Are There Any Nootropics That Actually Work

In a world where productivity is revered and mental performance is highly sought after, the search for that elusive cognitive enhancer seems never-ending. You find yourself wondering if there are any nootropics out there that can truly deliver on their promises. Are there substances that can unlock your full mental potential and provide the edge you’ve been longing for? Well, dear reader, it’s time to explore the fascinating world of nootropics and separate fact from fiction.

What Are Nootropics?

Nootropics, also known as “smart drugs,” are a group of substances, both natural and pharmaceutical, that have been suggested to improve memory, enhance cognition, support motivation, and increase creative capacity. According to Matt Angove, N.D., a naturopathic doctor, some research suggests that nootropics may improve aspects of brain function, such as thinking, learning, and memory.

The term “nootropic” was first coined by Romanian psychologist Corneliu E. Giurgea in the 1970s. It was used to describe substances that activate certain brain functions, especially among individuals with impaired functioning. However, the term is now more loosely used to describe any natural or synthetic substance that may impact cognitive function. The Department of Defense Dietary Supplement Program notes that nootropics typically fall into two subgroups: dietary supplements and pharmaceuticals.

Dietary supplements are made from herbs, vitamins, minerals, and other natural compounds. They are often marketed as proprietary blends, making it difficult to substantiate their efficacy. Additionally, they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the same way that medications are. On the other hand, pharmaceuticals include prescription medications like Ritalin and Adderall, and they are regulated by the FDA.

It is important to note that while nootropics have been suggested to improve cognitive function, the evidence supporting their effectiveness varies. The efficacy of dietary supplements can be challenging to determine due to the lack of regulation and standardized dosing. Furthermore, the use of pharmaceuticals as nootropics should only be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Benefits of Nootropics

Many nootropics have been found to enhance memory, improve mental clarity, boost mood, and increase alertness. The effectiveness of nootropics can vary, with some having well-documented effects and others relying more on anecdotal evidence. It is important to note that the long-term safety and effectiveness of many nootropics are still lacking and more research on healthy individuals is needed.

Some of the benefits associated with nootropics include enhanced memory and learning ability, improved focus and attention span, increased motivation and mood, enhanced creativity, and neuroprotection and improved brain health. Nootropics can support these benefits by activating certain brain functions and promoting optimal cognitive functioning.

However, it is crucial to consider the potential risks and side effects of using nootropics. Different nootropics can have varied side effects, and they can also be contraindicated in certain conditions or with certain medications. Pregnant or breastfeeding individuals should avoid using nootropics. Side effects can range from mild, such as headaches, to severe, including cardiovascular issues. Additionally, potential risks of using nootropics include dependency, drug interactions, and unknown long-term effects.

While there are many different types of nootropics available, some of the top ones recommended by experts include caffeine, bacopa monnieri, rhodiola rosea, lion’s mane mushroom, omega-3 fatty acids, L-theanine, theacrine, bacopa monnieri, creatine, rhodiola rosea, and panax ginseng. These substances have been shown to have cognitive-enhancing effects and support brain health.

How do nootropics work?

Understanding the mechanisms by which nootropics work is essential in evaluating their potential cognitive-enhancing effects. The mechanisms underlying nootropics are complex and not fully understood. However, research supports the use of herbal nootropics in improving cognitive function.

One way in which nootropics may work is by improving neurotransmitter effects. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the brain that transmit signals between nerve cells. Certain nootropics, such as caffeine and L-theanine, have been found to increase the release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters, which can improve mood, focus, and attention.

Another mechanism by which nootropics may work is by boosting brain circulation. Nootropics like ginkgo biloba have been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, which can enhance cognitive function. Improved brain circulation can provide the brain with more oxygen and nutrients, leading to better mental performance.

It is important to note that individual responses to nootropics can vary based on factors such as age, health status, and dosage. While many people report positive experiences with nootropics, evidence can be mixed. Additionally, it is crucial to consult with a doctor or healthcare professional before using nootropics, as they can have potential side effects and interactions.

Top Nootropics Recommended by Experts

When it comes to top nootropics recommended by experts, caffeine is a popular choice due to its ability to enhance cognitive performance and increase alertness. L-Theanine, another recommended nootropic, is an amino acid found in green tea that has relaxing effects on the mind and minimal side effects. Theacrine, a compound found in the wild tea leaf plant, is also recommended for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, fatigue-reducing, and cognitive-enhancing effects.


Caffeine, a widely consumed psychoactive stimulant, has been shown in numerous studies to enhance cognitive performance, particularly in tasks that require sustained attention. It is the most widely consumed psychoactive stimulant globally, found naturally in coffee beans, cacao beans, kola nuts, tea leaves, and yerba mate, or synthetically in energy drinks, gums, snacks, and over-the-counter medications. Caffeine works by blocking brain receptors that make you feel sleepy, increasing alertness and attention. In fact, research indicates that caffeine can improve performance on simple and complex attention-related tasks in healthy adults, and has cognitive-enhancing properties such as improving mood and concentration. However, it is important to note that the FDA recommends limiting caffeine intake to 400 milligrams per day, as excessive consumption can lead to negative side effects like insomnia, jitters, increased heart rate, anxiety, dehydration, and dependency.


