A European poem published in 1674 once called coffee a “…wholesome liquor, that heals the stomach, makes the genius quicker, relieves the memory, revives the sad…”
In comparison, the poem villainized wine as the “…sweet poison of the treacherous grape” and beer a “foggy ale that [besieged] our brains.”
For many intellectuals and thinkers of 17th century Europe, coffee and caffeine was a great soberer. It was linked to rational, Enlightenment thinking.
It was the best nootropic for certain intellectuals of the day.
Our knowledge of the brain, neurochemistry, and pharmacology has changed greatly since 17th century Europe.
The best nootropics are the substances that work for your unique brain and help to achieve the particular task you desire on any given day.
This is a “hard pill to swallow” (pardon the pun) because most nootropics companies want you to believe that their product is the best.
Instead, we hope to educate you (the consumer) to decide what might be the best nootropic for you given the challenges that you face.
This article will NOT be filled with a list of nootropic supplements.
By the end of this article I will add a few of my favorites (that you may not have expected), but the main goal is to teach you how to think about nootropics.
Personalization Creates the Best Nootropics
Every brain is unique.
Understanding what works for your brain is the first priority. Affordable technologies are making personalization with nootropics more feasible.
The simplest technology is called 23andme, which is a simple DNA test that provides basic results. The $199 Health + Ancestry test is the one that you want if you have the funds.
If $199 seems like a lot, consider this an investment in your health and optimal performance. From these results, you might save $500 or more on nootropics alone. Here’s how…
#1. Promethease – This $5 – 10 report is the cheapest, but biggest bang for your buck. Simply upload the 23andme results and it will spit back a report (and how to analyze it).
#2. Genetic Genie – Focusing specifically on methylation (more on that below), this is a free report that will help identify deficiencies.
#3. Found My Fitness – Dr. Rhonda Patrick has a donation / $10 comprehensive test. It is now more robust than Promethease because her team continues iterating and creating better tools.
All of these tests and money may seem like a lot of work… but it’s worth it.
By looking at a single SNP (data from the genetic test) you can save $1-200 on popular stimulants like Modafinil alone .
In this video I explain how Silicon Valley executives and Wall Street traders are using this data to find nutrient deficiencies (such as vitamin D, magnesium, etc).
This data allows them to supplement with innocuous nutrients and receive extraordinary cognitive advantages:
If you are a scientific type who requires a bit of cajoling, consider a scientific example. One 2009 study in Nutrition Reviews found that as much as 50% of the population may have genetic polymorphisms (variations) making them susceptible to choline deficiency .
Choline plays a major role in learning ability and memory formation. For the people who are choline deficient, a simple nootropic supplement might be the best one for them.
There are countless examples of this and some of them are easily discovered through 23andme genetic tests.
Cycling Protocol for Top Nootropics
For many high powered nootropics, no genetic tests are needed to feel an effect.
Most people can drink a cup of coffee and experience enhancement of their cognitive abilities. It’s more of a feeling than a true science.
Our body and brain develop tolerance for certain nootropics and compounds, which require certain cycling measures in order to avoid this.
For example, even though it means less revenue for Oyasin, we suggest consuming our coconut matcha latte nootropic only 2 – 3 times per week for maximum effect.
There are a few rules for cycling nootropics:
#1. Use different pathways or mechanisms each day
Each nootropic interacts with the brain in a different way.
Caffeine and L-theanine is a nootropic combination with lots of research, which interacts primarily with dopamine systems. Nicotine is a nootropic with lots of research, which interacts primarily with cholinergic systems.
By alternating between these two on different days, it interacts with different systems (thus giving other pathways a “break” so to speak).
This is highly simplified and neurochemistry is far more complex, but it is an example that helps you to understand the concept.
#2. Take consecutive days off from all nootropics
Even if you consume stimulating nootropics that are using different mechanisms each day, these often activate the “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system.
Spending all of your time in “fight or flight” can be harmful for your long-term health, but it also never provides the brain and body an opportunity to rest.
This tenant is one of the reasons the Neurohacker Collective suggests only taking their Qualia product 5 times per week (and not on weekends) .
At times it is also useful to take up to a full week or even month off from nootropics to completely re-calibrate equilibrium in the brain.
#3. Know which nootropics require consistent usage to be effective
Certain nootropics require consistent use to be effective. Examples of these include creatine monohydrate, bacopa monnieri, or piracetam, which are taken daily.
It is good to cycle off of these regularly, but it is not required daily in the same way that many stimulants are.
Know which nootropics must be taken daily for efficacy, but know that the body adapts to these substances as the new “normal”.
Even The Best Nootropics Don’t Counteract Poor Habits
If you do not sleep well, eat unhealthy food, and drink alcohol in excess, there is little hope that nootropics will be able to help you meaningfully.
Nootropics are most helpful when they are added on top of a solid baseline. The best nootropic on the market cannot overcome 3 hours of sleep per night. Do not try.
There are some “break in case of emergency” situations. Life happens and sometimes poor lifestyles are out of your control. This should be a rare occurrence.
Best Nootropics for Major Life Changes
In the past 6 years I have helped millions of people overcome mental performance barriers, but many of them were searching for the wrong things.
For these people, the best nootropics are not stimulants to continue pounding a square peg into a round hole, but something that can give them a greater understanding of meaning and fulfillment.
Over thousands of years, mind altering psychedelic plants and fungi have been the nootropic of choice across the globe.
The Aztecs called psilocybin mushrooms (aka: magic mushrooms) “flesh of the Gods”, indigenous tribes in the Amazon basin used ayahuasca. The Greeks ritually consumed kykeon, probably a brew similar to LSD. Modern day plains tribes still use peyote.
These experiences can be highly transformative. They show you a different perspective on what you want from life and how to achieve it.
Dr. Peter Attia shared a metaphor in a podcast with Tim Ferriss  that resonated with me.
As bizarre as it may seem to consider psychedelics on the list of best nootropics, these compounds can help create solid foundations to create the life that you desire.
Luckily, legal psychedelic usage is proliferating around the world. Psilocybin truffles in the Netherlands are legal as is ayahuasca in certain centers of Costa Rica and Peru. This is why I developed trustworthy partnerships as part of Schema.
[Obligatory Disclaimer:] Note that these substances are still illegal in the United States and we do not recommend using them within that context.
Placebo and Harnessing the Human Mind
There is a belief that the placebo effect is something to avoid at all costs. Within scientific communities, the placebo effect can account for a 30% boost in performance.
Studies try to decipher what is a placebo versus a real physiological or neurochemical change. This is good science. It also glosses over our own mental strength.
Dr. Andrew Weil is a functional or holistic health thought-leader who said “…any change that we can produce in the human organism by giving a pharmacological agent can be exactly mimicked in at least some people some of the time purely by a mind-mediated mechanisms…” 
Next time you see skeptical writing, which cite the placebo as a bad thing, consider whether that is serving you. Harnessing the power instead will be more effective for improving performance.
Find the Best Nootropic For You
Readers may expect a list of the best nootropics because every other article covering this topic does so. We choose not to.
The closest you will get to specific recommendations is the charted image above with various nootropics and their mechanisms.
We see no need to regurgitate the same (incorrect) list articles as everyone else. Instead, we aim to provide you the education and perspective to think for yourself.
- Rs4680 SNP influences the metabolism of modafinil. If your 23andme show unfavorable results, you may have saved yourself $200 and a lot of heartache.