7 Best Nootropic Herbs 2023 (Boost Cognitive Performance)

Updated on September 4, 2023
 by — reviewed by Jason Williams, PhD (Contributor: George Collins / Editor: Yoko Hill)
Best Nootropic Herbs

What are the best nootropic herbs?

As world gets more competitive and demanding in terms of productivity and performance, people are looking for ways to enhance their cognitive functioning to stay ahead of the game. One of the popular trends that have emerged in recent years is the use of nootropic herbs.

Nootropic herbs are natural supplements that can help increase focus, memory, and cognitive performance without the side effects associated with prescription drugs.

In this article, we will explore the seven best nootropic herbs out there that can help you reach your peak mental state and be at your best.

Best Nootropic Herbs

  • Bacopa Monnieri — Best botanical extract to improve cognition
  • Huperzine A — Great for improving nervous system health
  • Rhodiola Rosea — Great for protecting brain cells from oxidative stress
  • Ashwagandha — Best to stimulate nerve growth factor
  • Ginseng — Great for enhancing learning and memory
  • Ginkgo Biloba — Best for supporting long-term brain health
  • Turmeric — Great herbal medicine for immunity

1. Bacopa Monnieri

Bopa Monnieri, also known as Brahmi or water hyssop, is a powerful nootropic herb that has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to enhance cognitive function. This creeping perennial herb is native to Australia and India and is commonly found in warm wetlands. Bacopa contains a number of chemical compounds known as bacosides that can cross the blood-brain barrier and provide significant neuroprotective and neuroenhancement benefits.(1)

Several studies have substantiated Bacopa’s nootropic utility in humans. Bacopa nourishs neurons and improves memory function, without being addictive or forceful like some psychostimulants, making it a great alternative for people looking for a more natural approach to cognitive enhancement. Furthermore, long-term moderate use of Bacopa appears to be safe and well-tolerated by both animals and humans.


  • Improves brain function
  • Helps fight free radical cell damage
  • Enhances memory retention and information recall
  • Boosts productivity and motivation


  • Potential allergic reactions for some users
  • Not intended for pregnant or nursing mothers or children under 18
  • Individuals taking blood thinners or other medications should consult a physician before use

Emerging research also suggests several mechanisms of action including increased cerebral blood flow, acetylcholinesterase inhibition, and/or choline acetyltransferase activation and can be prescribed as a memory enhancer.

2. Huperzine A

Huperzine A is a highly purified and concentrated extract from the Chinese club moss plant. It has a long history of use in both herbal and Chinese medicine. The main active compound in the plant is used to enhance memory and learning. Huperzine A enhances mood and a smarter, faster brain. It is used for improving cognitive function and reducing brain inflammation after traumatic brain injury

Newer studies are finding a significant improvement in cognitive function, daily living activity, and overall symptoms in Alzheimer’s patients.(2) People who took Huperzine A improved memory and learning ability in a group of students compared to placebo in one study. Huperzine A may also help protect against age-related neurodegeneration and cognitive decline.


  • Enhances cognitive function and memory
  • Alleviates symptoms of Alzheimer's disease
  • Promotes learning and focus


  • Can cause gastrointestinal issues
  • Potentially harmful in high doses
  • Not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding

Typical doses are 50 – 100 mcg twice per day, however, it is important to consult with your doctor before using Huperzine A. One of the main benefits of using Huperzine A compared to other nootropics is that it is a natural and safe option. It is an excellent alternative to nootropic drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Modafinil, which can have severe side effects including headaches, insomnia, and anxiety. Huperzine A has limited risks of tolerance, addiction, and withdrawal symptoms, making it a reliable choice for enhancing cognitive function.

3. Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea is a herb that grows in cold regions such as the Arctic and high altitude areas in Europe and Asia. Also known as "golden root," it has been used in traditional medicine for centuries to help combat stress, anxiety, and depression.

Rhodiola Rosea has been shown to increase mental performance and concentration in healthy individuals, making it a great natural nootropic. It can also help reduce fatigue and improve physical performance, making it a perfect supplement for athletes or individuals who have demanding work schedules.

Rhodiola Rosea has an antidepressant effect and can help improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression.(3) It does this by regulating the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin and dopamine.

One of the primary uses of Rhodiola Rosea is for stress reduction. It works by reducing the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can lead to anxiety and fatigue. By reducing cortisol levels, Rhodiola Rosea can help individuals feel more relaxed and focused.


