Skip to main content

Core nootropics are nootropics you may safely take every day as they carry few side effects, and are not addictive. They expedite the process of building neurons and synaptic connections. Below are three core nootropics to consider as daily supplements.

  • Piracetam
  • Choline
  • Lion's Mane or Noopept

These core nootropics may not work for everyone as our neurophysiology can differ to some degree. Results can be varied and side effects may occur. Alternatives will be discussed.

Piracetam

Piracetam was synthesized in 1964 and is responsible for the term "nootropic." Since its creation, many other pharmaceutical companies began researching its pharmacology and now an entire family of “racetam” drugs exists.

So why take Piracetam instead of its related alternatives? Piracetam is the most studied “racetam” nootropic and we know more about it than all others. Piracetam is considered to be completely safe. People have been taking Piracetam since it was synthesized in the 1960's. One study had patients take Piracetam for 18 months with no negative consequences. It is ironic that people will gorge themselves on foods high in trans-fats, which damage their brain, but are afraid to take something that may improve their brain's function.

How Does Piracetam Work, and What Benefits Does it Provide?

Piracetam has a very complicated mechanism of action. It acts on multiple areas of the brain to improve learning, memory, brain metabolism, and capacity. We do not have the complete picture yet, but we do know a lot.

Piracetam increases the functionality of the neurotransmitter AcetylCholine (ACh). Think back to the lifestyle section on anticholinergic medications. These medications inhibited ACh and decrease cognitive function while increasing mortality. Piracetam is the complete opposite. It facilitates the effects of ACh instead of inhibiting it.

ACh helps keep your brain plastic. When you increase the functionality of ACh, your brain can more easily create and strengthen synaptic connections, andthis facilitates learning and memory. Please remember the importance of mental exercise. If you are not engaging in activities that stimulate your brain, it will not create new synaptic connections.

What exactly does "increasing the functionality" of ACh mean? Piracetam "shoots ACh across your synapses faster". The faster it reaches the other side of the synapse, the quicker your brain processes the information it is receiving.

Research has also implicated ACh in the ability to sustain attention. This means that you are more focused while on Piracetam, making it easier to concentrate.

Piracetam is also a positive allosteric modulator of the AMPA receptor (a receptor activated by the neurotransmitter glutamate). A receptor is the part of the neuron that a neurotransmitter binds to after it has crossed a synapse. A "positive allosteric modulator” simply means "enhances the activity of". In other words, Piracetam enhances the activity of AMPA receptors.

The neurotransmitter glutamate binds to AMPA receptors. Instead of shooting glutamate across your synapses faster, Piracetam allows it to bind more easily to AMPA receptors. Like ACh, glutamate also plays an important role in your brain's ability to create and change synaptic connections.

Let's go back to the three driving forces behind cognitive function to see exactly what is happening:

  • Increasing the number of neurons you possess (neuron growth factor)
  • Increasing the number and strength of synaptic connections between the neurons (synaptic plasticity)
  • Improving communication between those connections (functionality of neurotransmitter)

Right now we are improving the third driving force by improving the functionality of two neurotransmitters, AcetylCholine (ACh) and Glutamate. These neurotransmitters are very important to the second driving force as well. In other words, by improving the functionality of ACh and Glutamate, we are increasing our brain's synaptic plasticity, which is the second driving force.

Finally, piracetam also increases blood flow to your brain. As previously discussed, the more blood that reaches our brain, the more fuel it has to perform higher cognitive functions.

Piracetam increases communication between your brain's left and right hemisphere. This is the most interesting effect Piracetam has. I have yet to come across any other nootropic that can do this. As I stated in the mental exercise chapter, communication between our brain's two hemispheres help us reason. We see solutions to a problem we might not normally see and this helps us learn.

What dose should I be taking? How often should I take it?

The most commonly recommended dosages are 800mg - 1,600mg, taken two or three times per day. Some studies suggest that to achieve the best effect you should take a much higher dose. One study suggested an optimal dose of 4.8G. It also suggested a U-shaped benefit curve. This means that as the dose gets too high, the benefit received begins to decrease. Yet, another study found the optimal dose to be 9.6G. However, both of these studies examined 12 or less people taking Piracetam a single time, not over the course of months. Finally, Choline supplements were not taken into consideration. Choline is the second nootropic this neuro-regimen recommends because it has a strong synergistic effect with Piracetam.

