Nootropics, or smart drugs, are natural or synthetic substances intended to improve your mental performance.

Piracetam is considered the first nootropic drug of its kind. It can be purchased online or in health food stores and comes in both capsule and powder form (1).

It’s a popular synthetic derivative of the neurotransmitter gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical messenger that helps slow down activity in your nervous system.

However, piracetam doesn’t appear to affect your body in the same way as GABA.

In fact, researchers still aren’t entirely sure how it functions (1).

That said, studies link the drug to several benefits, including improved brain function, reduced dyslexia symptoms, and fewer myoclonic seizures.

Here are 5 benefits of piracetam.

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Research suggests that taking piracetam may enhance brain function. Though it’s unclear why, animal studies provide potential reasons.

For example, animal studies indicate that piracetam makes cell membranes more fluid. This makes it easier for cells to send and receive signals, which aids communication (2, 3).

That could be a reason why its effects appear to be stronger in older adults and people with mental issues, as research shows that their cells membranes tend to be less fluid (4).

Other studies observe that piracetam increases your brain’s blood supply, as well as oxygen and glucose consumption, especially in people with mental impairment. These are other factors that may improve brain function (5, 6, 7, 8, 9).

In one study in 16 healthy people, those taking 1,200 mg of piracetam daily performed better at verbal learning tasks than people in the placebo group after 14 days, though no differences in memory and cognition had been detected after 7 days (10).

In another 21-day study in 16 adults with dyslexia and 14 healthy students, taking 1.6 grams of piracetam daily improved verbal learning by 15% and 8.6%, respectively (11).

Additional research in 18 healthy, older adults found that participants performed significantly better in a variety of learning tasks when taking 4,800 mg of piracetam per day, compared to when not supplementing with the drug (12).

Meanwhile, an analysis of three studies looked into the effects of piracetam on people undergoing coronary bypass surgery, a procedure that restores blood flow to the heart.

Brain impairment can be a side effect of this surgery. However, piracetam improved short-term mental performance in people post-surgery, compared to a placebo (13).

That said, most human studies on piracetam and brain function are fairly dated. More recent studies are needed before it can be confidently recommended.

Summary Piracetam may improve mental performance, but its effects take time to appear. Human studies on piracetam and cognition are dated, and newer studies are needed.

Dyslexia is a learning disorder, which makes it harder to learn, read, and spell.

Research indicates that piracetam may help people with dyslexia learn and read better.

In one study, 225 children with dyslexia aged 7–13 were treated with either 3.3 grams of piracetam or a placebo daily for 36 weeks. After 12 weeks, children taking piracetam showed significant improvements in their ability to read and understand text (14).

In another study, 257 boys with dyslexia aged 8–13 received either 3.3 grams of piracetam or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. Those treated with piracetam significantly improved in reading speed and short-term listening memory (15).

Additionally, a review of 11 studies in over 620 children and young people with dyslexia observed that taking 1.2–3.3 grams of piracetam daily for up to 8 weeks significantly improved learning and comprehension (16).

However, most studies on this nootropic in people with dyslexia are rather dated. Newer studies are needed before it can be recommended as a treatment for dyslexia symptoms.

Summary Piracetam appears to aid learning and comprehension in children and adults with dyslexia, but newer studies are needed before it can be recommended.

Myoclonic seizures are described as sudden involuntary muscle spasms. They can make day-to-day activities like writing, washing, and eating difficult (17).

Multiple studies have found that piracetam may protect against myoclonic seizures.

For example, a case study in a 47-year-old woman who experienced myoclonic seizures noted that taking 3.2 grams of piracetam daily stopped her myoclonic jerks (18).

Similarly, a study in 18 adults with Unverricht-Lundborg disease, a type of epilepsy that causes myoclonic seizures, showed that taking 24 grams of piracetam daily improved symptoms and signs of disability caused by myoclonic seizures (17).

In another study, 11 people took up to 20 grams of piracetam daily for 18 months alongside their existing medication to further help reduce myoclonic seizure symptoms. Researchers found that piracetam helped reduce the overall severity of myoclonic seizures (19).

Summary Piracetam may reduce myoclonic seizure symptoms, which include impairments in the ability to write, wash, and eat.

Dementia describes a group of symptoms that affect your memory, ability to perform tasks, and communicate.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.

