Best Nootropics 2021: The Most Popular Smart Drugs

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• Fact Checked By: Spela Bednjanic, B.A. In Psychology

Nootropics are natural cognitive enhancers that enhance focus, improve memory, slow-down cognitive decline, and help to deal with stress. They are used by high-achievers, students, entrepreneurs, managers, and others who need lots of brainpower for ultimate performance. 

Since FDA (and other similar organizations across the world) do not regulate nootropics, people are often confused when choosing the most effective and safest nootropics. So in this post, we will share the best nootropics you can currently find on the market. 

Optimize Your Brain Performance

Taking nootropics and brain supplements is an effective way to boost your brain and cognitive performance.

I have been experimenting and researching nootropics since 2015. In this long period, I tested the majority of individual nootropics. I also tried over 100+ nootropic supplements. 

Each year, I update this list with new nootropics. However, you could find most nootropics below on our best nootropics 2018, best nootropics 2019, and best nootropics 2020 lists. 

The reality is that this scientific field is fastly developing, but there aren’t many changes from one year to another.

As a result of our work, my team and I also developed this advanced supplement review process which has helped us separate between low and high-quality nootropics.

In this post, I will share scientifically-proven individual nootropics and nootropic supplements. 

While most nootropics are not dangerous, you can suffer from side-effects if you are not careful. Before taking any nootropics, it is important to know the science behind nootropics. Also, you need to know when to take them, what dosages, and how to combine them.

If you follow the rules, expect lots of benefits.

If you decide to buy any nootropics, you can purchase individual compounds or stacks. If you are not an expert, I recommend going for stacks.

At the end of this post, I will share our top-rated stacks as well. 

Which Is The Best Nootropic For You?

Before diving into effective nootropics that can improve your performance, I want to clarify one important thing. If you ever decide to test individual nootropic compounds, you can experience entirely different results from other people. Certain nootropics work differently on different people. So when talking about individual compounds, there is no “one best nootropic” for everyone. 

However, if you try nootropic stacks (multiple nootropics combined), most people experience very similar benefits. The reason for that is straightforward – as soon as you combine numerous nootropic compounds, they simultaneously work on different brain pathways. 

Even if one particular nootropic does not work for you, ten nootropics combined will most likely do.

Now, let’s check the best nootropics.

Best Nootropics 2021

Before you buy a nootropic, you must ask yourself: “What am I looking for in a nootropic?” 

Are you a student who needs better memory? Or do you need your brain to be firing on all cylinders at all times? Maybe you need help with relaxation or sleep? Or maybe you need nootropics to help you with anxiety or depression?

As you can see, there are multiple nootropic categories. Without knowing your goals, you will spend lots of time and money on the “wrong nootropics.”

So, once you define your goals, it’s time to find the right nootropics for you.

top nootropics

Memory

I discussed in this guide Best Nootropics For Memory all you need you know about how nootropics improve our memory. 

To make a summary, yes, nootropics can improve your memory performance. Two types of nootropics have been proven the most effective:

  1. Adaptogen herbs
  2. Cholines

My experience shows that the combination of both types of nootropics is the most effective. 

Choline nootropics are especially important because nerves use choline to produce acetylcholine. This is the neurotransmitter important for short- and long-term memory. 

With the right combination of adaptogen herbs, we can create optimal memory storage conditions in our brain. 

Alpha-GPC

Alpha-GPC is a cholinergic compound that increases acetylcholine levels. [1] Unlike choline bitartrate or citrate, it easily crosses the blood-brain barrier. 

It helps to prevent cognitive decline and enhances power output. [2] A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial shows that alpha-GPC improves symptoms of Alzheimer’s in people with mild to moderate symptoms. [3]

A standard dosage of alpha-GPC is 300-600 mg. If you suffer from cognitive decline, a dosage of 1200 mg (three times 400 mg daily) appears to be the most effective. 

Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa Monnieri is an ayurvedic herb that people used for centuries in traditional medicine. It is a nootropic for cognitive enhancement and memory improvement. [4] Studies also show that Bacopa decreases anxiety and depression. [5] People with anxiety swear by Bacopa Monnieri as the most effective nootropic for anxiety.

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. [6

Supplementing Bacopa Monnieri can decrease your motivation, so I recommend supplementing it in the afternoon. To avoid nausea, bloating, and cramping, take it with food.

The standard daily dosage is 300 mg with a total bacoside level of 55%. 

Centrophenoxine

Centrophenoxine is a cholinergic compound with a DMAE component. It is an effective nootropic because of its quick absorption in the form of choline. [7] Since choline and acetylcholine are critical for memory and learning, supplementing centrophenoxine may improve your memory. 

