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Brain-Boosters, Cognitive Enhancers, and even “Smart Pills“—these are but some of the common names used when discussing a class of compounds called Nootropics. The name isn’t new at all, having been coined in the early seventies by the Romanian doctor Corneliu E. Giurgea, and professionals in mentally-intensive fields such as computer programming have been using them for decades. Knowing which of these compounds offer potential cognitive enhancing effects may help you find the best nootropics to aid in your endeavor of self-optimization.

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Natural Stacks CILTEP

Powerful Cognitive Enhancing Effects

The term Nootropics refers to a broad class of compounds that have shown throughout decades of clinical studies to show marked improvements in cognitive functions such as short-term memory, abstract learning, ability to focus, and critical thinking. The best Nootropics are those with track records of offering clinically-proven results for cognitive enhancement properties. Their exists little clinical data to demonstrate the efficacy of these compounds, and much of what we know about them has been gathered from anecdotal accounts. Nevertheless, a survey of other’s experience with these compounds, as well as information relating to non-nootropic usage can help decide which of these compounds may benefit you. [1] For convenience, you can skip directly to any of the Nootropics listed in this article by clicking their names below:

There are certainly many more Nootropics available on the consumer market today than just a few listed here however, these represent those compounds which have demonstrated remarkable brain-boosting abilities. All of the compounds on this list have clinical data to back up claims—some more than others—but it should be noted that none of them are currently FDA-approved for the treatment of any medical condition, although many are used as prescription medications in many European countries, and many of the herbal Nootropics have been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic healing practices. While it may seem strange for well-known substances, with clinical data to back up their benefit aren’t approved by the FDA for the treatment—of anything—such is; the current state of affairs. All of these compounds are considered dietary supplements under FDA guidelines and are perfectly legal to purchase and use within the United States.

Current FDA Regulations

There are several Nootropics that are prescription only—synthetic to the core—and produced under patents held by major pharmaceutical companies. Modafinil, for example, is one of the most-popular Nootropic drugs manufactured specifically with the intent of promoting ‘wakefulness’ and has been used to treat such diseases as narcolepsy [2]. With the growing concern over the dangers of prescription medication, there has been a resurgence of interest in Nootropic compounds that aren’t prescription—in many cases not even synthetic. This article will look at what is largely regarded as being the best Nootropics from two broad categories—those which are synthetic, and those which are natural Nootropics.

Racetam Nootropics

The Best Natural Nootropics

While synthetic Nootropics have shown tremendous potential to serve as cognitive enhancing supplements, the lack of widespread clinical trials means that many side-effects may yet be unknown. While any compound—natural or synthetic—possesses the potential to cause unwanted effects, natural compounds such as herbal extractives, and alkaloid isolations typically pose a much lower risk. The trade-off in safety often means that more natural Nootropics will often provide much more subtle effects.

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Herbal Nootropics are somewhat of their own ‘stacks,’ in that there are often many synergistic compounds that work together as a collective to promote overall cognitive-enhancing experiences

It’s important to discern between natural supplements that isolations of naturally occurring compounds—such as Alpha GPC, Choline, or 5-htp, and more truly natural compounds such as Ginko Biloba, Bacopa, Lion’s Mane, and Rhodiola. The former are naturally-occurring compounds but are typically only made available after very particular laboratory processes. The later, including all herbal Nootropics, are simply prepared forms of already existing plants which contain many different cognitive-enhancing compounds. Herbal Nootropics are somewhat of their own ‘stacks,’ in that there are often many synergistic compounds that work together as a collective to promote overall cognitive-enhancing experiences.

1. Huperzine-A

Life Extension Huperzine-A

Huperzine-A is an isolation of an active alkaloid found within the Chinese club moss plant, or Qian Ceng Ta—which has been shown as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease on it’s own accord. Huperzine-A however, is a laboratory-prepared but considered to be a ‘bioequivalent’ to the natural form found in many plants within the Huperziaceae, Lycopodiaceae, and Selaginella families. [6] Similar to many of the Racetam Nootropics, Huperzine-A is thought to be an NMDA antagonist, as well as being a neural anti-oxidant. Huperzine-A appears in the bloodstream just 15 minutes after ingestion, with serum levels peaking around a little more than an hour. One of Huperzine-A’s most-notable biochemical functions is that serves as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor—which allows other neuro-active compounds to have a more profound effect. [7][8]

