Best Nootropics for Studying
Natural nootropic supplements are one of the easiest and safest ways to boost your academic performance this year.
The right nootropic stack will help you focus on what you’re studying, pay attention during class or a lecture, and provide all-day energy so you don’t crash.
The nootropics recommended in this post are ideally suited for studying. They’ll help you encode the material to memory. Then recall this knowledge during an important exam or test.
And a couple of the nootropics in this stack can even help reduce anxiety when you’re prepping for an exam or date.
Each nootropic featured in this post should be easy to find anywhere in the world. They’re legal in most countries and affordable.
The beauty of this stack is it’ll work for students of any age. Nootropics for anyone who needs better energy, memory, recall, and motivation.
But if you are under 18 years, please be careful with nootropics and especially the dosage. Always go with the lower end of dosage recommendations.
Nootropics typically are not recommended for anyone under 18 because your brain is still developing. And you don’t want to disrupt this natural process.
But in this hyper-competitive academic world and if you’re deciding between prescription stimulants/smart drugs or natural nootropics – your best and safest choice are natural nootropic supplements.
The right nootropic stack can be as effective as synthetic, prescription smart drugs. With the added bonus of being less expensive and safer.
Best Nootropics for School
Choose the right nootropics and you’re able to improve attention, focus, energy, mood and memory. All while supporting long-term brain health and function.
CDP-Choline is known for increasing cognition and brain function, improving concentration, focus and motivation, and reducing fatigue.
Recommended dosage of CDP-Choline is 250 mg twice a day.
- Gotu Kola – is often called the “student herb” in Bali because it sharpens the mind. It helps prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine in your brain. More acetylcholine helps boost cognition, concentration, learning, memory and mood.
Recommended dosage of Gotu Kola extract is up to 600 mg per day. Higher dosages should be divided into two or three smaller doses spaced a few hours apart.
- Bacopa Monnieri – was first made popular in Medhya Rasayana, India’s ancient Ayurvedic medical system. “Medhya” refers to the essence of intellect and retention. And Rasayana means the path of excellence.[i]
The bacosides A and B in Bacopa help improve signaling between brain neurons. Improving attention, recall, memory and focus. And studies show that Bacopa helps increase the speed of visual information processing, boosts learning rate and memory consolidation, and reduces anxiety.[ii]
Research at Banaras Hindu University in India showed Bacopa as effective for anxiety as the benzodiazepine drug lorazepam.[iii]
Recommended dosage of Bacopa Monnieri extract (45% bacosides) is 200 – 450 mg per day. Higher doses should be divided into smaller doses taken several hours apart.
Bacopa is fat-soluble and should be taken with a healthy fat for best absorption. My preferred healthy fat is a tablespoon of the new organic, non-GMO Performance Lab® MCT Oil.
- Caffeine used in moderation is a great nootropic for studying because it helps improve reaction time, alertness, memory and mood.
Adenosine levels rise during the day as a byproduct of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is produced by your mitochondria and used as cellular fuel. As an inhibitory neurotransmitter, increases in adenosine decreases your wakefulness state. Eventually leading to sleep.
Caffeine acts by blocking adenosine receptor subtypes A1 and A2A which in turn increases wakefulness. Instead of becoming sleepy, you are more alert.[iv]
This action on adenosine also influences acetylcholine, epinephrine, serotonin and boosts the use of dopamine. Providing the stimulant effect experienced when consuming caffeine.
When caffeine boosts norepinephrine and epinephrine it activates your adrenal glands which in turn release the stress hormone cortisol.
And the diuretic effects of caffeine consumption increase the excretion of water-soluble B-Vitamins. Which are required for neurotransmitter synthesis, myelin synthesis, gene expression and cellular metabolism.
According to the Mayo Clinic, 400 mg of caffeine per day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. About the amount of caffeine in four cups of regular brewed coffee.
But to counteract some of the side effects of using caffeine I recommend the next nootropic in this list for studying. L-Theanine + caffeine is a great natural stimulant nootropic stack.
- L-Theanine – an amino acid found in green tea increases GABA, serotonin, and dopamine levels in your brain. Producing an energizing and calming effect while improving learning and memory.
