Best Nootropic – 1 Unusual Perspective with 7 Must-Read Suggestions

I get it. You want the best. We seek the best everything. We want the best coffee, the best cell phone, the best girl / boyfriend, so why wouldn’t you want the best nootropic as well?

We live in a world where Yelp reviews help us get the best food. Instant delivery brings the best food directly to our home without us leaving. Would you like to have the best girl or boyfriend? Just keep swiping right on Tinder and you’ll find someone new to “try out”.

If you couldn’t tell, the search for the “best” within our culture has its downsides. Of course, there are upsides as well. Seeking the best of anything helps us to expect more from each other and it is basic human nature to help us to survive.

We will provide a list of different nootropics and detail why we chose them, but first we must dispel the myth of the best nootropic.

Each of us have a unique brain chemistry and we have different goals. The best nootropic for me might not be the same as somebody else and it might vary from day to day.

We will break down the best nootropic into different sections (i.e: how to get the best nootropic for learning, for focus etc.) with explanations for each.

What is the #1 Best Nootropic?

Less than a month ago, while lifting weights in my gym, a patron with whom I’ve never spoken walked up and told me “I think I saw you in a YouTube video about nootropics.” [1]

It was my first experience with any kind of “fame” and I felt flattered, but his next question taught me something:

He didn’t want just any nootropic, but he wanted the best. He practiced Muay Thai and had more hits to the head than I could imagine.

The #1 best nootropic is to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

This might look different for each person (and if you’re groaning, just skip to the next section), but getting the right amount of sleep, eating a healthful diet, and exercising is more important than anything else.

There is no nootropic drug or Limitless pill that is going to to fix a poor lifestyle. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on.

The Best Nootropic to Achieve Your Goals

Think back to a time in school or university when you had to learn a lot of material in a short period of time (i.e: cramming!) The smart drug most people desire for this purpose will be completely different than the nootropic required for data analysis, for example.

You want to find the best nootropic that allows you to achieve your goals.

Each person might have a different goal, which may vary from day to day. For example, some days I know exactly what needs to be completed so I take something for focus and concentration to do the thing.

Other times, I need to brainstorm an idea, which requires a different mental approach and thus a different nootropic. From the descriptions below (and what you already know about yourself), try to determine which of these is most important for you (and when). Bookmark this if you need to.

Best Nootropic for Memory and Learning Ability

Learning new skills and remembering facts is often related to a part of the brain called the cholinergic system. Within this system, the choline molecule gets broken down into acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) responsible for learning and memory.

For some people, memory and learning ability is either not a goal or remains at a higher level. If that’s the case, eat a few more eggs per week to avoid any shortage and you should be good to go.

Otherwise, the best nootropic for memory formation specifically is probably in the racetam family.

Piracetam and Choline – This is the most common combination of ingredients for a beginner who seeks improved memory and learning. Piracetam is a synthetic drug with 60+ years of research, which suggests it can help with verbal learning and provide an 8.6% memory boost [2].

By adding a choline source (preferably CDP choline or alpha GPC) some studies (and mostly anecdotes) suggest there are synergistic effects for learning and memory.

Aniracetam – Within the racetam family, piracetam is the oldest and grandfather, but aniracetam might be the more popular nootropic. It enters the bloodstream and acts rapidly, which creates a noticeable mental sensation in addition to the memory benefits. For some people who do not “feel” anything with piracetam, the next option is aniracetam.

Best Nootropic for Focus and Concentration

With tens of thousands of visitors to Nootropedia every month, we have received a lot of feedback about our audience and their goals. One of the most common objectives is focus and concentration. There are many focus supplements that we can use to our advantage.

Caffeine + L-theanine – For those completely new to nootropics, one of the best options to start is simply caffeine and L-theanine. It’s useful because most people have experience with caffeine already, but can get an “easy win” by simply adding L-theanine.

This prevents the anxious, jittery feeling that accompanies caffeine while at the same time increasing the stimulation and attention benefits [3].

Rhodiola Rosea – Some people choose to remain caffeine free, in which case rhodiola rosea may be a great focus tool. Not only is this a natural focus enhancer, but it can help to quit caffeine (or simply cycle the drug) as well.

Traditionally, rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb, meaning it can help your body to adapt to stress in your environment (such as cold). Some people might not experience focus benefits, but it is well worth the try.

Tyrosine – Another effective caffeine-free option is L-tyrosine, which helps to modulate a chemical called dopamine (most influences focus and concentration). We prefer to use N-acetyl-L-tyrosine (NALT) as it is the most effective focus and concentration tool within the tyrosine family.

Beta Hydroxybutyrate – This may not be stimulating on its own, but combine beta hydroxybutyrate (i.e: ketones) to a ketosis diet or even simple fasting and the results can be quite good.

An example that might benefit from BHB includes fasting for the morning (or drinking a butter coffee) and adding this supplement before eating any food.