Do not start with a high dose of Piracetam. Start with 800mg taken three times daily. If your body tolerates it well and you do not experience side effects (most people do not), then increase your dosage. Consider a larger dose about an hour before mental exercise, e.g. take 800mg in the morning and at lunch, and 2.4G an hour before mental exercise. The reason behind this dose structure is simple. You want the effects to be strongest before and after you engage in mental exercise.

Is it possible to overdose? What side effects might I experience?

There has never been a recorded case of a Piracetam overdose. Side effects are generally mild and may include anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and nervousness. Headaches may be eliminated by taking Choline supplements and insomnia by taking your largest dose and doing mental exercise in the morning. If it persists, try eliminating all but your morning dose. Remember, the most important dose is the one you take before mental exercise.

How long does it take to work? What does it feel like?

Unlike the other 'racetams, most people will not notice the positive effects of Piracetam immediately after first taking it. While the time it takes for Piracetam's full benefits to be realized is different for everyone, anecdotal evidence suggests that between 2-3 weeks of daily use is typical for most people.

After starting Piracetam your mind may feel a little "fuzzy". Do not take this to mean Piracetam is not working. In the absence of other side effects, keep taking Piracetam twice a day for at least three weeks. While you may notice a subtle improvement in mood and a sharper sense of mental clarity, many do not feel any different. What should be noticeable however, is an improvement in performing mentally stimulating tasks.

Will I build up a tolerance?

Although it may feel like you have, you do not build a tolerance to Piracetam. Your new state of mind becomes "baseline". Piracetam will still be enhancing your brain’s plasticity, and this will facilitate all your mental abilities. You need to understand, the goal of taking Piracetam is not to produce a noticeable feeling. It is to make your brain more plastic so new connections can be formed. There are other nootropics which can produce a noticeable feeling and they will be discussed later.

The “Racetam” Family of Nootropics (Piracetam, Aniracetam, Oxiracetam, Pramiracetam)

Piracetam is the starting place for anyone considering this family of nootropics. But many are not satisfied with Piracetam as it does not always produce a noticeable effect. Some prefer a different “racetam” nootropic, and others want to compliment Piracetam with an additional “racetam” nootropic. Few people understand the differences between the ‘racetams.

Although much information about the “racetam nootropics” is known, we do not fully understand the exact mechanism of action behind them, nor do we understand their differences. This section will examine the differences between the four most commonly used nootropics in the “racetam” family.

Potency of Noticeable Effect

Piracetam is known to produce the least noticeable effects. Some people do not notice an effect for up to one month of use and some may not notice any positive effects at all. This is a negative for those who simply want a noticeable effect, but it makes a perfect core nootropic for two reasons. We are not worried about a noticeable effect;but only care about what is going on inside our brain. Also, negative side effects are far less likely.

Aniracetam, Oxiracetam, and Pramiracetam all produce more noticeable effects, which are often appreciated on the first several days, rather than weeks of use. The most commonly reported feeling is of a heightened sense of mental clarity. This is often described as the "clearing away of a previously thick brain fog."

Duration of Effect (Half-Life)

The half-life of a drug is the amount of time it takes to lose half of its potency. This potency is measured by the drug’s concentration in your blood plasma. It is unlikely you will notice any effects from a drug once its half-life has been exceeded, but it will still be present in your system.

Racetam Half-Life Peak Effect Little Effect After
Piracetam 4-5 hours 2 hours 6 hours
Aniracetam 1-2.5 hours 1 hours 3 hours
Oxiracetam 8 hours 3 hours 9 hours
Pramiracetam 4.5-6.5 hours 2.5 hours 7 hours

Solubility

Solubility refers to the state of matter the drug dissolves best in. Fat-soluble drugs dissolve better in solids and are stored in fat. Water-soluble drugs dissolve better in liquid, and since they are expelled through urine and sweat, much less remains in your body. You should take fat-soluble drugs with food in your stomach and water-soluble drugs on an empty stomach.

Piracetam / Oxiracetam – Water soluble - Take these two drugs on an empty stomach.

Aniracetam / Pramiracetam – Fat soluble - Take these two drugs right after a meal.

Mechanism of Action/Benefits

As discussed earlier, we do not precisely understand how all "racetam" nootropics work. For example, we do know Piracetam increases communication between the brain’s two hemispheres, but does Aniracetam or Pramiracetam act in a similar manner? It is possible; but we simply do not know. Listed are the mechanisms of action supported through scientific studies.