The Chinese have used the herbal form, the Club Moss Plant, originally as a muscle relaxer, and treatment for bruises and increasing blood flow to areas which need healing. More recently, however, this plant has been used in the treatment of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Schizophrenia, as well as serving as a counter-agent for organophosphate (herbicides) poisoning. [9] There have been several clinical trials conducted investigating Huperzine-A as a potential treatment for many medical conditions such as Cocaine Dependency and Traumatic Brain Injuries [10] Huperzine-A is a somewhat difficult compound to find in stores, especially in isolated form, but is readily available online. Life Extension sells isolated Huperzine-A capsules and is a fairly reputable brand.

2. 5-HTP

Pure Encapsulations 5-HTP Nootropic Organic Newsroom
Pure Encapsulations 5-HTP is One of the Highest Quality Forms Available

5-HTP supplements contain the compound that is a precursor to serotonin, one of the brains’ most important neurotransmitters—often hailed by many as being the molecule that increases ‘happiness.’ It should be noted that 5-HTP SHOULD NOT be taken with many medications, such as SSRIs, and can be quite dangerous—even lethal—if done so. If taken properly, 5-HTP has shown a wide range of positive health benefits such as promoting weight loss by curbing appetite, decreasing night terrors, as well as helping to address a host of digestive issues such as IBS and Leaky Gut Syndrome. 5-HTP is thought to be directly converted into 5-HT (Serotonin) by enzymatic processes, thus making more Serotonin available to the body.

There are a large number of Serotonin receptor sites throughout your body’s neural pathways, which qualify 5-HTP as having the potential to act as a Nootropic. The practical effect of taking 5-HTP is more often reported as being mood-enhancing—or mood stabilizing—rather than providing a stimulant effect. Recent research that strengthens our scientific understanding of how the digestive system deeply affects our cognitive function also strengthen the case for 5-HTP to be qualified as one of the Best Nootropics available, considering it’s robust ability to strengthen healthy digestive function. This Gut-Brain connection has been recently understood as being so strong—that it may even be at the root of diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) [11]. One of the highest-quality versions of this product is the 5-HTP by Pure Encapsulations.


Pure Encapsulations GABA Supplement
Pure Encapsulations GABA is a Potent & High-Quality Form of this Nootropic

Gamma-Amino-Butyric Acid—a.k.a. GABA—is hailed by many as being the holy grail of supplements for promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety. GABA is the ‘downer’ in the world of neurotransmitters, counter-balanced by Glutamate—and all the processes involved. Many other Nootropics on this list, especially the Racetam family, are thought to act by antagonizing GABA-related receptor sites within the brain, indicating the body’s ability to deeply utilize this Nootropic compound. In addition to its neurological benefits, GABA is also taken by many as a way to naturally ‘boost’ Growth Hormone levels. GABA has been shown in clinical trials to increase serum Growth Hormone levels by up to 400%, reaching a peak at around 1 hour after ingestion. [12] GABA, unfortunately, shows great difficulty in its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, making effective dosages somewhat larger compared to other Nootropics on this list. For example, many GABA supplements list a single dosage as being 750mg or more. Those seeking GABA as a natural HGH booster often take doses as high as 3-5 grams!

For those unresponsive to GABA—read about the Phenibut compound listed a little further down on this page. It provides a more bio-available form of this compound but also has some inherent risk of addiction and withdrawal symptoms. While the blood-brain barrier issues cause a bit of difficulty in fully-utilizing GABA supplements, the ‘stacking’ of GABA with a Nitric Oxide-promoting supplement seems to be useful, as Nitric Oxide has been shown to the blood-brain permeability of GABA specifically [12]. Many of those taking GABA supplements note that one of the side effects of this supplement is a brief shortness of breath, followed by a ‘pins and needles’ sensation. The shortness of breath—reportedly lasting less than 20 seconds, as well as the ‘pins and needles’ sensation has been reported to occur roughly 60-80 minutes after ingestion of GABA on an empty stomach. While odd perhaps, this side effect isn’t regarded as being serious by most—or even unpleasant—with many of those taking GABA not reporting the issue at all. Our favorite GABA supplement is Pure Encapsulation’s GABA.

