Best Nootropics: Top 6 Most Effective Nootropic Supplements of 2021

By Amber SmithMar 23, 2021 1:00 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

This article contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

The human body is a very fragile organism and faces a lot of threats, including time, decay, and aging. Along with our body, our brains are affected by chemicals, nutritional choices, and the environment. The human brain is not just among the essential organs in the body; it is also the most complex organ protected under the skull on everyone's head. Time is not a friend of the human brain, and as people get closer to their late 20s, the brain begins to deteriorate slowly. Cognitive disorders may also inhibit the brain's functionality and ability to handle situations inducing, stress, anxiety disorders, depression, or even post-traumatic stress disorders.

However, there is no record of an existing "single pill" solution for cognitive optimization. Therefore, we are going to discuss in great detail the best nootropics in the market in 2021, which include:

1. Elm & Rye

2. Acetyl-L-Carnitine

3. Aniracetam

4. Bacopa Monnieri

5. Caffeine

6. CDP-Choline

Top Nootropics for Improved Brain Function

Elm & Rye: Most Effective Nootropic Overall

Elm & Rye is one of the best nootropics on the market thanks to its superior formulation of brain-boosting, sustainable ingredients. When you want to reach peak mental performance, Elm & Rye gets your brain firing on all cylinders. 

Start with two capsules a day and see if that does the trick. The superior ingredients in this product gives you plenty of leeway to increase your dose if you need an extra boost to get through a exam or stressful time.

Elm & Rye is multi-tasking the whole way through, boosting your brain power in every way possible. It covers your energy, balances chemicals, improves circulation, promotes regeneration, protects your neurons, and strengthens brain waves. 

This product works like no other to help you adapt to changes from day to day, or even throughout your day. Boosting memory, mental agility, and more, Elm & Rye is the perfect mental aid for self-improvement on a higher level.

Elm & Rye’s blend of ingredients is formulated to get the precise results you want out of the best nootropics on the market. Nothing unnecessary has been added, and nothing important has been left out.

Here are the ingredients inside of Elm & Rye:

●     Niacin (Vitamin B3) (30 mg)

●     Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine HCI) (5 mg)

●     Caffeine Anhydrous (268 mg)

●     Gamma-Aminobutyric

●     Bacopa Monnieri Extract

●     Alpha GPC

●     L-Theanine

●     Phosphatidylserine extract

●     L-Tyrosine

●      Hyperzine-A 1%

You won’t find any banned substances in these premium capsules, just highly effective brain-boosters backed by scientific research. This advanced nootropic is safe, clean, and full of brainpower. And it is tested by a third-party lab that backs up the purity of every ingredient.

Elm & Rye makes the best nootropic supplement for active, dynamic people who depend on top mental performance and sharp focus. College students, working professionals, competitive athletes, and adults 55 and up benefit from the brain-boosting power of this quality formula in order to function at top mental performance every day. Elm & Rye gives you what you need to get through every day at the top of your cognitive game.

●     Helps Nourish Brain Cells for Long-Term Mental Performance

●     10 Research-Backed Brain Boosting Ingredients

●     Third-party Tested and Validated for Purity

●      Used by Professionals, Competitors, Active 55+, Athletes, and Students

Click Here to Find Elm & Rye Nootropic Supplements


Also known as ALCAR, ALC, OR LAC, Acetyl-L-Carnitine is an upgrade synthesized from L-Carnitine derived from amino acids methionine and lysine. L-Carnitine is an amino acid that can be naturally synthesized from red meat or milk and produced in the liver and kidneys, but the body consumes it quicker than it can produce it, thus the need for supplements. L-Carnitine cannot independently cross from the blood cells and into the brain matter hence the need for ALCAR. ALC helps with brain energy metabolism, neurotransmission, and brain optimization. 

