Education

5 Science-Backed Nootropics for Learning Faster and Better

Based on 527 placebo-controlled studies, here are 5 supplements for learning.

Posted Sep 17, 2020

Photo copyrights owned by Nootralize
Source: Photo copyrights owned by Nootralize

A nootropic is a substance that, if used properly, safely enhances the cognitive functions of the user.

As public interest in cognitive enhancers escalates, the demand for high-quality evidence on the safety and efficacy of nootropics seems to outgrow the supply of that information. Although new placebo-controlled studies are published frequently, they can be hard to read and misrepresentative of the entire body of knowledge the scientific community has provided on the effects of nootropics.

These are some of the reasons why we systematically went through 527 placebo-controlled studies [1] on the effects of 127 nootropics and put together a list with the 5 most science-backed ones for improving learning. If a nootropic was not included in this list, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ineffective for helping the user learn better. It likely means there is less research on the effects of that compound in healthy humans than there’s for each nootropic that made it on to the list.

Out of the 527 studies, 44 included measures of learning. A total of 3,920 participants had their learning tested, and 16 nootropics were assessed for safety and efficacy for improving learning. Based on this body of evidence, these are the 5 most science-backed nootropics for learning in healthy humans.

Sage

In the 3 studies we reviewed which examined the effects of Sage on measures of learning, 80 participants were included. [3-5]

Overall, these studies found a small positive effect on learning from the use of Sage.

The evidence we reviewed also suggests that Sage can improve:

  • Mood (minute effect)
  • Nervousness (small effect)
  • Memory (minute effect)
  • Focus (minute effect)
  • Energy (minute effect)
  • Sociality (small effect)
  • Stress (minute effect)
  • Cognitive processing (minute effect)
  • Mindfulness (minute effect)

Risks

Side effects

No negative side effects were seen in any of the studies we reviewed.

Legality

Sage is legal to buy, possess, and use in United States and Canada. [6-14]

Conclusion

Preliminary evidence suggests Sage has a small positive impact on learning. Moreover, Sage is generally safe and legal.

How to Use

It is probably safer and more effective to use nootropics as they have been used in studies on humans. In the studies we’ve reviewed, Sage was used in the following ways:

  • 300 mg extract doses for acute effects [2]
  • 600 mg extract doses for acute effects [2]
  • 50 µl essential oil doses for acute effects [3]
  • 100 µl essential oil doses for acute effects [3]
  • 150 µl essential oil doses for acute effects [3]
  • 25 µl essential oil doses for acute effects [3]
  • 50 µl essential oil doses for acute effects [3]
  • 50 mg extract doses for acute effects [4]
  • 167 mg extract doses for acute effects [5]
  • 333 mg extract doses for acute effects [5]
  • 666 mg extract doses for acute effects [5]
  • 1332 mg extract doses for acute effects [5]

Bacopa Monnieri

In the 8 studies we reviewed which examined the effects of Bacopa Monnieri on measures of learning, 399 participants were included. [15][18][19][21-25]

Overall, these studies found a small positive effect on learning from use of Bacopa Monnieri.

The evidence we reviewed also suggests that Bacopa Monnieri can improve:

  • Mood (small effect)
  • Nervousness (small effect)
  • Memory (small effect)
  • Focus (small effect)
  • Energy (minute effect)
  • Cognitive processing (small effect)
  • Mindfulness (large effect)

Risks

Side effects

Less than 50% experience:

  • Increased stool frequency (pooping more than usual)

Less than 30% experience:

  • Gastrointestinal cramps
  • Nausea

Less than 10% experience:

Less than 1% experience:

  • Drowsiness
  • Cold/flu symptoms
  • Allergies
  • Skin rash
  • Skin itching
  • Headache
  • Tinnitus
  • Vertigo
  • Strange taste in mouth
  • Dry mouth
  • Palpitations
  • Abdominal pain
  • Appetite increase
  • Excessive thirst
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Increased regularity of bowel movements
  • Increased frequency of urine
  • Muscular fatigue
  • Muscular pain
  • Cramps
  • Increase in felt stress
  • Worsened mood

Legality

Bacopa Monnieri is legal to buy, possess, and use in the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Canada, and Australia. [7-9][11–14][26-37]

Conclusion

A relatively large amount of evidence suggests Bacopa Monnieri has a small positive impact on learning. Moreover, Bacopa Monnieri is generally safe and legal.

