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Guides | 09.30.2022

Best Nootropics: Top 5 Products For Brain Function

More people have been turning to nootropics to help care for that more hidden aspect of health.

In our image-obsessed society, a majority of health supplements and routines may be focused on helping us maintain our best bodies. And while it’s important to keep our physical selves in shape as we grow older, it’s equally important to take care of our minds.

This category of compounds works to help our cognitive functions run as smoothly as possible and actively work against the aging process that can make our brains feel slower or start to feel foggy.

With an increasing interest in these mental performance boosters, there’s an ever-growing number of nootropics products on the market, but wading through the excesses to find the best product for you can feel like a mentally draining process in and of itself.  

To help, we’ve done a lot of legwork to pick out a few of our favorites, including:

Keep reading to find out more about why we like these products so much and how nootropics can help you find better brain health.

 

Best Nootropic Supplements To Boost Cognitive Function

Nootropics may represent a rapidly growing category of health supplements. Still, for our money, these products come from some of the best brands out there, representing your best bet for better cognitive function. 

Best Overall Nootropics for Cognitive Performance – Nootopia CollaGenius

Pros:

  • All-natural ingredients
  • GMO-free
  • Caffeine-free

Cons:

  • Not suitable for vegans

Specs:

  • Serving Suggestion: 2 scoops in 8 oz. of water, once daily
  • Size: 30 servings per jar

Overview: If you love everything about coffee except for the jitters it causes, this drink might be the one for you. 

Nootopia—a subset of the company biOptimizers, which also specializes in creating safe and reliable health supplements—utilizes all the best of Mother Nature to replicate the effect of a cup of joe with none of the caffeine.

Instead, the company relies on a carefully calibrated ratio of mushrooms, including Lion’s Mane, Chaga, Reishi, and Cordyceps, all known for contributing their powers and prowess to cognitive function. Together, the combination has the potential to naturally lift the spirits, increase energy levels, and clear mental fog – all while helping you remain calm.

Plus, the company cleverly adds some marine collagen to the mix, which, while not a nootropic, has plenty of its own health benefits to offer, including boosted skin, joint, and brain health.

What People Love: While a combination of mushrooms and fish doesn’t sound like the tastiest mix to sip on in the morning, customers actually loved the taste of this powder. Rather than leaving a strange impression on the tongue, the mushrooms have almost a cocoa-like earthiness to them, and the collagen is practically tasteless. All told, the combination is both the spoonful of sugar and the medicine it helps go down.

 

Runner-Up Nootropic Supplement To Improve Cognitive Function – Onnit Alpha BRAIN

Pros:

  • Caffeine-free
  • All-natural ingredients
  • Vegetarian-friendly

Cons:

  • May make it difficult to sleep

Specs:

  • Serving Suggestion: 2 capsules daily with a light meal
  • Size: 30 capsules per jar

Overview: When it comes to getting the best out of what nootropics have to offer, Onnit doesn’t spare anything with its Alpha Brain formula. 

The company packs nearly every type of botanical booster of mental performance there is into its all-natural formula, including the perennial flower bacopa, which helps nerve endings receive signals from each other, and the compounds huperzia Serrata and alpha-GPC, which both contribute to how the body handles acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in promoting a sense of focus.

Those powerhouses are combined with another patented mixture from the company that includes the brain health-enhancing compound pterostilbene and l-leucine, which helps facilitate a stronger nervous system.

All told, the formula can get a lot of energy, focus, and clarity from the brain out of a little of each of those compounds. And it even wraps the whole thing up in a vegetarian-friendly capsule for good measure. 

What People Love: Customers loved how easy it was to take this nootropic supplement – just two pills they could slip into their regular routine. Besides its ease of use, the product earned high marks from nearly all of its users for how effectively it created a sense of calm focus, which buyers said helped with everything from studying to building a better memory.

