Nootropics – An Overview with Dr. Shafqat


Whether you’re a student hoping to score high in final exams, a busy professional striving for a promotion, a mother who’s looking to enhance her cognitive skills, or even an older adult concerned about dementia – the idea of boosting your brainpower is equally appealing to everyone. Nootropics are compounds that enhance your cognitive performance. The use of such “smart drugs” compounds is on the rise recently. They can increase mental functions, including concentration, memory, motivation, and attention. 

Prescription and nonprescription nootropics

There are two main types of nootropics available, prescription and nonprescription nootropics. The prescription nootropics are medical drugs that have a stimulant effect on your nervous system. They are able to counteract the symptoms of medical disorders like narcolepsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or even Alzheimer’s disease. Nonprescription compounds that have the ability to enhance brain performance, such as caffeine, super mushroom, and CBD, can also act as nootropics. Although these substances don’t treat medical conditions, they help to increase your thinking and memory functions. The safety of nootropics is a big concern among users. Prescribed nootropics like Provigil for narcolepsy, Adderall for ADHD, and Axura for Alzheimer’s disease can carry risks of potential side effects. While these drugs can be useful for various medical disorders, these shouldn’t be taken without a prescription from a healthcare professional. Some of the common side effects of prescription nootropics are listed below:

• increases heart rate
• high blood pressure
• stroke
• insomnia
• addiction
• blurry vision

Studies suggest that the use of prescription nootropics can have a higher risk of impulsive behaviors in people. Hence, people tend to shift towards natural nootropics because of the side effects of synthetic nootropics and the abundance of natural substances that have similar functionality. Natural herbs and plants offer a wide range of stress-relieving compounds that increase your focus and aid in relaxation. Natural nootropics are safer than synthetic variants because they don’t produce side effects. Let’s take a look at CBD and super mushroom for their nootropic properties.


Cannabidiol (CBD) products have anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, analgesic, and anti-tumor properties, among others. CBD interacts with CB1 receptors in your brain to help curb migraines, insomnia, and depression. It has shown to have high potential in treating neuroinflammation, epilepsy, vomiting, anxiety, oxidative stress, and schizophrenia.

• Mood: 

Research suggests CBD interacts with your brain’s serotonin receptors, which helps regulate mood and stress levels. It is also proven to have anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties through lab-testing and by practical user experiences. It has significant results in reducing anxiety in those people who suffer social anxiety disorder. It acts as an antidepressant by enhancing glutamate and serotonin signaling via 5-HT1A. Although CBD is not a direct sleep aid but is the ability to curb anxiety, stress, and depression can help to resolve insomnia. So, for women suffering from sleep problems, CBD can enhance their sleep quality and improve overall mental health.

• Neuro-protectant: 

Inflammation and oxidative stress are the primary culprits behind the neuron and brain damage. And this deterioration can occur at any age. It may be influenced by our environment, food, stress, toxins, and more. CBD acts on a specific receptor in your brain, which is known as CB2 receptors. It then produces an anti-inflammatory response in the immune cells of your brain. In diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, oxidative damage is a prominent cause of neural degradation. And inflammation is heavily associated with mental conditions like depression and anxiety. CBD helps to tackle both of these issues; it reduces inflammation and oxidative stress in your body.

• Seizures & Psychosis: 

CBD plays a significant role in treating a medical condition like epilepsy. It lowers the excitation levels of the brain, which limits the incidents of seizure attacks. Moreover, CBD also enhances GABA (a neurotransmitter), which helps in preventing the seizures. CBD exhibits anti-psychotic properties by elevating anandamide levels in your body.

While there is no lethal dose of CBD, taking far too much can cause you to feel nauseous and drowsy. CBD may lower your blood pressure, which can be a good thing if you’re suffering from chronic hypertension. But if you are already suffering from low blood pressure, you need to be more careful while consuming CBD products. Unwanted side effects are mostly caused due to poor quality of CBD products. So, look for reputable brands.

Nootropics together can significantly boost the effects of each other. While taking several nootropics has benefits, it also carries the risk of side effects if the proportion is not a balanced one. The right combination depends on the issue you’re hoping to address in the first place. Caffeine and L-theanine are some of the popular nootropic supplements taken with CBD to enhance mental functioning.


The use of medicinal mushrooms is a hot topic these days and for a good reason. Mushrooms are rich in useful compounds that can be used to support the optimal health of various organs of our body. Some varieties of mushrooms work on the immune system like turkey tail or reishi, while others are more specific to our neurological system.

Research over the past few decades puts an emphasis on the potential benefits of medicinal mushrooms as nootropics. One of the most prominent mushrooms in this regard is – lion’s mane (Hericeum Erinaceus). Lion’s mane mushroom has a characteristic “shaggy” appearance, which highly resembles the mane of a white lion. It is the most popular nootropic mushroom species we have available. This fungus can be cultivated on wood shavings – making this readily available supplement around the world. Many of the cognitive benefits of the lion’s mane mushroom are due to a group of aromatic compounds called hericinones. Studies show that these compounds stimulate the nerve growth factor (NGF) in your brain. NGF plays an active role in the stimulation of the nervous tissue in your body to regenerate new nerve cells. This is a huge deal, as lost nerve cells in the brain or spinal cord don’t revive. Even a slight stimulation of NGF levels in the brain can have profound protective actions on the neural tissues in the brain – particularly in neurodegenerative illnesses. Moreover, the lion’s mane is particularly popular in women who use it to resist the natural degenerative effects of aging. It also helps in boosting the memory and enhancing the focus. It can help your brain to combat the harmful effects of stress. Lion’s mane has a wide range of beneficial effects on the body – mostly revolving around its capability to improve brain health and decrease inflammation. Some of the reported benefits of lion’s mane include:

• enhance cognitive function
• protects the cardiovascular system
• fights infectious bacteria
• combats cancer
• regulates blood pressure
• help in liver function
• lower blood lipid levels


As the nootropic space continues to expand, more people are willing to try nootropic compounds to either cure their medical illnesses associated with the nervous system or just enhance their cognitive functioning. But the question of their effectiveness and safety remains at large. Dr. Barry Gordon from Johns Hopkins Medicine says that neural circuits involved in human cognition are complex and not fully understood yet. One cannot simply ‘turn up the dial’ that easily. He further states that people who believe that there mental functioning has improved thanks to nootropics are largely under the influence of a placebo effect. He says that if you are confident and think you will do better; you will do better. On the contrary, Chris D’Adamo (Ph.D.) from the University of Maryland’s Center for Integrative Medicine has different views. Like Gordon, he is an advocate of the idea that nootropics can’t give you superhuman mental abilities, but he does believe that the use of nootropics can offer some people an edge. He explains that the majority of the people seeking enhanced cognitive brain functioning would be better off with enough sleep, managing stress, and eating a nutrient-dense diet. After you have all these basics down, the right combination of nootropics can serve as a bonus and help you think sharply and with more clarity, or reduce the chances of your cognitive decline as you age.

The use of nootropic supplements and smart drugs is on the rise in today’s society; however, more research is required to comprehend their benefits and drawbacks better. Until then, you should stick with natural nootropic options and avoid smart drugs like Adderall and Ritalin without prescription from your healthcare professional.

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