The standard daily dosage is 250 mg. You can take up to three doses per day.

Citicoline

Citicoline is a nerve nourishing nootropic given to stroke victims or people suffering from cognitive decline. Effects of citicoline are supported by over 8 clinical studies. [8]

Studies show that supplementing citicoline:

  1. Improves attention performance
  2. Increases motor speed and attention
  3. May reverse cognitive decline
  4. Improves verbal memory

Based on studies, a dosage of up to 2 g per day improves memory. [9

The standard daily dosage of citicoline is 300 mg per day. 

You can also find citicoline on the top of my list of best choline nootropics.

Gingko Biloba

Gingko Biloba is one of the oldest tree species on Earth, dating back to 270 million years. An extract of Ginkgo leaves, called Egb 761, helps neurotransmitters, protects brain cells from degeneration, and helps microcirculation in the brain. [10]

Studies show that Ginkgo Biloba is effective in slowing down cognitive decline. Also, Ginkgo has a positive impact on short-term memory. [11]

The recommended daily dose is 40-80 mg 3-times per day.

I do not recommend supplementing Ginkgo Biloba as an individual compound due to the low efficiency. But do take it with other compounds from our list. 

Are there other nootropics that have an impact on memory?

Yes, nootropics such as fish oil, phosphatidylserine, pine bark extract, and l-theanine can all affect our memory. However, they have multiple other benefits, so we cover them below. 

As you will see, most nootropics have at least two benefits. That is why it’s essential to stack them up carefully for optimal results.

best nootropic pill

Cognition

What does the word cognition resemble? Many people would say a better memory. But a better memory is just one part of cognition. The other part could be mental acuity. 

Nootropics can’t be split entirely up 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 nootropics don’t fit the regular mold of memory enhancers but can help us stay mentally fit.

Acetyl L-Carnitine

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 responsible for learning. [12] Supplements usually contain Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR), which can cross the blood-brain barrier.

Studies show that L-Carnitine improves symptoms of depression, reduces fatigue, and it helps with oxidative stress. 

The standard ALCAR dosage is 630-2500 mg per day.

Creatine

If you’re a regular gym-goer, we are pretty sure you’ve come across this word before. Creatine is your body’s first source of fuel when you do strenuous exercise or hard labor. Up until now, creatine was only considered as a strength-building supplement, but recent studies show creatine also contributes to much improved cognitive function and quicker problem-solving. [13]

Creatine is entirely safe to use daily. The recommended daily dosage is up to 5 grams.

Take anything more than that, and your muscles will become oversaturated with creatine.

Huperzine A

Huperzine A is a highly concentrated extract from the Chinese club moss plant, highly regarded in traditional Chinese medicine. One study proved Huperzine A was responsible for visible improvement in the subjects’ memory and learning skills compared to the placebo group. [14

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. [15

Typical doses are 50-100 mg, twice per day. 

To avoid dependency, I recommend cycling Huperzine A. Take it for 5 days in a row, then stay 2 days off. Take a longer break every month. 

Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Lion’s Mane mushroom (Yamabushitake) is a common ingredient in many Chinese cookbooks and is a staple in traditional Chinese medicine. Lion’s Mane is a mushroom that contains compounds called hericenones and erinacines. The two compounds have neuroprotective and cognitive enhancing properties by increasing the brain nerve growth factor, responsible for the growth, maintenance, and survival of neurons. [16]

A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial shows positive benefits on people with mild cognitive impairment. 

The recommended daily dosage is from 1000 mg to 3000 mg. I recommend taking a lower dosage (500 mg – 1000 mg) for a longer period. 

Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid, a combination of lipids (fats) and phosphorus. It is an essential compound for proper brain function and health. [17] It allows a more efficient transfer of nutrients, enzymes, and oxygen. It is also involved in building mitochondria in the brain cells. 

Phosphatidylserine appears to be protective against cognitive decline. [18] It also helps those who have ADHD. [19]

The recommended dosage is 100 mg, taken three times per day.

Pterostilbene

Pterostilbene is a naturally occurring antioxidant found in blueberries and grapes. Pterostilbene is gaining a reputation in the nootropics circles to control brain inflammation, boost dopamine production, and fight brain cell aging. [20]

Until now, there has been only one study done on humans. 

For cognitive benefit, take 50 mg of pterostilbene twice per day.

