Nootropics are substances which improve cognitive function. Natural nootropics are, obviously, cognitive enhancers that are either 100% natural or completely derived from naturally occurring sources.
Most people think of synthetic smart drugs when they think of nootropics. They instantly think of Modafinil or Piracetam. But natural nootropics are just as capable as pharmaceutical study drugs of enhancing cognitive function when used correctly. The best natural nootropics can enhance memory, reaction times, motivation, and other brain functions.
These cognitive enhancers can be found online or at your local drugstore. Take note of their benefits and where they are available.
Let’s learn more about the best natural nootropics that you can use today to enhance focus, reduce anxiety and promote overall brain health.
What are Natural Nootropics?
The purpose of natural nootropics is the same as any other nootropic. They are made up of organic compounds, as their name implies. To improve mental function, nootropics made from plants, roots extracts and fungi are used in ancient Chinese medicine.
They are safe and have been shown to improve brain health in their purest form. This type of nootropics is made up of standardized, high-quality herbs that are free from common allergens and artificial ingredients.
The 16 Best Natural Nootropics
This belief states that natural means choosing a healthier option. It may not be applicable in every situation, but it will help you get better results with nootropics.
Some of them are actually found naturally in your body, such as Acetyl L Carnitines or B Vitamins, particularly Vitamin B12, which are well-known for their effect on brain energy. Others, such as Lion’s Mane or Rhodiola rosea, are herbs or fungi which comtain unique compounds which have draamtic effects on neurochemistry and neurogenesis.
Based on scientific evidence and our research, these are the best natural nootropics you can use right now:
- Ginkgo biloba
- Bacopa monnieri
- Rhodiola rosea
- Omega 3
- Lion’s Mane
- Huperzine A
- Green tea
Below is a more detailed breakdown of what each natural nootropic does and why it in in our top natural brain supplement ranking.
Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, green tea, cola and other energy drinks. It is one of the most widely used and popular nootropics. This natural nootropic can be consumed in food and drinks. You can take caffeine either as a standalone supplement or as part of a nootropic stack.
This substance acts to block the adenosine-receptors, preventing them from binding with neurotransmitter adenosine. Adenosine causes sleepiness and slower neural activity. Blocking adenosine receptors causes faster neural activity and rapidly reduces fatigue. Caffeine can be used to reduce tiredness and reaction time, and it is a fast-acting focus and motivation booster.
2. Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo Biloba extracts have been shown to improve cognitive function. This herbal nootropic has long been used in Chinese medicine to improve memory function in older people. Ginkgo Biloba extracts have been shown to improve memory performance, particularly in older people and those suffering with mild cognitive impairment. Ginkgo Biloba also has a reduced risk of stress-related high blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol.
These benefits may be due to better blood flow to the brain. Gingko Biloba is believed to play a key role in improving blood flow and reducing the risk of stroke. It is still being researched to better understand its effects.
3. Bacopa Monnieri
Bacopa Monnieri, is also known as Brahmi or Waterhyssop, is a staple of Ayurvedic medicine. It is a powerful herb that enhances cognitive performance, especially in the realm of memory. In particular, studis find that older people taking Bacopa monnieri experience dramatic improvements in memory retention and recall. Bacopa Monnieri’s bacosides are responsible for these benefits. There is a lot of debate about the main mechanism by which these bacosides enhance memory. But the best evidence indicates that bacosides stimulate the growth of dendrite branches between your neurons.
As well as boosting dendritic arborization, Bacopa’s bacosides protect the brain against possible oxidative stress, and has adaptogens that combat free radicals.
Because Bacopa monnieri works by stimulating brain tissue growth, you will not feel the effects of this natural nootropic for a while. Maximum benefits can be achieved after several months of continuous use at a dose of 200-500mg per day.
4. Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola Rosea aids in managing mental fatigue. A review found that the adaptogenic herb is effective in treating anxiety in countries like Russia and Scandinavia due to its antidepressant, anti-fatigue properties.
This natural nootropic is effective in reducing stress and fatigue, but small doses are sufficient for daily use. Rhodiola Rosea requires more research to discover its recommended dose and its mechanism of action.
L-Theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that is found in green tea. However, you can also take it as a nootropic or dietary supplement. It improves mood and enhances mental clarity, without causing drowsiness.
