What Are the Best Nootropics? 14 Nootropics Reviewed

December 5, 2022

Nue Life

Nue Life

As the most complex organ in your body, the human brain works hard and constantly requires energy. Information can travel as fast as 260 miles per hour in your brain, and this organ never gets a rest — even when you sleep, parts remain in use and active!

However, brainpower is not an infinite source — just as our physical energy levels will never be 100 percent all of the time, our mental energy levels will not be perfect twenty-four-seven, and sometimes it can be nice to have a brainpower boost. 

Nootropics, or mental performance enhancers, give your brain the boost it needs to help keep your brainpower going. What are nootropics, and how do you know if they are right for you? 

Let’s take a closer look to understand how nootropics work, their benefits, and their potential side effects. We will also explore 14 of the most high-quality nootropic ingredients and how each works to help improve your cognitive functioning and provide you with the best brain. 

What Are Nootropics?

Nootropics, or cognitive enhancers, describe any substance that improves cognitive abilities and mental functions. Anyone can take nootropics, whether you are a healthy student wanting to improve your exam performance, a young adult who struggles to focus at work, or an older adult who may be at risk for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. 

You might hear people use the phrases ‘brain supplement,’ ‘smart drug,’ and ‘brain pill’ synonymously with nootropics. This is because you can categorize nootropics into three overarching categories: natural dietary supplements, synthetic compounds, or prescription drugs. 

Doctors prescribe certain nootropics to work as stimulants to enhance cognitive functioning in medical conditions such as ADHD. For example, Adderall is a prescription drug nootropic. Other nootropics come from a laboratory where chemists manufacture them. These are known as synthetic nootropics or smart drugs and use chemical ingredients that mimic brain chemicals to act as cognitive boosters. 

Alternatively, different nootropics function similarly to synthetic nootropics to improve cognitive functions yet come from natural sources. These natural nootropics come from sources such as plant extracts or herbs and have been around for far longer than synthetic nootropics. Natural nootropics date back to ancient times for multiple uses in traditional and alternative medicine. 

As natural nootropics are the safest choice for non-prescription brain supplements, we will focus on the best natural nootropics options today. 

What Do Nootropics Do?

Nootropics promote cellular energy production in neurons or enhance brain energy metabolism, to enhance overall cognitive performance. As such, nootropics can boost your brain capacity and reduce cognitive impairment in several different ways. 

They can boost memory, concentration, creativity, intelligence, motivation, and goal setting and mitigate brain fog. Many people, including students, athletes, professionals, and older adults, use nootropics for their cognitive benefits. 

What Are the Potential Benefits of Nootropics?

In addition to boosts in focus, retention, and overall brain capacity, nootropics have several different benefits to your overall brain health and physical well-being. Natural nootropics can improve your physical energy levels, help balance your mental wellness, and enhance your cognitive function. Let’s take a closer look at each of these benefits below. 

Energy Support

How you perform mentally can greatly influence how you perform and feel physically. 

There is a strong connection between your mind and your body, and because nootropics enhance your brain energy metabolism, the cognitive energy yields also bring physical energy yields. Nootropics like prescription modafinil can leave you feeling more present in your body and ready to take on the day. 

Cognitive Function

Nootropics help eliminate brain fog; at the same time, they induce relaxation to enhance cognitive functions and improve memory and focus. They can make multitasking more feasible and help improve your working memory to support your long-term brain health. 

Mental Wellness

Nootropics can also benefit your mental health because they help reduce stress and increase relaxation. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions, Nootropics can help you take back your mental wellness. They stimulate neurotransmitters in your brain to produce “feel-good” hormones, including dopamine and serotonin. 

If you struggle with anxiety and depression, you might also want to consider ketamine to help you achieve mental wellness. The psychedelic therapy found in ketamine is a remarkable and innovative form of treatment and can be the turning point you need to kick your depression to the curb. 

Nue Life also wants to help you discover the root cause of your depression and address it so you can get the healing you deserve. We offer ketamine therapy through evidence-based treatment and whole-person care. 

What Are the Best Nootropics?

