Natural nootropics. Backed by science.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of nootropics but want to avoid synthetic nootropics like racetams, there are still many powerful brain-boosting options for you.
There are many natural nootropics that may improve your memory, elevate your mood, and enhance your learning capacity.
The laboratory-synthesized supplements we now recognize as modern nootropics were discovered less than 60 years ago, but people have been using plants and herbs to enhance their brainpower since the beginning of recorded history.
Cave paintings dating back at least 10,000 years indicate that even the earliest humans were using plant matter to alter thinking patterns, and the medicine of ancient cultures invariably included preparations intended to improve and protect the brain.
Many of the supplements we now recognize as natural nootropics can be traced back hundreds of centuries; for example, ginkgo biloba was widely used as a brain tonic in ancient Chinese medicine, while ashwagandha was commonly prescribed by India’s traditional Ayurvedic practitioners to improve concentration and relieve stress.
Other natural nootropics like lion’s mane mushroom and Bacopa monnieri were used as memory enhancers by ancient cultures worldwide, from areas as diverse as Europe, Asia, and both North and South America.
Many clinical trials now exist to support and explain the effects of these natural nootropic supplements.
Ancient Herbs but with Modern Powerful Effects
Though the natural nootropic supplements we enjoy today may appear to be very little like the preparations used in ancient times, the main difference is the method of delivery.
We now take convenient capsules or powdered extracts, often at standardized potencies, rather than ground-up plant matter or dried berries, but the primary pharmacological benefits remain the same; some plant derivatives improve memory, while others enhance overall cognition and still others increase energy or reduce anxiety.
Scientific advancements and modern manufacturing techniques give us a purer form of the natural plant extracts that provide the effects we want and make it possible to be more accurate and precise in managing dosages.
The Benefits of Stacking Natural Nootropics
One of the typical characteristics of natural nootropics is their ability to act as potentiators for each other when taken in combination.
Ancient physicians recognized this fact and often recommended complex prescriptions made up of several plants and herbs, ground, and mixed. These ancient prescriptions could be considered the original stacks, and they’re the forerunners of modern stacking techniques.
All-natural nootropic supplements have value when taken on their own, but most are more effective, potent, and lasting when taken in combination with other nootropics.
Many supplement companies sell preformulated nootropic supplements, such as the highly recommended Mind Lab Pro by Opti-Nutra, which can also be an excellent start, but creating your own stack, custom-tailored to your individual needs and goals, gives you the ability to fine-tune the stack components and dosages. If you want to learn more about our favorite preformulated nootropic, read our Mind Lab Pro review for a detailed overview.
If you’re new to nootropics or simply new to stacking, figuring out where to start can be quite a challenge. The sheer volume of potential stackables can be overwhelming, and determining what works best with what could involve a lot of research.
Here’s an excellent example of an all-natural nootropic stack designed as a brain booster, mood lifter, and memory enhancer.
An Example All-Natural Nootropic Stack
1x–2x per day
- 1 g Fish Oil
- 300 mg Alpha GPC
- 300 mg NALT
- 100 mg Caffeine
- 200 mg L-Theanine
- 500 mg Lion’s Mane Mushroom
- 300 mg Bacopa Monnieri
- 300 mg Ashwagandha
Take as Needed For Immediate Cognitive Boost
- 200 mcg Huperzine A
- 20 mg Vinpocetine
Take as Needed For Fighting Fatigue and to Combat Stress
- 500 mg Rhodiola Rosea (morning only)
Breakdown of the Ingredients
Fish Oil for Supporting Healthy Brain Function
Fish oil is an excellent source of the Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, both of which are crucial to healthy and efficient brain function.
Omega-3s enhance whole-body health in many ways, including improving blood flow, acting as an antioxidant, and keeping cell membranes flexible and fluid, allowing nutrients to enter and wastes to be flushed out.
These functions are particularly important in the brain, where improved circulation and cellular health have an immediate effect and positively impact both mood and cognition.
Fish oil works exceptionally well in conjunction with other nootropics and is an excellent addition to just about any stack.
We recommend: NutriGold Omega-3 Fish Oil
Multivitamin To Fight any Deficiencies
Multivitamins are often overlooked as nootropic supplements, but scientific research shows that they have definite positive effects on cognitive abilities and are a valuable addition to a nootropic stack.
A 2014 study involving healthy adults between 21 and 39 years of age showed increased attention and enhanced brain activity within hours of a multivitamin/mineral dose.
These results suggest that a single multivitamin is sufficient to impact functional brain activity in task-related brain regions.
Multivitamins have also been shown to affect memory positively.
A 2012 study involving senior women with subjective memory complaints indicated that after 16 weeks of multivitamin supplementation, the participants showed measurably improved response speed in a test of spatial working memory.
