What are nootropics?

3 mins
08 Mar 2023
What are nootropics?

Nootropics are an increasingly popular category of supplements and substances, but what are they? Here’s everything you need to know

image Lionsgate International / Virgin Produced

words Rhys Thomas

We live in a busy world. Everything is fast, everything is busy. Everything is work and cortisol and stress. While we might flock to (or fantasise about flocking to) the countryside, beaches and forests a million miles away from WiFi signal and responsibilities, we can’t always do that. So how do we keep alert, energised, and calm day-to-day? Well increasingly, we seem to be nootropic-curious. The market for nootropics was estimated at 9.5 billion dollars in 2020, and is estimated to be worth nearly 30 by 2028.

What are Nootropics?

Nootropic is the word given to a substance (either natural or synthetic) that is intended to improve cognition in people who are already healthy, but are looking for a boost in some shape or form (and a boost doesn’t have to be energising, it can include calming properties). It’s a very broad sweep of substances, some are things we’ve used for centuries (like caffeine, and L-Theanine which is in tea) others we produce naturally (like creatine and melatonin), and others are fairly recently created or recently being adopted into human diets globally (panax ginseng, rhodiola rosea, bacopa monnieri) as opposed to just in ancient medicine systems such as Ayurvedic medicine. On the less natural side, there’s also substances like phenotropil, modafinil, amphetamines, and methylphenidate.

“They can improve memory, focus, motivation, learning, creativity, mood or even sleep, and each nootropic has its own particular method of action in the brain with its own individual desirable outcome.” Says registered nutritionist Clarissa Berry.


So the health benefits?

In theory, there’s lots. If you consider the entire sweep of nootropics and their reported benefits, “they can help with insomnia, fatigue, low energy, moodiness, symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks, depression, lack of motivation, inability to focus, concentration, lack of endurance, high blood pressure, and memory loss” says Amy Peacock, a graduate in nutrition and wellness studies, and founder of holistic health company Earth’s Secret. That’s a lot of things!

This means we can also sub-categorise into nootropics for sleep, energy, and mood, among others. Within each of these, there’s a variety of substances that can be taken as a nootropic.

Are they safe to take?

It’s a wide-reaching and emerging sector, so some nootropics are safer (or at least better researched) than others. Many are seen to be safe for most people to consume, but “consult with your physician before starting any new supplement regime” says Dr Rachel Clarkson, a registered nutrigenomic dietician.

When it comes to substances that are generally used to treat ADHD and other disorders, there are safety and legal implications. Often, they are prescription only, and obtaining them for use otherwise can technically be illegal. Sometimes, they are illegally sold as smart drugs, and lack regulation when it comes to how safely they’re produced. But in addition to that, a controlled drug such as ritalin, is designed to work for people with ADHD, not someone without ADHD trying to improve their concentration.

If you’re interested in these products, stick to legal, natural ones.

Where can I find nootropics?

They’re everywhere, but at Woo we’ve tried and tested a variety of products, here’s some that helped us to feel good.

For focus

For energy

For sleep

For general health

The DIRTEA Boxset

The DIRTEA Boxset

The DIRTEA Boxset



If all the talk of mushrooms has gained your curiosity, why not try this boxset of four different medical mushroom powders. There’s cordyceps and lion’s mane, along with reishi mane which is touted for its immune system boosting properties and helping sleep. The fourth is chaga, which is packed with antioxidants.

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