Adaptogens and Nootropics (and Why You May Want Both)

Adaptogens and Nootropics (and Why You May Want Both) - Lucid™

In today's fast-paced world, the demands on our mental and physical performance are higher than ever. As a result, people are constantly seeking ways to enhance their cognitive function, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. Enter the two most talked-about natural wellness supplements on the market today: adaptogen and nootropics. 

But what are adaptogen and nootropics and how can they help boost your performance, productivity, and overall well being? And which one is a better fit for you?

Simply put, nootropics regulate brain functions to boost cognitive performance. Adaptogens regulate the way the body reacts to stress, which can help you feel more calm and collected and boost your focus. And truthfully, you may have more success in combining the two rather than playing pick and choose. There are a number of popular nootropics and adaptogen stacks that can help you do just that. 

Before you start digging into all the options, though, let's explore the benefits of both adaptogens and nootropics and why combining them may offer even greater advantages.

Key Takeaways

Adaptogens are natural substances that improve the body’s stress response.

Nootropics are compounds that improve cognitive function and can be either natural or synthetic.

Adaptogens and nootropics can be stacked together for a full-coverage approach to brain and body wellness.

What are Adaptogens? 

Adaptogens are natural substances, usually derived from plants, that help the body adapt to physical, chemical, and biological stressors. These unique compounds have been used in traditional medicine systems, such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, for centuries. 

Unlike pharmaceutical drugs that target specific symptoms or conditions, adaptogens work by regulating the body's stress response system, helping it maintain balance and resilience.

In order for a compound to be considered an adaptogen, it must be a natural, plant based compound that does no harm when taken at minimal doses. It must also have an open impact on the stress response, meaning that most adaptogens can either upregulate or downregulate the production of cortisol, also known as "the stress hormone," depending on the situation. 

Adaptogens exhibit a range of benefits, including:

Stress reduction

Adaptogens help regulate the production of stress hormones, such as cortisol, and improve the body's response to stress. They promote a sense of calmness and enhance mental clarity during challenging situations.

Increased Energy and vitality

Adaptogens support healthy energy levels by increasing the body's resistance to fatigue and improving endurance. They help optimize cellular energy production and support overall vitality.

Mood enhancement

Adaptogens have mood-stabilizing properties and may help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. They support emotional well-being and improve cognitive function related to mood regulation.

We'll cover some of the most common adaptogens and their more specific benefits below, but for now let's skip over to nootropics. 

What are Nootropics? 

Nootropics, also known as cognitive enhancers or "smart drugs," are substances that improve cognitive function, including memory, focus, creativity, and overall mental performance. Nootropics can be natural compounds, such as herbs, botanicals, or mushrooms, or synthetic substances developed for cognitive enhancement purposes, like medications used to treat ADHD. 

Generally speaking, nootropics work by altering the body's neurotransmitter levels. Neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and GABA play a crucial role in functions like motivation, focus, and executive functioning.

Nootropics offer a range of potential benefits, including:

Improved cognitive function

Nootropics enhance various aspects of cognitive performance, such as memory, attention, and learning capacity. They promote mental clarity and help individuals stay focused and productive.


Certain nootropics have neuroprotective properties, meaning they can help protect the brain from oxidative stress, inflammation, and age-related cognitive decline. They support long-term brain health and may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

Mood elevation

Some nootropics have mood-enhancing effects and can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. They support a positive mental state and emotional well-being.

Synergistic Benefits: Combining Adaptogens and Nootropics

While adaptogens and nootropics offer distinct benefits on their own, combining them can create a synergistic effect, enhancing overall mental and physical performance. 

We’ll cover some of the most commonly used nootropics and adaptogens below. But first, here's why you may want to consider incorporating both adaptogens and nootropics into your wellness routine:

Enhanced stress resilience

Adaptogens help the body respond to stress, while nootropics support cognitive function during challenging situations. Together, they can help reduce the negative impact of stress on mental performance, allowing you to stay focused and productive even under pressure.

Improved cognitive function

Nootropics enhance various aspects of cognitive performance, such as memory and attention, while adaptogens support mental clarity and reduce brain fog. By combining the two, you can experience improved cognitive function on multiple levels, including memory retention, focus, and overall mental processing speed.

