Endless energy and superhuman memory. Relentless focus for hours on end. Learning that rivals the world’s greatest geniuses.

It sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Well, the current legal offering of nootropics aren’t exactly the miracle drugs from the movie Limitless, but these substances can make a massive impact on memory, focus, and mood.

Biohackers all over the world are using nootropics to change their brain chemistry and their lives.


What is a nootropic?  

Nootropics are commonly referred to as “smart drugs” because they enhance cognition in some way or another. Under the precedents set forth by Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea, nootropics must “possess few or no side effects and be virtually non-toxic.

However, nootropics by the commonly used definition can include even prescription stimulants such as Adderall.

For the purpose of this list, we will use nootropics in the sense it is often used in the smart drug community–substances that can be bought over the counter with low toxicity and negative side effects that can be used to improve brain function.

Nophamon Yanyapong/123RF

Be mindful, I am not a doctor, and anyone who intends to use nootropic drugs should first discuss the substances with their healthcare professional.

Also, please be mindful that many nootropics, especially those in the racetam family, benefit from a choline supplement and may cause headaches without one.


Herbal Nootropics


Valerian Root

Valerian root can be used to enhance sleep and has often been used by lucid dreamers to induce more frequent vivid, lucid dream states. The root can be bought in pill form, alcohol tincture, or even grown or ordered fresh.

Fresh root is often used to brew a tea, although the flavor is usually an acquired taste. Many users have described the smell as like a very ripe cheese or even a gym sock.

Despite it’s strange smell, it is a very effective nootropic that is relatively safe and sold in many grocery stores with the vitamins.

Be aware that different brands have different amounts of the ingredients that actually cause the effect, and I, personally, have had better luck buying stronger products online.

I have used it to great effect for sleep, lucid dreaming, and even for anxiety.


Kava Kava

Kava Kava is similar to Valerian root in its anti-anxiety and sleep aid effects. It is also a root that can be bought in pill, tincture, or fresh root form.

Kava Kava has long been used in Hawaii and various specific islands in much the same way Americans use alcohol–to bring together family and friends in the evenings, de-stress, lower anxiety, and aid in merriment, laughs, and storytelling.

Kava Kava can have somewhat strong effects at larger doses, and tinctures and teas often leave the tongue a bit numb (this is normal). I have used it to relieve anxiety and induce lucid dreams, and it is effective. I have noticed that a combination of Kava and Valerian root can sometimes be too much relaxation for lucid dreaming, instead inducing a very deep, non-dreaming sleep.

Online, again, seems to be a better source for this substance, at least in rural areas such as where I reside.



Ashwghanda (withania somnifera) is a traditional Ayurvedic herb that can be used to help treat anxiety and depression as well as protect and improve cognitive function such as memory and concentration thanks to these benefits.

Ashwghanda has a range of other proven benefits including treatment of Alzheimers, arthritis, infertility, and blood pressure.

In my own personal experiences with Ashwghanda, its effect is a subtle one that builds over months of use as the substance builds up in the body.


L-Theanine (Green Tea)

Have you ever noticed that you feel better after a big cup of green tea–more at peace with the world? While this could be in part due to the ritualistic effect of tea for many people, it can also come from the presence of the amino acid L-theanine.

L-theanine can make learning easier, improve memory, and also offer a calming effect to those with anxiety. Although you can get this great chemical in a cup of green tea, you’ll also be getting a dose of caffeine.

You can buy plain L-theanine in pill form in most vitamin and supplement sections of grocery stores, pharmacies, and health food stores. L-theanine is one of my favorite natural remedies for focus and anti-anxiety.   


Nootropic chemicals

Okay, so everything on this list contains chemicals that act as the active ingredient. What I mean here is generally stuff that you can buy in white powder form. Usually, these things are created in labs, not extracted from plants.



Noopept is a common beginner nootropic that is cheap and able to be felt within a few minutes. Users take 10-20mg per dose usually, but many users report effects at dosages as low as 5mg. It is often prescribed in Russian for cognitive enhancement and stacks with other nootropics beautifully, although users should take short times off from this substance to maintain optimal effects.

Personally, I purchased several years worth of lab-grade Noopept for less than $50, so it is a budget-friendly nootropic. I love the focus effects of this substance, but I believe users should be aware that it may take some experimentation to find an optimal dosage.

Dosages are so tiny that it is best to measure this substance using a high-accuracy digital scale; this is true of most powder form nootropics. Too much noopept can instead make a user feel sleepy and irritable instead of energized, focused, and bright. I highly suggest starting on the very low-end dose of noopept, which is what I’ve found to be most effective for me.



Pramiracetam is a strongly effective member of the racetam family (which also includes nootropics such as piracetam) and is a CNS stimulant that may help with forming long-term memories.

In my experience, pramiracetam is a very high-focus drug. Many users, including myself, report a single-mindedness toward task completion. Some users find an emotional blunting effect comes along with higher doses of this nootropic and a loss of desire for socializing. This “robotic” effect can be disconcerting for some.