We recommend: Controlled Labs Orange Triad Multivitamin
Alpha GPC to Increase Supply of Neurotransmitters
Alpha GPC is an excellent source of high-quality choline, which is crucial to cognitive function.
Choline is the precursor of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, the brain chemical most closely associated with learning.
Many nootropics work by stimulating the production of acetylcholine, which directly affects learning and short-term memory.
Without a sufficient amount of choline, the brain can’t produce enough acetylcholine, and in fact, a shortage of acetylcholine is associated with memory-impairing neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
Conversely, a sufficiency of choline ready to be transformed into acetylcholine has been shown to markedly enhance neuroplasticity, resulting in better cognitive function and memory.
Every nootropic stack should include a source of high-quality choline.
We recommend: Alpha GPC from PureNootropics.net
NALT for Focus
NALT, or N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, is a modified form of the amino acid L-Tyrosine, processed to add acetic acid for better absorption and increased bioavailability.
After it’s absorbed, NALT is converted into the chemical L-Dopa, a precursor for several essential brain chemicals associated with cognition. One of the most important of those is the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is closely associated with memory, mental clarity, and mood.
NALT is a popular and powerful nootropic in its own right, and it potentiates the action of other nootropics as well.
It has been shown to improve memory formation and retrieval, increase learning capacity and attention span, and enhance mood by reducing stress and anxiety.
We recommend: NALT from PureNootropics.net
Caffeine for Energy and Alertness
Caffeine’s well-established power as a central nervous system stimulator markedly enhances alertness, and it has been documented to improve brain function.
Caffeine is a common addition to nootropic stacks, providing wakefulness, a feeling of energy, and enhanced concentration.
Many people also find it lifts their mood and gives them a sense of cheerfulness.
Caffeine works by suppressing adenosine production, the brain’s stimulation control chemical, and enhancing the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which improves concentration and focus.
Anyone who counts on a morning coffee to help get their day started is familiar with the nootropic benefits of caffeine, but there are other benefits that may not be obviously apparent; studies show that regular coffee drinkers are as much as 80% less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease, and research indicates it may even help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
We recommend: ProLab Caffeine Tablets
L-Theanine to Smooth out Caffeine
L-Theanine is an amino acid that naturally occurs in green tea. It is an analog of L-glutamate and L-glutamine, amino acids produced in the body and are essential to efficient brain function.
L-Theanine has been shown to relax the brain without creating drowsiness, and clinical trials indicate that it has a marked positive effect on the general state of mental alertness.
L-Theanine is a valuable nootropic on its own and an excellent addition to any stack, particularly those that include caffeine.
It has been proven to neutralize caffeine’s potentially jittery effects without reducing its effectiveness as a mental energizer.
We recommend: L-Theanine from PureNootropics.net
Lion’s Mane for Neuron Growth
Lion’s Mane mushroom is an ancient Chinese medicine with powerful nootropic benefits because of its link to Nerve Growth Factor (NGF).
NGF is a neurotrophin, a small secreted protein essential for the growth and survival of neurons. One of the primary building blocks of brain health and neuroplasticity, NGF encourages the growth of axons, the long threadlike nerve cell extensions along which impulses are conducted.
The more axons that exist and the better their health, the more rapidly and efficiently impulses can be transmitted, and the better the cognition and overall brain function.
NGF also promotes myelination, the development of the lipid/protein sheath that encases and protects axons.
Lion’s Mane is particularly effective when taken with fish oil, which protects cell membranes, and a choline source like Alpha GPC to enable the production of ample acetylcholine for enhanced cognition.
It is an excellent addition to both natural and synthetic nootropics and will add to the efficiency of just about every stack.
We recommend: Lion’s Mane Extract from PureNootropics.net
Bacopa Monnieri for Long-Lasting Memory Enhancement
Bacopa monnieri is used throughout Asia as a traditional treatment for various physical disorders ranging from asthma to epilepsy, but it is primarily known in the West for its potent nootropic abilities.
It’s a known and respected memory enhancer that has also been clinically proven to make learning faster and easier.
It has also been shown to relieve anxiety and reduce the harmful effects of stress. Clinical trials indicated that bacopa significantly decreased anxiety and depression in volunteers.
Bacopa works over time by a variety of functions.
It improves memory and cognitive abilities by improving synaptic communication. It produces its characteristic calming effects by modulating the activity of specific neurotransmitter receptors, including those that regulate the uptake of serotonin, which is strongly associated with mood and anxiety management.
It’s safe, well-tolerated, and is an excellent complement to other nootropics.
We recommend: Bacopa Monnieri Extract from PureNootropics.net
Ashwagandha for Reducing Stress
Ashwagandha is an ancient Ayurvedic herb that is a powerful adaptogen, a compound capable of preventing the physical and chemical effects of stress.
