Nootropics are nutritional compounds that improve the brain function of people, both the general healthy population and those suffering from neurodegenerative diseases.
In healthy people, nootropics claim to boost your memory, motivation, creativity, alertness, and overall problem-solving processes, while also being able to reduce age-related declines in cognitive function.
1. Neuro Focus +
Neuro Focus+ includes several nootropics including bacopa extract, glutamic acid, niacin, DMAE, and L-theanine. All of these ingredients have been researched and clinically proven to support brain focus, attention, and cognition.
One of the cleanest products on the market, Neuro Focus+ is free of gluten, preservatives, GMOs and artificial colors. It’s also made in a non-GMP certified lab. This is one of the best nootropic products available all-around and Healthtrends #1 pick.
2. Mind Lab Pro
This combination of 11 scientifically-backed nootropics is designed to work synergistically and provide much more effective results. Users have reported increased success with cognitive function, energy increase, and memory.
In addition to its stacked properties, this supplement also has a clean formulation free of fillers and additives.
Created with a substantial formulation of vitamins, amino acids, and multiple essential ingredients, Noocube is a nootropic blend that surpasses most of its competitors. It has been designed to enhance cognitive functions including focus, mental acumen, and memory.
Each ingredient listed in this supplement’s blend has a specific amount included on the label, bringing them higher on our list.
4. Ascend by Legion Athletics
In addition to the traditional elements of nootropic supplements including Ginko Biloba, Ascend also provides a slew of vitamins, CDP-Choline and Alpha – GPC, all of which have been backed by scientific evidence.
In this product you’ll also find no stimulants, fillers, or questionable ingredients.
5. Alpha Brain
Onnit’s Alpha Brain is one of the most popular nootropics on the market. It contains high doses of many proven nootropic ingredients, such as alpha-GPC and Bacopa.
Alpha Brain has been endorsed by celebrities and used across the world, making Onnit one of the most trusted manufacturers.
6. Genius Consciousness
Genius Consciousness is one the highest rated nootropics on Amazon, containing proven ingredients that help support cognition, and clear brain fog.
All Genius Brand products are 3rd party lab tested for purity and contain no fillers, dyes, or preservatives.
7. Zhou Neuro-Peak
Rhodiola Rosea extract distinguishes this supplement from the rest of the pack. There is a great deal of scientific evidence to support its use in resolving issues with mental fatigue.
Though some supplements use this, very few do so while also providing a massive dose of vitamin B12 and multiple herbal extracts.
8. Nutra Champs Neura-Spark
Neura-Spark places a heavy emphasis on the use of Ginko Biloba and DMAE while also maintaining a pure and organic formulation.
There are no fillers or additives that come in this supplement. Additionally, it is stimulant-free so it is well designed to boost both brain function and performance.
9. Natural Stacks CILTEP
Natural Stacks uses ingredients such as artichoke extract in their formulation.
While there has not been as much research on this specific extract, early evidence suggests there is some validity to their choice. For those who may not be getting results with normal blends, this option is one that is worth a try.
10. Havasu Nutrition neuroIGNITE
Havasu Nutrition’s Neuorignite formulation contains high doses of many nootropic supplements and includes DMAE as well as Ginko Biloba.
One of the elements that make this supplement different from all the rest is its label clarity. Each ingredient has a specific amount listed on the label which is vastly different from many other supplements in this category.
How We Rank
Formulating our nootropic rankings involved a great deal of thought and consideration. One of the most important elements was the use of multiple ingredients in the nootropics supplements. We avoided those containing only one ingredient as this would not provide a lot of benefits and would not fulfill the goal of nootropic supplements, which is why popular companies like BulkSupplements won’t be found on this list.
Those using a multi-ingredient strategy were first looked at on the basis of their ingredient list. The main goal of cognitive improvement was the focal point as we looked for ingredients known to be useful for that task. Those that included compounds such as Ginkgo Biloba and Bacopa, like Ascend by Legion Athletics were generally placed higher than others.