L-Theanine, a naturally occurring amino acid found in green tea, has gained recognition as one of the top nootropics recommended by experts. It has been found to have numerous benefits for cognitive function and overall well-being. A small study conducted in 2019 showed that participants who supplemented with 200 milligrams of L-theanine daily for one month experienced reduced stress-related symptoms such as depression and anxiety, as well as improved sleep quality and cognitive functions like executive functioning. Another review conducted in 2017 found that L-theanine improved relaxation, reduced tension, and increased feelings of calmness. When combined with caffeine, L-theanine also helped with attention-switching tasks and alertness. With minimal side effects, L-theanine is a promising option for those seeking cognitive enhancement.


Theacrine, a compound found in the wild tea leaf plant Camellia kucha, has gained recognition as a top nootropic recommended by experts for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, fatigue-reducing, and cognitive-enhancing effects. This compound works with the adenosine system as a mild stimulant, similar to caffeine, to increase energy. It also affects the dopamine system, resulting in improved cognitive function. Theacrine is known to enhance motivation, making it a staple in the practice of Dr. Angove. It is available in tea made from the Camellia kucha plant and dietary supplements. With its multiple benefits and increasing popularity, theacrine is a promising nootropic option for those seeking cognitive enhancement and increased energy levels.

Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa monnieri, a herb with a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine, is recognized as one of the top nootropics recommended by experts for its potential cognitive-enhancing properties. According to Dr. Gandhi, studies have shown that Bacopa may improve verbal learning and memory acquisition as well as reduce anxiety. It may also have neuroprotective effects, making it a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Angove suggests a daily dosage of 300 to 400 milligrams taken over several months to experience the benefits. However, it is important to note that the research on Bacopa’s brain-enhancing properties is limited, and further studies are needed to confirm its effectiveness. Bacopa monnieri is available as a dietary supplement in capsule, powder, and extract forms.


Moving on to another nootropic recommended by experts, creatine is an amino acid found in red meat and seafood that has been shown to have brain-enhancing benefits. According to a systematic review in Experimental Gerontology, creatine supplementation has been found to improve short-term memory, intelligence, and reasoning. Additionally, a review in Nutrients highlights the potential of creatine to support cognitive function and brain recovery from trauma. This is especially true in cases where there are diminished levels of creatine in the brain caused by stressors like exercise, lack of sleep, brain injury, aging, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. However, further research is still needed to determine the optimal quantity and usage of creatine for enhancing cognitive function.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea is a top nootropic recommended by experts for its potential to improve energy, balance mood, and enhance brain function. This herb is classified as an adaptogen, which means it helps the body respond to stress. It has been promoted to help with anxiety, fatigue, and depression as well. A literature review conducted in 2022 found evidence that Rhodiola rosea can increase the body’s response to physical and mental stress. However, further research is needed to determine its exact mechanism of action and optimal dosing. While there is promising evidence, it is important to note that individual results may vary, and it is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.

Panax Ginseng

Panax Ginseng, another top nootropic recommended by experts, offers potential cognitive enhancements and has been used for centuries in Korean, Chinese, and Japanese medicine. This dried root of the Panax plant has been shown to enhance simple reaction time, making it a promising cognitive enhancer. According to a small pilot study in Pharmaceuticals, traditionally-harvested white Panax ginseng improved attention, memory, and reduced perceived stress in healthy adults experiencing mental fatigue. However, more research is needed to fully understand the long-term benefits of Panax ginseng. In summary, the potential cognitive improvements associated with Panax ginseng make it a noteworthy nootropic to consider.

the side effects of nootropics

The side effects of nootropics can vary depending on the type and dosage, and it is important to be aware of potential risks before starting their use. Prescription nootropics, like stimulants, can have side effects that impact sleep, appetite, and even increase heart rate. These effects can be concerning for individuals with preexisting heart conditions or those who are prone to anxiety. Herbal nootropics, such as Panax Ginseng, may also have potential side effects. Some users have reported gastrointestinal issues, headaches, and allergic reactions. While these side effects are generally mild, it is still important to be cautious when using herbal nootropics. Synthetic nootropics, like racetams, have been known to cause headaches, nausea, and gastrointestinal distress. It is worth noting that the long-term effects of nootropics are not well-known, and misuse can lead to adverse outcomes. Therefore, it is always recommended to discuss any concerns with a doctor or healthcare professional before beginning the use of nootropics. They can provide guidance based on your individual health profile and help you make informed decisions regarding the use of these substances. Remember, safety should always be a priority when considering any supplements or drugs.


In conclusion, there are several nootropics that have been shown to be effective in improving cognitive function. These include substances such as piracetam, modafinil, and bacopa monnieri. However, it is important to note that the effectiveness of these substances can vary from person to person, and they may also have potential side effects. It is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.

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