4. Choline

Jarrow Formulas CDP Choline
CDP Choline from Jarrow Formulas

Choline is a powerful Nootropic compound that is a precursor to acetylcholine—considered as being the ‘learning molecule—and also shows potential in reducing the amounts of fat within the liver. This compound has shown benefit when taken in doses as low as 100mg but is frequently taken in doses as high as 2g. It should be noted, however, that large doses are often associated with complaints of a headache—but strangely enough, has is also taken by many Nootropics enthusiasts as a means of limiting headaches when using other compounds, such as racetams. A popular version of this compound is CDP Choline, which is sold as Citicoline by Jarrow Formulas.

Choline supplementation has been shown to boost running endurance, overall cognitive function, reaction times, and memory function—as well as helping to address issues of fatigue. While Choline shows tremendous ability to boost neurological and cognitive function, regarded by many as one of the most-fundamentally important Nootropics, it also shows a large number of other benefits for other systems within the body. Among the many—reduction of fatty liver tissue, reducing gene expression of cortisol production (stress hormone) and improving overall cardiovascular health. Choline is considered very safe to take, with rare side effects—primarily reported as headaches at large doses.[15]

5. Alpha GPC

Douglas Laboratories Alpha GPC
Alpha GPC from Douglas Laboratories

Alpha GPC, or alpha glycerophosphocholine, is a choline-containing compound that has been shown to demonstrate strong Nootropic abilities such as boosting overall cognitive function by providing a boost to choline levels in neurological pathways, as well as systemically too. In addition to its overall brain-boosting ability, Alpha-GPC has been investigated as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease as well—showing some promising results. Alpha-GPC has also been shown to provide treatment for scopolamine-induce amnesia, suggestively providing an overall increase in the body’s available Acetylcholine supply. [14] Curiously enough, Alpha-GPC also demonstrates a marked ability to increase serum levels of Growth Hormone naturally, although only acute spikes have been observed.

Overall, Alpha GPC demonstrates the abilities to improve overall cognitive function, increase Acetylcholine levels, potentially stave off cognitive decline, as well as triggering large increases of Growth Hormone over short periods of time. Alpha GPC is very similar to choline, both in its chemical structure and it benefits. One of the advantages of taking Alpha GPC over simple Choline supplements is it’s demonstrated the ability to be over 50% more readily absorbed by the body. This difference in bio-availability has been observed in serum levels testing, and in its potentiation of Acetylcholinesterase— a Rivastigmine inhibitor. One of the highest quality forms of this product available is the Alpha GPC from Douglas Laboratories.

6. L-Theanine

Douglas Laboratories L-Theanine
L-Theanine from Douglas Laboratories

L-Theanine is a non-essential amino acid which shares many chemical similarities to L-Glutamine as well as both GABA and glutamate. L-Theanine is naturally found in green tea and is regarded as having a mentally-stimulating effect which improves memory retention, focus, and overall perception. L-Theanine is also known to be a relaxation agent for many and is commonly taken in conjunction with many other stimulants such as caffeine as a means to ‘level out’ jittery effects. L-Theanine is known to help promote quality deep sleep, although can cause difficulties when taken directly before bedtime.

Overall L-Theanine is a very safe supplement with notable side effects remaining minimal and rare, and showing many remarkable benefits such as improved focus, memory, and attention.  Additionally, L-Theanine has been shown to show many other non-Nootropic benefits such as it’s positive impact on cardiovascular health, sleep cycles, and overall sense of well-being.[16] A great L-Theanine supplement is the L-Theanine from Douglas Laboratories. Douglas Laboratories is a brand that is comparable to Pure Encapsulations—both of which are considered to be ‘Doctor-Trusted’ supplement brands.

7. Phenylethylamine (PEA)

Phenylethylamine from Bulksupplements
Phenylethylamine from Bulksupplements

Known as the ‘PEA Supplement’ by many, Phenylethylamine is a powerful Nootropic. PEA is also known as ‘the love drug,’ is found naturally in chocolate, and is known throughout the Nootropics’ world as being one of the most powerful ‘smart drugs’ there is. PEA ultimately functions as a dopamine booster, which can drastically offset the feeling of anxiety or depression. PEA is a close relative to Phenylalanine and works as a neurotransmitter & modulator in controlling the release of dopamine and Norepinephrine. In addition to its powerful Nootropic properties, PEA has also demonstrated the ability to act as a bacterial inhibitor, capable of breaking up tough biofilms [17]. PEA is considered to be a psychoactive compound, that can be found in naturally elevated levels within the human body during periods of excitement or sexual arousal.