We’ve now touched on how nootropics work and their potential benefits. Next, let’s explore different nootropic options. Different nootropics work in different ways to boost brain function and enhance processes—sometimes to enhance brain health in the short term or sometimes to support long-term brain health. 

Some nootropics function as stimulants, such as caffeine, or alternatively as relaxants. Others function as adaptogens, which help your body adapt to stress and anxiety. Regardless of whether nootropics stimulate, relax, or help you adapt, the best nootropics contain natural ingredients to improve mental clarity, concentration, and retention. 

Let’s briefly look at some of the best nootropic supplements below.  

1. Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Lion’s mane mushroom contains compounds that can improve cognition and sometimes nerve cell structure and pathways. This nootropic can reduce anxiety and depression and boost concentration and memory retention. 

Lion’s mane may also promote healthy brain cells,

2. L-Theanine

As an amino acid, l-theanine enhances your brain’s ability to transmit faster neural signals, increasing your mental alertness and creativity. It is also caffeine-free and helps to calm you down, yet at the same time does not make you sleepy. This nootropic is a popular alternative to caffeine because it yields similar cognitive effects without the jitters as a side effect. 

You can find this amino acid in brewed tea, and if you are up for an even greater boost, you might even try a nootropic stack with l-theanine and caffeine. A nootropic stack means that you pair more than one nootropic together in your supplement regimen to improve cognitive functions even further.   

3. Caffeine

You might not have guessed that your morning cup of ambition is also a cognitive enhancer, but if you drink a cup of coffee regularly, you already take a nootropic every day. Caffeine has many cognitive-enhancing effects aside from the short-term mental and physical energy that it brings. 

It gives your brain more access to neurotransmitters that aid in short-term memory, focus, learning, and attention. It can also increase other signaling molecules, such as dopamine, to reduce depression and anxiety and increase relaxation, happiness, and calmness. 

4. Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola rosea, an adaptogenic herb, helps to create calm sensations and can even mitigate mental fatigue. It can reduce anxiety and depression, elevate your mood, and lessen stress. 

5.  Creatine

Creatine is an amino acid, so like l-theanine, it enhances your brain’s ability to transmit faster neural signals, increases your mental alertness, and supports creative thinking. This nootropic stimulates higher ATP production, which gives you more cellular energy to improve your short-term memory and cognitive reasoning. 

6. Ginseng

Ginseng is a root with components that lessen brain fog and mental fatigue. This nootropic can thus boost brain function and mental clarity. 

7. Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba is an herb that helps increase blood flow to the brain, which in turn increases your brain power and cognitive energy levels. This nootropic may improve your thinking, processing speed, and memory retention skills by supporting your natural levels of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter.

8. Acetyl-L-Carnitine

Acetyl-L-carnitine is an essential nutrient that helps your cells make energy. This nootropic can improve your memory and cognitive functioning and alleviate depression symptoms. Other essential nutrients your body makes and uses for proper brain functioning include choline, citicoline, and vitamin b 6. 

9. DHA

DHA, or Docosahexaenoic acid, is an omega-3 fatty acid found in supplement form, primarily as fish oil. This nootropic helps increase blood flow to your brain during mentally-involved tasks, enhancing attention, focus, and social and emotional awareness. This nootropic can additionally mitigate depression and cognitive decline in older adults.

10. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub with antioxidant-containing compounds that improve many different cognitive functions, such as executive functioning, attention, reaction time, and cognitive task performance. This nootropic is also an adaptogen, so it can assist in relieving stress, anxiety, and depression. 

11. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is an herb whose antioxidant-containing compounds can boost your mood, focus, alertness, and overall cognitive function. This nootropic can also reduce nervous symptoms to combat anxiety and leave you feeling calmer. 

12. Holy Basil

Holy basil is a perennial plant called the “Mother Medicine of Nature.” This nootropic is an adaptogen whose phytochemicals, or plant chemicals, can improve your cognitive function and energy and mitigate stress and anxiety.  

13. Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa monnieri is an herb whose compounds contain bacoside, an ingredient that can help block oxidative stress from affecting your brain. It can also stimulate further signaling in your hippocampus, which is the section of your brain that processes memory. As such, this nootropic boosts your brain and enhances memory, mental processing, and reaction speeds. 

