Nootropics are now some of the most frequently discussed supplements in the world. In the space of just a decade, cognitive enhancers have evolved from a niche corner of the pharmaceutical industry to a multi-billion dollar supplement market all of its own, with people from all walks of life using so-called “smart drugs” to improve memory, focus and energy on a daily basis.
As you can imagine, the nootropics industry has become quite a complicated beast over the last couple of years. A number of factors have driven this trend: our understanding of the human brain has deepened; the pharmaceutical industry is increasingly focusing its efforts on countering cognitive decline; changes in our working patterns mean our careers are now highly competitive, and the average job is now much more cognitively demanding than ever before.
All of these factors have combined to drive a rapid growth in the number of nootropic supplements on sale. So with so many products to choose from, how do you find the best nootropic for you?
In this article, I’ll take you through the best nootropic supplements on sale right now. I will list the most effective brain supplements and “smart drugs”, explaining how they work and how they should be used. Then I will give you some custom nootropic stack ideas, highlighting the best nootropics for memory, motivation, focus, and more.
But first, what are nootropics?
What Are Nootropics?
What is a nootropic?
Simply put, a nootropic is a substance which positively affects cognitive performance in some way, such as memory, focus, creativity or motivation. Nootropics are someties called cognitive enhncers or “smart pills” because of their effects.
The word “nootropic” was first used by Hungarian Psychologist and Chemist Corneliu E. Giurgea in 1972 to describe Piracetam; the ‘mother’ racetam which he also created in 1964. Giurgea was a pioneer in the nootropics world, and it is his definition of nootropic which most biohackers rely on today.
For Giurgea, a nootropic should have the following characteristics:
- They should enhance learning and memory
- They should enhance the resistance of learned behaviors/memories to conditions which tend to disrupt them (e.g. electroconvulsive shock, hypoxia)
- They should protect the brain against various physical or chemical injuries (e.g. barbiturates, scopalamine)
- They should increase the efficacy of the tonic cortical/subcortical control mechanisms
- They should lack the usual pharmacology of other psychotropic drugs (e.g. sedation, motor stimulation) and possess very few side effects and extremely low toxicity
It will not come as a surprise to any of you to learn that these criteria have been debated over the years, with some factions finding them too restrictive, others too broad and inclusive. Ultimately, what classes as a nootropic comes down to your own interpretation of what constitutes cognitive enhancement, as well as what is deemed safe.
As far as I’m concerned, a “nootropic” is any substance which improves one or more aspect of cognitive function without causing serious side effects or long-term health risks. This means that substances which simply act as stimulants are not nootropics, nor are substances which improve cognition while also causing serious side effects. So straight central nervous system stimulants like Adderall are not nootropics!
Substances which support brain health are nootropics if those improvements in brain health lead to improvements in mental performance. So green tea is not a nootropic because it does not directly improve memory, learning or focus even though it does reduce oxidative damage. Conversely, maritime pine bark is a nootropic as it improves cerebral blood flow and is uniquely effective at protecting brain cells, which both contribute to measurably improved mental performance.
Best Nootropics 2021: Our top rated brain supplements
So what are the best nootropics on sale right now? More specifically, what is the best nootropic stack for enhancing memory, reducing brain fog, and promoting mental clarity that you can buy today? I have reviewed dozens of nootropics and analyzed them for effectiveness, safety, and value for money.
Let’s go through these great nootropics in a little more detail.
The Best Nootropic Ingredients For Brain Enhancement
Natural nootropics are, as the name suggests, naturally-occurring substances which enhance some facet of mental performance. This is a very broad category of nootropic, encompassing herbal extracts, phospholipids, amino acids, choline molecules, adaptogens and more.
What all of these substances have in common though is that they are found in nature; many are present in the human body and in food.
All of the natural nootropics on the list below have been shown to enhance some measure of brain function by peer-reviewed, clinical trials.
All of the information presented on IJEST has been put through our rigorous editorial process which looks for large-scale human trials and mechanistic studies when possible. These are the most effective nootropics according to the scientific evidence.