Pramiracetam, however, does do its job very well at heightening focus and is a very good nootropic for those days in which productivity is a necessity. Unlike other racetams, it does not have a euphoric effect, which can be distracting.

New users should note that the flavor of pramiracetam has been likened to substances like “battery acid” and “alien vomit.” While I have tasted neither of the former, it tastes exactly as I imagine those two substances would if blended into a smoothie with lye. And it will burn your tongue. Do not try to take pramiracetam sublingually. Seriously.

Many users put this powder into capsules. It also is not water soluble, so it is best if it is taken with a fat. I use a spoonful of unrefined coconut oil.


Phenibut – Not for early beginners

Phenibut is a nootropic that must be taken sparingly and tried first when you don’t have anywhere else to be for at least 24 hours. This nootropic is for users who are ready to go a bit deeper into nootropics, because, although its effects are mild for most users, in my experience, the effects can be far more than one expects. Please, start with a very small dose and do not redose until you have felt its effects.

Phenibut is known to increase sociability and motivation while lowering anxiety and inducing a pleasant, mild euphoria.

My first experience with Phenibut came from a sample I received from a close friend. All of my coworkers were ingesting the substance, reporting that its effects were minimal but lightened their mood throughout the day.

I ingested the substance at home that night to test it, using less than the small dose that had been recommended to me.

Two hours later I found myself in the kitchen with the intention to cook, but instead sitting in the floor, realizing that it would not be safe for me to do so. It was a state similar to drunkenness. The effects lasted for approximately 18 hours.

While most users find the effects kick in within an hour or two, I have had the effects kick in up to nine hours after ingesting the chemical. Please be aware that Phenibut can affect everyone very differently, and it is best to start with a very low dose. None of my other coworkers had ever experienced such a profound reaction to it.

Also, be aware that Phenibut can cause major hangovers. While none of my coworkers had ever experienced this effect, I know of at least one other person who experienced the worst hangover of his life from this substance.

In terms of nootropics, it is a very effective one that can definitely increase motivation and lower anxiety, but it does have addictive properties, unlike many nootropics. Be aware of your limits and self-discipline before trying this one.



5-HTP is another nootropic that can be bought off the shelf at local pharmacies–I got mine at CVS. It is a precursor to serotonin that can pretty easily cross the blood-brain barrier.

Most people use it for the treatment of depression and anxiety, but it can also have a longterm negative effect for the reasons explained in this article if not used in a way that will balance brain chemicals.

It is also often used for anxiety, migraines, and fibromyalgia.

I suggest having someone close to you who is able to monitor your progress with 5-HTP before embarking on a journey with this substance.

Some users, like with prescription antidepressants, report suicidal feelings after a few weeks of using this substance. I also highly do not recommend this substance for users who have ever experienced psychosis.

For those this substance works for, it is reported to work extremely well, and it is an easy to attain and relatively cheap nootropic starter. I, personally, have discontinued use.



SAMe (S-Adenosyl Methionine) is another drug that can be found on over the counter from pharmacy and health food store shelves, and is widely touted as being a “miracle drug.”It is used by many nootropic aficionados to increase neurotransmitter production to improve clarity of thought and concentration. It is also very widely used to treat depression and lower anxiety, and, like 5-HTP, can be used to help fibromyalgia as well.

Many users report this to be among the best overall daily nootropics they have ever used for its wide array of benefits, nearly nonexistent side effects, and ease of access.

I do not suggest this nootropic for anyone who has previously experienced psychosis. Again, check with your doctor and/or psychiatrist before using nootropics, especially if you use any drugs for your heart or for mental illness.


Alpha GPC

Alpha GPC (L-Alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine) works great in conjunction with other nootropics, especially things like pramiracetam and noopept. It is neuroprotective and guards against memory loss, and can have a positive impact on anxiety. It also helps ward off headaches that can stem from low choline when taking other nootropics.


Benefits for entrepreneurs

Nootropics can be a great addition to any entrepreneur’s arsenal for the sociability and concentration effects.

But, nootropics also offer opportunities for entrepreneurs to sell these substances.

Many companies offer “stacks,” or mixtures, of nootropics to benefit the brain in certain ways. Whether you want to offer nootropics for memory or anxiety or some other form of cognition, there is room for entrepreneurs to create their own blends which can then be sold to the public.

Nootropics, as they become more well known in the population, are increasing in popularity for those people who want to gain an edge or even simply protect their brains while they age.

Offering different stacks under the same brand is common practice, it’s simply a matter of finding an effective product that is of lab-grade quality and marketing it to the right people. There are many legal chemicals and herbs involved in this process which many labs are happy to handle.

Among the biggest opportunities here is that of convenience. Most users don’t have the time or equipment to individually measure doses of various chemicals up to three times a day. By blending these substances and offering them in pill form, you are saving users great deals of time.

Many companies have even begun selling their stacks on the Amazon marketplace.

Have you tried any of the nootropics in this list? What about other nootropics? What’s your favorite? Let us know in the comments!