If you’ve ever seen the 2011 Bradley Cooper movie “Limitless,” you might know about the recent phenomenon of “smart pills” or “smart drugs” that claim to improve cognitive performance and boost memory. These smart pills are commonly known as “nootropics.”
While you won’t gain the superhuman abilities, it is possible that nootropic supplements could help with cognitive enhancement, positively affecting the brain and your overall mental clarity.
In this nootropics review, we look at the best nootropics in 2021 (also known as smart drugs, brain pills, memory supplements, memory pills, or brain pills). We answer your questions about these unique brain booster supplements and whether they can help improve brain function.
Top 5 Nootropics
If you’re looking to boost your short-term memory and mental clarity but you don’t have a ton of cash to spare; you might want to try NooCube.
These “smart pills” are made with a formula of 7 nootropic ingredients, all of which have been
shown to demonstrate human brain-boosting effects by various studies. All of these compounds are packed into capsules, and you take two per day.
Used by a lot of students for multitasking and study sessions, these cognitive enhancers kick in after around 30-45 minutes and the effects last for 8-10 hours on average, so they’re good as a pick-me-up when you feel your brain wandering and not focusing correctly.
Some of the ingredients unique to NooCube capsules to kickstart cognitive function include:
- Alpha GPC – improves cognitive functioning
- Huperzine A – promotes better learning performance, especially when combined with an antioxidant
- Cat’s Claw – derived from a vine (not a cat!), this antioxidant fights brain aging and assists neurotransmitters
- Bacopa Monnieri – a popular nootropic ingredient that promotes nerve growth in the brain, to possibly improve memory
NooCube has FREE worldwide shipping (a rare find) and it’s not known to have any side effects, which is nice to know when you’re taking brain-altering products. Still, you should always check with your doctor before taking any nootropic products.
Designed as an all-in-one nootropic, MindLabPro is essentially a pre-made stack to optimize the nervous system and improve cognitive function.
In case you’re not aware, people like to “stack” supplements, meaning they take multiple different types of supplements at the same time to get the benefits of all of them.
The product claims to target as many brain pathways (e.g., neurotransmitters) and brain functions as possible, maximizing cognitive performance across many different facets. MindLabPro is said to target 6 brain pathways – energy, brain chemicals, blood flow, brain waves, neuroprotection, and neuroregeneration.
The product also claims to boost 4 areas of mental performance – memory, performance, mindset, and structural performance.Obviously, it’s hard to measure precisely how well this brain boosting supplement works, but it contains 11 ingredients that have a fair amount of research and evidence behind them to suggest that they improve brain function.
Pro: Contains no stimulants: making it safer to stack with and preventing brain-fog induced by a crash. More on stimulants below.
Some of the top ingredients in this product include:
- Citicoline (as Cognizin) – helps to energize brain cells, the manufacturers claim it can boost brain cell formation by 26%
- Bacopa Monnieri Extract – full of antioxidants to fight age-related cognitive decline
- L-Theanine – helps to produce alpha waves associated with wakeful relaxation (i.e., being alert yet calm)
Supplementation of L-Theanine improved the multi-tasking framework score significantly
If you don’t like your brain boosters containing a list of components like the Magna Carta, then “Mind” by PerformanceLab might be just what you’re looking for. Comprising only 4 ingredients, this is one of the purest nootropics formulas you’ll find.
Uniquely, Mind helps with cognitive enhancement but it also helps with brain recovery. When you’re pushing your brainpower to the maximum, it can understandably get fatigued, but the formula of Mind is said to speed up the brain recovery process so you don’t burn yourself out.
- Cognizin (citicoline) – claims to boost brain energy and cognitive function by 13.6%
- Sharp PS Green – evidence shows it helps with brain cell formulation, linked to a 20.3% increase in basal ganglia/thalamus glucose metabolism
- L-Tyrosine – reduces brain fog, improves focus, fights against burnout
- Maritime Pine Bark Extract – supports blood-flow and fights age-related brain decline
Mind contains the highest-potency Maritime Pine Bark Extract on the market, so it may be particularly useful for cognitive anti-aging if that’s a concern of yours.
Overall, Mind tends to be very good for focus. Also, because the ingredients list is quite short, it’s ideal for stacking with other nootropics.
This smart drug is also gluten-free, soy-free, and GMO-free, so it can fit into many dietary restrictions without a hitch.