Citicoline is often referred to as CDP-Choline, or Cognizin when in its branded form. Citicoline (CDP-Choline) is a cholinergic; it quickly crosses the blood brain barrier and increases choline availability in the brain. This leads to greater synthesis of acetylcholine, which is the brain’s primary executive neurotransmitter. Higher acetylcholine levels means increased inter-neuronal communication. Via this mechanism, citicoline has been shown to improve focus, learning, memory, and reaction times . The strength of the scientific evidence showing citicoline as a powerful booster of executive cognitive function, coupled with its excellent side effect profile, makes it one of the best nootropic supplements in existence.
Citicoline also increases the avialability of phosphatidylcholine – and important building block of brain cell membranes – and cytidine, which is a component of RNA. This means that while the nootropic improves executive brain function, it also fosters better brain health and brain cell development for long term improvements in cognitive performance.
- Increases acetylcholine availability
- Raises phosphatdylcholine levels
- May promote brain cell formation by raising cytidine availability
- More potent and better studied than Choline bitartrate and Alpha-GPC
Caffeine is usually the first nootropic that people try, although they may not think of it as a nootropic at the time. The nootropic effects of caffeine are well established; caffeine almost instantly sharpens focus, raises mental energy levels, and increases motivation. It works primarily by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain. By blocking adenosine receptors, caffeine ‘tricks’ the brain into thinking it is less tired than it is, which increases perceived energy levels and suppresses the perception of fatigue. Note the word perceive; caffeine does not reduce adenosine so you are really just ignoring the fatigue until later.
Although it is primarily known as an energy booster, caffeine does a lot more than just increase energy levels and fight the perception of fatigue. Caffeine actually has several interesting nootropic properties. It raises dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the human brain, which increases excitability, motivation, and general cognitive performance. If coffee is your source of caffeine, then you will also be benefiting from coffee’s beneficial effects on brain health, as the drink seems to protect brain cells from oxidative stress and may even raise BDNF levels.
- Sharpens focus
- Reduces fatigue and increases energy levels
- Raises motivation
- Coffee protects against oxidative damage and may raise BDNF levels
L-Tyrosine is easily one of the best nootropics in existence, and it is arguably one of the best nootropic supplements to use if you are looking to enhance short term cognitive performance during times of acute mental strain. L-Tyrosine is an amino acid and an essential building block of dopamine, the brain’s main motivational neurotransmitter. By increasing dopamine synthesis, L-Tyrosine promotes motivation, drive and focus when doing tasks that are not inherently enjoyable or rewarding.
Clinical studies have found that L-Tyrosine is an extremely effective cognitive enhancer when used in stressful situations where motivation would likely be low. People subjected to sleep deprivation, extreme cold, intense multitasking and loud noises all show improved mental performance when given Tyrosine. Highly bioavailable Acetyl-L-Tyrosine is the best nootropic supplement to use to enhance cognition at times of peak mental strain and to help complete stressful, cognitive demanding tasks (e.g. deadlines, exams, presentations, etc).
- Improves stress resistance and reduces anxiety
- Increases motivation and improves mood
- Significantly improves cognitive performance during times of peak stress
Bacopa monnieri is, without question, one of the best nootropics in the world, and probably the single best nootropic supplement for promoting both long term and short term memory function. Bacopa monnieri has long been known to be a potent nootropic. Recently, clinical trials have confirmed this; study after study shows that Bacopa monnieri supplementation leads to significant improvements in memory retention, recall and accuracy. Most studies seem to show Bacopa having the most pronounced effects on older people suffering from age related memory loss or mild cognitive impairment, with the biggest improvements seen after long term use (12 weeks or longer). That said, it is clear that Bacopa improves memory and learning in younger people in the short term too, with some studies showing improvements in just 6 weeks.
While many people posit that Bacopa is an adaptogen, the most recent evidence suggests that Bacopa improves memory by stimulating the growth of dendrites – the branches that connect your neurons together, and which bind to eventually form synapses . Increasing dendrite branching (dendritic arborization) facilitates communication between brain cells and establishes new lines of communication. This lasting, long-term effect makes Bacopa monnieri the single best nootropic for enhancing memory and learning as we age.
