Nootropics are complicated. By strict definition, only a handful exist. But today, the meaning of "nootropic" has expanded to include anything that affects the brain -- regardless of whether it is safe and effective. The following list of nootropics focuses on this general brain supplement category.
After taking a broad view of the nootropic landscape, we zoom in to a shorter list of 11 true nootropics that work, safely and effectively -- culminating in the one nootropic stack that may deliver all brain benefits.
List of Nootropics
This list presents 85 supplements that are related to the brain -- including all of the most effective nootropics you can buy on the market.
Keep in mind, however, that not all of the nootropics listed below are shown to be effective. In fact, not all of them meet the true definition of nootropic. We'll give more details on true nootropics later in this guide.
For each nootropic on this list, there is one reference. This reference does not suggest if a nootropic works or not -- but it does explain why it may be categorized as a nootropic, as well as serving as a starting point for additional research. The list of nootropics follows:
- 5-HTP - amino acid that regulates serotonin and other brain chemicals for relaxation, sleep, and appetite satisfaction<1>
- Acetyl L-Carnitine – antioxidant suggested to protect and power brain cells; may help age-related cognitive issues<2>
- Alpha Lipoic Acid - fat-soluble antioxidant that can cross the blood-brain barrier and help protect the brain against aging<3>
- Alpha-GPC - phospholipid choline source suggested to support brain structure and brain chemicals; used for age-related cognitive decline<4>
- Aniracetam - synthetic Russian racetam primarily used for memory and mood in the elderly<5>
- Apoaequorin - jellyfish protein used for neuroprotective activity; brand-sponsored research showed benefits for memory and focus<6>
- Artichoke - supplies luteolin, an active ingredient that may balance the cAMP that regulates memory and mental performance<7>
- Ashwagandha - adaptogen root herb with benefits for mental energy, stress resistance and mood; may also help with healthy brain aging<8>
- Astaxanthin – potent antioxidant found in algae and seafood that may offer some brain-protective activity, especially in the context of aging<9>
- Bacopa monnieri – best nootropic herb for students, shown to improve retention of knowledge and strengthen stress resistance<10>
- Caffeine – not a true nootropic, but a stimulant that boosts alertness and almost always is accompanied by a subsequent crash<11>
- California poppy - suggested to interact with GABA and HTP receptors for anxiety-soothing effects; also helps sleep<12>
- Cat’s Claw - South American vine herb with early research suggesting neuroprotective activity that may help with brain aging<13>
- Catuaba – traditional Brazilian bark herb suggested in early animal research to have neuroprotective potential <14>
- CBD – cannabis derived compound that is suggested to ease anxiety and possess some neuroprotective effects <15>
- Celastrus paniculatus - woody shrub seeds used in Ayurvedic herbalism; animal research suggests it may help overall brain health <16>
- Centrophenoxine - synthetic smart drug related to DMAE suggested in animal research to help brain energy and cerebral vascular function<17>
- Citicoline – best overall nootropic choline source for brain energy and healthy brain structure; shown to help focus, attention, memory, mood<18>
- Clitoria ternatea - traditional Asian herb suggested in animal research to have memory-enhancing nootropic effects<19>
- Coluracetam - otherwise called MKC-231, a rarely seen synthetic racetams created to help with brain degeneration<20>
- Convolvulus pluricaulis - Indian tonic herb and Ayurvedic brain-booster; suggested to help learning, mood and memory in animal research<21>
- CoQ10 - coenzyme pseudo-vitamin that helps brain health by powering up brain cell mitochondria and supplying anti-aging antioxidant activity<22>
- Creatine - popularly used by athletes to charge-up their muscles, may work in the same way in the brain to enhance mental energy<23>
- Choline - similar to B vitamins and related to lecithin, it declines with age but is important for brain chemical acetylcholine and maintaining healthy brain structure<24>
- DHA - essential fatty acid that is crucial for early brain development and helpful for sharp cognition in old age<25>
- DMAE - found in sardines, helps to optimize brain cell structure and has been suggested to help with attention, mood and cognitive decline<26>
- Forskolin - active ingredients of Coleus Forskohlii, promotes cAMP molecules that helps regulate cell to cell communication, mood and memory storage<27>
- GABA - inhibitory amino acid that settles nerves producing relaxation and pleasant mood, suggested to help with sleep and potentially attention<28>
- Ginkgo biloba – ancient Chinese wellness herb enhances brain circulation, strong reputation for helping with memory and age-related cognitive performance<29>