L-Carnitine is usually preferred by people looking to boost their physical energy and performance because it comes with fat-metabolizing advantages. It can't cross the blood-brain barrier, and only 8% of its supplemental version gets absorbed into the bloodstream. On the other hand, a study involving Acetyl-L-Carnitine showed that ingestion of 2 grams every day for 50 days increased the blood ALC levels by over 40% because the nootropic can be easily absorbed by the body and into the bloodstream. A study has also proven that ALC protects brain cells from oxidative stress while L-Carnitine does not because ALC can cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The BBB is a vital protective feature of the brain that acts as a gatekeeper allowing nutrients in and at the same time keeping toxins out as much as possible.

How does ALC work in the brain?

There are many ways in which Acetyl-L-Carnitine enhances the overall health and functionality of the brain. However, ALC has two main benefits that make the nootropic more unique.

●      ALC can supercharge a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine which is linked to memory and overall brain functionality. When introduced to an enzyme called Coenzyme-A, ALC is broken down and releases a "methyl group" to become acetylcholine.

A test conducted on a person with Alzheimer's disease showed a 25-40% reduction of the carnitine acetyltransferase enzyme. Carnitine acetyltransferase is known for working with L-Carnitine and Acetyl-L-Carnitine. Due to such tests, researchers believe that low acetylcholine is caused by low ALC, which leads to the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers also believe that Acetyl-L-Carnitine could be a therapeutic remedy for brain regeneration.

●      ALC can increase the brain's energy on a cellular level by supplying energy sources to the mitochondria in the brain cells. ALC works like a vessel for transporting fatty acids through cell membranes. The mitochondria use the fatty acids to generate energy and then leave the brain cells carrying out the byproducts. ALC is useful to all parts of the body and not just the brain as it can transport fatty acids to any cell in the body. Since the brain uses approximately 20% of the body's energy, ALC is very useful in keeping the byproducts out of the brain and maintaining its health.

According to research conducted at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, ALC performs the following functions; facilitating efficient mitochondrial energy production, rejuvenating mitochondrial structure, and restoring the normal of ALC acetylcholine levels in the brain. ALC's rejuvenation capabilities have proven to help with age-related disorders and conditions, these include Alzheimer's and severe depression.

The feeling of ALC

In a study involving 120 patients with erectile dysfunction, the researchers gave 40 patients 160mg of testosterone every day, 40 of them were given 2 grams of Propionyl-L-Carnitine and 2 grams of Acetyl-L-Carnitine every day, and the last 40 patients were given a placebo. The results revealed that Propionyl-L-Carnitine and Acetyl-L-Carnitine produced the best results because the patients did not experience any side effects, but the patients treated with testosterone had an enlarged prostate. The patients who received ALC treatments also reported improved mood, more sexual desire, and better orgasms.

If you are a young and healthy adult and taking ALC, you may not notice any changes or feel anything apart from being more alert, but that does not mean it is not working. Only the older members of society, together with those affected by erectile dysfunction, will physically feel the nootropic medicine effects.

Side effects of ALC

Since the body naturally produces ALC, it is considered to be safe and well-tolerated.

Patients can experience increased agitation, nausea, weight loss, vomiting, and a sense of relentlessness on rare occasions.

Patients who have pre-existing seizure disorders may experience an increase in their seizure frequency.

ALC is also available as L-Carnitine, Lipo-Carn, and Propionyl-L-Carnitine. It is always advisable to consult with your general practitioner before taking on any form of medication.


1-p-anisoyl-2-pyrrolidinone, commonly known as Aniracetam, is a fat-soluble ampakine nootropic classified as a racetam compound. Aniracetam is ten times more potent compared to piracetam. A Swiss-based pharmaceutical company called F.Hoffmann-La Roche AG claimed the sole rights of the invention in 1978. Like all racetam nootropics, Aniracetam is based on a pyrrolidone nucleus. Aniracetam also affects the levels of acetylcholine in the brain, which makes it a cholinergic compound. In the U.S., Aniracetam is sold as a supplement. In Europe and some parts of Asia, it is sold as a prescription drug, also known as Memory, Sarpul Ampamet, or Reference. Considered the best racetam nootropic, Aniracetam improves sociability by reducing stress, depression, and anxiety while increasing memory and learning.

