The Ultimate Guide to Nootropics 2019

In this nootropics guide, we’re going to look at the benefits of nootropics, nootropic benefits, when not to use them, the difference between “smart drugs” and nootropics –as well as a series of nootropics stacks and how to take them.

So buckle up, put on a pot of Bullet Proof coffee, and get comfortable; this guide will tell you everything you need to know about nootropics in 2019.

What are Nootropics?

Nootropics are natural or synthetic substances that target specific cognitive processes associated with memory, attention, mood, and energy. They are often used to improve mental performance, but they’ve also been found to promote brain health and protect against age-related decline.

Due to the increasing demands on modern-day humans, high performing individuals, biohackers, athletes, and students have turned to nootropics to improve their daily performance.

Nootropics are still relatively new to the mainstream, and more scientific research has yet to be done to fully understand their benefits.

However, based on existing studies on nootropics and anecdotes from thousands of users, nootropics seem to show a lot of promise when it comes to improving and protecting brain health.

First Nootropic

The very first nootropic, Piracetam, was synthesized by Romanian psychologist Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea in 1964. Piracetam is a well-known cognitive enhancer that helps with conditions like epilepsy, depression, anxiety, post concussion syndrome, vertigo, dyslexia, and sickle cell anemia.

Due to its minimal side effects and toxicity, healthy people have also used it to boost mental performance. It wasn’t until eight years later that Dr. Giurgea coined the term nootropic to refer to this substance.

5 Characteristics of Nootropics

According to Dr. Giurgea, in order for something to be called a nootropic it would need to have these five characteristics:

  1. It should enhance learning and memory
  2. It should enhance the resistance of learned behaviours/memories to disruptors like electroconvulsive shock, hypoxia
  3. It should protect the brain against chemical or physical injuries caused by disruptors like barbiturates, scopalamine
  4. It should increase  the efficacy of tonic cortical/subcortical control mechanisms
  5. It should lack the usual pharmacology of other psychotropic drugs and have very few side effects and extremely low toxicity

In 2019 we have a range of nootropics that work in various ways to target certain cognitive processes.

Some nootropics are designed to boost blood flow to the brain while others are aimed at protecting the brain from degeneration. Other nootropics act as a precursor to the formation of brain chemicals like tyrosine, acetylcholine,  serotonin, dopamine, and GABA.

Sufficient regulation of these chemicals allow you to perform optimally as you feel motivated, focused, energized, and less stressed out. And these benefits are making nootropics increasingly popular.

You can change and modify your nootropic dosage based on your needs; everyone has a different physiology and what may work for one person may not work for the other.

As a biohacker, your mission may be to find the best nootropic and nootropic combinations that work best with your unique mental health and needs. But before we get into “brain hacking”, let’s first take a look at the motivations behind people who are already using it.

Benefits of Nootropics

Going back into history, it’s easy to understand why people don’t hesitate to use nootropics. They provide the cognitive benefits that everyone wants without the negative side effects.

If you experience any, you can reduce the dosage or remove it from your routine, then move on to the next nootropic. The benefits outlined below will explain why people opt to take nootropics.

1. Nootropics help improve focus

A few years ago, it was found that the average human being’s attention span is equal to that of an ill-focused goldfish (thanks technology!). But with the help of nootropics, you can outlast the average and stay focused for longer, ignoring distractions that’s keeping you from achieving your goals.

Focus is especially important when you’re running on a tight schedule. Get into that blissful flow state and get your most essential tasks done in just a short amount of time. In an age where attention is a valuable currency, nootropics can definitely make you rich!

2. Nootropics boost your energy

Certain tasks will require hours and hours of your attention. And investing all that brain power on a single task can take a toll on your energy. Nootropics give you a boost in energy the same way caffeine does. The only difference is that you won’t feel the crash later on. When you have sufficient energy, you’re able to stay focused for longer and last through the day.

If you feel tired from not getting enough sleep the previous night, you’ll probably have a hard time concentrating because you’re irritable, groggy, and anxious. You can supplement that lack of energy with nootropics so you’re able to push through the day and still get a lot done.

