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The Complete Guide to the Best Nootropic Supplements

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When it comes to supplements, the first ones that come to mind are supplements for weight loss, sleep, health and wellness, muscle growth, and the occasional energy boost. However, the brain can benefit from supplements too, and compounds designed specifically to benefit brain function and health are called nootropics, or sometimes brain pills.

Because everyone wants to have an advantage at work or in school, it’s only natural for supplement companies to manufacture formulas that cater to people who want a brain boost. The thing is, there are far too many nootropic formulas out there and sorting through can be confusing and at times, risky for our health.

To help narrow down the search for the best nootropic supplements, we made a list of the 5 best nootropic formulas ever. These were chosen for their formula synergy, ingredient quality, and cost, so regardless of what brand you go with, your brain will benefit from it.

Top 5 Best Nootropic Supplements

Call them what you like – Smart pills, brain pills, smart drugs, brain supplements – They’re all collectively known as Nootropic Supplements.

In our top 5 best nootropics list we look at how cognitive performance and mental performance might be improved. Can they improve memory loss, cognitive decline and improve brain activity? Let’s find out.

1. Mind Lab Pro

Mind Lab Pro

Quality Ingredients9 of 10

9 of 10

Value for Money9 of 10

9 of 10

Overall9 of 10

9 of 10

At a glance

Mind Lab Pro is definitely the best when it comes to all matters concerning brain boosting. It’s considered a universal nootropic supplement because of its well-rounded and synergistic nootropic formula.

It’s known to help you utilise the brain’s 6 Pathways. These are:

  • Brain Chemistry: Optimises memory, processing speed and attention.
  • Brain Energy: This reduces mental cloudiness, and supports quick thinking.
  • Brain Regeneration: This helps improve brain health.
  • Brain Circulation: Increases oxygenation to the brain.
  • Brain Protection: Prevents brain degradation.
    Brain Waves: Promotes creativity, productivity and learning.

Mind Lab Pro’s key ingredients are:

  • Citicoline
  • Bacopa Monnieri
  • Phosphatidylserine
  • Rhodiola Rosea
  • L-Theanine

These are all some of the best in the nootropics industry, so to see them combined in one brain-boosting formula is definitely worth every penny.

What we like

  • Lets the brain fire on all cylinders.
  • Formula synergy.
  • High potency and premium ingredients.
  • No fillers or junk ingredients
  • Transparent label
  • Strong brand reputation

2. Hunter Focus

Hunter Focus Review

Quality Ingredients8 of 10

8 of 10

Value for Money8 of 10

8 of 10

Overall8 of 10

8 of 10

At a glance

Hunter Focus’ angle is to more about brain cell regeneration and recovery, which could translate to better performance and health over time. You see, the brain is just like any organ: It takes quite a beating over time, especially when we’re highly stressed or if we’re not exactly living a “pro brain” lifestyle.

Hunter Focus’ ingredient synergy is anchored towards Lion’s Mane, Ashwagandha, and Passionflower. Lion’s mane augments brain recovery, ashwagandha helps neutralise stress and keeps us calm and relaxed, while Passion Flower helps with sleep – one of the pillars of a healthy lifestyle.

The combination of long-term brain health ingredients is not new, but the fact that Hunter Focus anchored their formula on it makes them unique and deserving of this spot in our list.

What we like

  • Recovery-Sleep focus
  • Anti-stress synergy
  • Long-term brain health
  • Favors circadian-based sleeping habits

3. NooCube

Where to buy NooCube

Quality Ingredients7 of 10

7 of 10

Value for Money7 of 10

7 of 10

Overall7 of 10

7 of 10

At a glance

NooCube can be considered the best nootropic when it comes to cost and overall value. It’s not at the level of Mind Lab Pro (actually, far from it), but it’s not so bad that NooCube doesn’t deserve to be in a top 5 best nootropics list.

One bottle is around $40.00, but you can easily nab SIX of these for the price of THREE.  I repeat. If you avail of their offer, you get not one, not two, not three, but six NooCube bottles for just $120.00. That’s a 6-month supply for $20 a month!

But, why is it this cheap? Does it have poor ingredients? No. In fact, its key ingredients are top tier often cited in any best nootropics list or when ranking what the best nootropic is in general.

NooCube’s ingredients are

  • Bacopa Monnieri
  • Tyrosine
  • Oat Straw
  • Theanine
  • Alpha GPC
  • Huperzia Serrata
  • Resveratrol

The only reason why NooCube is so cheap compared to its competition is how the formula feels “thin” and modestly dosed. They aimed for an overall or rounded approach which inevitably divided the doses across eight key ingredients – with about half needing more dosages for potency.

