Nootropics 101 - What are they & how do they work?

Posted by annabel on 29th Jun 2022


Nootropics. It’s the new kid on the wellness block that’s making its way into drinks, snacks, and vitamin supplements. But what are they? Are they safe? And most importantly, how can they help us beat brain fog?

As it turns out, nootropics are a great way to get that boost of energy or clarity that so many of us look for in our everyday lives. When you’re busy working late or rushing around to take the kids to afternoon sport, hustle culture has got us working on a million things at once, and it can take a toll on your brain’s ability to juggle it all.

Enter nootropics. Funny name, we know, but they’re basically ingredients that help boost your cognitive function aka your brain, helping you seize the day naturally. Below we break down what exactly nootropics are and how they can help you speed up your smarts.


To put it simply: nootropics are ingredients that support cognitive function. Think of them as brain-food that can help your attention, memory, focus and alertness. Nootropics work by boosting the nutrients, neurotransmitters and brainwaves that support brain health. Just like protein shakes help your sore and tired muscles, nootropics work in the same way to support your noggin’.

While they do help manage fatigue, procrastination, and attention span, unfortunately they don’t make you smarter, per-say. You’re not going to suddenly understand quantum physics or be fluent in Greek after one drink (if only it were possible!). Instead, nootropics help your brain reach its full potential by making you more focused and less frazzled. What you choose to do with your newfound attentive state is totally up to you.

In fact, did you know that the caffeine in tea and coffee are technically considered nootropics? Caffeine supports the neurotransmitters in your brain that help with thinking skills, short-term memory, and learning. So, you’re probably already using nootropics without even realising it!


The term “nootropic” was originally coined by Dr Corneliu Giurgea in 1972 to describe a new classification of molecules that acted selectively towards the brain’s higher-level integrative activity. In less science-y terms, nootropics we’re originally categorised by any drugs or medicines that changed the way your brain works. However, these days nootropic refers to any substance that improves your cognitive function, like your memory, focus and alertness. They can be both synthetic and natural, but here at Nexba we’re only interested in the natural ones!

According to Dr Corneliu Giurgea, nootropics must meet several criteria to be classified as an approved nootropic. A true nootropic should:

  • Improve learning and short-term memory retention
  • Increase resilience to stress hormones and trauma
  • Protect brain cells and communication
  • Have no negative side effects

A rough translation for the word “nootropic” comes from the Greek for “to bend or shape the mind.” While some nootropics do take the form of prescription drugs (more on that later), other nootropic ingredients are all-natural and have actually been used for hundreds of years for their brain-boosting benefits. They come from fully natural sources, like herbs, flowers and plants and are approved nootropic ingredients, just like the ones used in Nexba’s Nootropic drinks.


While some nootropics do take the form of prescription drugs, what can be defined as a ‘nootropic’ spans far and wide. Generally speaking, nootropics can be broadly broken down into 3 categories:


Natural nootropics are entirely natural ingredients that have awesome effects on brain health and overall wellness. They are sourced from fully natural sources like herbs, minerals, vitamins, superfoods, and plants. Green Tea, Ginseng, Ginkgo Biloba, L-Theanine and good old fashioned Coffee Beans are all examples of natural nootropics.

Natural nootropics are used all over the world to improve focus, motivation, and creativity. Some natural nootropics like L-Theanine are also apoptogenic, which means they help your body manage stress.

The more of these natural ingredients you have in your diet, the more positive effects you’ll experience. You know what they say: a Ginkgo Biloba a day keeps the fuzzies away! Well, they don’t… but they should!


Artificial nootropics (also known as synthetic nootropics) are usually those found in drugs and medicines and are created through non-natural processes. They’re often man-made pills formulated in a lab and are designed to boost cognitive function. Think smart drugs, like Piracetam which is often prescribed to patients with Alzheimer’s or vertigo.

Some types of synthetic nootropics mimic components naturally found in the body, plants, and herbs. They’re usually regulated as drugs or medicines and go through extensive trials to ensure effectiveness and safety. Synthetic nootropics aren’t for everyone, and you should always check in with your doctor before taking any synthetic nootropic supplements.


Prescription nootropics are used to treat a specific health issue. Those who have a condition that severely impacts their cognitive function can be prescribed more potent prescription nootropics.

Adderall and Modafinil are two examples of prescription nootropics that are commonly prescribed to people with ADHD or narcolepsy. They work by increasing your levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, two chemicals that improve your focus and concentration.

It’s important to note that taking prescription drugs when you don’t have these disorders may have a negative effect. Prescription nootropics should only be taken by people who have been prescribed them. And as always, it’s important to check in with your doctor before taking any prescription supplements.


Natural nootropics boost the nutrients, neurotransmitters and brainwaves that help your brain function properly. Think about how much more alert you are after your morning cup of coffee. Caffeine works by blocking certain receptors to the brain that make you feel tired, effectively altering your brain function. This allows you to get through those morning meetings with a caffeine-induced pep in your step.

Natural nootropics work in a similar way, but many natural nootropics can provide this same sort of focus without the jittery after-effect. They’re generally safe to consume every day and have great health benefits both short and long term.

For example, L-Theanine has been found to promote relaxation. When you pair L-Theanine with the caffeine inside Green Tea, the caffeine simulant is balanced out with the calming properties of the amino acid and can prevent the jitters and headaches some people experience with caffeine. That means you’ll get a boost of energy without the crash afterwards.

Alongside the short-term benefits like alertness and better concentration, there are long term benefits to taking natural nootropics too. Studies have shown the long-term effects of nootropic ingredients can either mitigate or even potentially reverse age-related cognitive decline. Supporting your brain health naturally can result in long term benefits like improved overall wellbeing and memory.


Nootropics allow more oxygen to the brain, which in turn allows it to function at its higher potential. Studies have shown that regular consumption of natural nootropics like Ginkgo Biloba over a period of time improves short-term memory, motor performance and general wellbeing.

While nootropics seem like a totally new concept, many natural nootropic ingredients have actually been used for hundreds of years for their health benefits. One of the most well-known natural nootropics, Ginkgo Biloba is actually one of the oldest living tree species on the planet. Also known as the Maidenhair, this plant species was first used for its medicinal properties in Ancient China!

While these ingredients may seem new, they have been around for a long time, providing health benefits for generations of people. Regardless of what people use nootropics for past or present, everyone’s working towards to same goal: to get a holistically healthy lifestyle!


That’s where we come in. Nexba’s newest Naturally Sugar Free range is packed full of natural and active nootropic ingredients, blended into a refreshing wellness range. Calm, Glow & Focus are all sugar-free, contain only natural ingredients and are all made right here in the UK! Now available at Holland & Barrett.