3. Nootropics make you feel relaxed

Nootropics can help you feel less stressed, less anxious, and less depressed. This is because certain nootropics possess calming properties that push aside distracting stressors. Sometimes, we fail to bring our best in the present moment because we are too worried about the outcome. If you have an upcoming exam, presentation, or meeting, nootropics can help you ace those important events. It makes you feel calm, relaxed, and focused on the present task rather than get distracted.

4. Nootropics help with memory

Most people have average memory. We forget little details here and there. But it’s these little details that can lead you to fail massively. To perform at an optimal level, your memory needs to stay sharp. Nootropics is great for that; it not only helps you retain memory for the short term but also long-term. People with memory problems often turn to nootropics. It allows them to retain new memory for longer and recall old ones faster.

5. Nootropics improve your sleep

Lack of energy from not catching enough shuteye leads you to feeling unfocused, irritable, and prone to anxiety. By taking nootropics, you get that boost of energy during the day and feel relaxed at night making it easier to fall asleep. It doesn’t lead to a crash which is often the reason why you’re more likely to grab another cup of coffee later in the day, resulting in insomnia, sleep’s worst enemy.

Forget sleeping pills. Not only are they unhelpful for memory consolidation during sleep, they also inhibit certain neurotransmitters responsible for optimal brain function. People who have trouble sleeping can rely on nootropics to help reduce stress, improve mood, and regulate the body’s central clock.

If you have sleep problems, are trying to quit coffee, or you easily get hyper with just one cup, consider adding nootropics to your routine. Certain variants can even lessen nightmares. They’re a terrible way to start the day because instead of focusing on work, memories of that bad dream often linger on your head.

6. Nootropics can improve productivity

The benefits of nootropics eventually result in better productivity. When you’re feeling determined, calm, and focused, it’s easier to accomplish all the tasks for the day.

7. Nootropics help with cognitive health

Just as the bodybuilders need protein to build muscle, our brain also needs the right food so it can reach its optimal state. Unfortunately, the environment we currently live with do not support that. We have poor food quality, pollution, sedentary lifestyles, and rapid stimuli from technology that contribute to poor cognitive skills.

Nootropics can help solve that problem since it’s known to promote brain health. We’re not just talking short-term here but long-lasting positive results. Nootropics protect the brain’s neurons from damage caused by toxins and aging. It does this by stimulating the neurons and increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain. Individuals who suffer from brain-related sickness can also benefit from nootropics, preventing the condition from getting worse, and in some cases, even reducing their symptoms.

What Nootropics Should Not Be Used For

Nootropics are also sometimes used to compensate for lack of sleep, exercise, or poor diet –and that’s a recipe for a health disaster.

Lack of sleep and poor diet contribute to low energy and poor mental clarity, so what biohackers sometimes do is take nootropics in order to continue performing well during the day. In essence, they’re burning the candle at both ends, which can have dire consequences.

Nootropics work best when they are taken in combination with a healthy set of habits such as getting sufficient sleep, eating clean, and exercising regularly.

The Difference Between Nootropics and Smart Drugs

Nootropics and smart drugs are often used interchangeably. Yes, they both enhance mental performance but an important distinction must be made between the two. Here are the main differences between smart drugs and nootropics:

  1. Smart drugs are stimulants; nootropics are not.
  2. Smart drugs cause long-lasting negative impact; nootropics do not.
  3. Smart drugs are prescribed pharmaceutical substances; nootropics are supplements that don’t require a prescription.
  4. Smart drugs can lead to addiction; nootropics do not.
  5. Smart drugs don’t meet Dr. Giurgea’s five criteria for nootropics.

Smart drugs were originally intended to use for treating conditions like ADHD but it wasn’t long before the mainstream took notice and began using them as performance enhancers. The most popular ones include Adderall, Ritalin, and Modafinil.

Smart Drugs and Their Side Effects

The main problem with any smart drug is their potential for nasty side effects.

Smart drugs may cause irritability, restlessness, chest pain, hallucinations, heart palpitations, and sleep problems.