- Improves working memory, retention and recall
- May help attenuate cognitive decline
- Seems particularly effective at improving memory and slowing memory loss in older people
- Improves the body’s ability to cope with stress
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s Mane Mushroom is probably the most interesting nootropic because of its effects on brain cell plasticity. plasticity is the ability of an organism or cell to adapt to changes in its environment. Neuroplasticity is then just the brain’s ability to adapt to changes in its environment. Lion’s Mane Mushroom consumption has been found to significantly increase the release of a neuropeptide called Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) in the brain. NGF governs the growth, proliferation and maintenance of nerve cells, including neurons. By increasing NGF expression in the brain, Lion’s Mane Mushroom promotes neuron growth, proliferation and maintenance, leading to an enhanced, more efficient, effective brain.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom’s ability to promote neuroplasticity makes it one of the best nootropics to include in a comprehensive nootropic stack. It will help make the higher level of cognitive performance you experience while using things like CDP-Choline and Tyrosine a permanent state by potentiating the growth of synapses and neurotransmitter receptors on those synapse membranes. Because it supports brain function so generally, I think Lion’s Mane Mushroom is one of the best nootropic supplements in existence today.
- Enhances memory function
- Improves focus, learning and information processing
- Supports long-term brain health
Rhodiola rosea is one of my favorite supplements to include in a complete nootropic stack. Unlike other cognitive enhancers, Rhodiola rosea does not work by increasing neurotransmitter synthesis or reuptake, nor does it increase neuroplasticity or boost energy levels. Instead, Rhodiola rosea is an anxiolytic; it enhances cognitive function by reducing stress and anxiety. More specifically, rhodiola rosea is an adaptogen. This means that it improves your body’s ability to handle stress and attenuates the worst symptoms of chronic stress and anxiety. So Rhodiola rosea does not have the same immediate, short term effects that other nootropic supplements offer. But it does promote a calm, clear mind and lowers stress. This allows you to focus on the important stuff and make good decisions.
If you’re looking for short term increases in focus, memory and learning, then Rhodiola rosea is not going to help you. But if you are looking to optimize every aspect of cognitive function on a daily basis for the long haul, then adding an adaptogen like Rhodiola rosea into your nootropic stack is a very good idea. Stress is often the biggest enemy of productivity and cognitive performance, and Rhodiola rosea can be your biggest ally in your fight against stress.
- Acutely lowers stress and anxiety
- Promotes calm, clear-headed focus
Ashwagandha is not a common ingredient in nootropic supplements today. However, that isn’t because it is not an effective cognitive enhancer. Like Rhodiola rosea, ashwagandha is a highly effective nootropic supplement which works by lowering stress and anxiety. Clinical trials have found that ashwagandha supplementation suppresses cortisol levels. Cortisol is the body’s ‘stress’ hormone; it is released in response to perceived threats, as well as physical strain resulting from exhaustive activity, injury or sleep deprivation. Cortisol prioritizes bodily functions that help survival (raising blood pressure, increasing blood sugar, and wound healing) while suppressing bodily functions that don’t, such as cell maintenance, bone formation, and immune system function (being costly and not essential to short term survival).
By suppressing cortisol, Ashwanagdha helps control the effects of chronic stress, fatigue, and sleep deprivation. One effect of this is enhanced cognitive performance, improved mood, and better brain health. While Rhodiola rosea is best used as part of a daily nootropic stack, Ashwagandha is best used as an acute cure for stress, anxiety and fatigue.
- Reduces symptoms of stress and anxiety
- Promotes a calm, clear mind
Nicotine is not typically thought of as a nootropic by most people, but is most certainly is; in fact, I’d say that nicotine is one of the best nootropics in existence when used correctly. Nicotine can boost brain function almost immediately by rapidly increasing the synthesis of norepinephrine and dopamine. Norepinephrine is the neurotransmitter which controls your body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. Its release immediately sharpens focus, heightens alertness, increases excitability, and increases mental energy considerably. It also accelerates decision making and reaction times; basically, nicotine puts your brain into survival mode.