L-Theanine also boosts alpha and theta brain waves. Promoting alert relaxation and relief from the trauma of exams. You get calm, relaxed thinking without sedation.
One of the simplest and most effective study nootropic stacks is combining L-Theanine with caffeine. For the stimulant action provided by caffeine, balanced by the calming effects of L-Theanine.[v]
Recommended dosage of L-Theanine is 200 – 400 mg once or twice per day. A study conducted in the UK found that if stacking L-Theanine with caffeine, the most effective dosage was 50 mg caffeine + 100 mg L-Theanine.[vi]
Performance Lab® Stim – is the best pre-formulated caffeine + L-Theanine stack I’ve tried and use nearly every day. It contains Natural Caffeine (from Coffea Robusta seeds) 50 mg, L-Theanine (Suntheanine®) 100 mg, Ajipure® L-Tyrosine 250 mg, with a balanced NutriGenesis® B-Complex. For studying, this stack provides alert clean energy without the jitters.
NALT enhances working memory and executive function in the prefrontal cortex. It helps with creative flow states, is fuel for inspiration, cognitive flexibility, and the kind of “convergent thinking” you do in multiple choice exams.
Studies show the NALT can decrease blood pressure caused by the stress of exams. And could be used to mitigate the effects of stressful situations if taken prior to a stressful event an exam.[vii]
Recommended dosage for NALT is 500 mg twice per day.
None of the nootropics in this stack for school will work without the B-Vitamins.
For more on how vitamins are critical to your academic success and performance, see my post:
13 Vitamins Essential for the Optimized Brain
Nootropic studying stack
Each of the nootropics mentioned in this post are powerful on their own.
But when stacked and taken following the dosage recommendations can be a very effective method for excelling in school this year. Studying should be easier and exams less stressful to write.
This is your nootropic study stack:
- CDP-Choline (Citicoline)
- Gotu Kola
- Bacopa Monnieri
- L-Theanine (+caffeine) or Performance Lab® Stim
- N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine (NALT)
- bio-active B-Complex supplement
Use the links provided above for each of these nootropic supplements to see more on what they are, why we use them, clinical studies supporting their nootropic use, detailed dosage notes, side effects, and forms or types to buy.
Note that dosage recommendations in this post are for general use by any age. But if you are under 18, please use caution and go with the lowest recommended dose for each. For younger students you may want to cut that dosage in half again.
A good, safe way to get most of the study nootropics mentioned in this post is with Performance Lab® Stim stacked with Mind Lab Pro®.
Good luck with your studies this year. And please use the “Comments” section below if you have any questions or require clarification on anything.
David has been researching nootropics and brain optimization for over 10 years. When he's not writing about nootropics, he's travelling the world (45 countries so far), sailing, diving, studying neuroscience or sitting under an umbrella on Miami Beach. More…
The Best Nootropics for Studying
Most of us understand that a following a healthy lifestyle with a nutritious diet, a consistent sleep schedule, and getting enough exercise are all important to maintaining a healthy brain. The bad news is that while eating right, sleeping enough, and exercising is important, all of that work doesn’t really work to help improve test scores.
That’s why so many of us depend on products that deliver quick boosts of mental energy to help push us through the day. Energy drinks, caffeine pills, espresso shots- anything to give us a quick boost of intellectual stamina. Some students even turn to using prescription drugs such as Ritalin or Adderall to help improve their overall studying sessions.
While these brain-boosting products may give a quick boost in focus, concentration levels, and memory, the CDC has suggested long-term side effects are potentially dangerous to our overall health.
That’s where brain-healthy nootropics come in to save the day (and your brain).
Nootropics are supplements that give cognitive benefits to the brain. But, not any drug can be released on the market and automatically qualify as a nootropic. In order to qualify as a nootropic, the supplement has to meet five pieces of criteria. These five pieces of criteria were set by Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea’s, who is considered to be the father of nootropics.
According to Dr. Corneliu, in order to be considered a nootropic, a substance must:
- Help the brain function while experiencing disruptive conditions
- Enhance the ability to learn and the memory
- Increase the efficacy of neuronal firing control mechanisms
- Protect the brain from both physical and chemical attacks
- Contain minimal or no side effects, while also being non-toxic
How Exactly Do Nootropics Work?