14. Maritime Pine Bark Extract

The bark extract from maritime pine trees, also known as cluster pines, has antioxidant-containing compounds that help improve blood flow to the brain. This nootropic improves your focus and mental clarity and helps reduce cognitive decline. 

How Effective Are Nootropics?

Nootropics can have different effects on different people, and there is no single answer to how effective these cognitive enhancers are. They do have great potential to improve your brain health and cognitive abilities in both the short term and the long term. 

As we have discussed, some nootropics act more immediately, working for a few hours to enhance short-term brain function, focus, and performance. Others support long-term brain health to mitigate cognitive symptoms. 

Whether a nootropic will be effective for you depends on several factors, including your body’s receptiveness to supplements and your mental health before starting supplements. Sometimes, nootropics can be more effective if you struggle with mental health issues, thanks to their adaptogenic properties that can alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression. 

However, nootropics can be just as effective for anyone, whether you are a young adult or an older adult who struggles to focus, retain information, or think clearly. Nootropics can even be effective if you do not struggle in your cognitive functions but want to boost your brain power in the short-term anyway to achieve a task that involves high mental stimulation. 

You should talk to your doctor to discuss whether nootropics are right for you and which natural choices might be the most effective in your case. Keep in mind that the FDA does not regulate many supplements, so make sure you work with your primary care doctor to choose supplements that have displayed proven benefits in research and clinical trials. 

Are There Side Effects of Nootropics?

Natural nootropics contain high-quality, all-natural ingredients that can enhance your cognitive functions. However, even the highest-quality ingredients and supplements can come with side effects. This is true for nootropics, particularly if you take these supplements long-term. 

Potential side effects might include restlessness, faster heart rate, higher blood pressure, issues in blood circulation, insomnia, jitters, and mood imbalances. Different nootropics might yield different side effects–it would be far rarer for lemon balm to leave you feeling restless and jittery, for example, because this nootropic has soothing properties. 

Additionally, side effects are uncommon in lower nootropic doses — you are more likely to experience side effects when you take high amounts of one of these natural supplements or a combination of several natural supplements simultaneously. 

You should consult your doctor before deciding on a nootropic to discuss potential side effects. You should also tell your doctor if you already take medication because nootropics can sometimes interact with medication. 

The Bottom Line

Nootropics are cognitive enhancers that can increase your mental performance in the short term in many different ways. They have the potential to yield many brain health benefits, including increased mental clarity and improvements in focus, concentration, social and emotional awareness, mood, memory retention, and overall cognitive functions. 

Nootropics can also improve your long-term brain health, as some can protect your brain from cognitive decline. 

Anyone can take a nootropic, whether you are a young adult who struggles to focus, a middle-aged adult with already strong brain power who just wants a mental boost, or an older adult who is at risk for memory decline. 

There are three types of nootropics: prescription medications, synthetic, and natural. Natural nootropics are generally the safest non-prescription option and contain all-natural, high-quality ingredients to support your brain health. We have discussed 14 of our picks for the best nootropic supplements; you should consult your doctor to determine which are best for you in your own brain health journey. 

Treatment at Nue Life

Nue Life believes in holistic treatment, which means that what happens before and after your ketamine experience is equally as important as the experience itself. We want to ensure you have meaningful takeaways from your experiences and help you establish positive new neural pathways.

That’s why we provide one-on-one health coaching and integration group sessions with each of our programs. We’re here to help map out the mind and body connections in your brain and help you discover the insights that lead to true healing.


Brain Basics: Know Your Brain | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Towards Better Brain Management: Nootropics | Bentham Science

Establishing Natural Nootropics: Recent Molecular Enhancement Influenced by Natural Nootropic | Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

A review of caffeine’s effects on cognitive, physical and occupational performance | NIH

L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state | NIH

The Effects of Rhodiola rosea L. Extract on Anxiety, Stress, Cognition and Other Mood Symptoms | NIH

Effects of creatine supplementation on cognitive function of healthy individuals: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials | NIH    

Bacopa monniera, a reputed nootropic plant: an overview | ScienceDirect

Chemistry and pharmacology of nootropics – Nicolaus – 1982 – Drug Development Research | Wiley Online Library

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