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Ben Greenfield Corner

Unveiling the Alchemy of Nootropics and Psychedelics


It’s time to usher you into Part 2 of my exploration into nootropics, smart drugs, and psychedelics. If you thought Part 1 was a deep dive, brace yourself. You’ll get to plunge even further into the art of using natural and man-made ingredients for cognitive enhancement and mental expansion. 

In this installment, I’ll share the exact blueprints of my personal nootropic and psychedelic strategies — the stacks that I’ve honed over decades of self-experimentation, the dosages that I’ve found to be most effective, and how I align these tools with my daily activities to maximize their benefits. From enhancing your morning meditation and workout routines to supercharging your productivity for deep work sessions even when sleep-deprived, uncover how to incorporate and combine the vast list of cognitive enhancers from Part 1 into your weekly routine.

But it’s not all about pushing the envelope. I also delve into the critical importance of balance — how to listen to your body and mind to know when it’s time to dial back and allow for recovery. 

Whether you’re a seasoned nootropic veteran or just starting to explore the possibilities of enhancing your mental function, this two-part guide provides the insights and strategies you need to take your cognitive game to the next level.

P.S.: If you haven’t read Part 1 of this series yet, I encourage you to do so, as it will help you understand the basics of what nootropics and smart drugs are and how they work.

How to Enhance the Effects of Nootropics and Smart Drugs 

Certain compounds can enhance the effects of nootropics, smart drugs, and psychedelics (addressed later in this article) and even prevent the crash so often associated with such brain boosters. These compounds, specifically the following types, work primarily by providing you with molecules and nutrients that can quickly become depleted as your brain works harder and faster. 

When you intelligently combine your nootropics, smart drugs, and psychedelics with choline donors, amino acids, adaptogens, neurovitamins, neurominerals, anti-inflammatories, antioxidants, and peptides, you can prevent many of the deficiencies, jittery side effects, and crashes that tend to arise with high, frequent doses of brain-boosters, as well as enhance and prolong the effects of your supplementation protocol.

Now, let’s dive in…

1. Choline Donors 

Choline is an essential nutrient for brain development, detoxification, metabolism, muscle movement, digestion, and liver and gallbladder function. Choline donors work through different pathways in the nervous system to ensure your brain and body get adequate amounts of choline. When you are deficient in choline, you are more likely to crash after using a brain-booster, and the brain-booster itself may not work as efficiently. The following are the most potent choline donors.

CENTROPHENOXINE

Centrophenoxine protects the brain, enhances and improves working memory, and has anti-aging and antioxidant effects. Effective doses range from one to three doses of 250mg per day, but elderly individuals may respond better to three to six doses per day.

CITICOLINE

Citicoline (a combination of choline and cytidine) reduces memory impairment, cognitive decline, and brain damage, and improves learning and attention. Effective doses range from 1 to 2g per day.

ALPHA GPC

Alpha GPC helps to prevent cognitive decline, protects the brain, reduces inflammation, and increases attention span, memory, and growth hormone production (which may also slow down the effects of aging and help you lose weight). An effective dose is 400mg three times per day.

2. Amino Acids

Amino acids are precursors to neurotransmitters and perform many physiological functions, such as repairing tissues, providing energy, improving mental and physical performance, and helping to grow or maintain muscle. The specific amino acids listed below are especially beneficial for the brain.

ACETYL-L-CARNITINE

Acetyl-L-carnitine can easily cross the blood-brain barrier and enhance cognitive processes such as memory, learning, and focus. It also improves brain energy metabolism, reduces fatigue, and has potent anti-aging and brain-protecting effects, and it can induce the production of more mitochondria, which increases energy production. Effective doses range from 500 to 1,500mg per day.

N-ACETYL-TYROSINE

N-acetyl-tyrosine improves focus, motivation, memory, learning, and mood. Effective doses range from 500 to 2,000mg per day.

Some research indicates that the effectiveness of tyrosine supplementation depends on proper neurotransmitter synthesis and function. This means your response to tyrosine may depend on the health of your neurotransmitters. 

TAURINE

Taurine acts as an antioxidant and can improve memory, reduce anxiety, and promote sleep and relaxation. Effective doses range from 500 to 2,000mg, although doses as high as 3,000mg can be taken with little risk of adverse effects.

L-THEANINE

L-theanine is also an antioxidant with neuroprotective properties. It can improve mood, focus, and memory, reduce anxiety, and promote sleep and relaxation. Effective doses range from 100 to 200mg daily.

I have found that 400mg added to a cup of coffee can significantly reduce caffeine’s side effects, such as excessive wakefulness or jitters.

DL-PHENYLALANINE

DL-phenylalanine is a combination of two forms of the essential amino acid phenylalanine — the “D” form and the “L” form — and can easily cross the blood-brain barrier. DL-phenylalanine enhances mental alertness, mood, memory, and learning and reduces pain and depression. Effective doses range from 1 to 5g per day.

