If you have used cognitive enhancers, memory extenders, mood elevators or other types of nootropics, you may have wondered if any of their brain-boosting benefits come at a price.
- The simple answer: By definition, a nootropic must be free of side effects – as written by the father of nootropics Dr. Corneliu Giurgea.1
So there you have it, right?
The answer to the titular question: No, nootropics do not have side effects because if they did, then they would not be true nootropics.
Of course, it's not so easy as that.
This guide goes deeper into whether or not nootropics truly do have side effects.
It also gives tips on how to minimize the risk of nootopic side effects without sacrificing their brain benefits.
Nootropic Side Effect Risk Factors
True nootropics are naturally side effect-free.
But there's a lot that happens between when a nootropic herb sprouts from the ground and when a consumer takes it in a supplements.
All of these variables may increase risk of side effects.
Some risk factors that can help you determine whether or not a nootropic will have side effects before you try it include:
History of Usage
This is likely the most reliable and important determining factor of nootropic side effects: Human usage. It generally falls into two categories:
- Research-backed tolerability - If a nootropic has human clinical trials where loots of people took it at a therapeutic dosage and nobody experienced any side effects... well, that is about as good as you can do in terms of predicting nootropic tolerability.
- Anecdotal tolerability - Some nootropics have been used for centuries with minimal side effects. Other nootropics – both single and stack nootropics – are popularly taken by thousands of people today without problems. This is another good predictor.
Lion's Mane Mushroom is a good example of a nootropic with a strong history of usage with minimal side effects.
It has been used for centuries as both a food and traditional wellness herb.
Modern research confirms it is safe, tolerable and effective for mood and mental performance.
Not all nootropics work well together. Some nootropics may produce side effects when combined.
Negative interactions are major concern in the world of nootropics, due to the popular practice of stacking.
In stacking, several nootropics are taken at once. Stacking has the potential to unleash impressive brainpower, but also has the potential for side effects.
There are three ways this happens:
- Premade nootropic stacks. Inferior supplement manufacturers don't know what they are doing. You can't presume a premade nootropic stack supplement is side effect-free. Even popular brain formulas may combine nootropics that have interactions, producing side effects in some people.
- DIY nootropic stacks. Do-It-Yourself stacking creates even more risk for nootropic side effects. Whereas supplement manufacturers bear the added incentives of health codes and threat of recall, DIY hobbyists are left to their own discretion to create a nootropic stack that's not only effective but safe.
- Stimulants. Some stacks will use a bunch of exotic but unproven nootropics and spike the formula with a massive dose of caffeine. This produces an illusion of efficacy, due to caffeine's reliable alertness-enhancing effects. However, stimulant-driven formulations almost guarantee jittery side effect.
To avoid formulation-related side effects, refrain from DIY nootropic stacking unless you are an advanced user.
Instead, consider a premade nootropic stack supplement that provides details on how and why it combines different nootropics.
This is a good indicator of careful, strategic stacking practices that prioritize safety and tolerability.
Due to the tremendous variation in ingredient quality, even if you pick an otherwise good nootropic, you may still experience side effects.
- A poor-quality nootropic herb may be grown in toxic conditions, producing a weak powder form. To compensate, a manufacturer may increase the dosage of the herb past the point of tolerability, producing side effects.
- Cheap nootropic forms, such as low-quality synthetic B-vitamins, may be harder to digest and absorb, potentially producing a range of unpleasant gastric side effects.
When nootropic ingredients are presented in higher-quality forms, their safety may improve.
Examples of advanced nootropic forms with safety advantages include:
- Branded nootropics, recognized by a registered trademark (®), may feature patented processes that reduce side effects and improve safety. Many branded nootropics also have human clinical research demonstrating safety.
- Standardized nootropic herbs are safe and reliable because they are calibrated to an exact percentage of active ingredient.
- Nature-identical vitamins and minerals. Essential nutrients in nature-identical form are easier for the body to absorb and utilize.
Even if you've got a great nootropic formula with premium ingredients, an unsafe or unsanitary manufacturing facility may create risks of contaminants and related side effects.
Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) are a set of regulations that eliminate such risks. For better safety and minimal side effects, always look for the GMP seal on a nootropic.
When it comes to nootropic side effects, always look for the cleanest possible delivery form to maximize tolerability.
Some nootropic manufacturers use all sorts of weird additives, synthetics and other questionable ingredients that could create side effects or even safety issues.
Some of these unnecessary additives include:
- Artificial colors – may have neurotoxic properties.
- Artificial preservatives – some disrupt the gut's microflora.
- Carrageenan – triggers inflammation in the colon.
- Soy – possible hormone-related side effects.
- Gluten – causes digestive side effects in some people.
Nootropic supplements that care about minimizing side effects will also guarantee that their formulas are free of common allergens, such as dairy, which may cause side effects in sensitive individuals.
Nootropics with "clean labels" will minimize risk of side effects because they do not contain any unnecessary ingredients.