 

Best Nootropic for Anti-Aging – Organixx Ageless Brain

Pros:

  • Third-party lab tested
  • Non-GMO
  • Made from wild-sourced botanical ingredients

Cons:

  • Only free shipping on orders over $99

Specs:

  • Serving Suggestion: 2 capsules daily with 8 oz. of water or juice
  • Size: 60 capsules per jar

Overview: If an entire garden of all-natural nootropics for brain health could fit into a pill, it might look a lot like Organixx’s Ageless Brain. 

The product uses all the best weapons Mother Nature has to fight the aging process of the mind, including organic Cat’s Claw, an herbal remedy used for thousands of years to help strengthen synapses in the brain and slow overall degradation.

Other star ingredients include the intriguingly-named Dragon’s Blood Resin extract, which is taken straight from the trees and known to help get rid of brain fog. Bapoca, another tree-based booster, is not only a boon to brain health but works to help balance out mood, actively staving off depression and anxiety. And the nootropics superstar Guayusa is also in play, bringing twice as many antioxidants—and all their anti-aging power—as green tea, as well as its own source of mental energy.

What People Love: Customers simply loved how effective this product was, with nearly every comment confessional talking about the swift and long-lasting improvement users saw in their cognitive function. From increases in memory and focus to better overall processing, users named all sorts of benefits to taking this supplement.

Best Nootropic For Students – Feals On-The-Go Mints

Pros:

  • Third-party lab tested
  • Vegan-friendly
  • All-natural ingredients

Cons:

  • Not suitable for those with tree nut allergies

Specs:

  • Full spectrum CBD
  • Potency: 30 mg CBD/mint
  • Serving Suggestion: 1 mint per day
  • Size: 20 mints per jar

Overview: For students with an on-the-go lifestyle who want to easily take their nootropics with them, these mints make a great addition to any backpack.

The mints utilize a number of all-natural wonders to get the best out of a brain, through ingredients like peppermint, which helps stimulate blood flow and create a sense of alertness, and mushroom mycelium, which brings the focusing potential of the fungus family to the mix.

Still, the main ingredient in these mints is cannabidiol, better known as CBD. While not technically a nootropic, the hemp-based supplement can help create a sense of calm and balance from within, which lend itself naturally to the potential for greater focus. 

And Feals uses liposomal technology to further upgrade the CBD, making it much more readily available to the body, which means you feel it faster, stronger, and longer.

What People Love: People were blown away by the blast of fresh breath these mints left behind, loving them for that reason alone. But when the power of the CBD and nootropics involved was also considered, users said this product was one of their favorites, thanks to how it helped them study and feel a sense of peace.

Best Nootropic For Athletes – Natural Stacks Dopamine Brain Food

Pros:

  • Third-party lab tested
  • Vegan- and paleo-friendly
  • Non-GMO

Cons:

  • Need more than one bottle per month with suggested serving

Specs:

  • Serving Suggestion: 3 capsules daily 
  • Size: 60 capsules per jar

Overview: For athletes, it’s just as important to cultivate a strong and swift mind as it is to build a strong and swift body. But Natural Stacks’ Dopamine Brain Food can help.

The all-natural supplement utilizes a number of well-known nootropics to enhance cognitive function and overall mental performance, including the compound L-tyrosine, an amino acid increasingly being researched for its role in boosting brain health, and l-phenylalanine, which is used to increase alertness.

Additives like trimethylglycine, or TMG, can also pay off for athletes, thanks to the compound’s power to improve muscle size, composition, and capacity for endurance. A number of other vitamins round out the mix to help ensure the mixture properly synthesizes inside the body. 

Plus, Natural Stacks have all of its ingredients tested by a third-party lab for purity and quality. The company is committed to having its products made in Good Manufacturing Practices-certified facilities.

What People Love: Users couldn’t stop giving this product 5-star reviews, naming all the benefits it brought into their lives, including enhanced mental clarity, better concentration, and focus, and even elevated mood. Some even said the supplement did a better job than their prescription nootropics, like Adderall.

How We Choose Our Winners

The world of health supplements can be difficult to navigate. The differences between the products on the market can be so small or scientifically oriented, making it hard to tell one apart from the other. And the inconsistent regulation of the field is also a concern, leaving the whole thing open to a number of scammers or get-rich-quick companies just trying to get away with selling junk. 

