Nootropics are used to improve one or more aspects of cognitive performance. Some work by improving memory and motivation. Others work by improving mood and reducing anxiety, resulting in an overall improvement in cognition.

One of the most interesting class of substances with nootropic benefits are adaptogens. These are plants that affect the body and brain in a number of different ways.

We’re gonna look at the top 3 nootropic adaptogens that are being used today. But first, let’s look at what exactly an adaptogen is.

What Is An Adaptogen?

An adaptogen is a substance, supplement, plant, or herb that has a normalizing effect on the body and brain. They help your body to return to a state of homeostasis, and to reduce the effects of both chronic and acute stress.


Adaptogens have a number of physical and nootropic benefits.

In other words, if levels of certain chemicals in your body are too high, an adaptogen would bring those levels down. If levels of certain chemicals are too low, taking an adaptogen would bring those levels up.

Most other nootropics work by either increasing or decreasing the levels of certain chemicals in the body. Adaptogens work by returning levels to normal.

Another thing that adaptogens have in common is that they are able to help the body in times of stress. Chronic stress is known to cause all kinds of problems, physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Adaptogens help the body and brain deal with stress by normalizing levels of stress hormones.

Adaptogens are popular in the nootropics community because they often improve several aspects of mental performance. Users report increased focus, memory, and motivation, improved mood, and reduced anxiety.

While they can be taken by themselves for these reasons, most users take adaptogens as part of a nootropic stack. “Stacking” simply means taking more than one nootropic at a time to increase effectiveness.

Many users report that taking an adaptogen with other nootropics increase their effectiveness. The most common nootropics that are stacked with adaptogens are racetams, cholinergics, and eugeroics.

Now let’s take a look at the top 3 nootropic adaptogens.

The Top 3 Nootropic Adaptogens


This is an incredible plant with tons of benefits. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, and is a very popular supplement used today by people all over the world.

One of the most common reasons that people use ashwagandha is for its ability to reduce anxiety and stress. Its effects on stress have been reported by countless users, and is backed up by several scientific studies.

Another benefit of ashwagandha is that it can improve mood and motivation. This amazing plant works on a number of different neurotransmitters in the brain that influence mood, anxiety, and motivation.

The benefits of this versatile plant aren’t limited to nootropic benefits, though. Ashwagandha also has a number of physical benefits. Some of the many physical benefits include improved cholesterol levels, reduced cortisol (stress hormone), increased testosterone in men, reduced pulse and blood pressure, increased fertility/libido, and improved immune function.

ashwagandhaHere are nootropic benefits of ashwagandha:

  • Decreased Anxiety
  • Decreased Stress
  • Increased Motivation
  • Improved Mood
  • Reduced Social Anxiety
  • Improved Social Functioning
  • Reduced Fatigue

Ashwagandha is usually taken 2 to 3 times a day, up to 6,000 milligrams (mg) a day. The dosage should be divided evenly throughout the day. The lowest effective single dose of ashwagandha for acute anxiety is between 300-500 mg, although most people seem to need more than this.

If you would like to know more about ashwagandha, read this: The Many Benefits of Ashwagandha.


This is another adaptogen with tons of nootropic benefits. Mucuna pruriens is an extract that comes from a bean that grown naturally in parts of Africa and Asia. Like ashwagandha, it has been used safely for centuries in Eastern medicine to treat a variety of conditions.

One of the substances that this bean contains is levodopa (L-Dopa). This is actually a prescription drug in the U.S. that is used to treat Parkinson’s Disease and other conditions.

The reason that levodopa is effective as a treatment for Parkinson’s is that it’s a direct precursor to dopamine. A precursor is a substance that is necessary to create another substance. The body uses levodopa to create dopamine.

Dopamine, often called the “feel good chemical,” is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter in the body and brain. It is known to play a role in mood, motivation, focus, attention, learning, pleasure, and other cognitive processes. Taking mucuna pruriens, because it contains levodopa, is able to increase dopamine levels.

It’s because of this that it is able to have such a powerful nootropic effect. By increasing dopamine levels in the brain, mucuna pruriens is able to improve mood, reduce anxiety, increase motivation and focus, and improve overall cognitive performance.

mucuna pruriensHere are the nootropic benefits of mucuna pruriens:

  • Increased Motivation
  • Improved Memory
  • Reduced Anxiety
  • Improved Mood
  • Increased Focus
  • Increased Sense of Well-Being

Mucuna pruriens is also popular in the fitness and bodybuilding communities because of its ability to increase testosterone and growth hormone (HGH) levels. Several studies have shown that mucuna pruriens is able to increase testosterone and HGH levels in infertile men.

A typical starting dosage for mucuna pruriens is 250 milligrams, twice a day. You want to use a product that has a high level of levodopa. Some have as little as 10%, while others have as much as 98%. Make sure to check the label before you buy it.

The dosage can be increased every few days until the desired effects are achieved. Up to 6,000 mg a day has been shown to be generally safe.

To learn more about mucuna pruriens, read this: Mucuna Pruriens for Anxiety, Motivation, and Mood.


The last adaptogen on our list of the top 3 nootropic adaptogens is rhodiola rosea. This is another plant that grows naturally around the world, especially at high altitudes. It has a long history of safe use in traditional Chinese, Scandinavian, and Russian medicine.

All the adaptogens on this list have been extensively studied, and shown to be generally safe and effective. But rhodiola rosea has probably been studied more than the others.

Rhodiola rosea has a number of nootropic benefits. One effect that many users report is improved mood and increased sense of well-being. And there’s plenty of science to back it up. Several studies have shown that it can improve mood in normal and depressed people.

Another benefit of rhodiola rosea is anxiety reduction. While anxiety reduction is usually not thought of as a nootropic quality, it can be. Especially in people that suffer from moderate to severe anxiety. By reducing anxiety, the mind is free to focus on the task at hand, instead of worrying about future and past events.

Not only does rhodiola rosea improve several aspects of mental performance, but it can also improve physical performance. Like mucuna pruriens, it is also popular in bodybuilding and fitness communities. This is another claim that is backed up by plenty of science, in addition to numerous anecdotal reports from users.

rhodiola roseaHere are the benefits of rhodiola rosea:

  • Improved Mood
  • Improved Physical Performance
  • Decreased Anxiety
  • Reduced Stress
  • Reduced Fatigue
  • Reduced Symptoms of Mood Disorders
  • Reduced Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
  • Improved Athletic Performance
  • Improved Sleep

A typical rhodiola rosea dosage is anywhere from 300 to 800 mg per day. Many products come in 500 mg capsules. If you have 500 mg capsules, you should try taking one capsule a day for the first few weeks. If you don’t experience the desired effects after a few weeks have gone by, you may want to try taking one capsule, twice a day.

To learn more about rhodiola rosea, read this: The Benefits of Rhodiola Rosea.


Adaptogens are a fascinating class of plants that have numerous physical and nootropic benefits. They can be taken by themselves, but are usually taken as part of a larger nootropic stack.

Most commonly, we’ve seen it stacked with racetams, eugeroics, and cholinergics. For example, a common stack would be piracetam, Alpha-GPC, and ashwagandha. These 3 together have a synergistic effect, making them more effective when taken together.

If you want to learn more about the different adaptogens, you can check out all the Nootropics Zone posts about them here.

The Top 3 Nootropic Adaptogens
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