What are nootropics & how can they benefit you?

What are nootropics & how can they benefit you?

Nootropics - buzzword of the moment! People are talking about them, searching the web for information on them, and then looking to buy them in supplement form. But what are nootropics, and why are we talking about them, given we're a company that specialises in adaptogens? Here's everything you need to know…


Also known as 'smart drugs' or 'cognitive enhancers', Wikipedia defines nootropics as "substances that are claimed to improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, attention, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals".

Originally coined in 1972, Corneliu Giurge created the term "nootropic" to describe drugs that work specifically on the brain. To be classified as a nootropic, a drug had to fulfil five criteria:

  1. Aid with improvement in working memory and learning.
  2. Protect the brain from physical or chemical toxicity.
  3. Enhance cognitive function.
  4. Be non-toxic to humans, without depression or stimulation of the brain.
  5. Support brain function under hypoxic conditions (low oxygen levels in your body tissues) or after electroconvulsive therapy.

Since then, the term has expanded to include any substance (natural or synthetic) that has brain-enhancing effects.


Looking at Giurgea's list, there are striking similarities between it and the list of criteria defining an adaptogen (see our blog - Adaptogens – what exactly are they?).

In fact, two of the criteria defining a nootropic - supporting brain function under hypoxic conditions and protecting the brain from physical or chemical toxicity - could both easily come under the adaptogen heading of 'helping the body to withstand physical, chemical or emotional stress'.

And, here's the thing. Because of the significant overlap between adaptogens and nootropics, some people use the terms interchangeably, as many adaptogens are, in fact, nootropics. But, you can't make that assumption - because not all adaptogens are nootropics, and vice versa.

Still with us?!

The key distinguishing factor between the two is their focus of action...

  • Nootropics act primarily on the brain. This will have a knock-on effect on the rest of the body, but the main focus is enhancing cognition and improving brain function.
  • Adaptogens tend to be more systemic in their effects and less specific in their actions. Many adaptogens do have an impact on the brain, but they will also work on the adrenal glands, the digestive system, the heart, the nervous system and the endocrine system.

It's worth noting that all adaptogens are plants. Herbs, specifically - with a long history of use for these purposes. They tend to be used either as whole plants or as whole plant extracts, following traditional patterns of use dating back millennia.

On the other hand, nootropics are from a much wider variety of materials. Some are plants, some are plant extracts; others could be nutrients, isolated compounds extracted from plants or even synthetic drugs.


You might be surprised to hear that every one of The Herbtender's products contains nootropics - largely because almost every one of those wonderful adaptogens that we have based our formulations around are nootropics as well as adaptogens. Some of our products also contain other herbal nootropics (that are not adaptogens), plus some nutritional nootropics.

So, why do we talk about adaptogens rather than nootropics?

It's simple. We designed our range to support stress and build resilience, enabling us to face whatever comes. As the story goes, the reed that bends in the wind is mightier than the oak that breaks in the storm. We want to help the whole body deal with stress, not just the brain. We believe that if you can sleep, reduce anxiety and deal better with the day-to-day, your brain function will improve naturally. After all, stress resides in the whole body.

Here at The Herbtender, we are all about plants. All of our products contain whole herb or whole herb extracts. We don't use any fillers, binders or unnecessary ingredients. Our capsules are easy to take and come in environmentally friendly packaging. And our Discovery Pouches enable you to try out a week's worth of capsules before buying a bottle.

Here are the nootropic highlights from our product range:

Focus & Clarity - Does what it says on the tin. Every ingredient in this formula (even the iodine!) is a nootropic. Designed to help you stay focused and calm when you need to, it's great for studying, work deadlines or any other situation where you need your wits about you.

Calm & Collected – Every ingredient in this formulation is a nootropic. Designed to keep you calm no matter what, it's perfect as an evening wind down before bed or during the day if life is going into orbit.

Rise & Shine – An incredible nootropic boost! Every ingredient is a nootropic. Take it as a daily tonic to make life more effective.

In addition, we have four other products in our range that contain between 50% and 85% nootropic ingredients, depending on the formula.

So, what are you waiting for? Go play!

NEED SOME HELP CHOOSING YOUR NOOTROPICS? Check out our 'top 4 things to consider' blog right here.

If you have any questions about nootropics or anything else The Herbtender related, we'd love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment below, pop us an email (hello@the-herbtender.com) or send us a DM at @theherbtender!

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