Nicotine also stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain. This is actually how the drug causes such serious addiction; by getting your brain hooked on the reward-seeking feeling of dopamine (dopamine is not a pleasure or reward signal in itself). Increasing dopamine raises motivation, improves mood, and promotes overall better brain performance.
Nicotine is largely associated with tobacco, which is something nobody should be consuming in any way, shape or form. But nicotine in isolation is actually quite a powerful nootropic. It instantly clears brain fog, promotes concentration, and increases motivation. It can also improve mood and memory function. However, the potential for addiction with nicotine is too great for anyone to use this nootropic on a daily basis.
- Rapidly sharpens focus and mental clarity
- Supports motivation by triggering dopamine release in the brain
- Increases mental energy
Panax ginseng is another great supplement for promoting overall brain health and performance. Like Ashwagandha and Rhodiola rosea, Panax ginseng is more of an adaptogen than a true nootropic, but it still makes for a great nootropics stack ingredient. Studies have found that Panax Ginseng promotes calmness and subjective wellbeing. Supplementing with Panax Ginseng on a daily basis seems to be effective for preventing stress and anxiety. Some studies have even found that ginseng supplements have a direct beneficial effect on cognitive performance; one clinical trial published in 2011 found that consistent ginseng supplementation led to improved cognitive performance in people suffering with Alzheimer’s Disease. Other studies have found that ginseng improves mental performance in otherwise healthy people.
It is likely that ginseng’s nootropic properties stem from its effects on blood glucose; ginseng seems to lower free serum glucose levels. This suggests that ginseng may well modulate glucose uptake, potentially in the brain (which consumes the vast majority of the body’s circulating glucose). Ginseng does seem to reduce inflammation, and it may have some antioxidant effects, but these would not be sufficient to explain the observed nootropic effects. Something else must be going on.
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Reduces inflammation
- Improves mood and may help attenuate symptoms of depression
Phosphatidylserine is one of the best cognitive enhancers on the market today. Few nootropic supplements offer both long and short term improvements in brain function and better brain health while having as good a side effect profile as phosphatidylserine. A naturally occurring phospholipid, phosphatidylserine is present in all of your cell membranes. It is both a vital structural component of brain cell membranes and an important part of the cell life cycle. When a cell reaches the end of its life, phosphatidylserine acts as a signal for it to be destroyed. This frees up space and resources for new, healthy cells to take its place; the growth of these cells requires phosphatidylserine too. Phosphatidylserine is therefore an integral piece of the brain maintenance process.
Clinical trials have found that phosphatidylserine supplementation is highly effective for improving mental performance across multiple different measures. Phosphatidylserine improves learning, memory, and focus. It may also be effective for ameliorating age related cognitive decline or memory impairment. Studies have similarly shown that phosphatidylserine supplementation improves cognitive performance in young, healthy people.
- Promotes working memory function and learning in healthy people
- May help ameliorate symptoms of cognitive impairment and cognitive decline
- Promotes healthy brain cell maintenance and cycling
Huperzine A is definitely one of the best nootropics in existence, although we do not recommend it for people building a daily stack. Huperzine A inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase; this is the enzyme which destroys acetylcholine that has been used, preventing its reuptake. By inhibiting the enzyme, Huperzine A causes a rapid build up of acetylcholine in the brain. The effects of the his are rapidly diminished brain fog, heightened focus, improved working memory function, and more mental energy. Many people describe the effects of Huperzine A as being like entering ‘tunnel vision’, such is its power as a focus booster.
However, you cannot allow the build up of acetylcholine to go on indefinitely. Too much acetylcholine can start to interupt cognitive processes, causing brain fog and impairing brain performance. I recommend people use Huperzine A very infrequently. If used on a daily basis, it should not be taken for more than 3 weeks before you take a prolonged break of 3-6 weeks.
Huperzine A is arguably the best brain supplement to use if you want to improve focus, concentration, and learning in the short term. It is, without doubt, one of the best nootropics supplements to use as part of a pre-workout, or a nootropic stack you use infrequently. But the high risk of side effects and the need for cycling make it totally unsuitable for daily use.
