Did you know there are dozens, if not hundreds of possible combinations of Nootropics—some good, some bad, some extremely dangerous?

We’re giving you the latest information on how these nootropic supplements and smart drugs work to give you precisely what you're looking for, including our highly researched top picks.

Starting today, you'll know how to safely unlock your brain's full potential and maximize the firepower of Nootropics.

What Are Nootropics?

Nootropic is a broad term referring to any natural or synthetic substance that may improve mental and cognitive performance. AKA, the smart drug, brain supplements, or cognitive enhancers.

What Do Nootropics Do?

Nootropics modify the central nervous system (CNS) through neurotransmitters to strengthen brain health and function.

Neurotransmitters are our body's chemical messengers. They communicate signals to cells that control everything from our breathing, heart rate, how we learn, concentration, and even our mood.

Nootropics alter our neurotransmitters, creating different therapeutic effects in the brain resulting in benefits such as improved mental processing, mental clarity, focus, short-term memory, and higher executive functions for time management and decision-making.

What Are the Different Types of Nootropics?

Nootropics come in three main forms:

  • Natural.
  • Prescription-only.
  • Over-the-counter supplements, which the FDA does not regulate.

Nootropics Supplements

Supplements are commonly sold without a prescription in pharmacies, apothecaries, and vitamin stores. They include ingredients found in nature like Ginkgo Biloba, lion's mane mushroom, and fish oils, but in higher concentrations to increase the impact.

Prescription Nootropics

Some nootropics are drastic enough in their outcomes, adverse effects, and addictiveness that they’re only available through prescriptions. These are likely to be the least questionable nootropic options due to the advanced research and testing behind each drug formula.

Natural Nootropics

These are nootropics found in nature—caffeine, b-vitamins, and lion's mane mushroom. There are well-researched benefits to these natural options, but they’re more subtle, less concentrated, and best to use in combination with other natural nootropics.

Best Nootropics

What makes the following nootropics the best on the market? It’s simple—effective ingredients and fewer to no side effects.

NooCube - Most Effective

This well-known smart drug is one of the best nootropic supplements made of natural ingredients. Their science-backed researched formula aids in better focus, concentration, communication skills, and improved memory.

NooCube's highly effective supplement boasts the ability to repair brain damage from aging disorders, making it ideal for people who want to improve their memory retention, problem-solving skills, and information processing.

Ingredients

  • Alpha GPC
  • Huperzine A
  • Cat's Claw
  • Bacopa Monnieri
  • Oat Straw
  • L-Theanine
  • L-Tyrosine

NooCube Side Effects

These are rare and only occur when exceeding the recommended dosage:

  • Stomach pain.
  • Heartburn.
  • Bad mood.
  • Dizziness.
  • Headaches.

Mind Lab Pro - Best For Beginners

Mind Lab Pro is an entirely natural nootropic and clean supplement, meaning that it's made solely of natural ingredients. It promises various results such as focus, creativity, memory, motivation, and improved mood.

Mind Lab Pro has an 11-ingredient blend with no adverse effects making their brand the best nootropics for first-time users wanting to quickly and easily adjust to daily nootropic supplements.

Ingredients

  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin B9
  • Vitamin B6
  • Citicoline
  • Bacopa Monnieri
  • Maritime Pine Bark Extract
  • Phosphatidylserine
  • L-Theanine
  • L-Tyrosine
  • Rhodiola Rosea
  • Organic Lion's Mane mushroom

Mind Lab Pro Side Effects

None.

Performance Lab Nootropics - Best for College Students

This nootropic is a vegan-friendly dietary supplement designed to boost cognitive function. The Performance Lab formula may help to improve mental performance, memory, focus, mood, clarity, and sharpness of the mind by increasing blood flow to the brain.

It boasts an improved ability to react rationally in stressful situations and analyze complex problems, making this one of the best nootropics for test-taking students studying full time.