Over time, smart drugs can also be addictive –anything that causes a spike in dopamine and norepinephrine, two of your brain’s very crucial neurotransmitters, can potentially lead to dependence on the drug.

Smart drugs also have more red tape to cross through in order for one to get their hands on them.

To the contrary, nootropics are easy to acquire since they’re non-prescription substances and not regulated by the FDA. However, what makes them better than smart drugs is the fact that they are made with a combination of herbs, vitamins, and natural or synthetic compounds.

Nootropics have a very low toxicity –much lower than even caffeine or salt. People who use nootropics do not experience neurotransmitter depletion, tolerance, or impaired brain function.

Now that we’ve got that cleared up, let’s talk about what nootropics you can get started with.

Getting Started with Nootropics

The nootropics ecosystem is massive.

It’s easy to get lost in the options provided by the market. However, the task of choosing the right one doesn’t have to be scary. You can start by getting familiar with the most popular nootropics.

Generic Nootropic Health Supplements

Here is a number of generic nootropic health supplements you may not have known were actually nootropics.

Each compound deserves a giant post of its own, so bookmark this website and come back often. In the meantime, here’s a quick description of how each one affects the brain to improve mental performance.

Later in this nootropic guide I’ll discuss more specialized proprietary nootropic blends.


This nootropic increases blood flow to the brain, modulates neurotransmitter activity, and increases acetylcholine activity. It’s a well-researched supplement that has proven its brain boosting benefits for over 50 years.


Caffeine is the most popular nootropic in the world. You can feel the cognitive enhancing benefits of caffeine just by drinking up a cup of coffee. Coffee blocks adenosine receptors in the brain helping you to to feel more alert and energized.


L-Theanine is an amino acid that makes you feel calm and relaxed without the sedation. It inhibits brain impulses that’s causing you to feel anxious or stressed.


Creatine is another amino acid that increases energy availability in your brain. When you’re lacking sleep, you can take creatine for that energy boost you need to tackle difficult mental tasks.

Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa monnieri is an herb native to India known for improving cognitive function. It helps regulate acetylcholine in the brain which is a neurotransmitter associated with memory and attention.

Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha lipoic acid is a chemical that has antioxidant properties to protect the brain cells from damage. It also stimulates the production of acetylcholine which is the neurotransmitter that supports neuroplasticity and long-term memory.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Lion’s mane mushroom possess active components called erinacines and hericenones which stimulate the nerve growth factor in the brain. The nerve growth factor or NGF is an essential protein that promotes the growth of neurons. Healthy neurons means better brain health.

Huperzine A

Huperzine A is an alkaloid which can help prevent oxidative damage caused by free radicals in the brain. It also effectively improves memory by inhibiting the production of G4 isoform which is an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters like acetylcholine.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola rosea is a Eurasian herb that can enhance your mental performance dramatically. It has the ability to increase levels of important neurotransmitters associated with mood, pleasure, motivation, and energy by modulating a variety of signaling pathways in the brain.


Commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha possesses active substances that promote the formation of dendrites. The enhanced connectivity in the brain allows for better cognition. It also acts as an antioxidant which fights oxidizing agents that affect the brain.

These are some of the more generic, standalone nootropics which you can easily find in just about any supermarket, pharmacy, or even Amazon.

I have articles on some of the nootropics above which you can read for yourself, and I encourage you to look into other sources for a broad perspective.

In the next segment of this guide to nootropics, let’s look at stacking and which proprietary blends –which are simply a nootropic stack in one supplement– are leading the way in natural nootropic stacking.

Nootropic Stacks

Human beings each have unique challenges and needs that vary from one another. With that said, one nootropic will not have the same effect on everyone.

For this, you’ll need to experiment with different kinds of nootropics and consider stacking them to gain the best cognitive benefit.

Nootropic stacking is the act of combining two or more nootropics which can have a dramatic effect on your mental performance.

The ever-expanding range of nootropics available allows you to pick ones that best suit your needs. You can create one specific to your needs whether it’s for improving your energy levels, memory, motivation, or attention.

