6 Natural Nootropics You Should Know About

The word ‘nootropic’ isn’t really a household name. I’m not ashamed to admit that the first time I read the word in an email from a colleague a few years ago, I thought it was a spelling error. But they a going more and more mainstream, especially natural nootropics. So prepare to explore a whole new world of herbal wellness!

What are nootropics?

A nootropics are compounds which enhance brain function. By definition, they tend to enhance memory and the ability to learn, help the brain function under stressful conditions, and provide neuroprotective benefits that guard the brain against degeneration and disease. And most importantly, nootropics, by nature, must possess few or no side effects and be virtually non-toxic, when you use them in reasonable quantities.

While there are loads of synthetic nootropics, like Adderall, on the market, natural nootropics can be just as beneficial if taken properly. They can help you ditch consuming brain fog, improve memory, increase your capacity for learning, and protect your brain from the harmful effects of stress and degeneration.

Yes, we’re talking about the closest thing to natural smart drugs! Here are all natural nootropics you should know about.

Wild Korean ginseng root.

1. Panax Ginseng

Also known as Asian ginseng, this nootropic improves memory, focus, and mood. Ideal for calming anxiety, ginseng is one of the most popular, well-researched herbs in the world.

In fact, “panax” means “cure-all” in Greek.

Rich in antioxidants, Asian ginseng boosts energy production in the brain’s mitochondria while enhancing dopamine pathways throughout the brain, which paves the way for a calmer, more stable mood and greater mental endurance.

2. Bacopa Monnieri

Popular in Ayurvedic medicine, bacopa is also an adaptogen, meaning it helps your body better adapt to stress: a double whammy.

As a nootropic, it’s been well-documented and shown to improve both long-term and short-term memory, reduce anxiety, enhance focus, and give a general boost to cognitive performance. This herb is fat soluble, so it works best when blended with a little coconut oil.

You should also know that bacopa doesn’t work immediately. Research has shown that it can take up to four weeks of regular supplementation before you begin to feel its memory-enhancing effects.

Rhodiola rosea arctic flower close up view

3. Rhodiola Rosea

By increasing serotonin levels in the brain, this arctic herb is a powerful mood and memory enhancer. It is also known for improving memory, reasoning skills, and reaction times.

Another adaptogenic nootropic, rhodiola is popular in treating fatigue and mental burn-out, having been shown to reduce the moodiness, sleepiness, headache, irritability, indecisiveness, and lack of focus that often accompanies mental fatigue.

4. Ginkgo Biloba

Used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine, the leaves of the gingko tree are incredibly useful for improving cognition and managing anxiety. By beneficially increasing cerebral blood flow and naturally increasing dopamine levels, ginkgo leaf is well-known for boosting alertness, concentration, focus, and memory.

It also has powerful antioxidant properties, making it useful in supporting brain health and potentially slowing the onset of dementia and chronic disease.

Rare Lion's mane mushroom in a Dutch forest

5. Lion’s Mane Mushroom

A well-known medicinal ‘shroom, lion’s mane offers extensive improvements to cognitive function by tackling brain fog and forgetfulness head on. Buddhist monks even used lion’s mane to improve focus during long bouts of meditation.

Modern research has shown its potential in treating nerve damage in the brain by stimulating the release of nerve growth factor and promoting brain cell regeneration. Truly a restorative brain tonic, a small study also showed that it has therapeutic potential in treating anxiety and depression.

Plus, it’s packed with healthy nutrients that support overall well-being, making it a no-brainer nootropic!

6. Shade-Grown Green Tea

Finally, something familiar! The combination of caffeine and the amino acid L-theanine, both found in green tea, is a powerful one for the brain.

When enjoyed together, L-theanine counteracts the negative side effects of caffeine overstimulation while adding to its cognitive benefits. Together, they can improve focus, productivity and mood while reducing heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety levels.

In fact, they’ve actually been shown to improve alpha wave levels, which are a sign of healthy attention span and relaxation in the brain. Opt for shade-grown green tea leaves, as these tend to contain the highest concentrations of L-theanine.

What to Consider Before Taking Nootropics

Remember that nootropics are not a substitute for a healthy, balanced lifestyle. You still need a clean diet, quality rest, and regular physical movement to keep your brain functioning at its peak potential. But, when you need a creative burst of brain energy, it’s good to have these nourishing supplements on hand to ensure you’re performing your absolute best.

Always consult your doctor before adding any new herbs into your regimen. Some nootropics are incredibly powerful and can interfere with certain medications. Always seek the advice of a trusted professional.

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Images via Thinkstock.


Barbara S
Barbara Sabout a month ago


Andrey G
Andrey Gribnovabout a month ago

Interesting article. Many of these plants are very useful, but tasteless.
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Paulo R6 months ago


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Catrin S6 months ago

Always discuss taking supplements with your physician first.

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