Several scientific studies have shown several different ways that nootropics impact the brain and body, including:
- Boosting brain energy
- Altering neurotransmitter concentrations
- Improving neural support
- Reducing inflammation in the brain
- Encouraging blood flow to the brain
Okay, that’s great and all, but how exactly does that benefit me?
A nootropic works by utilizing one (or several) of the above mechanisms to create effects in the brain. In turn, you may notice:
- Magnified retention
- Eased comprehension
- Increased attention span
- Enhanced focused
- Refined brain energy
- Boosted mood
- Improved stress management
Still not exactly sure what nootropics could bring to your life? This video by Improvement Pill does an amazing job of explaining what nootropics are, how they can boost your brain function and a few of the best nootropics on the market.
As nootropics are becoming increasingly popular in today’s highly competitive society, it can be hard to sort through the thousands of options on the market to try to find a formula that works best for you.
Today, I’ve come up with a list of the seven best nootropics to help you crush your study sessions and work towards unlocking the true potential of your brain.
L-Theanine is an amino acid that is naturally found in tea but can also be taken in the form of a supplement.
The US National Library of Medicine has shown that taking 200 mg of L-Theanine produces a calming feeling without causing a feeling of tiredness.
What’s even more exciting about L-Theanine is that research has shown that this amino acid also helps to increase the alpha-waves in your brain, which actually have been linked to increased creativity!
So, if you’re looking to keep your cool while you’re working through a difficult exam, L-Theanine can help to keep you feeling calm and collected. Plus, the creativity-boosting properties of L-Theanine can even help you think outside of the box and aid in complex problem-solving!
This amino acid is used by your body in the production of protein.
While Creatine is especially popular in the bodybuilding world, not many people know that your brain binds Creatine with phosphate to create molecules that your brain quickly eats up to fuel its cells! Studies have proven that providing your body with quick and easy to use fuel for your brain cells has been proven to increase short-term memory, especially in people who are experiencing high stress levels.
Having a strong memory is important when you’re not worried about your education, but being able to depend on your memory while you’re in the middle of an exam is absolutely essential if you’re looking to excel in school. Creatine is a great studying tool that you can depend on if you’re looking to improve your memory without depending on prescription drugs!
3. Bacopa Monnieri
More commonly known as Bacopa, this aquatic herb first become popular in southeastern Asian countries.
Bacopa has antioxidant properties that help to improve cognitive function, while also providing your brain with an anti-anxiety effect by increasing the levels of serotonin on your brain.
So, not only does this nootropic boost your brain’s learning capabilities, but it even helps to calm your anxiety!
Serotonin in the happy hormone, so if you’re having a hard time dealing with mood swings caused by excessive stress levels thanks to studying, Bacopa may greatly impact your life. Not only will you notice a difference in the ease of understanding subjects, but you may even feel happier while you’re studying!
4. Panax Ginseng
Panax Ginseng has been used for thousands of years to improve the overall functioning of the brain. Panax Ginseng has powerful inflammation fighting effects, which not only helps to reduce brain fatigue but also helps to protect your brain from oxidative stress that helps to improve your overall brain function.
Excessive stress levels can cause fatigue, so if you’re interested in finding a way to work on fighting against the effects that stress has on your brain and body a Panax Ginseng nootropic is the way for you to go.
When you’re studying for your exams, sometimes having an improved memory just isn’t going to cut it. Finding a way to naturally de-stress can help to ease the burden of an upcoming test or exam. The Department of Pharmacology has shown that Ashwagandha powder helps to reduce the level of the cortisol hormone in your body, which helps to fight against inflammation in the brain.
The inflammation and stress-fighting properties of Ashwagandha powder is great to use as a studying tool to help relax before an upcoming test, but would also make a great nootropic to incorporate in your daily lifestyle if you struggle with stress management.
Did you know that your brain is actually made up of 60% fat, meaning that it’s made up more of fat than anything else? While you can find Omega-3s in fatty fish and nuts, the Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are essential fatty acids for proper brain development. Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation in the brain, which may help to boost your overall mood and even balance out your emotions!