Since our main focus was to provide nootropics that stimulated cognitive function and focus in the safest and most organic way possible, any supplements that had a heavy reliance on stimulants, such as caffeine, were immediately removed from consideration. Another area we looked at was the availability of online research and clarity. Though there are many nootropics that may not provide a lot of scientifically based claims or facts, we chose those that were either more forthcoming about their ingredients or contained ingredients that had been studied and tested. This information was not always available but for those that provided it, like Nuzena, a higher ranking was provided.
Those that had no ingredients based on scientific proof or facts were not given further consideration and were subsequently removed from our list. Label clarity was also a key element as supplements with proprietary blends did nor always provide additional information about the measurement of ingredients. Of course, with all the other facts involved, we looked for nootropics that were the purest. This means that the supplements we looked for nootropics that contained no preservatives, fillers, sweeteners or binders to ensure you have the best possible chance of potency and efficacy.
1. Modafinil is a nootropic that can reduce drowsiness and improve brain function. Both a 1997 and 2003 study showed that Modafinil improves memory and attention in sleep-deprived adults and reduces the feeling of fatigue (1, 2).
A 1995 study also demonstrated that modafinil improves the ability to accomplish goals and manage resources, also known as executive functioning (3).
2. Adderall is a nootropic that enhances working memory, attention, and behavior. A 2015 study showed that Adderall increases brain chemicals such as noradrenaline and dopamine to stimulate and improve working memory, attention and behavior (4).
Another 2015 study published in the International Review of Neurobiology showed that Adderall promoted wakefulness, optimism and reduced appetite in normal people (5).
Lastly, a meta-review of 48 studies found that amphetamines significantly improved people’s ability to control their behavior and enhanced short-term memory (6).
3. Noopept is a nootropic that can promote the growth of new brain cells. Studies show this synthetic nootropic improves memory by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels in the brain. BDNF promotes the growth of new brain cells and can help the brain form and retrieve memories (7, 8).
4. Nicotine is a nootropic that increases motor function and boosts alertness. Nicotine is a natural plant-derived nootropic that has been shown to improve attention, motor function and alertness, both in normal populations and those with poorer natural cognitive functioning (9, 10).
It has also been found to improve motor function. A 2004 study even showed that chewing nicotine gum, such as Nicorette, is linked to better handwriting speed and fluidity (11).
5. Caffeine is a nootropic that stimulates your nervous system to make you feel less tired and more alert. The evidence for caffeine is solid with studies illustrating that caffeine can improve your memory, reaction times, energy, and overall cognitive function (12, 13).
Caffeine is hypothesized to work by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain to hide signs of fatigue while stimulating the brain and central nervous system.
Unfortunately, if you eat meat you’re not likely to see the same benefits because meat eaters have adequate levels of creatine already (16).
Regardless, creatine is one of the most researched and safest supplements on the market today.
7. Bacopa Monnieri is a medicinal herb and nootropic used in Ayurvedic medicine to improve thinking. 2006 research tested Bacopa’s ability to increase memory and thinking skills. In both healthy populations and the elderly Bacopa was seen to It’s been shown to be effective in boosting both (17, 18).
8. Alpha GPC is a nootropic that has neuroprotective properties. A 2003 study showed that Alpha-GPC can mitigate cognitive decline as we age (19).
It does this by increasing the activity of acetylcholine in the brain, which is a chemical used by nerves to communicate with each other (neurotransmitter). It provides your body with glycerophosphate, which is a substance in the membranes of nerve cells that supports brain health and function.
9. CDP Choline is a nootropic that improves verbal memory. Research from 1997 shows that supplementation with CDP-Choline can improve memory (and verbal memory in particular) (20).
Like alpha-GPC, CDP-choline provides the brain with choline which helps the brain communicate better with each other.
10. L-theanine is a nootropic that reduces stress and promotes relaxation. L-theanine is an amino acid that’s a major component of black and green tea. One study found that consuming L-theanine can increase both mental focus and arousal (21).
Another 2007 study found that subjects who took L-theanine reduced overall stress responses (22).
11. Blueberry is a nootropic that enhances cognitive abilities and protects the brain. Blueberries contain pigments known as anthocyanins and, while studies are done on blueberries, the following likely applies to all dark blue and blackberries.
Both of the above studies noted improvements in memory and those improvements correlated directly with BDNF levels and activity. Now, extending that to human studies, we find that juices that have a decent anthocyanin content (500 mg or more) improve spatial recall and verbal memory in the elderly compared to juices without anthocyanins (25, 26).
