Nootropics have been an increasingly popular addition to wellness routines for people from all walks of life. From college students cramming for finals to retired folks looking to maintain their edge, these brain boosting supplements are bringing some serious benefits to the table.
New to nootropics?
Not to worry, we’re here to break down common questions about these trending nutrients and offer some suggestions on which work best depending on your wellness goals.
What are Nootropics?
The world of nootropics is actually pretty broad. A nootropic is a compound or “smart drug” that is used to help enhance cognitive function. These compounds can help with memory and recall, energy levels, mood and even more.1
Although there are numerous options out there when it comes to these helpful brain heroes, an easy way to break them down and ensure you’re getting the kind of support you need is by separating nootropics into two groups—natural vs. synthetic nootropics.
Natural nootropics are nutritional supplements and nootropic herbs while synthetic nootropics are created using chemical ingredients or used as prescription medication (think of ginkgo biloba vs. Adderall.)
But just how much can a natural nootropic do for everyday wellness?
What Can Nootropics Do?
Depending on the types of benefits desired, nootropics can be taken as a single ingredient, or combined with other nootropics to form “stacks” for even more enhanced effects.
For example, caffeine is considered one of the most widely used nootropic in the world and is well known for its ability to increase alertness and reaction time. However, when combined with L-theanine, this nootropic stack may also be able to improve cognitive performance, focus, accuracy and even mood.2,3
While prescriptions and synthetic nootropics are shown to have stronger cognitive perks, they also usually come with adverse side effects. It’s for this reason that many people reach for more natural solutions. After all, there are plenty of wellness benefits to be had from natural nootropic ingredients and stacks.
Best Nootropics for Energy and Focus
L-Theanine and Caffeine
While you can take caffeine on its own to get a boost of energy, the “jitters” or feelings of anxiousness followed by fatigue that is often associated with this stimulant can sometimes do more harm than good, especially for tasks that take longer periods of time. These side effects make taking caffeine on its own a less than ideal solution for maintaining healthy energy levels.
However, if you stack L-theanine with caffeine, you can not only enhance cognitive performance due to this amino acid’s ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, but you may also feel calm while boosting mental energy.
Stacking these nootropics can help you stay motivated and zero in on the task at hand, making this combo one of the best for energy and focus without the crash.
Not a fan of caffeine? This herbal nootropic is a powerful alternative if you’re looking for same-day enhanced focus and mental energy.
Alpinia galanga is part of the ginger family and has been used as an herbal remedy and culinary ingredient for years. While the plant itself is no new kid on the block, emerging clinical studies are showing that this botanical is capable of significantly increasing alertness along with a sense of calm.4
Alpinia galanga works with a cognitive process called the “Attention Network Function” (ANF) to combat stressors that can pull our attention in multiple directions, helping to keep us on track and energized without any negative side effects.
While you can absolutely stack this nootropic with caffeine to amplify the stimulant’s effects, Alpinia galanga can sustain mental alertness just fine on its own making it an increasingly popular option for those looking for a mental edge.
Best Nootropics for Memory and Recall
This “living fossil” is a heavily studied botanical when it comes to memory and recall. Ginkgo biloba may have the potential to improve memory and slow cognitive decline that comes with aging.5 Ginkgo is thought to promote multiple cognitive functions by improving blood flow to the brain, regulating neurotransmitters and can also offer antioxidant benefits that help fight free radicals.
Not only is ginkgo a great resource for recall, but it can also bring some benefits for nervous system support and promote healthy levels of dopamine for a balanced mood.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
This mushroom provides some adaptogenic benefits and helps manage brain fog for better recall. Lion’s mane has been moving up in the memory world and is commonly stacked with other nootropics like coffee for a more productive start to the day, or other mushrooms like reishi or chaga for bolstered immunity or to relax the mind.
As an adaptogenic mushroom, lion’s mane can effectively lower the effects of stress on your body.6 With this approach to encouraging healthy memory, your body may be able to stay in a relaxed state so that you are able to maintain mental clarity and can recall what you need to.
Best Nootropics for Anxiety and Mood
Adaptogens like ashwagandha are some of the most effective nootropic herbs when it comes to stress resistance. Because it can easily reach the neurons beyond the blood-brain barrier, ashwagandha is able to help us adapt to stressful situations by lowering cortisol levels and reducing our fight-or-flight response to stress.
Studies suggest that a high concentration of full-spectrum ashwagandha can improve one’s resilience to stress and self-assessed quality of life.7 While studies are still ongoing, research suggests that ashwagandha may even play a role in mitigating feelings of anxiousness and promoting a more balanced mood.8
Ashwagandha is a great baseline nootropic for balancing your mood, but there are some great nootropics you can stack with it to enhance these benefits. For example, rhodiola rosea is an adaptogenic herb that helps regulate mood and maintain healthy energy levels while Korean ginseng can support immune and cardiovascular health along with a healthy response to stress. When you stack nootropics like these together, you’re more able to bring comprehensive balance back your body and mental health.
Where to Buy Nootropics
Nootropics are growing in numbers more and more each day, so it’s important to consider the quality of the ingredients while you’re searching. If you want to ensure you’re getting the highest-quality natural nootropic supplements curated by experts in the field, you’ll be happy to find a large assortment here at Swanson Health Products.
We hope this article gives you a good start when it comes to incorporating nootropics into your wellness routine! Still have questions? Give one of our teammates in Customer Care a call to explore which options might be best for you.
Always serving our customers,
Your friends at Swanson
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
- Suliman, N. A., Mat Taib, C. N., Mohd Moklas, M. A., Adenan, M. I., Hidayat Baharuldin, M. T., & Basir, R. (2016). Establishing Natural Nootropics: Recent Molecular Enhancement Influenced by Natural Nootropic. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2016, 4391375. https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/4391375
- Owen, G. N., Parnell, H., De Bruin, E. A., & Rycroft, J. A. (2008). The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. Nutritional neuroscience, 11(4), 193–198. https://doi.org/10.1179/147683008X301513
- Giesbrecht, T., Rycroft, J. A., Rowson, M. J., & De Bruin, E. A. (2010). The combination of L-theanine and caffeine improves cognitive performance and increases subjective alertness. Nutritional neuroscience, 13(6), 283–290. https://doi.org/10.1179/147683010X12611460764840
- Srivastava, S., Mennemeier, M., & Chaudhary, J. A. (2021). A Randomized Placebo Controlled Clinical Trial Demonstrating Safety & Efficacy of EnXtra® in Healthy Adults. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 40(3), 224–236. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2020.1753129
- Wesnes, K., Ward, T., McGinty, A. et al. The memory enhancing effects of a Ginkgo biloba/Panax ginseng combination in healthy middle-aged volunteers. Psychopharmacology 152, 353–361 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1007/s002130000533
- Panossian A. (2017). Understanding adaptogenic activity: specificity of the pharmacological action of adaptogens and other phytochemicals. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1401(1), 49–64. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.13399
- Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, J., & Anishetty, S. (2012). A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian journal of psychological medicine, 34(3), 255-262.
- Pratte, M. A., Nanavati, K. B., Young, V., & Morley, C. P. (2014). An alternative treatment for anxiety: a systematic review of human trial results reported for the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 20(12), 901-908.