Nootropics are natural substances capable to rapidly heightening focus, enhancing your memory, and making you a more effective learner.
When used correctly, they are an incredibly powerful tool. They can help you get ahead in your career, in college, in sports – you name it, nootropics can help.
But only when used correctly.
Finding the right nootropics for your specific needs and goals can be very difficult. There is so much information out there (much of it unhelpful) that sifting through it all to find the truth might seem impossible.
That’s where we come in.
We have been using and studying nootropics for decades. With a lot of careful research, and personal trial and error, we have been able to narrow down a list of the best nootropics in existence. We’re now going to share that list with you so that you can enjoy all of the same benefits we have enjoyed for so long – better focus, enhanced memory function, faster, more effective learning, quicker reaction times, and reduced anxiety.
Below you will find our pick of the most effective, scientifically-validated, and safest cognitive enhancing substances we know of. Using these substances can help any of you reach your goals, whether they’re in work, in college, or in competition.
Before we jump into the list, let’s talk a little about what you can reasonably expect from the best nootropic supplements.
What can nootropics do?
No, there is no Limitless pill. Sorry to be the ones to break that to you. Any product advertising itself as the “real Limitless pill” is a complete scam and you should stay well away from it.
Now that that’s out of the way, what can the best nootropics do for you?
The best nootropic substances can:
- Heighten focus
- Increase attention span
- Accelerate learning
- Improve working memory
- Enhance memory retention and recall
- Reduce anxiety
- Improve mood
- Speed up reaction times
- Promote creativity and problem solving
- Protect brain cells from damage
- Promote long-term brain development and adaptations
- Attenuate the symptoms of cognitive decline
Different cognitive enhancers do different things. No one substance can do all of the things listed above. But by combining nootropics in an intelligent manner, you can bring about all of the benefits listed above and more. This is the principle of stacking.
Stacking involves combining individual nootropics in a unique way to not only get all of their benefits, but to amplify the benefits, creating something even more powerful.
The idea is that, by stacking the best nootropics, you get a stack that is more powerful than the sum of the constituent parts.
So what are the best brain boosters? What are the most effective nootropics in existence? How solid is the scientific evidence backing these nootropics up? Let’s find out.
The best nootropics
What are the best nootropic substances?
The answer depends on your specific needs and goals. There is no one single nootropic that is best for everyone. A good nootropic for you might be less useful for someone else.
But we can identify the most proven, effective, and safe brain supplements which cover the various aspects of cognitive function.
Here is our list of the best nootropics in the world right now, grouped by their main benefit:
Focus & Learning
- Bacopa monnieri
- Ginkgo biloba
Anxiety & Stress
- Rhodiola rosea
Brain Health & Development
- Lion’s mane mushroom
- Maritime pine bark
We’ll now take you through these fantastic nootropics one-by-one. In each case, we’ll explain what the substance does, how it works, how solid the scientific evidence is, and how it might fit into your own nootropic stack. If you have any questions, please post them in the comments section at the end.
Also called CDP-Choline (or Cognizin in tis branded form), Citicoline is probably our favorite all-round nootropic. It rapidly increases choline availability in the brain, leading to higher acetylcholine levels, and thus, more raw brain power. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated how powerful Citicoline is; subjects routinely display enhancing learning abilities and faster reaction times in as little as a few hours after consuming this great nootropic. It has the added benefit of conferring cytidine, which is a structural component of RNA (leading to more efficient brain cell formation).
You don’t need much Citicoline to see significant improvements in cognitive function – 150mg per day will give you constant mind-lifting benefits, while 250mg will deliver rapid increases in brain performance.
Like Citicoline, Alpha-GPC is a cholinergic (it efficiently delivers choline to the brain). And like Citicoline, Alpha-GPC’s main effects are related to executive cognitive function. Clinical trials show that taking Alpha-GPC can significantly increase concentration, processing speed, and working memory function in as little as a few hours. Along with higher acetylcholine levels, Alpha-GPC raises phospholipid levels too, which helps with new brain cell formation and maintenance.
There is no need to go too hard with Alpha-GPC. Almost all users will see meaningful differences in brain function with 200mg. We would recommend going no higher than 250-300mg per day if you’re planning on using this stuff long-term.