- Rapidly sharpens focus and heightens awareness
- Quickly accelerates information processing
- Must be cycled due to acetylcholinesterase inhibition
Maritime Pine Bark Extract
Maritime Pine Bark Extract typically refers to a collection of antioxidants found in uniquely high concentrations in Maritime Pine Bark. This is my go-to supplement for protecting brain cell health. Unlike many antioxidants used in brain supplements today, the proanthocyanidins found in Maritime Pine Bark easily cross the blood brain barrier. Once there, they simultaneously protect brain cells from free radical oxidative damage and improve cerebral circulation. This means you have better oxygenated, better nourished, and better protected brain cells.
For me, this makes Maritime Pine Bark a true nootropic; something that cannot be said about the likes of pterostilbene or resveratrol, which are the standard antioxidants used in brain supplements today. This is arguably the best nootropic for protecting brain cell health on a daily basis over many years.
- Is a powerful antioxidant; protects brain cells from oxidative damage
- Increases blood flow in the brain via vasodilation
- Easily crosses the blood brain barrier, unlike many other antioxidants
Clinical studies have found that Ginkgo biloba is able to quickly boost brain function in healthy people and in older people suffering with mild cognitive impairment or memory loss. Now, Ginkgo biloba is a very interesting nootropic in how it works. There are two different biologically active compound groups in Ginkgo biloba; ginkgolides and glycosides. Together, these compounds dramatically improve cerebral circulation by triggering vasodilation and by increasing the viscosity of blood. This means your brain cells are better oxygenated and better nourished, which means overall better brain function and brain cell health.
in practical terms, Ginkgo biloba is a great supplement for anyone struggling with brain fog, memory impairment, or general age related cognitive decline. The supplement is now being studied as a potential treatment for conditions such as vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Trials are inconclusive but the results so far are promising, indicating that Ginkgo biloba supplementation may help people with cognitive issues related to poor or restricted cerebral circulation.
- Improves cerebral circulation
- Works by vasodilation and by making the blood more viscous
- Better brain blood flow means better oxygenated brain cells and better brain health
Synthetic Nootropic Drugs (to AVOID!)
Synthetic nootropics are, unfortunately, vastly more popular than natural nootropics in the US right now. While these nootropic smart drugs have been designed to treat medical conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), memory loss, severely damaged brain health and narcolepsy, many people without any such diagnosis use them to enhance their mental performance. College students in particular tend to find the idea of a smart drug – and the boosted mental processing that it produces – too appealing to resist.
I do not advise the use of any of the synthetic smart drugs listed below. However, I cannot deny that these are extremely powerful nootropics capable of improving cognitive function, promoting plasticity in neurons, and protecting brain health (not to mention ameliorating cognitive decline). The substances listed below are the most effective man-made nootropics in existence, and the most widely-used today.
There is very little scientific evidence showing exactly how Modafinil works or what kind of effect it has on cognition. You aren’t going to find a robust meta analysis on this nootropic in any mainstream scientific journals, and trusted sources tend to avoid discussing study drugs like Modafinil. But even still, Modafinil remains one of the most popular nootropics in the world. As far as I can tell, Modafinil most likely works by significantly increasing dopamine levels, potentially by inhibiting dopamine reuptake. This would explain why users experience an incredible increase in motivation and drive when on Modafinil, as well as improved mood and generally enhanced cognitive performance.
While Modafinil is certainly effective for increasing motivation and productivity, I never recommend it for productivity. Modafinil gives users limitless motivation; it puts them into a tunnel vision-like state of flow and determination, where time seems to disappear and you never want to take a break or procrastinate. But the quality of your cognition is greatly impaired with Modafinil; you’ll get a lot done, but the quality of the work will be terrible! Modafinil also causes very strange behavior, incomprehensible speech, and very scattered thoughts. it can also have you too focused on a task; it is not unheard of for people on Modafinil to spend 3 hours on their introduction when trying to get a paper finished by morning.
