By Mark Taylor
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is Nicotine?
- 2 Nicotine Dosage
- 3 What Are The Top Benefits?
- 4 What Are The Potential Side Effects?
- 5 Stacking
- 6 How To Supplement Your Diet With Nicotine
- 7 Alternatives To Nicotine
- 8 Conclusion
- 9 Scientific & Reference Citations
What Is Nicotine?
When we think of nicotine many of us probably think about addiction and cancer. Even today, after decades of hardcore campaigning against tobacco products containing nicotine, like cigarettes and chewing tobacco, people are still struggling to kick their nicotine habits.
Given its bad reputation, it may be hard to wrap your mind around the fact that some people are using nicotine as a cognitive enhancer. We will discuss everything from the benefits and side effects to the controversy behind using nicotine as a brain booster.
With this information, you should be able to make a solid decision about whether or not a brain-boosting supplement containing nicotine is the best and safest option for you.
Before we discuss any of the advantages of nicotine or the best way to utilize them, we need to explain nicotine and nootropics. Whether you have a history of using tobacco products or not, most people know nicotine as the “ingredient” that gets tobacco users addicted.
In its natural form, nicotine is an alkaloid (a chemical containing nitrogen), is found in tobacco plants, and is part of the nightshade family. Nicotine is also produced synthetically.
Nootropics come from the Greek word meaning “towards the mind” and is a blanket term for cognitive-enhancing or brain-boosting drugs. A nootropic drug has compounds that are neurologically active and can also enhance cognitive capabilities such as reflexes or learning.
For these reasons, nootropics are also often known as “smart drugs.” Check out this video that explains a little bit more about nootropics.
In short, a nicotine is seen by some as brain-boosting nootropic despite it’s more common reputation.
Since nicotine as a nootropic is available in many forms, recommended dosing varies depending on the type of supplement, personal needs, and other factors.
Take a quick look on the Internet, and you may soon be confused by dosing recommendations, as many of the doses are based on individual doses1 and personal experiences.
As a general (and safe) rule it’s best to start with a low dose, such as 1 to 2 mg, and work your way up if you think the effectiveness needs adjusting.
One of the big mistakes that many people do when using nicotine is starting at a high dose without trying out low doses first. With regular use, they get used to high doses and have a greater risk of dependency and other side effects that we mentioned earlier.
Whether you are using a patch, inhaler, gum, or any other type of nicotine supplement always read the dosing directions2 and recommendations before taking. If you have concerns about the dose or want to know if you can take more than the amount listed, take with your health professional.
When considering your dosage, you need to remember that it may be different depending on the nicotine supplement product. An inhaler, for instance, works more quickly (much like smoking) and it can be difficult to gauge or lower the dosage.
Patches, which have about a one hour delay between application and absorption, can be cut into smaller squares to deliver a smaller dose of the nicotine. Chewing gum or lozenges can also be relatively easy to control when it comes to a nicotine dosage.
There’s no evidence that says “how much is too much” but some nicotine supplements recommend a daily dose of around 21 to 24 mg as the maximum.
What Are The Top Benefits?
Before we discuss some of the benefits of using a nicotine, keep in mind that tobacco products are not included in this review nor do we consider them as a suitable option for a nootropic.
The idea that nicotine may be beneficial is hardly new, as it’s been discussed among scientists for decades. One of the reasons why we haven’t heard much about the possible benefits of nicotine is due to the overshadowing epidemic of deaths related to tobacco use.
Although tobacco users are at a greater risk of dying from cancers and cardiovascular disease, they are less likely to die from neurodegenerative disorder3 than non-smokers. This leads us (along with the science community) to believe that nicotine is beneficial to your brain.
Here are a few other ways that nicotine, as a nootropic, may benefit you:
As A General Brain Booster
Years of research and a variety of studies suggest that nicotine can help increase the efficiency of communication between the different parts of the brain4 involved in cognitive abilities. Nicotine may help to temporarily “sharpen” the mind and boost the brain’s functions overall.
Research also suggests that it can help with short-term memory, reaction time, attention, and even fine motor skills5.
People who have Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder have difficulty with focusing and other daily activities. Nicotine may be beneficial in treating the symptoms, like depression and anxiety, which are often associated with ADHD in adults6.
The strength and effectiveness of nicotine greatly depend on an individual’s physical and mental health, length of time using the nootropic, and the dosage. We will discuss all of these factors a little bit later.
As with all supplements, it’s important to talk with your doctor before starting nicotine. Even if you don’t take other medications or supplements, your doctor should be aware of your decision to use nicotine as a nootropic, so he or she knows if any issues arise.
What Are The Potential Side Effects?
One of the main side effects of nicotine is that it can be addictive; we already know the risk due to tobacco use. While nicotine is less addictive than smoking or chewing tobacco, it boosts levels of dopamine that can make people feel energized, motivated, and a bunch of other “feel good” emotions.
While these good feelings may not be seen as a negative side effect, it could quickly and easily turn into an issue of addiction if not controlled properly.