Regardless, NooCube is one of the best nootropics out there if only because of the volume you can avail. It’s also the best nootropic if you’re looking to fill some gaps should your preferred nootropic be out of stock.

What we like

  • Well-rounded formula
  • Used quality ingredients
  • You can get 6 months supply for half the price

4. Alpha Brain

Onnit Alpha Brain

Quality Ingredients6 of 10

6 of 10

Value for Money7 of 10

7 of 10

Overall6 of 10

6 of 10

At a glance

Alpha Brain is one of the world’s best selling nootropics with over 27,000,000 capsules sold. It’s sold by former UFC commentator and popular podcast host Joe Rogan. The makers claim Alpha Brain as designed to help with memory, focus, and processing speed (or how fast you react to something). Alpha Brain is also one of the few nootropics out there backed by at least two studies.

It contains the standard nootropics you’d expect from a standard nootropic brand, but none of the big name once you’d want in a #1 or #2 best nootropic.

The key ingredients

  • Tyrosine
  • Theanine
  • Phosphatidylserine
  • Alpha GPC
  • Bacopa Monnieri

In their own right, these ingredients are incredibly potent, especially since many of the best nootropics have them. However, what made Alpha Brain rank this low in our Best Nootropics ladder is how they made use of these ingredients with really low doses. It’s a similar story to NooCube, but Alpha Brain doubled down on it

Regardless, Alpha Brain is still a leader in the nootropics world for a reason, and the low-doses are only low relative to the competition we put them with in our blog. Many other brands have it worse.

What we like

  • Quality ingredients
  • Decently priced
  • Backed by studies

5. Powher Advanced Nootropic

Powher Brain Pills

Quality Ingredients6 of 10

6 of 10

Value for Money5 of 10

5 of 10

Overall5 of 10

5 of 10

At a glance

Powher is one of those brand of supplements that heavily caters to women. I mean, it’s in the name. They’re mostly known for their pre workout and fat burners, so it would explain why their nootropic “Brain Powher” has been slept on until today.

Powher ingredients

  • Ashwagandha
  • Citicoline
  • Lion’s Mane
  • Bacopa Monnieri
  • Ginkgo Biloba
  • Natural Caffeine

Brain Powher only has six key ingredients which is a great start, as we prefer focused formulation over empty calories in our best nootropics. Fewer ingredients also often mean better dose focus. The dosages themselves not bad, but what made it rank this low was how Powher didn’t really capitalise on their best nootropics.

Powher put their dose heavily on Lion’s Mane which is a great nootropic, but not as potent as Citicoline or Bacopa monnieri, two key ingredients in the best nootropics. Then, we also have to consider that they also added caffeine at 90 mg. This isn’t bad normally, but then users will now have to consider their total caffeine intake whenever they buy or prepare coffee. 90 mg caffeine is practically one cup of coffee already, so this also discounts Powher as a “relaxing” nootropic and not the best nootropic to take an hour or two before sleep.

Despite the drawbacks, Brain Powher is in our best nootropics list for a reason and it’s largely due to the potency of their ingredient synergy.

What we like

  • Great synergy between key ingredients
  • Contains citicoline and bacopa monnieri
  • Free worldwide delivery

What are Nootropics?

Nootropics are defined as substances and compounds designed to improve brain function and health. What they can do ranges from improving memory and motivation all the way to reducing the risks of brain disease or degeneration.

You can say that nootropics act like NZT-48, the drug used in the film Limitless starring Bradley Cooper. However, the movie version exaggerates nootropic use at least 10 fold, because real nootropics aren’t that potent nor do they possess those awful side effects!

What nootropics do is just help the brain function faster or better. It’s like a protein shake for the gray matter between your ears, except it’s not to grow bigger, but to work at a more efficient manner.

You can say nootropics are like vitamins for the brain, and they should be treated as such. Just because you took vitamin C and E doesn’t mean you’re now immune to every infectious disease on Earth while they’re inside the body.

Whether it’s to help you remember what you studied last night for your exams or if you just want maximum focus for your report due in a few hours, nootropics are here to help.

Nootropics side effects

The side effects associated with nootropics can vary, but generally speaking nootropics can cause:

  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sleep problems
  • Vision issues
  • Addiction
  • Stomach problems
  • Anxiety and headaches

Most nootropics are dosed modestly to help reduce these side effects, but everyone’s brain is different. If you feel something that’s not supposed to happen when you use nootropics, stop intake and seek professional help.

