Nootropics are natural cognitive enhancers that revive brain energy, improve focus, boost memory, slow-down cognitive decline, and help to deal with stress.
Also known as brain supplements, these compounds are used by high-achievers, students, entrepreneurs, managers, and others who need lots of brain power for ultimate performance.
Since the FDA (and other similar organizations across the world) do not regulate nootropics, people are often confused when choosing the most effective and safest brain supplement that can improve cognitive function. So, in this post, we will share the best nootropics you can currently find on the market.
Optimize Your Brain Performance
Taking nootropics and other supplements is an effective way of boosting brain health and improving cognitive performance.
I have been experimenting and researching nootropics and smart drugs that enhance mental energy since 2015. During this long period, I have tested the majority of individual nootropics as well as tried over 150+ natural nootropic supplements.
Each year, I update this list with new nootropics and smart drugs. However, most nootropics on the list below have been there from the very beginning.
The reality is that while this scientific field is developing really fast, there aren’t that many changes from one year to the next.
As a result of our work, my team and I have also developed an advanced supplement review process which has helped us distinguish between low and high-quality nootropic supplements that improve brain function and levels of mental energy.
In this post, I will share scientifically-proven individual nootropics and the best nootropic supplements that yield optimal results to boost cognitive function and improve overall brain health.
While the majority of nootropic substances are not dangerous, you can suffer from side effects if you are not careful. Before taking any kind of nootropic, it is important to know the science behind nootropics and smart drugs. Also, you need to know when to take them, how much to take, and how to combine them for optimal effects on mental function.
It is also important to note that nootropics work in several ways but with the ultimate goal of enhancing the brain’s ability to perform better.
So, if you follow the rules, you can expect lots of benefits.
If you decide to buy any nootropic brain supplements, you can purchase individual ingredients or a nootropic stack. If you are not an expert, then I recommend going for pre-made nootropic stacks.
At the end of this post, I will share my top-rated nootropic stacks as well.
Which Is The Best Nootropic For You?
Before diving into effective nootropics that can improve mental performance, I want to clarify one important thing. If you ever decide to test individual nootropic contents, you can experience entirely different results from other people. Certain brain supplements work differently on different people. So, when talking about individual nootropics, there is no “one best nootropic” for everyone.
However, if you try a nootropic stack where multiple nootropic contents are combined, most people experience very similar benefits to their cognitive health. The reason for that is straightforward – as soon as you combine numerous ingredients in a nootropic supplement, they simultaneously work on different brain pathways.
For example, some components of a nootropic stack enhance levels of certain brain chemicals while others promote cerebral flow. Yet others support brain energy whereas some alter brain waves.
As such, even if one particular nootropic drug does not work well for you, chances are that ten others combined will most likely do.
Now, let’s check the best nootropics and smart drugs that can help your brain stay healthy and enhance its performance.
Which Are The Best Nootropics?
Before you buy a nootropic, you must ask yourself: “What am I looking for in a nootropic drug?”
Are you a student who needs better focus and memory recall? Or do you need a drug to fire your brain on all cylinders at all times? Maybe you need help to relax and improve your sleep quality or something to help you with anxiety or depression. Perhaps you wish to increase energy levels along the way too?
As you can see, there are multiple nootropic categories. Without knowing your goals, you can end up spending lots of time and money on the wrong smart drug.
Plus, the use of either individual nootropics or a nootropic stack will vary based on age and overall health as well. Thus, a nootropics stack that is recommended for older adults will likely be very different from the one used for young, healthy individuals.
So, once you define your goals, it’s time to find the right nootropic drug to support your brain health.
I discuss this in the guide Best Nootropics For Memory where you get everything you need to know about how nootropic formulas improve your memory and focus, prevent memory loss, and help achieve peak mental performance.
To make a summary, yes, these nootropics can do wonders for enhancing your working memory and recall. Of these, two types have been proven the most effective:
- Adaptogen herbs
My experience shows that the combination of both types exhibits the most effectiveness.
Choline nootropics are especially important because nerves use choline to produce acetylcholine. This is among brain chemicals that are important for both short-term and long-term memory.
With the right combination of adaptogen herbs, we can create optimal memory recall and storage in the human brain.