It’s primarily known for its ability to reduce anxiety, but it has also been shown to improve physical performance, reduce fatigue, and enhance the formation of memories.
Ashwagandha’s mechanisms of action are not well understood, but it has been shown to have significant anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-stress, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, and rejuvenating properties.
It also appears to exert a positive influence on the endocrine, cardiopulmonary, and central nervous systems.
It is often paired with Bacopa, another potent anxiety reliever, and it’s an excellent addition to any stack that contains stimulants like caffeine, huperzine A, or vinpocetine.
We recommend: Ashwagandha Extract from PureNootropics.net
Huperzine A for an Immediate “Brain Boost”
Huperzine A is a natural plant extract that improves cognitive ability by acting as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor.
By preventing the release of a chemical that degrades and breaks down acetylcholine, the “learning neurotransmitter,” Huperzine A has the effect of increasing acetylcholine in the brain and that in turn enhances learning, memory, concentration, and focus.
It is also believed to act as a neural protectant.
Huperzine A is known to be quite fast-acting, crossing the blood-brain barrier in as little as 15 minutes and peaking in the system within an hour.
Its fast-acting effects make it ideal for situations like exams or study sessions when an immediate increase in cognitive ability is needed, but some studies suggest it may be safest to use occasionally or cycled rather than as part of an everyday regimen.
It works well with other nootropics, but care should be taken to include a good choline source like Alpha GPC in every stack that includes huperzine A.
We recommend: Huperzine A from PureNootropics.net
Vinpocetine for Increasing Blood Flow in the Brain
Vinpocetine is another fast-acting natural nootropic that’s a powerful brain booster known for enhancing cognition, sharpening memory, and improving mood.
It works by improving cerebral blood flow and circulation, increasing the absorption of oxygen and nutrients, and boosting the production of crucial neurotransmitters.
It also acts as an antioxidant, protecting the brain from the harmful effects of stress, environmental toxins, and the aging process.
Unlike general stimulants like ephedrine or Adderall, which act as whole-body vasodilators, vinpocetine increases blood flow and circulation in the brain without affecting blood pressure in the rest of the body.
It has even been shown to target damaged brain cells. This brain-specific vasodilation, combined with the increased release of crucial neurotransmitters like acetylcholine and dopamine, makes vinpocetine a particularly valuable addition to other nootropics.
A supplemental source of choline should always be included when vinpocetine is part of a stack.
We recommend: Vinpocetine from PureNootropics.net
Rhodiola Rosea for Fighting Fatigue and to Combat Stress
In today’s world, the demand put on our mind is very high and can have detrimental effects on our mood and cognitive functions.
Rhodiola rosea has been used for thousands of years to combat the many adverse effects of stress. If you’re feeling the effects of stress on your life, rhodiola rosea may be worth trying.
We recommend: Rhodiola Rosea from PureNootropics.net
Personalizing Your All-Natural Nootropic Stack
While it’s wise to follow the dosage recommendations given with this all-natural nootropic stack, particularly if you’re new to nootropics or stacking, you may eventually decide to “fine-tune” the dosages and components to suit your personal needs.
For instance, if you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine, you may want to omit it. You may also want to experiment with different brands and variations of multivitamins, and if you find the addition of both huperzine A and vinpocetine to be too stimulating, you could try stacks with each separately to determine which best suits your body and metabolism.
If you have difficulty sleeping, you may want to avoid dosing huperzine A, vinpocetine, and caffeine no later than noon.
The Best Preformulated All-Natural Nootropic on the Market
Creating a custom stack is often considered to be the best way to experience the full potential of nootropics since it provides the ability to tweak stack components and dosages.
However, custom stacking is not for everyone.
If you’d rather not experiment with combining different nootropics on your own, you can opt for a complete preformulated “ready to go” natural nootropic supplement such as the highly recommended Mind Lab Pro by Opti-Nutra.
Mind Lab Pro’s formula aims at all aspects of memory, mental performance, mood and stress resistance, maintenance, and brain repair. Their combination of nootropics is designed to affect brain energy, neurotransmitters, brain blood flow, brain waves, neuroprotection, and regeneration.
Their formula contains 11 research-backed nootropics, including many from our list above.
Visit the Mind Lab Pro “How It Works” page to learn more about the fascinating methodology used to formulate their blend.
You can also read our Mind Lab Pro review for a detailed overview of what we think of this impressive natural nootropic.
The Bottom Line: Natural Nootropics are Safe and Effective
All-natural nootropic stacks, put together wisely, can be safe and effective.
It is always wise to talk to a medical professional before starting a new supplementation routine. However, all of the stack components are generally considered to be well-tolerated without significant side effects.
Over time, this particular stack may result in a significant and lasting boost to cognition and overall brain health.
Planning to start a new supplementation regimen? See our medical disclaimer.