Adderall, the world's leading ADHD prescription, is often a game changer for those struggling with inattentiveness and lack of focus. Like many prescriptions, though, it comes with a handful of side effects that are less than ideal, like irritability, mood swings, and dependency. So, if you're ready to consider another option, you may have already stumbled upon nootropics, a class of "smart drugs" thought to improve various aspects of cognitive wellbeing.
The question is–are there any nootropics like Adderall?
As it turns out, there may be some natural nootropic alternatives to Adderall, but they are used a little differently. Here’s what we know:
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While some nootropics act as stimulants, others have non-stimulant mechanisms that may improve focus, memory, and processing capabilities.
Many natural nootropics are safe to pair together, which may be the best strategy for creating a full-coverage wellness regimen.
Always talk to your doctor before self-treating ADHD or related conditions, and especially before discontinuing any medications.
Which Natural Nootropics are Like Adderall?
Most natural nootropics are not classified as stimulants, so they won't act exactly like Adderall to treat ADHD and related conditions. Still, there are plenty of nootropic options for improving focus, memory, processing speed, and other aspects of cognitive function. In fact, many of them can be stacked together to create a nootropic supplement regimen that offers full coverage cognition support.
The most common nootropics used to manage ADHD-related concerns include:
- Lion’s Mane
Although none of these supplements are currently FDA approved for treating ADHD, we do have some research to help shed some light on their potential benefits. Let’s dig into each:
Caffeine: Instantly Boost Energy and Focus
You probably knew that caffeine was a stimulant, which puts it in the same boat as Adderall, but did you know that it’s also a nootropic? In fact, it’s the most widely consumed nootropic substance in the world, and many people believe that it has inherent benefits for managing ADHD.
Like other stimulants, caffeine raises certain neurotransmitter levels in your brain. Specifically, it can help to upregulate dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in attention, focus, and reward. Some researchers believe that caffeine may work as a sort of treatment for ADHD because of its positive effect on attention, focus, and reward pathways. In fact, animal studies have confirmed that it may be linked to improved spatial awareness and learning.
A review of available animal studies states tha caffeine could help manage a wide array of cognitive symptoms, such as deficits in attention, learning, and memory, in individuals with ADHD.
The problem is that the effects are dose dependent, and many people with ADHD are dose sensitive. In other words, it may take larger amounts of caffeine to effectively manage some ADHD symptoms, and the amounts necessary could be dangerous. More than 400 milligrams of caffeine daily can lead to side effects, like:
- Digestive upset
So, is it worth it to use caffeine in place of prescription stimulants? The answer is maybe–caffeine may help to alleviate some symptoms of ADHD, but it’s best paired with other nootropics. Low doses of caffeine paired with other nootropic supplements may be the most effective and safe natural option for improving cognition function.
Alpha GPC: Improve Memory and Executive Function
Alpha-GPC, (also known as L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine) is an essential lipid that helps to make up cell bodies. It plays an essential role in the regulation of various cellular processes, including the production of choline, which is necessary for nearly all neurological functions.
Research shows that Alpha-GPC can increase acetylcholine levels in the brain, a neurotransmitter that helps carry out all basic memory and learning functions. Furthermore, new evidence suggests that choline, among other nutritional compounds, plays a larger role in ADHD than we initially realized.
One study evaluated the effects of choline supplements on cognitively delayed children suffering from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, a neurological condition that’s described as a leading cause of ADHD in children. At a four year follow up, the children who received choline supplements were reported to have “higher non-verbal intelligence, higher visual-spatial skill, higher working memory ability, better verbal memory, and fewer behavioral symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder than the placebo group.”
Because of its positive impact on memory and working memory, research has found that alpha-GPC supplementation may be useful for improving the symptoms of dementia, which is why alpha-GPC-based medications are routinely prescribed to treat dementia in many parts of Asia.
However, one study found that increased choline intake may be linked to improved cognitive performance even outside of dementia. The research saw improvement in four areas in healthy adults: verbal memory, visual memory, verbal learning, and executive function.
For those ADHDers relying on caffeine to fuel their focus, Alpha-GPC may overwrite those benefits, too. One 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.
Cordyceps: Boost Energy and Stamina
Although Adderall is not specifically designed for boosting energy, it can definitely help you get out of a slump and find motivation to take on the day when suffering from a lack of executive dysfunction.
Generally speaking, nootropics are not stimulating, and they won’t always give you an energy boost (with caffeine as a clear exception). Cordyceps mushroom, however, may optimize the body’s environment to increase energy output and physical and mental stamina.
Some evidence suggests that Cordyceps may help to increase the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the body. ATP is essential for various biological functions, including muscle contraction and protein synthesis. According to research, this action of cordyceps may be advantageous for increasing endurance by improving oxygen flow in the body during physical activity.
In a 2016 study, mice were able to continue swimming significantly longer after taking cordyceps. A placebo-controlled study from 2006 confirmed similar results in humans while doing exhaustive running exercises.
Various other studies have confirmed that both the Cordyceps Sinensis and Cordyceps militaris strain of the mushroom have similar effects. It’s unknown how Cordyceps specifically impacts cognition, but by improving blood flow to the brain, it may also improve cognitive processing speed.
Lion’s Mane: Improve Memory and Create Neural Connections
Lion’s Mane has been in medicinal rotation for hundreds of years, and even ancient physicians pinned it as a brain-boosting substance. In fact, it’s well known to be one of the best natural nootropics for improving memory.
Most of what we believe about lion’s mane’s cognitive benefits come from anecdotal reports, but there is some evidence to show how well lion’s mane may work to improve cognitive performance. For now, most studies involve either animals or elderly subjects. Some evidence points towards lion’s mane as a potential treatment for dementia.