That’s why we’re stringent about the people and products we choose to put on this list, which must all meet our standards to make it into the top spots. 

Ingredient Integrity

No matter how much money managers wished otherwise, cheap or bad ingredients never came together to make a good product. And that idea is especially important when considering anything being marketed as a healthcare supplement.

People will take these products daily, relying on them to help with important issues dealing with their quality of life and health. That’s why we comb through the small print, checking out everything that goes on the ingredient list to ensure the final product comes from well-intentioned materials.

If a company uses all-natural or even organic stuff, we like that even better. The closer it is to nature, the better off it typically is in the body and brain.

 

Quality Sourcing & Processing

Ingredients aren’t the only marker of quality in a product. The way those ingredients are put together—and where they come from—also often makes a huge impact.

Sourcing is especially important to keep in mind when considering products made with CBD. The roots of the hemp plant are notoriously thirsty, sucking up everything in their surrounding soil, be it nutrients or noxious chemicals. And if farmers aren’t careful, trace amounts of those toxins can easily make it into the final product. That’s why all-natural or organic farms offer the safest crops to create CBD. 

But processing also has a lot to do with how safe the final product of any type turns out. Good Manufacturing Practice-certified facilities are a good marker of a company committed to putting their product together in the safest way possible. These facilities include clean equipment, safety protocol, and a team of experts that can help ensure everything that makes it onto the shelves makes the mark. 

Effective Products

Still, there are ways to see if a company is putting its money where its mouth is besides taking its word for it.

There have been a number of laboratory tests developed over the years to analyze the levels of certain ingredients in these types of products, creating an overall analysis of quality and safety. And when it comes to nootropics that also include CBD, these types of results can reveal if there are any toxins in the final product that may have come from the way the hemp plant was farmed.

Still, in the world of healthcare supplements, these types of tests are still completely voluntary. That’s why we love to see companies who opt for them at their own expense, as they’re more likely to be more concerned about making something worthwhile than making a profit. When those results are posted on a website or other public area for people to see, it’s an even better way for a company to be up-front about its good intentions.

Reliable Brands

Yet, even among all these scientific checks, there’s nothing quite like word of mouth to determine how helpful a product really is. 

Before putting a company on this list, we pore over reviews of their product to see what real-life customers had to say. This not only helps inform us of how efficient the product is but how solid the company selling them is. Customers will often report problems with customer service or shipping that weren’t handled well or properly by a company, and we immediately weed those competitors out.

Plus, with the unregulated nature of the health supplement marketplace making it so open to scammers, schemers, and get-rich-quick companies, it’s particularly important to make sure the brand selling the product is truly in this business for the right reasons.

Besides customer feedback, one of the best ways to weed out these bad faith businesses is to look for brands on a mission. Many companies profess a desire to help or give back in a way, and the really good ones put their money where their mouth is, using some profits to fund future research, donate to charities, or offer discounts for veterans or other special interest groups. 

While one would hope people only start health supplement companies with the earnest desire to help people and the planet, finding a brand that puts its money where its mouth is will speak volumes about the type of quality they’ll likely strive for in their products.

What Exactly Are Nootropics?

You may have heard of them referred to as “smart drugs” or “cognitive enhancers.” Still, nootropics actually describe a wide variety of compounds that can help boost your mental performance and cognitive capability.

Scientifically, this range of compounds spans everything from nutrients, botanical phytonutrients, probiotic strains, and peptides – all categorized by their different chemical makeups and how they interact with the body. In terms of ingesting them, nootropics can come in several categories, including dietary supplements, synthetic compounds, or prescription drugs. 

And while they all make their presence in the body known in slightly different ways, what they all have in common is their overall effect: Getting a better performance out of the brain by boosting the production of certain chemicals or juicing certain neurological pathways that make the mind move more swiftly, draw connections more easily or generally speed up the thought process.

Yet, while they may be one of the most exciting products on the health supplement market, nootropics aren’t exactly something new. In fact, these types of products are so popular many people may already be getting some form of nootropic in their daily diet without even realizing it.