  • Helps reduce stress and anxiety
  • Improves mood and energy levels
  • Enhances cognitive function


  • Some individuals may experience dizziness or headaches

Overall, Rhodiola Rosea is an excellent natural herb for improving cognitive performance, reducing stress, and boosting mood. Its adaptogenic properties make it a great addition to any wellness routine, helping individuals maintain optimal health and cognitive function.

4. Ashwagandha

Ashagandha, also known as Withania Somnifera or "Indian Ginseng," is a well-known adaptogenic herb that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It is one of the most widely used nootropic herbs due to its ability to improve cognitive function and reduce stress and anxiety levels.

Ashwagandha contains active compounds called withanolides, which have been shown to have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have found that Ashwagandha can improve memory, attention, and reaction time in healthy adults. Ashwagandha can also help reduce cortisol levels, a hormone that is often elevated during times of stress, making it a valuable herb for managing stress and anxiety.(4) Additionally, Ashwagandha has been shown to improve sleep quality, which can further contribute to better cognitive function.


  • Improves memory retention
  • Enhances physical and mental performance
  • Has neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties


  • May cause minor side effects in some users
  • Should be avoided by those with autoimmune diseases

Overall, Ashwagandha is a promising natural remedy for enhancing cognitive performance and reducing stress and anxiety levels. Its neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects, combined with its ability to improve memory, attention, and reaction time, make it a valuable addition to any nootropic supplement regimen.

5. Ginseng

Ginseng is a popular herb that has long been used in traditional medicine systems, such as Chinese and Korean medicine. It is known for its adaptogenic properties that help the body cope with stress and fatigue.

Ginseng contains anti-inflammatory chemicals called ginsenosides that help reduce brain levels of beta-amyloid, a protein fragment that forms Alzheimer's-related brain plaques. This improves memory performance and prevents memory loss. Ginseng aids in improving focus and concentration due to its stimulating effects on the brain. It increases alertness, mental clarity, and reduces feelings of fatigue or brain fog. Chronic stress can lead to negative impacts on brain health and cognitive performance. Ginseng has been shown to have anxiolytic effects that can help reduce stress and anxiety levels, leading to improved mental performance.(5)

The energizing effects of ginseng can benefit cognitive performance by increasing alertness and productivity. It can reduce feelings of fatigue and improve physical endurance during mentally demanding tasks. Ginseng has neuroprotective properties that can slow down age-related cognitive decline. Studies have shown that ginseng extracts can improve cognitive function in older adults, preventing age-related memory loss and other cognitive impairments.


  • Improves alertness and mental clarity
  • Has immune-boosting properties
  • Improves mood and reduces stress


  • May interact with certain medications, especially those affecting blood pressure or blood sugar levels
  • May cause minor side effects such as headaches, insomnia or gastrointestinal distress

Overall, ginseng can be a beneficial nootropic herb for improving brain performance and preventing cognitive decline. However, it's important to consult with a doctor before using ginseng or any other natural supplements to ensure they are safe for you to use.

6. Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba is a tree native to China that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. It is believed to help improve cognitive function by promoting blood flow to the brain and assisting the distribution of nutrients and oxygen. Ginkgo Biloba extracts contain bioactive compounds, including ginkgolides and bilobalide, which are considered to exert memory-enhancing, neuroprotective, and neuroregenerative effects.(6)

A research review found that a Ginkgo Biloba extract was helpful in slowing the decline of cognition among patients experiencing neuropsychiatric symptoms in addition to cognitive impairment and dementia. The extract of this herb is often consumed in the form of a dietary supplement, which is readily available in health food stores.


  • Alleviates anxiety and boosts mood
  • Improves blood flow to the brain
  • Provides antioxidant and neuroprotective effects


  • Some users may not get significant results
  • Interactions with certain medication

Although research on Ginkgo Biloba has yielded mixed results, it is still considered to be one of the best herbs for improving cognitive function. It could be a great option for those looking for a natural nootropic herb to boost their cognitive performance.

7. Turmeric

Turmeric is a popular spice that has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It contains a compound called curcumin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, making it a potent herb for cognitive health. Several scientific studies have shown that turmeric is beneficial for brain health and preventing memory loss.

Beta-amyloid is a protein fragment that builds up and forms Alzheimer's-related brain plaques. Research suggests that turmeric clears the brain of beta-amyloid and slows down the progression of Alzheimer's disease.(7) Turmeric protects nerve cells in the brain by inhibiting their breakdown. This improves cognitive function and helps prevent memory loss.