Due it’s powerful ability to affect mood and sense of well-being, many take PEA as a means to help combat feelings of depression or anxiety. Phenylethylamine has demonstrated strong ability to improve mental clarity, overall mental energy, increase attention spans, as well as improving learning capacity and aiding in the formation of new memories. Phenylethylamine has a bit of difficulty crossing the blood-brain barrier and is often taken in relatively-large doses such as 1-2 grams—on an empty stomach. Side effects are rare, and often only associated with doses of more than 1-2 grams. These side effects are typically noted as slight dizziness, headaches, or nausea. Of note, is that many people report an odd floral taste/smell approximately 1 hour after dosage with PEA. This compound, acting as a dopamine booster, does possess some danger of becoming habit forming—although much less so than other very common compounds such as alcohol or nicotine. [17] Our favorite source for this compound is the Powdered Phenylethylamine from Bulksuppelments.

8. Lion’s Mane (Yamabushitake)

Mushroom Tea from Four Sigmatic

Lion’s Mane is an edible mushroom that has been used for centuries by Asian cultures as a powerful agent in the treatment of mental disorders and neurological conditions. Lion’s Mane is one of the few Nootropics on this list that has shown a marked ability to actual help regenerate neural networks—specifically in the regeneration of myelin along neural axons. [18] This natural ‘smart mushroom’ has been reportedly consumed by monks as a tea for centuries as a means to enhance concentration during periods of meditation.

Lion’s mane has shown the ability to lower anxiety, stem the cognitive decline, lessen feelings of depression, lower symptoms of menopause, and positively affect the quality of sleep. Lion’s Mane is considered one of the best natural Nootropics available on the market today for its powerful neuroprotective properties. Lion’s Mane has also been shown to stimulate Nerve Growth Factor—meaning it can actually help the brain Grow! [19] Our favorite Lion’s Mane product is, without doubt, the Mushroom Tea from Four Sigmatic that contains a Lion’s Mane/Chaga blend.

9. Bacopa

Bacopa Herbal Supplement from Himalaya

Bacopa Monnieri is among the most well-renowned natural herbal Nootropics, having been used by many seeking an increase in mental clarity for centuries. Bacopa has been used by Indians as a means of increasing focus, as well as having been administered for the treatment of asthma, epilepsy, tumors, ulcers, and general inflammation over the years. While many of these treatments have been done to extensive scientific research, used mainly in the fields of Ayurvedic medicine, there is a large body of modern research to back up many of the long-held claims of Bacopa’s ability to provide cognitive enhancement. Bacopa has been shown to reduce anxiety, increase memory retention, increase overall mental focus, as well as lowering feelings of depression and forgetfulness.

Bacopa acts on dopamine and serotonin pathways in the brain but has been shown to aid in memory performance by actually increasing the length of neural nerves (dendrites) within the brain. This allows more robust neural networks to form, as well as decreasing the overall time it takes for neural nerves to communicate with one another. Bacopa is a very safe natural Nootropic and has only had mild side effects reported such as nausea, cramping, or bloating when taken on an empty stomach. Many people take Bacopa as an effective means to increase conversational attention, as a study aid (over long periods of time), as an overall promoter of well-being, and also as a powerful anti-oxidant. Our favorite Bacopa supplement is the one from Himalaya herbal supplements.

10. Ginko Biloba

Ginko Biloba Capsules from Gaia Herbs

Ginko Biloba may be one of the most popular herbal Nootropics in existence today but has only demonstrated inconsistent cognitive enhancing capabilities in clinical trials. Ginko is taken to boost short-term memory retention, problem-solving, and focus skills, as well as a means of safeguarding against cognitive decline. The main body of data that support the beneficial aspects of Ginko Biloba is typically confined to its ability to positively affect memory, counteract altitude sickness, and stave off cognitive decline. While the effectiveness of Ginko Biloba varies greatly from person to person, the number of different studies surrounding non-cognitive effects of Ginko Biloba is immense.