Ingredients

  • Cytidine 5' Diphosphocholine
  • Non-GMO Sunflower Lecithin
  • L-Tyrosine
  • Maritime Pine Bark Extract

Performance Lab Nootropics Side Effects

None.

Hunter Focus - Best For Energy

Hunter focus uses safe and thoroughly tested ingredients to create their brain health formula blend, separated into three categories—concentration activation, memory matrix, and mood amplification.

This smart drug combination promises to improve memory and focus while enhancing creativity and learning. The added benefit of providing more energy and elevated mood makes this the best nootropic to have on hand to push through your challenging fitness goals.

Ingredients

  • Maritime Pine Bark Extract
  • Ashwagandha Extract
  • N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine
  • Passion Flower Extract
  • Bacopa
  • Lion's Mane Mushroom
  • Citicoline
  • Phosphatidylserine
  • L-Theanine

Hunter Focus Side Effects

None.

BrainPill - Best For Over 50

BrainPill is an FDA-approved, fast-acting, natural smart drug. Their dietary nootropic supplements improve blood circulation in the brain and cognitive impairment for better mental alertness and help to prevent forgetfulness, especially in older adults.

This formula contains antioxidant properties that slow the aging process and may prevent cardiovascular disease in older individuals while treating depression, mental fatigue, and mood changes.

Ingredients

  • L-Theanine
  • CDP Choline
  • Black Pepper Extract
  • DHA Complex
  • Folic Acid
  • Ginkgo Biloba
  • Phosphatidylserine
  • Bacopa Monnieri
  • Vinpocetine
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin B6
  • Pantothenic Acid
  • L-Tyrosine
  • Huperzia Serrata

BrainPill Side Effects

These are rare and only occur when exceeding the recommended dosage:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Insomnia.
  • Headache.

Qualia Mind - Best For Focus

Qualia Mind is a natural dietary supplement with more ingredients than most nootropic supplement brands. Their combination of 28 ingredients contains b vitamins, amino acids, herbal extracts, and other brain-boosting compounds.

This smart drug may help to improve overall brain function, resulting in absorbing information more quickly while sustaining energy and alertness for more extended periods without the crash you feel if consuming caffeine.

Ingredients

  • Vitamin C (100mg)
  • Vitamin D3 (1000 IU)
  • Thiamine (50mg)
  • Niacin (50mg)
  • Vitamin B6 (20mg)
  • Vitamin B12 (1000mc)
  • Uridine-5′-Monophosphate heptahydrate disodium N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine
  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine HCI
  • Artichoke Leaf Extract
  • Rhodiola Rosea Root Extract
  • Ginkgo biloba Leaf Extract
  • Velvet Bean Seed Extract
  • Taurine
  • L-Theanine
  • Theobromine
  • Cognizin Citicoline
  • Organic Coffeeberry
  • Whole Coffee Fruit Extract
  • Coleus forskohlii Root Extract
  • Phosphatidylserine
  • Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine
  • Docosahexaenoic Acid from Algae
  • Celastrus paniculatus Seed Extract
  • DL-Phenylalanine
  • Bacopa monnieri Leaf Extract
  • Pyrroloquinoline Quinone disodium
  • Huperzia serrata Leaf Extract

Qualia Mind Side Effects

These are rare and only occur when exceeding the recommended dosage:

  • Restlessness.
  • Headaches.
  • Fatigue.

Natural Memory Supplements

Caffeine

Caffeine is a natural stimulant and the most widely consumed psychoactive drug, pairing well with many other nootropic ingredients.


Most Americans consume caffeine through their daily cup of coffee, where most drink 2-3 cups a day

Once ingested, caffeine quickly enters the bloodstream, affecting the brain's neurotransmitters by reducing tiredness, making you more focused and alert. The effects of caffeine can improve short-term memory function and reaction time [1].

Tyrosine

Tyrosine is naturally produced in the body as an amino acid. It enhances brain chemicals that control mood and stress, improving cognitive flexibility (being able to switch tasks and thought quickly), and boosting working memory during stressful situations by building concentration and alertness [2].