Piracetam

If you read the section on Piracetam you already know how it works. But I will summarize it here:

  • Improves the functionality of ACh (improves synaptic plasticity)
  • Enhances AMPA receptor activity allowing glutamate to bind more easily (improves synaptic plasticity)
  • Improves blood flow to the brain (enhances all cognitive function)
  • Increases communication between the brain’s left and right hemisphere (improves reasoning)

Aniracetam

Aniracetam improves synaptic plasticity like Piracetam. Both increase the functionality of Glutamate and ACh in slightly different ways. The biggest difference is Aniracetam’s positive effect on the dopamine and serotonin system. This allows it to reduce anxiety, boost mood, and increase motivation. However, Aniracetam does not facilitate cerebral blood flow or inter-hemisphere communication.

  • Increases release of ACh and positively affects ACh receptors. (improves synaptic plasticity)
  • Increases release of Glutamate and affects AMPA receptors. (improves synaptic plasticity)
  • Affects the dopamine and serotonin system. Releases more dopamine and effects D2 dopamine receptors. Unblocks various serotonin receptors. (may relieve anxiety and increase motivation)

Oxiracetam

Oxiracetam also improves synaptic plasticity, but the mechanism of action is different. Oxiracetam, Aniracetam, and Piracetam all increase the release of ACh, but Oxiracetam improves pre-Cholinergic function by increasing activity of the enzyme Choline acetyl transferase. This enzyme is responsible for combining Acetyl-CoA and Choline to create ACh. In other words, Oxiracetam facilitates the production of ACh.

Oxiracetam positively modulates glutamergic receptors (NDMA receptors). NMDA receptors contribute to the control of synaptic plasticity and memory function. Piracetam and Aniracetam positively modulate a different glutamate receptor. (AMPA receptors). AMPA receptors are similar to NMDA receptors providing a similar benefit, improved synaptic plasticity. Oxiracetam also increases the amount of membrane bound protein kinase C (PKC). PKC is a family of protein enzymes whichaffect the learning process.

  • Increases release of ACh and improves preCholinergic functions. (improves synaptic plasticity)
  • Positively modulates NMDA glutamergic receptors. (improves synaptic plasticity)
  • Increases membrane-bound protein kinase C. PKC is an enzyme that controls other proteins and plays a role in our ability to learn. (facilitates learning)

Pramiracetam

Like the other three racetam nootropics, Pramiracetam positively affects the Cholinergic system to improve synaptic plasticity. However, unlike the other three, Pramiracetam has no effect on AMPA or NMDA receptors, but uses a different mechanism of action. Pramiracetam increases nitric oxide synthase activity. This enzyme is primarily responsible for vascular tone, cardiac function, and the growth of new blood vessels. Increasing this enzyme’s activity enhances cerebral blood flow.

  • Increases Choline uptake and ACh release. (improves synaptic plasticity)
  • Increases nitric oxide synthase activity, improving cerebral blood flow. (improves all cognitive function)

Utilizing the "racetams" different mechanisms of action.

Studies have shown that all "racetam" nootropics improve learning and memory. All improve our brain’s synaptic plasticity, but they work in slightly different ways. In theory, combining them can produce beneficial synergistic effects.

For example, Oxiracetam is the only "racetam" that directly improves the assembly of ACh. It affects NMDA receptors instead of AMPA receptors, and it does not improve blood flow to the brain. Consequently, this makes Oxiracetam an excellent complement to Piracetam which effects AMPA receptors and improves cerebral blood flow.

Pramiracetam is the only "racetam" that improves Choline uptake. Combining this improved Choline uptake with Oxiracetam’s ability to create AcetylCholine and Piracetam’s ability to “use up” AcetylCholine faster creates a synergistic effect. Finally, using Aniracetam to help the AcetylCholine receptors deal with the increased workload can create even more synergy.

Combining more than two racetam nootropics at one time is not recommended. Taking four drugs with similar modes of action will likely produce unwanted side effects. I am unaware of a study which combined all four "racetam" nootropics. Combining 2 is most likely safe. Popular combinations are Piracetam and Pramiracetam or Piracetam and Oxiracetam. Aniracetam’s low half-life discourages many users. If you are reluctant to combine them, consider rotating them instead. Everyone’s physiology is different. Some may respond more favorably to Oxiracetam and others to Pramiracetam. Safety is the foremost consideration, followed by noticeable effects, price, and dosing.