- Exact mechanism of action is unclear, but seems to affect dopaminergic systems
- Dramatically increases motivation and drive
- Sharpens focus and creates a ‘tunnel vision’, ‘flow state’ effect
- Reduces mental fatigue
The racetams are, without doubt, the most frequently used nootropic smart drugs in the world. Modafinil is the most popular nootropic for infrequent use, but the racetams are regularly used by biohackers on a daily basis for prolonged periods of time. The racetams – Piracetam, Aniracetam, Oxiracetam, etc – are known to enhance most executive brain functions. All racetams are said to work by activating cholinergic receptors which are co-located with glutamate receptors in the brain; by activating cholinergic receptors, the racetams are able to enhance focus, memory, learning, information processing, decision-making, and even muscle activation.
Piracetam was the first synthetic nootropic ever produced. As I explained at the start of the article, the word nootropic was actually coined to describe Piracetam. Since its creation, multiple racetams have been produced based on the structure of Piracetam, the ‘mother racetam’; these substances include Aniracetam, Oxiracetam, Pramiracetam, and Fasoracetam. These racetams all have difference structures and, as a result, they all exhibit slightly different behavior in the human body, including different bioavailabilities, different half lives, and so on.
- Produce a wide range of cognitive enhancements encompassing focus, memory and learning
- May slow down the rate of cognitive decline
- May be effect for treating learning difficulties
- Likely much more effective in healthy people when paired with a cholinergic like Citicoline or Alpha-GPC
Noopept is often described as a racetam, but it isn’t a racetam as it does not have a 2-oxo-pyrollidine nucleus. Similarly, Noopept is described as being based on the structure of Piracetam, when in reality it is actually based on the structure of cycloprolylglycine; a neuropeptide known to promote the release of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). The logic goes that Noopept is a prodrug of cycloprolylglycine, which means it quickly raises BDNF levels, which in turn promotes neurogenesis and brain cell maintenance. It also seems likely that Noopept acts on certain neurotransmitter systems just like the racetams do; Noopept and Piracetam do have very similar effects and almost identical structures, so the idea that they have similar mechanisms of action is not outlandish.
The main differentiator between Noopept and Piracetam is the active dose: Noopept is many times more powerful than Piracetam; than all racetams actually. Whereas you may need to take around 3000mg of Piracetam to see meaningful effects, you only need around 30mg of Noopept to get the same effects. That said, I do not recommend Noopept use to anyone. it comes with too many side effect risks and the mechanisms of action are not well understood.
- Nootropic compound very similar to Piracetam in structure, although it is not a racetam
- Delivers the same benefits of Piracetam with a tiny fraction of the dosage
- Is said to be up to 1000x more potent than Piracetam by weight (3000mg of Piracetam equates to 30mg of Noopept)
What about Adderall?
Adderall is a branded drug for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Adderall is actually just a collection of four different amphetamine salts which work both faster and slower than straight amphetamine; the logic being that by taking these salts you can hasten and prolong the benefits of amphetamine.
Adderall (amphetamine) is a central nervous system stimulant. It works primarily by triggering the release of norepinephrine in the brain. Norepinephrine controls the body’s fight or flight response; it is released when the brain perceives an imminent threat in order to trigger the body’s survival mechanisms. Norepinephrine quickly sharpens focus, prioritizes glucose availability for the brain and muscles, suppresses fatigue, increases excitability, and raises blood pressure – the things which would help you survive an imminent threat.
In other words, Adderall does not actually enhance any aspect of cognitive function; it is not a nootropic. It is a stimulant; stimulants and nootropics are two completely different things. Some nootropics, like caffeine, do have stimulant properties. But they also enhance cognition in a meaningful way. Adderall just increases energy, suppresses fatigue, and increases excitability. It does improve symptoms of ADHD; studies show that it helps people with ADHD focus and learn more effectively. But it does not have that same effect in people without ADHD or similar learning difficulties.
- Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant (i.e. a collection of amphetamines)
- Increases the release of norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and dopamine, increasing excitability and energy
- It does not enhance cognitive function in any way so is therefore not a nootropic
Best Nootropics For Memory
Using nootropics for memory enhancement is a very complicated endeavor because there are so many different facets to memory and it is an extremely complicated neurological phenomenon. When we’re talking memory enhancement, are we talking about memory formation, memory recall, rectifying memory issues, or all of the above? Are we aiming for short term memory improvements to help you study better, or about preventing memory decline over the course of an entire life?