12. Maca is a nootropic that helps increase focus. 2006 research published in the International Journal of Biomedical Science showed that maca helps to boost focus by stimulating the pituitary gland and hypothalamus (27).
13. Panax Ginseng is a nootropic that improves brain function and calmness. One 2010 study tested a 400 milligram (mg) dose of Panax Ginseng on 30 participants for 8 days. Participants showed improved calmness and the ability to do math (28).
14. Rhodiola Rosea is a nootropic that helps speed up mental processing. Rhodiola Rosea is often used in traditional Chinese medicine and is hypothesized to speed mental processing by reducing fatigue, like caffeine (29).
Rhodiola is anecdotally used as an adaptogenic herb to reduce stress, which can explain the evidence that Rhodiola acts as a nootropic as well.
15. S-Adenosyl methionine is a nootropic that improves brain health by reducing the decline in cognitive function and improving the effectiveness of antidepressants (32). S-Adenosyl methionine (SAMe) is used to create and destroy biological substrates including proteins, fats, and hormones. Researchers illustrated that adding a SAMe supplement to patients already taking depression medications improved their remission rates by 14% (33).
Building upon that, researchers recently found that SAMe may be just as effective as antidepressant medications in some patients (34).
16. Ginkgo Biloba is a nootropic that can increase focus. The way Ginkgo Biloba is hypothesized to work is through its ability to increase blood flow to the brain allowing it to increase your brain’s ability to focus and retain memories (35).
There are studies showing that Ginkgo Biloba supplements reduce age-related decline in cognitive skills (36, 37). Specifically, one study in healthy middle-aged people showed significant improvements in memory and thinking skills (38)
17. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a nootropic that can increase memory. Your brain right now is about 25% DHA because DHA’s role is to maintain the structure and the function of your brain (39).
Even more impressive, 90% of the omega-3 fatty acids located in the brain are DHA (40).
It’s no surprise that the consumption of DHA supplements is related to increased memory, reaction times, and problem-solving skills in the average population and those with a mild decline in brain function (41, 42).
18. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is a nootropic that improves mood. EPA protects the brain mainly through its anti-inflammatory properties because while DHA is linked with improved brain function, EPA is not (43).
However, in patients with depression, EPA supplementation is linked to improved mood (44).
19. Resveratrol is a nootropic and antioxidant that protects the hippocampus and improves memory. Foundational research hints that supplementing with resveratrol can improve memory because resveratrol can save your hippocampus from deterioration (44).
The hippocampus is the long and short-term memory center of the brain, so treatment with resveratrol can slow down the decline in brain function associated with aging (45).
In humans, one group of researchers saw the safety and efficacy of resveratrol in increasing the memory of older adults over 6 months (48).
20. Nootropics may help to prevent Alzheimers and dementia. As the human body and brain begin to age there are many functions that may change and become less effective. While these situations may occur, they are not and should not be considered normal. Of the most prominently known diseases seen during age progression, Alzheimer’s and dementia have been two of the most prevalent. In one particular study of patients diagnosed with dementia, there was a slight increase in survival time for those who were given nootropic supplements over the course of 12 weeks (49).
Similar results were found in a study of those diagnosed previously with Alzheimer’s. In a recently published study, participants found a decrease in the progression of Alzheimer’s when given nootropic supplements (50).
Though nootropics are not currently seen to be a possible cure for these disorders, they do show promise when used to prolong the quality of life experienced by those with these conditions.
1. Nicotine, modafinil, and Adderall can be very addictive. Due to the potent effects on brain chemicals, these nootropics tend to be abused and highly addictive. Once abused, the side effects start to pile up fast.
2. Adderall can cause anxiety. It has also been linked to low sex drive and can even increase the likelihood of heart attacks when mixed with alcohol.
3. Ginkgo Biloba can cause nausea, dizziness, stomach pain and even rashes in some individuals.
4. Ginseng interacts with many medications and can cause rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure in certain people.
5. Caffeine supplementation can be counterproductive. If you consume too much caffeine, you’re at greater risk of experience anxiety, nausea, and trouble sleeping. Going further, caffeine is a stimulant and can be life-threatening in mega-doses or for those with cardiovascular conditions.