Great for mental energy, Brain Pill’s main ingredients are Cognizin and Synapsa, a pair of prevalent nootropic ingredients you’ll find in many of the nootropics best known for giving people that edge over their competition. In fact, their motto is “Your Unfair Advantage.”
At least this nootropic supplement is honest!
Loved by students and those with high-stress jobs and tight deadlines, Brain Pill is excellent for increasing mental focus, productivity, short-term memory, and energy.
Most people use Brian Pill to fight against brain fog, that dazed feeling you can get when you push yourself too hard and burn yourself out.
Brain Pill contains 13 nootropic ingredients, the most out of all the products on this list. More parts don’t necessarily mean better performance, but it’s something to consider if you want to improve many facets of your brain health and mental performance.
Some of the ingredients unique to Brain Pill include:
- Ginkgo Biloba – a cognitive enhancer that helps with brain blood flow
- Vitamin B12 – a vitamin the body can’t produce (veggies/vegans need vitamin B12 too)
- Phosphatidylserine (PS) – a nootropic that maintains cellular function
- Folic Acid – a vitamin that creates red blood cells in the brain
Whether you’re looking for short or long term benefits, Brain Pill might be an excellent nootropic for you to try. If combined with caffeine, this nootropic can give you the temporary energy boost you need to make that tight deadline or study for that exam.
If you don’t like Brain Pill or don’t notice any effects, you can return this smart drug with their 60-day guarantee.
HunterFocus is another nootropic with a money-back guarantee, this one of 90 days. So if it doesn’t work for you within 90 days you have 120 days to return it for a full refund.
It’s designed to increase focus, aiming to get you into a flow state faster and make it more difficult to get distracted. Of course, it’s important you still design your work space to be free of external distraction triggers, but HunterFocus can help silence internal triggers, like an urge to visit facebook.
The main ingredients for concentration are Citicoline, N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine, L-Theanine:
- Citicoline – In one human research study, citicoline improved membrane formation by 26% and brain energy by 13.6% .
- N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine – Shown to boost brain alpha waves , which can increase focus and creativity.
- L-theanine – helps you feel both calmer and more alert by raising the levels of GABA, serotonin and dopamine in your brain .
Supplements and Natural Nootropics
While manufactured nootropic formulas are one thing, there are actually a lot of natural nootropic compounds that can improve focus and cognitive function on their own.
That includes vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, vitamin E, magnesium and others. If you’re deficient in certain vitamins, they could impact concentration and mental processing.
Plus, you can get these substances without a prescription!
Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors in your brain, helping you to feel less tired. You can find caffeine in everyday drinks like coffee, tea, and energy drinks, though you can also take caffeine pills that contain a pure form of the substance.
Americans consume a lot of caffeine a day, with ages 40 to 59 consuming the most
As well as fighting physical fatigue, caffeine is a stimulant: it increases your mental alertness, giving you faster reaction times. This combination of psychological and physical energy can be essential when studying for an exam or trying to stay awake after a long day of work.
Caffeine can also help fight Alzheimer’s dementia. Studies reveal that the compound may be protective against the disease.
This nutrient shares similarities with the vitamin B family. It influences the production of a protein in the brain, acetylcholine, that positively affects cognition, memory, and overall brain function.
An amino acid often used by gym-goers and bodybuilders, creatine makes proteins that can be used for both muscle growth and brain cells.
Creatine binds with phosphate in your brain, helping to fuel cells and improve short-term memory and reasoning.
Studies suggest that it’s particularly useful for vegetarians and people with high levels of stress in their life.
L-Theanine is naturally found in tea, though you can take it in its pure form as a supplement too. This compound produces alpha waves in the brain which are associated with restful alertness.
As far as natural nootropics go, this stuff is often combined with the caffeine in nootropic stacks. The L-Theanine helps to counteract the anxiety and jitters sometimes experienced with a dose of caffeine.
Acetyl L Carnitine
This compound shares similarities with amino acids, and works to fuel your body with energy. Aside from promoting metabolic function (and hence, weight loss) L carnitine may also improve brain function.
A very popular nootropic, Rhodiola Rosea is a herb that has been shown to fight mental and physical fatigue during times of stress and hardship.
Research suggests that Rhodiola Rosea can make you feel calm and at peace during stressful periods like busy workdays or a college exam.