Common ingredients in Nootropics

Caffeine

Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive drug in the world, and the large bulk of it is consumed through everyone’s favorite cup of coffee. As a nootropic, coffee can jolt us out of a sleepy slump, enabling us to work with a ferocity that would rival that of a hungry cheetah that just spotted easy prey.

Caffeine gives us focus and what appears to be sharper and faster cognition, which can sometimes translate to better reflexes or hand-eye coordination. [5]

On top of brain function, studies found that regular coffee consumption can also have health benefits such as lower risk of type 2 diabetes, brain diseases, and even a longer lifespan.

Each cup of coffee (brewed, black) contains roughly 90-100 mg of caffeine. So, a formula consisting of 250 mg caffeine equates to about 2.5 cups of coffee.

Citicoline

Citicoline is perhaps one of the best and most effective nootropics available to the public. So few nootropics rival what citicoline can do for the brain. Also known as CDP Choline, much of the hype around this nootropic is due to how it works two ways.

First, it increases choline content. Choline is essentially the brain’s primary nutrient, and a prerequisite for acetylcholine, the very neurotransmitter used for learning. You can say raising choline levels is the basic function of nootropics. [4]

Second, it increases uridine, another compound in the brain that also raises choline levels. This lets it also positively affect cognitive levels.

The most benefit Citicoline is known for is with memory, so many people who have problems with memory retention would benefit from Citicoline consumption. [1]

Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine also multitasks like Citicoline. It’s known to help with age-related memory problems and illnesses, but it’s most defining benefit is how it clears brain fog. What it essentially does is clear the brain of toxins that result in poor focus and short term memory problems. [3]

Vinpocetine

Vinpocetine is often cited for its brain-protective benefits, particularly against brain degenerative disorders. It’s also an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound. It’s mostly known for boosting blood flow to the brain, which allows more oxygen uptake and nourishment.

L-Theanine

L-Theanine is the antithesis to caffeine. It’s a compound found in tea and is generally responsible for the calming and mood-boosting benefits of the leaf-based beverage. Many take caffeine with l-theanine as the latter can neutralise the common side effects associated with caffeine intake like the jitters, crashes, and headaches. [6]

Creatine

Creatine is collectively known as a muscle builder because of how it improves muscle recovery rate. This is why creatine is often taken as part of a post-workout stack. However, creatine also has some nootropic side to it, as it’s been cited to promote higher brain energy levels which can boost mental endurance.

Bacopa Monnieri

Also known as water hyssop, this natural nootropic herb is often used to increase longevity in traditional medicine. As a nootropic, bacopa monnieri works by boosting cognition by reducing stress and anxiety. Basically, the less you worry, the more you spend time learning. It’s also known to help with memory.

Another perk it has is how it speeds up neuron communication. Boosting neuron communication means your brain’s ability to learn new things (especially for students) is heightened.

Alpha GPC

Alpha-glycerophosphocholine or Alpha GPC is a popular nootropic marketed for its pro-choline benefits. It’s similar to citicoline in a sense that it boosts brain energy and acetylcholine levels.

What separates Alpha GPC from other nootropics is how it helps with brain flexibility, or the brain’s ability to quickly switch between several mental processes to respond to external stimuli. In other words, Alpha GPC helps you to respond faster and more efficiently. [2]

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola rosea isn’t so much a nootropic as much as it is an adaptogen. Adaptogens are natural herbs traditionally used to greatly reduce stress while also boosting mood. Many workout supplements use rhodiola to help users cope with the stress of weight loss, heavy lifting, or long distance running or cycling.

Panax Ginseng

Panax Ginseng is the most researched type of ginseng. Its nootropic benefits include mood boosting, benefits for the immune system, and learning perks. Some even take it as a supplement for blood flow.

Because of its blood flow benefits, you would also normally encounter Panax Ginseng in male supplements with claims on better erections.

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba is one of the most popular memory boosters. With over 400 clinical trials, the science around its memory benefits is solid. This nootropic works by boosting brain circulation, which essentially spikes oxygen distribution. This can help clear away compounds that may make it hard for someone to remember better, while also fast-tracking brain nutrients.

Noopept

It’s not the most researched nootropic out there, but animal studies found a direct correlation between memory recall and formation and noopept consumption. [8]

Noopept is also credited as one of the first ever ingredients to be called a nootropic, with its synthesis going back to 1996. Due to its synthetic nature, Noopept is fast-acting and can last for several hours.

It’s rare to see Noopept mixed in with other ingredients because it can actually work on its own. Furthermore, adding it with other ingredients may cause unwanted side effects.

