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Ranking the best nootropics of 2023

Written by John Davis

Last updated: October 30, 2022

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Many deep thinkers, CEOs and people of mastery are taking nootropics, commonly known as smart drugs, for increased brain function.

(This is your ability to learn, focus, remember things, and solve complex problems)

From Joe Rogan to Tim Ferriss, smart drugs were being talked about years ago before recently hitting mainstream.

Nootropics work, but you’ve got to be careful. Since nootropics are such a hot topic right now, it can be hard to separate what’s legit and what’s whack.

Our research team looked at the scientific research in-depth to find the best nootropics on the market right now.

Why You Should Trust Us

    Our advisory panel and our research team rank the best health products and supplements based on performance, label accuracy, and the efficacy of the ingredients in the products.

At A Glance
our top picks for nootropics
  1. Best Overall: Mind Lab Pro
  2. Best for memory: Noocube
  3. Best for more energy: Neuro Focus +
  4. Nootrogen
  5. Performance Lab Mind

Rankings

Last updated: October 30, 2022
Nootropics considered: 25
Hours of research: 45
Experts reviewed: 8
Scientific papers referenced: 12

IMAGE PRODUCT
1. Mind Lab Pro
  • Helps for better focus, motivation, or cognitive capacity
  • Boosts energy metabolism, which can help you think quicker, and react to situations faster
  • Helps to avoid brain fog during periods of physical or mental fatigue
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2. Noocube
  • Designed to support and enhance focus, mental speed, and memory
  • Effective at improving cognitive function
  • Helps boost brain function, enables better communication, and improves your ability to multitask
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3. Neuro Focus +
  • Stacked with ingredients yet one of the cheapest in the market
  • Supports memory recall, improves mental focus, and supports overall cognitive function
  • Gluten-Free, Non-GMO, GMP certified and made inside an FDA-registered facility
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4. Nootrogen
  • Shown to help improve memory, increase focus, and lower stress
  • Has a medley of great vitamins and minerals that increase mental function and support brain health
  • A fantastic choice for anyone looking to give their brain a boost
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5. Performance Lab Mind
  • It is a cognitive enhancer that also acts to support brain health and enhance mental recovery from fatigue and stress
  • Boosts blood flow to the brain and increases brain energy
  • Helps you to focus more and think clearer during stressful moments, and improves your ability to learn
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6. Alpha Brain
  • Effective at boosting verbal skills
  • Have strong results from a clinical trial conducted at the Boston Center for Memory
  • Contains no caffeine, no gluten, and is paleo and keto-friendly
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7. NeuroIgnite
  • Contains high doses of several powerful nootropic supplements
  • The label tells you how much of each extract is in the supplement
  • It helps boosts mood and brain function
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8. Neura Spark
  • It’s a well-balanced, stimulant-free nootropic
  • Helps boost your performance at any cognitively challenging task
  • Increases your energy and mental performance
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9. Natural Stacks NeuroFuel
  • Includes unconventional nootropic compounds like artichoke extract and forskolin extract
  • Helps to stay focused, alert, and motivated
  • Non-GMO, no preservatives and artificial colors, and is Gluten-free
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10. TruBrain
  • Delivers amino acids, plus the tried and true caffeine, and magnesium to achieve its nootropic effects
  • Provides your brain with the natural building blocks it needs to function properly
  • Helps you to focus more and overcome mental blocks
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1. Mind Lab Pro

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Mind Lab Pro is one of the most exciting nootropics out on the market right now. It is not just a single nootropic; it’s a serious nootropic stack, combining 11 evidence-backed nootropics that are all known to work synergistically (meaning they help improve each other).

Mind Lab Pro promises to help boost energy metabolism, which can help you think quicker, react to situations faster, and avoid brain fog during periods of physical or mental fatigue.

One of the best supplements you can take to get “dialed in”.

Alpha XR’s 2023 nootropic winner.

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2. Noocube

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Noocube is one of the most exciting synergistic blends of nootropics that we’ve seen to-date. It is designed to support and enhance focus, mental speed, and memory… but it doesn’t stop there. It’s also effective at improving cognitive function.

Noocube is created from a powerful blend of vitamins, amino acids, and other essential ingredients, all designed to boost brain function, enable better communication, and improve your ability to multitask.

