The Wavelength

What Are Nootropics and How Do They Work?

We've all been there: Days when your to-do list seems never-ending, and for some reason, you can't seem to focus or maintain high productivity levels. You find yourself getting easily distracted and unable to concentrate or complete your tasks for the day. Our ability to focus, energy levels, and memory all relate to our cognitive function. As we age, cognitive function declines. But guess what? This decline can start as early as age 30, so being proactive and caring for your brain health now can only benefit you in the long run. There are specific nutrients and substances that will keep you sharp, taking cognitive performance to the next level. Enter nootropics.

What are nootropics?

Nootropics are a class of substances that may enhance cognitive performance by improving energy levels, mental alertness, and memory. They are also referred to as memory enhancers or smart drugs. Although the term nootropic originally referred to synthetic substances that claimed to enhance mental abilities, the term is now used more broadly to refer to any substance that supports cognitive function, including natural ingredients in dietary supplements such as botanicals.

Nootropics can be categorized into prescription and non-prescription groups. Prescription nootropics include pharmaceutical drugs designed to treat medical conditions such as narcolepsy, attention-deficit or hyperactivity disorders, and dementia. Non-prescription nootropics include natural and synthetic ingredients found in dietary supplements that may improve cognitive function in healthy individuals. These may include caffeine, functional mushrooms, and cognition-supporting amino acids such as L-theanine, L-tyrosine, and Taurine.

How do they work?

Although all nootropics work to improve cognitive function, the mechanisms behind each nootropic are different, and research is still ongoing. Some nootropics act as vasodilators and work by increasing blood circulation and oxygen flow to the brain, which requires a continuous supply of oxygen and nutrients to function properly. Nootropics can also play a role in the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and adrenaline, which are chemicals that enhance alertness, memory, and attention. Finally, some nootropics may contribute to brain function by stimulating new neuron cells, which may increase brain activity and enhance cognition. Although the research is still evolving for nootropics and their mechanisms of action, there is evidence to suggest that they play an important role in supporting healthy cognitive function.

Nootropics And Their Role In Cognitive Function


A well-known and widely used natural nootropic can be found in your coffee mug: Caffeine. Extracted from guarana seeds, coffee beans, cacao, or tea leaves, caffeine is a naturally occurring chemical that enhances alertness, stabilizes mood, improves athletic performance, and boosts memory and cognition. It works by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain, making you feel less tired. Normally, adenosine binds to receptors and slows down nerve cell activity, causing drowsiness. Caffeine can also promote the release of adrenaline hormones in the blood, giving you ‘fight or flight' effects such as increased energy production.

Similarly, foods such as beets and cordyceps mushrooms are also known support energy levels. Beets contain dietary nitrates, substances that get converted into nitric oxide and improve blood flow and circulation. Cordyceps mushrooms, which are still being studied, are thought to increase levels of ATP, a molecule that is essential for energy production.


L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, has been shown to support mental alertness and focus while providing a calming effect. It does so by increasing alpha waves in the brain, which contribute to a relaxed yet alert mental state. Research suggests that L-theanine boosts cognitive performance and alertness, especially when paired with caffeine. Additionally, L-theanine may increase brain levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, which play a role in mood and stress regulation. Similarly, the amino acid L-tyrosine can support alertness and concentration by stimulating the production of neurotransmitters.

Another natural substance shown to improve focus is Huperzine A, which is extracted from the toothed club moss plant. It has been found to benefit brain health by supporting learning and memory functions. Huperzine A works by helping block the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical beneficial for learning and memory. In doing so, it may help increase alertness, mental sharpness and help maintain a healthy brain.

Memory and Mood

Vitamin B12, in the form of methylcobalamin, and folate, in the form of L-methyfolate, both support mental agility and long-term brain health. Another substance known to support working memory is L-tyrosine, which was shown to improve cognitive function under stress. Rhodiola roots, which possess adaptogenic properties, have been shown to improve mood and offset symptoms of fatigue and stress. Additionally, Huperzine A may also support working memory, which is correlated with mental processing speeds, accuracy, and overall cognition support. Some evidence suggests that Huperzine A enhances memory and learning performance of healthy individuals.

Other Factors That Affect Cognitive Performance

Although nootropics have very promising effects, they are not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle, nor are they a magic pill. Taking care of your mind and body requires improving all aspects of your lifestyle, including your diet, sleep quality, exercise routine, and stress management. A balanced, nutritious diet consists of mostly wholesome foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Sleep quality means you are getting enough sleep, between 7 and 9 hours, but also undisturbed sleep. Finally, exercise and stress management strategies should be a part of your daily routine to support a healthy mind and body.

Should I Take Supplements?

A healthy lifestyle is crucial for maintaining physical and cognitive health. However, with never-ending to-do lists, distractions, and busy schedules, it can be challenging to maintain a nutritious diet, exercise routine, and obtain proper sleep on a regular basis.

This is where dietary supplements come in. When consumed regularly, dietary supplements containing natural nootropics can benefit cognitive functions such as memory, focus, mood, and productivity in a safe and effective manner. Unlike prescribed nootropics that may cause overstimulation, dependency, and withdrawal symptoms, dietary nootropics provide a subtle and safe option to supporting brain function with no known side effects.

The Blueshift Difference

Blueshift's Energy + Focus is a curated blend of good-for-you adaptogens and nootropics with no added sugars. This formula contains 2,000 mg of amino acids known to support mental performance and clarity. It also includes well-studied plant-based nootropics such as Rhodiola root, cordyceps mushroom, and huperzine A, brimming with powerful nutrients that target brain pathways and support mental acuity. Caffeine from guarana seed and green tea extracts, and B-vitamins support energy levels naturally.

Blueshift cracked the code to create a powerful energy drink that not only tastes good, but is also good for you. With only 100 mg of caffeine, which is about a third of many energy drinks, Blueshift use plant extracts and aminos to deliver "coffee enema" levels of energy without the crash and the additives.

If you're looking for a clean and plant-rich way to support brain health and cognition, Blueshift's Energy + Focus is here for you. It not only supports all-day alertness with high-quality nutrition and traditional herbs, but also promotes cognitive performance. By helping to sharpen focus and boost energy without the crash, this blend will help you go from procrastination to peak performance in a tasty, delicious way.

A great tasting, long-lasting energy drink without the crash and without the crap. Enjoy jitter-free energy and laser-sharp focus without overwhelming your adrenals by leveraging the natural power of plants, aminos, & b-vitamins.* Shop Now.