Oat Straw Extract

Oatstraw is a natural nootropic that is said to help relieve anxiety and improve productivity while also keeping you relaxed. Experts also cite how it can increase nitric oxide content, which can promote better blood flow. [7]

Huperzine-A

Also known as Chinese Club Moss, Huperzine is a kind of nootropic that is literally added in micrograms due to its potency. It’s been shown to enhance brain chemicals, brain cell regeneration, and mental energy. Researchers also speculate that it works by blocking enzymes that degrade acetylcholine and other important brain chemicals.

Pterostilbene

Pterostilbene is an antioxidant found in blueberries. Not exactly a nootropic, but this ingredient can help with brain health by improving brain plasticity. It’s considered a safe ingredient because it’s commonly found in nature.

CoQ10

CoQ10 is a popular antioxidant known for its brain energy benefits. Because of their antioxidant nature, they help keep the brain from getting attacked by free radicals.

Neuroscientists from the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School say “oral administration of coenzyme Q10 increases both brain and brain mitochondrial concentrations. They provide further evidence that coenzyme Q10 can exert neuroprotective effects that might be useful in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases,” in their 1998 study involving rats. [9]

AC-11

The studies about AC-11 being a nootropic are still scarce, but current studies say it helps with DNA repair which can indirectly benefit the brain.

What are natural Nootropics?

Natural nootropics are simply herbs that augment brain health and power without the usual side effects associated with their synthetic counterparts. Some of these are:

  • L-Theanine: A nootropic taken mostly for its mood-boosting benefits. In formulas with caffeine, theanine can help counteract the harsh side effects of caffeine. From jitters and sweats, to anxiety and crashing, theanine has you covered.
  • Bacopa Monnieri: One of the best nootropics and greatly known for it being ideal for those who are working under pressure as it can help reduce anxiety.
  • Ginseng: One of the most popular nootropics included in powdered beverages and even energy drinks. It’s known to invigorate the senses, but especially blood flow. Boosting blood flow can help with brain power in a way that it gets more nutrients to the brain at a more efficient manner.
  • Rhodiola Rosea: This adaptogen’s purpose is to primarily reduce stress. In pre workouts, it reduces the stress associated with heavy lifting and consistency. In fat burners, it combats the stress associated with dieting. In nootropics, it fights off stress that can prevent you from learning or memorizing.
  • Ginkgo Biloba: This nootropic helps you remember better as well as boosts blood flow to the brain. Some even state that this increased blood flow to the brain also helps clear some brain “toxins” which clog the system.

Natural nootropics are often dried, pulverized, and concentrated based on the active compound desired. Some of them are mixed together in special blends. Natural nootropics are also more studied than their synthetic counterparts, which can give them a good edge when it comes to proving theories or concepts.

The only real drawback to natural nootropics is how difficult it is to standardize them in large batches. Synthetic nootropics are purified and concentrated as they are produced, natural nootropics need robust methods of measurement to guarantee concentration. This is why the best nootropic products always include the percent standardisation in their formulas.

Mind Lab Pro vs Alpha Brain

Mind Lab Pro vs Alpha Brain – Which is Best?

So, how does our #4 Best Nootropic fare against the #1 Best Nootropic? Is the gap between quality that bad? Let’s do a quick head-to-head between the best nootropic and arguably the most popular nootropic.

Mind Lab Pro ingredients

  • Vitamin B6 (as P-5-P)
  • Vitamin B12 (as methylcobalamin)
  • Citicoline (Cognizin)
  • Bacopa Monnieri (45% Bacosides)
  • Lion’s Mane Mushroom
  • Phosphatidylserine (Sharp PS Green derived from sunflower lecithin)
  • Pterostilbene
  • N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine
  • L-Theanine
  • Rhodiola Rosea (3% rosavins and 1% salidrosides)
  • Vinpocetine

Alpha Brain Ingredients

  • Vitamin B6
  • Onnit Flow Blend: Tyrosine, Theanine, Oatstraw extract, Phosphatidylserine
  • AC-11 (Uncaria tomentosa extract)
  • Onnit Focus Blend: Alpha GPC, Bacopa Monnieri extract, Huperzia serrata extract
  • Onnit Fuel Blend: Leucine, Vinpocetine, Pterostilbene

Ingredient quality and dosages: Mind Lab Pro

Mind Lab Pro wins hands down. There’s just so much nootropic firepower Mind Lab Pro has to offer that it’s just unfair to compare it to Alpha Brain, a nootropic that isn’t really trying to be the best, but being the most profitable nootropic in the market.

The dosages with each of Mind Lab Pro’s ingredients are not only “good,” but also synergistic. This means the heavy weights of its formula are properly dosed while also complementing each other. Alpha Brain’s formula is not bad, but we’re bothered by how it has a lot of ingredients that share small doses.

