Nootropics, often referred to as “smart drugs,” are quickly gaining popularity as a way to keep up with the demands of today’s society. Many nootropics are designed to support cognitive function, prevent age-related cognitive decline, or improve memory. Some nootropics may even help improve working memory and focus, helping you zone in on important tasks to get more done.
If increased concentration is what you’re after, these nootropic focus enhancers are what you need. So, how do they work? And which nootropics focus supplements are best? Here’s what you should know:
Table of Contents
Nootropics include prescription drugs designed to promote wakefulness or focus, but over-the-counter supplements may also be effective in enhancing focus.
Many nootropics can be paired together to enhance their cognitive benefits. .
A high-quality nootropic stack may be the most convenient and cost-effective way to reap these focus-enhancing benefits.
What are nootropics?
We mentioned that nootropics are known as “smart drugs,” but we want to elaborate. Nootropics are a class of substances that are known to enhance cognition in many areas. There are many different types of nootropics, ranging from herbal supplements to pharmaceuticals designed to treat conditions like ADHD. Different nootropics have different effects, and some target memory, wakefulness, focus, or endurance more so than others.
For the purposes of this article, we are going to focus on nootropic supplements for focus. If you’re interested in seeking prescription options, talk with your doctor. For many consumers, though, nootropic supplements can have a positive impact on their daily lives with far fewer side effects than the pharmaceutical alternatives.
How Do Nootropics Work?
We mentioned that there are many different nootropic supplements on the market, and they each have different (though sometimes overlapping) effects. For now, researchers don’t always understand the underlying mechanisms that help nootropics improve focus, but there are some common themes we can observe.
For instance, many nootropics may work by improving blood flow in the brain, which can help to speed neural processes and have a positive impact on overall cognition. Others may help to support nerve growth or the production of neurons that carry out cognitive processes. Some nootropics may work by boosting adrenaline levels, which may help to improve focus in the short term.
Because they each have unique effects, you may find that combining a selection of nootropics is the best way to enhance cognition from all angles. Many products already take this approach of combining several nootropic supplements to offer a synergistic, multifaceted blend of brain-boosting supplements.
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.
Which Nootropics Help You Focus?
The most common nootropic focus enhancer supplements include:
Caffeine is the most commonly used nootropic in the world. It may seem obvious, but caffeine works by promoting alertness and helping you wake up and stay awake, which can have a positive impact on focus. More specifically, it blocks adenosine production, a neurochemical known to promote sleep drive.
Caffeine can be very effective, and it’s one of the only supplements on this list that works on demand, but it has a few drawbacks. First, caffeine is addictive and it’s easy to become dependent on it. Plus, consistent use of caffeine or the use of large doses of caffeine can cause side effects, like high blood pressure, anxiety, or adrenal fatigue.
For this reason, it’s important to use caffeine with intention. Caffeine can be combined with other nootropics to help amplify its effects without increasing dosage.
L-theanine is one of the primary amino acids found in tea leaves. It’s thought to have a few therapeutic benefits, acting both as a nootropic (cognition enhancing) and adaptogenic (stress regulating) compound.
Theanine is related to glutamine, the most abundant amino acid in the body, which is speculated to have a heavy impact on GABA, serotonin, and dopamine–the top three neurotransmitters required for most cognitive and nerve functions.
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).
What’s better is that it stacks well with caffeine for enhanced effects, L-theanine helps to reduce the side effects associated with caffeine, like increased blood pressure or anxiety. Plus, the combination of caffeine and L-theanine may provide more cognitive support than either supplement can alone.
One study involving 91 people found that a combination supplement of green tea extract (360 mg, containing natural caffeine) and theanine (60mg) helped to improve selective attention in subjects with mild cognitive impairments (such as ADHD).
Read more about L-Theanine:
Bacopa monnieri, commonly known as water hyssop, is a traditional Ayurvedic herb used to improve memory and enhance brain focus, among other uses like mood enhancement and treating seizures.
Modern research has unearthed new ways this herb may be used, like to help prevent brain damage and protect against age-related neurodegeneration. It may also help to regulate the production of important neurochemicals– serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and acetylcholine– to help the brain work more effectively.
