Guide to nootropics: Types & benefits

10 Jun 2022 • 3 min read


Heard of nootropics but not sure what they are? You’re in the right place.

We’ve created a guide to all things nootropics, with an intro on what they are, the different types of natural nootropics, how to take them and their various benefits.  

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What are nootropics?

Also known as “smart drugs” nootropics are a type of compound, usually in supplement form, that are used to enhance cognitive performance.1

The areas of cognitive performance that they’re said to improve include memory, creativity, motivation and attention.1

The different types of nootropics

Read on to learn more about the different types of nootropics you can get.

  1. Ginseng

Originating from North America and East Asia, ginseng has been used as a herbal plant for thousands of years.2 Used for a variety of different reasons, ginseng is said to help:3,4

  • Mood and stress levels
  • Brain fatigue
  1. Ginkgo biloba

Classed as one of the most used herbal supplements in the world, ginkgo biloba is a tree that originates from China.

Ginkgo biloba extract though is specifically made from the leaves of the tree, which are said to contribute to:

  • Brain function
  • Blood circulation5,6
  1. Ashwagandha

Considered a powerful Ayurvedicherb, Ashwagandha translates to “smell of the horse”, which indicates that it offers the strength and vigour of a stallion.7

Ashwagandha itself comes from an evergreen shrub that grows in parts of Asia and Africa, and it has been shown to be helpful with:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety7,8
  1. L-Theanine

You might not have heard of this one, but it’s actually from a non-protein amino acid that is found in green tea!9

Not a fan of green tea? Not to worry, this compound is available in a handy supplement form too. Plus, L-Theanine has been found to be effective on helping with:

  • Creativity
  • Relaxation and sleep10,11
  1. Creatine

If you’re into fitness and frequently visit the gym, you’ve probably heard of creatine before. But did you know that it is considered a nootropic too?

As well as supporting your muscles, creatine has actually been shown to have a positive effect on brain function.12 In particular, creatine has been shown to assist with:

  • Memory
  • Reasoning skills13,14
  1. Bacopa Monnieri

Another plant that has been used for many years in traditional Ayurvedic cultures, Bacopa Monnieri or brahmi, is also considered as a nootropic supplement.

This particular plant can be found in the wetlands of southern and eastern India, Europe, Australia, Asia, Africa and South America.15

Specifically though, Bacopa Monnieri is said to support:

  • Information processing
  • Reaction times
  • Memory16,17,18
  1. Rhodiola Rosea

Considered pretty rare as it mainly grows in high altitudes, rhodiola rosea is a plant that has been traditionally used as an adaptogen for many years.19

Now used as a nootropic supplement, it apparently helps your body to handle stress in a better way. But that’s not all. It also supports:

  • Mood
  • Stress levels
  • Mental fatigue20,21,22
  1. Omega-3 fatty acids

While not traditionally considered a nootropic, omega-3 fatty acids have entered the conversation more recently, mainly due to scientific research that has been published about its benefits on cognitive function and brain health.

For example, omega-3 fatty acids are said to support:

  • Memory
  • Mood23,24
  1. Caffeine

Yes, that’s right. Your humble cup of tea or coffee is also classed as a nootropic.

As well as those two drinks, caffeine can also be found in cocoa, kola nuts and guarana. But if you’re not a hot drinks person, that’s okay.

You can also find caffeine supplements to suit your lifestyle. The main areas that caffeine can help you with include:

  • Alertness
  • Attention
  • Reaction time25,26,27

How to take them

If your nootropic supplements are in capsule form, you will most likely have to take them with a glass of water – and sometimes with a meal.

But you should always follow the instructions on the package for the most accurate information.

However, you can actually get nootropics in other forms too.

For example, they can be sold as a powder or even as a pre-made drink, making it a simple and easy way for you to add them to your lifestyle.

4 benefits of nootropic supplements

We’ve gone through all the different types of natural nootropics and what they’re good for, but now we’re going to delve into the detail of their specific benefits.



One of the main reasons people take brain nootropics is to improve their energy levels.

For example, if you find you’re fatigued on a regular basis and it’s impacting your day-to-day life, a nootropic may be worth trying.

Although it also recommended to check in with your GP to make sure that any other medical issues aren’t the cause of this.

The best nootropic supplements for increasing your energy levels include:

  • Caffeine
  • Creatine
  • Rhodiola rosea27,28



Another one of the key benefits of nootropics is how they can assist with your focus. It can be hard to stay on track in modern life, so a focus enhancing nootropic may be able to help.

Specifically, nootropics seem to be able to aid attention span, the following supplements have been proven to help in this area:

  • Caffeine
  • Bacopa monnieri29



Memory is another benefit of taking nootropics, as multiple different types boast these type of effects.

Some nootropics are able to provide support to your short-term memory, while others have to be taken for several weeks before you see any benefits.

But which ones are the best for memory?

Various scientists studied these nootropics and concluded that they may help to support it:

  • Bacopa monnieri
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Creatine
  • Omega-3 fatty acids31,32


Stress Management

And the last of the key benefits of nootropics is its effect on anxiety and stress. In fact, multiple different nootropic supplements have been shown to lower stress levels.

The most prominent ones include:32,33,34,35

  • Ashwagandha
  • L-Theanine
  • Ginseng
  • Rhodiola rosea

The final say

And that’s a wrap on all things nootropics. Feeling a little more confident about what they are and what they can do for you?

If you feel like you want to give them a go, do check in with a medical professional beforehand for further advice if you feel like you need it.

Or for more information on vitamins, minerals and herbal remedies, visit the Health Hub for further in-depth articles and guides.

Last updated: 10 June 2022

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.



Author: Donia HilalNutritionist

Joined Holland & Barrett: Jan 2018

Bsc in Nutrition, Registered Associate Nutritionist and Certification in Pre and Post Natal Nutrition

Donia started her career as a freelance nutritionist, later she joined Nestle as their Market Nutritionist to help support their healthier product range, before joining the team at Holland & Barrett in January 2018.

Donia has over 6 years experience as a Nutritionist and also works with clients on a one to one basis to support their goals which include weight loss, prenatal and postnatal nutrition and children’s health.

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