L-Theanine is a neuroprotective substance that creates and restores nerve cells. This makes it an excellent therapy supplement for patients with high anxiety. Even 50mg of L. Theanine can increase alpha waves and boost creativity.
6. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, also known as “brain food”, are the most important supplement to brain function. These fatty acids are brain enhancers and improve mental function as well as blood flow. It is one of the most effective nootropics for memory, because it affects cognition such as memory loss, creativity, and fatigue.
Healthy adults and children can benefit from omega-3 fatty acids. Although they can be found in many foods, there is not enough. Therefore, it is recommended to find another source of omega-3 fatty acids in nootropics.
Curcumin is an extract of turmeric that acts as an antioxidant and stimulant. Curcumin increases blood flow to your brain, which results in better memory and concentration. Studies have shown that curcumin stimulates brain cell production by producing dopamine and serotonin. It also produces brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF), which has an antidepressant effect.
Curcumin should be taken along with phosphatidylserine or nerve cells’ growth pipeline. This is due to the fact that your body absorbs Curcumin poorly without proper measures.
8. Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s Mane Mushroom is one of the cognitive enhancers. It can be eaten raw, cooked, mixed with tea or in any other way. It helps prevent the formation of amyloid beta plaques in the brain, which can cause inflammation, brain cell death and damage to patients suffering from disease.
The Lion’s Mane contains two compounds, the hericenones (and erinacines) which stimulate the growth and healing of nerve cells and protect them. Amycenone is another compound that aids in sleep, memory, and mental function.
Panax ginseng, which can be used in Asian or Korean cuisines, and Panax quinquefolius American ginseng make up Ginseng. Both are called “ginsengs”, but they can have side effects and benefits. Ginseng has many benefits, including a reduction in mental fatigue and blood sugar and an improvement in cognitive function.
It is possible that ginseng’s anti-inflammatory properties might have contributed to the reduction in cognitive decline.
10. Huperzine A
Huperzine A, a stimulant derived from the Chinese clubmoss plant, is used to improve memory, learning and alertness. Since thousands of years, this compound has been used in Southeast Asia to treat skin conditions. It is beneficial for healthy adults, middle-school students, and elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease. Huperzine A, a brain booster, increases acetylcholine and forms new cells in your brain.
To discover more about the long-term side effects and benefits of Huperzine A, further research is required.
Creatine is often listed as a sports supplement, and it is. But it is also a reliable and effective natural nootropic.
People take creatine primarily because it increases power output. This is ver useful when lifting weights, but the increased cellular energy associated with creatine consumption isn’t limited to muscle cells; it appleis to brain cells too! Taking creatine increases brain cell energy metabolism by increasing the rate that your brain cells cycle ATP (the energy ‘currency’ of your cells).
The fact that creatine has both sports and cognitive benefits makes it ideal for use as a pre-workout nootropic.
12. Green tea
Green tea might not seem like a powerful nootropic, and you’re right – it isn’t. Compared to smart drugs like Piracetam, green tea isn’t going to pack a punch. But in the context of 100% natural nootropics, green tea can be said to be one of the best.
Green tea is essentially a cocktail of nootropic compounds. Each cup contains L-Theanine, Caffeine and a range of potent antioxidants which protect your brain from oxidative stress or toxin damage. Drinking green tea on a daily basis is associated with a range of better health outcomes, and is increasingly thought to correlate to better cognitive function in old age.
Nicotine is an extremely powerful nootropic drug which almost instantly enhances mental performance, increases mental energy, and reduces anxiety.
The cognitive benefits of nicotine are apparent to any smoker: immediate increases in focus, processing speeds, and motivation. And of course, there’s the stimulant effects of nicotine; it decreases fatigue and raises mental energy levels. Nicotine is as potent a stimulant as many prescription drugs, but it is 100% natural and plant-derived. This makes it one of the best nootropic supplements for focus in existence.
Vinpocetine is one of the first herbal nootropics that people used, although it has recently fallen out of favor. A few years ago vinpocetine was a key ingredient in nootropic stacks like Mind Lab Pro and Qualia Mind. Today it is largely used as a standalone nootropic to promote overall brain health.
