Best Nootropics Over the Counter - Benefits, Drawbacks, & More

Best Nootropics Over the Counter - Benefits, Drawbacks, & More - Lucid™

Nootropics, or “smart drugs,” are compounds that alter your neurochemistry in a positive way to enhance memory, focus, creativity, energy, and neural processing speeds. They come in many forms, synthetic and natural, and prescription or supplemental. 

Many people have rightfully pointed out the potential harms of synthetic nootropics and various prescription drugs, which may be habit forming and come with a lengthy list of side effects. The question is, can you buy nootropics over the counter?

Luckily, there are several effective options available over the counter. Follow us as we explore some of the best over-the-counter nootropics, their benefits, drawbacks, and more.

Key Takeaways

Over the counter nootropics can be effective for improving memory, focus, and overall cognition.

Many nootropic supplements can be combined with others to create a multifaceted nootropic stack.

Over the counter nootropic options are not as well regulated as prescription drugs, so you need to understand how to choose high-quality supplements.

Best OTC Nootropics

Before we take a look at the over the counter nootropic options available, keep in mind that each nootropic has unique benefits. Some are better for improving memory, while others are geared more towards improving focus or creativity. Stacking nootropics is the best way to create a multifaceted nootropic supplement that meets your unique needs. 

Here are the best nootropics over the counter:

1. Alpha-GPC

Alpha-GPC is a popular nootropic compound that is widely used for its potential cognitive-enhancing effects. It is a choline-containing compound that is naturally present in the brain and can also be found in certain foods. Alpha-GPC works by increasing the levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in memory and learning.

In fact, Alpha-GPC 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.

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%.

Some people have found Alpha-GPC to be a suitable alternative to ADHD medication, though you should always discuss those changes with your doctor. If you decide to incorporate Alpha-GPC, it needs to be taken daily to experience the full benefits.

Read “Alpha-GPC Nootropic Benefits”  to learn more.

Benefits of Alpha-GPC:

  • Enhances memory and learning abilities
  • Improves focus and concentration
  • Supports overall brain health

Drawbacks of Alpha-GPC:

  • May cause mild side effects such as headaches or gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Requires consistent usage for optimal results

2. L-Theanine

L-Theanine is an amino acid commonly found in green tea leaves. It’s thought to have a few therapeutic benefits, acting both as a nootropic (cognition enhancing) and adaptogenic (stress regulating) compound. It may even have benefits for sleep, though it won’t make you groggy!

Theanine is thought to act like glutamine in the body, an amino acid that impacts the production of three essential neurotransmitters–GABA, serotonin, and dopamine. By helping to regulate neurotransmitter production, L-theanine may change the way that the brain responds to stress, promoting relaxation that can help improve focus. 

In fact, theanine’s signature benefit is promoting a sense of calm, which is why it pairs nicely with caffeine. Some evidence suggests that it may negate any negative side effects related to caffeine, like anxiety or increased blood pressure. If you’re wondering “How will feeling calm help me focus?”, let us explain:

By calming the brain and improving the response to stress, L-theanine may help to streamline your focus and prevent you from getting distracted. A reactive nervous system, essentially the opposite of feeling calm, makes you more susceptible to outside distractions. 

There’s some research to help us understand L-theanine’s focus-enhancing potential. A small 2011 study found that L-theanine had a pronounced effect on attention and reaction time response in healthy adults who are prone to anxiety. 

Another 2019 randomized controlled trial involving 30 healthy adults concluded that L-theanine was safe and well-tolerated as a “nutraceutical ingredient for improving mental conditions in a healthy population.” 

Specifically, L-theanine supplementation was found to decrease stress-related symptoms (involving depression, anxiety, and sleep) and increase cognition scores (involving verbal fluency and executive function).

Benefits of L-Theanine:

  • Promotes relaxation and reduces stress
  • Improves attention and focus
  • Enhances sleep quality

Drawbacks of L-Theanine:

  • Effects may vary between individuals
  • Potential interactions with certain medications

3. Lion's Mane

Lion's Mane is a medicinal mushroom that has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. It contains bioactive compounds called hericenones and erinacines, which are believed to have neuroprotective and neuroregenerative effects.

Lion’s mane may help to enhance memory and brain function in a number of ways, but most significantly by increasing the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This helps to promote the growth of new neurons, improving the communication pathways in the brain, and possibly increasing processing speed. 

Aside from the potential benefits of lion’s mane for healthy brains, the mushroom is also associated with several advantages for older adults with mild cognitive impairments. One study found a trend of significant improvement in cognitive function for these adults when taking lion’s mane daily, though the benefits stopped after they quit taking lion’s mane. 

In other words, Lion’s Mane needs to be taken daily for the best results. Talk to your doctor about Lion’s Mane’s cognition boosting effects and for help determining a good dosing routine. 

Benefits of Lion's Mane:

  • Enhances memory and cognitive abilities
  • Supports brain health and neuroplasticity
  • May alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression

Drawbacks of Lion's Mane:

  • Limited research on long-term effects
  • Potential for allergic reactions in some individuals

4. L-Tyrosine

L-Tyrosine is an amino acid that plays a crucial role in the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. It is involved in regulating mood, motivation, and cognitive function. L-Tyrosine supplementation is often used to support mental performance during periods of stress or sleep deprivation.

L-tyrosine may help to improve your ability to focus by providing building blocks for these crucial neurochemicals. In fact, one study shows us exactly this–tyrosine supplementation can help the brain perform well at various cognitive tasks even while under stress. In fact, L-tyrosine is one of the most common natural nootropics chosen by those hoping to manage ADHD and related conditions.