Although evidence is still lacking in many areas, researchers agree that the cognitive enhancing effects of bacopa monnieri are significant. In fact, bacopa was found to be superior to two other nootropic supplements–ginseng, an herbal supplement known for increasing energy and modafinil, a medication designed to promote alertness in people with narcolepsy.
Ginkgo biloba is a tree native to China that has been used with medicinal intent for centuries. Historically, it is known to promote blood flow throughout the body, which may be the cause behind its potential cognitive benefits.
One of its primary uses in Traditional Chinese Medicine was as a cognition enhancer for older adults. There are also reports of Ginkgo being used by young, healthy subjects to enhance creativity and concentration.
For now, research is limited and mostly looks into ginkgo’s potential ability to protect against age-related decline. A 1996 study, for instance, found a Ginkgo extract to be effective in treating Alzheimer’s Disease. Another trial the following year offered a similar conclusion–the same Ginkgo extract was shown to be effective in stabilizing and improving cognitive function in dementia patients.
More research is needed to fully understand its potential impact, but ginkgo is usually well-tolerated and can be found in many nootropic stacks designed to enhance concentration.
Alpha-GPC (also known as L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine or choline alphoscerate) is a phospholipid, a compound that makes up cell membranes and regulates crucial cellular processes. Taking alpha-GPC can help stimulate the production of choline and acetylcholine, neurochemicals that help to maintain your cognitive and muscular functions. Choline plays a key role in regulating and supporting optimal nervous system health.
Alpha-GPC is an approved pharmaceutical for treating dementia in some countries, though it still exists as a supplement in the U.S. Research mostly surrounds its effects to repair or reverse cognitive decline in older adults, but some evidence suggests that increased choline levels may be linked to improved cognitive performance in healthy adults. The research saw improvement in four areas in dementia-free adults: verbal memory, visual memory, verbal learning, and executive function.
Another study comparing the impact of caffeine and alpha-GPC found that alpha GPC supplementation was associated with an 18% increase in the performance speed of young adults carrying out various physical and mental tasks.
Alpha-GPC is considered safe to take daily and the effects may build over time, so it’s often used as a regular part of a daily nootropic stack.
Alpha-GPC is also often considered to be one of the best nootropics for improving memory.
Lion’s Mane is a medicinal mushroom that was once obscure, but is now holding the spotlight as the “mushroom for the mind.” More specifically, it’s touted as a cognitive enhancer that can help promote nerve growth and improve cognition over time.
According to one study, Lion’s Mane is one of three different functional mushroom extracts that may help stimulate the growth of nerve cells within the brain, spinal cord, and retina. This could help the brain to create new neuronal connections, increasing your processing speed and efficacy over time.
Increasing nerve cell growth may mean that Lion’s Mane can help to prevent or heal damage to the brain tissues caused by injuries or environmental circumstances. Another study puts this into perspective, claiming that the use of Lion’s Mane speeds nervous system recovery by 23-41% in animal subjects.
Research has also found Lion’s Mane to be potentially useful in healing damage that leads to age-related cognitive impairments. In one study, consuming Lion’s Mane daily for four months was associated with a significant increase in cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairments.
In most research, the effects of Lion’s Mane end shortly after subjects stop taking the mushroom, so daily supplementation is best for consistent cognitive benefits.
Read more about Lion's Mane:
MCT oil is a nutritional supplement made up of medium-chain triglycerides, or a type of fat molecule that is easier for the body to digest. Essential fats are crucial to brain function, and many healthy adults don’t actually get enough of them.
Therefore, MCT oil may have some serious benefits for boosting brain function. For instance, taking MCT oil daily is associated with an 8 to 9% increase in brain energy. MCT oil can help to prevent cognitive aging by helping to support the repair of brain tissues.
It may even have a positive impact on gut health, which has an undeniable impact on brain health. Good gut bacteria helps to produce many of the neurochemicals needed for healthy brain function.
Taking MCT oil daily is associated with countless health benefits, from improved mood to weight loss and more. It is not usually found in nootropics stacks but is easy to find and affordable, so you can work it in as a separate supplement. Since it is only a nutritional fat, it’s safe to take alongside most other supplements.
