While no one has yet discovered a pill that transforms them into Jake McDorman’s character in the TV series Limitless, a growing number of people are interested in the potential of cognition-enhancing supplements.

Coined “nootropics” (but also referred to as “smart pills” by some), this burgeoning market represents a valuable opportunity for entrepreneurs – one that still remains relatively untapped, especially online.

The global nootropics industry will continue to grow for the foreseeable future, and is projected to be worth roughly $6.1 billion dollars by 2024. If you’re ready to get on board as a business owner even as an investor, we’re here to help. Read on to learn about the basics, so you can get a foundation and eventually cut out your own slice of this booming marketplace.

Table of Contents

    1. Nootropics Definition
    2. Nutraceuticals, Nootropics, & Dietary Supplements: Key Differences
    3. How to Sell Nootropics Online
    4. Examples of Successful Industry Members
    5. Final Thoughts

1. Nootropics Definition

blue pills pouring out of a blue bottle on a table

People are willing to try many things to get an edge in today’s society.

Nootropics—sometimes called “smart drugs,” “smart pills,” or “cognitive enhancers”—are chemical compounds created with the intent of boosting the user’s mental acuity and overall cognition.

The term “nootropic” was first used by the Romanian psychologist and chemist Corneliu E. Giurgea just 50 years ago. Giurgea believed substances needed to meet six criteria in order to be categorized as a nootropic. In his mind, they should be able to:

  1. Enhance memory and learning capabilities
  2. Improve cognition while under stress
  3. Protect the brain against “chemical and physical assaults” such as harmful drugs
  4. Increase efficiency of neurons firing in the brain’s cortex and subcortex
  5. Have no sedative or stimulatory effects
  6. Be non-toxic, and in general few side effects

Giurgea’s original definition is highly restrictive, and only a few substances are known to meet all of the six criteria. However, today “nootropic” is used more generally to describe any substance that has a positive effect on cognitive function.

The benefits of nootropics may include:

  • Improved memory: Improving both long-term and short-term memory, as well as the capacity for free recall.
  • Enhanced concentration: Being able to redirect one’s focus and attention to a desired task, boosting productivity.
  • Better mood: Helping alleviate negative emotional states such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Energy boost: Increasing the user’s energy by improving blood flow to the brain and strengthening the brain’s resistance to stressors.

While there are dozens of substances that could be discussed on a comprehensive list of nootropics, some of the most popular examples include citicoline (brand name Cognizin), L-theanine, and modafinil. They can also include “natural” substances such as lion’s mane mushroom, ginkgo biloba, and pine bark extract (pycnogenol).

2. Nutraceuticals, Nootropics, and Dietary Supplements: How Are They Different?

In short: nootropics are assembled with the primary goal of enhancing the user’s mind, whereas nutraceuticals and dietary supplements are created to improve bodily processes.

What are Dietary Supplements?

Dietary supplements are products (usually pills, powders, or capsules) constructed with the primary goal of supplementing the user’s normal diet. This includes nutrients like vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and more.

They hold a variety of functions for different groups of people. For instance, vegans might find it more difficult to get all the protein and vitamins their body needs on a daily basis. As a result, there are a number of vegan supplements on the market: vitamin B12, vitamin D, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, and iodine, just to name a few.

Other users of dietary supplements may take them to explicitly ward off disease. For example, doctors generally agree that women over 50 and men over 70 need 1,200 milligrams of calcium every day in order to lower their risk of osteoporosis.

What are Nutraceuticals?

Nutraceuticals—also known as “medical foods,” “designer foods,” and “nutritional foods”—are edible products derived from whole foods with the goal of improving health. The makers of these substances often claim that they do more than the essential vitamins and minerals that you might find in dietary supplements.

Examples of nutraceuticals include soy protein, lycopene, resveratrol, spirulina, collagen, and lactobacillus. The health effects of these products are said to range from boosting antioxidants to lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of cancer.

Interested in selling any of the above supplements, or simply curious about the the world of marketing such products? Our comprehensive guide to the nootropics and nutraceutical industries can get you sorted.

3. How to Sell Nootropics Online

smartphone on a wooden table, social media spelled out in scrabble tiles

Social media is only one element of a successful marketing campaign.

Now that you have a bit of base knowledge regarding nootropics and other types of supplements, it’s time to discuss how you can make money by entering this industry.