Aniracetam comes with the following benefits:

●      Aniracetam enhances brain optimization by improving brain function, especially after a traumatic event such as a brain injury or ischemia, because it helps the brain repair damaged cell membranes.

●      Aniracetam enhances neurotransmitters by increasing the sensitization of glutamate (AMPA) receptors in the brain, which boosts neural signals and increases the efficiency of glutamate. As a result, Aniracetam helps you to increase focus and concentration.

●      Aniracetam releases 200-300% more acetylcholine in the brain, which leads to an increase in brain energy and results in better focus, memory, recall, and clarity of thought.

Even though Ampakines usually have a stimulant effect almost the same as Ritalin or coffee, they do not have stimulant side effects from prolonged use, which makes them even better. Aniracetam can easily cross the blood-brain barrier because it is made of fat-soluble molecules and has a high bioavailability which means it performs its duties in the brain more quickly. However, the bioavailability of Aniracetam is so high that only about 0.2 % of its dose makes it to the brain. In comparison, the other 99.8 % is absorbed in the liver, making its potency seem counter intuitive.

How does Aniracetam boost cognitive functions?

There are several ways in which Aniracetam works to boost a user’s cognitive functionality. Still, we are going to discuss two of the most significant functions of Aniracetam in the brain:

●      Aniracetam regulates and improves AMPA receptors in the brain through its main metabolite of 70-80% called N-anisoyl-GABA, which is also responsible for most of the effects caused by Aniracetam. Additional metabolites of Aniracetam are 2 Pyrrolidinone and p-anisic acid (20-30%), both of which are also active. The main purpose of these metabolites is to work on the glutamate system by increasing the glutamate receptors’ sensitization, which leads to the increased availability of the neurotransmitter glutamate in the brain. A high-functioning glutamate system means higher cognitive functionality and better memory.

●      Aniracetam also leads to improved moods and sociability due to its effects on the brain’s dopamine and serotonin receptors. A study concerning the anti-anxiety effects of Aniracetam was published in the European Journal of Pharmacology demonstrated through which the brain pathways in mice were observed and revealed the Aniracetam’s mechanism in action to illustrate the effects of Aniracetam on dopamine and serotonin.

The feel of Aniracetam 

●      Many users of Aniracetam have claimed that it is a good study aid because the drug increases their attention span on its own, and when combined with caffeine, it induces long, effortless hours of work.

●      Aniracetam is also said to give music lovers a deeper and more enjoyable listening experience due to an enhanced auditory perception. The auditory sensation makes other background sounds and auditory effects clearer and livelier, and instrument becomes part of the sound stage. 

●      Aniracetam also comes with enhanced visual acuity, making your surroundings seem more vibrant and pleasing to the eye because your brain feels like it is processing a broader spectrum of your optical range.

●      Aniracetam has enabled most of its users to articulate thoughts and improve their speaking ability resulting in an effortless flow of ideas, language, and vocabulary. 

The effects of Aniracetam are usually felt within the first two hours due to its high bioavailability, and the good thing is that there are no downfall effects after the dosage wears off and leaves the body.

Side effects 

Even though Aniracetam is non-toxic and well-tolerated by the body, there are rare cases of nausea, headaches, anxiety, nervousness, and fatigue, usually resulting from an excessive dosage of Aniracetam.

Aniracetam is sold in capsules, solid tablets, and powder form with each tablet and each capsule containing 750 mg of Aniracetam.