Excess levels of inflammation in the brain and body have been linked to an increased lihood of developing anxiety or struggling to regulate stress levels. So, if you’re really your psyching yourself out before an exam and you’re looking to find a way to regulate your stress levels without feeling drowsy, an Omega-3 nootropic should be your first choice.
7. Lion’s Mane Mushroom
The lion’s mane mushroom has long been used a medicinal mushroom to boost the immune system. Recently, the brain-boosting benefits of the lion’s mane mushroom have come to light and are now one of the best nootropics on today’s market.
Lion’s mane mushroom encourages the production of nerve growth factor, which plays a huge role in the creation and survival of neurons. Plus, lion’s mane mushroom also helps to boost neurotransmitters, which help to improve memory retention, memory recalling, learning capabilities, and mood!
Don’t forget that a healthy diet and lifestyle still hold a lot of when it comes to the overall health of your brain. However, adding in a safe and legal cognitive enhancement to help boost your brain’s natural capabilities can be that extra push you’re looking for when you need to buckle down and focus.
Remember that at the end of the day, no drug is going to actually make you smarter. However, by picking one of the listed nootropics above, you have the potential to unlock brain power. Knock one of these selections off of your list. It’s up to
Mind Lab Pro® is the world's first Universal Nootropic™ – formulated to promote a healthy, peak-performing mindstate known as 100% Brainpower™
The 14 Best Nootropics and Smart Drugs Reviewed
Nootropics and smart drugs are natural or synthetic substances that can be taken to improve mental performance in healthy people.
They have gained popularity in today’s highly competitive society and are most often used to boost memory, focus, creativity, intelligence and motivation.
Here’s a look at the 14 best nootropics and how they enhance performance.
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Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world (1).
It’s naturally found in coffee, cocoa, tea, kola nuts and guarana and added to many sodas, energy drinks and medications. It can also be taken as a supplement, either on its own or in combination with other substances (2).
Caffeine works by blocking adenosine receptors in your brain, making you feel less tired (3).
A low to moderate caffeine intake of 40–300 mg increases your alertness and attention and decreases your reaction time. These doses are especially effective for people who are fatigued (4, 5, 6).
Summary Caffeine is a naturally occurring chemical that increases your alertness, improves your attention and reduces your reaction times.
L-theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in tea, but it can also be taken as a supplement (7).
Several studies have shown that taking 200 mg of L-theanine has a calming effect, without causing drowsiness (8, 9).
Taking even just 50 mg — the amount found in roughly two cups of brewed tea — has been found to increase alpha-waves in the brain, which are linked to creativity (9).
L-theanine is even more effective when taken with caffeine. For this reason, they’re often used together in performance-enhancing supplements. What’s more, they are both naturally found in tea (7, 10).
Summary L-theanine is an amino acid found in tea that can increase feelings of calmness and may be linked to increased creativity. Its effectiveness is even greater when combined with caffeine.
Creatine is an amino acid, which your body uses to make protein.
It’s a popular bodybuilding supplement that promotes muscle growth but is also beneficial for your brain.
After it’s consumed, creatine enters your brain where it binds with phosphate, creating a molecule that your brain uses to quickly fuel its cells (11).
This increased availability of energy for your brain cells is linked to improved short-term memory and reasoning skills, especially in vegetarians and highly stressed people (12, 13, 14).
Studies show that it’s safe to take 5 grams of creatine per day without any negative effects. Larger doses are also effective, but research on their long-term safety is unavailable (15).
Summary Creatine is an amino acid that can improve short-term memory and reasoning skills. It’s most effective in vegetarians and people who are stressed. Doses of 5 grams per day have been shown to be safe in the long term.
Bacopa monnieri is an ancient herb used in Ayurvedic medicine to enhance brain function.
Several studies have found that Bacopa monnieri supplements can speed up information processing in your brain, reduce reaction times and improve memory (16, 17, 18).
Bacopa monnieri contains active compounds called bacosides, which protect your brain from oxidative stress and improve signaling in your hippocampus, an area of your brain in which memories are processed (19).
