Herbal nootropics are a powerful, safe way to improve cognitive function, boost brain power, and enhance productivity. In today’s world, there are a ton of distractions. We need all the help we can get to avoid checking our phones and social media profiles for notifications.
How can herbs help you get more done? Over the past decade, I’ve tested a long list of herbs for various reasons. Along the way, I experimented with several that boosted my productivity. In this guide, I share my top 5 best herbal nootropics, how I take them to get the most benefit, and where to buy them.
By the end of the guide, you’ll know for sure which ones are for you, and which ones aren’t up your alley.
Top 5 Best Herbal Nootropics
I’ll start the list with my favorite of the 5.
#1 Gotu Kola (Brahmi)
Gotu Kola is my favorite herb for cognitive enhancement, and it’s one of the herbs that has helped me build my online ventures at an accelerated rate.
I first tried this herb back in 2008 while I was managing casino construction in Las Vegas. I had read that the saying “An elephant never forgets” stems from Gotu Kola in the elephant’s diet.
On day 3 of taking the herb, something strange happened to me. I suddenly started remembering events in my life that I had completely forgotten. I quickly connected the dots and realized this Gotu Kola stuff was actually effective.
Since 2008, I’ve continued to take it on and off, mostly whenever I get into work mode, however, it wasn’t until the summer of 2018 that I realized how truly effective this stuff is. I began taking it in the morning with my green tea on an empty stomach.
After breakfast, I turned into a writing machine with a supreme focus on the task at hand. My brain became supercharged. Gotu Kola is a big part of the reason I was able to write over 40,000 words of content for a new website in under a month.
The wild part is those 40,000 words were only a fraction of my work for that month.
That’s my experience, and here’s what science has to say about Gotu Kola.
Gotu Kola (Brahmi) Benefits
- Improved memory function
- Overall cognitive enhancement
- An animal study discovered a positive effect on Alzheimer’s disease
- Calm anxiety
- Natural antidepressant
- Improved circulation
- Improved sleep quality
- Improved focus (can help with A.D.D.)
- Rejuvenate the mind and body
The one drawback is I would like to see more human studies to back up the effectiveness. The problem with most herbs and natural supplements is that no one is running to dump money into an herbal study since it’s not profitable.
In my experience, the positive effects of Gotu Kola are the real deal.
Gotu Kola Dosage
The recommended dosage for this herb ranges between 500 mg and 2000 mg. It’s recommended to split the 2000 mg into 3 to 4 smaller doses throughout the day.
How do I take it? Well, I never follow general rules when I take an herb, yet I never go overboard either. I’ve found that a little can go a long way once my body becomes accustomed to an herb.
I get the most benefit by taking between 1.5 and 2.25 grams in 1 – 2 doses. As I mentioned, I take 2 “00” capsules in the morning with my green tea, which equals roughly 1.5 grams.
On the days I want the effects to last longer, I’ll take another “00” capsule. Also, I make my own herbal capsules.
Why do I take it with green tea? I take almost all of my herbs with green tea because it boosts the effectiveness of the herbs.
Where to Buy Gotu Kola
Here is the link to the brand I recommend:
- Capsules (iHerb)
I prefer the whole herb over the extract version.
#2 Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo is another herbal nootropic I like to cycle from time to time. I think of it as a light version of Gotu Kola that effects me more physically than mentally. When I take ginkgo for a couple of weeks, I notice an improvement in my overall mood and desire to get work done.
It also helps me focus and stay alert while remaining calm, which is the combination of effects I look for in a productivity-boosting herb. One of my main gripes with “smart drugs” is they give me a speedy feeling, which has a negative effect on my productivity.
Before I started working online, I took ginkgo in spurts since my mom always had some in the house when I was younger.
Three years ago, I decided to buy a bag of it before I left home to return to Asia. This was the first time I had a big bottle of it on hand. For the next two years, I took it for 2-3 weeks at a time and noticed a definite uptick in my productivity. This was around the time I realized I could make a living while living abroad.
I worked day and night to capitalize on the opportunity to write for a living. Ginkgo is a great herb for brain and cognitive support because of its ability to improve circulation. It’s also amazing to think that it’s the oldest living species of tree and referred to as “the living fossil.”
Ginkgo Biloba Benefits
- Improve cognitive function
- Improve memory recall
- Mood enhancement
- Energy Boost
- Better concentration
- Improved circulation
- Natural erectile dysfunction treatment
The benefits I notice the most are improved focus, alertness, and a spike in my energy.
Ginkgo Biloba Dosage
The recommended dosage for ginkgo ranges from 120 mg to 360 mg of extract taken in multiple doses throughout the day.
