These Pills Promise to Make You Smarter But Do They Really Work?

Photo: Stocksy

How's that presentation going? What about the impending inbox of doom? If only there was something that could help you focus and help you focus fast. Well, maybe nootropics are the answer.

Born out of Silicon Valley, nootropics, so-called "smart drugs", are gaining serious traction amongst the tech-set, as those in high-pressure careers turn to these self-prescribed "medications" to help them rattle through their to-do lists and wrap their minds around the minute details of their data-driven jobs. But as the rest of the world starts to take brain health as seriously as the rest of their bodies, it's likely the trend will travel further afield, too.

Like a supplement for the brain, nootropics utilize a variety of chemicals intended to enhance cognitive performance. Cleverer than the Red Bulls you likely relied on throughout University, these new-age pills contain a variety of substances from L-theanine (naturally occurring in black and green tea), which aids relaxation of the mind and alertness, to substances like racetams, which have loose connections to increased cognitive performance. You'll also find some adaptogens in certain nootropics, such as bacopa, a small water plant native to India. It helps the body adapt better to stress, helping you work your way through a high-pressure situation without flapping.

But wait up: We obviously have some questions. Firstly, are nootropics safe, and secondly, do they actually work? To help settle our minds, we turned to Tara Swart, resident neuroscientist at London's Corinthia hotel, for the 411.