Impact on Pink Eye, Nitric Oxide production, Interleukin 6, and Oxygen uptake are only a handful of the many effects of Ginko that have been clinically investigated. Commonly, Ginko is found as a synergistic ingredient in many natural supplement products such as Melatonin blends, and anti-anxiety blends. The side effects of Ginko Biloba are minimal and only reported in a very rare number of cases. Overall, Ginko isn’t as robust of a natural Nootropic as many others on this list but earns the privilege of inclusion for it’s remarkable to boost memory. In our opinion, the best Ginko Biloba product on the market is the one from Gaia Herbs, which is grown in the nutrient-rich mountains of Western North Carolina.

11. Ashwagandha (Rennet)

Herb Pharm Ashwagandha
Liquid Ashwagandha Tincture by Herb Pharm

Latin name Withania somnifera, this popular natural Nootropic is has been used for centuries by Ayurvedic healers, and very generally has been regarded as an overall anxiolytic compound—falling within the Adaptogen classification—and capable of greatly reducing and preventing anxiety. Different from many other Adaptogens, Ashwagandha has shown the remarkable ability to provide a boost in both physical and mental energies. For this reason, Ashwagandha is often used by athletes and those in highly-demanding mental professions such as computer programming, engineering, or other research sciences.

As an adaptogen, Ashwagandha is also used among many cancer patients—not yet as a proven method to treat cancer—but as a means to counteract the immunosuppressive action of cancer drugs. Overall, there is a strong body of evidence showing that Ashwagandha can serve as a powerful natural Nootropic capable of increasing energy, alertness, motivation, and reducing anxiety—which is often one of the largest hurdles for people when trying to focus deeply. Ashwagandha is a very safe supplement to take and is often administered orally as a tincture (liquid extractives) between meals. Our favorite offering of the product is, hands down, the Ashwagandha Tincture from Herb Pharm.

12. Rhodiola

Rhodiloa from Bulksupplements
Rhodiola from Bulksupplements

Rhodiola (Golden Root) is another Adaptogenic herb which has been shown to provide a remarkable increase in overall mental performances. Rhodiola has been shown to most effectively serve as a natural Nootropic in its ability to preserve cognitive function rather than increase it, although it has also been shown to remarkable boost overall physical energies.

As with many non-pharmaceutical compounds, clinical trials to investigative research are often sparse—being that the incentive for commercial funding is low without patent rights [2]. In addition to cognitive functions, Rhodiola has also demonstrated the ability to serve as a general longevity agent, showing up to 20% increases of lifespan in laboratory studies with animals. Our current recommendation for a dependable source of Rhodiola is the Powdered form available from Bulksupplements.

13. N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine (NALT)

NALT From Jarrow Formulas
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine by Jarrow Formulas

NALT is closely related to L-Tyrosine, an amino acid compound, and is a naturally occurring compound. Currently, there isn’t a lot of clinical data allowing for many claims (if any) to be made about this compound, but the number of positive descriptions of personal experience warranted it’s inclusion. NALT has been investigated in the context of being an adult pre-natal nutrient with beneficial results, but as mentioned—has little clinical data for cognitive effects. Subjective accounts of this compound detail it as producing near-euphoric states with sensations of calm and focus deepened concern for others, and overall boosting of emotional energy levels.

L-Tyrosine, a closely related compound, does have a strongly supported clinical background as being a powerful neuro-booster—capable of increasing levels of noradrenaline and dopamine, boosting mental energy, and helping support mental function during periods of sleep withdrawal. It is somewhat functionally wise to consider the data for L-Tyrosine when considering the effectiveness of N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine since it is broken down into L-Tyrosine by the kidneys after consumption. The N-Acetyl form of L-Tyrosine is thought to be more effectively absorbed by the body, thus allowing the end availability of L-Tyrosine to potentially be higher than with just L-Tyrosine supplements. Overall, it’s probably wise to gauge the Nootropic potential of this compound with that of L-Tyrosine—with the reports of smoother experiences in mind. [20] Our favorite N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine product is the one offered by Jarrow Formulas.

CDP Choline brain

The Best Synthetic Nootropics

As mentioned above, Modafinil has been one of the most-popular prescription drugs considered as a Nootropic over the years, being largely replaced by Adderall among the recent younger generations—particularly college students. If you’re interested in learning more about prescription Nootropics, or patented cognitive enhancers, I suggest you read this article by Vice—as those compounds will not be falling within the scope of this article. While ‘synthetic’ is a term that is often associated with ‘not-healthy,’ such is not always the case with dietary supplements. As a general rule, one must pay closer attention to the potential dangers of synthetic compounds because they are typically able to produce effects of a much higher magnitude than the more natural nootropics on this list.