- Ginseng - adaptogen herb that supports brain chemicals and cAMP while countering stress; energizes mental and physical performance<30>
- Gotu Kola - traditional Chinese herbal best known for its blood vessel support; maintains circulation to the brain to promote memory and mood, especially in the elderly<31>
- Guarana - South American Berry that is one of the best natural sources of caffeine, traditionally used to boost mind energy and physical endurance<32>
- Huperzine-A - synthetic alkaloid from Chinese club Moss, used to sustain acetylcholine levels and shown to help with memory and degenerative brain concerns<33>
- Kanna (Sceletium tortuosum) - South African herb shown in research to help with mental performance in seniors with brain degeneration<34>
- Kava Kava - psychoactive root herb used in traditional South Pacific ceremonies; may help promote relaxation, ease anxiety and improve sleep<35>
- Kratom – controversial legality and questionable safety; a traditional Asian herb that is believed to promote feelings of calmness and positivity<36>
- L-Glutamine - amino acid that supports glutamate, a key brain chemical for healthy cognition; may also help to protect the brain<37>
- L-Phenylalanine - amino acid that is a precursor to many of the brain chemicals needed for sharp, clear mental function and mood balance and<38>
- L-Theanine – green tea amino acid that raises Alpha brain waves to promote wakeful relaxation for creativity and productivity; also shown to support sharp mental clarity during aging<39>
- L-Tryptophan - precursor to five HTP that helps enhance brain chemicals for calm, relaxed moods; also influences melatonin and has been shown to improve sleep quality<40>
- Lecithin - phospholipid found in egg yolk that supplies choline that in turn forms acetylcholine brain chemical while optimizing brain cell healthy structure<41>
- Lemon Balm - traditional herb that regulates brain chemicals and their receptors to promote calmness and induce sleep<42>
- Lion’s Mane Mushroom – raises nerve growth factor to help with brain plasticity, regeneration and repair; shown to enhance mood<43>
- Magnolia - bark herb supplies active honokiol, which is suggested to balance brain chemistry for relaxation without sedation<44>
- MCT Oil – supports the use of ketones for brain energy instead of carbohydrates; helpful for mental clarity on keto diet<45>
- NADH - antioxidants coenzyme related to vitamin B3 tha t is required for ATP energy production; also supports the brain chemical dopamine<46>
- Nefiracetam - synthetic racetam smart drug linked with brain chemicals and suggested for helping with age-related memory and cognitive issues<47>
- Nicotine – hard to classify it as a nootropic, but nicotine has shown nootropic effects in the realm of brainpower<48>
- Noopept - patented racetam, little research suggests it may have stimulating effects that help with cognitive function<49>
- Oatstraw - increases Alpha brain waves associated with a state of relaxed alertness<50>
- Oxiracetam - stimulating racetam used for acetylcholine; may help memory and focus<51>
- Passionflower - traditional herb with calming properties, believed to balance brain chemicals for relaxation and healthy sleep<52>
- Phenibut - controversial synthetic nootropic appears to regulate dopamine; suggested to help with mood issues<53>
- Phenylpiracetam - considered one of the harsher and more powerful racetams, suggested to help with higher-order cognitive function<54>
- Phosphatidylcholine - phospholipid nootropic that is key for brain regeneration; linked to benefits for memory, mood and overall brain health<55>
- Phosphatidylserine (PS) – multitasking phospholipid that helps build, power and protect brain cells; best evidence-backed nootropic for memory<56>
- Picamilon - synthetic compound that binds GABA with niacin; suggested to help with attention and anxiety, but complex legal status<57>
- Pine Bark Extract – antioxidant complex protects the brain and blood vessels; also promotes nitric oxide to boost blood flow to the brain; suggested to help with attention and overall brain health<58>
- Piracetam - the original racetam, and the first “nootropic” – optimizes brain chemicals for stimulating, mood balancing effects<59>
- Psychobiotics – The gut and the brain are closely connected, and science is discovering that beneficial flora in the GI tract can influence mood and cognitive function<60>
- Pramiracetam - racetam suggested to help with acetylcholine; may help with memory formation and recall<61>
- Pterostilbene - antioxidant found in berries believed to help strengthen the brain’s resistance to aging<62>
- PQQ - super antioxidant that is required for the production of energy within brain cells mitochondria; suggested to help with overall brain health during the aging process<63>
- Resveratrol - red wine antioxidant that helps to support healthy brain aging by protecting brain cells against free radicals and inflammation<64>
- Rhodiola rosea – legendary adaptogen root herb from Russia that optimizes mental energy and physical endurance by regulating the body’s stress responses<65>