Common Types Of Nootropics

Nearly all nootropics are categorized as some form of stimulant, and some can even be found among the most popular stimulants on earth.

Dietary Supplements

Caffeine, in fact, is perhaps the best-known nootropic of all. The widely-accessible compound is naturally found in products like coffee and tea and is also artificially involved in any number of products, from different drinks to pills and powders.

The drug works by opening up access in your brain to different neurotransmitters—such as the short-term memory-enhancing acetylcholine—which can add up to make you feel more alert.

And caffeine isn’t the only natural nootropic to work in this way. Other mental performance-enhancing nootropics you might commonly find in the health food store include ginseng, ginkgo Biloba, l-theanine, omega-3 fatty acids, and even nicotine, which all welcome different chemicals into the brain that help create a sense of alertness, clarity, and superior cognitive function.

Synthetic Compounds

In the health supplement world, many people branch out beyond what is readily available in nature or even turn to products where the levels of all-natural compounds are artificially enhanced to get more of the effect they’re looking for.

One of the most popular types of synthetic nootropics on the market is a category of chemicals called racetams. These compounds—including piracetam, pramiracetam, phenylpiracetam, and aniracetam—all make claim to function similarly to natural nootropics. 

Piracetam, in particular, has received a lot of focus lately for its potential to improve memory in those exhibiting signs of mental decline. For its part, phenylpiracetam claims to help the brain recover from traumatic episodes, including stroke and epileptic seizure.

And the more scientists learn about nootropics and the way they impact the brain, the more interest there is in creating better, more powerful synthetic versions of the category of the compound.

Prescription Medications

Still, a number of nootropics are already available in the form of prescription medications.

Among them is the class of amphetamines now popularly known as Adderall, which are typically prescribed to people who struggle with attention deficit disorder or other forms of focus-based issues. 

Like many types of nootropics, Adderall works by increasing the availability in the brain of certain neurotransmitters. In this case, those chemicals include not only noradrenaline, which increases activity in the prefrontal cortex center of the brain that helps control memory, attention, and behavior, but also makes the mind more available to the feel-good chemical dopamine, tying a sense of satisfaction to higher concentration.

And, perhaps unsurprisingly for a group of stimulants, another prescription nootropic, modafinil (popularly sold as Provigil), works to help people who struggle with narcolepsy, with the slow and steady effect of this stimulant helping people stay awake and alert longer. 

Benefits Of Nootropics

Taking a supplement that makes your brain work better may sound like a science fiction fantasy, but reams of scientific research have found that there’s no fantasy about it: Nootropics actually work.

These compounds have been held responsible for any number of cognitive benefits, including improvements in memory, attention, learning, executive functions—which include mechanisms like planning, remembering instructions, and juggling multiple tasks—and overall vigilance.

In particular, nootropics have been tested on people with learning or attention impairments, much to great effect. That’s one of the reasons these types of compounds have been recreated synthetically and put into prescription medications.

And while nootropics in many ways “wake up” the brain, they’re also wonderful for promoting greater physical energy. Substances like caffeine work by making the body almost “forget” that it’s tired, essentially short-circuiting the neural pathways that would otherwise carry chemicals that keep the body in a state of rest or relaxation. (This works in much the same way adrenaline does.)

The alertness provided by nootropics also works to promote cognitive flexibility. Folded in with some executive functions, this represents the brain’s ability to swiftly switch back and forth between different tasks or simultaneously hold several concepts in mind at once in order to keep up with a constantly evolving environment.

Yet, despite all the go-go power behind them, nootropics have also been linked to promoting greater stress resilience and mood balance. Different types of nootropics achieve this in different ways: Some increase the mind’s mental work capacity without increasing the need for oxygen, which can release a raft of relaxing chemicals; some alter alpha brain wave activity, which can lead to feelings of deeper relaxation; and some extend the amount of time our brains have to absorb feel-good chemicals like serotonin, leading to an overall zen-like feeling.

