What Are The Best Nootropic Ingredients
With most quality nootropics featuring their own unique blend of natural compounds, it can be difficult to know what you’re putting into your body and, more importantly, how powerful it really is when it comes to boosting your brain.
Here’s a rundown of the most common nootropic ingredients – after all, knowledge is power…
An extract taken from the Indian plant water hyssop, bacopa monnieri is found in Indian and Pakistan and is commonly used in Ayuverdic medicine to support numerous areas of the brain including memory, mental performance and creativity.
Bacopa monnieri is linked to a stack of positive effects on the brain. For starters, it encourages the secretion of acetylcholine, which supports memory and mental clarity. It also stimulates the production of Hs70, a protein cluster that eases the effect of mental stress, and delivers the powerful antioxidant superoxide dismustase, which protects the brain from age-related memory decline and loss.
With a recommended dose of 150mg, bacopa monnieri is renowned for its ability to enhance the activity of the brain’s neurotransmitters to boost memory, learning ability, mental clarity and other aspects of cognitive function. Backed up by numerous clinical studies, if you fancy boosting your brain power, relieving stress levels and guarding your brain against ageing, bacopa monnieri is a must.
Alpha Lipoid Acid
This vitamin-like chemical is a powerful antioxidant found in a number of foods like spinach, potatoes, broccoli, liver and kidney, and is also made synthetically for use in nootropics and other medicines. Known for helping treat fatigue, lymes disease and liver and kidney disease, alpha lipoid acid has also been known to treat nerve problems, numbness, diabetes and cataracts. Phew!
So how does it work? As an antioxidant, alpha lipoid acid reduces and repairs the cellular damage created by external toxins, or free radicals. It’s also thought to facilitate improved memory by boosting the functions of the brain’s neutrons, but there’s insufficient evidence at present to prove that it has a real, lasting impact on brain health and functioning.
While generally safe to use for the majority of people, alpha lipoid acid has been known to lower blood sugar levels and leave a rash around the mouth. It should also be avoided when consuming alcohol, as this combination can cause a reduction in vitamin B levels, leading to numerous health problems.
Primarily found in the fruit, beans and leaves of a number of plants – especially coffee – caffeine is renowned for its energy-boosting abilities and ability to kick-start the nervous system to bring temporary boosts to concentration, wakefulness and mental alertness.
This is because it mimics the effects of adenosine, which helps the nervous system maintain a balanced state and stimulates the brain and nervous system to release neurotransmitters like dopamine, which supports increased focus and clarity.
There are a number of wider health benefits associated with caffeine, too – this ingredient has been linked to reduced levels of Parkinson’s disease gallstones, cirrhosis and colon cancer.
Side effects can include an increased heart rate, palpitations, jitters and shakes and sleeplessness, so caffeine should be taken in moderation. Many people can also experience a ‘crash’ effect as the initial caffeine hit wears off, which can leave people tired and feeling flat.
Cod liver Oil
25% of the population is thought to take some form of cod liver oil supplement, which is believed to help tackle the symptoms of ageing and deal with conditions like gout, rickets and rheumatism. It’s also linked to keeping the brain as sharp as a tack.
The omega 3-type oils found in cod liver oil are linked to an ability to enhance intelligence and protect the brain against cognitive decline as it ages. It does this by protecting the health of the brain’s neutrons, which can support improved communication between the brain’s cells.
But things are far from clear cut – a 2010 study by the London school of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine followed over 850 people for two years, and concluded that fish oil had no impact on competency to complete mental tasks.
In fact, we think that there are many more natural ingredients found in nootropics that are much better bets.
This popular brand of citicoline is a proven brain nutrient that targets memory and cognitive function. It works by helping to regulate the transmission between the brain’s neurons, accelerating thought processes and improving memory. It also increases mitochondria activity, which means more energy in the brain’s cells to support improved memory, ability to learn and overall cognitive function.
Cognizin has boasts the ability to improve the brain’s levels of dopamine and norepinephrine (neurotransmitters closely linked to both mood and memory), as well as improving phospholipids synthesis. This is integral to ensuring effective cellular communication, and can also helping boost neural health and the effects of ageing on brain functions. A 250mg dosage of Cognizin is widely recognised as the dose required to experience real cognitive benefit.
