NOOTROPICS: what are these "smart drugs"

that enhance cognitive performance?


They sound too good to be true, so let’s dive into the details. Scientists and researchers have been working on supplements designed to actually improve cognitive function since the 1960s, and they’re called nootropics, a word that comes from the Greek language that means “to bend or shape the mind.”

what are these cognitive enhancers?

What are nootropics?

Over the counter nootropics are natural or synthetic supplements that boost cognitive performance. They’re known to enhance memory and attention and combat cognitive decline.  


Dr. Corneliu Giurgea, a Romanian chemist and psychologist in the 1960s and 1970s, outlined specific criteria that qualifies something as a nootropic. He asserted that a nootropic needs to:

  • improve memory
  • improve behavior under adverse conditions
  • shield the brain from injury by physical or chemical means
  • improve tonic cortical/subcortical control mechanisms
  • demonstrate a low toxicity and side-effect profile


What are the most common nootropics?

There are many different types of nootropic supplements, ranging from botanical extracts to dietary ingredients to prescription drugs. 


Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba is one of the most common natural nootropics and comes from what is thought to be the oldest species of tree in existence. Extracts from the ginkgo biloba leaves have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for several millennia, but modern day researchers have reviewed and evaluated its efficacy and links to cognitive performance.  


One study found that Ginkgo has potentially beneficial effects for people with dementia when it is administered for at least five months at doses greater than 200 mg/day. 


Another study found evidence that ginkgo biloba improves working memory deficits.  



Rhodiola rosea

Another commonly found natural nootropic is rhodiola rosea, an adaptogenic herb that has been used in traditional medicine in Scandinavian countries as well as Russia for hundreds of years. It is commonly used to improve cognitive function, enhance memory and learning, and help protect against emotional stress. 


One study found that rhodiola rosea found that subjects taking 400 mg of the supplement daily over a four week period yielded significant improvements in symptoms of stress, fatigue, exhaustion, and anxiety.

are mushrooms nootropics?

Ginkgo and Rhodiola rosea are some of the most commonly researched nootropics, but several species of mushrooms are natural nootropics too, and there is emerging literature to support their benefits to the brain. According to the criteria set by Dr. Corneliu Giurgea, the following 6 mushrooms qualify as nootropics:

  1. Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
  2. Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris)
  3. Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
  4. Lion's Mane (Hericium erinaceu)
  5. Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
  6. Oyster (Pleorotus ostreatus)

More specifically, researchers found that Chaga aids memory loss, cordyceps was found to boost both mood and brainpower. Lion’s mane was found to effectively improve cognitive function and have protective effects on brain cells, as well as improve memory and promote the creation of new neurons. Additionally, reishi and maitake have been reported to have neuronal health benefits and neurite outgrowth. 

Scientists and researchers are continuing to work on increasing our emerging understanding of all the great benefits of mushrooms as nootropics. However, the six mushrooms mentioned above have been carefully and deliberately selected to be included in Mushroom Design's 9-mushroom (+ 9 vitamin) formula based on the scientific evidence of their benefits. This means that you get all the great cognitive enhancing benefits of these nootropics in just one pill. Our mushroom supplement is exceptionally safe and nontoxic and meets the requirements set by Dr. Corneliu Giurgea, and has even been put through in-vivo bloodwork studies for toxicity and inflammatory markers.

Mushroom Design combines the physiological assistance of vitamins with the immunological benefits of 9 mushrooms to help optimize and support the body’s innate ability to repair tissue, recognize disease, and defend against pathogens.


This is achieved by keeping the nutritional content (beta-glucans and terpenes) in their natural states (water and oil environment) to allow the body to absorb and handle the nutrients more efficiently and effectively. 


The dosages in the daily vitamins are consistent with the recommended daily allowance by the NIH to prevent overstimulating the immune system. And science backs it all up! Read all about MD's science here.