6. Bacopa Monnieri may cause gastrointestinal distress. Studies of Bacopa Monnieri can occasionally cause IBS like symptoms such as diarrhea or an upset stomach (51).
7. A majority of these nootropics are not 100% proven to work. This may be due to a lack of research or conflicting research. To start, fish oil research shows mixed effects on brain health because it does not work consistently from study to study.
Resveratrol shows promise. However, there are not enough studies on humans to confirm resveratrol nootropic effects. Resveratrol supplements show a lot of promise to improve memory and brain function in animals, yet in humans, it isn’t clear what the effects are.
Lastly, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) stated that more research on Rhodiola Rosea needs to be conducted to confirm Rhodiola’s effects in humans because of inconsistent research results on the effect of Rhodiola Rosea on the brain.
8. Nootropic supplements could cause allergic reactions. Though allergic reactions can occur with almost any supplement available on the market, nootropics present a more unique concern. As nootropics have multiple ingredients, there is a slightly enhanced risk of an allergic reaction occurring. In most cases, allergic reactions involving nootropics are due to ingredients such as Ginkgo Biloba.
Allergic reactions to nootropics are generally mild and consist of abdominal discomfort, nausea, dizziness, rashes, or possible hives. In some cases, however, the reaction may be much more serious and could lead to life-threatening conditions. Those with a history of life-threatening reactions should use caution when taking nootropics. If any of the included ingredients have produced a prior reaction, patients should avoid consuming the supplement or consult a physician prior to beginning supplementation.
Clinically effective doses for 55% Bacoside Bacopa Monnieri are between 250 and 300mg.
The clinically effective dosage for CDP-choline has been shown to be between 250 and 1000mg. Under 500mg seems to result in more focus where above 500mg seems to better for inducing the neuroprotective properties of CDP-choline.
The clinically effective dosage of alpha-gpc is between 250 and 1200mg. For increasing cognition, 250mg the same effects as 500mg (52).
Modafinil doses range from between 50-200mg once per day. Always start at the lower dose and titrate up.
Generally, a dose around 200 to 400 mg per day is considered safe and beneficial
Phosphatidylserine taken three times per day with dosages of 100 mg has been seen to reduce age-related decline in cognitive function (53). For the general population, doses up to 400 mg have been seen as helpful and safe. In the future, an optimal dosage may be discovered because to confirm the use of phosphatidylserine as a nootropic requires further research.
For fish oil, more research is needed to find the optimal dosage of EPA and DHA. That being said, many studies do find that taking 1 gram per day of combined DHA and EPA benefits brain health (54).
Resveratrol is seen to be beneficial when taken daily at a dose of 200 mg (55). This study was done over 26 weeks and saw improvement in memory, so this dosage is proven to be safe and effective. Because more research is needed to confirm the nootropics of resveratrol, this is the ideal amount to supplement with for now.
Adderall should be dosed based on your prescription needs.
Are nootropics safe? Yes, most nootropics are considered safe for long-term use. However, exercise caution with prescription nootropics such as Adderall and modafinil can be dangerous. Of course, always consult with your doctor before consuming any nootropics.
What is the best nootropic? There is no best nootropic as all of them enhance different parts of the brain. Some work on learning, others memory, and others work on focus. However, the best overall, with the lowest side effects is the prescription medication modafinil.
How long do nootropics last? Depending on the nootropic, they can last from 2-12 hours and beyond.
Are nootropics legal? Depending on the country, some nootropics may be illegal. Always check your countries laws before purchasing anything.
How do nootropics work? Nootropics work in many pathways. Often times they can increase brain chemical levels to enhance neuron connection, growth, and speed of information travel. They also can work on hormones such as dopamine and serotonin.
Do you need to cycle nootropics? For the most part, no you do not need to cycle nootropics. In fact, it may even be counterproductive since a lot of them need to build up levels in the brain to stimulate their full effects.
Are nootropics vegan-friendly? Yes, most if not all nootropics are considered vegan-friendly.
Are nootropics addictive? Yes and no. Some nootropics are chemically addictive such as nicotine and Adderall. However, they can all be psychologically addicting, especially if you find you become a better version of yourself when on them. Also, any substance that is perceived to yield positive results can be self-reinforcing, even if not physiologically “addictive.”