Cognizin doesn’t come with any reported side effects; however large doses exceeding 400mg have been linked to issues including dry mouth, nausea and mild stomach discomfort. When used in the correct dose, however, this is an incredibly powerful nootropic backed up by numerous clinical studies.
Found in North America and parts of Asia, ginseng boasts a proven ability to support mental performance, positive mood and general brain health. The collective name for a group of plants with similar properties, the most common strains of ginseng are panax ginseng and red Asian ginseng.
Ginseng is a potent antioxidant that supports general health by reducing the effect that damaging free radicals have on the body’s cells. It can also assist with weight loss, help ease the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, reduce stress and support athletic performance. While ginseng does boasts some nootropic merit, however, it is best used alongside vinpocetine and gingko biloba for tangible effect.
Ginseng has proven effective when taken regularly – it’s recommended that this is taken in an initial dose of 500-1000mg per day for a week to ten days, after which it can be reduced. Dosage is not pre-set, and any excess will simply pass through the body.
While this ingredients is widely tolerated by the majority of people, excessive doses can sometimes cause undesired side effects like increases in blood pressure, insomnia, rashes, stomachaches and headaches.
This naturally-occurring alkaloid is found in the Asian moss-like firmoss huperzia serrata plant, and has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries to support memory. Also proven to help people suffering from Alzheimer’s, huperzia serrata act as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, and stops acetylcholinesterase from blocking the positive effects of acetylcholine (this is essential in order for our memories to function as well as they should). This powerful extract also:
- Helps protect the brain cells from glutamate damage
- Lessens the effects of several toxins known to assist the decline of cognitive function
- Enhances the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that improves mood and mind clarity
- Reduces the level of harmful toxins that damage brain cells
The most common huperzia serrata dosage sits at 20-50mg, at which there are very few side effects. Higher doses have seen negative side effects including appetite loss, nausea, reduced heart rate and mild cases of diarrhea.
Taken at a sensible dose, we’d definitely recommend huperzia serrata as a seriously effective nootropic.
This essential mineral is found in a host of everyday food like fish, seaweed, nuts, milk, pork and beef, and is thought to play an integral role in cognitive development. Crucial to the early stages of brain development during childhood, iodine is known to impact myelination, a process that has a direct effect on neurotransmission.
As well as being an overall tonic for the body’s immune system, the thyroid gland traps the iodine in the blood and incorporates it into the T3 and T4 hormones. These regulate a range of processes from development and growth through to metabolism and target organs including the liver and brain to such regulate gene expression and lessen the effect of bad toxins.
While a regular dose of no more than 150mcg per day is safe and comes with no side effects, doses of 2g per day or more can be dangerous. If you’re at risk of iodine efficiency, an iodine supplement will likely see some benefits – including improved mental performance and agility.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
This mushroom is commonly used in Eastern medicine and is widely acclaimed for its ability to enhance brain functioning and memory, while protecting and healing brain cells. This is because it contains two different nerve growth factors to stimulate the brain’s neurons.
In fact, it has proven in numerous clinical trials to improve mood and reduce anxiety and stress. One Japanese study with a group of 50-80 year olds with mild cognitive impairments, for example, saw those taking lion’s mane on a daily basis demonstrate strong improvements in cognitive functioning.
Often used in cooking, this fungus is protein-rich and is best taken at a dose of 500mg per day. With no side effects and strong clinical backing, we’d certainly recommend seeking out a nootropic with lion’s mane mushroom if you’re looking to improve memory, focus, mood or concentration.
Found throughout the body, phosphatidylserine plays a predominant role in the brain, supporting tasks essential to brain functioning and overall brain health, clarity and memory. It has the following benefits:
Improving communication between brain cells – by accelerating the inter-cellular communication process, PS enables memories and thoughts to be relayed quickly and easily.
Creating new brain cells – PS in an essential material in using process known as asneurogenesis, which regenerates the brain’s neutrons.
Clearing fogginess – PS supports the body to clear toxic dead brain cells before they spread to healthy cells – this helps prevent confusion and mental fog.
Energising memory function – PS has proven to support optimal mental performance by boosting the brain’s energy levels.
Best taken at 50mg per serve, phosphatidylserine has performed well in a number of scientific trials. A study where 18 athletes were given 400mg of phosphatidylserine per day for 14 days saw a 20% improvement in the speed of calculations and a 39% improvement in accuracy. It has also been used to treat ADHD in children.