Similar to other e-commerce business, a well-thought-out plan of action is a great start. For the best chance at success, consider the following four steps:

Step 1: Create a Business Plan

While selling nootropics online can be highly profitable, even the most brilliant business minds are doomed to failure if they approach this market without direction. Before getting too far into the game, be sure you:

  • Select your product range: What do you want to sell exactly? Do you want to provide specialty products, or prefer having a wider swath of supplements for your customers to choose from? Do some solid research before proceeding.
  • Key in on your audience: What are the demographics of people who will likely end up being your customers? (think in terms of their age, gender, location, behaviors, and beliefs)
  • Know your competitors: Make a list of competing nootropics vendors who offer similar products. Do the necessary market research to find out how they’re performing and whether you can sufficiently differentiate yourself from these existing businesses.

Step 2: Build a Website

Once you’ve come up with a viable business plan, you’ll need to build an e-commerce website where customers can comfortably purchase your nootropic products.

  • If you don’t have experience building a site yourself, find the right web hosting service and check-out platform. Popular e-commerce platforms such as Shopify and WooCommerce can easily be integrated into your site so you can start making sales.
  • Your site should have a consistent brand image, design, and layout. The navigation and check-out process should be as simple as possible.
  • Build trust by adding “About Us” and “Contact Us” pages to your site. Consider adding an option for buyers to leave product reviews.
  • With 54 percent of e-commerce site visits now occurring on mobile devices, your site should be as responsive and mobile-friendly as possible.

Step 3: Find a Payment Processor

Selling nootropics online is considered a “high-risk” activity by banks, so you’ll need to apply for a high risk merchant account if you want to consistently process customer payments. However, the ubiquity of ecommerce has generated a huge range of processing options for risky online businesses, so finding one for yours is no longer as challenging as it used to be.

If you have a good grasp of how to reduce chargebacks, you’ll have an easier time keeping your bank account open.

Step 4: Analyze Data and Optimize Your Site

Launching your site is great, but it’s not time to pop champagne bottles quite yet. To truly set yourself apart from your competitors, you’ll need to monitor your site’s analytics and performance in order to reach a wider audience and better serve your customers.

Here are some basic tips for improving your nootropics sales online:

  • Use A/B testing to compare multiple versions of the elements on your website. By showing different versions to different customer segments, you can discover which one performs the best for your intended goals. For example, if you find that many customers are abandoning their shopping cart before finishing their purchase, you can experiment with a new streamlined checkout flow to see if it improves your conversion rates.
  • Invest in search engine optimization (SEO). Doing so will help you drive more visitors to your site.
  • A good start is to write a series of in-depth articles on your blog. Such pieces will gradually build your authority as a nootropics expert, and help you rank for the keywords your customers are typing, so they land on your website before those of your competitors.
  • Create social media profiles, and add social media buttons for users to share your products. You can also build an email marketing list and launch campaigns using marketing automation platforms such as MailChimp or AWeber.

4. Examples of Successful Nootropics Merchants

Online shopping young start small business in a cardboard box at work. The seller prepares the delivery box for the customer, online sales, or ecommerce

Shipping packages efficiently is a big part of success as an ecommerce merchant.

While you can find many “natural” nootropics on the shelves of your local pharmacy, you’ll likely have to look online to find more specialized products. The vendors below are often some of the first places that customers turn when they’re looking to buy nootropics online.

Double Wood Supplements

Double Wood Supplements offers a variety of supplements, primarily sold in pill form. The website claims that its products are made in the U.S. and tested for purity (such validations will help build the trust of your users, so keep this in mind for your own business).

Natural Stacks

Natural Stacks is another famous nootropic vendor. They also claim to be the “world’s first open-source supplement company,” providing full ingredient lists and tests performed by third-party labs.


Nootropics.com serves a specialized niche, selling only pills and stacks of pills. Their site provides an in-depth introduction to the industry (something you should consider writing on your own to increase your authority), and they also have an easy-to-use search function for customers to search for products based on their effects (such as memory and anti-anxiety).

5. Final Thoughts (Time to Get On Board)

The market for nootropics online is small but growing fast, which means that savvy entrepreneurs stand to gain a great deal if they approach the market properly. With some dedicated research and the right credit card processor to keep the money coming in, you’ll be in a good position to succeed well into the future.

Need a bank account to help you get started? Contact us today and set up a consultation with our team of payment processing experts. We’d love to help you out, so you can carve out your niche in the nootropics industry.

About the Author

Geoff Scott is a Payments Consultant for Motile LLC, where he strives to connect users across the internet with processing solutions for their small businesses. He also loves Thai food, craft beer, and an exhilarating game of squash (when he's off the clock, of course).