We’ve written a page about the Best Nootropics on the market at the moment. However, some of the information on that page can be overwhelming.
That’s why in this article, we’re stripping it back to basics and answering the question: “Do Nootropics really work?”
In this article, you’ll get an overview of what nootropics are, both natural and synthetic, along with a list of the more useful ones we’ve encountered that you should be looking out for.
On top of this you’ll learn how safe (or unsafe, depending) nootropics are, along with a few best practices.
If you want to get the most benefit, we recommend tweaking your diet too. See our ‘What foods are bad for your brain?‘ article to learn more about that.
Nootropics are supplements, prescription drugs and sometimes other consumables that may improve cognitive function, such as your memory, creativity, reaction time or motivation, in healthy individuals.
Reviewing the evidence for nootropics, there appears to be a lot of information which claims that they work. There are plenty of studies out there which has detailed research into the effects of these products.
However, it all depends on which nootropics you use. There are a vast number of nootropics out there both natural and synthetic which all have some kind of claims made about them.
Whether or not these claims are true depends on the research backing them.
Whenever you’re looking at a nootropics stack, make sure that you consult various studies surrounding them to see how effective they actually are.
Below, we’ll be looking at the main two types of nootropics: natural and synthetic, as well as the key differences between the two.
Natural Nootropics are typically herbs, minerals and nutrients which are commonly found in nature.
A good example of this would be Bacopa Monnieri, which is a creeping herb found in places all over the world. It’s as natural as it comes but it has been seen in some cases to have ties to improving memory performance. There’s also some research which shows it may help memory retention and forging new memories.
It has the potential to accelerate mental processing and optimize your mind under stress keeping you relaxed and focused.
- Typically safe to use, and with no side effects.
- Usually taken long term without damaging your body or brain.
- Boosts cognition and general brain health without building dependence or addiction.
- No prescription needed
- Usually not fast working, may take a few weeks/months for full benefits.
- There’s a lot of options out there, and not all of them are backed by studies.
- You need to research what you’re taking, both studies and dosages.
Synthetic Nootropics are very different to their natural counterparts. These are typically prescription drugs which have been manufactured synthetically in a laboratory.
A good example of this would be Adderall. Adderall is a prescription drug made up of four amphetamine salts. It does not occur naturally in nature.
Adderall must be prescribed by a doctor and is often used to treat ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) for it’s ability to dramatically improve focus. It has also been known to be used as an athletic performance enhancer and for other activities that require stimulants.
It is often abused and should only be used under medical supervision.
- Fast working, with plenty of proven evidence.
- Effective, designed purely for cognitive enhancement.
- No need for experimentation, take as prescribed.
- Can be highly dangerous with numerous reported, and expected side effects.
- Expensive. Depending on your country, prescription drugs can be pricey purchases.
- Easy to overdose. The high potency leaves a large room for error if not taken it as prescribed.
- Short-term benefits only. Repeated use will not improve your overall health.
Here is a list of natural nootropics that we believe to be the most effective for stacking:
- Citicoline – Naturally occurring compound, promotes brain energy.
- Phosphatidylserine – Fatty substance, fights cognitive decline.
- Bacopa Monnieri – Creeping herb, supports memory and focus.
- Lion’s Mane Mushroom – Mushroom, boosts cognition.
- Maritime Pine Bark Extract – Bark, offers neuroprotective qualities.
- L-Tyrosine – Amino acid, helps mental performance.
- L-Theanine – Amino acid, reduces stress promotes mood.
- Rhodiola Rosea – Scandinavian herb, promotes mood and well-being.
- Caffeine – Natural stimulant, raises energy levels and focus.
We recommend you take this list for further research.
There’s studies available for nutrients in this list that can help boost cognition.
Already we have a further reading article: Does L-Theanine Help Depression? Which you are more than welcome to check out.
Are Nootropics Safe?
Nootropics are safe if you do your research and stick to the natural option. If you start to branch out into synthetic nootropics, there are several risks involved – especially if you do them without the supervision of a medical professional.
Many of the nootropics that we have mentioned in our main list should be safe for you to use. Make sure you do your research before testing them, start with lower doses first and work your way up to recommended dosages.
If you do your research, stay at sensible dosages and get advice from your doctor before starting you will be well it is very unlikely that you will experience any side effects.
Summary: What are nootropics and do they work?
As you can see, asking if nootropics work is a complicated question. The answer is both yes and no.
Yes: Some nootropics both natural and synthetic work according to both our personal experiences here at SanDiegoHealth.org – and research and studies which are publicly available.
No: This does not apply to all nootropics. Some nutrients which are claimed to be natural nootropics sometimes lack the research and results to vouch for their effectiveness.
The only way to find something that works for you comes down to the research you’re prepared to do. We’ve given you a great start with our shortlist of nootropics that we believe have great effects for cognition, focus, memory and more.
If you want to see what we use on a daily basis, head over to our best nootropics page we linked to at the start of this article.