Nicotine as a Nootropic: A Misunderstood Compound and Cognitive Enhancer

Nov 2, 2021 | Written by Scott Sherr, MD | Reviewed by Marion

Nicotine: The Most Misunderstood Nootropic in the World

Let’s go back to the future... to a time when nicotine is cool (when you don’t vape it or smoke it) and, as we say at Troscriptions, to a time when Blue is the New Smart.

But before we get there... nicotine is bad for you, right?

If you ask a random person on the street whether nicotine is good or bad for your health, overwhelmingly they will answer that it’s worse than bad... it’s terrible! It has earned this reputation because it’s one of the main reasons why people get addicted to tobacco-containing products (there’s more to the story though... see below).

However, did you know that nicotine, in small quantities such as a nootropic, can enhance focus, alertness, concentration, and even protect your brain?

We’d venture to say that nicotine is, in fact, the most misunderstood nootropic on the planet. Read on to learn more!

The History of Nicotine

Tobacco was first introduced into Europe in 1559 from North America where Native Americans mainly used it for ceremonial and medicinal purposes. In Europe, it was used for smoking as well as an insecticide.

Nicotine was first isolated from tobacco in 1828 by chemists Wilhelm Heinrich Posselt and Karl Ludwig Reimann. Its chemical formula was derived in 1843, and it was first synthesized in 1904. It was named after the tobacco plant Nicotiana tabacum, which was named after French ambassador Jean Nicot de Villemain.

How Nicotine Works

Once nicotine gets to your brain, it binds to nAChRs. These are nicotinic receptors that control the release of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, acetylcholine, norepinephrine, serotonin, GABA, glutamate, and endorphins [1].

Dopamine is our main “reward” neurotransmitter, released when we feel pleasure. It’s the release of dopamine that is thought to be the reason for nicotine addiction in tobacco users, especially those who vape or smoke (more on this below), but there’s more to the story and they are called additives.

Nicotine + Additives = Badness!

Nicotine has a bad reputation because of its association with tobacco products. However, much of its addictive potential comes from it being consumed with the number of other chemicals and additives found in tobacco or vaping products.

Chemicals such as formaldehyde, lead, arsenic, carbon monoxide, and more all contribute to the addictive and dangerous potential of tobacco smoking. In addition, when smoked, the potential of addiction also increases dramatically because nicotine and the additives get into the bloodstream immediately. Other nicotine products like gums, troches, and sprays take longer to exert an effect and have less addictive potential.

Nicotine can be derived from tobacco or be made synthetically in a lab. Tobacco-derived nicotine comes from the tobacco plant. Synthetic nicotine is made in a lab without any potential impurities, additives, or other chemical compounds that may contaminate or be added to tobacco-derived nicotine. 

Nicotine Nootropic Benefits

Nicotine has numerous cognitive benefits and positive effects on the brain including:

  • Focus [3]
  • Concentration [3]
  • Memory and learning [3]
  • Protecting your brain (neuroprotective) [2]
  • Creativity [3]

Many campaigns against tobacco use have painted it as a destroyer of brain and nerve cells. Contrary to this popular belief, studies have found potential for it as a treatment for neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s [2].

Does nicotine make you smarter?

There are numerous benefits of nicotine as a nootropic, but it isn't going to morph you into Einstein overnight. As a neuroactive compound, it may momentarily fine-tune your brain's processing capabilities but it's no substitute for knowledge and experience. Bear in mind that true wisdom comes from a lifetime of learning — nicotine is just temporarily turning up the dial on your cognitive radio, not reprogramming the station.

Does nicotine improve focus?

Could nicotine act as your brain's temporary assistant? Potentially. By engaging with specific neurotransmitters, nicotine can offer a brief period of sharpened focus — an intellectual espresso shot, if you will. However, like caffeine, the kick of nicotine for focus is fleeting. For sustainable mental performance, you've got to rely on consistent study, healthy lifestyle choices, and good ol' fashioned discipline.

Nicotine Dosage

A typical cigarette has a dose of nicotine between 6-28 mg, while a cigar can astonishingly have between 100-200 mg. Wow! 

In contrast, a nicotine nootropic dose is low, with recommended starting doses between 0.5 to 2 mg per day. At this dosage, you get the cognitive benefits and positive effects of nicotine on the brain, while decreasing the possibility for any negative effects. 

Nicotine’s half-life is about 2 hours [4]. This means that if you ingest 5 mg, in 2 hours your body will have 2.5 mg left (and so on) so it’s pretty short-acting compared to caffeine. 

