What are the Best Nootropics?

A list of best nootropics is always subjective and will ultimately depend upon what the goal of the end user is.  For those who are new to nootropics, determining which supplements are best suited for you can be confusing.   There are nootropics for focus, nootropics for memory, nootropics for studying and nootropic stacks that can offer a combination of effects.  In order to provide an overview of common uses, we have put together a small list of 5 common supplements that are popular in this industry.

Before we look at the top 5 list of best nootropics, let us introduce some general information about how these compounds work so that we can fully understand why we would take them.

How do The Best Nootropics Work to Enhance Mental Ability?

To increase cognitive function, nootropics work via a few basic mechanisms, each of which can be summed up to interactions with neurotransmitters in the brain that control perception, memory, problem solving and other cornerstone functions inside of the central nervous system and the brain itself.  You will see that there is nothing “magical” about nootropics once you come to understand how these compounds perform at the neurological and chemical level.

i. Interacting with Acetylcholine

Most nootropics work by interacting with acetylcholine, one of the nervous system’s most important neurotransmitters. Acetylcholine is responsible for overall health of the brain’s neural network.  As it is essentially a neuromodulator, acetylcholine improves communication across synapses and motor neurons.  When these neural cells are healthier and optimized for transmitting sensory signals you are able to stay alert longer and perform difficult mental tasks almost intuitively.

Acetylcholine is also associated with the formation and retrieval of memory in the brain’s cortex and hippocampus.  Indeed, reduction in acetylcholine action in the brain is directly correlated with age related memory loss.  It does this by interacting with nicotinic and muscarinic receptors in the brain.

ii. Boosting Dopamine and Norepinephrine Levels

Dopamine and norepinephrine are two neurotransmitters specifically responsible for retaining attention as well as limiting impulsiveness and mood swings. It is therefore of little surprise that people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder generally have low levels of both dopamine and norepinephrine.

Nootropics which boost the body’s innate ability to secrete dopamine and norepinephrine will increase your alertness markedly. They also increase mental clarity, what many people describe as a metaphoric “clearing of mental fog” as they recall something to astonishing detail.

iii. Placebo Effect

Mental experts know that the brain is an incredibly complex organ. There is widely accepted opinion that at least a part of the potency of nootropics is only witnessed because those taking the supplements expect them to work. But the counter-argument is that this perception only holds because the actual mechanics of many nootropics are not understood.

The Top 5 List of Best Nootropics

5-HTP

Rather appropriately, the #5 ranked best nootropic is this list is known as 5-HTP. There is some healthy debate going on in the supplements community whether 5-HTP is indeed a nootropic. Indeed it is technically an amino acid. However, it is a hugely important intermediate compound in the body’s complex process of synthesizing serotonin and melatonin, two compounds associated with suppressing depression, improving mood and quality of sleep. You may be wondering: “Sleep? What does this have to do with giving me a mental boost?” However, when you come to think of it, there is nothing better to enhance cognitive abilities than a good sleep and a good sense of wellbeing.

 Benefits include…

– Increased quality of sleep

– Boosts confidence and sense of wellbeing

– Combats effects of alcohol induced hangover and alcohol withdrawal

– Improves brain’s capacity for concise decision making

 Side Effects include…

– Headaches especially for young users (under 18 years of age)

– Allergic reactions such as itching, rash and shortness of breath in small percentage of general population

 

Huperzine A

Huperzine A is a natural compound and one of the best nootropics for mental prowess. Huperzine A comes purely from herbal sources. The best known herbal source of Huperzine A is the Huperzia Serrata plant (Chinese club moss) which is a wild herb with succulent leaves and native to India and Southeast Asia. With recent interest in alternative medicine especially from Oriental cultures, the extract from Huperzia Serrata is gaining acceptance as a reasonably effective way to treat and manage Alzheimer’s.

Huperzine A works to increase mental prowess by boosting neuroplasticity. It enables neurons to form new connections, enabling how the brain process information obtained from sensory perception. While it is definitely not a racetam, users describe the effectiveness of Huperzine A as comparable to that of piracetam and aniracetam.