Value for money: Alpha Brain

We’re thinking Alpha Brain has the edge over Mind Lab Pro when it comes to bang for buck comparisons. Mind Lab Pro is premium and while going for the best is ideal, it’s not exactly financially sustainable for a lot of people, especially those who want to take nootropics as part of an everyday supplement plan.

This makes Alpha Brain the best nootropic when you want something that works and isn’t that bad for performance.

Utility: Mind Lab Pro

Utility is more about just how versatile a nootropic is, and we think Mind Lab Pro is the most versatile of all and why it’s the best nootropic in the world. It improves brain health and function multitude of ways, using some of the most potent nootropics ever.

Overall winner: Mind Lab Pro

Overall Winner Mind Lab Pro

FAQs About Nootropics

 

What is the most effective Nootropic?

The most effective single-ingredient nootropic is Citicoline. It can not only enhance brain energy, but also improve processes that speed up thinking, focus, and memory recall.

The best nootropic formula belongs to Mind Lab Pro. It’s of the highest quality, potency, and synergy. Truly an unbeatable nootropic formula with an attractive price tag. And yes, Mind Lab Pro contains Citicoline, but also other top tier nootropics in the game.

Do Nootropics actually work?

Several studies suggest nootropics do work. The studies made use of volunteers ranging from students and athletes all the way to the elderly and those with serious memory problems and brain-related illnesses.
The only time nootropics won’t work is if the quality of the nootropic you have is poor. Also, if your brain is already functioning optimally, in which case you may not notice any real boost. Regardless, they’re still working for your brain.

Should you take Nootropics?

This would vary depending on your goal.
Since nootropics are supplements by nature, they’re not a necessity at all. In fact, you can improve your brain health and function through diet and exercise.
You will want the help of nootropics if you want your brain to be healthier or function better, especially when it comes to reports or studying for exams.

Are Nootropics safe?

Mostly safe. Nootropics, especially the natural ones, aren’t harmful on their own, but overdosing (or getting your hands on poor quality products) can definitely increase the risk of unwanted and unexpected side effects.
Just to be safe, always stick with a company that is known to sell high quality products. Don’t go for the cheap ones that look shady or too affordable for what they’re claiming to do.

What do Nootropics do?

Nootropics simply help the brain work better. Depending on what nootropic is taken, these ingredients can help with better memory, focus, cognition, and overall brain health.

References:

  1. Fioravanti M, Buckley AE. Citicoline (Cognizin) in the treatment of cognitive impairment. Clin Interv Aging. 2006;1(3):247-251. doi:10.2147/ciia.2006.1.3.247
  2. Bellar D, LeBlanc NR, Campbell B. The effect of 6 days of alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine on isometric strength. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12:42. Published 2015 Nov 17. doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0103-x
  3. Kim HY, Huang BX, Spector AA. Phosphatidylserine in the brain: metabolism and function. Prog Lipid Res. 2014;56:1-18. doi:10.1016/j.plipres.2014.06.002
  4. Zeisel SH, da Costa KA. Choline: an essential nutrient for public health. Nutr Rev. 2009;67(11):615-623. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00246.x
  5. Planning Committee for a Workshop on Potential Health Hazards Associated with Consumption of Caffeine in Food and Dietary Supplements; Food and Nutrition Board; Board on Health Sciences Policy; Institute of Medicine. Caffeine in Food and Dietary Supplements: Examining Safety: Workshop Summary. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2014 Apr 23. 6, Caffeine Effects on the Central Nervous System and Behavioral Effects Associated with Caffeine Consumption. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK202225/
  6. Nobre AC, Rao A, Owen GN. L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:167-8. PMID: 18296328.
  7. Kennedy DO, Jackson PA, Forster J, et al. Acute effects of a wild green-oat (Avena sativa) extract on cognitive function in middle-aged adults: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subjects trial. Nutr Neurosci. 2017;20(2):135-151. doi:10.1080/1028415X.2015.1101304
  8. Ostrovskaia RU, Gudasheva TA, Voronina TA, Seredenin SB. Original’nyĭ nootropnyĭ i neĭroprotektivnyĭ preparat noopept [The original novel nootropic and neuroprotective agent noopept]. Eksp Klin Farmakol. 2002;65(5):66-72.
  9. Matthews RT, Yang L, Browne S, Baik M, Beal MF. Coenzyme Q10 administration increases brain mitochondrial concentrations and exerts neuroprotective effects. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998;95(15):8892-8897. doi:10.1073/pnas.95.15.8892
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