These ingredients include names like Alpha GPC, Huperzine A, Cat’s Claw, Bacopa, Oat Straw, L-Theanine, and L-Tyrosine.

3. Neuro Focus +

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Nuzena is a brand-new supplement company known for their potent formulas.

Neuro Focus + by Nuzena is shamelessly stacked and also one of the cheaper options on the list.

This formula includes several nootropic ingredients that we like.

Ingredients such as bacopa extract, glutamic acid, niacin, DMAE, and L-theanine all have reasonably well established scientific research backing them up.

In light of the ingredients, this formula seems as though it holds up well to Nuzena’s claims of supporting memory recall, improving mental focus, and supporting overall cognitive function.

Perhaps what we like even more about Nuzena is the lengths they go to ensure the quality of their ingredients. Neuro Focus + is gluten-free, non-GMO, GMP-certified, and made inside an FDA-registered facility.

4. Nootrogen

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Nootrogen is a powerful, research-backed, nootropic designed to optimize your cognitive function. It has been shown to improve memory, increase focus, and lower stress.

It achieves this with three powerful main ingredients:

  • Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) to increase the blood supply to your brain
  • Glutamic Acid to naturally increase your focus
  • Acetylcholine to increase reaction time and attention

It backs this trio up with a medley of great vitamins and minerals that increase mental function and support brain health, such as magnesium, vitamin B3, bacopa extract, and more.

Nootrogen is a fantastic choice for anyone looking to give their brain a boost.

5. Performance Lab Mind

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Performance Lab Mind is a cognitive enhancer that also acts to support brain health and enhance mental recovery from fatigue and stress.

It does this by boosting blood flow to the brain, increasing brain energy, helping you to focus more and think clearer during stressful moments, and improving your ability to learn.

There are four main ingredients contained within Mind: Citicoline, Phosphatidylserine, N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine (NALT), and Maritime Pine Bark Extract.

These offer a solid nootropic foundation which works very well either on its own or in combination with other supplements – such as the Multivitamin, Energy or Sleep – in the Performance Lab range.

6. Alpha Brain

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The widely-known nootropic supplement from Onnit, made famous in part thanks to Joe Rogan’s ringing endorsement, fares well thanks to the strong results from a clinical trial conducted at the Boston Center for Memory and published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal in 2016 (1).

Alpha Brain’s blend of supplements seems particularly effective at boosting verbal skills, so it’s great if you need to read or write a lot.

7. NeuroIgnite

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NeuroIgnite contains high doses of several powerful nootropic supplements, and moreover, the label actually tells you how much of each extract is in the supplement, unlike other companies who hide the specifics of their blend under the veil of a “proprietary blend.”

The heavy hitters in this blend are bacopa monnieri, DMAE, and ginkgo biloba, all heavily-researched supplements with evidence for nootropic effects.

8. Neura Spark

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Neura Spark goes heavy on the and ginkgo biloba, but includes some of the newer nootropic supplements like vinpocetine, bacopa monnieri, and huperzine-A as well.

It’s a well-balanced, stimulant-free nootropic that’s well-suited for boosting your performance at any cognitively challenging task.

9. Natural Stacks NeuroFuel

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NeuroFuel by Natural Stacks is a little unusual–it doesn’t follow the lead of the more popular nootropic supplements.

It chooses to include unconventional nootropic compounds like artichoke extract and forskolin extract (better known for its use as a weight loss supplement).

As you might guess, there’s far less research on the cognitive enhancement properties of these supplements, but if normal nootropics aren’t doing it for you, NeuroFuel might be worth a shot.

10. TruBrain

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TruBrain focuses on delivering amino acids, plus the tried and true caffeine (only 100 mg per shot) and magnesium to achieve its nootropic effects.

This approach is more about providing your brain with the natural building blocks it needs to function properly, versus trying to boost its function above its natural level.

If you want more of a tune up than an upgrade, TruBrain is a good choice.

Category winners

Best nootropic overall: Mind Lab Pro

Whether you need better focus, motivation, or cognitive capacity, Mind Lab Pro has you covered. With a careful selection of B-complex vitamins, neurotransmitters, and herbal extracts, Mind Lab Pro takes our top position. 