How to Use

It is probably safer and more effective to use nootropics as they have been used in studies on humans. In the studies we’ve reviewed, Bacopa Monnieri was used in the following ways:

  • 450 mg dosages daily for 12 weeks [15]
  • 320 mg doses for acute effects [16]
  • 640 mg doses for acute effects [16]
  • 640 mg doses for acute effects [17]
  • 320 mg doses for acute effects [17]
  • 300 mg doses for acute effects [18]
  • 300 mg dosages daily for 12 weeks [19]
  • 600 mg doses for acute effects [20]
  • 300 mg doses for acute effects [20]
  • 300 mg dosages daily for 12 weeks [21]
  • 300 mg dosages daily for 6 weeks [22]
  • 300 mg doses for acute effects [23]
  • 250 mg dosages daily for 16 weeks [24]
  • 300 mg dosages daily for 12 weeks [25]

Turmeric

In the 2 studies we reviewed which examined the effects of Turmeric on measures of learning, 176 participants were included. [40][41]

Overall, these studies found a moderate positive effect on learning from use of Turmeric.

The evidence we reviewed also suggests that Turmeric can improve:

  • Mood (minute effect)
  • Nervousness (small effect)
  • Memory (small effect)
  • Physical performance (small effect)
  • Focus (minute effect)
  • Energy (small effect)
  • Sociality (small effect)
  • Mindfulness (small effect)
  • Sleep (minute effect)

Risks

Side effects

Less than 60% experience:

  • Gastrointestinal complaints

Less than 10% experience:

  • Common cold symptoms
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Gastrointestinal muscle cramp
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eyes due to inflammation)

Legality

Turmeric is legal to buy, possess, and use in the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Canada, and Australia. [7-9][11–14][27-29][30][31][34][35][37][42-46]

Conclusion

Preliminary evidence suggests Turmeric has a moderate positive impact on learning. Moreover, Turmeric is generally safe and legal.

How to Use

It is probably safer and more effective to use nootropics as they have been used in studies on humans. In the studies we’ve reviewed, Turmeric was used in the following ways:

  • 2000 mg dosages daily for 12 weeks [38]
  • 150 mg doses for acute effects [39]
  • 900 mg doses for acute effects [39]
  • 400 mg dosages daily for 8 weeks [40]
  • 1500 mg dosages daily for 1 year, 1 day, and 6 hours [41]

Ginkgo Biloba

In the 3 studies we reviewed which examined the effects of Ginkgo Biloba on measures of learning, 178 participants were included. [47][49][50]

Overall, these studies found a small positive effect on learning from use of Ginkgo Biloba.

The evidence we reviewed also suggests that Ginkgo Biloba can improve:

  • Mood (minute effect)
  • Memory (minute effect)
  • Focus (minute effect)
  • Energy (minute effect)
  • Stress (minute effect)
  • Mindfulness (minute effect)

Risks

Side effects

No negative side effects were seen in any of the studies we reviewed.

Legality

Ginkgo Biloba is legal to buy, possess, and use in the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Canada, and Australia. [7-9][11–14][27-29][30][34][35][37][51–56]

Conclusion

Preliminary evidence suggests Ginkgo Biloba has a small positive impact on learning. Moreover, Ginkgo Biloba is generally safe and legal.

How to Use

It is probably safer and more effective to use nootropics as they have been used in studies on humans. In the studies we’ve reviewed, Ginkgo Biloba was used in the following ways:

  • 120 mg dosages daily for 6 weeks [47]
  • 120 mg doses for acute effects [48]
  • 240 mg doses for acute effects [48]
  • 360 mg doses for acute effects [48]
  • 360 mg doses for acute effects [49]
  • 120 mg dosages daily for 12 weeks [50]
  • 120 mg dosages daily for 12 weeks [50]

American Ginseng

In the 1 study we reviewed which examined the effects of American Ginseng on measures of learning, 52 participants were included. [57]

This study found a minute positive effect on learning from the use of American Ginseng.

The evidence we reviewed also suggests that American Ginseng can improve:

  • Mood (minute effect)
  • Memory (minute effect)
  • Focus (minute effect)
  • Energy (minute effect)
  • Stress (minute effect)
  • Mindfulness (minute effect)

Risks

Side effects

No negative side effects were seen in the study we reviewed.

Legality

American Ginseng is legal to buy, possess, and use in the United States and Canada. [7-9][11-14][58][59]

Conclusion

Preliminary evidence suggests American Ginseng has a minute positive impact on learning. Moreover, American Ginseng is generally safe and legal.

How to Use

It is probably safer and more effective to use nootropics as they have been used in studies on humans. In the study we reviewed, American Ginseng was used in 200 mg doses for acute effects.

If you have the right mindset to nootropic use (awareness of risks and how to avoid them), you’re in a great position to benefit from cognitive enhancers.

There’s a need for more research on each of the nootropics in this list. Specifically, there’s a great degree of individual variance in how people respond to nootropics. This means that if you use a nootropic that there was a small effect from in a study with dozens of participants, you may get no effect or a large effect. Currently, while we wait for science to elucidate who is likely to respond to which nootropics, patient self-experimentation is the best method for nootropic use success.

This blog post was also published at blog.nootralize.com, it is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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