  • Enhances mental faculties for better cognition
  • Supports immune system and overall health


  • May cause side effects such as upset stomach and diarrhea in some users

Overall, turmeric is a natural herb that has many health benefits and is a safe and effective way to improve cognitive health. Adding turmeric to your diet can be as simple as incorporating it into your favorite dishes or drinking it in tea form.

How Do Nootropic Herbs Work?

The answer lies in their natural compounds and the effects they have on our brain and body. Generally, nootropic herbs work by increasing circulation to the brain, altering the concentration of neurotransmitters, reducing brain inflammation, stimulating the formation of new brain cells, and protecting the brain from free-radical damage.

Some herbal nootropics work through distinct mechanisms to enhance cognitive function. Some herbs promote increased blood flow to the brain, which aids in memory and learning. Other herbs act as adaptogens, reducing stress and fatigue while enhancing mood and mental performance. Certain herbs possess anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties, safeguarding against brain inflammation and age-related cognitive decline.(8) Moreover, some herbs stimulate the production of neurotransmitters, resulting in improved concentration and mood.

Unlike synthetic drugs, herbal nootropics have fewer side effects, making them a safer and more sustainable option for cognitive enhancement. By using natural nootropics to target multiple physiological pathways, nootropic herbs can enhance cognitive function without the negative side effects of conventional drugs.

How We Selected the Top Nootropic Herbs

We employed a comprehensive review process to identify the most effective nootropic herbs for cognitive enhancement. Our evaluation considered effectiveness, herbal ingredients, scientific evidence, safety, brand reputation, product transparency, manufacturing process, user reviews, price, and overall value. By assessing each of these aspects, we aimed to provide readers with an accurate and trustworthy list of the best nootropic herbs for cognitive support.


We examined clinical studies and user experiences to determine cognitive improvement, emphasizing focus, memory, and mental clarity.

Herbal Ingredients

We carefully assessed each herbal formula, prioritizing evidence-based, natural, and high-quality ingredients that promote cognitive function.

Scientific Evidence

We consulted peer-reviewed research and meta-analyses to confirm the effectiveness of key herbal ingredients in enhancing cognition.


We evaluated optimal dosages and ingredient ratios, ensuring they were consistent with established research for maximum benefits.


We confirmed the safety of each herb, considering potential side effects, interactions, and compliance with regulatory guidelines. We prioritized herbs with a long history of safe use.

Brand Reputation

We appraised brands' credibility and reliability by examining customer reviews, expert endorsements, and company history.

Product Transparency

We valued comprehensive ingredient disclosure, including sources and concentrations, to promote informed consumer decision-making.

Manufacturing Process

We inspected manufacturing standards, prioritizing products made in certified facilities and adhering to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

User Reviews

We analyzed genuine customer feedback, giving weight to testimonials detailing cognitive enhancement and overall mental well-being.


We compared product prices, ensuring they were competitive and reflective of the quality and efficacy of the nootropic herbs.


We assessed overall value by considering the balance of price, quality, and effectiveness to ensure an optimal return on investment.


In today’s fast-paced world, many individuals turn to nootropics or smart drugs to give them an edge in productivity and cognitive performance. However, not all nootropics are created equal, and synthetic psychostimulants can have dangerous side effects if abused. Thankfully, there are natural alternatives available, including nootropic herbs, that can improve brain function without the risk of addiction or harm to the body. 

In this article, we have compiled a list of the seven best nootropic herbs to boost cognitive performance, including Bacopa Monnieri, Huperzine A, Rhodiola Rosea, Ashwagandha, Ginseng, Ginkgo Biloba, and Turmeric. These herbs have been researched extensively, and their benefits span from improving memory and concentration to reducing stress and anxiety. 

Additionally, we have highlighted how these nootropic herbs work, and how we picked the top ones for our list, ensuring that they align with the current scientific evidence and safety standards. Ultimately, these natural alternatives to synthetic nootropics offer a safer and healthier option for individuals looking to improve their brain function.


How soon can I expect to see results?

The effects of nootropic herbs can vary from person to person and depend on various factors such as age, health, and lifestyle. Some people may experience results immediately, while others may take longer.

Are there clinical trials that support nootropic properties of herbal supplements?

Yes, there are many clinical trials that support the nootropic properties of herbal supplements.

Are herbal nootropics safe to use?

Herbal nootropics are generally safe when taken in recommended doses. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before taking any nootropic compounds, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking any medications.

Do herbal nootropics require a prescription?

No, nootropics do not require a prescription as they are classified as dietary supplements by the Food and Drug Administration.