The effects of Bacopa monnieri are not felt immediately. Therefore, doses of 300‒600 mg should be taken for several months for maximum benefit (20, 21).
Summary Bacopa monnieri is an herbal supplement that has been shown to improve memory and information processing when taken for several months.
Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogenic herb that helps your body handle stress more effectively.
Several studies have found that Rhodiola rosea supplements can improve mood and decrease feelings of burnout in both anxious and highly stressed individuals (22, 23).
Taking small daily doses of Rhodiola rosea has been shown to reduce mental fatigue and increase feelings of well-being in college students during stressful exam periods (24).
More research is needed to determine optimal dosing and better understand how the herb causes these effects.
Summary Rhodiola rosea is a natural herb that may help your body adapt to periods of high stress and reduce associated mental fatigue.
Panax ginseng root is an ancient medicinal plant used to boost brain function.
Taking a single dose of 200–400 mg of Panax ginseng has been shown to reduce brain fatigue and significantly improve performance on difficult tasks mental math problems (25, 26, 27).
However, it’s unclear how Panax ginseng boosts brain function. It may be due to its strong anti-inflammatory effects, which help protect your brain from oxidative stress and enhance its function (28).
Some longer-term studies have found that your body may adapt to ginseng, making it less effective after several months of use. Therefore, more research is needed on its long-term nootropic effects (29).
Summary Occasional doses of Panax ginseng may help improve mental function, but more research is needed on its long-term effectiveness.
Extracts from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree may also have positive effects on your brain.
Ginkgo biloba supplements have been shown to improve memory and mental processing in healthy older adults when taken daily for six weeks (30, 31, 32).
Taking Ginkgo biloba before a highly stressful task also reduces stress-related high blood pressure and decreases levels of cortisol, a type of stress hormone (33).
It’s hypothesized that some of these benefits may be due to increased blood flow to the brain after supplementing with Ginkgo biloba (34).
While these results are promising, not all studies have shown beneficial effects. More research is needed to better understand the potential benefits of Ginkgo biloba on your brain (35).
Summary Some research suggests that Ginkgo biloba can improve memory and mental processing and may be beneficial in stressful situations. Yet, more research is needed.
Nicotine is a naturally occurring chemical found in many plants, especially tobacco. It’s one of the compounds that make cigarettes so addictive.
It can also be consumed through nicotine gum or absorbed through your skin via a nicotine patch.
Studies show that nicotine can have nootropic effects, such as improved alertness and attention, especially in people with naturally poor attention spans (36, 37).
It has also been found to improve motor function. What’s more, chewing nicotine gum is linked to better handwriting speed and fluidity (38).
However, this substance can be addictive and is lethal in high doses, so caution is warranted (39).
Due to the risk of addiction, nicotine is not recommended. However, nicotine use is justified if you are trying to quit smoking.
Summary Nicotine is a naturally occurring chemical that boosts alertness, attention and motor functions. Nonetheless, it’s addictive and toxic in high doses.
Noopept is a synthetic smart drug that can be purchased as a supplement.
Un some of the natural nootropics, the effects of Noopept can be felt within minutes, rather than hours, days or weeks, and typically last for several hours (40, 41).
Animal studies have shown that Noopept speeds up how quickly the brain forms and retrieves memories by boosting levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a compound that promotes the growth of brain cells (42, 43, 44).
Human research has found that this smart drug helps people recover more quickly from brain injuries, but more studies are needed to understand how it might be used as a nootropic in healthy adults (45, 46).
Summary Noopept is a fast-acting, synthetic nootropic that may improve memory by increasing BDNF levels in your brain. However, more human-based research is needed.
Piracetam is another synthetic nootropic molecule that’s very similar to Noopept in structure and function.
It has been shown to improve memory in people with age-related mental decline but does not seem to have much benefit in healthy adults (47, 48).
During the 1970s, a few small, poorly designed studies suggested that piracetam may improve memory in healthy adults, but these findings have not been replicated (49, 50, 51).
Though piracetam is widely available and promoted as a smart drug, research on its effects is lacking.
Summary Piracetam is marketed as a nootropic supplement, but research supporting its effectiveness is lacking.