Resveratrol is a polyphenol, a group of compounds that have antioxidant effects. Antioxidants help to protect the body from free radical damage, which is a primary cause of age-related neurodegeneration. Resveratrol is naturally found in the skin of red grapes, peanuts, pistachios, blueberries, and cranberries. It is the primary reason that red wine is sometimes framed as “heart healthy.”
Some evidence suggests that resveratrol can help to reduce age-related cognitive decline by supporting the health of the hippocampus, or the portion of the brain responsible for memory functions.
While resveratrol doesn’t work on its own to promote focus, it may help to soothe brain inflammation, which may help improve cognition overall. It’s generally safe to take alongside other nootropics, so it makes a good “team player” for increasing the efficacy of other cognition enhancers.
Conclusion: Which Nootropic Focus Enhancers Actually Work?
There are a number of nootropic supplements that may help to improve focus, but you may find that a combination of synergistic compounds has the greatest impact. While you can seek out individual supplements, like L-Theanine or MCT Oil, to build your own dosing routine, that route can be a pain. Plus, it gets expensive, and keeping up with a handful of supplements each day is less than ideal when you’re trying to optimize your health.
Instead, you may also want to consider looking for a high-quality nootropic stack–a blend of nootropics designed to enhance cognitive function from all angles. There are many of these out there, but our Lucid beverages bring something new to the table (or teacup).
Lucid is a synergistic blend of medicinal mushrooms and nootropics designed to enhance focus and support a healthy brain, but it also does much more. Balancing on powerful therapeutics like Maitake, Lion’s Mane, Alpha-GPC, and more, Lucid beverages target whole-body wellness. Our unique ingredient blend helps to boost immunity, improve physical and mental performance, reduce stress, balance mood, and more.
Read “What’s in a Lucid Stack?” to learn more.
- “Effects of l-theanine on attention and reaction time response” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464611000351
- “Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6836118/
- “A combination of green tea extract and l-theanine improves memory and attention in subjects with mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled study” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21303262/
- “Bacopa monnieri, a reputed nootropic plant: an overview” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15898709/
- “Neuroprotective effects of Bacopa monnieri in experimental model of dementia” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22700087/
- “Neuropharmacological Review of the Nootropic Herb Bacopa monnieri” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746283/
- “Cognitive effects of two nutraceuticals ginseng and bacopa benchmarked against modafinil: a review and comparison of effect sizes” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK127192/
- “Proof of efficacy of the ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 in outpatients suffering from mild to moderate primary degenerative dementia of the Alzheimer type or multi-infarct dementia” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8741021/
- “A placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial of an extract of Ginkgo biloba for dementia. North American EGb Study Group” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9343463/
- “Choline: An Essential Nutrient for Public Health” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2782876/
- “Choline alphoscerate (alpha-glyceryl-phosphoryl-choline) an old choline- containing phospholipid with a still interesting profile as cognition enhancing agent” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24156263/
- “The relation of dietary choline to cognitive performance and white-matter hyperintensity in the Framingham Offspring Cohort” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252552/
- “The effects of alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, caffeine or placebo on markers of mood, cognitive function, power, speed, and agility” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4595381/
- “Lion's Mane, Hericium erinaceus and Tiger Milk, Lignosus rhinocerotis (Higher Basidiomycetes) Medicinal Mushrooms Stimulate Neurite Outgrowth in Dissociated Cells of Brain, Spinal Cord, and Retina: An In Vitro Study” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26853959/
- “Peripheral Nerve Regeneration Following Crush Injury to Rat Peroneal Nerve by Aqueous Extract of Medicinal Mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae)” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21941586/
- “Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18844328/
- “Stimulation of mild, sustained ketonemia by medium-chain triacylglycerols in healthy humans: Estimated potential contribution to brain energy metabolism” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0899900712003656
- “Gut Microbiota and Metabolic Health: The Potential Beneficial Effects of a Medium Chain Triglyceride Diet in Obese Individuals” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4882694/
- “Resveratrol and Alzheimer’s disease: message in a bottle on red wine and cognition” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4030174/