Nicotine Safety

Nicotine should be used with caution or not taken by individuals who have:

  • Cardiovascular or peripheral vascular diseases 
  • Accelerated hypertension
  • Uncontrolled hypertension
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Hyperthyroidism, pheochromocytoma, or insulin-dependent diabetes
  • Fetal/infant harm may occur if taken by pregnant/nursing adults

Always ask your doctor before starting a nicotine product to make sure it’s safe for you to do so. Obviously, if you ask them if you can smoke cigarettes, they’ll say f*ck no... that is, unless you’ve somehow commandeered a Dolorian and went back in time with Marty McFly to 1955 when doctors were on TV telling everyone to smoke the ones they do. It was the new health trend for babies and doctors alike back then!

Types of Nicotine Nootropics

Nicotine's potential as a cognitive enhancer is a popular topic in nootropic circles. While this chemical has garnered a bad reputation through its association with smoking, it's crucial to clarify that nicotine's nootropic properties are separate from the destructive effects of tobacco consumption and can even help to quit smoking. Let's get down to the nitty-gritty of nicotine as it stands alone, focusing on its nootropic forms that are quickly capturing attention for their brain-boosting prowess.

Nicotine Lozenge/Troche

The nicotine lozenge or troche is our favorite form of nicotine nootropics. It sidesteps the health hazards of smoke inhalation by providing a metered dose of nicotine orally. It's the tortoise in the race; slow and steady, releasing nicotine gradually over 15 to 30 minutes. A buccal troche like our Blue Cannatine is perfect for those seeking sustained, increased focus and mental clarity. 

Nicotine Gum

Nicotine gum offers users control over their dosage with every chew. As you work the gum, nicotine is released, providing an uptick in concentration and neurostimulation. This form is akin to sipping on a latte throughout the day, enjoying a controlled release of energy while minimizing the risk of jitters or crashes associated with quicker delivery systems although pure nicotine by itself can cause jitters or crashes in any form. 

Nicotine Spray

The nicotine spray stands out for its rapid absorption and immediate results. A quick spritz under the tongue and the effects are felt almost instantaneously, bypassing the digestive tract for a flash of focus. Be mindful, however, that the spray can lead to jitters and an edgy feeling as it is the fastest way to deliver nicotine that is not vaped or smoked. This also gives it a higher addictive potential than troches or gum.  

Nicotine: One Key Ingredient in Blue Cannatine

Blue Cannatine, Troscriptions' signature nootropic, contains 1 mg of nicotine in a full buccal troche, which is a small lozenge that allows the ingredients to be gradually absorbed into the bloodstream through the cheek mucosa. This is in contrast to cigarettes which contain anywhere from 6 to 28 mg of nicotine (as mentioned above!) and give you an instant hit.

Buccal troches are a slow-release delivery system. As a result, the risk of addiction is very low as long as you follow the directions on the box and have less than 4 mg of nicotine per day. Plus, the nicotine is pharmaceutical grade and synthetically made in a lab so it does not contain any impurities or additives. 

In addition to nicotine, Blue Cannatine contains methylene blue, caffeine, and hemp extract. These four ingredients, which are all low dose, synergize to give you massive productivity, focus, verbal fluidity, and more for 3 to 5 hours. Blue Cannatine’s other ingredients also help with a smooth launch of productivity and focus without the jitters associated with pure nicotine as mentioned above. 

All ingredients in Blue Cannatine and all our products at Troscriptions are precision dosed, physician formulated, and pharmaceutical grade. 

So are you ready to go back to the future when nicotine is cool again but only in troche form where Blue is the New Smart? If yes, then join us!



  1. Benowitz N. L. (2009). Pharmacology of nicotine: addiction, smoking-induced disease, and therapeutics. Annual review of pharmacology and toxicology, 49, 57–71.
  2. Lu, J., Su, P., Barber, J., Nash, J. E., Le, A. D., Liu, F., & Wong, A. (2017). The neuroprotective effect of nicotine in Parkinson's disease models is associated with inhibiting PARP-1 and caspase-3 cleavage. PeerJ, 5, e3933. 
  3. Valentine, G., & Sofuoglu, M. (2018). Cognitive Effects of Nicotine: Recent Progress. Current neuropharmacology, 16(4), 403–414.
  5. Juliano, L. M., Fucito, L. M., & Harrell, P. T. (2011). The influence of nicotine dose and nicotine dose expectancy on the cognitive and subjective effects of cigarette smoking. Experimental and clinical psychopharmacology, 19(2), 105–115.

Comments (1)

  • Hi Jess! In some people, Blue Cannatine may help. But in others, it may not as we use low-dose USP nicotine—just 1mg per buccal troche.

    Dr. Scott

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