Studies also show Tyrosine improving mental decline and helping those who are sleep deprived [3].

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba is a nootropic that amplifies brain function by improving the blood circulation and blood flow in the brain, enhancing cognitive and mental performance [4]. This leads to better memory, increased energy, faster reaction times, and clearer thinking without brain fog.

The improved circulation can help reduce stress while elevating your mood. Its antioxidant properties and effects on neurotransmitters can also help repair damaged brain cells.

Creatine

Creatine is an amino acid that helps supply and store energy to each brain cell. This allows the body to function in a number of ways, including improving focus, memory, and attention while working longer on fewer hours of sleep [5].

A unique benefit to creatine production is the enhancement of reasoning skills not found in other nootropics.

DHA

DHA or docosahexaenoic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid necessary for the healthy structure and function of neurotransmitters in the brain. This fat is an essential nutrient for eye and brain health. DHA is not found naturally in the body but comes from enzymes in algae that produce this crucial fatty acid.

DHA can restore neurotransmitters that affect memory, attention, and learning by increasing serotonin levels. Fish oil is the most common form of this supplement.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rosea is a natural herb found in Russia and Scandinavia that enhances brain function and improves mental clarity and performance, especially during stressful situations.

Studies show the growth and development of specific brain cells while taking Rhodiola Rosea [6]. There are also signs that this supplement improves overall mood, which can have positive results on depression, emotions, and even insomnia [7].

Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa is an herb linked to improved cognition, mood, and a reduction of stress. This ancient herb is an adaptogen that prevents the chemical and physical effects of stress on the body while naturally elevating physical performance and endurance.

Bacopa affects the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, aiding in memory, and serotonin levels which affect mood [8]. It also has antioxidants that help elevate cognitive function and other health benefits [9].

Citicoline

Citicoline is a chemical found naturally in the brain. It helps with memory loss by producing phosphatidylcholine, which contains fatty acids. Furthermore, it can increase the quantity of dopamine produced in brain cells, but only in minimal amounts [10].


Thanks to its effects of increasing dopamine, citicoline could present as a short-term treatment for cocaine abuse

Citicoline may stimulate cognition, improve focus and eyesight, improve brain damage, and help with depression.

Phenylethylamine

PEA is an organic compound and a trace amine that make certain chemicals that stimulate the central nervous system [11]. PEA works in the brain by increasing dopamine and serotonin levels, relieving the physical effects of depression. It also affects the neurotransmitters responsible for attention, awareness, and cognitive performance.

PEA naturally regulates neuronal activity in the brain, preventing too much stimulation. Even though the outcome may be similar to a caffeine stimulant, you won't feel the negative symptoms such as jitteriness, nausea or insomnia.

Maritime Pine Bark

Pine Bark is a nootropic used to increase blood flow and circulation to the brain. It affects the neurotransmitter pycnogenol and is often used to prevent dopamine depletion, attributed to hyperactivity.

The improved blood flow increases nitric oxide, which helps repair and maintains the brain's blood vessels, affecting memory, focus, and decision-making [12].

Phosphatidylserine (PS)

PS is one of the most important nootropics affecting attention, recall, cognition, alertness, memory, and mood, all while lowering anxiety.

Phosphatidylserine is involved in many functions that keep the brain healthy by stimulating the chemicals responsible for neural signaling improving cognitive decline [13]. It also works with omega-3 fatty acids to protect the brain from damage.

DMHAE

There are not as many studies for DMHAE, but some believe that this compound increases memory and improves brain function while elevating mood. This type of nootropic acts as a neuroprotectant, clearing away cellular waste [14].

DMHAE can also enhance the state of well-being while amplifying energy and attention [15].

Synthetic Nootropics

Racetams

Racetams are a class of smart drugs with the same chemical structure often used as a synthetic nootropic. Unlike natural nootropics, it's not approved by the FDA as dietary nootropic supplements, and research is very limited.