Research suggests that damage caused by the build-up of amyloid-beta peptides may play a role in its development. These peptides tend to clump together between nerve cells and disrupt their function (20, 21).

Test-tube studies show that piracetam may protect against dementia and Alzheimer's disease by preventing damage caused by amyloid-beta peptide build-up (22, 23, 24).

Human studies also indicate that piracetam may help boost mental performance in older adults with dementia, Alzheimer's disease, or general brain impairment.

For example, an analysis of 19 studies in approximately 1,500 adults with dementia or brain impairment revealed that 61% of people taking piracetam showed improved mental performance, compared to only 33% with the placebo treatment (25).

In addition, a study in 104 people with Alzheimer's disease found that taking 4.8 grams of piracetam for 4 weeks, followed by 2.4 grams for 2 weeks, improved memory, reaction speed, concentration, and other markers of brain health (26).

Still, other studies observed no effect (27).

What’s more, most human studies on piracetam are short, which means its long-term effects in people with Alzheimer's disease and dementia remain unknown (28).

Summary Piracetam may improve mental performance in people with dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and brain impairment. However, its long-term effects on mental performance in these groups are still not well understood.

Inflammation is a natural response that helps your body heal and fight diseases.

Nonetheless, persistent, low-level inflammation has been linked to many chronic conditions, including cancer, diabetes, and heart and kidney disease (29).

In animal studies, piracetam has been shown to have antioxidant properties, which means it can reduce inflammation by helping neutralize free radicals, which are potentially harmful molecules that can damage your cells (30).

What’s more, animal studies indicate that it can restore and enhance your brain's natural antioxidant defenses, such as glutathione, a powerful antioxidant produced by your body that tends to become depleted with age and disease (31, 32).

What’s more, piracetam helped reduce inflammation in animal studies by suppressing the production of cytokines, which are molecules that stimulate an immune response and trigger inflammation (33, 34).

Piracetam also reduced swelling and pain related to inflammation in animal studies (33, 35).

However, human studies are needed to determine whether the drug can reduce inflammation and pain in people.

Summary Animal studies show that piracetam may reduce inflammation and provide pain relief, but human studies are needed before it can be recommended for this use.

Generally speaking, piracetam is considered safe with little risk of side effects.

In long-term studies, doses of up to 24 grams daily have had no adverse effects (19, 36).

That said, some people may experience adverse effects, including depression, agitation, tiredness, dizziness, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, nausea, paranoia, and diarrhea (37).

Piracetam is not recommended for pregnant women or people with kidney disorders (1).

Moreover, it may interact with medications, including blood thinners like warfarin (38).

If you’re taking any medications or have a medical condition, speak with your healthcare provider before taking piracetam.

Summary Piracetam appears to be safe for most people, but speak to your healthcare provider if you’re on medication or have any medical conditions. Pregnant women or people with kidney disorders should not take piracetam.

Piracetam is sold under a variety of names, including Nootropil and Lucetam.

Though the drug is not illegal in the United States, it’s not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and may not be labeled or sold as a dietary supplement.

You can purchase it from a number of online suppliers, but in some countries, including Australia, you need a prescription.

Be sure to look for a product that has been tested by a third party to ensure its quality.

Because of a lack of human studies, there’s no standard dosage for piracetam.

Still, the following doses appear most effective based on current research (1, 10, 12, 16, 17, 19, 26):

  • Cognition and memory: 1.2–4.8 grams daily
  • Dyslexia: up to 3.3 grams daily
  • Mental disorders: 2.4–4.8 grams daily
  • Myoclonic seizures: 7.2–24 grams daily

It’s best to speak with your healthcare provider before taking piracetam for any medical condition. In many cases, a more suitable medication may be available.

Summary There is no standard dosage for piracetam. Though the drug is legal in the United States, it’s not approved by the FDA as a dietary supplement. In some countries, you need a prescription. Ask your healthcare provider before taking piracetam.

Piracetam is a synthetic nootropic that may boost mental performance.

Its positive effects on the brain seem more apparent in older adults, as well as people with mental impairment, dementia, or learning disorders, such as dyslexia.

That said, very few studies on piracetam exist, and most of the research is dated, so new research is needed before it can be recommended.

Piracetam is relatively safe for most people. Still, if you’re taking medication or have any medical disorders, speak to your healthcare provider before trying this drug.