So what are the best supplements for cognition?
The truth is, opinions vary widely on this topic. There are individual nootropics that benefit brain health, performance, and how you feel.
Depending on which area of cognitive ability you consider to be the most important, you might favor one type of nootropic over several others.
While I’m explaining what my favorite individual nootropic compounds do, I’ll tell you why I think they’re important.
Then you can sort them in your head, and decide if they can help you.
But before we start matching your needs to specific enhancements, let’s cover some basics first…
How are nootropics used? What are your options?
What are Nootropic Stacks?
First of all, it’s important to know that nootropics are rarely taken in isolation.
They’re usually taken together in what’s called a ‘nootropic stack’, the idea being that each ingredient can support or enhance the effects of the others.
Aristotle once said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its’ parts.”.
Putting it another way, it’s kind of like when you make a sandwich with all of your favorite goodies; a few slices of salami, some cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, you get the idea.
Doesn’t a sandwich ‘stacked’ with all of the best ingredients taste way more amazing than a couple of slices of bread and some meat?
You bet it does!
Well, in a similar manner, there are a number of companies trying to put together the perfect “magic formula” to optimize human performance.
But instead of trying to create a yummier sandwich, they’re trying to create the most effective nootropic stack.
Top 10 Solo Nootropics
So which nootropics are the best?
What compounds are backed by clinical research?
You might be surprised to find that some of the items on this list are very common. Others are more rare, and require a bit of an introduction.
In any case, I have included a brief description of the benefits of each of these nootropics to give you an idea as to how they might help you.
- Bacopa Monnieri – Best known to improve working memory, and to provide stress resistance. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that protects brain tissue from free radical damage. Bacopa enhances cognitive function by acting as a reuptake inhibitor for acetylcholine, and encouraging serotonin production in the brain.
- Choline – There are a few different forms of choline used in supplements. The best type for improving cognition is CDP Choline, which is also known as Citicholine; a trademarked version. Confusing, I know. CDP Choline is a nutrient that provides 2 important compounds to the human brain: choline and cytidine. Choline is used by the brain to produce the first neurotransmitter ever discovered; acetylcholine. Cytidine is converted to uridine, which in turn is used to improve brain health. CDP Choline can also be used to rebuild brain cell membranes, and increase the number of connections between them. It improves most areas of cognition, and reduces age related mental decline.
- Lions’ Mane Mushroom – Best known for it’s ability to accelerate the growth of new brain cells, and boost the immune system. Lions’ Mane increases the amount of Nerve Growth Factor(NGF) and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor(BDNF).
- L-Theanine – Promotes the production of the neurotransmitters associated with relaxation, mental focus, and encourages Alpha brainwave activity; which is closely associated with creative thinking. L-Theanine is commonly found in tea and coffee, but supplementation is recommended to ensure adequate dosages for desired effect.
- Pine Bark Extract – Acts as an extremely potent antioxidant, thereby protecting brain tissue from free radical damage. Pine bark extracts also increase cerebral blood flow, allowing more nutrients and oxygen to reach energy hungry brain cells.
- Tyrosine – Usually found in supplements as NALT, or N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, an amino acid compound that can carry L-Tyrosine across the blood-brain barrier. L-Tyrosine is a precursor for the production of the neurotransmitters Dopamine, Epinephrine, and Norepinephrine. NALT enhances working memory, executive function, focus, reduces blood pressure, mental fatigue from stress, and depression in those dealing with ADHD or ADD.
- Noopept – Provides the beneficial effects of a stimulant without actually being a stimulant. It improves most aspects of cognition, making users very alert, focused, and assertive. Noopept also encourages brain cell growth by increasing Nerve Growth Factor(NGF) and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor(BDNF).
- Omega-3’s & Omega-6’s – Structural support nutrients used to construct brain cell membranes. Omega oils are needed to grow new brain cells, and are best known to improve overall brain health, as well as cognitive performance.
- Phosphatidylserine(PS) – One of the few nootropics approved by the FDA, PS is a building block ingredient used to construct brain cell membranes, synapses, and neurotransmitters. It also increases mental energy by supporting mitochondria, which enhances alertness, decision making, and mental flexibility.
- Rhodiola Rosea – Acts as an adaptogen, protecting the brain from stress hormones like cortisol. Rhodiola also optimizes the effects of acetylcholine, dopamine, norepinephrine, and seratonin. Well known for providing greater mental and physical endurance.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but I would consider these 10 stand alone nootropics to be the most effective nootropic compounds available to us today.
I would encourage you to try a few different formulations, read more online, and even take notes about your experiences with each product you sample.
If you can find the time, you should also write reviews online to help other nootropic users find their ideal formula faster.
Remember, nootropics is a relatively new industry; producers and users alike are literally learning more about them every day.
Finally, never settle for anything less than the best.
It’s your brain we’re talking about here; the house that holds your thoughts, feelings, and personality!
Are Nootropics Safe?
I take nootropics every day. I have to so I can perform better at work, and manage my ADD.
If you follow the recommendations for proper dosing and usage, you should be fine.
It’s also a good idea to start off with smaller dosages at first, and adjust later as you see fit.
You’re still going to have to experiment a little with the offerings that are available, but at least this article will allow you to conduct a more DIRECTED search.
Hopefully you can find a product line that works for you, and experience what I call, ‘an elevated state of being’.
That being said, you have a lot of freedom with how you take your nootropics. You can take them on their own, or in a pre-made stack.
Heck, I even know of some people that dump them in their coffee or a smoothy every morning.
The choice is yours!
Individual Nootropics vs Pre-Made Supplements – Which is Better?
A lot of people like to build their own stacks by combining solo nootropics they’ve ‘cherry picked’ to meet their specific needs and goals.
This is fine, especially for more experienced neurohackers.
However, I think most people will prefer to find a pre-formulated stack they like, and just buy it as they need it.
Pre-formulated stacks are also engineered to ensure that the various ingredients support one another.
An example would be Bacopa Monnieri and CDP Choline being included in the same supplement.
Choline can be used to synthesize acetylcholine, a very important neurotransmitter for healthy brain function.
Bacopa prevents acetylcholine from breaking down, allowing the benefits of CDP Choline to last longer.
This type of synergy is commonly seen in well formulated nootropic supplements.
Nootropic Supplements – How to Find a Good Stack
If you are looking at buying a pre-made product, you need to check out the company that makes it, and feel confident that they use top quality ingredients.
There are a number of nootropic supplements out there that simply are not worth your hard earned dollars.
Personally, I use Mind Lab Pro, and it’s perfect for me because I tend to prefer natural ingredients over synthetic compounds.
The culture of the organization will also give you an idea of why they are in the nootropics space.
When in doubt, do more research.
I would also recommend trying to match the ingredients in the stack, and their known benefits, with what you want to accomplish.
If I had a degenerative nerve condition, for example, I would try and find a stack that has either Noopept or Lions’ Mane Mushroom in it for their regenerative benefits.
Some B Vitamins would be good as well.
Best Supplements for Brain Function – Final Word
Finally, I would look at reviews, and see if there are other people with the same problem finding that its’ a good solution for them.
So at the end of the day, I think the best nootropics for you will depend greatly on what areas of cognition you want to improve.
A little thought needs to go into it for you to be happy with the results.
That being said, I think you have a good idea of what supplements to use and why.
Let’s wrap things up, shall we?
I hope you enjoyed reading about the best supplements for cognition, and their individual ‘super powers’.
If you have any questions, post a comment below, and I’ll get back to you right away.
In my next post, I’ll be reviewing what I think is the best supplement for brain support.
Don’t miss it!