Benefits include…

– Enhances the plasticity of neurons and synapses, improving learning capacity and memory

– Boosts brain’s executive function including inducing lucid dreams

– Tests show Huperzine A helps combat age-related memory loss

– Has significant neuroprotective and neural anti-oxidant effects

Side Effects include…

– Not recommended for long term usage though studies are still being conducted whether these concerns are warranted

– May suppress appetite and cause nausea

 

Piracetam

To many people, Piracetam and nootropic are two interchangeable words. While not exactly true, there is some justification for it. Indeed, it was the very first ever nootropic substance to be designed by chemical engineers back in 1964. While it is true that there is now a multitude of racetam nootropics based on Piracetam, there is no list of top nootropics which can make a pretense at being complete without mentioning Piracetam.

It is somewhat remarkable that even with all the research that has been carried out about Piracetam for well over half a century, all the mechanisms by which it works are not understood. However, it is known that the substance increases the permeability of cell membranes which has the effect of increasing the delivery and dispersal of oxygen in the brain. In turn, this means cells like neuron and synapses are better nourished. Such cells are more immune to damage which results from normal aging making piracetam a worthy contender for the third ranked supplement in this list of the best nootropics for brain power.

Benefits include…

– Improves working memory capacity, enabling users to think more clearly as well as rapidly

– Users report having better sensory perception e.g. sounds become clearer and they can count rapidly moving objects with higher accuracy

– Improves concentration and focus especially while doing tasks which require plenty of analytical ability such as maths

– Increases motivation levels

– Reduces anxiety and instances of depression

– Relieves sleep apnea

Side Effects include…

– Generally higher dosage required than with other nootropics

– Piracetam can impair perception of intoxication, placing users at risk of alcohol poisoning if they are not cautious

– A small percentage of users report mild headache especially after they just start using Piracetam

 

Choline Bitartrate

Choline bitartrate is a cognitive enhancer in the same nootropic class as Noopept (#1 in this list of best nootropics for brain power). In humans and other mammals choline is required for brain health, intelligence and synaptic plasticity. As the name implies, choline is an important precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, arguably the brain’s most important compound used for decision making and problem solving.

While choline bitartrate is found in many foods we take, studies show that up to 90% of the human population does not have ideal levels of the compound in the nervous system. This may be because they get lower than ideal amounts of the compound in their food. It could also be that their metabolic systems are incapable of synthesizing and accumulating adequate amounts of choline bitartrate even when the diet contains the compound in sufficient quantities for optimal mental performance.

Benefits include…

-Boosts clarity and speed of retrieving memories

– Promotes general health of motor neurons and plasticity of synapses

– Helps to retain focus

– Lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease

– Improves mental energy and reduces effects of fatigue in the brain

– Prevents insomnia & improves REM sleep

Side Effects include…

– May cause diarrhea especially if large doses are taken

– Its cholinergic (boosting production of acetylcholine) effect, while very quick, lasts relatively shorter than other cholinergic boosters as centrophenoxine

 

Noopept

Noopept occupies the pride of place at the sharp end of this guide owing to its potency and that it has virtually no side effects for the vast majority of users. In terms of power alone, Noopept is about 1,000 times stronger than piracetam. Moreover, it not only works to improve memory but also focus, learning capacity and concentration. And it does this in a matter of hours.

People who take Noopept report that they are able to hold conversations longer and to remember virtually every detail of the discussion later. Others say that taking Noopept has the same effect as if a mental fog were lifted.

Benefits include…

– Boosts memory and cognitive ability

– Perceptible psychostimulant and anxiolytic effects

– Low dosage required (10-30 milligrams daily)

– Delivers significant neuroprotective effects

Side Effects include…

– Little human research data available

– Irritability may result with repeated usage

Bottom Line

While ranking the best nootropics may be subjective, the aforementioned smart drugs are commonly in the discussion and for good reason.  They are tested and proven, they have limited side effects compared to other cognitive enhancers and they are mostly affordable.  If you are new to nootropics then these drugs are a great place to start.

Nicole Sanders
 

Hi, I’m Nicole, chief editor at Nootropics Revealed. Learn more about me and my mission here.