Best nootropic for more energy: Nuzena Neuro Focus +

Pulling an all-nighter, or getting up early to work? Nuzena Neuro Focus + gives you the boost you need with a potent mix of B-vitamins plus green tea extract, which naturally stimulates your brain while enhancing memory function at the same time. 

Best nootropic for memory: Noocube

Noocube is packed with ingredients that have been found to boost memory: bacopa, vinpocetine, and huperzine A, to name just a few. Its targeted approach makes it the perfect choice for tasks that require augmenting your memory.

Best nootropic for focus: Nuzena Neuro Focus +

Nuzena Neuro Focus + is our favorite nootropic for long sessions of work on projects, thanks to its use of ingredients like green tea extract, which tamps down on anxiety, and neurotransmitter boosters like huperzine A, which can help sustain cognitive function over multi-hour bouts of work.

Best nootropic for studying: Mind Lab Pro

For studying, you want an all-purpose nootropic that supports memory, focus, and (of course) learning. Our favorite on this front is Mind Lab Pro, due to its multi-domain cognition-boosting ingredients: bacopa for memory, lion’s mane for superior cognition, and rhodiola for a calm, focused state of mind. 

Best nootropic without caffeine: Noocube

While caffeine is a potent energy-booster, it can keep you up all night. If that’s not what you’re aiming for, give Noocube a shot—its blend of bacopa, theanine, huperzine, and other extracts is perfect for a stimulant-free boost to cognitive function.

Who should buy nootropics?

Nootropics are great for boosting cognitive abilities, especially in trying circumstances.

There are plenty of supplements out there that help sustain your cognitive abilities, ranging from acute agents like caffeine pills to long-term strategies to preserve cognitive function as you get older, like fish oil.

But with nootropics, the strategy isn’t just to maintain cognitive ability—it’s to enhance it. That’s why you’ll find these supplements in heavy use by people doing cognitively demanding tasks:

Students. Cramming for a test or staying up late finishing a paper requires a lot of working memory and high mental energy levels, so it’s no surprise nootropics–which can boost both–are popular among academics. 

Consultants and start-up employees. Managing multiple projects at once, functioning well under stress, and putting in long hours on difficult tasks are par for the course at start-ups and consulting firms. Nootropics are great in these settings, where you need your brain functioning at a high level for a long time. 

Writers and creatives. When creative work is your occupation, a clear mind is essential for producing quality work. Stress, anxiety, and low mental energy all harm your ability to write, edit, make art, or do other creative work, so nootropics are a natural choice for improving focus and steadying your nerves.

How we ranked

To formulate our nootropic rankings, we first pooled all of the supplements on the market that use a multi-ingredient strategy to improve cognitive function. We evaluated these with the following empirically-based criteria:

Multi-ingredient nootropic stacksWe ditched formulations that relied only or primarily on a single ingredient, as we have separate rankings pages and research articles for specific compounds like bacopa, St. John’s wort, or ginkgo biloba. A good nootropic should stack together benefits from multiple different compounds. 

Benefits beyond just caffeineWe also immediately scrapped anything that relied mostly on caffeine for its cognitive benefits. While caffeine is indeed a potent nootropic (hence the ubiquity of coffee at any serious workplace), you don’t want to bother with a fancy nootropic if the only or primary benefit is going to be from plain old caffeine.

Proven ingredients and proven formulations. Since nootropics are specifically geared towards tuning up cognitive abilities, we used whatever research was available to evaluate the potential cognitive ergogenic effect of either the supplement as a whole, or the combination of the different ingredients.

Some supplements, such as Alpha Brain, had actual research conducted on the precise formulation used in the supplement that supported its efficacy.

More often, though, only some of the ingredients used in a product had scientific research backing their use. In this case, we sifted through products to seek out combinations of ingredients that had complementary effects on cognitive ability.

Compounds that boost multiple domains of cognitive function. For example, we strove to find ingredient combinations that spanned multiple domains of cognitive function from memory and recall to verbal reasoning and spatial ability.

If a supplement didn’t have any ingredients with solid scientific evidence, we dropped it from further consideration.

Clean, high-quality supplement formulation. After narrowing the field only to those supplements with high-quality ingredient combinations, we applied our usual criteria for purity and clean supplement design.

