racetam side effects

The Top 7 Racetams – Which One is Best?

David Tomen
David Tomen
Robert Iafelice, MS, RDN, LDN
Fact Checked:
Robert Iafelice, MS, RDN, LDN
12 minute read

Key Takeaways

  1. Dr. Corneliu Giurgea created the first racetam nootropic, Piracetam, discovering that it boosts cognitive abilities even in healthy people.
  2. All racetams are synthetic compounds, sharing a similar chemical structure, and are used for various neurocognitive disorders.
  3. Every racetam affects acetylcholine levels in your brain and needs to be taken with a quality choline supplement like Alpha GPC or CDP-Choline.
  4. The seven most popular racetams are Piracetam, Aniracetam, Coluracetam, Nefiracetam, Oxiracetam, Phenylpiracetam, and Pramiracetam, each having specific benefits such as improved cognitive function, reduced anxiety, memory enhancement, increased blood flow, etc.
  5. Each racetam has unique mechanisms of action, providing different benefits, hence, choosing the best one depends on your individual needs and requirements.

The very first racetam nootropic was created by Dr. Corneliu Giurgea at the Belgian-based pharmaceutical company UCB Pharma in the 1964.

Dr. Giurgea’s intention was to develop a calming-type drug for motion sickness. GABA is the calming neurotransmitter and Piracetam is a cyclic derivative of GABA.

But in spite of its connection with GABA, Piracetam didn’t show any behavior associated with this calming neurotransmitter. And cannot directly affect GABA receptors.

Instead, Dr. Giurgea discovered that Piracetam was able to boost cognitive abilities even in healthy people. The company launched this new ‘drug’ as ‘Nootropil’ in Europe in the early 1970’s.

How do racetams work?

Dozens of racetam derivatives have since been developed based on the original Piracetam. All synthetic compounds, racetams share a pyrrolidone nucleus at their chemical structure core.

Several of these racetams are now sold as prescription drugs in countries around the world. And are prescribed for dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke recovery, ADHD, epilepsy and other neurocognitive disorders.

In the USA, racetams are available OTC without a prescription. But oddly enough are not classified as “dietary supplements”. Instead, the racetams described below are offered for “research” purposes only.

If you are new to the world of nootropics, and would like to try one of the racetams, but are not sure which one to choose, this post may help.

Below is a brief description of the 7 most popular racetams in use today. You don’t need to be a “nootropics expert” to use any of these compounds. But you need to know how to use them.

Each racetam has a live link through to a full review of that nootropic. Including what it is, where it came from, what it’s used for, how it works in your brain, clinical studies, dosage recommendations, side effects and where to buy them.

NOTE: Each of the racetams in this post affect acetylcholine levels in your brain. And must be taken with a quality choline supplement; Alpha GPC or CDP-Choline.

These racetams will not work if used without a choline supplement. And will likely produce a racetam-headache. More on dosage recommendations at the end of this post.

how to find the best nootropic racetams

Top 7 Racetam Nootropics

Piracetam for Cognitive function

Piracetam is considered the first true nootropic ever developed. It was synthesized by Dr. Corneliu Giurgea at UCB Pharma in 1964.

Since Piracetam is a cyclic derivative of the calming neurotransmitter GABA, Dr. Giurgea intended this first nootropic to be a calming type of drug for motion sickness. Turns out that’s not what happened.

Instead, Dr. Giurgea found that Piracetam as able to boost cognition and overall brain health even in healthy people.

Piracetam modulates AMPA and NMDA receptors in the brain which increases the effectiveness of glutamate. It improves the flow of acetylcholine (ACh) and sensitivity and density of ACh receptors.[i] And increases cerebral blood flow.

Many people new to nootropics start with Piracetam because it’s safe and has decades of clinical studies supporting its use. But many are often disappointed with Piracetam after trying it a couple of times.

Piracetam didn’t work for them because they don’t know how to use it.