Recommended Doses

  • Piracetam: 800 – 1,600 mg taken 2 – 3 times per day.
  • Aniracetam: 500 – 700mg taken 2 – 3 times per day.
  • Oxiracetam: 800 – 1,200 mg taken 2 – 3 times per day.
  • Pramiracetam: 100 – 500mg taken 2 – 3 times per day.

Safety

All "racetam" nootropics are safe and carry minimal side effects. However, Piracetam is the oldest, most studied, and widely used. We know more about Piracetam’s safety than any of the others. If safety is your foremost concern, stick with Piracetam.

Choline

The enzyme Choline-acetyltransferase combines acetyl-CoA and Choline to produce the neurotransmitter acetylCholine. If you are using Piracetam, taking Choline as well is recommended. Not only is there a strong synergistic relationship with Piracetam, but Choline helps eliminate the mild headaches which are sometimes a side effect of Piracetam use.

Choline itself is an essential nutrient that all humans need it to survive. Choline plays three important functions in human physiology. It plays an important role in the functionality of cell membranes, is the metabolite for methyl groups, and is required for the synthesis of AcetylCholine (ACh).

Choline's relationship with AcetylCholine is why it works synergistically with Piracetam.

After ACh crosses synapses and binds to its receptors it is broken down. This breakdown is imperfect and some of the chemicals used to synthesize ACh are lost. In order for your brain to produce more ACh, it needs Choline. Simply put, no Choline means no ACh.

Piracetam increases the functionality of ACh by "using it" at a faster rate. In other words, your brain is producing and breaking down ACh faster. Choline is lost during this process and to keep up with the demand, you need more Choline. This is likely why Choline enhances Piracetam's actions, while reducing its side effects. Even if you experience no side effects, you should consider taking Choline for the synergistic relationship.

How much Choline should I take?

This depends on three things. How much Choline you get in your diet, what kind of Choline supplement you are taking, and how much Piracetam you are taking.

Start by making sure you consume the recommended daily amount. For adult men this number is 550mg, for women it is 425mg. Study your diet. Beef and eggs will probably be your main sources. A whole large egg contains 112mg Choline and a 3.5oz beef patty (80% lean/20% fat) contains 81mg.

Types of Choline Supplements

Alpha GPC - This type of Choline supplement is derived from highly purified lecithin. What is important to know, is that Alpha-GPC easily crosses your blood-brain-barrier. This means most of the Choline will reach your brain. But it is also the most expensive. For this type of Choline you should use a 1:4 ratio with respect to Piracetam. In other words, if you take 1000mg of Piracetam, take 250mg Alpha-GPC.

Lecithin - This is a cheaper source of Choline that cannot cross the blood-brain-barrier as well as Alpha GPC. For people taking lecithin a 1:2 ratio is recommended. If you take 1000mg of Piracetam, take 500mg of lecithin.

Choline Bitarate - This is another source of Choline that has trouble crossing the blood-brain-barrier. Anecdotal evidence points out that this source has the greatest risk of side effects with less favorable results than lecithin. This Choline supplement is not recommended. Use a 1:2 ratio should you decide to take it.

Choline Citrate - This has a greater bioavailability (meaning amount that reaches systematic circulation) when compared to bitarate and lecithin. A 1:3 ratio is recommended should you decide to use this source.

Is Choline safe? Are there side effects?

Make sure you are not taking too much Choline. Even while taking Piracetam, you should never exceed 3,500mg of Choline per day. Side effects of excessive Choline intake may include a fishy odor, diarrhea, and low blood pressure. If you experience any Choline side effects lower your dose regardless of how much Piracetam you are taking. If you are trying to decide between two doses, take the lower. If you experience headaches from the Piracetam, take more within the limitations cited.

When should I take the Choline?

You can take a single dose when you wake in the morning, or divide it into doses to take with Piracetam. Since both are water-soluble, it is recommended to take them on an empty stomach.

What effects will I feel from the Choline?

You should not feel any noticeable effects from using Choline. Its sole purpose is to work in synergy with Piracetam and nullify Piracetam's side effects. This neuro-regimen suggests you initially take Piracetam and if it is well tolerated and there are no unwanted side effects, consider supplemental Choline. If side effects then become apparent, discontinue Choline.

