Best nootropics

Supplements

The term nootropic was coined in 1972 and is derived from the ancient Greek words for “mind” and “bending.”

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which nootropics are best?

Known colloquially as “smart drugs,” nootropics are natural or synthetic substances that provide various forms of cognitive enhancement. Some nootropics, like caffeine, are stimulants that many people enjoy every day, while others, like bacopa monnieri, are little-known herbs that are said to improve memory and relieve symptoms of ADHD.  

There are countless nootropic blends being sold over-the-counter at pharmacies and health food stores, and many consumers are beginning to incorporate these supplements into their daily health regimens. Life Extension’s Cognitex Brain Health Formula is one great option for introducing natural nootropics into your daily routine.

Considerations when shopping for nootropics

Synthetic vs. natural nootropics

Synthetic nootropics are chemical compounds that require a prescription. These include well-known stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin. Natural nootropics, on the other hand, come from a broad category of chemical compounds found in mushrooms, herbs and plants. Many of these substances have been used for centuries in traditional medicine, and they typically result in a much subtler, safer supplement than their synthetic counterparts. 

Common natural nootropics

  • Caffeine: The world’s most widely consumed nootropic, most people recognize caffeine as the pick-me-up found in their morning coffee. At normal doses, caffeine improves reaction time and concentration and is one of the substances often found in nootropic blends. 
  • L-Theanine: Theanine is an amino acid found naturally in green tea. Taken by itself, studies have shown that l-theanine only provides a slight calming effect, but when it’s combined with caffeine, the amino acid can improve reaction time and reduce anxiety. 
  • Creatine: Commonly used by athletes for building muscle, creatine is also an amino acid that can purportedly improve short-term memory and reasoning skills, particularly in vegetarians and vegans that don’t get as much creatine in their diets. 
  • Medicinal mushrooms: Mushrooms like lion’s mane, reishi and Chaga are commonly found in nootropics blends. Studies have shown that these mushrooms can fend off memory loss, fight fatigue and reduce inflammation. 
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Often found in the form of fish oil supplements, omega-3 fatty acids are another commonly consumed nootropic compound. These acids support memory and focus and might relieve symptoms of depression.  
  • Sage: Usually found in consumers’ spice cabinets, common sage has been used for centuries in traditional medicine as a healing herb. Some research has shown that sage can improve memory and help those developing symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. 
  • Ayurvedic nootropics: Ayurvedic medicine has been used traditionally in India for at least two thousand years. Many Ayurvedic herbs, like bacopa monnieri and ashwagandha root, are known for improving memory and enhancing brain function. 

Vegan and vegetarian nootropics

While most nootropic compounds are naturally found in plants and mushrooms, certain nootropics like creatine are derived from animals. If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, look for synthetic creatine if you wish to incorporate this nootropic into your regimen. Additionally, look out for capsules that use gelatin in their pill casings, as this is also derived from animals. 

Dosage and long-term use

Read the instructions closely before deciding on a dosage. Nootropics may be a safe way to improve short-term cognitive function, but be aware that there is very little research on the long-term effects of nootropics use. There may be health risks associated with certain ingredients, or you could develop a tolerance to these substances over time, effectively making the supplements useless. Exercise caution and speak with your doctor before committing to a long-term supplement plan. 

How much you can expect to spend on nootropics

The price of nootropics can vary dramatically, but the range is typically around $14-$100 for a bottle or container. The more expensive options typically contain a higher concentration of ingredients and a blend of additional vitamins and minerals. 

Nootropics FAQ

Are nootropics habit-forming?

A. Aside from nicotine and caffeine, most natural nootropics can be safely taken without any risk of dependence. That said, there are a lot of nootropics out there. Since there is little research on the habit-forming potential of some of these substances, talk with your doctor before incorporating any new supplements into your regimen. 

Are nootropics FDA-approved?

A. Like other dietary supplements, natural nootropics are not regulated by the FDA. While some of these substances have been used medicinally for centuries, it’s important to only use reputable brands when shopping for supplements. Read reviews, listen to your body and consult your doctor before making a purchase. 

Do nootropics expire?

A. As with other supplements, check the expiration date and store your nootropics in a dark, cool environment. 

What are the best nootropic products?

Best of the best nootropics 

Life Extensions Cognitex Brain Health Formula

Life Extension Cognitex Elite

What you need to know: These soft-gel capsules are gluten-free, vegetarian and non-GMO certified. 

What you’ll love: This supplement contains loads of sage and ashwagandha root. The company also offers a one-year money-back guarantee on supplements. 

What you should consider: Some users say that the effect is too subtle. 

Where to buy: Sold by iHerb

Best nootropics for the money

Neuro Gum Energy and Focus Nootropic Chewing Gum

Neuro Gum Energy and Focus Nootropic Chewing Gum

What you need to know: This mint-flavored peppermint gum gives you a balanced brain boost without the crash. 

What you’ll love: Perfect for those who don’t like taking pills or powder supplements, this gum is loaded with B-vitamins, l-theanine and caffeine to keep your brain sharp and focused. 

What you should consider: Some users thought that the taste was overpowering. The gum also doesn’t contain as many nootropics as other blends. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Nootropics worth checking out

Genius Brand Genius Mushroom Immune System Booster and Brain Supplement

Genius Brand Genius Mushroom Immune System Booster and Brain Supplement

What you need to know: This popular nootropics blend contains three different species of organic mushroom: lion’s mane, reishi and cordyceps sinensis.

What you’ll love: Each vegan capsule has enough mushroom extract to boost your immune system, improve memory function and even reduce anxiety. 

What you should consider: Some users reported experiencing a headache when they took the capsules without food. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Patrick Farmer writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.