A Look at Nootropics Depot’s Purity Testing

A Look at Nootropics Depot’s Purity Testing

Posted by Nootropics Depot on 2nd May 2017

Put to the Test: A Closer Look at Nootropics Depot’s Purity Testing

Nootropics offer an expansive range of dietary supplements and compounds that may improve your health and cognitive abilities. The near-infinite list of nootropics creates countless options and combinations, but it can also make it difficult to find quality compounds to add to your stack.

Once you find the  dietary supplements or nootropic compounds suited for your individual body chemistry, it is crucial to find quality versions of that dietary supplement or nootropic compound. While the choices for nootropics are near-endless, not all nootropics on the market are created equal. That’s where identity and purity testing comes in. Identity refers to the idea that the sample being tested matches the molecular structure in the chemical profile of the targeted compound. Purity refers to how much of the target compound is present in the sample being tested. While the concept of identity and purity testing seems simple, the process encompasses various technical analytical techniques.

Nootropics Depot conducts both in-house and third-party identity and purity testing to ensure the authenticity and efficacy of ingredients found in each packaged dietary supplement or nootropic compound. Nootropics Depot uses several methods of analysis to test the purity of its products, including:

  • Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR)
  • Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS)
  • Ultraviolet/Visible Spectrophotometry
  • Proton Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR)
  • Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS)
  • High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)
  • High Performance thin layer chromatography (HPTLC)
  • Ultra-High Performance Liquid Chromatography (UHPLC)
  • Gas Chromatography (GC)
  • Melting Point
  • Titration
  • Polarimetry

The Importance of Purity Testing

While it’s smart to buy dietary supplements or nootropic compounds that fit your budget, many nootropic sellers offer deals that are often too good to be true. To make a profit at low prices, companies have been known to cut corners or completely neglect chemical analysis on their products. Impure and mislabeled products has been a rampant problem in the world of dietary supplements and nootropic compounds. Vendors may be knowingly or unknowing offering impure products. In fact, impure dietary supplements or nootropic compounds may contain none of the ingredients listed on the label which could mean lower to no efficacy and/or higher toxicity.

Some of these questionable practices are easy to spot while some, like using questionable methods, are harder for a customer to detect. Common red flags that convey questionable identity and purity testing are vendors that sell their dietary supplements and nootropic compounds without any certifications of analysis (COAs) or falsify their COAs through:

  • Relying solely on the manufacturer’s COAs
  • Using invalid methods to mask impurities
  • Not testing every batch and every container of received raw material
  • Relying solely on one method of analysis
  • Relying on superficial calculations for analysis

Analysis in Nootropic Depot’s In-House Lab

  Nootropics Depot Lab Equipment

Identity and purity testing ensures that you’re truly getting the nootropic compounds or dietary supplements you want at a fair price.

Nootropics Depot routinely performs in-house testing on products conducted by a trained, full-time analytical chemist while also partnering with third-parties, to verify the percentages of active ingredients and species of plants used in all dietary supplements or nootropic compounds offered.

To maintain reliable COAs and transparency with our customers, Nootropics Depot:

  • Uses reliable, reputable standards for testing
  • Develops and utilizes methods that are repeatable and valid
  • Uses multiple methods of analysis
  • Tests a sample from every container and every batch of raw material received
  • Retains a sample from every container, stored in proper conditions, for re-test at any moment that a customer may report a concern
  • Maintains an ISO-3 clean lab for sterility and consistent testing environment
  • Utilizes US-based third party labs for additional analysis when applicable
  • Documents all pertinent information relating to the raw material testing, manufacturing process, storage conditions, and retesting that corresponds to each packaged lot of product

Sigma Aldrich, Alkemist Labs, Colmaric and More

Matching Nootropics to the Appropriate Analysis Methods

Nootropics can vary wildly through their physical appearance, taste, smell, methods of synthesis/extraction, and chemical profile. Due to their differences, there is not a single analysis protocol that applies to every nootropic compound or dietary supplement. Some factors that need to be considered in choosing the appropriate analysis methods are:

  • Is the product found in nature or synthetically derived?
  • If the product is extracted, what solvents and ratios were used?
  • What plant part was used for the extraction?
  • Is the product prone to heavy metal build up?
  • How polar is the product?
  • Is the chirality of the compound important to its effect on the body?
  • What contaminants, excess solvents, or particulates may be present in the sample?
  • What process was used to synthesize or derive the compound?

With these considerations in mind, you can determine which methods are appropriate to test your compound.