In my case, I bought a bag of powder, made my own capsules, and took the same dose as Gotu Kola, between 1.5 – 2.25 grams daily. I prefer to take most herbs in their whole form, except for a handful of herbs including Tongkat Ali and an herb I mention later in this article.
Where to Buy Ginkgo Biloba
Below are the brands I recommend:
#3 Cayenne Pepper
One of my healthy addictions is to cayenne pepper. I absolutely love cayenne pepper and the positive effect it has on my energy. Back before I started working solely on my own projects, cayenne pepper helped fuel me to become a better writer.
The beauty of making money as a writer is that you don’t have to be a great writer to make a lot of money. Why? Because if you can write thousands of words every day for a company that needs fresh content daily, they’ll pay you the bucks in return.
During my time writing daily for a company, I took cayenne pepper every day before my green tea and other herbs, including Gotu Kola. I view this period as the time I got paid to learn how to write.
Cayenne pepper not only boosts my energy on its own, but it also boosts the effects of everything else I take. I like to think of it as the ultimate herbal facilitator.
In the summer of 2017, I bought a bottle to see if it would help soothe a sore throat. This is when I serendipitously realized that cayenne pepper gives me an instant energy boost.
I had experimented with it before then, but it didn’t have quite as powerful an effect. The difference was that I took it shortly before green tea in 2017.
The next month, I bought a big bag of cayenne powder and have been a huge fan ever since.
Cayenne Pepper Benefits
- Boosts Metabolism
- Natural detox support
- Pain relief
- Increased saliva production for better digestion and breath
- Hunger reduction
It’s best to combine cayenne pepper with the other herbs on this list to get the best effect. In my experience, it gives me a major energy boost when I take it in a bit of water like a shot.
Cayenne Pepper Dosage
I prefer buying a large bag of non-irradiated organic cayenne powder. The problem with conventional cayenne pepper in the supermarket is it’s undergone ionized radiation to increase shelf life. This process destroys the medicinal properties of the spice.
It’s best to take 1 tsp per cup of water. In my case, I worked my way up to 1/2 tsp in a small amount of water. I made sure to mix the cayenne pepper with the water evenly before throwing the shot back. It’s not a good idea to let it sit in your mouth because it burns.
I eat at least one meal for the day before I take cayenne to avoid irritating my stomach.
There are also cayenne capsules and tinctures. H.U. or Scoville Heat Units is the measure of the strength of cayenne. There are capsules with high H.U. that I link to below. The recommended dosage for capsules is between .5 and 1.5 grams daily.
Where to Buy Cayenne
Here’s a list of the best cayenne pepper brands:
- Non-irradiated organic cayenne powder (iHerb) – This is the brand I use
- Capsules 40,000 H.U. (iHerb)
- Powder #2 (Bulk Supps)
#4 Cat’s Claw
Cat’s Claw, an Amazonian vine, is a South American herb I’ve been meaning to write about on 199 for a while now, and I’m glad to be writing an article that includes it now. Out of all the herbs I’ve taken over the years, Cat’s Claw has been with me the longest and most consistently.
I began taking it to boost my immune system all the way back in 2007 after I finished college. It was a challenging time for me after my dad passed away earlier that year, I got sick with mono, and the stress of entering the corporate world while watching my brother succumb to opioid addiction all weighed down on me.
I took Cat’s Claw tincture every morning and still take the same brand to this day. Soon after I began taking it, I noticed that it gave me an energy boost and made me feel better after a long stretch of feeling fatigued 24/7. It wasn’t until several years ago that I confirmed it has a positive effect on cognitive function, mainly because it’s a neuroprotective herb [*].
The beauty of Cat’s Claw extract is I can take it every day without building up a tolerance, and I’ve taken it on and off for over a decade. It’s the most reliable herb I’ve ever taken. The key is to take the tincture that I link to below. The one time I took powdered Cat’s Claw, it didn’t give me the same effect.
Cat’s Claw Benefits
- Immune support
- Natural detox
- DNA repair
- Improved digestion
- Arthritis support
Cat’s Claw Dosage
I prefer taking the tincture version of Cat’s Claw first thing in the morning with a little bit of water on an empty stomach. The taste is bitter and surely not for everyone. If you enjoy bitter flavors like me, you may find that you also enjoy the taste.
I take it with a very small amount of water and allow it to sit under my tongue for about 30 seconds before swallowing. 30 minutes later, I begin to experience an energy boost and improved focus.
The serving size is 2 ml of the tincture.
There’s also a special type of Cat’s Claw known as “Saventaro” that helps Lymes Disease sufferers find relief. I have yet to try this version.