As a word of caution, some people may not be able to handle phenylalanine due to a condition called phenylketonuria (PKU). PKU is a genetic disorder characterized by a deficiency of phenylalanine hydroxylase, the enzyme that breaks down phenylalanine. When excess phenylalanine accumulates, it can lead to growth failure, microcephaly (an abnormally small head, often due to poor brain development), seizures, developmental delay, severe intellectual impairment, and, in mild cases, a musty odor in the breath, skin rashes, hyperactivity, and anxiety.

There are less severe forms, such as variant PKU and non-PKU hyperphenylalaninemia, that are associated with a smaller risk of brain damage, and people with very mild cases of PKU may not even require treatment (as long as they consume a low-phenylalanine diet). PKU can be easily detected with a simple blood test, and all states in the United States require a PKU test for every newborn — so if you live in the United States, you likely already know whether or not you have it.

ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS (EAAS)

The nine essential amino acids (EAAs) — histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine — are essential because your body can’t produce them on its own; you must consume them via diet or supplements.

kion aminos

A balanced supply of EAAs is necessary for optimal brain function, and while there is limited information on the precise mechanisms by which different EAAs benefit cognition, research suggests that amino acids such as histidine and tryptophan are necessary for neurotransmitter function and neuronal signaling.

Rather than taking all of the amino acids listed above individually, you can try my shotgun approach, which is to take a blend of EAAs mixed in a precise ratio to make them as effective as possible. This is actually the exact ratio in Kion Aminos. I dose with about 10–20g per day.

3. Neurovitamins

Many vitamins can enhance brain regulation and developmental processes and prevent damage to neurons. The following are the best vitamins to enhance any nootropic or smart drug you use.

VITAMIN B1

Also known as thiamine, vitamin B1 is best taken in the fat-soluble form benfotiamine, which increases energy, mood, and alertness and reduces pain and advanced glycation end products (compounds that accelerate brain degeneration).

Research suggests that, since high doses of vitamin B1 usually result in large amounts of unabsorbed B1 being excreted, doses of 30mg per day are sufficient. As a word of caution, alcohol can inhibit the efficient absorption of vitamin B1, so if you want the full benefits of vitamin B1, limit or avoid alcohol on days you take vitamin B1.

VITAMIN B3

Vitamin B3, when consumed in the form of niacinamide (also called nicotinamide) can reduce inflammation, anxiety, and age-related cognitive impairment. An effective dose is 15mg per day, but people suffering from trauma, hypoxia, stress, or genetic mutations can benefit from higher doses. The supplements NR, NMN, or NAD are even better ways to boost niacinamide since they can simultaneously raise NAD+, a molecule your body uses to regulate cellular metabolism, aging, and DNA repair. 

VITAMIN B5

Vitamin B5’s water-soluble form calcium pantothenate improves concentration, memory, and learning and reduces brain fog. Effective doses range from 500 to 1,000mg per day.

VITAMIN B6

When taken in the highly bioactive form pyridoxal-5-phosphate, vitamin B6 increases mental and physical energy, prevents neuronal damage, and plays a role in memory formation, focus, motivation, and mood and sleep regulation. Effective doses are 1.5mg per day for healthy women and 2mg per day for healthy men, although women who are pregnant or lactating may need to take up to 2mg.

VITAMIN B12

When taken in the form of methylcobalamin, vitamin B12 can improve mood, memory, focus, and energy and reduce anxiety, pain, and cognitive decline. Effective doses range from 1 to 2mg per day.vitamins

VITAMIN C

Vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid has antioxidant and neuroprotective effects, reduces fatigue, and improves mood and blood flow. Effective doses range from 90 to 150mg per day.

VITAMIN D3

When taken in an absorbable form like cholecalciferol or, even better, the calcifediol found in the supplement d.velop, vitamin D3 has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and delays brain degeneration and cognitive decline. Effective doses range from 1,500 to 2,000 IU per day.

Interestingly, many people (including me!) have genetic factors, such as high pigmentation or interference with the conversion of cholesterol to vitamin D in response to sunlight, that prevent them from properly synthesizing vitamin D from sun exposure. This can be ascertained with a salivary genetic test that looks at the genes CYP27B1 and GC. These individuals may need to supplement with vitamin D3 no matter how much sunlight they get. 

Just be sure that if you use vitamin D3, you pair it with vitamin K2 at about 100–150 mcg per day, and magnesium at about 200–400 mg per day. Otherwise, you’ll experience poor absorption and the potential for build-up of excess calcium in your blood. 