As a brain supplement, it helps prevent cognitive impairment in older adults and enhances power output. 
A double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial shows that alpha-GPC can improve brain health and reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in people with mild to moderate symptoms. 
A standard dose of alpha-GPC is 300-600 mg. If you suffer from cognitive decline, a 1200 mg dose of this smart drug (three times 400 mg daily) appears to be the most effective.
Alpha GPC safety is pretty standard when users stay within the recommended range. However, some minor side effects like anxiety, nervousness, digestive distress or headaches may occur.
Studies also show that Bacopa decreases anxiety and depression. [*]
People with anxiety swear by Bacopa Monnieri extract as the most effective nootropic for anxiety as it alters levels of brain chemicals that impact stress and anxiety. It also seems to possess some excellent anti-inflammatory properties that inhibit enzymes associated with inflammation in the brain.
Plus, research shows bacopa also reduces high blood pressure by releasing nitric oxide which dilates blood vessels and improves blood flow.
Bacopa Monnieri contains an active compound called bacoside. This compound is responsible for information transfer at cell receptor sites, which in turn improves our long-term memory. [*]
Using Bacopa Monnieri dietary supplements can decrease your motivation, so I recommend Bacopa Monnieri supplementation in the afternoon. To avoid minor side effects such as nausea, bloating, and cramping, take it with food.
To get the full benefit, the standard daily dose is 300 mg with a total bacoside level of at least 30%.
Centrophenoxine is a cholinergic compound with a DMAE component. It is an effective nootropic because of its quick absorption in the form of choline. [*]
Since choline and acetylcholine are critical for aspects of cognitive performance such as focus, memory and learning, supplementing with centrophenoxine may help improve memory and support overall brain health.
The standard daily dose is 250 mg. You can take up to three doses of this smart drug safely in a day.
Since we lack scientific studies on people, I currently do not recommend supplementing centrophenoxine daily.
Citicoline or CDP-choline is a nerve-nourishing nootropic given to stroke victims or people suffering from cognitive decline. The effects of citicoline on mental performance are supported by over 8 clinical studies. [*]
Studies show that supplementing with CDP-choline:
- Improves attention performance
- Increases motor speed and attention
- May reverse cognitive decline
- Improves verbal memory
Based on studies, a dose of up to 2 g daily has been shown to improve learning, memory, focus, and mental alertness. [*]
The standard daily dose of CDP-choline is 300 mg every day.
You can also find CDP-choline at the top of my list of the best choline nootropics.
I recommend taking 200-300 mg of citicoline as Cognizin daily for optimal cognitive enhancement. Cognizin is a branded version of citicoline.
While citicoline is generally well tolerated, it may cause potential side effects including diarrhea, nausea, insomnia or headaches for some users.
It is also not recommended for anyone using the prescription medication Levodopa as it can interact with it.
Gingko Biloba is one of the oldest tree species on earth, dating back to 270 million years. With potent nutrients, an herbal extract of Ginkgo leaves, called Egb 761, regulates neurotransmitters, protects brain cells from degeneration, and helps improve microcirculation in the brain. [*]
Studies show that this ancient plant also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potential with the ability to support the slowing down of age-related cognitive functioning. Also, Ginkgo has a positive impact on short-term memory. [*]
The recommended daily dose is 40-80 mg 3-times daily.
I do not recommend supplementing Ginkgo Biloba as an individual compound due to its low efficiency. But do take it with other options from our list.
Some negative side effects linked with Ginkgo use include headaches, dizziness, upset stomach, and heart palpitations.
Are there other nootropics that have an impact on memory?
Yes, nootropic contents such as phosphatidylserine, maritime pine bark extract, and l-theanine all have the ability to affect memory, focus, and other cognitive functions positively. However, they have multiple other benefits, so we cover them below.
As you will see, the majority of nootropic contents have at least two benefits. That is why it’s essential to stack them up carefully for optimal results.
What does the word cognition resemble? Many people would say a better memory. But while this is just one part of cognition, the other part could be mental acuity.
Now, nootropic formulas can’t be split up entirely into separate categories, as one might say that memory is only a part of cognition, and others might claim it has to have its separate category.