It takes 2 – 3 weeks of consistent daily use of Piracetam before you notice the benefits. To counter this, experienced neurohackers suggest starting with an ‘attack dose’ of 3,000 mg of Piracetam 3-times per day for the first 3 days.

But once you start noticing the benefits of Piracetam, you should be in a better mood, less social anxiety, heightened creativity, improved verbal fluency and eventually you’ll notice your memory is better.

Recommended dosage of Piracetam is 1,600 mg 3-times per day.

I recommend: Cosmic Nootropic – Piracetam

Aniracetam to Reduce Anxiety Symptoms

Aniracetam is my favorite racetam. It’s a fat-soluble ampakine nootropic developed at F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG in the 1978. Aniracetam boosts brain cell signaling by increasing the effectiveness of glutamate which helps focus and concentration for improved cognitive performance.

Aniracetam affects the brain’s cholinergic system which helps release 200 – 300% more acetylcholine in your brain which helps with focus, clarity of thought, memory and recall. And it seems to affect dopamine and serotonin receptors in your brain as well.

Aniracetam distinguishes itself from the rest of the racetams by acting as an effective anxiolytic. Many who use this nootropic find that it helps reduce anxiety, depression and fear.

Some biohackers claim that Aniracetam is great for boosting creativity as it enhances productivity in the right brain hemisphere.

Recommended dosage of Aniracetam is 750 mg twice per day.

I recommend: Smart Nutrition – Aniracetam

Coluracetam for Memory Enhancement

Coluracetam is a fat-soluble racetam nootropic created by Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma of Japan in 2005. It boosts your brain’s ability to convert choline to acetylcholine (ACh) through the high affinity choline uptake (HACU) process. Leading to better learning and memory.[ii]

And Coluracetam increases the effectiveness of glutamate in your brain resulting in better focus and concentration, and other forms of cognitive enhancement such as preventing memory loss.

Neurohackers use Coluracetam for the cognitive effects mentioned above. But prefer this racetam because it also enhances sound and color.

Recommended dosage of Coluracetam is 20 – 80 mg per day.

Higher dosages should be split into two smaller doses. One dose first thing in the morning and then again at noon.

what are the side effects of the drug racetam

Nefiracetam for Improved Memory Formation

Nefiracetam is a fat-soluble racetam nootropic developed by Daiichi Seiyaku in the 1990’s as a treatment for cerebrovascular disorders.

Nefiracetam potentiates nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Boosting the release of GABA and glutamate. Producing a calming effect while improving neuroplasticity and boosting learning and memory, while preventing symptoms of cognitive decline.

Nefiracetam enhances signaling of GABA on GABAa receptors when GABA is too low. And has a suppressive effect when GABA is too high. Leading to stabilized mood and sociability. No mood swings!

One American study with 159 stroke patients found that 600 – 900 mg of Nefiracetam daily for 12 weeks produced a significant improvement in mood in the most severely depressed patients.[iii]

Nefiracetam also prolongs the opening of calcium channels. Keeping neurotransmitters active longer. Improving memory formation and long-term memory and recall.

Students report this is the best racetam for studying because when using Nefiracetam they have better attention span, motivation, and less apathy and mental fatigue.

Many users report cognitive benefits such as calm focus and being able to articulate thoughts, and improved speaking ability when using Nefiracetam.

And one of the coolest benefits are the visual effects when using Nefiracetam. It feels like your brain is processing a broader spectrum of what’s in your visual range. Nature and your surroundings look more vibrant and beautiful.

Recommended dosage of Nefiracetam is up to 900 mg per day.

Use smaller dosages like 400 mg once in the morning and another dose at noon.

Oxiracetam to Eliminate Brain Fog

Oxiracetam was the 3rd racetam nootropic and developed in 1977. It enhances choline-acetyltransferase (ChAT) in your brain which makes more acetylcholine. Leading to improved short-term and long-term memory. And eliminating brain fog.