Balanced energy levels

Adaptogens promote balanced energy by supporting the body's stress response system and combating fatigue. When combined with nootropics that enhance mental alertness and energy, such as caffeine or L-theanine, you can experience a sustained and focused energy boost without the jitters or crash associated with stimulants alone.

Neuroprotection and brain health

Some adaptogens and nootropics have overlapping benefits when it comes to neuroprotection and brain health. Adaptogens like Ashwagandha and Lion's Mane mushroom exhibit neuroprotective properties and promote the growth of new neurons. When combined with nootropics that have similar effects, such as Omega-3 fatty acids or Curcumin, you can support long-term brain health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Mood enhancement and emotional well-being

Both adaptogens and nootropics have the potential to improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Adaptogens like Rhodiola rosea and Ashwagandha have adaptogenic and anxiolytic properties, while nootropics like L-theanine and 5-HTP can promote relaxation and support serotonin production. Combining these compounds may lead to a more balanced and positive emotional state.

Keep in mind that individual responses to adaptogens and nootropics may vary. You should always consult your doctor before making changes to your wellness regimen. That is especially true if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications.

Top Nootropics and Adaptogens for Your Wellness Stack

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng, is a popular adaptogen that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. It is known for its ability to reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance mental clarity. 

Ashwagandha has been studied for its potential benefits in managing anxiety and related sleep issues, improving cognitive function, and supporting adrenal health. It is also believed to possess anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating properties.


L-Theanine is an amino acid that's found in most kinds of tea leaves, and it’s the compound that’s most often associated with the health effects of green tea. Green tea is known for providing a caffeine boost that’s smoother and less jittery than what you may get from coffee or synthetic energy drinks–and it’s probably because of the L-theanine content.

L-Theanine is known for its relaxing effects that are soothing without making you drowsy. According to research, taking L-theanine with caffeine may reduce caffeine’s impact on your blood pressure or anxiety levels. 

Another study found that L-theanine may help to regulate your sleep schedule, which can be helpful for anyone who’s sleep schedule is sensitive to caffeine consumption. Overnight, L-theanine may help you get more low-wave sleep, the sleep cycles that help you feel more rested, thus decreasing the need for caffeine over time. 

Plus, the two compounds synergize like no others. According to research, a combination of L-theanine and caffeine has been associated with improved reaction times, improved word recognition, and improved attention, improved ability to switch between tasks more easily, and higher accuracy upon completing tasks. 


Ginseng is a well-known adaptogenic herb that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Ginseng is revered for its ability to enhance vitality, reduce fatigue, and improve physical and mental performance. It is also believed to support immune function and promote overall well-being.

A 2017 study confirms that Ginseng may provide a “potential approach to regaining homeostasis after abnormal physiological changes caused by the stress of everyday life.” More specifically, it may have a positive impact on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) and the production of hormones, such as cortisol. 


Rhodiola, also called Arctic root or golden root, is renowned for its stress-reducing properties and its ability to enhance mental performance and stamina. Rhodiola is believed to improve cognitive function, boost energy levels, and alleviate symptoms of fatigue and exhaustion. 

Rhodiola contains over 140 active ingredients–but most notably contains rosavin and salidroside, two compounds known to be potent adaptogens.

Traditionally, Rhodiola has been used to treat psychological conditions, but now we believe it to have benefits for the whole brain. In fact, one large review of 36 animal studies concluded this to be true–stating that “R. rosea L. can improve learning and memory function” possibly due it’s “antioxidant properties, cholinergic regulation, anti-apoptosis activities, anti-inflammatory, improving coronary blood flow, and cerebral metabolism.”

Thanks to its adaptogenic effects, taking it daily has been linked to reduced mental fatigue and increased feelings of well-being while under stress. 


Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is one of a handful of adaptogenic mushrooms. One study found that Resihi supplementation improved the pain and mood changes surrounding a condition caused by chronic exhaustion. 

Other evidence suggests that Reishi, as well as other adaptogenic mushrooms, may also help to improve mood. In this survey of nutritional habits, those who regularly consumed mushrooms reported significantly lower rates of depression. Various smaller trials have verified similar results, claiming that consuming more mushrooms in general may help reduce both depression and anxiety.