A few of these nootropics don’t fit the regular mold of memory enhancers but can help us stay mentally fit.
Acetyl L-Carnitine is an amino acid found in high-protein foods, such as meat and eggs. L-Carnitine is essential in acetylcholine production. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that boosts learning and memory function. [*]
Supplements usually contain Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR), which holds the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier to boost cognition over time.
Studies show that L-Carnitine improves symptoms of depression, reduces fatigue, and helps with oxidative stress.
The standard ALCAR dosage is 630-2500 mg per day and staying within this range should not cause any side effects. Some people, however, may experience vomiting, nausea, or restlessness.
If you’re a regular gym-goer, we are pretty sure you’ve come across this word before. Creatine is the first source of fuel for the body when you engage in strenuous exercise or hard labor.
Up until now, creatine was only considered a strength-building supplement, but recent studies show that creatine can contribute other health benefits such as improved memory and cognitive function including quicker problem-solving. [*]
Creatine is entirely safe to use daily. The recommended daily dose is up to 5 grams.
Take anything more than that, and your muscles will become oversaturated with creatine.
Huperzine A is a highly concentrated extract from the Chinese club moss plant, prized greatly in traditional Chinese medicine. One study proved that Huperzine A could support improvement in the subjects’ cognition, memory retention, and learning skills compared to the placebo group. [*]
Recent studies also reveal Huperzine A has a significant impact on an individual’s cognitive function for daily use and suppresses overall symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. [*]
Typical doses are 50-200 mcg, taken twice daily.
To avoid dependency, I recommend cycling Huperzine A. Take it for 5 days in a row, then stay 2 days off. Take a more extended break every month.
Typically associated side effects with Huperzine A use include digestive distress, restlessness, muscle twitching, and cramping.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s Mane mushroom (Yamabushitake) is a common ingredient in many Chinese cookbooks and a staple in traditional Chinese medicine.
Lion’s Mane mushroom contains active ingredients called hericenones and erinacines. The two have neuroprotective and cognitive enhancing properties by increasing the brain nerve growth factor, responsible for the growth, maintenance, and survival of neurons. [*]
A double-blind placebo-controlled trial shows positive benefits in people with mild cognitive impairment.
The recommended daily dose is from 1000 mg to 3000 mg. I recommend taking a lower dose (500 mg – 1000 mg) for a longer period.
Lion’s mane is contraindicated for people with allergies or an overactive immune system.
Maritime Pine Bark
As a nootropic, maritime pine bark extract is used for cognitive enhancement in the areas of memory and mental performance. It is also used to improve focus, decision-making, and mood.
The antioxidants in maritime pine bark can cross the blood-brain barrier where they not only boost the anti-oxidative potential of cells but also catch free radicals in the bloodstream.
In addition, active components of the extract improve circulation in the brain delivering oxygen and nutrients to cells. This factor can help delay the onset of neurodegenerative disease associated with aging.
For brain optimization, clinical trials show the optimal dose of pine bark to be around 100 mg divided into 3 doses a day.
Side effects are rare when using it on its own or in a natural nootropic stack but some people may experience dizziness, mild digestive issues or a headache. People using immunosuppressants should not use pine bark as it boosts the immune system.
Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid and an integral component of all brain cell membranes which is equally essential for brain cell maintenance.
It boosts the transfer of nutrients, enzymes, and oxygen more efficiently making it an essential compound for proper brain function. [*]. It also provides the benefit of building mitochondria in the brain cells.
The recommended dose is 100 mg, taken three times daily.
Phosphatidylserine in supplement form is tolerated quite well without presenting any serious health risks because it is already present in the body and the brain and body recognize it as a natural substance.
Pterostilbene is a naturally occurring antioxidant found in blueberries and grapes. Clinical trials show that pterostilbene is gaining a reputation in nootropic circles for its efficacy in controlling brain inflammation, boosting dopamine production, and fighting brain cell aging. [*]
Until now, there has been only one study done on humans to support its purported benefits.
For cognitive benefits, take 50 mg of pterostilbene twice daily.