Vinpocetine mostly works by increasing brain blood flow, just like Ginkgo biloba (although it has a different mechanism of action to Ginkgo). Vinpocetine improves cerebral blood flow by elevating cGMP and cAMP, increasing mitochondrial function, and improving glucose and oxygen utilization by the brain. This leads to better memory formation, memory retention and reduced brain inflammation.
Taurine is an amino acid. Like other amino acid nootropics such as Theanine, Taurine is surprisingly effctive at enhancing brain function.
Taurine has a few mechanisms of action, and it affcts the brain in interesting ways. It supports proliferation of neural progenitor cells and synapse formation in brain regions required for long-term memory. Taurine also potentiates GABA receptors, reducing anxiety and promoting confidence. This makes it a broad acting natural nootropic capable of delivering extensive cognitive enhancement. Everyone should consider adding Taurine to their daily nootropic stack.
Valerian root is mostly known as an anxiolytic and sleep aid. It is quite effective at reducing anxiety levels and hastening the onset of sleep. But it is also an effective natural nootropic when used correctly.
For example, clinical trials have found that supplementing with Valerian root extract helps reduce compulsive behavior in children, which is a major symptom of both ADHD and OCD. The reduced anxiety you experience after taking valerian root extract is also associated with reduced brain fog and better overall cognitive performance.
Is Piracetam a natural nootropic?
Piracetam is not a natural nootropic. Piracetam is actually the first synthetic nootropic to be developed back in the 1950’s. Since then, the basic structure of Piracetam has been adapted and changd to produce a range of compounds, including Aniracetam, Phenylpiracetam and Noopept. None of these substances are natural nootropics and as such they have a greater risk of causing side effects.
Benefits of Using Natural Nootropics
Let’s take a more detailed look at the main benefits of using natural nootropic supplements. Below is a brief overview of each of the main reasons why people use natural cognitive enhancers.
One of the main reasons people use natural nootropics is to enhance focus. Maintinaing concentration throughout the day is incredibly difficult. Most of us could be dramatically more productive each day if we could just stay focused on the task at hand and stop getting distracted by social media, our co-workers, or just plain procrastination. Natural nootropics can help you stay locked in on a task; some can help put you into a ‘flow state’ of intense focus and peak mental performance for hours on end.
The best natural nootropics for focus are: Citicoline, Caffeine, Tyrosine, and Huperzine A.
Natural nootropics can be enormously helpful to you if you struggle with anxiety. Clinical studies have made it clear that specific nutraceuticals can have a dramatic effect on anxiety levels, stress, and overall mood. Different nootropics work in different ways; some naturally suppress cortisol, while others increase ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Another class of nootropics called “adaptogens” work by making you more physically robust to stress.
The best natural nootropics for anxiety are: Ashwagandha, Rhodiola rosea, Ginseng, and Theanine.
There are a number of natural nootropics you can use to increase energy levels. Obviously you can use natural stimulants like caffeine, theacrine and nicotine to give you a quick energy boost. You can also use natural nootropics which help you maintain better energy levels in a more fundamental way by acting at the cellular level. Natural nootropics like creatine, B12 and PQQ work by making your cells more efficient at releasing energy.
The best natural nootropics for energy are: Caffeine, Nicotine, Creatine and B vitamins.
Can natural nootropics help with ADHD? it may come as a surprise to some of you, but the answer is a firm “yes”. Select natural nootropics have been shown in clinical trials to have a significant positive effect on ADHD symptoms. ADHD is characterized by a lack of focus and concentration, mental fatigue, lack of motivation, and compulsive behaviors. There are natural nootropics which – when taken in a combination stack – can help with all of these things.
The best natural nootropics for ADHD are: Citicoline, Tyrosine, Caffeine, Nicotine, Theanine, and Huperzine A.
Natural Nootropics vs. Synthetic Nootropics
Both synthetic and natural nootropics improve blood circulation and supply essential nutrients. Natural stimulants protect the brain from inflammation and toxic substances.
Natural nootropics can also increase brain power by stimulating the release of neurotransmitters. It takes time to experience the benefits, as with any natural method.
Synthetic nootropics can be described as nootropics that are made from chemical ingredients. After consuming these compounds, you can feel the effects immediately.