Benefits of L-Tyrosine:

  • Enhances cognitive function and mental clarity
  • Improves focus and attention
  • Supports stress management and mood regulation

Drawbacks of L-Tyrosine:

  • May cause mild gastrointestinal side effects
  • Should be used with caution in individuals with hyperthyroidism or high blood pressure

5. Ginkgo Biloba

Traditionally, ginkgo biloba was used for various purposes, including improving kidney health, treating respiratory conditions, and managing memory loss and cognitive decline in the elderly. Recent research suggests that ginkgo's ability to enhance blood flow, particularly to the brain, is responsible for its wide range of health benefits.

In a study involving 216 outpatient subjects, researchers utilized a standardized ginkgo extract called EGb 761 and effectively managed dementia symptoms. Another study supported these findings by demonstrating that the same standardized extract may improve cognitive function and social patterns in adults with dementia.

Ginkgo also exhibits potential healing effects on the brain and nervous system, which contribute to its long-term cognitive benefits. Animal and test-tube studies have shown its ability to stimulate the growth of neurons. Additionally, ginkgo may have preventive effects that help maintain low levels of cortisol and blood pressure during stressful experiences, reducing the risk of tissue damage and improving overall performance.

Benefits of Ginkgo Biloba:

  • Enhances blood flow, especially to the brain, promoting better cognitive function
  • May help manage dementia symptoms and improve cognitive function in adults with dementia
  • Potential healing effects on the brain and nervous system
  • May have preventive effects, reducing the risk of tissue damage during stress-related experiences

Drawbacks of Ginkgo Biloba:

  • Potential interactions with certain medications, so caution should be exercised when combining it with other drugs
  • May cause mild gastrointestinal discomfort in some individuals

6. Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa monnieri is an ancient remedy that continues to gain recognition due to ongoing research highlighting its numerous benefits. It has been linked to improved processing speed, reduced reaction times, memory enhancement, and the prevention of age-related cognitive decline. Researchers believe that its potent antioxidant properties play a key role in preventing oxidative stress, a primary cause of neurodegeneration as we age.

Bacopa monnieri is another over the counter nootropic that needs to be taken daily for best effects. It is also frequently paired with Lion’s Mane and other nootropics and is rarely taken on its own. 

Benefits of Bacopa Monnieri:

  • Improves processing speed and reduces reaction times
  • Enhances memory and cognitive function
  • Helps prevent age-related cognitive decline
  • Exhibits potent antioxidant properties, protecting against neurodegeneration

Drawbacks of Bacopa Monnieri:

  • May cause mild gastrointestinal discomfort in some individuals
  • Effects may take time to become noticeable, requiring consistent usage

Are Over the Counter Nootropics as Effective as Prescription Nootropics?

One common question that arises when considering over-the-counter (OTC) nootropics is whether they are as effective as prescription nootropics. While prescription nootropics may have undergone more rigorous testing and research, OTC options can still provide significant cognitive benefits. Many nootropic over the counter options are also moderately well-tested, and some are even used for prescription purposes outside of the United States. 

In general, the effectiveness of both OTC and prescription nootropics can vary depending on individual factors, such as metabolism, overall health, and specific cognitive needs.

Prescription nootropics are typically prescribed for specific medical conditions, such as ADHD or narcolepsy, and may have stronger and more targeted effects. However, OTC nootropics can still offer valuable cognitive enhancements. Regardless of which route you choose, you should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.

Over the Counter Nootropic Stacks: What is Stacking?

Nootropic stacks refer to combinations of different nootropic substances taken together to achieve synergistic effects. OTC nootropic stacks are pre-formulated combinations of various cognitive-enhancing compounds that are designed to provide comprehensive cognitive support. These stacks often combine different ingredients with complementary mechanisms of action, aiming to enhance overall cognitive function.

By taking an OTC nootropic stack, individuals can benefit from the synergistic effects of multiple nootropic compounds, targeting different aspects of cognitive performance. Some popular OTC nootropic stacks include a combination of ingredients like caffeine, L-theanine, and Lion’s Mane, which work together to promote focus, attention, and memory.

It's worth noting that individual responses to nootropic stacks can vary, and it's important to choose reputable brands that provide transparent information about their ingredients and dosages. 

Where Can You Buy Over the Counter Nootropics?

Over the counter nootropics can be purchased from various sources, both online and offline. Health and supplement stores, pharmacies, and online retailers are the best sources for high-quality nootropics. Avoid supermarket supplements, which are often poor quality and untested. 

When buying OTC nootropics, it's important to choose reputable and trusted brands. Look for products that have undergone third-party testing for quality and purity. Additionally, reading customer reviews and consulting with healthcare professionals can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness and safety of different OTC nootropics.

Our Lucid stack contains four powerful medicinal mushrooms, including Maitake, Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, and Tremella, plus nootropics like BCAA’s, L-Theanine, L-Tyrosine, Ginkgo Biloba, and more. This functional formula can help boost your performance, improve immunity, support healing, and more–a slew of benefits that most energy drinks and coffee blends just don’t provide.

When it’s all said and done, this nootropic + mushroom super blend adds up to offer these benefits and more:


  • Increases endurance
  • Improves athletic performance
  • Helps to manage fatigue
  • Boosts immunity
  • Supports fat burn
  • Improves neurogenesis
  • Enhances focus, learning, and memory
  • Supports a healthy stress response
  • Promotes relaxation
  • Supports a balanced mood


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. 

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