Caffeine is probably the first nootropic that people ever experiment with (although few know they’re playing with nootropics when consuming caffeine). Despite being so commonplace, we think caffeine is one of the best nootropics in existence. Few substances can have as sharp or as sustained an impact on brain function as caffeine. Just a few dozen milligrams is enough to sharpen your focus, increase motivation, and drop fatigue to near zero. That said, caffeine isn’t a perfect cognitive enhancer; it comes with serious side effect risks.
We don’t recommend adding caffeine to a daily nootropic stack for the simple reason that we don’t advise using caffeine every single day. It’s too easy to build up a tolerance, and the long-term side effects can be severe. Caffeine is best used only when necessary. An ideal dose for extra energy, motivation and focus would be 60-100mg.
Bacopa monnieri is the herb we always turn to when we want to enhance memory function. Of all the good memory-enhancing nootropics out there, none have as much scientific backing or as reliable an effect as Bacopa monnieri.
Dozens of clinical trials have shown that daily monnieri supplementation can reliably improve scores on memory tests in just 6-12 weeks. The benefits seem to be most pronounced in older people and people struggling with mild cognitive impairment. However, lots of studies show that younger people display improved memory function after taking Bacopa monnieri extract for more than 12 weeks.
Like all good nootropics, Bacopa monnieri takes a while to have a noticeable effect, but those effects amplify over time. For best results, we recommend taking 150mg of a bacoside-rich Bacopa monnieri extract (not just whole leaf powder) for at least 8 weeks.
Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid found in very high concentrations in the human body, particularly in the brain where it is used to create brain cell membranes. If you don’t have enough phosphatidylserine, you can’t create new brain cells or properly maintain the ones you have. It is also a crucial link in the apoptosis process; phosphatidylserine signals when it is time for an old cell to die and be replaced by a new one.
Phosphatidylserine is a great brain-boosting supplement for several reasons. As we get older, our phospholipid levels steadily decline. Supplementing with phosphatidylserine is therefore a good idea to guarantee good brain health going forward. But supplementing with phosphatidylserine is also effective for enhancing brain function in younger people too.
Whether you want to improve your memory right now, or just promote good brain health going forward, phosphatidylserine is a fantastic option. We think it should be in every good nootropic. About 100mg per day of high quality phosphatidylserine is plenty.
Ginkgo biloba is a brilliant nootropic for absolutely anyone, regardless of your specific goals. The reason we think Ginkgo biloba is one of the best nootropics is that its mechanism of action is so good for the brain as a whole. Basically, compounds in Ginkgo biloba increase blood flow in the brain. They do this by making the blood both more viscous and by triggering dilation of blood vessels in the brain. The combined effect is vastly greater oxygen and nutrient delivery to your brain cells, which means better cognitive function across the board.
Ginkgo biloba isn’t something that you need to be taking on a daily basis. Taking about 80mg for a few days each month is more than enough to help oxygenate your brain cells and promote total brain performance. We don’t recommend using Ginkgo biloba long-term because of potential side effect risks.
Tyrosine is a phenomenal nootropic when used correctly. By correctly, we mean in the right circumstances. Unlike some of the other mind-enhancing substances discussed so far, Tyrosine has some very specific benefits; it reduces stress and anxiety, promoting calm, clear-headed focus and concentration. Recent clinical trials show that Tyrosine improves brain function in people subjected to acute stressors, including sleep deprivation, excessive noise, extreme cold, and more. This is no doubt why Tyrosine is recommended for students, traders, athletes, and programmers.
Tyrosine is best taken on a daily basis in our opinion. If you’re looking for the top nootropic, chances are, you need to be mentally on the top of your game every single day. With such a good side effect profile, we think taking 200mg or more of Acetyl-L-Tyrosine every day is a great idea.
Rhodiola rosea is perhaps the most effective natural anxiolytic used in nootropics today. Rhodiola rosea is a fast-acting anti-anxiety supplement. It quickly attenuates the worst symptoms of anxiety (the physical symptoms), and then slowly helps lower the psychological symptoms of anxiety too. People routinely describe rhodiola rosea as having a calming effect on the mind; an effect which allows you to stay focused on the task at hand.
Like Tyrosine, Rhodiola rosea has the most pronounced effect when used on a daily basis. We think using Tyrosine and Rhodiola rosea together will have the biggest effect on your stress and anxiety levels. If combining the two, 50mg of Rhodiola rosea is fine. If using it alone, shoot for 100mg per day.