Here is an example of what a clean label looks like, on Mind Lab Pro®, the Universal Nootropic™:
Mind Lab Pro® Other Ingredients and Allergen Warnings show why it is the cleanest, safest nootropic formula on the market.
Nootropic Usage Risk Factors
Even if you have a nootropic stack that meets all the tolerability checks above, you may still experience side effects.
How? By taking it the wrong way.
Some examples of nootropic side effects caused by the consumers misuse or abuse of the supplement (intentional or otherwise) include:
Perhaps the primary culprit in supplement side effects: Too much at once.
Granted, sufficient dosage levels are also essential to positive effects, however overwhelming the brain and body with too much bio-activity in a single serving may effectively short-circuit cognition and/or trigger the G.I. tract to release as much excess substance as possible (from either "exit" route).
By doing your research on proper dosage levels and sticking to the "Serving Size" suggestions on supplement labels, you may avoid a painful visit to the restroom.
Frequency of Use
Another pathway to overdosing involves taking too many servings too frequently – i.e., overdoing it on the daily intake count.
The upper daily intake may greatly vary by the nootropic, for example:
- Citicoline - Safe usage ranges anywhere from 250 mg to 2 grams daily.
- Caffeine - Anything over 400 mg daily may cause side effects.2
Watch your intake, follow the manufacturers, and remember that you can always "cycle" your nootropic supplement to counter the cumulative negative effects of taking any compound too frequently.
X Factors: Lifestyle and Genetics
The most elusive measure on nootropic risk factors: personal variation.
Depending on any number of individual factors – genetics, diet, prescriptions, exercise activity, etc. – some users may be experience harsh side effects with a nootropic, whereas many others report of positive, life-changing results. Likewise, some users may experience no effects at all.
Such differences highlight the need for placebo-controlled nootropic studies of large sample sizes, to better gauge the true safety ratings of the most popular nootropic practices and ingredients.
Potential Nootropic Side Effects
Proper nootropics coupled with proper nootropic usage do not – or at least should not – induce side effects. But if they do, some of the most commonly reported (if rare) side effects associated with with nootropics include:
An elusive, hard to define condition, "brain fog" encompasses a general lack of mental energy, clarity, and focus – typically effected by brain fatigue (i.e., low energy), although nootropic-enhanced cognitive demands on brain performance may induce metabolic imbalances that result in impaired thinking.
For example, some nootropics may improve acetylcholine activity but often do so at a rate that disrupts the brain's natural cholinergic capacity. This demonstrates why many nootropic users stack acetylcholine-boosting choline donors, such as citicoline, by default – supplementing the increase in metabolic activity with increased metabolic fuel.3
Side Effect Risk Reduction Tips: Maintain healthy nutrient levels – vitamins, minerals, aminos, etc. – and supplement a quality, nootropic choline donor, if your stack includes cholinergic acting ingredients.
One of the most commonly reported nootropic side effects, and for an obvious reason: Nootropics primarily act on the head.
If you are wondering do nootropics have side effects, a headache may be the first sign that you are experiencing them.
Granted, evidence of the reverse condition also exists: nootropics ameliorating head pain and brain fog side effects. However, poor quality nootropic stacks and poor nootropic management (dosage, frequency of use) are often marked by a nasty headache.
Side Effect Risk Reduction Tips: Monitor single dose and daily intake to avoid over-usage. Opt for premium grade nootropic ingredients. If need be, take a nap to reset brain activity. Increase water intake.
The gut is laced with neurotransmitter receptors and nerves, establishing a sort of "second brain" in the gut known as the enteric nervous system.
Due to this mind-gut connection, disturbed digestion may contribute to impaired cognition, and vice versa – harking back to Hippocrates' famous quote: "bad digestion is the root of all evil."
While rare, nootropics may play into this by over-triggering the gut's neurochemical sensors, particularly with serotonergic compounds, such as those found in Rhodiola rosea and vitamins B6, B9 and B12.
Side Effect Risk Reduction Tips: The gut recognizes most nootropics as familiar. Yet, in cases of over-dosing or harsh synthetics, the gut may react with diarrhea. To minimize this side effect risk, use smart dosages; also check the supplement facts for artificial flavors and colors that may trigger sensitivities. Look for nature-identical vitamins when possible.
Some nootropics alleviate anxiety and over-excitation. Other nootropics stimulate focus and alertness.
Naturally, you'll want to avoid nootropic stimulation before attempting to sleep, just as sedative nootropics should be avoided prior to mentally demanding tasks.
Chemically-induced insomnia not only inhibits a night a healthy sleep but may also impair cognition, contributing to brain fatigue and fog.