The recommended dosage for the encapsulated version is 1.5 grams of bark powder daily.
Where to Buy Cat’s Claw
The final herbal nootropic on my list is Turmeric. Yes, most people know about this herb, but you may not have known that it has a positive effect on brain function, which equates to an all-natural productivity boost. Plus, it tastes delicious, much like cayenne pepper.
In India, they mix “Golden Milk” with turmeric, ginger, and milk to make turmeric more easily absorbed. It’s best to dissolve turmeric in fat, such as milk. An easy way to eat prepared turmeric without having to make the Golden Milk every day is to buy a jar of turmeric ghee. That’s what I do.
The ghee version is delicious. You can spread it on anything like butter or eat it by itself. Most turmeric ghee products also include ginger to enhance the absorption of turmeric and the key ingredient in turmeric, curcumin.
One of the more promising turmeric studies [*] presents evidence that turmeric improves brain function by helping the brain form new connections and grow healthy cells by increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
When I take turmeric ghee, I notice that I think more clearly with enhanced focus.
- Natural anti-depressant for improved mood
- Improve brain and cognitive function
- Improved digestion when mixed with ginger
There are several ways to take turmeric. Here’s a recipe for Golden Milk made with turmeric, milk, cinnamon, ginger, and a bit of black pepper. The problem with this method for me is the milk makes me tired.
Since we’re after the nootropic effects, it’s best to take it in capsule form or the turmeric ghee form. Personally, I get the best results with the ghee. I eat a spoonful of it before I start to work or while I’m working for added energy.
There are several versions of curcumin extract available with up to 80% curcumin. The recommended dosage is 500 mg daily.
Where to Buy Turmeric and Curcumin
These are the best turmeric and curcumin brands:
- Turmeric Superghee (iHerb) – The brand I take
- Curcumin extract capsules (iHerb)
- Capsules #2 (iHerb)
- Curcumin 95% Extract Powder (Bulk Supps)
Here’s a list of tips to make the herbal nootropics in this guide more effective:
- Eat a balanced diet with lots of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables for the best effect
- Eat more fish that contains Omega-3 fatty acids including Salmon and Tuna
- If you don’t like fish, try to add an Omega-3 supplement (this is the brand I take that gives me zero fish burps)
- Use cayenne pepper to boost the effectiveness of the other herbs on the list
- Avoid going overboard and upsetting your stomach
- Follow the instructions on the bottle or consult a healthcare professional if you’re unsure about taking a new supplement (I’m not a doctor, read my disclaimer)
- Get plenty of sleep between your work. That’s my problem with “smart drugs.” They may boost my productivity for a single day, then ruin my sleep quality which leads to a long recovery period and unproductive days.
- With the herbs and spices above, I can take them every day or cycle them without getting too high. There’s no need to worry about a comedown or negative health effects.
- Green tea makes me the most productive, and it works synergistically with all 5 herbal nootropics above. I drink large quantities of strong green tea and don’t recommend that anyone follow my lead. However, it’s better than drinking large quantities of coffee, in my opinion. Green tea gets me revved up while working, yet it doesn’t keep me awake at night or give me a caffeine hangover. I plan to write an article on how I drink green tea and oolong tea to write at least 1,000 words for work every day.
- Last but not least, don’t expect to turn into Bradley Cooper in Limitless. These are herbs and spices.
These are 5 of the best herbal nootropics in my arsenal, and the greatest part is they’re also good for my health. The biggest difference between these herbs and herbs I’ve written about previously is these 5 can be taken longer without building a tolerance.
I typically cycle herbs to avoid building up a tolerance. However, I have noticed that all herbs lose effectiveness over time when taken every day, including the 5 above. Cayenne pepper, for example, will lose effectiveness quicker than the others.
The good news is it doesn’t take long for the tolerance to fade away. If I stop taking cayenne for 2-3 weeks, I can get back on it and get that energy boost I’m after.
Did you notice that most of these herbs fight inflammation and improve metabolism/digestion? This is a common theme among herbs that boost brain and cognitive function.
When I began working long hours online, I quickly realized how much brainpower it requires. The first few months of writing 1,000s of words every day drained my brain and often led to a 2-3 day hangover.
Since then, I’ve learned ways to keep my brain functioning optimally through diet, nootropics, exercise, meditation, and proper sleep.
You may also be interested in:
- Top 10 Best Ashwagandha Brands
- My list of best herbal aphrodisiacs – I’ve found that herbal aphrodisiacs are also some of the best herbal nootropics, especially while practicing sexual transmutation
Are you ready to get to work?