There are over 20 synthesized derivatives of this compound, all of which have varying levels of potency and many different outcomes [16]. The mechanisms of racetams and their derivatives are not fully understood, meaning there’s not enough research to understand how these compounds create certain results in the body.  

Piracetam

Piracetam is the original racetam discovered in the late 60s and one of the first synthesized nootropics. Some studies suggest Piracetams boosting mental performance in aging individuals suffering from decline due to dementia or Alzheimer's.

Phenylpiracetam

Phenylpiracetam is a newer and more potent version of racetams. The limited research available shows this compound affecting cognitive function by improving memory, increasing energy and physical strength, and reducing anxiety and depression [17].

Pramiracetam

Pramiracetam is another more potent form of racetam affecting memory and cognitive function [18]. Some suggest that this nootropic supplement may increase focus, fluidity of thought, recall, and verbal communication ease.

Like other racetams, most of the studies for pramiracetam come from animal research, lacking human testing, and therefore there's not enough sufficient evidence of these claims.

Racetams Side Effects

Each derivative of the nootropic racetams has its own adverse outcomes. The common ones include:

  • Weight gain.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Nervousness.
  • Depression.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Muscle spasm.
  • Insomnia.
  • Rash.

Noopept

Noopept is a relatively newer cognitive enhancing drug believed to be similar to piracetam but 1000 times more potent, meaning you would only need small dosages to receive the same results.

This nootropic claims to improve memory, repair the damage of memory loss, and progress the retrieval process. They also claim antioxidant, anti-anxiety, and anti-inflammatory properties. Unfortunately, the research is limited, and these claims are not substantiated.

Noopept Side Effects

  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Restlessness.
  • Headaches.
  • Irritability.
  • Dizziness.
  • Increased blood pressure.

Phenibut

Phenibut is a CNS depressant used mainly in Russia and Ukraine and not medically approved in the United States. Markets sell this product to customers as supplements; however, research remains very limited.

It promises to improve cognitive function and treat problems with sleep, stress, fatigue, and fear. There have been many reports of Phenibut becoming addictive in nature, and it’s not advised to use this supplement long term without a doctor's supervision [19].

Phenibut Side Effects

  • Irritability and agitation.
  • Loss of balance.
  • Allergic reactions.
  • Anxiety.
  • Headache.
  • Dizziness.
  • Sedation.
  • Motor impairment.
  • Nausea.
  • Hangovers.

Adrafinil

Adrafinil is a stimulant that promises increased mental alertness and wakefulness without increasing heart rate and anxiety. It was initially used to treat narcolepsy and other fatigue disorders.

More research is needed to know the cognitive effects of this supplement, but Adrafinil should not be taken long-term or in combination with other medications.

Adrafinil Side Effects

  • Mild headaches.
  • Appetite reduction.
  • Nausea.
  • Insomnia.

Bromantane

Bromantane is a pharmaceutical drug not approved by the FDA for medical use in the United States. This formula promises mental and physical performance and relieves fatigue and anxiety, but there is still much we need to know to determine its effectiveness as a nootropic.

Bromantane Side Effects

  • Fatigue.
  • Gastrointestinal issues.
  • Irritability.
  • Nausea.
  • Brain fog.
  • Depression.

Centrophenoxine

Centrophenoxine is a cholinergic nootropic known for its memory-boosting abilities and used to alleviate cognitive symptoms of age-related disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. There are claims that this supplement can protect the brain and even extend a person's lifespan.

Centrophenoxine Side Effects

  • Mild insomnia.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea.
  • Gastrointestinal issues.
  • Dizziness.

Memantine

Memantine is a prescription drug used mainly to treat cognitive decline symptoms in patients with Alzheimer's. It may improve memory and awareness as well as improve the process of daily functions.

Memantine Side Effects

  • Dizziness.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Vomiting.
  • Nausea.
  • Headache.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Confusion.
  • Constipation.
  • Aggression.
  • Depression.
  • Weight gain.
  • Body pain.
  • Cough.