There is no one set rule for stacking nootropics, however the company Mind Lab Pro has come up with their own best practices for doing so.

These are the three strategies to follow when stacking nootropics:

1. Synergy

Nootropic ingredients should enhance each other’s effects not counteract them.

2. Multiplication

The effects of the nootropic stack should target multiple diverse biopathways.

3. Complementation

Nootropic stacks should have the ability to neutralize each other’s negative side effects without diminishing the cognitive benefits.

Pros and Cons of Preformulated Stacks

It’s common among biohackers to stack nootropics because the right combination can improve its absorption, potency, and decrease unwanted side effects.

Understanding the science of cognitive enhancement, its processes, and the mechanism of each nootropic will allow you to create a stack that’s really effective.

Nootropic stacks can be preformulated or custom made into a single supplement. There’s already a number of brands that have come out with their own preformulated nootropic stack such as Qualia, Mind Lab Pro, and Natural Stacks.

The companies behind these stacks have performed all the heavy lifting to ensure that the ingredients used are pure, potent, and safe to use. This is great because you don’t have to combine several dozen compounds yourself because it’s already done by the company.

However, on the flip side of that coin –you’ll have no control over the dosage of each substance which means you can’t experiment with individual nootropics.

Preformulated nootropics are a little pricier because you’re not just paying for the ingredients –you’re also paying for the research and development that went into them.

Pro Tip: It’s important that you get your nootropic stacks only from reputable brands to avoid negative side effects, shopping for nootropic stacks on price alone is not advised.

If you prefer to go the DIY route, you have to do your own research and understand each ingredient –however, this doesn’t guarantee there will be no side effects you don’t like.

The main challenge with custom stacks is determining which combinations to make. There’s so many potential combinations out there, you can literally get stuck with the sea of options.

If you are just starting out, these are the popular combinations you can get started with.

  • Energy boost without the jittery feeling: Caffeine + L-theanine
  • Tackling mentally challenging tasks: Vinpocetine + Huperzine A
  • Intense focus: Ginkgo biloba + L-theanine
  • Better sleep: Valerian root + Melatonin
  • Treating anxiety and depression: Ashwagandha + St. John’s Wort
  • Mood boost: L-theanine + Vitamin B6
  • Better reasoning and learning: Noopept + Choline
  • All-natural cognitive boost: Ginkgo biloba + Bacopa Monnieri + Lion’s Mane
  • Enhanced focus and memory without the headache: Piracetam + Choline

When creating your custom nootropic stack, make sure to check the dosages of each nootropic substance and adjust accordingly.

Once you get familiar with the basics, you can move towards creating a more complex stack that targets your very specific needs.

Everyone’s brain works differently, so there is plenty of room for experimentation.

Don’t be afraid to change up your stack once in awhile. You will never know what works best until you try it, and there’s always new nootropic substances appearing on the market.

Once you become familiar with these compounds you can move towards studying other nootropic compounds that can potentially enhance the effects of your existing stack.

If you’ve decided to stick with preformulated stacks, these are the popular brands you should try.

1. Qualia Mind

Qualia Mind consists of more than 20 substances that are beneficial for the brain. It’s dubbed as an all-in-one nootropic stack able to enhance clarity, focus, and fluidity. Problem with procrastination? You can beat it with Qualia Mind.

Its effects last up to 6 hours with a single dose.

2. Alpha Brain

Alpha Brain is another popular nootropic stack used by high performers. It prides itself in having zero traces of stimulants which can lead unwanted side effects such as anxiety and jitteriness.

Alpha Brain boosts energy, focus, and mental acuity. If you have social anxiety, Alpha Brain might just be what you need to get over that nervousness. It helps you feel calm and relaxed able to respond to stimuli when required.

Some of its ingredients include powerful nootropics like bacopa monnieri, huperzia, and L-Tyrosine.


CILTEP stands for chemically-induced long-term potentiation. Also a popular choice among biohackers, CILTEP helps strengthen your neural synapses so you’re able to mentally function at an optimal level.