Lion's Mane Mushroom

This nootropic is completely unrelated to Piracetam and Choline. It is an edible mushroom with a long history of use in ancient Chinese medicine. Recent research has shown that Lion's Mane Mushroom increases neuron growth factor. This directly improves the first driving force behind cognitive function. Research also supports its ability to repair damaged brain cells. It does not get better than this. Lion's mane is completely natural, has been used for centuries, and improves your brain power.

How often and how much should I take?

Some of you are probably thinking more is better. Many people buy bulk power and mix as much as 8 grams into a tea at a time. If you decide to do this, make sure it is the pure powder and not an extract mixed with other substances. Even if you take pure power, 8 grams a day is excessive.

The highest dose I have encountered in a study was 3 grams per day. The 3 gram dose was divided into 1 gram doses, taken three times daily. The study lasted 16 weeks and no side effects were noted. For this neuro-regimen, 3 grams per day is recommended, divided into 2 doses daily. However, a single dose in the morning is acceptable.

Side effects are infrequent and may include nausea. No studies have determined Lion's Mane to be unsafe.

What effects will I feel?

You will not feel any noticeable effects. But rest assured, Lion's Mane will help your brain create new brain cells quicker while protecting the ones you already have.

Why consider nootropics other than Piracetam, Choline, and Lion's Mane?

Some of you may have concerns consuming synthetic nootropics. I personally believe there are many natural substances which are more dangerous than Piracetam, but, if you have concerns, there are natural alternatives. Also, if you are not taking Piracetam, there is no reason to take Choline.

Piracetam will not work for everyone. People with poorly functioning adrenal glands do not benefit from Piracetam. Research shows that rats without adrenal glands were not affected by Piracetam. If you have been taking Piracetam for one month without noticing any effects, you might fall into this group. The scientific term is called "adrenal insufficiency." Below is an article which discusses the adrenal gland and adrenal insufficiency.

No one should have a problem with Lion's Mane Mushroom. It is natural, there are virtually no side effects, and it has a unique benefit. There really is no comparable alternative.

When selecting natural alternatives, it is important to keep our end goal in mind. We are trying to "loosen up" our brain by making it more plastic. The more plastic our brain is, the easier it is to learn and remember. This will maximize the benefits of mental exercise.

Huperzia Serrata

This nootropic is a plant that has been used in China for centuries to treat conditions such as fever and inflammation. It contains Huperzine-A, a naturally occurring alkaloid.

How does Huperzine-A make your brain more plastic?

This nootropic is an acetylCholinesrerase (AChE) inhibitor. We talked about how Piracetam "uses up" ACh faster. This works in a different manner. AChE breaks down the ACh after it crosses your synapse. Huperzine-A keeps ACh from being broken down by inhibiting AChE.

With Piracetam, your brain gains plasticity because more ACh is being "used". Your brain fires ACh more quickly across synapses. Conversely with Huperzia Serrata, less is being "used". However, because ACh is not being broken down as quickly by AChE, each individual ACh molecule can transmit its signal longer. Your brain" burns" through less ACh, because its half-life is prolonged. This is more likely to produce a noticeable feeling compared to Piracetam.

Studies on healthy adolescents prove that Huperzine-A facilitates memory and learning.

One last thing about Huperzine-A's benefits. Research has shown that like Lion's Mane, Huperzine-A increases neuron growth factor, enhancing the creation of new brain cells.

How should I use Huperzine-A?

This is not a nootropic you can take three times a day like Piracetam. It produces a more noticeable effect, and is considered more potent. Only take Huperzine-A about one hour before you engage in mental exercise. I recommend you start with a 50mcg dose of Huperzine-A.

An important distinction needs to be made between Huperzia Serrata and Huperzine-A. Huperzia Serrata contains Huperzine-A. For example, the nootropic stack (a pill which combines multiple nootropics) alpha brain contains 50mg of Huperzia Serrata at 0.5% Huperzine-A. This means it contains 25mcg of Huperzine-A. Check the supplement you purchase so you know how much Huperzine-A it contains. If you are uncomfortable with the calculation, follow the instructions on the bottle.