Is Oxiracetam good for memory?Oxiracetam also increases the density of binding sites for neurotransmitters on AMPA receptors. Resulting in a stimulant-effect without any of the negative side effects associated with stimulants.[iv]

People who use Oxiracetam report that it

Oxiracetam report that it has profound effects in clearing brain fog and enhancing focus and motivation. Especially when learning new material or working through a tedious task.

And you should experience a significant improvement in recall. Reading is easier by giving you the ability to get through more pages faster and retain the information for later. Great for preparing for an exam or your next board presentation.

Oxiracetam also helps improve mood.

Recommended Oxiracetam dosage is 750 – 1,500 mg per day. Divided in two equal doses. One dose in the morning, and one in the early afternoon.

I recommend: Smart Nutrition – Oxiracetam

Is phenylpiracetam stronger than piracetam?

Phenylpiracetam for Increased Blood Flow

Phenylpiracetam was created by adding a phenyl group to Piracetam by Russian scientists in 1983. To boost the physical and mental performance of astronauts during space flight. It’s currently used by Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station.

And it turns out that Phenylpiracetam is very effective in boosting athletic performance , such as increasing blood flow. It provides significant stimulatory effects and helps you resist cold. The World Anti-Doping Agency has banned Phenylpiracetam for athletes in the Olympics and other professional sports.

Phenylpiracetam increases the density of acetylcholine (ACh), NMDA, GABA and dopamine receptors in the brain. More receptors mean more binding sites for neurotransmitters that affect memory formation, cognition, sleep and mood.[v]

It increases blood flow in the brain which provides more oxygen and nutrients to brain cells boosting alertness, cognition, focus and mood.

And Phenylpiracetam helps reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression and fear without the type of side affects you get from antidepressants. Likely because it increases the density of receptors for acetylcholine (ACh), GABA and NMDA.

Phenylpiracetam also provides an ‘anti-convulsive’ action in the brain which has been shown to be an effective treatment for epilepsy and other cognitive disorders.

Many neurohackers say Phenylpiracetam is the strongest nootropic they’ve ever experienced. It’s highly bioavailable , easily passing through the blood-brain barrier, leading you to experience the effects within 30 minutes of taking it.

Recommended Phenylpiracetam dosage is 100 mg twice per day. One Phenylpiracetam dose in the morning, and one in the early afternoon.

I recommend: Cosmic Nootropic – Phenylpiracetam.

Pramiracetam for Focus and Concentration

Pramiracetam was first synthesized by scientists at Parke-Davis in the late 1970’s. Pramiracetam boosts high affinity choline uptake (HACU) which has a profound effect on the synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh). Helping cognition, memory, recall and focus.

Unlike some of the other racetams, Pramiracetam does not directly influence GABA, dopamine, norepinephrine, or serotonin in the brain. So is not a good choice if you’re looking to improve mood or anxiety issues.[vi]

Many neurohackers report that taking Pramiracetam quickly provides an intense increase in focus and for some even a boost in confidence.

It is reported to be great for intense, long study sessions. Or when you face logical, attention-based tasks where you need sharp focus.

Others report improved recall, fluidity of thought, and ease of verbal communication and numerical calculations.

Recommended Pramiracetam dosage is 250 – 400 mg up to 3-times per day. One dose in the morning, and one in the early afternoon, and if you’re doing a 3rd dose do it later in the afternoon.

I recommend: Cosmic Nootropic – Pramiracetam.

Which racetam is most effective?

Which racetam is best for you?

Each of the above recommendations in the racetam family share a pyrrolidone nucleus core. And have some similarities like boosting acetylcholine and modulating glutamate in your brain.

But each racetam also has a unique mechanism of action providing unique benefits. All are considered non-toxic and safe to use if you follow dosage recommendations.

If you’re just starting out and want something safe, you may want to try Piracetam. But you need a lot of it to work (i.e. several grams per day).

