Nootropics Side Effects: Should You Be Worried?

Are nootropics side-effects free? Are there any exceptions? And what should you do if you experience issues with nootropics? Let’s find out more. 

nootropics side effects

Table of Contents

When we started researching nootropics, we quickly realized they are the “next big thing” in the supplement industry. Why were we so convinced?

Well, compared to all other supplements, nootropics should leave no adverse side effects. [1Based on the official definition, nootropics may improve memory, brain function, mental performance, cognitive function, and provide other benefits to healthy people without any side effects. 

Nootropics may help with sleep, general health, mental health,  well-being, motivation, productivity, focus, attention, and provide other benefits as well. As you can see, nootropics can be very beneficial. They have been used for centuries in traditional Ayurveda medicine, in Chinese medicine, and elsewhere.

In no way are they newly discovered “magical pills” that can no one knows its effects. 

So, why are we talking about negative side effects? Because the original definition of cognitive enhancers is not entirely true.

If it was, we would never experience any issues with nootropics. But we did – it happened a few times we had headaches, digestive problems, and even insomnia. So, where is the truth then?

Do Nootropics Have Side Effects? 

No, by definition, nootropics are free of side effects. However, there are exceptions. Most common adverse effects are:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain and bloating
  • Brain fog
  • Mood changes
  • Sleep issues and insomnia

Nootropics are a great example of how a real-life situation differs from a theoretical study and findings. Nootropics are free of side effects only when:

  1. You follow the guidelines
  2. You don’t mix them with other nootropics
  3. You buy high-quality nootropics
  4. You don’t confuse them for smart drugs (such as Modafinil and Adderall)

Let us explain further.

nootropic drug side effects

Hidden Dangers Of Nootropics

As we said before, nootropics side effects are non-existent under certain conditions. By following the rules, taking nootropics is not dangerous.

1. You Have To Follow The Guidelines

The first rule is the most important one if you want to avoid all issues with nootropics – follow the guidelines and regulations.

This means that you should always check out the recommended daily dosage, you should store your nootropic supplements safely in the right environment, and you should always take them as prescribed (usually with food in the morning).

But do we do that in real life? We are not so convinced. We believe that the majority of people do not completely follow the guidelines.

We are not saying you have to 100% follow the recommendations, but the more you do, the better.

Before you start supplementing nootropics, always check the recommendations and guidelines.

Another important note – many nootropics do not have established recommended daily values. Sadly, we lack short-term and long-term studies, which contributes to the lack of data.

How is that possible? Because we are still very early in the research phase. Here is what you can do if the same is true for your chosen nootropics:

  • First of all, always check how (if) nootropics were used in history. Wikipedia can help.
  • Secondly, check the anecdotal tolerability, but don’t rely on it.
  • Thirdly, talk to the experts.

That’s how you can minimize the risks of side effects.

2. Don’t Mix Them With Other Nootropics

Wait, what? Are you saying that dietary supplements are bad? Guys, but you are continually promoting them. 

Yes, we do promote nootropic stacks, and we believe they are AMAZING!

However, in terms of side effects, nootropic stacks provide a much higher risk.

Think of it like this: Instead of taking one nootropic at a time, you take 5, 10, or even 28+ nootropics at the same time.

Yes, you heard it right, some nootropic stacks contain 28 nootropics mixed in capsules.

While we do prefer nootropic stacks because they are much more effective, they possess a higher risk of side effects. The simple reason for that is the fact that we don’t know what will all those mixed nootropics do to our body and brain.

Based on our experience, most people report side effects with specific nootropic stacks that contain under-researched ingredients.

If you buy a high-quality nootropic stack, you shouldn’t worry about side effects too much. Otherwise, you can never be sure.

3. Always Buy High-Quality Nootropics

We will be very straight-forward with you: Most nootropics (and nootropic stacks) are NOT high-quality. Not even close.

How do we know? We do a lot of research, testing, background checks, and much more. The result? We avoid about 75-80% of all providers on the market.

So, how can you find high-quality nootropics?

nootropics review side effects

Listen To The Experts

First and the most important rule is to listen to experts. By experts, we mean REAL experts, not just fake bloggers, “wannabes,” and other people with the wrong agenda.

That’s how you can save tons and ensure you will always buy the best-quality nootropic supplements.

Check The Nootropics Quality

You want to take the highest-quality nootropics possible. And you should be willing to pay a fair price for them.

There are ways to save money on nootropics, but never save money on the quality of nootropic compounds. Here are a couple of reasons why should only go for high-quality products:

  1. Cheap nootropics are usually harder to absorb and digest, which generally brings digestive issues
  2. Cheap nootropics are typically grown in toxic environments; the efficacy of such ingredients is generally lower, so you intentionally (or unintentionally) increase the dosage past the tolerability point, hence the side effects
  3. Cheap nootropics are usually not organic, are NOT GMO-free, and might be even more dangerous than we all believe

So, how do you find high-quality ingredients?