Natural Stacks CILTEP

For example; the wildly-popular Nootropic Aniracetam, which has been studied extensively. This compound has been proving it’s benefit among those seeking to boost their brain power for years—but also have many that feel it offers a bit too much over-stimulation. While the exact methods by which these compounds’ function is still largely unknown, there are many ancillary facets by which their overall classifications can be discerned. These include classifications such as those which provide physical energy, those which provide mental energy, as well as those which provide emotional energy. It should be noted that these broader classifications are very subjectively rooted, and certainly may vary from person to person. One of the most valuable resources available online for surveying reported experiences with different compounds is the Erowid Vaults, where users have been posting different experiences for years.

1. Aniracetam

Aniracetam is one of the most-proven Nootropics—the racetam family—which has been studied for decades. Racetams all share a similar ‘core’ compound—pyrrolidone—and range in their focal applications from stimulants to anticonvulsants. Aniracetam in particular has been shown to be popular and effective [4] which may be due to its characteristic of being fat-soluble. The main benefits of Aniracetam are considered to be mental enhancements, such as an increase in memory capacity, learning ability, as well as creating increases in focus. Aniracetam is among a class of compounds considered to be AMPA Modulators—named for their ability to impact your brains glutamatergic pathways. In plain English; Aniracetam works to help regulate the parts of your brain that are connected to quick thoughts, and fast response times. [21] A recommended daily dosage of Aniracetam is 750mg per-day, taken with either food or a fat such as coconut oil, olive oil, or a nut butter. Many users also recommend that this product be taken with a Choline supplement, such as Alpha-GPC or CDP Choline to help reduce the risk of associated headaches. Aniracetam has been described by many of those taking it as providing powerful, clean mental energy, as well as subtle emotional energy as well.

2. Oxiracetam

Another in the Racetam  family, this compound has been shown to be up to five times more potent than the original Racetam—Piracetam. Oxiracetam has been shown to provide powerful mental stimulation—fully qualifying it to be considered one of the cognitive enhancement supplements—so-called ‘smart-drugs’—on this list. While similar to Aniracetam in many ways, Oxiracetam is water-soluble which makes it ideal for powdered form consumption. Oxiracetam stimulates both the AMPA and NDMA receptors and related pathways in the brain. Oxiracetam is considered to be one of the most ‘true’ cognitive enhancing compounds on this list, as it is regarded largely as having little effect on mood or emotion. Many compounds within the Racetam family have been shown to show marked benefit in the treatment of anxiety and depression, but Oxiracetam’s inability to affect mood excludes it from that list. This Nootropic compound is very difficult to find in stores, but can be bought in isolated form from Peak Nootropics.

3. Noopept

This compound is often associated directly with members of the Racetam family, but is not actually due to the difference in core chemical structuring. However, Noopept is thought to act on the same acetylcholinic pathways within the brain as the Racetams, resulting in it’s common inclusion in discussions. Noopept is another synthetic which has been patented in both Russia and the United States, and is currently being sold as a dietary supplement—not being FDA approved for the treatment of any medical condition. In addition to the mental stimulation of increased memory retention, increased learning, and overall increases in perceptual cognition, Noopept also provides a ‘subtle’ psychostimulatory effect which can offer benefit for those looking for less pharmaceutical means of addressing anxiety or depression. Data regarding this compound vary, some claiming up to a 1000 fold increase of effectiveness compared to similar compounds such as Piracetam, while others simply regard the two as demonstrating similar effects.

4. Phenibut

Phenibut is a Nootropic that was first synthesized by Russian scientists and was a standard inclusion in Soviet Cosmonaut’s medical kits [5] due to it’s ability to serve as an tranquilizer—reducing stress and anxiety—while at the same time not leaving the cosmonauts ‘drowsy.’ Phenibut goes by brand names such as Noofen or Citrocard, and is approved for clinical use in many parts of the world. However, in the United States—as with so many other compounds—Phenibut isn’t FDA approved for the treatment of any disease or medical condition but can be bought perfectly legally as a dietary supplement. This synthetic is great when mixed with a stimulant, such as caffeine or theanine, and helps works as a GABA antagonist similar to alcohol or benzodiazepines. The effect is sensations of well-being, calmness, relaxation, increased libido, and improvements on focus.