If you are a student, you may want to try Nefiracetam, Oxiracetam, or Pramiracetam.

Pramiracetam use is also associated with improved cognitive function as a supplemental treatment for traumatic brain injuries.

Aniracetam is a very effective anxiolytic and helps relieve anxiety and depression.

If you are an astronaut or athlete you may want to try Phenylpiracetam for the reasons detailed above. But DO NOT attempt using this nootropic if you are an Olympic athlete. And check your professional sports association to see if this racetam is on their “banned” list of substances just to be on the safe side.

And Coluracetam is worth trying if you’d like to see and hear the world in more vivid colors and sound.

But as I mentioned near the beginning of this post, each racetam nootropic must be dosed with Alpha GPC or CDP-Choline. Because each racetam affects acetylcholine levels in your brain.

Each of these racetams also stack well with Mind Lab Pro® and Performance Lab® Mind because each of these preformulated stacks contain Cognizin® (CDP-Choline).

Some of the above racetams are fat-soluble. You must take them with a healthy fat. Try a tablespoon of unrefined coconut oil to ensure absorption.

And finally, many of the above racetams are only available in certain countries like the USA as a nootropic that you can easily buy online. Many are sold as prescription drugs in countries around the world. Check your local regulations to see if they are available in your country.

Several racetams I detailed above are available from Cosmic Nootropic. The company also offers a bundle if you’d like to sample several different racetams including: Noopept, Piracetam, and Phenylpiracetam. Get that bundle here: Cosmic Nootropic – Bundle

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This post may also contain other affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

[i] Stoll L., Schubert T., Müller W.E. “Age-related deficits of central muscarinic cholinergic receptor function in the mouse: partial restoration by chronic piracetam treatment.” Neurobiology of Aging. 1992 Jan-Feb;13(1):39-44. (source)

[ii] Takashina K., Bessho T., Mori R., Eguchi J., Saito K. “MKC-231, a choline uptake enhancer: (2) Effect on synthesis and release of acetylcholine in AF64A-treated rats.” Journal of Neural Transmission (Vienna). 2008 Jul;115(7):1027-35. (source)

[iii] Robinson R.G., Jorge R.E., Clarence-Smith K. “Double-blind randomized treatment of poststroke depression using nefiracetam.” Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences. 2008 Spring;20(2):178-84. (source)

[iv] Nicoletti F., Casabona G., Genazzani A.A., Copani A., Aleppo G., Canonico P.L., Scapagnini U. “Excitatory amino acids and neuronal plasticity: modulation of AMPA receptors as a novel substrate for the action of nootropic drugs.” Functional Neurology. 1992 Sep-Oct;7(5):413-22. (source)

[v] Firstova Y.Y., Abaimov D.A., Kapitsa I.G., Voronina T.A., Kovalev G.I. “The effects of scopolamine and the nootropic drug phenotropil on rat brain neurotransmitter receptors during testing of the conditioned passive avoidance task” Neurochemical Journal June 2011, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 115-125 (source)

[vi] Pavlík A., Benesová O., Dlohozková N. “Effects of nootropic drugs on brain cholinergic and dopaminergic transmission.” Activitas Nervosa Superior (Praha). 1987 Mar;29(1):62-5. (source)

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Join The Discussion - 123 comments

January 16, 2021

Dear David,

I need your advice. I have to write an entrance exam in July to get into medical school. There is a lot of competition and I am a bit stressed because it is my biggest wish to become a doctor.

The subtests roughly consist of:

-Compare complicated patterns and find small errors.
– To memorize a lot of patient data in a short time and to reproduce it after a distraction phase by answering questions.
-memorize figures in a short time and reproduce them after a distraction phase
-3 dimensional imagination
– Mathematical and physical tasks
– Interpret complicated tables and diagrams and answer questions about them.
– Text comprehension with questions
– and the d2-Test of attention, not sure if you’re familiar with this one in the states.