Understanding Spectroscopy

	<strong></strong>Spectroscopy studies the
interactions between matter and light. It can give insight into the identity
and purity of a sample compared to a library of standards. For many labs,
Fourier transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) is the preferred method for
infrared spectroscopy. In infrared spectroscopy, the scientist shines infrared
radiation through a sample. Some of the radiation passes through, while some of
the radiation gets absorbed by the sample. This creates a visual spectrum that
offers a representation of the sample’s unique molecular transmission and
absorption. This shows:</p><ul></p><li>Unknown materials
present in the sample
</li></p><li>The consistency
and quality of the sample
</li></p><li>The amount of
individual components in the sample
	The FTIR is not always
the best option for dietary supplements or nootropic compounds, though. For
example, two FTIR spectrums of a natural extract will appear to be similar. The
FTIR is able to recognize the major components, like cellulose, in a plant but
not differentiate minute changes in the active ingredients of the two extracts.
Another limitation of the FTIR are when molecular interactions occur in a
wavelength below 1500 nm, which are more difficult to analyze on a typical FTIR
	In situations where the
FTIR may not be the appropriate method of analysis, the lab may use any
combination of the following techniques:</p><ul><li>Near-Infrared
Spectroscopy (NIRS)-generates a spectrum for wavelengths 700 nm to 2500 nm,
including the wavelengths that are undecipherable on an FTIR
Spectrophotometry-measures the reflectance of excitable atoms in a compound
</li></p><li>Proton Nuclear
Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR)-identifies the number of protons and
their location in the molecular structure
Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS)-detects low levels of heavy metals up
to one part per quadrillion.
</li></ul><p style= Understanding Chromatography

Separated Bands on Chromatographic Plates

Developed by Russian botanist Mikhail S. Tswett in the early 1900s, liquid chromatography allowed for the separation of compounds in plants using solvents. In his first applications of liquid chromatography, Tswett filled a glass column with particles, particularly powdered chalk and alumina. He then poured a sample comprising homogenized plant leaves and a pure solvent into the glass column. As the sample passed through the particle matter, it presented different colored bands, essentially separating the individual compounds of the sample based on their chemical attraction to the particles.

Liquid chromatography has since become a significant tool in analytical chemistry with various forms for various applications. HPLC was originally coined by Professor Csaba Horvath in 1970 as high pressure liquid chromatography, defining the use of high pressure to accommodate the sample’s flow in packed columns. The growth of technology allowing for even greater pressures (up to 6,000 pounds per square inch) and smaller particles eventually led to the switch to high performance liquid chromatography.

HPLC allows scientists to separate, identify, and quantify compounds in any sample that can be dissolved in liquid. The ability to use HPLC is determined by numerous characteristics, like the product’s polarity, solubility, isomers, chirality, ionic charge, and particle size.

When HPLC is not an option, other various forms of chromatography can be utilized. These options include:

  • High Performance thin layer chromatography (HPTLC)
  • Ultra-High Performance Liquid Chromatography (UHPLC)
  • Gas Chromatography (GC)

Chromatography with valid methods and sample preparation can provide important quantitative (identity) and/or qualitative (purity) information.

Understanding Supplementary Analysis

While spectroscopy and chromatography are crucial steps in analysis, there may be other necessary methods of analysis. Understanding and utilizing supplementary analysis tools like melting point, titration, and polarimetry can provide further insight into the identity and purity of a product.

Melting point is an easy, fast, and repeatable method of analysis. Pure compounds have a temperature range in which the solid state of the compound turns into its liquid counterpart. A melting point temperature lower than that range signals an impurity. A melting point temperature higher than the specified range questions the identity of the compound.

Heating Curve

Titration uses the volumetric analysis of titrimetry to determine the concentration of a compound in a solution. This quantitative analysis method is useful to determine ionic concentrations, purity, and predict stability (shelf-life) of the compound.


Polarimetry is applicable when the optical activity of a compound is a concern. For example, there are two versions of Theanine. The preferred version of Theanine is  L-Theanine rather than D-Theanine. The appropriate method of analysis to determine if the Theanine sample was L-Theanine or D-Theanine would be polarimetry.



Identity and purity testing is a crucial step in navigating the world of  nootropic compounds and dietary supplements. Finding a responsible vendor who invests in well-rounded and valid testing is pertinent to your success and safety. Here at Nootropics Depot, we've built up a very sophisticated and capable analytical testing lab, and have spent a lot of time, effort and money ensuring we not only understand the analytical chemistry necessary to properly test things, but have the capabilities and training to be able to properly use the necessary equipment. For analytical methods or machinery that we do not currently possess, we contract out to extremely capable partners like Alkemist Labs and Mérieux NutriSciences, to ensure things are being analyzed using the proper methods, with accurate and repeatable results. We pride ourselves on our efforts to advance the analytical side of the nootropics and supplement market, and we are only getting started. Together we can advance the standards in the entire industry, and ensure that consumers are getting the highest quality products possible.

If you are just getting started, consider trying  samples prior to purchasing a full-sized jar as well so that you can find the products that work best for you.

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