Theanine is a great substance to include in your daily stack. While it doesn’t have particularly powerful “mind-boosting” effects, it is a very useful substance to take alongside other nootropics, particularly caffeine. Theanine has a kind of synergistic relationship with caffeine; it takes the edge off caffeine’s negative effects while amplifying its positive effects (increased focus, greater motivation, reduced fatigue, etc).
Theanine is an anxiolytic. It reduces stress and promotes muscular relaxation. This should help you concentrate on what’s important, not on the little anxieties that are constantly disrupting your work. How much theanine you should take is somewhat determined by your caffeine intake; try taking 100mg of theanine for every 50mg of caffeine you take per day, up to 300mg.
Magnesium is a mineral that people are usually deficient in, although they might not realise it. Magnesium is essential for good health and for optimal mental performance. It is one of the primary mediators of electrical signals in the human body. In simple terms, magnesium suppresses electrical signals. This is why it is able to lower blood pressure, reduce your heart rate, and help prevent muscle spasms. It is also why people find magnesium to be a fantastic anxiolytic and sleep aid.
About 50% of your RDI of magnesium – taken each day as a supplement – will help you feel calm, relaxed, and stress-free as you go about your day. It should also help you sleep better, which in turn will have a profound effect on your cognitive function going forward.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s Mane Mushroom is easily one of the best nootropic substances we have at our disposal right now. We think this is an incredibly exciting cognitive enhancer due to its unique and powerful mechanism of action.
Basically, Lion’s Mane Mushroom stimulates the release of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). This neurotrophic factor controls the growth, proliferation and development of neurons. Simply put, higher NGF levels means more neuron growth, better neuronal differentiation, and more efficient neuron maintenance. It also means higher neuron survival rates/lower neuron death rates. We probably don’t need to tell you what kind of effect such a substance can have on your cognitive performance over the long-term!
Like all the best nootropics, Lion’s Mane Mushroom needs to be taken consistently more many weeks in order for you to see its full potential. We recommend taking no less than 500mg of full spectrum extract for 8 weeks minimum.
Maritime Pine Bark
Maritime Pine Bark probably sounds like a strange addition to the list of the best nootropic supplements, but it truly deserves its place here. Maritime Pine Bark is an unusually good source of a group of compounds called proanthocyanidins. These are extraordinarily powerful antioxidants which protect your cells from free radical damage.
What’s interesting about these antioxidants, though, is that they have other properties too. They can cross the blood-brain barrier with relative ease, and they seem to improve brain blood flow at the same time. So unlike basic antioxidants you get from food, Maritime Pine Bark provides true brain enhancing antioxidants.
Maritime Pine Bark should be consumed as a supplement; that is, it should be adding to a diet already high in antioxidants. You therefore don’t need to go crazy here – 50mg per day is plenty.
The B Vitamins are essential nutrients; your body needs them to function properly, and it needs to obtain them from food. Thankfully, B Vitamin deficiencies are rare. Almost nobody is deficient in any B Vitamins, apart from people who eat an extremely restricted diet.
You might not think of the B Vitamins as nootropics, but they are; the B Vitamins are involved in processes ranging from energy metabolism to nervous system maintenance. They therefore affect your brain – and your cognitive performance – directly and meaningfully.
B Vitamins are generally safe to consume in very large quantities. Of course, taking too much will cause some side effects, and above a certain dose your body is unlikely absorb any more of any vitamin. As such, we recommend sticking to the standard doses for B Vitamin supplements. In most cases, around 200% of RDI is sufficient. You are merely trying to avoid deficiency, not bring about any noticeable effect.
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid. It also happens to be one of the primary constituents of your brain’s gray matter (it makes up a whopping 20% of gray matter, as well as 1-2% of white matter). So you could say that DHA is pretty important for your brain, to put it mildly.
DHA can be made from EPA (another fatty acid). As such, it is not strictly an “essential” nutrient. However, it isn’t wise to leave the synthesis of such an important nutrient to your body, especially when your intake of EPA is likely to be too low as it is! Supplementing with DHA is very cheap these days, so there’s no reason for you not to give your brain the raw materials it needs to maintain itself properly.
Consuming things like cod liver oil exposes you to a lot of pollutants, including the cognition-killing heavy metals so prevalent in fish nowadays. We recommend using a DHA supplement derived from algae (which is where the fish get theirs from).
Making the ideal nootropic stack – What do you need?
The above substances are – hands down – the most effective, reliable, and well-proven nootropics in the world today.