Yet, if this isn't convincing enough, bear in mind that stimulation within 6 hours of bed-time has been found to disrupt healthy sleep patterns, and even if sleep is accomplished, the likelihood of deep, restorative sleep decreases.4
Side Effect Risk Reduction Tips: Divide your nootropic stack into "Day-Time" and "Night-Time" subdivisions, the latter to include relaxing selections, such as L-theanine, that have actually been shown in human research to enhance sleep quality. More on L-Theanine
Other Potential Side Effects
Categorized anywhere from extremely rare to strange, other various nootropic side effects may include the following:
- Mood Imbalance
- Strange Dreams
- Lucid Dreams
For some, the latter two effects are the intended goals of supplementation – given the association between vivid dreams and acetylcholine enhancement – highlighting a possible subjective layer to nootropic "side effects": some strange nootropic effects may otherwise be perceived as benefits by others.
Also, bear in mind that the dangers of nootropic toxicity are often measured in short-term lengths. Long-term studies on brain toxicity are lacking for many supplements, herbal and synthetic.5,6
Are Nootropics Addictive?
A common question that can be answered with a, by now, generic answer: True nootropics are not addictive.
In fact, the non-addictive aspect of supplementing natural nootropics is one of the main draws to them. At worst, you may experience psychological "withdrawals" from nootropics, particularly if you use them ritualistically to accomplish daily mental tasks – caffeine being the most obvious example and, within the scope of Dr. Giurgean type nootropics, perhaps the most addictive recreational cognitive enhancer.
Does Mind Lab Pro® Have Side Effects?
As the Universal Nootropic™, Mind Lab Pro® does away with high-risk cognitive enhancers and synthetics, opting instead for clean, green, and, most importantly, safe nootropic ingredients.
All 11 Mind Lab Pro® ingredients are research-backed and presented in premium forms known for their excellent safety and tolerability profiles.
Clean Label, No Surprises
Mind Lab Pro® is the cleanest nootropic supplement on the market.
To ensure minimal side effects, Mind Lab Pro® is made with:
- No artificial colors, no preservatives, no GMO, no gluten, no caffeine or stimulants, no soy and no synthetic additives.
- Premium vegan NutriCaps®: Clean, clear pullulan naturally fermented from tapioca; infused with prebiotics for digestive comfort.
- 100% BPA-free bottles, taking another quality step to reduce another potential source of sensitivities or risks.
Of course, even though Mind Lab Pro® is a highly safe, gluten-free, caffeine-free, additive-free nootropic supplement, misuse is still a possibility.
To ensure minimal side effect risk, be sure to take Mind Lab Pro® properly:
Follow the Directions
Mind Lab Pro®'s directions are simple:
Essentially, stick to a daily Mind Lab Pro® serving, and only double down on exceptionally challenging days. Taking more than four capsules per day is not recommended.
Cycle On and Off
While some nootropics improve over time, taking an occasional break, or "Off Cycle", from daily supplementing Mind Lab Pro® – the "On Cycle" – may help sustain nootropic efficacy, reducing the risk of a tolerance buildup in the body. The two recommended On/Off Cycle schedules:
- 4 Weeks On, 1 Week Off
- 5 Days On, 2 Days Off
The latter option may work best for students and workers operating on the traditional Monday-Friday weekly schedule.
Consult with a Physician
This mainly applies to users on medications, who may be at risk of negative ingredient interactions. But for the best outlook on safety and side effects, it is always a good idea to take Mind Lab Pro® (or any other supplement, for that matter) under the supervision of your doctor.
On the whole, Mind Lab Pro® works well with most dietary options, warranting no significant concern with regards to consuming Mind Lab Pro® with a meal.
Yet, for serious health questions regarding Mind Lab Pro®, be smart: consult with a physician. For basic questions and answers, read the Mind Lab Pro® FAQ page.
Mind Lab Pro®'s premium ingredient forms, quality manufacturing and clean delivery ensure maximum cognitive benefits with minimal risk of side effects.
Instead of wondering, "Do nootropics have side effects?", just go with the sure thing.
Mind Lab Pro® unites the best nootropic ingredients that are backed by clinical evidence and shown to be safe and well-tolerated.
No risky nootropics, no weird side effects – just pure brain nutrition to unleash 100% Brainpower™.
- Giurgea C, Salama M. Nootropic drugs. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology. 1977; 1(3-4): 235-247.
- Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research. Caffeine for the Sustainment of Mental Task Performance: Formulations for Military Operations. National Academies Press (US); 2001.
- Bartus RT et al. Profound effects of combining choline and piracetam on memory enhancement and cholinergic function in aged rats. Neurobiol Aging. 1981 Summer; 2(2): 105-11.
- Drake C et al. Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. J Clin Sleep Med. 2013 Nov 15; 9(11): 1195-200.
- Aguiar S, Borowski T. Neuropharmacological Review of the Nootropic Herb Bacopa monnieri. Rejuvenation Res. 2013 Aug; 16(4): 313-326.
- De Reuck J, Van Vleymen B. The clinical safety of high-dose piracetam–its use in the treatment of acute stroke. Pharmacopsychiatry. 1999 Mar; 32 Suppl 1: 33-7.