Bacopa Monnieri

Also known as Brahmi or water hyssop, Bacopa Monnieri is a perennial, creeping, aquatic herb that originated from the West of India and some southeastern Asian countries. It is said that the name Brahmi was derived from the supreme god Brahma and that its nootropic advantages were uncovered through ancient Ayurvedic texts. In the Ayurvedic texts, Brahmi was recommended to those needing help enhance their cognitive function and memorize long text passages. Brahmi helps to prevent the physical and chemical effects of stress instead of just suppressing them as an adaptogen.

Bacopa Monnieri is also a cholinergic compound because it increases acetylcholine, which greatly influences memory and cognitive function. Cognitive functions are enhanced by Brahmi antioxidant effects in its extracts that help to prevent arterial plaque that can lead to stroke, heart attack, or other neurodegenerative diseases. Bacopa Monnieri also contains anti-anxiety, also known as anxiolytic, effects due to its ability to regulate the neurotransmitter serotonin levels and result in an improved effect on mood.

How does Bacopa Monnieri Boost Cognitive Function?

Out of the various ways Brahmi can continue to improve health and cognitive function; we will only discuss the ways that stand out.

●      Bacopa Monnieri contains two active components named bacosides A and B, which enhance the signaling of electrical impulses between neurons in your brain and improve your memory. Bacosides help to rebuild the damaged neurons in your brain. In a study in Portland, researchers gave 54 volunteers 300 mg of Bacopa Monnieri every day for 12 weeks. The results after the 12 weeks revealed that Bacopa Monnieri increased memory scores, attention, word recall, focus while learning, and reduced anxiety and lowered the rate of heart diseases.

●      According to the ancient Ayurveda text, Brahmi was used to reduce stress and tonic for the nervous system because it reduces anxiety. Banaras Hindu University in India conducted research revealing that Bacopa Monnieri is as effective in treating anxiety disorders as benzodiazepine and lorazepam. Besides, Brahmi does not have side effects such as memory loss caused by lorazepam.

●      The brain is guarded by heat-shock protein 70 (Hsp70), cytochrome enzymes EROD and PROD, and superoxide dismutase (SOD). Hsp70 helps proteins in cells retain normal structure, so they remain functional. EROD (7-ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase) and PROD (7-pentoxyresorufin-O-alkylate) are detox enzymes. They protect your brain by converting bad toxins into less harmful organic compounds. While under stressHsp70 levelsspike throughout the brain, but research in animals revealed that 7-day long treatments of Bacopa Monnieri prevented the increase in Hsp70, especially in areas associated with memory.

The Brahmi-induced feeling

The effects of Brahmi are not immediate and can be felt from the second or the fourth day of supplements.

In a 12-week study in Australia, Brahmi seemed to improve Brahmi’s study subjects’ information processing speed, learning, and memory. By the end of 12 weeks, there was a maximum reduction in anxiety for the volunteers.

Some users claim to start feeling the changes earlier than four weeks and that the effects do not wear off after stopping the supplementation. Long-term users have been said to have permanent improvements in their cognitive functions.

Side effects

Side effects from taking Brahmi are extremely rare, especially when the general practitioner prescribes consistent dosage. Otherwise, the side effects may include stomach upset and fatigue.

Bacopa Monnieri is available in various nootropic stacks, such as the Mind Lab Pro.


Citicoline, CDP-Choline (Cytidine Diphosphate Choline or cytidine 5′-phosphocholine) is a naturally occurring choline source present in every cell in your body. After digestion, Citicoline is split into cytidine and choline and converts back to CDP-Choline after reaching the brain. CDP-Choline is essential for synthesizing a primary neurotransmitter called acetylcholine (ACh) that is released by the neurons.

CDP-Choline enhances electrical signaling between neurons which improves memory, learning, recall, and general cognition. Cytidine is a component of Ribonucleic acid (RNA) involved in the coding, decoding, regulation, and expression of genes.

After reaching the brain, cytidine is converted to uridine, which repairs the cell membranes that have been shredded and separated from their choline molecules grabbed by signals going on between neurons whenever there is a short supply of choline in the neurons.

