Racetams: What They Are, What They Do, and How to Take Them

Racetams are great study aids
Racetams are great study aids

Racetams are derived from piracetam and are the most popular class of cognitive supplement. Because they are derivatives of piracetam, you might expect them to work in the same way, their only difference being their levels of potency in enhancing cognition.

However, it turns out that each offers its own unique range of benefits.


Originally intended to act as a calming agent like GABA, the neurotransmitter it was derived from, piracetam had no effect on relaxation nor did it induce sleepiness. Instead researchers discovered piracetam’s┬ápromise as a cognitive agent.

Piracetam improves long term memory, attention, and creativity by enhancing communication between the two hemispheres in the brain, and by exciting acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter critical in the retention of memories.

Piracetam is water-soluble, and dosages are commonly between 1.5g-5g, split throughout the day. You can find further discussion on why solubility type matters below.


Nootropics stimulate the brain
Nootropics stimulate the brain

Aniracetam works on the AMPA receptors and decreases receptor desensitization, leading to stimulation and focus in the brain even in sleep deprived subjects, and has benefits in memory formation and retention.

Also supported by studies, many people have found this particular racetam to aid in improving mood and act as an effective anxiolytic.

Aniracetam is fat-soluble and should be taken once a day, in the range of 750mg-3g a day.


Oxiracetam is the third most potent (again when discussing learning ability) of the racetams, and has been shown to aid memory retention by interacting with the main glutamate receptor involved in learning, the NMDA receptor, while increasing mental stimulation, and to be effective in improving learning. The learning benefits of oxiracetam don’t manifest until at least 16 hours after consumption, so be patient.

Oxiracetam is water-soluble and doses are typically between 800mg-2.4g per day, split throughout the day.

Something to keep in mind when supplementing oxiracetam is it has minor stimulant-like properties. Thus, it prolongs the time needed to fall asleep, so try not taking it too close to bed time or head to bed earlier than you need to.


Like piracetam, pramiracetam appears to influence choline uptake. Considered superior to its fellow racetams in improving memory retrieval and orientation, it has also been shown to improve long-term memory, and many users prefer it over the other racetams because of its increased ability to increase motivation, processing speed, stimulation, and focus.

Anecdotally, pramiracetam has been known to blunt the emotional response, and that can be a positive or negative depending on how you see it, but if you’ve got a situation or two where you need to think logically, look no further.

A fat-soluble compound, pramiracetam should be taken at doses between 200-800mg.

Racetam Solubility – Proper Absorption

Solubility is the way compounds enter your body, and knowing the correct way to take your racetams can mean the difference between thinking more effectively, and throwing your bulk powder (or capped pills if you’re fancy) into the trash. Fortunately, nootropics keep it simple – you either have a substance that is water-soluble or fat-soluble.

Solubility is the property of a substance (solute) to dissolve in a solvent (most often a liquid). The solute’s solubility (say that ten times fast) depends on its physical and chemical properties and on those of the solvent as well. An example of this is sugar (the solute) being poured into a glass of water (the solvent). Sugar is water-soluble, so it dissolves.

Water-soluble compounds must be taken on an empty stomach!
Water-soluble compounds must be taken on an empty stomach!

Water-soluble compounds must be taken on an empty stomach either about an hour before eating or two hours after eating. They enter the bloodstream quickly this way, because your stomach’s contents, extracellular fluid, and blood plasma are all aqueous solutions (a solution in which the solvent is water) and is taken up in the small intestine where it enters the bloodstream.

Because they remain in the body for a short period of time, water soluble compounds are normally taken a few times throughout the day, several hours apart.

Fat-soluble compounds can’t just be absorbed into the body quite as easily because they need to be taken with some kind of fat. First they’re dissolved in the dietary fat in your stomach, then bile acids break down the solution (made up of the broken down compound and dietary fat) and it finally moves through the intestinal wall and into the body, eventually ending up in your liver and body fat until they’re used.

Because they build up in your system, fat-soluble compounds don’t need to be taken as often.

Final Thoughts

A choline source is recommended because racetams increase its uptake in the brain.

Also, one nootropic may be described as more powerful than the last, but nootropics don’t work linearly, and a “less potent” one may offer you benefits another won’t. Many individuals choose to experiment until they find the right racetam for them.


David Johnson is a freelancer with an avid interest in supplements that help relax, enhance mood, and provide cognitive enhancement. Most days he can be found researching innovative ways to bring his readers sounder sleep, better moods, and more.