When taken in excess of 300mg a day, some people have experienced stomach upset and insomnia, however when taken in sensible doses PS shows impressive effects on brain health across the board.
Vinpocetine is famous for its ability to support improved blood circulation to and around the brain, which has a host of benefits including more energy in the brain’s cells and a well-functioning metabolism. Even better, this ingredient is also a powerful antioxidant that helps lessen the effects of damaging toxins, or free radicals, and contains alkaloids known to support and improve mental performance and memory.
Taken from the vinca minor (periwinkle) plant, vinpocetine is recommended as an effective treatment for age-related memory decline, and has been used in this field for 20 years. One study where subjects were given 5mg of vinpocetine at various times during the day saw those that had taken the ingredient three times a day experience considerably greater blood flow to the brain.
In our opinion, any effective nootropic must include vinpocetine.
While vitamin B6 found in many foodstuffs like fruit, vegetable, nuts and meat, 50% of the vitamin’s potency is lost during cooking, so many people choose to take a supplements to top up.
Vitamin B6 is a fantastic all-rounder, and is clinically proven to help support improved cognitive function, memory and general brain health.
Taking between 1.5mg and 2.5mg per day can enhance sleep quality, soothe fatigues and headaches, support the healthy maintenance of the central neurosystem, boost energy levels and help recovery after exercise.
A natural nootropic scientifically formulated to support improved mental performance, CILTeP combines vitamin B6, artichoke extract, forskolin, L-phenylalanine and acetyl-L-carnitine, and employs the long term potentiation mechanism to maintain motivation and the concentration needed to recall facts and figures.
It works by inhibiting the production of phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE4), the enzyme that breaks down the caMP molecules that send messages across the brain. This leads to an increase in caMP levels, which means that not only is cognitive function better supported, by that memory and alertness are also given an extra boost. Oh, and it also stimulates the production of dopamine.
Our thoughts? While this formulation can deliver some family impressive results when it comes to supporting memory and the ability to learn, it’s not necessarily the most powerful ingredient out there.
This powerful natural substance, extracted from the leaves of the oldest tree on earth, has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes.
By promoting the production of ATP, the energy molecule that supports nerve transmission, ginko biloba has cemented itself as a powerful brain booster, and is scientifically proven to aid memory and concentration. It’s also a good source of flavanoids, which have an overall positive influence on the nervous system.
As a powerful antioxidant, ginko biloba can help protect the brain’s neutrons from stress by reducing inflammation caused by damaging free radicals, and also supports dilation of blood vessels to ensure blood supply to the brain. This is crucial for optimal brain function.
We would fully recommend seeking out a nootropic that contains Gingko Biloba.
L-theanine is commonly found in green tea and is renowned for its calming effects and ability to improve focus.
Clinically proven in over 75 studies to support improved creativity and focus and help the body cope with stress, L-theanine can significantly reduce anxiety and stress, and has even been used to help treat patients with schizophrenia.
It does this by stimulating the brain’s alpha waves to help reduce blood pressure and aid reaction, and by stimulating the brain to release greater amounts of dopamine and serotonin to enhance mood, focus, memory and ability to learn.
L-theanine is backed up by some serious clinical studies, with a trial held at the university of Shiga concluding that “l-theanine clearly has a pronounced effect on attention performance and reaction time response in normal healthy subjects prone to have high anxiety”.
What’s more, this wonder ingredient has also proven to help protect the brain from damage and even increase lifespan… phew!
A true nootropic champion, L-tyrosine is a natural amino acid that targets three of the brain’s most crucial neurotransmitters: dopamine, noradrenaline and norepinephrine. While powerful, these can be significantly diminished by various things like overwork, trauma and overstimulation, and L-tyrosine works to rebalance the levels of these compounds so we can better manage stressful situations better.
L-Tyrosine is also linked to easing the effects of fatigue and boosting concentration and focus at a dose of 150mcg, and is also thought to support libido and ease symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
But wait, there’s more – this compounds has been used to treat ADHS and addiction, is known to support mental edge in elite athletes, help soften the effects of ageing on the brain and improve the brain’s ability to learn and function efficiently.
The conclusion is clear – L-tyrosine is a must for anyone serious about boosting their brainpower.
A special agent that promotes wakefulness and alertness, modafinil is often administered as prescription medication to treat extreme sleep disorders like hypersomnia and narcolepsy, as well as a treatment for ADHD.