Choline is useful because:

●      CDP-Choline enhances the release of norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine in the brain, thus improving neurotransmitters.

●      CDP-Choline enhances energy production in the brain cells by increasing Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is then used to power cells.

●      CDP-Choline facilitates repairs, rebuilds and re-supplies the components needed for neuron repair by ensuring there is uridine in the brain cells. Availability of uridine and choline ensures consistent signaling between neurons optimized for memory, learning, cognition, and recall.

CDP-choline is in every cell in the body and can also be supplemented by eating the liver and other organs. Supplementation is important because the body uses more choline than it produces, and it is essential in the production of phosphatidylcholine (PC), which is used in building cell membranes. Choline is so important to our brain that we would not be able to do anything like moving, thinking, sleeping, or remembering in its absence.

The working process of CDP-Choline on the brain

There are two main ways through which CDP-Choline continues to improve the health and functionality of our brains.

●      CDP-Choline is digested in the gut to form choline and cytidine, which is absorbed through the gut wall and liver then transported to the brain through the bloodstream. After reaching the brain, it is converted back into CDP-Choline (Citicoline), after which Ach is reassembled for reuse. Choline plays a role in the synthesis of acetylcholine and the release of dopamine.

●      CDP-Choline helps in the reconstruction process of membranes in the neurons. The neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh) is synthesized from choline in the brain. After Ach carries nerve impulses across synapses, it gets broken down by enzymes.

However, some ACh can stray from the process and then your brain is forced to source for additional choline to replace the Ach. Whenever there is not enough choline in the bloodstream, the brain then turns to the phosphatidylcholine (PC) outside of the neurons' cell membrane. The neurons lose integrity whenever a lack of sufficient choline as nerve impulses deteriorate and cognitive abilities become compromised. 

Uridine is essential for the synthesis of PC in neuron membranes. After being synthesized to a new PC, it repairs damaged neuron membranes shredded to make acetylcholine. 

Side effects

CDP-Choline is considered to be a non-toxic substance that is well-tolerated by the body. Therefore, there are minimal chances of any side effects, including for prolonged users. However, taking more than the recommended dose may lead to toxicity. You experience symptoms such as headache, mild insomnia, and inconsistent levels of blood pressure, nausea, chest pains, and blurred visions. You should stop using CDP-choline and seek medical attention.

CDP-Choline is sold in capsule and powder form. Capsules are usually 250 – 500 mg each. 500 mg of CDP-Choline in powder form is equivalent to 2-level 1/8 tsp scoops.


DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid that is crucial for the healthy structure and functioning of the brain despite age. DHA affects memory, focus, earning, neurotransmitters, signaling systems, helping to repair cognitive deterioration. 

A follow-up study called the Framingham Heart Study involved 899 men and women at the median age of 76 and free from dementia. The 899 individuals were followed for 9.1 years and checked to see how many would develop dementia and Alzheimer's disease. At the end of the study, there were 99 new cases of dementia, from which emerged 71 new cases of Alzheimer's disease. After a few analyses, the researchers concluded that the individuals who had the highest DHA levels had a 47 % less chance of developing dementia.

DHA helps the brain in the following major ways.

●      DHA is capable of activating your brain's BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which is also referred to as the brain's growth hormone.

●      DHA is capable of facilitating the construction of fresh neural pathways in a process called Neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is essential for maintaining a healthy cognitive function and optimizing neural signaling.

●      DHA also plays an anti-inflammatory compound by reducing the enzyme COX-2, thus making DHA a neuroprotector. Inflammation is the leading cause of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

60 % of the brain is made up of fat, while most of that fat is DHA. Unfortunately, the body cannot synthesize DHA on its own, and hence the fatty acid is outsourced from the food we eat (such as fish, fish oil, Krill, and algae) or from supplements.