- Rosemary – Worn as wreath by students in ancient Greece because its aroma sharpens focus; modern uses include age-related cognitive support<66>
- SAMe - catalyzes and supports several brain functions, including cell signaling and cell membrane function; most popularly used to support mood balance <67>
- Schizandrol-A - Asian berry supplies this active ingredients suggested to have anti-stress activity and to help protect the brain<68>
- St. John’s Wort - bright flower herb supplies active hypericin and hyperforin, which balance brain chemicals related to mood; good research profile for helping with depression<69>
- Sulbutiamine - synthetic vitamin B1 that is molecularly altered to make it fat-soluble and capable of crossing the blood brain barrier; may help general brain health<70>
- Taurine - amino acid that regulates cell to cell communication, often seen in energy drinks though the only evidence suggests nerve-calming effects<71>
- Theobromine – Caffeine-like compound sourced from cocoa believed to have stimulating properties with fewer side effects<72>
- Turmeric - root herb supplies antioxidant complex linked to brain cell protection and long-range cognitive health<73>
- Tyrosine – precursor used to form brain chemicals tied to attention and focus; shown in research to enhance multiple aspects of mental performance in distracting, multitasking settings. <74>
- Uridine - raw material that is used by the body to make brain-supportive choline and acetylcholine; suggested to have potential for brain regeneration<75>
- Valerian - ancient root herb that may work by sustaining GABA (soothing brain chemical) levels to promote relaxation and ultimately, sleep<76>
- Vinpocetine – synthetic form of periwinkle that has a complex legal status but is one of the best brain circulation boosters<77>
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) - low levels may be linked to pour cognitive performance; suggested to help brain chemicals to function properly<78>
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin) - suggested to have roles and brain chemical synthesis and brain protection; may help with healthy brain function later in life<79>
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) - suggested as part of a multivitamin to help with attention-related issues, although evidence is conflicted<80>
- Vitamin B6 - contributes to nerve sheathing, blood vessel flexibility and brain chemical conversion and synthesis<81>
- Vitamin B8 - also called inositol, helps with brain cell membrane synthesis and optimizes some neurotransmitters, mainly serotonin<82>
- Vitamin B9 - plays a key role in regulating homocysteine levels in the blood, thereby supporting cerebrovascular health<83>
- Vitamin B12 - raw material for nerve-protective myelin, also a key player in brain energy; suggested to help maintain brain volume during aging<84>
- Yerba Mate – Traditional herb that is brewed into a stimulating tea with focus-enhancing support<85>
11 Best-in-Class Nootropics
Out of 85 brain supplements that are called nootropics, far fewer are true nootropics.
Only the best of the best have research-backed benefits for brain health, brain protection and mental performance while remaining safe and side effect-free.
Here is a list of best-in-class brain boosters are considered true nootropics:
Citicoline as Cognizin®
- Choline source that raises levels of brain-building phosphatidylcholine (PC)
- Promotes brain chemical acetycholine for mood and mental performance
- Shown to optimize mitochondria and increase brain energy by 13.6%
- Shown to boost brain cell membrane regeneration by 26%
- Promotes mood balance, memory, attention, focus and concentration
- Helps to protect the brain against age-related structural changes
Phosphatidylserine (PS) as Sharp PS® Green
- Building-block nootropic with versatile brain-supportive bioactivities
- Found in brain cell membranes, where it helps maintain fluidity
- Regulates brain chemicals like acetylcholine and dopamine
- Optimizes brain energy metabolism by enhancing glucose uptake
- Helps raw materials and growth factors for brain cell creation and repair
- Best evidence-backed nootropic for short-term and long-term memory
- May sharpen memory, slow cognitive decline and promote mood in elderly
- Studied as a sports nutrition supplement for focus
- Suggested to help with mood and overall mental clarity
- Supports long-range brain health
Bacopa Monnieri, 24% bacosides and 9 bioactives
- Ayurvedic cognitive herb that supplies active nootropic bacosides
- Supplies and amplifies cell-protective antioxidant activity in the brain
- Promotes brain chemicals acetylcholine, GABA and serotonin
- Animal research suggests it may boost cerebral blood flow by 25%
- Supports memory performance, both short-range and long-range
- Shown to slow the rate of forgetting newly acquired knowledge
- Helps with mental processing, cognition under stress and relaxation
- Best known as a nootropic for students and other learners
Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Full Spectrum Extract
- The only mushroom in nature with brain-boosting nootropic properties
- Shown to stimulate Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) for brain regeneration