Cordyceps is one type of mushroom that has been studied for its potential adaptogenic effects. Human trials are limited, but one animal trial suggests that cordyceps can help reduce stress markers while increasing the ability to handle stress-related activities. Another similar study confirmed these results, stating that cordyceps may be useful for combating stress-related fatigue.

A 2014 human trial examined the use of cordyceps in combination with another herbal remedy said to have adaptogenic effects–rhodiola crenulata. This study also confirmed stress-relieving effects and an improvement in fatigue levels after only 2 weeks of dosing. Another study combined cordyceps with reishi mushroom and found the pair to help reduce the effects of physical stress on athletes caused by overtraining.

Although these studies do shed some light on the potential stress-regulating effects of cordyceps, more evidence is needed to understand the full extent of its adaptogenic nature.

Lions Mane

Hericium erinaceus, commonly known as lion’s mane, is another mushroom thought to offer adaptogenic effects. One study found that Lion’s Mane may help reverse stress-related changes impacting crucial neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin. It may also help reduce certain inflammatory markers known to increase when experiencing stress.

Another study suggests that Lion’s Mane may prevent the downregulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) when experiencing a stressful event, which may help decrease the chances of experiencing stress-related depression.

One study even found that Lion’s Mane extract may encourage the growth of new nerve cells and may stimulate faster healing within the nervous system, which may help to reduce the impact of stress-related damage to the brain.

Lion's Mane coffee is becoming a popular way to enjoy the mushrooms' cognition-boosting, nootropic benefits and may also provide some adaptogenic support when choosing a low-caffeine option, or when pairing the caffeine with L-Theanine, another powerful adaptogen known for its sleep-enhancing benefits


Some evidence suggests that maitake may have significant brain-boosting and antidepressant effects thanks to its interactions with AMPA receptors, or neuroreceptors that help to regulate emotions. It’s also known to have a fair amount of beta-glucans, which may also offer significant antidepressant effects.

One trial found that when maitake was combined with ashwagandha, it could significantly decrease the cortisol production (or the stress response) in animal models. More research is needed to verify maitake’s adaptogenic potential.

Ginkgo Biloba

Some people disagree on whether Ginkgo Biloba belongs in the adaptogen category or in the nootropic category. This age-old health-boosting supplement is derived from one of the world’s oldest trees and has traditionally been used for improving kidney health, treating asthma and bronchitis, and for managing senility in older adults. 

Now, though, researchers have revealed many other benefits, like the potential to treat dementia and stabilize cognitive functions in dementia patients. 

Researchers have also found that Ginkgo may keep cortisol and blood-pressure levels low during stress-related experiences, which can help decrease the risk of tissue damage and improve overall performance. Researchers aren’t sure what makes ginkgo effective, but they theorize that it has something to do with its ability to improve blood flow to the brain. 


Alpha-GPC helps to increase acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps facilitate learning and memory. That’s why Alpha-GPC has come to be known as a powerful nootropic for improving memory. So much so that it is sold as a prescription medication for managing Alzheimer’s Disease in some other countries. Of course, it exists as a natural dietary supplement in the U.S. and can be purchased without a prescription, which is why it still fits on this list of natural nootropics.

One study suggests that alpha-GP. may have an even wider range of cognitive benefits. More specifically, it found that alpha-GPC may target four primary areas of cognition–verbal memory, visual memory, verbal learning, and executive function.

Another study comparing the impact of caffeine and alpha-GPC found that alpha GPC supplementation increased mental performance speed in young adults by 18%.


Both nootropics and adaptogens are natural options that can help improve regulatory processes and support optimal well-being. Although it may be tempting to separate these two into two clear categories, many of the benefits overlap. Stress plays a huge role in cognitive health, and poor cognition and imbalanced neurotransmitter production can prevent the body from properly handling stress.

In other words, taking nootropics and adaptogens together can help target stress and cognition from every angle, and many of these supplements have synergistic effects that increase their efficacy.

Our Lucid Nootropic Stack is a great example of this. You can read more about our ingredients and why we chose them to learn more. 

Lucid beverages contain a blend of brain-boosting nootropics + powerful mushrooms designed to unlock your brain's full potential so you can zone in on what's important. 

Ready to become lucid?  Check out our starter kit. 

Before choosing any nootropic or adaptogenic supplements, always talk to your doctor. Certain supplements may have drug interactions, and you may also need a guide to help you work out a good dosage and frequency routine.


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