I’m already starting to prepare for it with techniques, but think that these Racetame could help me! Since many different skills are required, I do not know now exactly which Racetame would be most effective for me?

Thanks for your help!

Kind regards


    David Tomen
    January 16, 2021

    Elias, if you carefully read my description of each of the racetams above you’ll notice that Nefiracetam and Pramiracetam were specifically noted for their value while studying.

    And not sure if I mentioned this before, but I’ve written an article for studying here: https://nootropicsexpert.com/13-minerals-essential-for-the-optimized-brain/.

    The best thing to do is start using these nootropics now. It’ll get your brain in shape for the entrance exam in July. But please make sure you follow dosage recommendations for each one. Because while you’ll experience some immediate benefits, the most benefit will be using them daily for a few months.

Helen Broadfoot
December 24, 2020

My mother passed away on the 5th of Dec. I watched her slow, horrible death from Alzheimer’s over the past dozen years or so. What racetam (‘s) would you recommend to combat this disease? I know this runs in my family and I want to do everything I can to not put myself or my family through this.

    David Tomen
    December 24, 2020

    Helen, I don’t think a racetam is your best option for preventing Alzheimer’s. Instead, I highly recommend Turmeric extract (min. 98% curcuminoids) 750 mg 3-times per day. See my review including clinical studies here: https://nootropicsexpert.com/turmeric/

      Helen Broadfoot
      December 24, 2020

      Thank you so much for your suggestion. I do take Turmeric, thankfully. I have recently ordered this manufacturer’s product instead of the current one I am taking. Do you have any thoughts on this? Is this just hype? Meriva® Curcumin Phytosome 250 mg

        David Tomen
        December 24, 2020

        Helen, Meriva® is a patented form of Curcumin bound to a soy lecithin phospholipid. This type of technology has been termed “Phytosome” and I just came across it when researching different forms of Quercetin which also has bioavailability problems.

        Unfortunately, Meriva® is only standardized to 20% curcuminoids. And at only 250 mg is only good for possibly reducing inflammation. Not nearly enough curcuminoids for cognitive use. it may help things like arthritis or fibromyalgia but is not likely going to tame B-Amyloid plaques for preventing Alzheimer’s.

        A much better option and the one I use is BCM95® which is a curcumin-essential oil complex of 86% curcuminoids and 7-9% essential oils. Turmeric volatile oil Ar-turmerone supports regeneration of brain cells. This does cross the blood-brain barrier and has a profound effect on your brain. It’s this one: https://amzn.to/2KsGoWK

November 20, 2020

One thing I have noticed about nootropics is the the natural ones a lot of them have a positive effect for muscle growth (DHA, caffeine, uridine etc.) I was interested in Nefiracetam since I live in a Japan and thought that would be the easiest to get but I have found in one study it was shown to lower testerone is animals for a few hours.

Are you aware of any similar side effects in other racetams?

    David Tomen
    November 23, 2020

    Joshua, Nefiracetam is the only one I know of that supposedly affects testosterone.

    But remember this was in animals and has never been proven in humans.

    So my I humbly ask that when you try Nefiracetam would you please get your T-levels checked? And report back?

    We’ll do our own little experiment right here if you’re willing.

November 17, 2020

David, could you please tell me if consuming Alpha GPC without any racetams would be equally effective? How much are Alpha GPC and Aniracetam different in their effects? that the consumption of EPA caused insomnia and some negative effects like that when consuming a thousand or more MG of Omega 3, do you think that the EPA found in Omega 3 supplements causes that damage? And as a last query I would like to know if the ON Multi Vitamin called OPTI – MEN would be a good option if I consumed the FOLATE through another supplement?