The working process of DHA in the brain

DHA makes up about 20 % of the brain's cerebral cortex and about 30-60 % of your eyes' retina; hence, it is essential for both organs. The phosphatidylserine (PS) and the phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) contain the highest levels of DHA, while the lowest DHA levels are found in phosphatidylcholine (PC). 

70 % of all neuron tissue mass comprises PS, which helps in the storage, release, and activity of neurotransmitters and receptors. PC constitutes a small portion of the neuron tissue mass and helps maintain cell structure, fat metabolism, neuron signaling, and several enzymes' activation. 

PE is found in the cell membrane and helps in cellular signaling. PS, PC and PE are called phospholipids, and they influence the fluidity of cell membranes and cellular signaling to alter the membrane's permeability and protein activity. Through regulation of cellular membranes, DHA controls neuroreceptor functions to facilitate cellular connections between and within cells.

Regulation of proteins and enzymes allows DHA to reduce inflammation and boost anti-inflammatory compounds' production to protect the cells. DHA controls electrical signaling between cells through the maintenance of the activities of certain enzymes. DHS also controls brain cell concentration of PS. 

DHS also controls calcium oscillations. Calcium oscillates play a role in neurotransmitter release, gene activation, oxidative stress, and BDNF.

The feel of DHA

The use of DHA does not result in any profound feeling of stimulation. However, if you have chronic depression, then a few weeks of using DHA will result in a better feeling and a gradual weight-lift sensation.

DHA supplementation will eventually lead to enhanced cognitive functions such as clearer and quicker thoughts, learning ability, memory, and motivation. However, it is very unlikely that you will immediately realize that the improvements will be due to DHA supplementation.

Side effects 

Therefore, fish oil capsules normally have both EPA and DHA and are not recommended to children, infants, and pregnant women because they cause an imbalance between DHA and the EPA during early child development stages.

If you are using blood thinners and your fish oil supplements contain EPA, you could be at risk of increased bleeding since EPA interferes with blood thinners. However, if your supplements only contain DHA and no EPA, there is no cause for alarm.

Fish oil has also been seen to lower blood pressure, thus the need to consult your general practitioner before you begin taking the supplements, especially if you are already on blood pressure medications.

 If you have diabetes and medication, you should consult your general practitioner before indulging in fish oil supplements because they are known to lower blood sugar levels.

Other side effects of fish oils and fish oil-related products include loose stools/diarrhea, stomach upsets, and belching.

Omega-3 fatty acids are sometimes used to minimize the side effects of cyclosporine. Cyclosporine is an injection used to stop rejection after an organ transplant.

DHA is available in either fish oil capsules or Omega-3 capsules.


Though there are so many things that could negatively affect the human brain, it only seemed logical for scientists and medical researchers to find ways to enhance our cognitive functions. For almost three decades now, the good news is that improvements have been made on medical breakthroughs regarding medication for improving brain function. 

Nootropics are medical substances/drugs that are developed for the sole purpose of enhancing the brain's functionality. Some of the cognitive functions enhanced through nootropics include memory, learning, focus, motivation, energy, and overall cognitive function. The good thing is that nootropics are not only for the old or mentally disoriented. Even younger individuals can begin taking nootropics to increase their cognitive functions and improve their general performance.

The term nootropic (derived from the Greek word nous meaning 'mind' and trepein meaning 'to bend') originates from Piracetam. This cognitive-enhancement drug was synthesized by Dr. Corneliu Giurgea, a psychologist and a chemist at UCB Pharmaceutical, in 1964.

Creating your nootropic stack is very important, and I hope the information given above will help you choose the right nootropics for your stack. I'm confident in telling you that the nootropics given above are safe and provide results. Hundreds of thousands of people across the world are enjoying the benefits of these wonderful drugs. Most people usually look for the company with the highest quality stacks, such as Performance lab, and continue using their product till something better comes along. Having the right combination of nootropics and taking the right dosage is the key to finding out your full potential. However, it is important to remember that you should always consult with your general practitioner before engaging in any medication. Stay safe.

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.