Featured in most of the best nootropic products on this list, Bacopa Monnieri is an ancient herb that is shown to enhance brain function.
Many studies have suggested that this herb can give you faster reaction times, improve memory, and speed up information processing.
However, the effects of this herb are not felt quickly like some other nootropic ingredients. You need to be a long-term nootropic user of a least a couple of months before you’ll start to feel the benefit of this ingredient.
Another common naturally occuring ingredient in the best nootropic formulas, Ginkgo Biloba seems to improve mental processing and memory, helping users to stay calm in stressful situations.
This ancient Chinese brain booster also has antioxidant properties that help to fight brain aging and cognitive decline.
These dietary supplements are packed with naturally occurring omega 3 fatty acid, which has whole-body anti inflammatory properties. It may help to lower blood pressure and improve your memory to boot.
Unlike supplements, synthetic nootropics are lab-created and usually only available with a prescription. These drugs can have potent effects on concentration, memory, and more. One example is piracetam, a prescription-only drug in Europe. Although piracetam has been shown to have modest benefits in older adults suffering from memory disorders, it’s banned in the US due to unpleasant side effects. Piracetem can cause drowsiness, hyperactivity, and muscle spasms, among other things..
Most Powerful Nootropics
If you’re looking for the most effective nootropic in terms of raw power, you probably want to try caffeine. Caffeine is arguably the most potent nootropic you can find without a prescription, improving your alertness and focus while quickening your reaction times.
When combined with L-Theanine, which counteracts most the adverse side effects, this is one of the best nootropic stacks for getting things done and staying alert.
Best Nootropics For Memory
What is the best memory pill?
The best memory supplements are subjective, but the formula of MindLabPro is very effective at improving short-term memory thanks to its Cognizin (citicoline) and Bacopa Monnieri content.
Creatine also appears to be a great brain booster for memory, with this natural nootropic improving short-term memory and reasoning, especially in vegetarians and stressed-out individuals.
Best Nootropics for Focus
If mental fog is your main concern, try PerformanceLab Mind. This is the best nootropic for improving focus thanks to its inclusion of Cognizin (citicoline) and L-Tyrosine as key ingredients, both of which are known to promote increased focus in the brain.
If you’re looking for a pure nootropic to take for focus, I would suggest L-Theanine. L-Theanine promotes alpha waves in the brain that help you to feel energetic and alert yet relaxed at the same time, so it’s easy to narrow your focus onto whatever you’re concentrating on.
Best Nootropic For Mood Enhancement
If you’re looking for mood enhancement, try MindLabPro.
The nootropic product contains B vitamins (vitamin B6, B9, and B12) that help to regulate the levels of SAMe (S-AdenosylMethionine) in the brain. Research shows that SAMe is a mood regulator that helps to reduce mood swings and promote overall brain health.
Best Cheap Nootropics
If you need to enhance memory focus and improve mood without spending a fortune, I would recommend NooCube.
This low-price nootropic can improve brain performance and multitasking thanks to its list of 7 research-backed ingredients, including Alpha GPC, Huperzine A, Bacopa Monnieri, and Cat’s Claw Herb.
Were you looking for something even cheaper? Try caffeine!
For healthy people, caffeine is one of the cheapest nootropic products, especially when consumed via drinks like coffee and tea. You can also buy caffeine pills if you’re looking for a more concentrated hit of this natural nootropic. If you have underlying conditions, you may want to go easy on it.
Best Nootropics For Energy
If you’re looking to improve cognitive energy, I would recommend Brain Pill due to its ingredients which may help with brain stamina and cognitive speed.
Caffeine is also another obvious nootropic for upping energy levels in the body, and it’s especially useful when combined with L-Theanine, a substance that counteracts the side effects of anxiety and jitters associated with heavy coffee drinkers.
Best Nootropics Stack
Stacking nootropics (i.e. taking 2 or more nootropics simultaneously) can help the formulas to enhance one another, creating a supplement greater than the sum of its parts.
Stacking these brain supplements can also give you access to more significant health benefits and advantages of multiple different formulas.
When it comes to stacking these products, everyone has different cognitive impairments that they would like to improve. However, if you’re really looking to improve your mental performance, the best stack is generally considered to be Caffeine and L-Theanine.
A 2008 study found that caffeine and L-theanine work very well together when it comes to boosting mental energy and alertness. The energy-boosting effects of caffeine often have side effects of anxiety and jitteriness, but L-theanine counteracts these side effects, leading to a relaxed-yet-energetic mental state.