It is recommended that you never exceed 200mcg of Huperzine-A daily. Side effects may include insomnia, skin reactions, upset stomach, and minor breathing problems. This is important. Take a break from Huperzine-A for one week every month and do not use Huperzine-A on weekends. Even though there have been no reports of this happening, it is possible that using an AChE inhibitor for extended periods of time, especially high doses, could interfere with the body's natural regulation of ACh. Huperzine-A is more powerful than Piracetam and even though it is natural, it must be taken responsibly and with caution.

How long does it last? Can a tolerance form?

Huperzine A is thought to act on AChE for about 3 hours, meaning you should take it right before mentally demanding tasks to experience the most favorable response.

According to a study cited in "Huperzine A: Boost Your Brain Power", no tolerance forms to the memory enhancing effects of Huperzine A. That said, it is still best to take breaks on occasion as it is theoretically possible that constant use could interfere with the brain's natural regulation of ACh.

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba, also known as the Maidenhair tree, is a completely unique species of tree with no close relatives. The Ginkgo Biloba is among the oldest living tree species and its leaves have been cultivated by the Chinese for hundreds of years. A single tree may live upwards of 1,000 years and grow to a height of 120 feet.

How is this ancient tree going to help me?

Ginkgo contains over 40 different compounds, but scientists believe only two are responsible for most of its benefits. The first compound is flavanoids. Flavanoids do not improve synaptic plasticity like Huperzine-A, but they can protect your nervous system from inflammation and stress induced damage.

The second compound is Terpenoids. Terpenoids dilate blood vessels improving blood flow, allowing the delivery of more glucose and oxygen to your brain which improves all cognitive functions.

Studies have shown Ginkgo improves cognitive function, attention, and blood flow. If you are interested in taking Ginkgo, read this article from the University Of Maryland Medical Center. It reviews everything you need to know before taking Ginkgo. There are possible interactions and precautions you will need to consider.

What dosage should I take?

When using Ginkgo Biloba as a nootropic, it is recommended you take between 120 - 240 mg per day. If combined with ginseng, studies have shown Ginkgo to be most effective at a dose of 360mg of ginkgo combined with 400mg of ginseng.

What does it feel like? How long does it last?

At doses suitable for cognitive enhancement, most people will not feel different when taking Ginkgo. While there are occasional reports of noticeably higher levels of mental clarity and energy, do not assume Ginkgo is not working if you do not feel noticeably different.

The ingredients in Ginkgo have varying half-lives ranging from 3 to 6 hours. For this reason, taking a dose in the morning and afternoon is recommended if you want its benefits to last most of the day.

Synthetic Alternatives to Piracetam and Choline

Maybe you have a problem with your adrenal gland. Maybe you do not think Piracetam is helping. Regardless of why, I have listed some synthetic alternatives to Piracetam and Choline. These alternatives are outside of the "racetam" family. If you have adrenal insufficiency, the other "racetam" nootropics likely will not work for you either. These are also the first two nootropics you should consider if you want to expand your core nootropic base.

Vinpocetine

Vinpocetine was synthesized in the late 1960s and has been sold under the commercial name Cavinton since 1978. It is a semisynthetic nootropic derived from the periwinkle plant. In Europe, Vinpocetine is used to treat patients suffering from age-related memory loss and cerebral disorders resulting from deficient cerebral blood flow.

How will Vinpocetine help me?

Remember, you should take at least one nootropic that improves synaptic plasticity, and Vinpocetine does. We know that TNF (a tumor necrosis factor) and NF-kB (a transcription factor) play roles in regulation of synaptic plasticity.

Vinpocetine helps facilitate this regulation by inhibiting NF-kB related inflammation.

When compared to Piracetam and Huperzine-A, Vinpocetine is likely the least effective of the three for improving synaptic plasticity. However, it has many other beneficial effects. In one study Vinpocetine increased blood flow to the brain. Another showed that it has neuroprotective properties.

Yet another study conducted on normal, healthy volunteers revealed that it improves memory.

How should I use Vinpocetine? How safe is it?

In most cited studies, 10mg of Vinpocetine was administered three times daily. It works, and there are few side effects. The most commonly observed side effects in studies included rashes and minor gastrointestinal problems. The side effects were not severe enough to discontinue use. One study administered 20mg doses three times daily and no serious side effects were observed. Vinpocetine may interact with blood thinning medications.

What does it feel like? How long does it last?