Another study found that noopept (a synthetic nootropic) helps in clearing out brain fog, anxiety treatment, and recovery from brain injuries. However, more research is necessary to confirm this claim. Prescription nootropics can cause serious health problems, such as addiction and high blood pressure.
Natural Nootropics Side Effects
Natural nootropics can be described as supplements that enhance cognition and have no side effects. The only way to have unwanted side effects is to take more than the recommended dosage.
True natural nootropics are safe and do not cause harm. It is part of the definition of a nootropic that it does not cause side effects, and the natural nootropics used in high quality brain supplements today do not cause adverse effects in most people.
You don’t need to worry about the cost of making nootropics, even if your budget is tight. This is because high-quality, standardised herbs are used to create them. These compounds can have different effects and you might experience adverse reactions if your knowledge is not up to par.
Natural Nootropics vs Smart Drugs Side Effects
Are natural nootropis always safe?
Of course not; it depends on how they are used and which substances you’re talking about. In some cases, natural nootropics are more dangerous than synthetic brain drugs.
For example, large doses of caffeine – a 100% naturally occurring nootropic – can cause very serious side effects. At extreme doses, caffeine can be lethal! By contrast, Modafinil – a potent pharmaceutical – overdoses are unheard of and at even elevated doses it does not tend to cause notable side effects.
So the safety of a nootropic depends more on the substance and how it was used than it does on its origin. Be sure to talk to your doctor before using any nootropic compounds, especially if they usually require a prescription or if you are currently taking any prescription medication.
Conclusion: Should you use natural or synthetic nootropics?
Synthetic smart drugs are typically much more powerful than natural cognitive enhancers, but they also come with much more serious health risks. Natural options can keep your brain functioning at its best while keeping it healthy and slowing down age-related cognitive decline, all without causing adverse effects.
For the vast majority of people seeking nootropics to help with day-to-day cognitive performance, we strongly recommend using natural nootropics instead of pharmaceutical smart drugs.
You have a wide range of options to choose from in order to get the best results. If you are concerned about certain nootropics compounds, consult your doctor. For total cognitive enhancement, we recommend using a comprehensive natural nootropic stack composed of several clinically proven ingredients. Our top rated nootropics right now are NooCube, Vyvamind, Genius Consciousness and Quantumind. Stacks like Onnit Alpha Brain unfortunately don’t stack up to the best natural nootropic stacks anymore!
Natural Nootropic FAQs
Are natural nootropics good for ADHD?
Yes, there are several natural nootropic compounds which can help reduce symptoms of ADD/ADHD. Cognitive enhancers like Citicoline, Caffaine, Methylliberine and Tyrosine have been found to be effective for managing ADHD symptoms in clinical trials.
What is the best natural nootropic for studying?
The single best nootropic stack for studying is probably Vyvamind. This stack combines clinically recommended doses of cognitive enhancers known to sharpen focus, support concentration for hours on end, increase motivation, and eliminate mental fatigue. Many people refer to Vyvamind unofficially as “natural Vyvanse”, so this gives you an idea of how it can help you to study.
Which natural nootropics help with focus?
The best natural nootropics for boosting your brain function and sharpening focus are Citicoline, Caffeine, Theanine, and Tyrosine. Other stimulants like Dynamine (methylliberine) and theacrine are also 100% natural and can help a lot with focus. The same goes for cholinergics such as Alpha-GPC, Huperzine A and Choline Bitartrate.
Can natural nootropics help with creativity?
Natural nootropics can be used to improve creativity as well as promoting motivation, mental energy and working memory. Artists around the world use natural nootropics such as nicotine, Bacopa monnieri and Lion’s Mane Mushroom every day to make them more creative and productive.
What are the best natural herbs for mental health?
The best herbs for mental health, anxiety and mood are undoubtedly Ashwagandha, Rhodiola rosea, Panax Ginseng, Valerian Root, and Mucuna pruriens.
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Brian Johnson is current Editor of Vagarights.com and a long-time writer for VAGA. A former psychologist, Brian is passionate about improving mental health and finding ways to stave off cognitive decline. He is an expert on nootropics, cognitive enhancement and biohacking more broadly. You can see his work on Google scholar.