If you know yourself as someone who has occasional anxiety issues, you might find interesting our article about the best nootropics for anxiety.
Best Place to Buy Nootropics
One of the best places to buy nootropics with natural ingredients is actually on Amazon.
Tons of manufacturers sell their products on Amazon, and the reviews mean that you can really compare nootropic supplements to one another.
Lots of manufacturers have biased testimonials on their website, but buying nootropic supplements on Amazon helps you to get a balanced view of real reviews. One can also get next day delivery if they’re in a rush.
Nootropics vs Adderall
Technically, Adderall is a type of nootropic supplement, though it has additional effects that might make it unsuitable for some people. Adderall is a prescription medication for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), so you cannot buy it unless you’ve been prescribed it by a doctor.
Adderall—the original “smart drug”— is an amphetamine, so it’s highly-stimulating for your mind and body. This energy-enhancing drug is often prescribed to people with narcolepsy and ADHD. It’s estimated that up to 35% of college students use Adderall to help them study despite not having a medical prescription. If you’re looking to improve your mental performance without a prescription, always choose reputable legal nootropics supplements.
You should never take drugs that aren’t prescribed to you without medical advice. Recreational adderall use can lead to severe side effects such as heart attacks, especially when mixed with alcohol. It’s best to stick to those with natural ingredients.
Are Nootropics Safe?
As with any medication or supplement, nootropics could interact with your body in a way that is unexpected. They could also interact poorly with existing supplements or medications that you take, although they’re usually well tolerated.
Most of the respondents didn’t experience side effects to nootropics, though the occurrence increased with weekly use
There are always risks to consider, particularly for older adults. You should always speak to your doctor before taking nootropic supplements, especially if you have underlying health conditions or existing prescriptions.
The best thing to do is only buy nootropics from well-known, reputable companies. Cheaper and lesser-known manufacturers may produce poor-quality products. For example, one study on rhodiola rosea supplements found that some of these products contained contaminants and extra ingredients not mentioned on the bottle. If it’s too cheap or too good to be true, it probably is!
How to Use Nootropics
Every nootropics supplement is different, so always check the instructions of the product you’re using. However, with most nootropic supplements, you take 1 or 2 doses over the course of the day to boost your mental awareness, information processing, and energy.
Most people take a dose of nootropics in the morning or early afternoon to boost their performance throughout the day. However, if you’re a night owl, you might find it beneficial to take a dose later in the evening to aid learning and memory.
Just be aware that taking these supplements later in the day could make it more difficult to sleep.
Do Nootropics Actually Work?
There is conflicting evidence on nootropics and whether they work. While some small studies suggest that these brain supplements have performance boosting effects, there are not enough large-scale controlled studies to say anything for sure.
Still, many workers and students swear by them.
Essential “pure nootropics” like caffeine have a proven effect on mental energy and cognitive performance, but the formulas of “smart pills” are not regulated and more independent unbiased research needs to be undertaken.
What Is the Most Effective Nootropic?
Summary: What Is the Best Brain Pill on the Market?
If I had to recommend one product from this list, I would say to buy Mind Lab Pro. This brain booster has 11 well-researched ingredients designed to cover 6 brain pathways and 4 distinct areas of mental focus, making it a great “all rounder” smart drug compared to other ‘smart’ pills which may focus on specific areas.
If you don’t know where to start, Mind Lab Pro is a good call.
For more experienced users who like to stack their nootropics, MindLabPro gives you a brilliant solution because you’re getting all the brain-boosting ingredients you need in one formula. You don’t have to puzzle out a nootropic stack yourself.
However, if you prefer to stack and create custom formulas tailored to your needs, then I’d say try Performance Lab Mind instead. Performance Lab Mind has only 4 ingredients, so it’s much easier to combine it with other products for a tailor-made effect on the mind.
Whatever “smart pill” brain supplement you decide to try, remember to follow the instructions and take it responsibly. Don’t experiment with a nootropic stack without researching potential adverse effects.
Always consult your doctor before taking one of these products, especially if you take prescription drugs or you have an underlying health condition.
Whatever “smart pill” brain supplement you decide to try, remember to follow the instructions and take it responsibly.
Always consult your doctor before taking one of these products, especially if you take prescription drugs or you have an underlying health condition.