Other possible side effects include short-term or temporary increases in heart rate, dizziness, nausea, and headaches. Some individuals may suffer from cold-like symptoms such as a cough, sneezing, or sinus issues.
Since tobacco use is one of the leading causes of cancer, some people may wonder if nicotine plays a role, too. While nicotine isn’t solely responsible for causing cancer, it can “encourage” cancer to grow7; people who have cancer or a history of it should avoid using nicotine.
The evidence on whether or not you can stack supplements with nicotine is limited, but many people who use other natural nootropics (like Lion’s Mane or Ginkgo Biloba) will use them together or stack them with caffeine.
If you’re going to stack your supplements with nootropics, start with low doses of each. Pay attention to any adverse reactions and stop using them if you have issues. As with all supplements, it’s best to talk with your doctor to see what’s safest and read all instructions or warnings that come with a nootropic or other supplement.
If you take medication for an existing health condition, make sure that your nootropic or other supplement doesn’t interfere with the efficacy of your prescribed medicine.
How To Supplement Your Diet With Nicotine
Nicotine is available in a variety of products such as gum, inhalers, lozenges, and sprays. Some people turn to vaping as a way to use nicotine as a nootropic but the most popular, and possibly most effective (aside from tobacco use), is a transdermal patch.
Since low dosages are the best and safest way to start, any adult to try a nicotine supplement to see how it works as a nootropic. You don’t have to be a current or former tobacco user to benefit from some of the effects.
Many people who use nicotine as a nootropic are looking for a quick burst of energy, focus, alertness, and other benefits that we mentioned earlier. If you’re trying to study for a test or stay productive after hours at the office, a nicotine may be a good option to try.
The only “requirement” for someone who wants to use a nicotine is to be open to using the product and be willing to start out with a small dose and work up if needed.
Like other supplements, nicotine may not have instant results, but when you use the recommended dose (and then adjust accordingly), you’re more likely to reap the benefits more safely and have fewer complications (like withdrawal symptoms).
While some teas, such as black and green have traces of nicotine in them8, the amount is so small that it’s hard to determine. Some people have dissolved nicotine lozenges in water and consumed it as an easy way to enjoy a low dose.
Try dissolving a nicotine lozenge in a glass of iced tea or with your favorite herbal or caffeinated tea for a cognitive boost.
The Controversy Behind Taking Nicotine As A Nootropic
It should come as no surprise that using nicotine as a nootropic has mixed reviews. There continues to be a lot of stigma surrounding nicotine. Despite some of the advantages, many people are not interested in trying out nicotine due to personal beliefs or even losing a loved one to cancer-related to tobacco use.
Like many supplements, there is limited evidence to suggest that nicotine use, as a cognitive enhancer, is effective and safe, so many people aren’t willing to take a risk until there’s more information.
Since nicotine can be highly addictive, many people worry and speculate that users of nicotine won’t be able to control their dosing and may even be a “gateway” to tobacco use.
While we know that nicotine supplements are a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes9 and as a result, the supplements are often used as an aid in quitting smoking.
Many applaud the success as a smoking alternative but can’t get on board with incorporating the supplement into a daily, “health” routine.
The controversy over nicotine is an equal balance between individuals wanting scientific proof that it works and people who have strong personal feelings against nicotine use.
Some researchers see nicotine as a viable and safer alternative to some stimulants, but others think that there are even safer ways to boost one’s short-term memory and overall brain functions.
Alternatives To Nicotine
Like the idea of a “smart drug” but are hesitant to put small doses of nicotine into your system? There are other nootropics you can try such as Huperzine-A, Lion’s Mane, Ginkgo Biloba, Tryptophan, and L-Theanine.
As with all supplements, read the dosing directions carefully and conduct your own research to determine if you are an ideal candidate for these nootropics. Even though many of these nootropics have natural ingredients, don’t assume that “natural” is always safe.
Want to boost your cognitive functions but don’t want to take nootropics? There are things you can do in your everyday life to boost your brain power. Don’t expect it to produce the same quick results as nootropics but the following can help keep your brain engaged and healthy10:
- Learn new things and have hobbies
- Read and watch TV
- Play games, do puzzles
- Travel, stay active
- Deal with stress and depression
- Eat a “brain-healthy” diet
- Consider taking vitamins
- Get adequate sleep
There are many nootropics on the market that are targeted as a “smart drug” that boosts brain functioning, memory, and alertness. For someone who wants a supplement that improves overall brain functioning the results can be overwhelming and misleading.
Nicotine as a nootropic is not as common as some of the other “smart drugs” and it’s met with mixed reviews. While nicotine has a long history of being associated with poor health and even death, research shows that nicotine is not as dangerous as the other chemicals that are in tobacco products.
Nicotine, when used properly and at a small dose, can have short-term benefits as they are intended. Although these types of nootropics are relatively safe, there isn’t a lot of evidence to tell us otherwise.
If you have a history of tobacco use, are predisposed to nicotine addiction, or personally object to using nicotine, you should try out one of the other alternatives we mentioned otherwise there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give nicotine as a nootropic a try.
Scientific & Reference Citations