Modafinil – We will touch on this in a section below, but modafinil is one of the most popular and famous nootropics. In fact, according to some, it was the drug that the exaggerated Limitless pill (NZT-48) was modeled after.

From Silicon Valley to Wall Street, executives are using modafinil to get an edge, but it isn’t only the focus and concentration benefits that have them so excited. Keep reading below and we’ll give you the full scoop.

Best Smart Drug for Anti-Aging and Longevity

While focus and learning are primary motivators for many young, healthy adults trying to get ahead, there are many who simply want to add years to their life. Whether at the end of life or a healthy adult, these will provide general cognitive benefits and neuroprotection that don’t necessarily come with a “feeling” as other drugs might.

Bacopa Monnieri – Traditional Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine includes many herbs and plants and bacopa is perhaps the most well-known. Due to the intense interest in bacopa, the Indian government studied the compound extensively so there is a lot of research to back this up.

When we interviewed Dr. Con Stough for the Brain Optimization Summit, he mentioned that it was one of the few drugs he gives to his entire family and takes himself given the ample evidence [4][5].

CoQ10 + PQQ – Using these two substances together is a powerful 1-2 punch for mitochondrial health. If you are not familiar, the mitochondria are a part of each cell in your body, responsible for producing energy to function. The healthier and more robust your mitochondria, the better.

When you combine CoQ10 and PQQ, it is providing the body with more of what already exists. Coenzyme Q10 is naturally occurring as is PQQ and a 2008 study in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition suggests the two work synergistically together [6].

Curcumin + Piperine – For the anti-aging crowd, turmeric is all the rage (whether you have heard of nootropics or not). Even though turmeric gets most of the credit in common health lore, the main benefit comes from curcumin. This specific extract can help reduce inflammation and even combats cancer and Alzheimer’s in some people [7].

The only problem with curcumin is the lack of bioavailability. One way to offset this is through the use of piperine, which is an extract from black pepper that helps with absorption for the maximum effect [8].

That being said, do not make the mistake of taking piperine daily or without recognizing the interactions that it may have with prescription drugs if you’re taking any.

Creativity vs. Focus: What’s the Difference?

In search of the best nootropic, many people believe they can “have it all”. They seek both creativity to produce great work and focus and concentration at the same time.

As Jesse Lawler (host of Smart Drug Smarts) pointed out in my last conversation with him, creativity and focus are two different things which often require separate (and different) approaches.

To gain more creativity, I usually use things within the racetam family (such as phenylpiracetam) and sometimes also lion’s mane mushroom. This allows me to write creatively and incorporate new ideas into my work. One of the hallmarks for creativity is increased working memory.

In contrast, focus and attention is something I desire when I know what must be done and use the extra boost to get the job completed. There isn’t a whole lot of creativity that comes with focus and attention drugs.

While there is a best nootropic for creativity and concentration, be aware that they are usually not the same thing. This is one exception to this rule we will discuss at the end.

Best Nootropic for Beginners

For those new to the world of nootropics and smart drugs, we have created a brief starting point. These include the best nootropic for beginners in each of the categories that we mentioned above. If this has been a lot (or too much) information, starting here might make it easier:

  • Caffeine + L-theanine (focus and concentration)
  • Piracetam + Choline (memory and learning)
  • Bacopa (general cognitive health)
  • Curcumin + piperine (antioxidant support)

The Most Famous Nootropic

Of course, no information about the best nootropic would be complete without modafinil. Given what we have discussed above, it would be incorrect to say modafinil is the best nootropic, but it has that common reputation for a few reasons.

Reason #1 – Modafinil provides intense focus and concentration, but via different mechanisms than something more dangerous (like Adderall). In fact, one study concluded that modafinil did not provide the feeling of “euphoria” and doesn’t have the same addiction potential as Adderall [9]

Reason #2 – Modafinil can increase working memory [10][11][12] in addition to benefits for focus and concentration. This is an interesting (and rare) combination, which creates an effect that encompasses both creativity and focus.

As we described earlier, creativity is largely influenced by working memory. The more concepts or ideas we can have in our brain, the better we are at creating variations and combinations of those concepts. In short, working memory often equals more creativity.

That obviously makes modafinil rare and is a useful nootropic compound with some novel effects. While we do not recommend a beginner use the drug, it’s important to find a safe vendor, which you can find here.

Reason #3 – Because modafinil has merits (see reason #1 and 2), it becomes popularized in the media and gains even more traction. This creates a cycle whereby people believe modafinil is the best nootropic.

Whichever option you choose, we hope you do so with care and keeping in mind that your brain is unique. What works for someone else may not work for you and being self-aware is the most important tool for getting started.

References (Click to Expand)
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Nootropedia is meant to be a resource for individuals researching drugs and supplements that are good for brain health, otherwise known as nootropics, and thus we are the Nootropics Encyclopedia. Because of our in-depth coverage of this topic, our community has requested that we cover other brain health topics and "lifehacks" so that has become the focus of Nootropedia.