While it’s unknown how modafinil works to relieve the symptoms of fatigue, it’s widely believed that it naturally alters the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain. This mighty ingredient also works to improve overall brain functioning while targeting a range of area like learning, confidence, focus, concentration, mood and overall wellbeing.
That said, modafinil also comes with a lengthy list of potential side effects, so we recommended exercising caution. In fact, this nootropic should really only be taken if prescribed by a medical professional.
Some of the side effects linked to modafinil include high blood pressure, mania, irregular heartbeat, blurred vision, nausea, anxiety, headaches, muscle aches, trembling and gastrointestinal discomfort. It’s also a no-go for anyone suffering from mental illness, liver disease, renal dysfunction or cardiovascular disease, and can negatively interact with a range of prescription drugs.
Our verdict? we see modfinal as a bit of a last resort, and definitely recommend something safer and more natural – without a stack of potential side effects.
A combination of gaba and niacin, picamilon is often used to treat anxiety and stress, especially in Russia where it’s available on prescription.
This is because stress levels and anxiousness are linked to low levels of gaba, the neurotransmitter that supports relaxation and calms anxiety in the brain, and by combining gaba with niacin, picamilon has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier to tackle anxiety head-on. That said, this nootropic seems to work best on mild anxiety, with little effect on severe stress levels. There is also little clinical evidence to back up its anti-stress claims.
While there are no serious side effects associated with this drug, sleeplessness, nausea and headaches have all been mentioned by some users.
To be honest, We are not really sold on picamilon – while it may have some anti-stress effects, we do not think this is your best bet if you’re looking to boost memory and cognitive functioning.
Also known as a phytoalexin, pterostilbene is produced in plants, vegetables and fruits like grapes and blueberries. Renowned for its ability to fend off infections, pterostilbene also helps to generate calorie restriction and trigger improved memory. By mimicking the effects of calorie restriction, it has been proven in numerous clinical studies to support improved cognitive function and memory.
One study on rodents, for example, showed strong improvements in brain function and memory, while a second highlighted that brain cells in the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory increased their activity levels when experiencing calorie restriction.
While standard doses have yet to be determined, many experts agree that 500mcg is an effective dose. Oh, and there are no side effects connected to pterostilbene.
Our verdict? Pterostilbene has produced some seriously impressive results when it comes to general cognitive functioning and brain health – look for a nootropic with at least 500mcg for real results.
This herb, traditionally used in Chinese and Russian medicine as an energy boosting agent, stimulates the nervous system to combat fatigue and stress. It does this by boosting the levels of serotonin and dopamine already in the brain by inhibiting monoamine oxidase and supporting opioid peptides. It also contains stacks of protective antioxidants to help protect the brain from toxins and control stress.
With a minimum daily dose of 50mg, rhodiola rosea is commonly used by athletes to support improved performance and quicker recovery times. Even better, there are numerous studies backing up this ingredient’s ability to improve overall cognitive function and brain health.
One Russian study, for example, compared the effects of rhodiola rosea in males aged 19-21 to a placebo group when examining capacity for mental work. The test group showed a markedly greater ability to perform demanding work during times of stress and tiredness.
There are a few points to bear in mind – above average doses of this herb have been linked to symptoms including insomnia, irritability, restlessness and increased blood pressure.
Where do we start? Uridine is a potent brain booster that supports the brain in all manner of ways. It is found naturally in food like broccoli, yeast, tomatoes and sugar cane, and is also prevalent in many nootropic supplements.
Uridine supports a number of crucial brain functions concerning ribonucleic acid, which helps facilitate protein translation in neuronal synapses, and has been clinically proven to support memory formation and retention. Improved mood, intelligence, concentration and motivation levels are also proven benefits of this ingredient, with researchers also enthusiastic about uridine’s ability to slow the brain’s ageing process and potentially delay Alzheimer’s disease.
Uridine is also a precursor to dopamine production, the happy hormone responsible for feelings overall wellbeing, and converts into CDP choline in the brain to support a strong memory. We have to admit, we are pretty impressed with Uridine.
Recommended Nootropic Supplements In Australia
Many of these ingredients appear in natural nootropic supplements.
There are many different nootropic products available here in Australia… we have reviewed many of the popular ones and from our research have compiled our list of the nootropics that offer proven results, have positive users feedback and provide excellent customer service backed up by a manufacturers cash back guarantee..