Rhodiola Rosea is an adaptogen herb and nootropic used in traditional Russian and Scandinavian medicine. Adaptogens are herbs that help the human body adapt to stress.
There have been countless studies performed on Rhodiola Rosea, and all have a common thread. This herb is a good remedy that boosts cognition in the areas of poor concentration and mental fatigue. [*]
170 mg of Rhodiola Rosea can also improve performance on work-related tasks by 20%. [*]
The recommended dose of Rhodiola Rosea is 50 – 688 mg per day. Look for extracts that contain the active compounds rosavins and salidrosides in a 3:1 ratio. This mimics the ratio that naturally occurs in the Rhodiola Rosea root.
Rhodiola is safe for most individuals with the occasional side effects of a dry mouth or temporary dizziness reported. However, people with certain autoimmune disorders, or anyone taking blood pressure or diabetes medication should first consult with their doctor.
L-Tyrosine is found in eggs, turkey, beef, soybeans, and Swiss cheese. It helps with our body’s natural dopamine and noradrenaline production. [*] The two neurotransmitters play a great role in improving our mood and preserving cognitive abilities.
Research indicates that supplementing with L-Tyrosine can boost brain function and memory during acute stressors. It can also increase attention. [*]
The recommended daily dose is 500-2000 mg before acute stressor. If you have low levels of dopamine, you can take L-Tyrosine daily to amplify its cognitive benefits.
A modified form of L-tyrosine known as N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine or NALT is also used for cognitive enhancement. This smart drug comes with improved bioavailability than the standard form but has a lower conversion rate in the body.
Commonly reported side effects include fatigue, heartburn, or mild gastric distress.
This is a nootropic that comes from synthesizing Vincamine. This is a natural alkaloid found in the lesser periwinkle plant and is one of the best-selling nootropics in the world. [*]
In places such as Mexico and Russia, it’s used as a prescription drug, while elsewhere, it can be found as an over-the-counter drug for preventing cognitive decline.
It works by increasing blood flow to the brain and reducing oxidative damage. This means our brain cells will remain healthy for longer, and our synapses will be firing at full speed. [*]
Poor cerebral circulation, on the other hand, will create a domino effect on our cognitive processes and impact brain function adversely. It can easily impair mental clarity, decision-making, and mood.
For optimal cognitive benefits, the recommended daily dose is 15-60 mg.
Common side effects include stomach pain, nausea, sleep disturbances, and flushing in the face.
Here you can learn more about other brain nootropics.
Mood and Well-being
We can be armed to the teeth with all the cognitive-enhancing nootropics, but what good are those when we’re not in the mood for productivity?
Nootropic drugs and humans can be compared to racehorses, their blinkers, and the jockey. These brain supplements are the young stallion, chomping at the bit, but it is up to us to channel that energy and focus on something productive.
Otherwise, you’ll find yourself diving deep into discussions on Reddit or finding realms of Youtube you never knew existed.
The best nootropic supplements for mood also include:
Caffeine comes from coffee beans, but can also be synthesized in a laboratory. Regardless, this is a powerful stimulant capable of increasing your mental clarity as well as boosting physical strength and endurance. [*]
It yields cognitive benefits by blocking adenosine receptors, which are responsible for sedation and relaxation. When it blocks these receptors, brain activity fuels alertness and wakefulness.
People can, however, develop resistance to caffeine. This can happen to such an extent that a month-long break may be needed from your daily cup of coffee.
When taken habitually, this smart drug will give you an extra boost when taken in doses anywhere between 100-200 mg daily.
However, if you are sensitive to this potent nootropic, then it may be better to look for other caffeine-free stimulants.
I highly recommend supplementation with caffeine and L-theanine together for the best results. You can find more information on theanine below.
Cobalamin (Vitamin B12)
Cobalamin is along with Inositol and Sulbutiamine, a member of the Vitamin B family. Cobalamin is a scientific term for vitamin B12, a vitamin that can be found in every single cell in your body.
According to research, a cobalamin deficiency can lead to impaired mental processing, sensory disturbances, and behavioral problems. [*]
Cobalamin flushes the brain with about 20% of our total blood volume by increasing cerebral circulation, keeping it healthy and functioning correctly.