Methylphenidate

Methylphenidate stimulates the CNS and is most commonly used for patients suffering from symptoms related to ADHD. It may enhance the ability to pay attention and focus, help with organization, and improve listening.

Methylphenidate Side Effects

  • Nervousness.
  • Uncontrollable body movement.
  • Sleeping issues.
  • Dizziness.
  • Restlessness.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Heartburn.
  • Heavy sweating.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle tightness/back pain.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Irritability.
  • Gastrointestinal issues (nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea).
  • Decreased sexual desire.

Prescription Nootropics

Modafinil/Provigil

Modafinil and its generic version Provigil are FDA-approved prescription smart drugs used to treat fatigue and other sleeping disorders. Some studies show a positive effect on learning and memory in healthy people.


Modafinil showed encouraging results on improving episodic memory

Modafinil is one of the most widely used prescription nootropics worldwide, but its adverse reactions may be more severe than its natural supplement counterparts.

Modafinil/Provigil Side Effects

  • Headache.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Nervousness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea.

Hydrafinil

Hydrafinil is very similar to Modafinil and used as an alternative, as many prefer the mood-enhancing benefits of Hydrafinil. It promotes wakefulness without being a stimulant and has positive reactions on memory, cognition, and motivation, without the harmful effects found in Modafinil.

Hydrafinil Side Effects

  • Increase/decrease in hunger.
  • Nausea.
  • Headaches.

Adderall

This drug is for people with symptoms of ADHD, but many healthy adults use Adderall for its widely known benefits of increased focus and concentration. This powerful drug can have severe withdrawal components for people using it for long periods of time [20].

Patients should always consult with a doctor before starting a new treatment and should not attempt to use Adderall without a prescription.

Adderall Side Effects

  • Loss of appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Fever.
  • Sleeplessness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Headache.
  • Gastrointestinal issues (stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea).
  • Nervousness.
  • Dry mouth.

What Is Adderall

Adderall is a prescription medication that uses two CNS stimulants to increase focus and reduce impulsivity.

How Long Does Adderall Stay in Your System?

Typically, Adderall stays in your system for 72 hours, but that depends on the patient's dosage, age, and rate of metabolism.

What Is the Closest Over the Counter Drug To Adderall?

Many natural nootropics can replace Adderall as an alternative, but we recommend any of our listed top 5 as the best natural alternatives.

Ritalin/Methylphenidate/Concerta

Ritalin and Concerta are prescription stimulant medications used to treat ADHD, and Methylphenidate is an extended-release form of the same drug.

Ritalin Side Effects

  • Nervousness.
  • Weight loss.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Vomiting.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea.
  • Headache.
  • Trouble sleeping.

What Is Ritalin?

Ritalin is a mild CNS stimulant used alone or with other medications to treat the symptoms of ADHD and narcolepsy.

Is Ritalin Stronger Than Adderall?

Ritalin works sooner and reaches its peak performance quicker than Adderall, but Adderall stays in the system a few hours longer than Ritalin.

FAQ

What Is the Most Effective Nootropic?

Caffeine can be considered one of the best nootropics and the most effective, but that depends on your personal goals.

Some believe that using synthetic smart drugs or prescriptions will give you more bang for your buck, but that comes with adverse reactions and possible addiction.

Other diehards swear by combining different kinds of natural nootropics for safer, more effective results.

Which Nootropics Actually Work?

The science is still out on this question. There's data suggesting some mental enhancements and positive results on the brain with natural nootropics such as caffeine, l-theanine, creatine, and other roots and herbs.

However, prescription medications have more research and testing, resulting in outcomes that show cognitive improvements in healthy individuals. Unfortunately, these smart drugs may not be available to everyone due to health restrictions and price.

What Is the Best Brain Pill on the Market?

Mind Lab Pro has the best nootropic supplements focusing on elevating cognitive abilities, allowing you to think faster, clearer, and more strategically.