But which of them should you use?
Before you start using nootropics, it’s worth figuring out what it is exactly that you’re trying to achieve.
You may want to focus on some nootropics and ignore others depending on what your goals are – concentration and memory enhancers for work performance, energy and motivation for sports performance, or brain development if your goal is long-term cognitive function.
For example, if you are a programmer or trader, you will probably be most interested in heightening focus, accelerating information processing speeds, and improving working memory. Mental energy and stamina is likely to be important too. The most important nootropics for you would be Citicoline, Caffeine, and Tyrosine.
Or you might be someone who is worried about how your mental performance will hold up as you get older. If so, you will probably want to focus primarily on memory retention and recall, brain development, and brain health – Bacopa monnieri, Phosphatidylserine, and Maritime Pine Bark are the obvious choices there.
It isn’t about finding the single best nootropic.
It’s about finding the right nootropic for you.
That said, we think there is such a thing as a stack that benefits everybody, regardless of their particular needs. In our experience, the most effective way to enhance cognitive performance in any particular area is to try and enhance it across the board.
In other words, if you want to improve any single aspect of cognitive performance, total brain optimization is the way to do it. For us, the best nootropic stack is one which covers all the bases while using as few ingredients as possible.
The principle of stacking means that, by combining different nootropics, you end up with an effect that is greater than the individual ingredient combined. If you want to improve focus, aim to improve your memory and brain health too, and you’ll see more of an improvement than you thought possible.
So what if you don’t want to make your own stack?
Are there any good pre-made nootropic stacks out there? What is the best pre-made nootropic stack on the market right now?
Best Pre-Made Nootropics
These are the top pre-made nootropic stacks in the world right now. We have analysed hundreds of nootropics throughout our careers, and we have experimented with dozens of pre-made stacks, so we know a good product when we see one.
We chose these products because they are effective, they offer good value for money, and they’re backed by real science. They also meet our stringent safety criteria.
Right, let’s go through them.
#1 Overall – Mind Lab Pro
Mind Lab Pro is – without doubt -the most comprehensive nootropic supplement in the world right now.
This stack manages to cover all the bases – focus, verbal fluidity, learning capacity, working memory, stress resistance, brain development, brain cell health, and more – with just a dozen ingredients. These ingredients are the cream of the crop; highly potent, extremely pure, and a superb side effect profile. Most importantly of all, Mind Lab Pro aligns very well with the available clinical data – the ingredients in this nootropic all have solid scientific backing. While some have compared Mind Lab Pro with Adderall, the two could not be more different. Mind Lab Pro is stimulant-free and focuses on lowering anxiety while boosting cognition.
We always recommend taking a comprehensive approach to cognitive enhancement. That means aiming for total brain optimization, and Mind Lab Pro is easily the best supplement for achieving total brain optimization on sale today.
Mind Lab Pro is ideal for:
- Programmers, traders, and developers
- Academics and students
- Creative professionals
- Anyone who wants to gain a mental edge
- Anybody interested in maximizing brain health and cognitive performance over the long-term
Price per day: $1.30
Learn more: Full Mind Lab Pro review.
Visit the website: MindLabPro.com.
#2 – Best For Performance – Performance Lab Mind + Stim
Performance Lab is a manufacturer of high-spec supplements designed to enhance every aspect of human health and performance. They make a wide range of products, from a prebiotic to a stack for joint health. This brand has not been around for very long, but they’ve already established a reputation for producing crisp, clean, good-value products. Performance Lab Mind is no different.
Performance Lab Mind is purposefully designed to offer a minimalist solution to total brain optimization. It combines a large dose of Cognizin Citicoline, N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine, Phosphatidylserine, and Maritime Pine Bark Extract. That means that, with just four ingredients, Performance Lab Mind delivers reduced stress, heightened focus, improved memory, better brain cell health, and long-term brain development support.
What we love about this supplement – what makes it one of the best nootropics in the world – is how well it stacks with other Performance Lab products. We highly recommend trying Performance Lab Mind with Performance Lab Stim (their ultra-modern energy supplement).
We have found that Performance Lab Mind + Stim is ideal for:
- Traders, programmers, and developers
- Business executives
- Architects, writers, and journalists
- Anyone who needs to be at peak mental performance for a prolonged period of time without risking a caffeine crash
Price per day: $1.18/stack
Visit website: PerformanceLab.com.
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