It also stimulates the hippocampus to help you remember new information better. It possesses potent ingredients such as Forskolin, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, and Vitamin B6.

4. Mind Lab Pro

Mind Lab Pro is also a highly advanced nootropic that doesn’t just help with short-term mental performance but also long-term cognitive health. It contains ingredients such as Phosphatidylserine, Tyrosine, Rhodiola Rosea, and Maritime Pine Bark which can help with memory and cognition.

Tips for Taking Nootropics

1. Do your homework

This is the most important thing to do before taking nootropics. Research. Nootropics are still new in the market and there’s yet to be extensive research done on them. At the moment, you can read through existing studies and people’s experiences on nootropics. You only have one brain so best to dig as much information as you can before jumping on a new nootropic.

Study the ingredients on the label. Are these really in the product? Get to know the company supplying the nootropic. Are they trustworthy and reliable? At the very least, they should have certification from well-known third-party organizations like US Pharmacopeia, NSF International, Labdoor, and Consumer Lab. These organizations perform lab tests on products and check for quality, potency, and toxicity.

Read through forums, learn from other people’s experiences. There is a forum on Reddit specifically for nootropic users. Here, brain hackers get updated of the latest research, get feedback from their peers, and have a peek at other people’s experience with certain nootropics. The internet is rich with information that can help you make an informed conclusion.

A word about fake nootropics:

Because nootropics have become so popular, scammers have gotten on board and created their own low-quality versions. Be wary of fake nootropics and buy only from reputable brands who have a track record of delivering quality products. Order them directly from the company’s website or from the brand’s registered page on Amazon.

2. Cycle your nootropics

Nootropics are not really addictive but they can result in habit forming dependency. You shouldn’t be taking them everyday but only on days when you need that brain boost the most. For example, if your most important tasks have to be done by Monday until Wednesday, you can take nootropics only on those days and skip them for the rest of the week.

Give your brain and body a break by cycling them. A good indicator that you should abstain temporarily is if the nootropic is becoming increasingly less effective. Go for as long as one week to a month before taking it again.

3. Monitor yourself

Keep track of how each nootropic makes you feel. In some cases, you won’t feel any noticeable difference until you’ve taken it for weeks, or even months! Yes, certain nootropics do take that long to build up before you can feel the effects. But then those are the ones you want to avoid. Instead, only go for nootropics that are  known to be potent and fast acting.

Make note of what nootropic you take, when you took it, the dosage, and how it affected you. This allows you to make changes and adjustments to your routine. Make it a habit to do this especially if you’re moving towards taking nootropic stacks. You might find that a certain dosage of one nootropic is too much so you need to tone it down. Other times, you may feel that the effect is starting to diminish so it’s a sign that you need to cycle it out. Each person is different. With personal monitoring, you’ll be able to tweak your dosage until you achieve optimal results.

4. Start with low doses

When it comes to nootropics, beginners often make these two mistakes: Taking higher doses and taking multiple nootropics at once. For worry that the nootropic might not be working, inexperienced users take more than the recommended amount. And the results aren’t always as great.  Be patient and start with a lower dose and see how your body reacts. Do this several times before deciding to increase your dose or adding another nootropic to the mix.

5. Be critical

If something does not clearly work for you, ditch it and try the next best nootropic you can find. Also, if you feel high, wired, or sedated, you may not be taking genuine nootropics but some variation of a smart drug or recreational drug. Real nootropics have an initial phase where you won’t feel the effects immediately but after a few days, you should feel the effects much more quickly.

6. Talk to your doctor

Talk to your doctor before taking any nootropic. Certain people are not advised to take nootropics such as those taking strong medications or have psychological issues.

Closing Thoughts

We have just scraped the surface here. I hope this guide has helped jumpstart your knowledge about nootropics and nootropic stacking.

Your mission now is to go out there and do as much research to answer whatever question you may have had in your head while reading this guide.

Only by doing so will you be able to come up with an informed decision about which nootropic is best for you.

What’s worked for you? Let everyone know in the comments and thanks for reading.