With this in mind, I think the best nootropics for memory are those that go straight to the underlying causes of memory loss and memory impairment. The best nootropic supplements for memory are those nootropics which stimulate physical changes in brain structure (neuroplasticity) in areas of the brain associated with memory function. This will ensure that both your short term memory and longer term memory are enhanced, and that those enhancements are lasting and meaningful.
In my opinion, the single best nootropic for memory is Bacopa monnieri. This nootropic has been found to be reliably effective for improving both short term memory and for preserving memory function in the context of mild cognitive impairment. Most of the clinical trials on Bacopa monnieri focused on memory function in older people, but there is evidence that it enhances memory in young, healthy people too. The dendritic arborization you see resulting from Bacopa monnieri use means the improvements in memory you get from this nootropic are long lasting.
Best Nootropics For Focus
Whether you’re looking to increase processing speed, increase your attention span, enhance sports performance, or just get better at studying, focus boosting nootropics can help.
Most of the nootropics best at improving focus are those nootropic supplements which support the synthesis of key neurotransmitters. Obviously, I’m mainly talking about acetylcholine as it is the brain’s main executive neurotransmitter. But to a lesser extent I am also referring to dopamine and serotonin; other neurotransmitters intimately involved in focus and learning.
Best Nootropics For Motivation
Boosting motivation is one of the most sought-after effects of nootropic supplements. We all struggle with motivation; I don’t care who you are or what you do, at some point in your day you’ll come across a task that you just don’t want to do, either because it’s boring, it’s too difficult, or because you just want to watch YouTube videos instead. I’d go as far as to say that motivation is the one aspect of cognitive performance that people struggle with the most. Not focus, not memory, not wakefulness; it’s motivation that separates productive people from slackers! Productivity dies when motivation dies.
The best nootropics for motivation will be any brain supplements which increase synthesis or prevent reuptake of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is the brain chemical which underlies motivation. It is not a reward or pleasure neurotransmitter; instead, dopamine appears to promote something called motivational salience; the prioritizing of an outcome and a drive to achieve that outcome.
Best Nootropic For Total Cognitive Enhancement
This is probably what most of you are actually looking for: total brain enhancement.
When it comes to cognitive enhancement, I have always found that total brain optimization is the best approach. Trying to focus on only one aspect or measure of mental performance always leaves some important things unchecked, undermining the whole enterprise.
In my experience, the best way to enhance any aspect of cognitive performance is to enhance them all, as brain activity is interlinked and totally interdependent.
Using natural nootropics – or synthetic nootropics for that matter – it is impossible to achieve total brain optimization with just one substance. Nootropics are too limited in their effects and the brain far too complex for any one substance to be capable of improving every measure of mental performance. As such, it is best to use a comprehensive nootropic stack to enhance every facet of cognition at the same time.
Side Effects: Are nootropics safe?
Are nootropics safe?
The answer is yes, most nootropics are safe when used correctly. But of course, it depends on the nootropic in question. You need to do your research before taking any brain supplements, smart drugs, or (especially) prescription drugs.
Generally speaking, natural nootropics are safe when used properly and in sensible doses.
Most of the ingredients used in the best nootropic stacks today have been tested in multiple human clnical trials and deemed safe for regular human consumption. None of the substances on my list of the best nootropic ingredients are thought to pose serious health risks or particularly bad side effect risks. Substances on the list which may cause side effects typically cause mild side effects in a minority of users; these side effects should end upon cessation of the nootropic in question.
The only exceptions to this are Caffeine and Huperzine A.
Caffeine obviously poses some substantial side effect risks. As a powerful stimulant, caffeine comes with all the side effects you typically get from consuming CNS stimulants: headaches, jitters, anxiety, hypertension, insomnia, irritability, and so on. Depending on your tolerance to caffeine, these side effects can occur with doses of anywhere from 50mg up to 200mg. If you’re taking other stimulants or medications that interact with caffeine, then it is best to avoid caffeine completely as even small doses can cause serious side effects. I do not recommend using caffeine on a daily basis.