Phenibut has been known to become addictive, and can have some pretty unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and depression

Phenibut is reported by many to help promote very deep sleep patterns as well as improving overall mood. While it’s biochemical methods may not be in line with the Racetam family—the end result is often increased levels of focus and commitment to the activity. Many report the anxiolytic action (anti-anxiety) of Phenibut as allowing for them to simply let go of the subtle anxieties and mental processes that often make it difficult for them to focus—increasing their ability to focus as opposed to increasing the capacity to focus. As with many Nootropics, the exact manner by which Phenibut functions in the body isn’t completely known, and much of the records of effects rely on subjective accounts. It must also be mentioned that Phenibut has been known to become addictive, and can have some pretty unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and depression. These effects are reportedly short-lived, with emotions stabilizing a 1-2 weeks later. One of the best Phenibut compounds available is the Phenitropic supplement from Biotics Research.

5. Vinpocetine

Vinpocetine barely falls within the category of synthetics—regarded as semi-synthetic—but is a powerful Nootropic none-the-less. This compound was first synthesized in Hungary from an alkaloid in the Periwinkle plant. This compound first saw commercial production starting in the late 1970’s and remains a clinically-approved method of treating cerebrovascular diseases and age-related memory impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease. Vinpocetine acts as a powerful neuroprotective agent, such as Lithium Orotate, and is currently not FDA-approved for the treatment of any medical condition within the United States but, again, is available for legal purchase as a dietary supplement.

Vinpocetine supplements are regarded as promoting higher blood-flow throughout neural pathways and has been clinically-regarded as being more of a neuroprotective compound than a neuro-enhancing compound. This compound is often taken in combination—stack—with other Nootropic compounds for its ability to promote higher blood flow to the brain, thus making any other ingested compounds more bio-available. This increase in blood flow does not increase overall blood pressure levels and is thought to burden the cardiovascular system with any additional stress. The Vinpocetine supplement by Pure Encapsulations is one of the best quality options currently on the market.

Piracetam Nootropics

Where to Buy Nootropics

Nootropics are, compared to many supplements like fish oil and magnesium, pretty obscure and hard to find in many cases. Several of herbal and more natural Nootropics can be found at your local health food store, online, or maybe even is some grocery stores like Whole Foods. As a general rule of thumb, these aren’t the best supplement brands available and may contain a wide range of possible contaminants, unwanted ingredients, and even unlisted fillers in some cases. The internet is often the best source for these types of products, and quality brands are much more easy to find. Still, with some of the synthetic, more powerful Nootropics—it can still be quite hard to track them down. Fortunately, with the recent surge in popularity surrounding Nootropics, there has been quite a few retailers pop up that specialize in Nootropics.

Natural Stacks

Natural Stacks is a company dedicated to quality, details, and no-nonsense product offerings that cater to the high demands of professionals working in mentally-intensive fields such as programming and engineering. Separating themselves from much of the competition, Natural Stacks Nootropics are free of GMOs, Gluten, and artificial ingredients such as flavorings and coloring. This dedication to purity allows the Natural Stacks products to ensure maximum potency with every dose. Another separating factor in the Natural Stacks resume is their adherence to Current FDA best manufacturing processes in their use of cGMP facilities in the making of all their products. Natural Stacks supplies a great many Nootropics products, as well as many other herbal and isolated supplement products as well. In addition to their commitment to quality, Natural Stacks has launched what they call the ‘Open Source’ ingredient initiative. This is an endeavor to provide complete transparency regarding the sources of their ingredients. Natural Stacks is actively engaged in reaching out to Nootropics enthusiasts, and have been kind enough to extend a coupon for Organic Newsroom audiences. Should you choose to buy any supplements from this company, simply use the code ORGANICNEWS during checkout to get 10% off your entire order.