Phenotropil, also known as phenylpiracetam, is a synthetic smart drug that is widely available as an over-the-counter supplement.
It’s similar in structure to piracetam and Noopept and helps the brain recover from various injuries stroke, epilepsy and trauma (52, 53, 54).
One study in rats found that phenotropil slightly enhanced memory, but research to support its use as a smart drug in healthy adults is unavailable (55).
Summary Phenotropil is marketed as a smart drug, but research showing memory-enhancing benefits in healthy adults is unavailable.
Commonly sold under the brand name Provigil, modafinil is a prescription drug that is often used to treat narcolepsy, a condition that causes uncontrollable drowsiness (56).
Its stimulating effects are similar to those of amphetamines or cocaine. Yet, animal studies suggest it has a lower risk of dependence (57, 58).
Several studies have shown that modafinil significantly reduces feelings of fatigue and improves memory in sleep-deprived adults (59, 60, 61).
It also enhances executive functioning, or the ability to properly manage your time and resources to accomplish your goals (60).
While modafinil appears to have strong nootropic effects, it’s only available via prescription in most countries.
Even when prescribed, it’s important to use this drug responsibly to avoid negative side effects.
Though modafinil is generally considered non-addictive, instances of dependence and withdrawal have been reported at high dosages (62, 63).
Summary Modafinil is a prescription drug that can reduce drowsiness and improve brain function in healthy adults, particularly those who are sleep deprived. However, it should only be taken as prescribed.
Adderall is a prescription medication that contains highly stimulating amphetamines.
It’s most commonly prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, but it’s increasingly taken by healthy adults to improve attention and focus (64).
Adderall works by increasing the availability of the brain chemicals dopamine and noradrenaline within your prefrontal cortex, an area of your brain that controls working memory, attention and behavior (65).
The amphetamines found in Adderall make people feel more awake, attentive and optimistic. They also reduce appetite (66).
A review of 48 studies found that Adderall significantly improved people’s ability to control their behavior and enhanced short-term memory (67).
Depending on the dose and type of pill prescribed, the effects last up to 12 hours (68).
It’s important to note that these drugs are not without side effects.
Adderall is widely abused on college campuses, with some surveys indicating that up to 43% of students use stimulant drugs without a prescription (69).
The side effects of Adderall abuse include anxiety, low sex drive and sweating (70).
Recreational Adderall abuse can also cause more severe side effects, such as heart attack, especially when mixed with alcohol (71, 72, 73).
Evidence that Adderall enhances mental performance is strong, but it should only be taken as prescribed.
Summary Adderall is not available without a prescription but does appear to improve brain function in healthy adults and those with ADHD.
Ritalin is another prescription drug used to manage symptoms of ADHD and narcolepsy.
Adderall, it’s a stimulant and increases dopamine and noradrenaline concentrations in your brain. However, it does not contain amphetamines (74).
In healthy adults, Ritalin improves short-term memory, information-processing speed and attention (75, 76).
It’s typically well tolerated, but may have the opposite effect and impair thinking if an excessive dose is taken (77).
Adderall, Ritalin is widely abused, especially by people aged 18–25 (78).
The most common side effects of Ritalin include insomnia, stomach ache, headache and loss of appetite (79).
It can also cause hallucinations, psychosis, seizures, heart arrhythmias and high blood pressure, particularly when taken in high doses (79, 80, 81, 82).
Ritalin is a powerful stimulant that should only be taken as prescribed and monitored closely for abuse.
Summary Ritalin is a smart drug that enhances information processing, memory and attention. It’s only available with a prescription.
Nootropics and smart drugs refer to natural, synthetic and prescription substances that enhance mental function.
Prescription smart drugs, such as Adderall and Ritalin, have the strongest and most significant effects on memory and attention.
Synthetic nootropic supplements Noopept and piracetam are widely available, but research on their effectiveness in healthy adults is lacking.
Many natural nootropics are used in alternative medicine, but their effects are typically more subtle and slower acting. They’re sometimes taken in combination to boost their effectiveness.
The use of nootropics and smart drugs is on the rise in today’s society, but more research is needed to better understand their benefits.