This meant that products with excessive binders, fillers, or coloring agents got dropped, and supplements that were functional but minimal were rewarded.

Combining these criteria gave us our final rankings of the best nootropic supplements available on the market right now.

FAQ

Q: What is the most effective nootropic?

A: Effectiveness of a nootropic is hard to evaluate, because there are many different ways to measure cognitive function. From the research, we do know a few things, though:

If you want to improve reaction time and cognitive performance while sleep-deprived, caffeine is the way to go.

If you want long-term neuroprotective effects along with short term cognitive enhancement, green tea extract and fish oil appear to be effective ways to achieve that goal.

In contrast, if your goal is visual information procession, bacopa monnieri is a superior nootropic.

Barring future research that pits different ingredients or different formulations against each other head to head, relative comparisons like this across different domains of cognitive function are the best that you can do.

Q: Are nootropics safe?

A: Safety of nootropics as a broad category of supplements is hard to assess. So far, most nootropics do not appear to generate some of the side effects seen in some other categories of supplements, like weight loss pills, but any time you have multiple ingredients from a wide range of sources, there is some risk of side effects.

Q: Are nootropics addictive?

A: No reports have surfaced regarding nootropics displaying addictive properties–at least, not the kind of nootropics you’ll find in most over the counter supplements.

Oddly, the nootropics that are known to be addictive are also the most common and well-known. Nicotine is thought to be a mild nootropic, which accounts for its popularity among writers and artists. Of course, the addictive properties of nicotine are well-known.

Caffeine is also addictive, in that rapid reductions in intake can produce caffeine withdrawal, which can cause a headache, fatigue, and anxiety.

Aside from these examples, there aren’t any herbal extracts used as nootropics that are known to be addictive.

Q: What are some natural nootropics?

A: Some of the best natural nootropics include green tea extract, bacopa monnieri, and ashwagandha. These are all plant extracts, and have multiple studies that support their cognitive enhancement abilities.

While there’s an argument to be made that caffeine is one of the simplest and most reliable “natural” nootropics, fans of nootropic supplementation are generally looking for something beyond what you can get in a cup of coffee.

That’s why you’ll see nootropic enthusiasts choosing compounds like guarana for caffeine-like effects with a little more natural bent to the effects.

If staying within the confines of natural plant extracts doesn’t matter much to you, you can check out some of the more exotic nootropic agents like 5-HTP, tryptophan, or acetylcholine—these compounds are copies of neurotransmitters that function in your brain, and might offer benefits beyond what you could get from natural ingredients alone.

Q: What are nootropics made of?

A: Nootropic supplements are always a blend of many different ingredients, which themselves may have one or more chemical constituents.

For example, a nootropic supplement might use acetylcholine, which is a single molecule, alongside ashwagandha, which is an herbal extract with dozens or even hundreds of different, unique molecular compounds within the extract.

So, getting to the bottom of what’s in a nootropic can be tricky, because even looking at the ingredients list of a supplement won’t tell you the whole story.

A single ingredient, such as a plant or mushroom extract, could have many different ingredients.

This is one of the reasons why our research team prioritized supplements with research on the whole formulation, versus individual ingredients by themselves: you don’t always know which compounds or molecules are going to interact to enhance or inhibit each others’ effects.

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Recap

Nootropics are relative newcomers to the world of supplements, but there is good evidence emerging that a number of different supplements can positively affect your cognitive functioning.

Each nootropic compound seems to serve a slightly different purpose, so think about the cognitive demands in your life before you choose a nootropic supplement.

Once you know the kinds of problems you want to solve, make sure your supplement of choice has the right types of ingredients to support the benefits you’re looking for, whether these are mental energy levels, working memory, verbal skills, or performance under stress. 

With the right formulation, a nootropic supplement appear to be a safe and effective way to increase your brain power and help you work faster, smarter, and more effectively.

For Alpha XR’s #1 nootropic recommendation, click here.

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John Davis

John Davis is a Minneapolis-based health and fitness writer with over 7 years of experience researching the science of high performance athletics, long-term health, nutrition, and wellness. As a trained scientist, he digs deep into the medical, nutritional, and epidemiological literature to uncover the keys to healthy living through better nutrition.
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