Huperzine A, as explained above, inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase. This causes quite a rapid build up of acetylcholine in the brain. More acetylcholine is good, but too much can severely impair mental performance. When acetylcholine levels get too high, you will experience the following side effects: headache, confusion, loss of focus, lack of motivation, lethargy, fatigue, muscle cramps, and more. This is why Huperzine A must be cycled. Failing to take sufficient breaks from Huperzine A use will inevitably lead to side effects.
Of course, the story is quite different when talking about synthetic brain drugs and pharmaceutical medication designed to treat cognitive disorders. Human clinical trials are few and far between when it comes to the synthetic nootropics, and they are generally unstudied in the context of otherwise healthy people; in other words, they have only been tested on people who have cognitive disorders under medical supervision.
Nootropics are, broadly speaking, safe for the majority of people assuming they are used properly as directed by manufacturers. Misuse of certain nootropic supplements can of course lead to side effects. Synthetic smart drugs have far more substantial and serious side effect risks. Many synthetic nootropic drugs pose serious long-term health risks, and are not suitable for recreational use.
How To Take Nootropic Supplements For Maximum Benefits
So you’ve decided to hack your brain and start becoming a more productive, effective person. This is the first step in the right direction. But deciding to use brain boosters is one thing, using them properly for maximum effect is quite another. I have seen many people take nootropics and get very little from them because they weren’t using them correctly.
Brain activity is, in many important ways, dependent on brain chemistry. Brain chemistry is a very complex thing; there is a delicate balance of neuropeptides, neurotransmitters and other molecules in the brain all governing mental function along many different brain pathways. Lots of external factors can influence brain chemistry, and in turn affect your learning performance, memory, mental energy levels, and so on.
The trick to getting the most out of nootropics is to harness and control these disparate factors, optimizing them for mental performance.
In other words, before you spend good money on a nootropic, get the basics right first! Here is my checklist of things to get right before you try to use a nootropic to boost cognition:
- Get 8 hours of sleep each night
- Drink 4 pints of clear water daily
- Avoid too much sugar
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other recreational drugs (including marijuana – sorry CBD fanatics)
- Minimize time spent on your smartphone and watching TV (as this leads to dopamine depletion)
Get these things right and you’ll be well on your way to optimal cognitive function. Adding a nootropic on top of this would then yield the best possible results.
How To Stack Nootropics
Enhancing mental performance through the use of nootropics is just one part of the biohacking puzzle. For many of you, the best nootropics will be just a single part of your overall supplement strategy. How do you stack nootropics with other biohacking supplements?
That depends entirely on what you want to achieve. The possibilities are endless. However, I have noticed that most people using nootropics are also interested in improving energy levels and mood enhancement.
Fortunately, the best nootropics stack incredibly well with supplements designed to increase work capacity, reduce fatigue, and improve mood. Research shows that many energy supplements improve brain cell energy metabolism, and anything that increases brain energy is definitely a nootropic, especially if it does so at the level of cell mitochondria.
I have observed tremendous improvements in both energy and mental function when stacking nootropics with high quality energy supplements. A good energy supplement will improve energy at the cellular level by supporting cell mitochondria and carbohydrate metabolism.
One stack I have had success with personally is Performance Lab Mind and Performance Lab Energy. For a short term energy kick, these two supplements stacked with Performance Lab Stim proves to be a highly effective brain and energy supplement stack.
Learn more about Mind Lab Pro: https://www.mindlabpro.com/
Learn more about Performance Lab Mind, Energy and Stim: https://www.performancelab.com/products/mind
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 Tardner, P. 2020. Efficacy of Bacopa monnieri in the stimulation of dendrite branching and its relation to memory enhancement. International Journal of Environmental Science & Technology, (online).
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Paul Tardner is the Lead Author at IJEST.org. Paul is a former academic and research scientists. He now dedicates his time to his own research into natural biohacking, with a particular focus on cognitive enhancement.