Potential Side Effects Of CBD Nootropics

Still, that’s not to say nootropics are entirely problem-free. Anything being put into the body has the potential to create side effects—and some of them can be potentially worrying.

While science has done a great deal to uncover all the benefits nootropics have on the brains of people with cognitive disorders, much less research has been done on people with healthy brains. This means scientists can’t say with much certainty how effective this class of compounds will be on people without cognitive disabilities.

Further, the fact that nootropics are all some form of stimulant could create problems, especially when these compounds are used consistently in large quantities.

Generally, stimulants’ impact on certain chemical levels in the brain could lead to cardiovascular, neurological, or psychopathological issues – including trouble breathing and short- and long-term cognitive decline after extended use. That some of these compounds also trigger certain feel-good chemicals in the brain could also potentially lead to addictive behavior.

And on the milder side, the focus, alertness, and energy seemingly generated out of nowhere by these drugs is, in fact, taken from somewhere. In exchange for the burst of short-term benefits, nootropics can also lead to an eventual crash after the effects wear off, as anyone who’s relied too heavily on coffee can attest.

FAQs

Still have some questions about what nootropics are or how they might help improve brain health? 

The topic can be a tricky one—and shouldn’t be one that’s taken lightly, so we’ve put together some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about nootropics below.

What’s the difference between CBD and nootropics?

CBD and nootropics are two entirely different types of compounds.

Also known as cannabidiol, CBD is a chemical called a cannabinoid, which is found in the cannabis plant. There are more than 100 cannabinoids found in hemp, and they work together to create the plant’s overall texture, taste, scent, and much more.

When consumed by the body, CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Found throughout the body and brain as a series of sensors, the ECS works to help keep the body in a state of internal balance. CBD plugs directly into this network, helping these sensors become more sensitive to their internal environment and work more quickly and effectively to bring any imbalances back to a state of stasis. 

Since it interacts with a system that spans the whole body, CBD can help with any number of ailments, including issues with skin dryness or flakiness, chronic pain, sore muscles, and even instances of anxiety and depression.

Nootropics, on the other hand, primarily affect the brain. In general, they open up the brain’s neurological pathways to receiving more—or different—types of chemicals, which causes a chain reaction throughout the mind and body. Unlike CBD, nootropics are also stimulants, which create a greater sense of energy in the body and more focus in the mind.

Will CBD nootropics help me focus?

Combining the effects of CBD and nootropics can have a powerful impact, which is why many companies have started pairing these chemical compounds off together.

CBD can help create better mental performance by promoting a sense of calm throughout the mind and body. That alone is often helpful for people to cultivate a sense of focus and clarity. But nootropics can also produce these effects by directly impacting the cognitive function of the brain. That the two come about creating a sense of calm focus using different biological methods makes them complementary.

And while CBD is still relatively new in the world of research, and studies on all of the chemical’s potential are ongoing, other research efforts have found that combining certain nootropics together can amplify the power of both – so it’s possible that a similar effect can be achieved by mixing nootropics with CBD.

Will I fail a drug test with CBD nootropics?

The answer to this is most likely no.

While some types of CBD do contain some tetrahydrocannabinol—a.k.a. THC, the chemical compound responsible for getting high—which is most frequently what drug tests are searching for, the product can only legally be sold when containing no more than 0.3% THC. In order for that amount of the chemical to show up on a drug test, someone would have to take very large quantities of full-spectrum CBD for a prolonged period of time.

For their part, nootropics aren’t typically looked for in drug test results at all, which should make them mostly safe for anyone who’s concerned.

Conclusion

Nootropics are a fascinating and incredible group of chemical compounds with so much potential for boosting mental performance, cognitive function, and overall brain health. Together, these botanic, synthetic, and prescription concoctions have the power to make our minds function better, stronger, and faster.

Combined with the advantages of CBD, nootropics can have a potent impact on the body’s level of calm clarity. And while there are some concerns about certain classes of nootropics—and no one should ever take prescription medications without the full consent of their doctor—using some over-the-counter products in moderation, especially those including all-natural or botanical nootropics, can be a great way to offer your body and brain the boost of energy it needs.

 

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