- Suggested to support brain plasticity for learning and memories
- Shown to help with mild age-related cognitive impairment
- Shown to help maintain a balanced, healthy mood
Maritime Pine Bark Extract, 95% proanthocyanidins
- Potent antioxidant complex that can cross the blood-brain barrier
- Helps protect the brain and cerebral blood vessels from free radical damage
- Signals for nitric oxide (NO) to enhance blood flow to the brain
- Brain regenerative potential for age-related cognitive and memory issues
- Suggested help with mental energy, focus, attention and learning
- Helps to promote long-range brain health, sharp memory and mental clarity
L-Tyrosine as N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine (NALT)
- Amino acid precursor to dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine
- Assists with mental recovery after stress
- Optimizes memory, mood and mental processing
- Helps cognition under multitasking conditions
- Enhances mental performance under stressful conditions
- Maintains mental sharpness in times of sleep deprivation
- Supports attention and focus
L-Theanine as Suntheanine®
- Amino acid nootropic found in green tea
- Increases activity of Alpha brainwaves
- Promotes calm without sedation, known as wakeful relaxation
- Balances calming brain chemicals: Serotonin, dopamine and GABA
- Neuroprotective properties appear to help maintain brain health during aging
- Commonly stacked with caffeine because it reduces its jittery side effects
Rhodiola Rosea, 3% rosavins, 1% salidrosides
- Helps stimulate norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin
- Acetylcholine-protective and antioxidant properties
- Stimulates bioelectrical activity in the brain with small dosage
- Adaptogen herb that strengthens mind-body stress resistance
- Blunts the release of the stress hormone cortisol
- Energizing effects within 30 minutes and may last for up to six hours
- May help mental processing, learning, attention, mood and work capacity
Vitamin B6 as BioGenesis™
- Needed for synthesis of cognition-oriented brain chemicals
- Helps with formation of myelin sheaths that protect neurons
- Linked to memory and attention enhancement
- Helps maintain healthy mood brain chemistry
- Supports long-term brain health, memory and clarity
- More on Vitamin B6
Vitamin B9 as BioGenesis™
- Promotes mood-oriented brain chemicals
- Helps balance homocysteine for good cerebral circulation
- Supports long-range brain health and mental sharpness
- Suggested to help with focus, alertness in socialization
- BioGenesis™ B9 efficiently converts into active nootropic L-methylfolate
- More on Vitamin B9
Vitamin B12 as BioGenesis™
- Basic vitamin needed for overall nervous system health
- Promotes formation of myelin nerve sheathing
- Helps protect the brain against age-related shrinkage
- Sharpens mental performance in cases of age-related cognitive decline
- Supports brain energy metabolism
- More on Vitamin B12
One Universal Nootropic™
While reviewing the above 11 best-in-class nootropics, you may have asked yourself: What happens if I take all 11 of these at once?
With the pre-made stack nootropic supplement Mind Lab Pro®, you can find out.
Out of 80+ nootropics, Mind Lab Pro® selected the 11 best-in-class brain boosters on this list because they are:
- Supported by strong evidence suggesting a diverse range of brain health benefits;
- Complementary, working well as a team to enhance overall cognitive performance;
- Safe, backed by abundant research demonstrating safety and tolerability
Mind Lab Pro® is formulated with these best-in-class nootropics in superior forms -- including advanced botanicals and branded nootropics with unique patented advantages.
This Universal Nootropic™ nootropic stacking strategy -- innovated by Mind Lab Pro® -- optimizes multiple brain pathways at once to promote overall brain health, enhance all types of thinking and unlock a peak-performing mental state known as 100% Brainpower:
Mind Lab Pro® 's 11 best-in-class from this long list of nootropics forms a Universal Nootropic™ that boosts the whole brain.
This list of nootropics -- while not complete -- is a good at-a-glance representation of the vast number of potential brain-boosters that may be found in popular nootropic supplements. As nootropics continue to gain scientific validation, this list will only continue to grow.
For those seeking a nootropics list to find one brain-booster to try out, there are many good standalone options above.
For those researching nootropic lists to explore the potential of combining several into a powerful brain-boosting stack, Mind Lab Pro® is the ideal solution:
Mind Lab Pro® combines 11 best-in-class nootropics in upgraded forms into a true Universal Nootropic™ that works for everyone, is safe for everyone, and fits any lifestyle.
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- Phosphatidylserine (PS) – multitasking phospholipid that helps build, power and protect brain cells; best evidence-backed nootropic for memory13
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