Most importantly, in doses of up to 100 mcg daily, vitamin B12 helps with serotonin and dopamine production, fighting anxiety, depression, fatigue, and pain.
It is suggested to stay within the recommended range to avoid common side effects such as a headache or digestive distress.
This is a term for two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The two are usually found in fish.
Because modern diets promote foods that are high in omega-6 acids, additional omega-3 supplementation is recommended to acquire an optimal ratio. [*]
While this oil is not a stimulant, it can have a stimulatory effect when supplemented for a prolonged period.
For general health, take 1 g daily. I recommend plant-based omega-3s from algae as the superior form of supplementation.
Mild side effects may include bad breath, a fishy aftertaste, heartburn, or diarrhea.
Omega-3s are also a must-use nootropic for ADHD.
Inositol is like the Pluto of vitamins. New studies show that Inositol or vitamin B8 is no longer considered a ‘true’ vitamin because our bodies can produce it independently.
As a nootropic, Inositol is a sugar alcohol that works as a secondary messenger, facilitating processes inside the brain. Research indicates that a lack of vitamin B8 is often associated with decreased serotonin and dopamine levels, leading to a bad mood, anxiety, or even depression. [*]
Inositol is frequently used in antidepressants and is also proven to decrease mood swings, panic attacks, and OCD.
Daily doses range from 3-18 grams, taken in the morning, noon, and evening. As with many other nootropics, start with smaller doses and add more Inositol if necessary.
Side effects such as stomach pain, fatigue, and dizziness may occur when taken in larger than recommended amounts.
L-Theanine is another amino acid, but this one can’t be found in meat and dairy. L-Theanine is a relaxing agent found in green tea with some excellent antioxidant properties.
Clinical trials show that taking about 100-200 mg at once will generate a calming effect that reduces stress and anxiety levels without leaving you feeling drowsy or sleepy. [*]
L-Theanine is often used alongside caffeine because it facilitates mental processing speed while reducing the potential jitters caffeine supplements might induce.
Too much theanine may cause mild side effects including headaches, nausea, and irritability.
You can find L-theanine on my list of best nootropics for sleep as well.
Sulbutiamine is a synthetic derivative and is essentially two molecules of vitamin B1 (thiamine) joined together.
Scientific evidence suggests that sulbutiamine may help fight a bad mood, brain fog, and lack of motivation. It is directly involved in the citric acid cycle, where the production of ATP happens. ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the brain cell’s primary source of energy. [*]
Along with that, research suggests that it is an excellent antidepressant, as it significantly increases dopamine and serotonin levels. The recommended dose for a single day is 400 mg.
I recommend getting medical advice before supplementing sulbutiamine for depression. People with bipolar disorder are also cautioned when using sulbutiamine as they may experience more mood swings than usual.
Best Nootropic Supplement
I just covered the best nootropics you can currently find on the market. Here you can learn more about:
Since I know that most of you are not interested in buying multiple nootropic compounds separately and making your nootropic supplements at home, I will now share with you the best nootropic supplement you can find on the market.
How do I choose the best supplement? First of all, it has to be a well-rounded formula that contains:
- At least one nootropic from each of the categories that I mentioned
- High-quality nootropics
- Scientifically-proven dosages
- An efficient formula
- Absolutely zero GMOs, artificial colors, and other unnecessary additives
- Ideally, be backed by a money-back guarantee and free shipping
Besides, I conduct advanced supplement tests to choose the best nootropic formulas available.
So, which is the best nootropic supplement currently available?
We just covered the most important nootropics on the market. If you are still unsure which nootropics are the best for you, I suggest going through the quiz I have developed for you.
Complete the nootropics quiz and get my suggestions for nootropics that fit your brain chemistry, goals, and budget.
Frequently Asked Quetions
Sadly, no pill that can make you smarter. However, by taking nootropic pills, your performance can improve, which will make you achieve better results.
You can achieve the best results by combining multiple nootropics such as herb extracts, amino acids, mushrooms, choline sources, vitamins, and other compounds.
There are many great nootropics you can currently find on the market. If I had to pick three of them, I would choose Bacopa Monnieri, Citicoline, and Lion’s Mane mushroom.