Do nootropics have side effects? Yes, some nootropics do have side effects. The most common are headaches, nausea, and intestinal distress.
What is the worst nootropic? Piracetam, while popular, is believed to be the worst nootropic. Its been around for decades and there is no human evidence to support any of its claims. Furthermore, many users find it does nothing more than cause headaches.
What is a smart drug? Smart drugs are considered to be natural and synthetic substances that are taken primarily to improve mental performance. They have become increasingly popular and are used in most cases to improve memory and focus.
Can nootropics cause anxiety? Some nootropics, which are stimulants may cause anxiety in certain individuals. In others, it may help alleviate the symptoms.
Are nootropics considered to be a “smart drug”? Yes, nootropics are considered to be a type of “smart drug”. As nootropic supplements are designed to function in the same manner found with most smart drugs, they are usually grouped together.
Do nootropics have any effects on heart health? Though they are considered generally safe, nootropics may have an effect on heart health depending on the person using the supplement. In some cases, instances of increased heart rate and palpitations have been experienced. Those who have a history of heart issues should be very cautious of beginning nootropic supplementation and should consult a physician prior to doing so.
Are nootropics safe for diabetics? No, nootropics are not considered to be safe for those who have been diagnosed with diabetes. Nootropics have been found to have an effect on insulin and blood sugar levels. Those who have diabetes will need to be very cautious hen introducing nootropic supplements into their routine. It is highly recommended that users consult a physician prior to starting treatment.
Can pregnant women take nootropics? It is not recommended that pregnant women take nootropics. Though there is no current evidence definitively proving these supplements could have a detrimental effect, there are some products that contain stimulants and other ingredients not considered safe for use while pregnant.
Are nootropics safe for breastfeeding? Similar to concerns during pregnancy, it is not recommended that women who are breastfeeding use nootropics. The use of nootropics could increase the risk of stimulant exposure to newborns as it has the potential to be secreted from the mother’s milk. Those who may want to supplement using nootropics while breastfeeding is strongly encouraged to consult a physician prior to doing so.
Are nootropics safe long term? Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing if nootropics are safe for long term use due to the lack of studies and novelty of the supplement category.
Can nootropics cause cancer? Currently, there is no definitive proof to suggest that nootropics directly or indirectly cause cancer.
Can nootropics cause brain damage? There is no science to prove this is or isn’t true, so the possibility of brain damage from nootropics is always there.
Are nootropics helpful for weight loss? In some cases, yes. There are many nootropics that could be helpful during the course of weight loss. As nootropics have the ability to stave off brain fatigue and increase focus, this could also lead to increased amounts of energy. Channeling this energy into a workout or weight loss routines has been shown to have numerous positive effects.
Are nootropics FDA regulated? No, nootropics are not currently regulated by the FDA. Similar to many other supplements on the market, nootropics are largely unregulated which could cause some concerns regarding purity and quality. Those who choose to use nootropic supplements are highly encouraged to research their options and consult with a physician prior to using these or other supplements.
What is the best way to choose a nootropic supplement? Choosing a nootropic supplement can be difficult. It is best to choose supplements that provide a clear list of ingredients when possible and avoid the use of artificial products. Nootropics that include stimulants such as caffeine would not be recommended as there are many issues that may occur through frequent use.
Where is the best place to purchase a nootropic supplement? The preferred purchase location for a nootropic supplement will vary based greatly on the individual. Generally, they can be found at any standard grocery or drug store within your local area. Those who would like the convenience of online ordering can also purchase their supplements via the internet. It is recommended, however, that research be conducted prior to making a final purchase decision from a reputable company.
Can nootropics cause headaches? Yes, it is possible for nootropics to cause headaches.
Nootropics show a real benefit in preventing dementia, which affects half of adults over 80. Additionally, there is some research-supported excitement that nootropics can significantly increase your memory and overall cognitive function. However, most nootropics seem to benefit people who have mental conditions, over healthier people.
While nootropics are still in their early stages, the future promises to provide further insights as well as concrete evidence towards the use of nootropics designed to drastically improve cognition.
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