They have research-backed data showing exactly how each one of their 12 natural ingredients blends together to create the best performance-enhancing supplement on the market.

Can You Mix Nootropics?

Yes. In fact, nootropics combined with other nootropics are called a “stack.” Stacking is very popular and can either enhance each component's properties, target a particular outcome, or combat any adverse developments.

What Is the Best Nootropic Stack?

Caffeine and L-Theanine are the best nootropics stack and arguably the most powerful.

Every coffee drinker knows the effect caffeine has on alertness, focus, and concentration, but it can also cause the drinker to be anxious and jittery.

The addition of L-Theanine blocks those effects while also adding the ability to switch attention quickly during different tasks more effectively.

How Do You Make Nootropic Stacks?

A good nootropic stack should combine ingredients that complement each other, what the professionals call synergy. Follow these five steps to creating the perfect stack for you:

  1. Identify your goal. Know precisely what you want to tackle; if you wish to study longer and be a better test taker or have a more steady focus during stressful situations. In the beginning, limit your desired effect to one or two outcomes.
  2. Research your options and understand which compound affects what area.
  3. Find the ingredients that work well together or have that synergy. There are already popular combinations with great reviews. It may be easier to start with those and experiment along the way.
  4. Check the dosing levels. Taking too much of even natural nootropics has the potential for unwanted reactions.
  5. Be patient. Most nootropic stacks take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for you to feel any noticeable effects.

Are Nootropics Safe?

Nootropics are safe if taken as directed. Natural nootropics have very little to no adverse reactions, but even natural products should not be taken excessively.


When taken in moderation, nootropics have very little side-effects

Synthetic nootropics and prescription medications should always be administered under a doctor's supervision.

How Should I Take Nootropics?

Every nootropic has different dosing suggestions, but the most common way to take nootropics is one to two doses in the morning and afternoon to feel its effects throughout the day. Some nootropics come in pill or powder form.

Conclusion

There are many nootropics to choose from and numerous combinations to achieve your desired goal. The best nootropics and brain supplements make use of effective natural ingredients and contribute little to no negative results.

 

Synthetic and prescription compounds can have a more powerful effect because of the chemicals within their nootropic blends. But with that comes a host of other potential issues and insufficient human research proving they actually work.

There's still a lot about nootropics that we don't fully understand, so make sure to consult with your doctor before adding any supplements or supplement-based drugs into your daily routine.

References

 

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  7. Panossian, A., et al. “Rosenroot (Rhodiola Rosea): Traditional Use, Chemical Composition, Pharmacology and Clinical Efficacy.” Phytomedicine, Urban & Fischer, 7 Apr. 2010, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S094471131000036X.
  8. Roodenrys S;Booth D;Bulzomi S;Phipps A;Micallef C;Smoker J; “Chronic Effects of Brahmi (Bacopa Monnieri) on Human Memory.” Neuropsychopharmacology : Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12093601/.
  9. Simpson, Tamara, et al. “Bacopa Monnieri as an Antioxidant Therapy to Reduce Oxidative Stress in the Aging Brain.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Hindawi, 27 Aug. 2015, www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2015/615384/.
  10. Wignall, Nicholas D, and E Sherwood Brown. “Citicoline in Addictive Disorders: a Review of the Literature.” The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4139283/.
  11. Irsfeld, Meredith, et al. “β-Phenylethylamine, a Small Molecule with a Large Impact.” WebmedCentral, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 30 Sept. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3904499/.
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  13. K;, Glade MJ;Smith. “Phosphatidylserine and the Human Brain.” Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25933483/.
  14. S;, Malanga G;Aguiar MB;Martinez HD;Puntarulo. “New Insights on Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) Features as a Free Radical Scavenger.” Drug Metabolism Letters, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22300295/.
  15. I;, Dimpfel W;Wedekind W;Keplinger. “Efficacy of Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) Containing Vitamin-Mineral Drug Combination on EEG Patterns in the Presence of Different Emotional States.” European Journal of Medical Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12844472/.
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