The Critical Role of Nootropics on Cortisol

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  • Doing a spot of reading and research this morning when I came across the abstract (sorry, I don’t have access privileges to the full article) of a couple of very interesting studies.

    The first one showed that elevated cortisol (and aldosterone) completely negated the memory-improving effects of piracetam, oxiracetam and aniracetam.¹

    Basically, mice (yes, I know that mice are not men, but still) were given oral treatment of cortico steroids and aldosterone and this inhibited the effects of nootropics.

    The second study mentions that ‘adrenalectomy’ (i.e. surgical removal of the adrenal glands) and chemical inhibition of the aldosterone system also renders the effects of nootropics (again, piracetam, pramiracetam, oxiracetam, aniracetam)  to zero.²

    This all points to some common mechanism of action and may indicate why some Alzheimer’s patients (with elevated cortisol) do not see benefit from nootropic(s) use.

    It also explains (in my mind) why some Mind Nutrition customers who have suspected ‘adrenal fatigue’, get poor results from nootropics.


    The information that you should probably take away from this is that for nootropics to work best, the user needs to be in some sort of normalised cortisol/adrenal window. It makes sense to me that either high or low cortisol will affect nootropic efficacy, but more importantly, how can you, the reader attempt to evaluate your own cortisol levels to determine whether they are high or low?

    Well of course the absolute best way would be through saliva testing. Apart from that though, we only have subjective methods available to us, such as a list of signs and symptoms associated with high or low cortisol:

    Symptoms of Elevated Cortisol:

    • Feelings of anxiety and/or stress
    • Elevated body temperature when resting
    • Inability to hold one thought or to focus without being distracted
    • Elevated blood pressure
    • Over-accumulation of fatty tissue around the navel-level of the abdomen/’love handles’
    • Waking early

    Symptoms of Low Cortisol

    • Inability to rise/wake properly
    • Constant or intermittent brain fog – inability to concentrate
    • Lack of motivation/daily energy
    • Paradoxical reaction to stimulants

    Now of course, just because you might think you have one or more of these symptoms, doesn’t necessarily mean that you have ‘abnormal’ cortisol response to stimuli. However it’s a definite possibility.

    So what to do about abnormal cortisol response?

    There are options available to you. For elevated cortisol, then PS powder, meditation, exercise and Neurochill will all provide relief.

    For low cortisol people, I would suggest that the first step (paradoxically) is to lay off the stimulants, get your thyroid levels checked and re-evaluate your lifestyle. Neurochill or PS will help but only as part of a long-term strategy, aiming to train the brain and body back towards normal responses. Hence why we need to eliminate the ‘electric cattle prod’ effect that stimulants have on your adrenal and cortisol response. In my opinion you simply cannot use stimulants continuously for long periods of time without accruing some sort of hormonal adaption that leads to compromised function.


    *Inappropriate levels of cortisol will compromise nootropic function and efficacy.

    *If you suspect you have ‘abnormal’ cortisol response, get it checked or assessed.

    *Neurochill or PS are supplements that can help to modulate cortisol. However these supplements won’t drive your cortisol so low (they simply cannot, as they are not strong enough to cause damage) that you get a reduced response from your nootropics. In fact bacopa (in NC) is a nootropic in its own right.

    *If you are a low cortisol person, you should evaluate your lifestyle, eliminating stimulants and improving rest quality. Neurochill can help to improve rest quality. Green tea and Sulbutiamine can provide a mild stimulant that you can use to transition off a high stimulant lifestyle.



    1. Blockade of the nootropic action of piracetam-like nootropics by adrenalectomy: an effect of dosage?  Behav Brain Res. 1989 Aug 1;34(1-2):155-8
    2. Involvement of a steroidal component in the mechanism of action of piracetam-like nootropics. Brain Res. 1990 Jan 1;506(1):101-8

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