What are Nootropics? All the Brain-Boosting Benefits

Last Update: December 14, 2022

A supplement that increases your brain power, makes you think faster, and gives you a jolt of energy… sounds like something out of an action movie, right? While that type of miracle pill doesn’t exist in the real world, the closest things to it may be nootropics, a group of substances that many use to improve cognitive function, increase focus, and even boost creativity. 

Nootropics are colloquially known as “smart drugs”—which should tell you a bit about what they do. While they certainly won’t make you smarter (for that, your best bet is still a good old-fashioned book), nootropics may be a welcome addition to your daily wellness routine. Here’s everything you need to know if you’re considering incorporating nootropics into your supplement mix

What are Nootropics? 

Nootropics include a wide range of natural or synthetic substances that help to support mental performance, including focus, creativity, motivation, and energy. The term is broad and wide-ranging, and it includes things like amino acids, herbs, roots, and synthetic substances that work in different ways to boost brain function

Types of Nootropics 

There are many nootropic substances, but these are some of the most common examples: 

Caffeine. You may already be getting a daily dose of a nootropic: your morning cup of coffee. Caffeine is certainly the most common nootropic used worldwide; it works by antagonizing the adenosine receptors in your brain, which makes you feel less tired, affects learning and memory, and even corrects certain brain dysfunctions. 

Creatine. This much-buzzed-about amino acid promotes muscle growth, but also supports certain brain functions. Studies show that creatine fuels cells in the brain and helps to improve short-term memory and reasoning skills. 

Ginkgo biloba.  A natural substance extracted from the leaves of the ginkgo biloba tree, this nootropic is shown to improve cognitive performance in adults, including processing abilities and speed. 

L-Theanine. This amino acid is naturally found in many types of tea. You have L-theanine to thank for the serene feeling you experience when sipping a cup of tea, as it has a calming effect on the brain and may also help to boost creativity

Rhodiola rosea. This herb is an adaptogen, which means that it helps to regulate the body during times of stress. People use it as a nootropic supplement because it decreases feelings of fatigue and improves mental performance

Ginseng. This adaptogenic root helps to boost energy and improve brain function during long tasks, such as completing math problems or similar activities. 

Benefits of Nootropics 

Since the range of substances considered nootropics is wide and varied, each substance may have its own unique benefits. In general, most nootropics will likely have one or more of these benefits: 

  • Improved brain function 
  • Increased focus and concentration
  • Boost in mental performance or speed 
  • Increased creativity 
  • Decreased fatigue 
  • Decreased stress or anxiety 

Risks of Taking Nootropics 

Just like each nootropic substance has its own unique benefits, they each may also pose their own risks. Some things to keep in mind before adding a nootropic to your routine: 

  • Synthetic prescription nootropics (such as Adderall and Ritalin) are much stronger than others and can (and should) only be used under a doctor’s supervision. 
  • Dosage is always different from person to person; what works for one person may not work for another. With even the most subtle, natural substances, it’s best to start slowly to see how much your body can handle. 
  • With most nootropic substances, more research is needed to better understand their effectiveness. 
  • It’s always smart to check with a medical professional before adding any new supplements to your routine.

Best Nootropics at Thrive Market 

Gaia Rhodiola Rosea
Stimulate stamina with these liquid capsules formulated with 12mg of ecologically harvested, active rosavins (the key components in rhodiola rosea). 

Halfday Green Tea
This bright, colorful can doesn’t contain a sugary tea drink; rather, it’s made with honey for sweetness and ginseng for functional nootropic benefits. 

Moon Juice Brain Dust
This potent powder boasts “adaptogens for focus”, including nootropic herbs and mushrooms like rhodiola, ginkgo, lion’s mane, and ashwagandha. 

Beekeepers Naturals Royal Jelly Brain Fuel
Sip this shot of powerful nootropics mixed with royal jelly to support cognitive function whenever you need to find focus.

HOP WTR Sparkling Hop Water
This sparkling beverage is brewed with citra, amarillo, mosaic, and azacca hops for a beer-like flavor without the booze—but with the addition of mood-boosting nootropics like L-Theanine. 

wellmade by Thrive Market L-Theanine (coming soon!)

Keep an eye out for wellmade’s new L-Theanine supplement, which offers the nootropic benefits of this  amino acid that is most commonly found in tea. “L-theanine has seen huge growth in the last few years among people looking for occasional stress support,” says Sara Rodich, Vitamin and Supplement Product Innovator at Thrive Market. “What’s interesting is that a lot of members are pairing L-theanine with caffeine-based products like matcha or coffee, which helps with jitteriness for an even and calm alertness.” 

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before changing your diet or healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Thrive Market does not represent or warrant that the nutrition, ingredient, allergen, and other product information on our website is accurate or complete, since this information comes from the product manufacturers. On occasion, manufacturers may improve or change their product formulas and update their labels. We recommend that you do not rely solely on the information presented on our website and that you review the product’s label or contact the manufacturer directly if you have specific product concerns or questions.

This article is related to:

Brain Health, Supplements

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Amy Roberts

Amy Roberts is Thrive Market's Senior Editorial Writer. She is based in Los Angeles via Pittsburgh, PA.

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