    David Tomen
    November 17, 2020

    Damian, Alpha GPC (https://nootropicsexpert.com/alpha-gpc/) is one of the best sources of choline for the production of acetylcholine. It’s stacked with things like Aniracetam because that racetam increases the use of acetylcholine by 200 – 300%. So you need to restore that acetylcholine.

    Alpha GPC and Aniracetam are totally different supplements and each have their own mechanism of action and benefits.

    Your body needs EPA. I talk a lot about DHA because your brain is about 60% fat. And much of that fat is DHA. But EPA also acts as an anti-inflammatory and seems to reduce depression. I encourage you to look for a supplement that has at least twice the amount if DHA compared to EPA. But you need EPA as well.

    The problem with these other Multivitamin/mineral supplements is they use synthetic vitamins. Folic acid for example is used because it’s cheaper than folate. But most people cannot convert the folic acid to methylfolate in their body.

    Folic acid is also in lots of processed foods and cereals. The problem with that is folic acid ‘plugs up’ folate receptors. So when your body gets genuine methylfolate is has nothing to attach to. Because the receptors are already compromised by folic acid.

    If you cannot get the Performance Lab NutriGenesis Multi in your country then I encourage to find a multi that uses bioactive vitamins and chelated minerals. And not synthetics.

August 16, 2020

Thanks for the great informative post!

i had purchased your book. would like to ask your opinion what type of racetam to use in different scene.

1. working hours – research, paperwork, problem solving, software developments.

2. working hours, sales – talk to people, social with client, intro products.

3. study hours: personal developments, readings, compile information into summaries.

4. how to solve lack of motivation and procrastination?

    David Tomen
    August 16, 2020

    Each of the racetams will do what’s on your list. I suggest you go through the full review of each one and try one or two or three that “speak” to you. And see which one works best for you. It’s what I did and settled on Aniracetam which I’ve been using for at least 10 years.

    All of the racetams affect AMPA receptors which activated the dopamine/reward/motivation pathway.

      Benjamin David Steele
      September 19, 2020

      What has been your long-term experience of aniracetam? As someone who has dealt with depression, it sounded interesting. But I’d be curious to hear of how it has affected you over a 10 year period.

        David Tomen
        September 19, 2020

        Benjamin, I still use Aniracetam after all that time because it works for me. And I miss when I run out. Which doesn’t happen often. It keeps me in a better mood and my thinking is faster and more accurate.

June 9, 2020

Do you have a recommendation of where to buy racetams?

    David Tomen
    June 12, 2020

    Shaili, depends on the racetam. Not all of the racetams are easily available in the USA at least. For those that are available I’ve provided a link in the “Available Forms” section of the review. These days my preferred vendor is HR Supplements in Nevada. They used to be called Hard Rhino and have been in business for over 25 years. And have a top notch testing program in place to ensure quality product.

September 22, 2019

Can i take all of them?? + both stacks?

    David Tomen
    September 23, 2019

    Joe, negative and why would you? Several of these racetams share at least one common mechanism of action. And individually these are potent nootropics. Never forget that each of these are used as prescription drugs in many countries.

September 22, 2019

Thanks for the great informative post!

Does aniracetam also require an initial loading dose like piracetam? I don’t feel much of an effect at 500mg?

Have you ever experienced any liver pain or elevated liver enzymes from taking any of the racetams? I have a very dull liver sensation since experimenting and I’m trying to figure out which racetam it may be or if they unfortunately don’t work with my biochemistry in general. This would be too bad since I am feeling definite cognitive benefits. I am taking breaks frequently from the racetams too.

    David Tomen
    September 23, 2019

    Ginette, Aniracetam does not require a ‘loading dose’. And I find the most effective dose is 750 mg. I have not experienced any liver problems either when using any of the nootropics in my stack. But that may not be the case for everyone.

    The only way to find out which racetam is causing problems is to use them one at a time and witness the effects. It may take 2 – 3 days of using each one before you know for sure. But besides getting your liver enzymes tested each time you take something I don’t know any other way to evaluating this.

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