According to a 2017 animal study, lion’s mane may have a positive impact on object recognition and memory. One human trial found that regular lion’s mane doses helped to improve cognier performance in adults between the ages of 50 and 86 compared to the placebo group. Further research suggests that lion’s mane may be beneficial for preventing cognitive decline caused by neurodegenerative disorders, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Perhaps the most intriguing potential benefit of Lion’s Mane, however, is its ability to repair nervous system pathways and support the growth of new neural connections.
One study found that Lion’s Mane extract may encourage the growth of new nerve cells and may stimulate faster healing within the nervous system by stimulating the production of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). Another study confirmed these effects–Lion’s mane was capable of increasing nervous system repair in rats with nerve damage compared to control subjects.
Thanks to these benefits, lion’s mane may not only be useful for healing brain damage, but it may help to improve neural pathways over time to improve all facets of cognition and processing speed.
L-Theanine: Calm Overstimulation and Maintain Focus
L-Theanine is an amino acid that is commonly found in tea leaves–another natural compound that’s been studied for its potential use in improving cognitive function. In recent years, there has been growing interest in using L-Theanine as a treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) because of its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and positively affect the brain's neurotransmitters.
More specifically, it may help to boost neurotransmitter levels, including dopamine, serotonin, and GABA. Dopamine is particularly relevant to ADHD as it is involved in the brain's reward system and plays a role in attention, motivation, and executive function.
In a small study conducted in 2011, L-Theanine was found to improve cognitive function and increase alpha brain wave activity in children with ADHD. Alpha brain waves are associated with a relaxed but focused state of mind and are thought to be beneficial for individuals with ADHD. The study also found that L-Theanine reduced symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity in the children.
A 2019 study found that L-Theanine supplementation improved attention and reduced hyperactivity in adults with ADHD. The study also found that L-Theanine reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is often elevated in individuals with ADHD.
While these studies are promising, it's important to note that they were small and conducted over a short period. More research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits of L-Theanine for ADHD and to determine the optimal dosage and duration of treatment.
L-Tyrosine: Increase Mental Flexibility and Memory
While there’s currently less data to link L-Tyrosine to ADHD treatment, there’s good reason to believe that it may positively impact cognitive performance.
The original sentiment behind L-Tyrosine for ADHD stemmed from the belief that children with ADHD had low levels of tyrosine in the brain. While this claim has only been substantiated in half of the research available, there’s definitely some interest surrounding L-Tyrosine’s potential ability to improve cognition, especially in cases of stress.
According to a review of 15 studies, taking tyrosine supplements may improve memory, particularly in challenging situations such as extreme weather or high cognitive load. Another 2015 study also found that tyrosine supplementation could enhance cognitive function in the short term during stressful or demanding circumstances.
Yet another study in 2015 revealed that taking tyrosine supplements may enhance cognitive flexibility in high cognitive demand situations. These studies involved healthy adults, however, and not adults with ADHD.
Stacking Nootropics to Create an Adderall Effect
Many nootropics have diverse effects on cognition, and some even help to improve other aspects of well being, like energy levels or anxiety. The problem is, nootropics aren’t usually a one-stop-shop like certain prescription drugs. Instead, you may have better luck stacking nootropics to create a targeted cognition-enhancing wellness regimen.
In other words, many natural nootropic supplements, including Alpha-GPC, L-Tyrosine, and L-Theanine can be taken together. In fact, it may be better to take them together since some nootropics have synergistic benefits–they each help in ways that others do not, offering more complete cognitive coverage.
Are Nootropic Alternatives to Adderall Safe?
While all of these supplements (and others) may have some potential benefits for managing ADHD related symptoms, the true benefits lie in the scope of their opportunity. In other words, there’s virtually no harm in giving them a shot, especially if you aren’t able to get your usual pharmaceutical solutions.
Natural supplements and nootropics notoriously carry fewer drawbacks than prescription drugs used to treat ADHD. Adderall and other stimulants are known for harsh side effects, including dependency and withdrawal symptoms. They also have restrictive drug interactions that may make it impossible to try other cognition enhancing routes.
The Lucid Nootropic Stack for Focus, Energy, and Vitality
Lucid is a nootropic stack like no other–a curated selection of functional mushrooms and proven nootropics wrapped up in an instant drink mix. Now, your morning cup of coffee, chai, or matcha is your brain-supporting nootropic stack that can help boost focus and cognitive endurance throughout the day.
The Lucid formula is complex, but surprisingly simple–using only natural and proven ingredients to help support well-being of the body and mind.
While some ingredients, like L-tyrosine, L-theanine, and moderate doses of caffeine, may provide instantaneous benefits, others have benefits that build over time. Functional mushrooms, like Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, and Maitake, may have long term benefits, like boosting the body’s ability to build and repair brain cells and boltering the body’s immune system and gut health.
What’s in Lucid?
Our Lucid stack contains Alpha-GPC, L-Theanine, and L-Tyrosine, plus other nootropics (Ginkgo Biloba and BCAA’s) and four powerful medicinal mushrooms (Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, Maitake, and Tremella).
When it’s all said and done, this nootropic + mushroom super blend adds up to offer these benefits and more:
- Increases focus and cognitive endurance
- Improves athletic performance
- Helps to manage fatigue
- Boosts immunity
- Improves neurogenesis
- Enhances learning, and memory
- Supports a healthy stress response
- Promotes relaxation
- Supports a balanced mood
If you’re looking for a nootropic stack to help bring you back into focus, check out the Lucid Starter Kit.