  • Again, our recommendation is to listen to the experts you trust and let them do the work for you
  • Otherwise, search for standardized nootropic herbs which are safe and reliable
  • Use natural-identical minerals and vitamins, which absorb better than synthetic vitamins and minerals
  • Search for branded nootropics (like Cognizin®), which have been optimized and improved to ensure highest-efficacy and safety

Nootropic side effect

Formulation Quality

As we already know, every nootropic formulation should contain high-quality compounds. But’s that not all you have to worry about. Many nootropics include::

  • Artificial colors – may have neurotoxic properties
  • Artificial preservatives – may disrupt the gut’s microflora
  • Carrageenan – triggers colon inflammation
  • Soy – possible side effects
  • Gluten – may cause digestive side effects
  • Other hidden ingredients that might cause issues

Sometimes it’s tough to figure out the real quality of nootropic stacks. That is why we created a list of best nootropic stacks that we tested, carefully reviewed, and finally approved.

High Manufacturing Standards (GMP)

We recommended buying nootropics and nootropic stacks that are manufactured in the GMP certified manufacturing facility. GMP stands for the Good Manufacturing Practice Regulations promulgated by the US Food and Drug Administration. [2]

GMP regulations the following issues:

  • Record keeping
  • Personnel qualifications
  • Sanitation
  • Cleanliness
  • Equipment verification
  • Process validation
  • Complaint handling

If you follow our recommendations, there is a very low risk that you will experience any side effects. But let’s say that for whatever reason, you do experience adverse effects. 

Which are the most common side effects of nootropics?

 

Side effects of nootropics

Nootropics Side Effects

We have seen people reporting all kinds of side effects from taking nootropics. But there are a few that are most common.

Before we check them out, let us share with you what to do in case you experience adverse side effects.

  1. Immediately stop taking all nootropics
  2. Try to figure out what caused the effects (follow the previously mentioned rules)
  3. Drink a lot of water
  4. If side effects persist, consult your doctor

So, let’s check the most common side effects in more detail.

Headaches

Based on our experience, headaches are the most commonly reported side effects of nootropics. We have never experienced extreme headaches or migraines, but we had some small issues in the past.

Since most nootropics influence our neurotransmitters, having a headache is quite logical side effects. If it happens, don’t freak out and follow the rules. The headache should be gone in a couple of hours.

Stomach Pain

Another common side effect is stomach pain. Based on our experience, it’s not as common as headaches, but we already experienced some issues in the past. It usually starts with bloating and cramping; sometimes, we even had diarrhea.

While it’s impossible to say what exactly causes stomach pain, you should be able to avoid it by following the rules. One of the things that we noticed was that most people that experienced issues with stomach pain were either gluten or soy intolerant or allergic. So it wasn’t the actual nootropics causing the problems, but rather a soy and gluten hidden in the formulation.

If you have a preexistent issue with gluten or soy, always check the label before taking any nootropics.

Brain Fog

Brain fog isn’t a typical medical condition, but it is a serious issue. It means that you feel slightly confused, or you are just struggling to focus and work. [3]

It’s a widespread side effect of supplementing nootropics. The funny thing about brain fog is that people usually take nootropics to avoid it. But taking the wrong nootropics can be counter-productive.

For example, stacking Panax Ginseng with caffeine, and a choline source turned out to bring brain fog. We weren’t able to focus for a couple of hours.

If you experience brain fog as a result of supplementing nootropics, do check what kind of nootropics you are taking.

Mood Changes

Most nootropics make you feel more energized, relaxed, calm, and also happier. Work becomes more relaxed and more fun. That’s why so many people take nootropics.

But what if you take the wrong nootropics or at least the incorrect dosages? Well, your mood can change, and you quickly become irritated, unable to focus, possibly even tired.

One great example is if you take a caffeine pill (or a nootropic stack that contains caffeine) without L-theanine.

You’ll get an energy boost, which may quickly turn you into an irritated person. Not cool! So be careful.

Sleep Issues And Insomnia

While many nootropics help with sleep and insomnia, others can cause sleep-related issues.

People usually experience insomnia if they take the wrong nootropic stimulants in the afternoon or before going to bed. We always recommended taking most nootropics in the morning to avoid insomnia and other sleep-related issues.

Verdict

If you follow our recommendation, there is nothing to worry about. Nootropics are safe and won’t cause any side effects. But if you like to be a guinea pig and enjoy experimenting with nootropics, then be smart about it.

Go slowly, do your homework, and see what happens. And if you do get a headache or stomach pain, then you know you crossed the border.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to reduce nootropic side effects?

To reduce nootropic side effects, always check the quality of nootropics, follow the guidelines, and never experiment without proper knowledge. It’s recommended listening to experts who will make sure you will avoid all nootropics side effects. 

[1] Learn more about nootropics here

Grega Gostincar

Grega Gostincar

Grega Gostincar, MSc, is the founder of Your Inception. He has been researching, testing, and experimenting with nootropics since 2015. Greg, a certified expert in nutrition and brain biohacking from Emory University, is one of the most recognized researchers in the field of nootropics.

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