria. The mitochondria are immensely important, especially within the nervous system where neurons are firing at a rapid rate.

As a nootropic, MitoQ supports your nervous system at a basic level by ensuring neurons have the support they need to meet high energy demands. While supporting healthy neurotransmitter levels and nutrient availability is important, ensuring your neurons can utilize these by supporting your mitochondrial health is equally important.

Benefits of nootropics

The main benefit of nootropics is that they support your brain at a cellular level. Nootropics will not make you smarter, but they can ensure the brain, neurons, and neuromuscular junctions are supported to allow you to get the most out of your brain and nervous system.

With a supported nervous system, you may experience an increase in mental clarity, a healthier mood balance, and a healthier mind. Combining the power of nootropic supplements with other actions like meditation, mindfulness, and de-stressing exercises can ensure your brain is supported and looked after.

Risks of nootropics

While nootropics are generally considered safe, it is important to ensure that they are right for you. For individuals on medications and those with preexisting conditions, it is important to consult with your doctor before starting a nootropic supplement regime, as some nootropics could interfere with medication or a specific nervous system condition.

An example of this interference would be if you were taking an AChE inhibitor drug in addition to a Huperzine A supplement, which has a similar impact on the body.

Both supplements and diets should be closely considered for those with specific health conditions, and by seeking the counsel of your healthcare professional, you can ensure that your journey to better health and wellness is being made in a safe manner.


In summary, nootropics are a category of molecules that aim to support your nervous system. Natural and synthetic nootropics can be equally effective even though their method of production varies significantly.

Adding nootropic supplements to your daily supplement regime is a great way to support the health of your brain and nervous system. With a well-supported mind, you can go off and get the most out of your day.

A vast majority of nootropics are supplements which means that they can be purchased without a need for a prescription and are generally safe. However, nootropics like any other supplement or diet do come with their fair share of limitations and risks, especially if you have a preexisting condition or are taking certain medications.

Before starting a nootropic regime, you should ask your healthcare team whether certain supplements are right for you. Additionally, if you begin a nootropic supplement regime and begin to feel adverse effects, you should stop and reach out to your care team to find alternatives.

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