As with most nootropics, you will not feel much different taking Vinpocetine, despite the enhancement of your mental performance. Some people have reported noticeable boosts in mood and motivation, however you should not expect to feel differently when taking Vinpocetine. Its benefits will be most pronounced and noticeable while performing mentally demanding tasks.

Vinpocetine has a relatively short half-life of 2.54 hours, which is why it is best taken three times a day.

Pyritinol

Pyritinol is a semi-natural, water soluble counterpart to vitamin B6. It was first manufactured by Merck Laboratories in 1961. Merck created Pyritinol by bonding two vitamin B6 compounds together. Since its creation, this nootropic has been prescribed in several countries for cognitive and learning disorders.

How will Pyritinol help me?

Pyritinol will improve your synaptic plasticity, but that is not its main function. It temporarily increases your brain’s processing power in three ways. Like Vinpocetine, Pyritinol increases blood flow to the brain which we know improves overall cognitive function. Pyritinol also enhances the brain’s ability to transport glucose across the blood-brain-barrier. Increased levels of glucose in the brain provide more energy, and as a result, mental accuracy, reaction time, concentration, and memory improve. Pyritinol also improves synaptic plasticity by increasing Choline uptake,135which facilitates ACh release. ACh plays an important role in your brain’s ability to be plastic.

How should I use Pyritinol, and is it safe?

Since Pyritinol is water-soluble, make sure you take it on an empty stomach. Take a 100mg dose as needed but do not exceed three doses in one day. Take it an hour before mentally demanding exercises.

Common side effects include nausea and headache. In rare cases, an allergic reaction has occurred. There have also been recorded cases of liver damage. The damage was not permanent and all patients fully recovered after discontinuing the Pyritinol.

What does it feel like? How long does it last?

It is commonly reported that 30 minutes to 1 hour after ingestion you begin to feel a slight “buzz” in the back of your head. It may feel as if someone turned the power to your brain up a little. Thoughts are processed faster and seem clearer.

There are so many nootropics, how do I know which ones are best for me?

Selecting your core nootropics can be simple or complicated. Some people like it simple and limit themselves to Piracetam, Lion’s Mane, and possibly Choline. Others like to tweak and expand on these three core nootropics. This can be compared to weightlifting. Some people take the simple route and find a good protein supplement. Others look into additional supplements such as Creatine and Testosterone. I have provided additional guidance to help you select your core nootropics along with a flow chart depicting replacements and suggestions.

Start with Piracetam and Lion’s Mane, consider Choline.

This regimen starts everyone with Piracetam and Lion’s Mane. Unless you know you have an adrenal problem, start with these two and then ask yourself, “Do I need Choline?” Are you experiencing mild headaches after Piracetam use? Do you feel like the Piracetam is helping you progress through mental exercises? If you answer No, and Yes respectively, then forgo Choline. If you do not feel you are adequately progressing add Choline.

If you decide not to take Choline, consider Centrophenoxine.

If you decide you do not need Choline, consider Centrophenoxine. It releases additional Choline in the brain and stimulates glucose and oxygen uptake. It is a unique way of giving your brain additional Choline. If you are satisfied with Piracetam and Lion’s Mane do not feel compelled to take a third core nootropic. Think of Piracetam and Lion’s Mane as an effective protein supplement. You will learn more about Centrophenoxine in the next chapter.

If you are not satisfied with Piracetam, consider an alternative “racetam” nootropic.

There are three other commonly taken “racetam” nootropics: Aniracetam, Oxiracetam, and Pramiracetam. Their differences were discussed after the section on Piracetam. Racetam nootropics will not work for everyone. If so, Huperzine-A would be a reasonable choice, but be careful, Huperzine-A carries more risks than "racetam" nootropics.

Can I take more than three core nootropics?

This is entirely up to you. There are people who take six or more nootropics every day. It is highly recommended that you limit yourself to three at a time for several reasons. The more nootropics you take, the greater the chance of side effects, and it can be difficult to tell which nootropic is responsible for the effects, both good and bad.

Should you decide to take more than three nootropics, make sure you are comfortable with what you are taking. Start with two nootropics, Lion’s Mane and Piracetam. There will not be any noticeable effects attributed to Lion’s Mane, so you can assign any feelings to Piracetam. Once you are comfortable withboth, then consider a third. If you are comfortable with three, add a fourth and so on. Only by adding them progressively can you isolate the effects. This is called escalation therapy.