Nootropics 101: Part 2 – The Different Types of Nootropics

Brain-boosting nootropics are an effective supplement for improving your work or study related output. There are varying classes of nootropics to aid your learning, memory, focus and alertness. To help you find the best nootropic for your requirements, consider each type of nootropic and their individual benefits.

The Different Types of Nootropics

Nootropics can be split into natural/herbal nootropics and synthetic nootropics. Generally, natural nootropics are less effective, but they still offer a range of health benefits and can be often found in complex formulations of nootropic supplements.

Natural Nootropics

Natural nootropics are plant-based or derived from plants. Popular natural nootropics include;

  • Lion’s mane mushroom – this edible mushroom aids the brain in addition to reducing inflammation and mild depression.
  • Huperzine-A – while this nootropic is derived from the Chinese club moss plant, some laboratory input is required during its manufacture. This nootropic is safe for consumption and offers many cognitive benefits.
  • Bacopa monnieri – extracted from the Brahmi plant, this nootropic can be used to improve memory and reduce anxiety.
  • Ginkgo biloba – the leaves of this tree have been used for centuries in Chinese medicine and offer several benefits for improving cognition.
  • Tryptophan – this essential amino acid helps to increase the amount of serotonin in the brain and may help memory.

The Benefits of Natural Nootropics

Natural nootropics deliver several health benefits. Lion’s mane mushroom has been shown to improve memory, focus, and concentration.  Lion’s mane is one of the most powerful natural nootropics due to its ability to stimulate nerve growth factor.1One research study found that lion’s mane can improve cognitive functioning in people with mild cognitive impairment.2

Similarly, huperzine-A and bacopa monnieri offer significant benefits for cognition. Huperzine-A protects the brain from oxidative damage3 as well as preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease.4 Bacopa monnieri has been shown to improve memory and learning in a 12-week study5, while another 12-week clinical study found that bacopa monnieri improved memory and learning in children with ADHD.6

Synthetic Nootropics

Synthetic nootropics have shown significant benefits for enhancing cognition. Similar to natural nootropics, there are varying types of synthetic nootropics available;

  • Racetams – the first nootropic invented, racetams stimulate brain receptors which release Acetylcholine. This chemical neurotransmitter transmits signals across pathways in your brain. When neurotransmitters are increased, your overall cognitive functioning is enhanced, resulting in improved learning, concentration, memory, and motivation. Racetams include piracetam, oxiracetam, aniracetam, and pramiracetam.
  • Choline – this nootropic ensures that enough Acetylcholine is released, which is why it is often stacked with racetams for optimal results. Different types of choline include Alpha GPC and CDP choline.
  • Ampakines – these nootropics are relatively new and are considered some of the strongest ‘smart drugs’ available. Ampakines enhance levels of glutamate in the blood. As a neurotransmitter, glutamate is important in synaptic plasticity, meaning its essential for learning and memory. Sunifiram and Unifiram are two nootropics in the ampakines category.
  • Sulbutiamine – derived from vitamin B, sulbutiamine is a nootropic used for increasing memory, alertness, and energy levels.
  • Peptides – the most common peptide is Noopept which is derived from racetams. Noopept is highly bioavailable, meaning its absorbed quickly. It stimulates the receptors responsible for releasing glutamate and controlling Acetylcholine. It also stimulates the release of nerve growth hormone which is needed for the growth and maintenance of nerve cells. Noopept has benefits on learning, motivation, energy, alertness and memory.
  • Modafinil – as a eugeroic drug, Modafinil is only available in the USA via prescription. It has benefits for alertness and motivation by raising levels of the neurotransmitter hypocretin. As its heavily regulated, many people choose to consume the less regulated adrafinil as this converts into modafinil in the body.

The Benefits of Synthetic Nootropics

Synthetic nootropics have significant benefits on cognition and overall brain functioning.

Aniracetam is commonly used to aid cognitive functioning. However, research has shown that aniracetam may improve sleep7 as well as helping dementia patients to improve mood and prevent cognitive decline.8 Another racetam, piracetam, has demonstrated positive effects on memory and concentration in stroke patients.9 Additionally, piracetam has been shown to increase memory in older patients.10

Choline, specifically CDP Choline, has been found to improve memory11 in addition to improving symptoms in patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease.12 Sulbutiamine is a nootropic with benefits on improving long term memory13 and protecting the brain.14 Clinical research has also shown that consuming 400mg of sulbutiamine daily for two weeks significantly increased energy levels.15

In research, Noopept improved memory and cognition16 and anxiety17 as well as preventing stress.18Less research has been conducted on ampakine nootropics in comparison to other types. However, preliminary studies have revealed potential benefits in patients with Huntingdon’s disease and autism. Other reported benefits from users of ampakines include enhancing energy, attention span, memory, and learning.

Despite modafinil only being available on prescription, it presents many special benefits that are of interest to varying users. This drug may be of advantage to those with sleep-related conditions, including obstructive sleep apnea and disruptive sleeping patterns. Modafinil is similar to adrafinil in providing its effects – adrafinil actually converts into modafinil in the body. However, adrafinil is less potent and the majority of this drug is converted into inactive modafinilic acid.


Nootropics present significant benefits for improving cognitive performance. If you’re looking to receive effective results on memory, learning, attention span, focus or alertness, consuming a nootropic may be an excellent solution. Deciding between natural and synthetic nootropics is a personal choice and the decision you make will depend on your personal preferences and overall benefits. You may also benefit from ‘stacking’ several nootropics together for optimal results on better brain functioning.




Previous article How to Stack Your Nootropics 101
Next article The Amazing Health Benefits of Adaptogenic Mushrooms