Despite their very generic name, BulkSupplements represents a very useful force in the supplements industry. Their products, manufactured in an FDA-certified cGMP facility, are offered at a price range usually reserved only for wholesale purchases. However, their website clearly specializes in the offering of products in quantities suitable for most consumer buyers. While BulkSupplements carries many products other than Nootropics, they do have a Mental Wellness section of their website dedicated solely to many semi-synthetic and natural Nootropic supplements. BulkSupplements offers many hard-to-find Nootropic supplements including Choline, Phenylethylamine (PEA), and Sulbutiamine. Their products are widely available on Amazon and are, for the most part, all a part of the Amazon Prime program. Bulksupplements caters to those that have more interest in devising their own stacks, and are mostly products available in easily encapsulated powdered form. This allows easy access for weighing out specific amounts without having to empty a ton of vegetable capsules (truly, a pain.)


Of the many supplement retailers online today, stands out as the single most-quality oriented company. They are among the top 500 internet retailers (no small feat) and offer free shipping on every order, and are semi-obsessed with helping buyers learn about which supplement brands are trusted by actual doctors. Pureformulas offers nearly every Nootropic on the Natrual Nootropics section—but only a few of the semi-synthetics such as the Aniracetam, Noopept,  or Phenibut. Overall this is a great website to buy any supplements from, but especially Nootropics! All orders through Pureformulas qualify for free shipping, and American Express customers qualify for free 2 Day Shipping. Overall, this retailer is the best place to shop for high-quality supplements.


Amazon needs no introduction, I’m sure you’ve likely purchased something from them in the past (probably today). As you may have imagined, they also carry many Nootropics from all sorts of companies around the world. The only downside in shopping from Amazon is that you usually need to know what you are looking for before you go there to purchase something. The Amazon Nootropics page, for example, contains many products that are blends of the various Nootropics mentioned here, and are from smaller companies that may not offer a very pure or potent product. If you have found a Nootropic on this page—particularly the natural Nootropics—you are likely to find the best deal by purchasing through Amazon. Read our list of the highest quality supplement brands to get a better idea of which manufacturers are likely to offer the best options.

Best Nootropics

The Best Nootropics

Choosing the best Nootropic from such a comprehensive list can be quite daunting. Most Nootropics enthusiasts take many different Nootropic compounds as a part of their ‘stack,’ which enables synergistic actions to take place. This is often used as a means of supporting a wide array of beneficial cognitive enhancements, though no such uses are currently approved by the FDA. For example, more potent synthetic Nootropics such as Aniracetam, are often described as causing a bit of mental ‘tension,’ and leaving users with a slight feeling of jitteriness. By stacking Aniracetam with supplements such as Alpha-GPC or another Choline source, one can help reduce the degree to which one might feel depleted, head-achy, or mentally spent. Afterward, supportive supplements such as L-Arginine, Magnesium Glycinate, and maybe some CoQ10 would be ideal for their anti-oxidant effects. These supplements, when taken throughout the day, would be considered someone’s daily ‘stack’.  To be clear—Nootropics don’t have to be taken at the exact same time to be considered part of the same stack.

The addition of one [Nootropic] compound—or the reduction of another—might help you achieve the balance you’ve been searching for

Many people new to the concept of Nootropics find the best introduction to cognitive enhancement within the natural Nootropics—as these offer a more subtle benefit compared to the synthetics. The best Nootropics combination for each person will be found by thorough trial-and-error investigative practices. No two of our chemical makeups are the same, and we are constantly changing from day to day. What works well now, may not work well next year. It’s important to gain as deep of an understanding of these compounds and how they interact with your body to help evolve your daily stack and be able to adapt to changing variables. By knowing how each compound effects you as an individual, you will be able to better understand when the addition of one compound—or the reduction of another—might help you achieve the balance you’ve been searching for. As with any dietary supplement, you should always consult with a licensed health professional before introducing any new compounds into your diet. Nootropics pose a unique risk in launching us into undesired mental states as well. It can be very beneficial to meditate on the concept that you are working to enact temporary change, and that however unpleasant (or hellishly tormenting) an unfortunate Nootropic experience may be—it’s only a temporary state of being that eventually give way to your baseline state of perception once again.

NOTE: This article was updated on 9/6/2017 to provide updated links, better citations, expansion on some topics, and to clarify some ingredients based on reader questions received.

Nootropics are powerful cognitive enhancing compounds that offer a wide-ranging ability to address and supplement many mental functions within the body. From boosting memory and learning ability, to helping treat Alzheimer's through strong neuroprotective action—Nootropics serve as a powerful tool in anyone's medicine cabinet.
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