Rhodiola Rosea

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 were countless studies performed on Rhodiola Rosea, and all have a common thread. This herb is a good remedy for poor concentration, decreased memory, and mental fatigue. [21]

170 mg of Rhodiola Rosea can also improve performance on work-related tasks by 20%. [22]

The recommended dose of Rhodiola Rosea is 100 – 200 mg per day. Look for extracts that contain rosavins and salidrosides in a 3:1. This mimics the ratio that naturally occurs in the Rhodiola Rosea root.

Tyrosine

L-Tyrosine is an amino acid found in eggs, turkey, beef, soybeans, and Swiss cheese-  It helps with our body’s natural dopamine and noradrenaline production. [23] The two neurotransmitters play a great role in improving our mood and slowing down cognitive decline. 

Supplementing L-Tyrosine improves memory during acute stressors. It can also increase attention. [24]

The recommended daily dosage is 500-2000 mg before acute stressor. If you have low levels of dopamine, you can take L-Tyrosine daily. 

Vinpocetine

Vinpocetine 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. [25

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 impairing 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. [26

Poor cerebral circulation, in turn, will create a domino effect on our cognitive processes, and decrease our memory, decision making, and mood. 

The recommended daily dosage is 15-60 mg.

To learn more about other brain nootropics, click here: Best Brain Nootropics

mood

 

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?

Nootropics and humans can be compared to racehorses, their blinkers, and the jockey. The nootropics 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 nootropics for mood also include:

Caffeine

Caffeine comes from coffee beans, but it can also be synthesized in a laboratory. Regardless, caffeine is a powerful stimulant capable of increasing your physical and mental strength and endurance. [27]

It works by blocking adenosine receptors, which are responsible for sedation and relaxation. When caffeine blocks these receptors, we feel more alert and awake. People can, however, develop resistance to caffeine. This can happen to such an extent that a month-long break is needed. 

When taken habitually, caffeine will give you a good kick when taken in doses anywhere between 100-200 mg per day. 

Caffeine is my favorite nootropic for energy. 

Cobalamin (Vitamin B12)

Cobalamin is along with Inositol and Sulbutramine, 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. Cobalamin deficiency can lead to cognitive decline, sensory disturbances, and behavioral problems. [28]

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 up to 1 mg a day, vitamin B12 helps with serotonin and dopamine production, fighting anxiety, depression, fatigue, and pain.

Fish Oil

Fish oil 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 achieve optimal 1:2 omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. [29]

Fish oil is not a stimulant, but it can have a stimulatory effect after long-term supplementation.

For general health, take 1 g per day. I recommend supplementing plant-based omega-3 fish oil from algae.

Omega-3 is also a must-use nootropic for ADHD.

Inositol

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. Lack of vitamin B8 is often associated with decreased serotonin and dopamine levels, leading to a bad mood, anxiety, or even depression. [30]

Inositol is frequently used in antidepressants and is also proven to decrease mood swings, panic attacks, and OCD.

Dosage ranges from 3-18 mg per day, taken in the morning, noon, and evening. As with many other nootropics, start at the lower end of the spectrum and add more Inositol if necessary.

L-Theanine 

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. 

Taking about 100-200 mg at once will reduce stress and anxiety levels without leaving you feeling drowsy or sleepy. [31]

L-Theanine is often used in combination with caffeine because it gives us clarity and reduces the potential jitters caffeine supplements might induce.

You can find L-theanine on our list of best nootropics for sleep as well.

Sulbutiamine

Sulbutiamine is a synthetic derivative and is essentially two molecules of vitamin B1 (thiamine) joined together.

Sulbutiamine helps 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. [32]

Along with that, it is an excellent antidepressant, as it significantly increases dopamine and serotonin levels. The recommended daily dose is 400 mg.

I recommend consulting your doctor before supplementing sulbutiamine for depression. 

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Best Nootropic Supplement

I just covered the best nootropics you can currently find on the market. 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 I choose the best supplement? First of all, it has to contain:

  • 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 compounds

Besides, I conduct advanced supplement tests to choose the best supplements on the market.

So, which is the best nootropic supplement on the market?

Verdict

How is this list different from the best nootropics 2018, best nootropics 2019, and best nootropics 2020 list? From 2015 until today, a lot more research has been done, so we know more about nootropics than ever before.

I am more confident than ever that the provided list of nootropics is the best you can find.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a pill that makes you smarter?

Sadly, no pill that can make you smarter. However, by taking nootropic pills, your performance can improve, which will make you achieve better results. 

Which nootropics work best?

You can achieve the best results by combining multiple nootropics such as herb extracts, amino acids, mushrooms, choline sources, vitamins, and other compounds.

Which are the best nootropics on the market?

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.