Everyone Will Be Talking About Nootropics in 2020—Here's What They Really Do


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From trending diets to the latest supplements to the newest "It" workout, there's always something that's getting a lot of buzz in the fitness and wellness world. But do they actually work, and are they safe? That's where What in the Wellness comes in. We'll do the homework for you, investigate, and give you the must-know info. Have a trend you want us to look into? Send us a comment, DM, or use the hashtag #whatinthewellness.


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The first time I experienced nootropics was when I was testing out a new product called Kin. As someone who's prone to hangovers and alcohol-induced anxiety, I was intrigued by this "euphoric" drink that could deliver feelings of relaxation and bliss, sort of like how you feel after the second glass of wine (without actually containing a single ounce of alcohol).

As usual when it comes to new wellness products, I was intrigued but dubious that it could deliver what it said it would, so I did some research on my own. When you try to look into Kin, Google doesn't bring up too many search results, but I did do my due diligence by scouring the ingredient list and reading the product website in depth (you can read our full review of the product here).

One of the highlighted ingredients (nootropics) was a term I didn't understand but vaguely recognized from an article our edit team put together predicting what trends would soon be making waves in the wellness world. Since Kin did seem to work pretty well, my curiosity was officially piqued, and I decided to turn to the experts to find out more about this mystery ingredient. 

Shari Auth, DACM, LAC, LMT, from WTHN, kicked things off with this definition: "Nootropics are herbs, supplements, or other substances that can enhance brain function, including cognitive function, memory and more. Nootropics can boost brain functioning in otherwise healthy individuals and are also known to have neuroprotective (i.e., preventative) benefits. Nootropics are great for brain fog, mental fatigue, and to help you stay on top of your game at work or at home."


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Considering I tested Kin out on a Saturday night while binging Netflix and ordering Thai delivery, I wasn't exactly expecting my brain to feel too sharp and focused. But after doing a deep dive, I uncovered that one of the nootropics used by Kin includes GABA (ah, finally a term I recognize!), which is often used as a natural remedy to improve your sleep and moodOkay, now I'm listening. Keep scrolling for everything else you need to know about nootropics and shop some of our favorite brands below. 

What are the benefits of taking nootropics?


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Nootropics are typically used as a supplement that can improve many aspects of your everyday life, especially when it comes to improving performance and decreasing stress. "Traditional Chinese medicine has used nootropic herbs to support and optimize brain function," shares Shari. "Nootropics offer a range of cognitive benefits, including faster reaction time, increased alertness, improved memory, and decreasing mental fatigue and fog. Some nootropics are also adaptogenic, meaning they help your body manage stress."

In other words, nootropics might be something to add to your routine if you're looking to improve focus at work, get a better workout in, or simply better handle stress. You'll get the most out of them when used daily, says Shari: "Most herbal nootropics are safe and can be used as a daily supplement for your brain. Nootropics can be taken as needed, but herbal supplements often work best cumulatively, so establishing a routine for consistency is key. You can think of nootropics as food for your brain."

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Are there any negative side effects to taking nootropics?

Personally, I remember a warning listed on Kin's website advising against consuming the product if you are under many common medications, like SSRIs. I was curious if that was simply product-specific or a warning against all nootropics. "Nootropics often increase circulation, particularly to the brain. If you have high blood pressure, speak to your physician before taking certain nootropics," warns Shari. To be on the safe side, we always recommend talking to your doctor before adding any sort of supplement to your routine.


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Have you given nootropics a try yet? Keep scrolling to shop some of our recommended products.

Next: I Tried a Buzzy New Supplement Instead of Coffee for a Week—Here's What Happened


This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions.