Our understanding of mental health has changed drastically over the past decade, and consequently, so has our treatment. Whereas doctors used to often simply prescribe a pill and treat the symptoms, now many doctors are diving deeper and fixing the cause.
Rather than approaching medicine from a reactive standpoint, many doctors are now approaching it from a proactive standpoint. They’re trying to give the body everything it needs to naturally perform at a high level and feel good all the time.
Throughout this quest for improved treatment methods, a new branch of science has emerged regarding the study of nootropics. According to Wikipedia, nootropics are “drugs, supplements, and other substances that may improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals.”
…and while nootropics are certainly going to work best on healthy individuals, many claim they’ve helped them cure depression, anxiety, ADHD, and all manner of other ailments. So, with this in mind, here’s some insight into this new field of nootropics, and how you can use them to heal and self-optimize your brain.
What Are Nootropics?
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There’s generally two types of nootropics: those that passively give your brain and body what it needs to perform better, and those that aggressively change a neurotransmitter in your brain. We will be discussing both types and depending on the severity of your condition and what you’d like to improve upon, you may want to use a combination of both.
Passive nootropics would be things like L-Theanine, GABA, and NAC, which aid your body in performing its natural processes, and have a very mild, natural effect.
On the other hand, more aggressive nootropics would be things like Adderall to aid in motivation and focus, or Modafinil to drastically increase executive function. These are especially common in college students, business professionals, and Silicon Valley executives trying to gain an edge in what they do. [R]
The lowest hanging fruit would be the more passive and gentle nootropics, so it is recommended that you start experimenting with these to see how you feel and perform. None of them need a doctor’s prescription, so you can easily attain them via Amazon or your local health foods store, such as a GNC or Whole Foods.
Class 1 Nootropics (Natural)
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As I said, the first type of nootropics is the lowest hanging fruit. These are easy to obtain, easy to try out, and have very few if any negative side effects.
Most of these will not interact with any current medication you are taking, but it’s always best to consult with a medical professional before trying anything new out.
Here is a brief list of the best, most gentle nootropics:
Throughout this article we will be discussing each of these nootropics, and what type of ailment they can be used to treat.
Keep in mind as well that healthy people can use these nootropics to great effect, and many of them do.
Nootropics For Anxiety
If you’ve got anxiety, then I recommend taking some of the supplements listed down below. They’ve worked great in my experience.
They’re also all clinically tested, and if you get them from a good source, they’re pretty much guaranteed to help your anxiety.
L-Theanine is one of the main psychoactive compounds found in green tea and is extracted into capsule form for ease of consumption. According to studies, L-Theanine has been shown to lower anxiety, decrease blood pressure, and help with sleep. [R] [R]
The recommended dosage is 200mg, but there’s something else that’s interesting about L-Theanine. Unbeknownst to many, this powerful little nootropic can be paired with caffeine to help minimize the harmful effects that too much can cause.
Often times, frequent consumers of caffeine can experience heart palpitations, increased anxiety, and high blood pressure. Taking 200mg of L-Theanine per 100mg of caffeine consumed can help reduce these negative effects. [R]
I personally use this brand of L-Theanine and love it. It combines very well with stimulants, too—taking off the edge, but not so much that you don’t get the benefits of focus and motivation that come from stimulants.
Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, or GABA for short, is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in both humans and mammals alike. It is responsible for reducing neuronal excitability, which may sound like a bad thing, but can actually be quite useful.
Anxiety is often caused by too much neuronal activity, so taking some GABA can actually help reduce this, and consequently reduce anxiety. The recommended dosage is 500mg to start, ranging up to 1,500mg per day. It is recommended that you experiment with your own body chemistry to find a good regular dosage. [R]
I have been using this brand of GABA for years and love it. It makes a huge difference in my day-to-day levels of anxiety, and whenever I run out of it, I notice a very big difference in my daily anxiety levels.
Nootropics For Focus & Motivation
Now, onto the best nootropics for focus and motivation. If you’re struggling to get shit done, consider trying these out. They work very well.
Personally, I like using Gorilla Mind Smooth with other stimulants and nootropics, such as modafinil or Adderall for extra focus.
Ah, Caffeine – the choice of business executives and busy college students alike. The benefits of caffeine have long been known, and it isn’t hard to see why. Upon consuming just a single cup of coffee, one’s attention span, focus, mood, and energy levels are significantly boosted. [R]
When consuming caffeine, coffee and green tea are recommended. Coffee is filled with antioxidants and can easily be found on any street corner. Green tea has many antioxidants as well, but less caffeine than coffee. Choose wisely.
As I stated in my Gorilla Mind Review, this is quickly shaping up to be one of my favorite nootropics… and that’s saying a lot.
It’s got a great lineup of nootropics all in one, from caffeine to Alpha GPC, and from L-Theanine to L-Tyrosine, it’s got you covered.
All you need is just one pill per day, too. It’s strong stuff, and best of all, it’s far less expensive than other nootropics like Alpha Brain.
For Gorilla Mind Smooth, I buy it from the official website here. I know the owner as well (Derek) and he’s a very good guy. All of the formulas in his supplements are extremely carefully thought-out so you get a phenomenal product.
When many people think of creatine, the first thing that pops into their head is an image of some giant, jacked bodybuilder. While creatine certainly helps boost muscle strength and endurance though, it’s also a powerful nootropic.
When taken properly, creatine acts as an energy buffer in the brain, which helps your brain to perform under times of stress and intense workloads. In fact, a study conducted in 1999 found that creatine consumption increased brain creatine levels by an average of 8%. [R]
There have been many theories on when to take creatine, but the majority of individuals believe that 5 grams post-workout, with a high carbohydrate meal is the best for absorption.
For creatine, I usually get this brand. It’s dirty cheap and if you buy in bulk it works out to something like a penny or two a day. Not bad, huh?
Nootropics For Depression
Not only are these some of the best nootropics for depression, but they also help a lot with memory and overall brain health.
Best of all, they also have a ton of health benefits, too. Taking supplements like fish oil, vitamin D3, and L-Tyrosine have been shown to not only positively impact your physical health, but your mental health, as well.
Many scientists have been touting the benefits of fish oil for decades now, postulating that it reduces your risk of heart disease. Did you know, however, that it’s also a great nootropic to help improve the health of your brain?
When consuming fish oil, DHA and EPA are the two components to focus on. Both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may play roles in improving brain function. There also exists some evidence to suggest that fish oil could even potentially ward off early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. [R] [R]
For fish oil, this is a great brand. It’s relatively inexpensive and has high levels of DHA and EPA, which is important (all high quality fish oils have high levels of these).
In today’s civilized world, many individuals don’t get enough vitamin D from sunlight exposure, which is the cause of numerous ailments. Simply taking 4,000IU or more of vitamin D3 per day has been shown to have a whole host of mental and physical benefits.
For example, numerous studies have found that calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D in the brain, seems to affect the expression of NGF and GDNF. In other words, taking vitamin D could aid in repairing and building new neurons and synapses. In another study, participants were given 4,000IU of vitamin D each day for 18 weeks, and demonstrated significant improvements in nonverbal memory. [R] [R]
There still needs to be more research done for sure, but at the end of the day, the existing research strongly suggests that taking 4,000IU or more of vitamin D3 per day is a great way to nourish your brain cells and prevent any deterioration.
Personally, I take 10,000 IU of this brand of vitamin D each day and feel great. My bloodwork always shows I have phenomenal vitamin D levels, too.
Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid, and precursor to the major neurotransmitter dopamine, which is often depleted when individuals take Adderall. Even so, it can prove useful to individuals who aren’t taking Adderall, and simply want a sharp mental boost.
Evidence suggests that supplementing with 500-2,000mg per day can improve performance on working memory tasks, especially under stress. L-Tyrosine may also enhance creative thinking and motivation, but more evidence is needed to support these claims. [R]
Personally, I use this brand of L-Tyrosine. It helps a ton with motivation and overall mood, since it’s a precursor to dopamine (the motivation neurotransmitter).
Class 2 Nootropics (Best Overall)
As I said, the first type of nootropics was relatively gentle. You can take many of those supplements with minimal side effects, but they will also not really “pack a punch” in the same way that a Class 2 Nootropic would.
Here’s a list of the strongest, most powerful nootropics:
Remember that some of these are very powerful, and some may even require a doctor’s prescription to obtain. It is always best to run things by your psychiatrist or general healthcare practitioner first, to make sure they won’t interact with any other medications.
Nootropics For Focus
As I said before, Class 2 Nootropics are some of the best out there. They’re highly powerful though, so please do use with caution.
Out of all these, my favorite thing to do is stack Gorilla Mind Smooth with Modafinil, because they both work synergistically.
Modafinil is, perhaps, the “crown jewel” of all nootropics to date. Many have touted the benefits they feel when taking modafinil, and as previously stated, numerous high performing individuals (particularly in Silicon Valley) are taking modafinil regularly.
Modafinil is a pseudo-stimulant and “wakefulness-promoting agent” which many use to combat the detriments of sleep deprivation. A recent study also showed that modafinil could potentially enhance cognitive abilities in healthy, non-sleep deprived subjects. [R]
The best modafinil dosage is typically found to be 200mg, although beginners may want to start with less. Some individuals prefer doses as low as 50mg, while others often end up taking 200mg multiple times a day.
Others prefer to combine caffeine for a modafinil stack and find that the effects work quite nicely. This is not recommended to those new to stimulants however, as too many stimulants can often cause excessive anxiety and even heart palpitations.
Many individuals often worry over how to get prescribed modafinil, but simply bringing it up with your psychiatrist or general practitioner is the best option. Most doctors are willing to work with their patients if they believe a medication may significantly help them. Alternatively, if you’re looking to buy modafinil online, you can read my guide on that as well.
Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that although it’s a stimulant, modafinil does not seem to be addictive, which may ease any worried doctor’s mind about prescribing it. [R]
The term “nootropic” actually originally came from piracetam, which is one of the oldest and most researched drugs of the racetam family. While it is unclear how the mechanism of action works, most believe that it enhances membrane fluidity and mitochondrial function. [R]
Many users claim increased mental energy, focus, creativity, and memory when taking piracetam. In fact, a clinical study conducted in 1976 found that when taking piracetam consistently for 14 days, subjects showed significant increases in verbal learning. [R]
Many also suggest taking choline with piracetam, to minimize side effects. The recommended piracetam dosage is 1600mg three times a day, but users can reduce this to one or two if negative side effects are encountered.
Some report stomach pain and headaches, but most agree that taking 500mg of CDP-choline with piracetam is enough to minimize any side effects.
Whereas some prefer the wakefulness enhancing benefits of modafinil, others function best on a substance such as Adderall. There are certainly pros and cons, and the Modafinil vs. Adderall debate is one that will continue on for some time, but ultimately the reader will have to try each one and see which works best for his or her current situation.
Adderall works by changing the amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which is very typical of amphetamine-based prescriptions. Many find it to be more “intense” than Modafinil, and far more euphoric. [R]
Despite this, Adderall still retains a very high likelihood of being abused due to the euphoria that it creates. If one can take it responsibly however, and if given a doctor’s permission, it can work wonders for those with ADHD and ADD.
The typical dose of Adderall is quite wide, ranging from 10mg up to 60mg per day or more, depending on the severity of an individual’s condition. Again, you will have to consult with a healthcare practitioner and find which dosage works best for you. [R]
Nootropics For Anxiety
If you want to combine some of these Class 2 Nootropics with the more natural nootropics I listed earlier, I highly recommend it.
Many Class 2 Nootropics can be habit-forming, so I would recommend using them sparingly. That being said, they’re VERY effective!
There is an enormous amount of misinformation surrounding kratom, as it recently became popular among legislators to pass laws regarding it. Some have raised concerns to its addictive nature, while others claim that it is far less addictive than cigarettes, alcohol, or Adderall, which are all legal and readily available to the public. [R]
Mitragyna speciosa, more commonly known as kratom, is a tropical evergreen tree in the coffee family native to Southeast Asia. They have been used in traditional medicines for hundreds of years and are quite popular among the natives.
While more research needs to be conducted, an enormous body of anecdotal evidence is already piling up. Many have gone so far to say that kratom is one of the best supplements for anxiety that exists, and many often use it in times of severe stress.
Regardless, many writers and people in creative industries use kratom to help boost their creativity and help them work for long periods of time. A typical dose ranges from 3-5 grams, and is often re-dosed every 4 hours or so to maintain the effects.
Phenibut, which is sold under various brand names such as Noofen and Anifen, is a central nervous system depressant with anxiolytic and sedative effects. Originally developed in the 1960’s by the Soviet Union’s space program, it has now become a popular recreational solution to help cure anxiety. [R]
Many have compared the effects of Phenibut to Xanax, although contrary to Xanax, Phenibut is readily available to purchase online without a doctor’s prescription. Some have raised concerns over Phenibut’s addictive nature, while many users claim that the potential addiction symptoms of Phenibut can easily be avoided by simply taking it less frequently. [R] [R]
Regardless, a typical dose of Phenibut is between 750-1500mg per day, although users with a high tolerance may want to take more, and re-dose every few hours to maintain the high.
As a nootropic, Phenibut is used to mitigate the negative effects of stressful situations. Users suffering from social anxiety often claim that taking a little bit of Phenibut before socializing can help them tremendously in reducing anxiety, and thus produces a “snowball effect” in which they gain more confidence and can make new friends more easily. [R]
Final Thoughts on Nootropics
The world of nootropics is a very new one, and it is constantly being updated as new discoveries come to light. As such, as new research comes out, old beliefs may fade off into the sunset, and new ones may surface.
When trying nootropics for the first time, realize that none of them are a “cure all” for your ailments. In fact, many of them work well in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, which includes meditation, exercise, eating well, and having good connections with people.
It is recommended that you start off trying some of the Class 1 Nootropics, to avoid any sort of side effects and still gain many benefits. Once you’ve graduated on from these however, you may want to consider using some Class 2 Nootropics, with your doctor’s recommendation of course.
All in all, the field of nootropics is an exciting new area of study, and much more research is needed. We look forward to the next ten years, as medicine slowly begins to become more proactive rather than reactive, more holistic rather than myopic, and more natural, rather than unnatural.