4. Adaptogens

Adaptogens are plant extracts that protect your body and brain from the effects of excess stress. A veritable Swiss army knife for your physiology, they have been shown to support neurogenesis, hormone production, and adrenal and HPA axis regulation, regulate cellular energy homeostasis, regenerate tissue, and improve learning and memory. Listed below are several of my favorites.

MUCUNA PRURIENS

Mucuna pruriens enhances mood, reduces anxiety and stress, protects the brain, stimulates sex drive, and increases focus and motivation. Effective doses range from 12.5 to 17.5mg per kilogram of body weight per day.

COLEUS FORSKOHLII

Coleus forskohlii improves learning, memory, and mental stamina and reduces fatigue and inflammation. Effective doses are about 7.5g per day for healthy women and about 9g for healthy men.

RHODIOLA ROSEA (RHODIOLA)

Rhodiola improves mood, motivation, memory, and concentration and reduces fatigue and oxidative stress. Research suggests that daily rhodiola use as low as 50mg can reduce fatigue, while safe neural enhancement occurs at 1,500mg per day.

REISHIReishi

Reishi, one of my favorite adaptogenic mushrooms for relaxation, can reduce fatigue and depression, take the “edge” off if you happen to be, say, overcaffeinated or overstimulated, and, as a bonus, has potential anticancer properties. Effective doses of reishi extract are 5 to 10g per day. 

5. Neurominerals

Neurominerals, like neurovitamins, are highly absorbable and can cross the blood-brain barrier to improve cognition. They are necessary for a host of physiological processes and, when combined, enhance each other’s effects.

LITHIUM OROTATE

The mineral lithium orotate preserves cognitive function, improves mood, and detoxifies the brain. Lithium has also been reported to be beneficial as an Alzheimer’s treatment. Effective doses range from 5 to 150mg per day.

MAGNESIUM THREONATE

Magnesium threonate is the most effective form for increasing magnesium ions in the brain and improving cognitive function. It can improve learning, memory, sleep quality, and mood and reduce anxiety and the effects of neuropathic pain (pain caused by nerve damage). Research suggests that high doses of around 600mg per kilogram of body weight are effective.

You’ll find this type of magnesium in BIOptimizers Magnesium Breakthrough, the only magnesium supplement with all seven bioavailable forms of magnesium that your body needs (use code BEN10 to save 10%).

ZINC PICOLINATE

Zinc picolinate is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-system-boosting mineral that also helps improve memory, mood, and neuronal growth. Research suggests that the current recommended intake of zinc — 8 to 14mg per day — is effective at maintaining homeostasis. Mild zinc deficiency can be treated with two to three times this amount and moderate to severe deficiency with four to five times this amount.

6. Anti-inflammatories and Antioxidants

These compounds specifically address oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain. They also support the transport and utilization of nutrients and regulate nervous system stimulation, hormonal secretion, and cholesterol levels. The best anti-inflammatories and antioxidants for the brain also tend to support mitochondrial health and cellular longevity.

PQQ

PQQ reduces neurodegeneration and cognitive decline, promotes neuronal growth and survival, and improves sleep, energy, memory, and stress response. PQQ also has potent mitochondrial and anti-aging properties. An effective dose is 0.3mg per day.

QUERCETIN

Quercetin, found in fruits and vegetables, can delay cognitive decline, protect neurons from toxins, regulate estrogen and androgen, and reduce inflammation. As a natural antihistamine, it’s also been shown to stabilize mast cells (the immune cells that release histamines). Effective doses range from 50 to 150mg per kilogram of body weight per day.

CURCUMIN

Curcumin is the active component of the spice turmeric. It possesses powerful anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects and can improve memory and mood, reduce oxidative stress and chronic pain, and delay aging. An effective dose is up to 8g per day. Curcumin can be made far more absorbable by blending it with oils such as coconut oil or combining it with black pepper or the black pepper extract called piperine.

DOCOSAHEXAENOIC ACID (DHA)

DHA is the omega-3 fatty acid most abundant in your brain. It has been shown to improve memory, learning, and mood and reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, and telomere shortening (a chromosomal indication of how fast you are aging). Effective doses range from 500 to 1,000mg daily.

GREEN TEA EXTRACT

Green tea extract enhances learning abilities, memory, and blood flow, delays aging, and may reduce anxiety and chronic fatigue. When green tea extract is paired with quercetin and L-theanine, the cognitive effects become synergistic, meaning they enhance each other to produce a greater effect. Effective doses range from 50 to 500mg per day, although higher doses have been associated with side effects like nausea.

BIOPERINE

Bioperine is derived from the black pepper extract piperine. It increases the absorption of other nutrients, has anti-inflammatory effects (especially when combined with curcumin), and increases motivation, focus, productivity, and reasoning skills, while stabilizing mood. An effective dose is 20mg per day.

5-HTP

5-HTP (or 5-hydroxytryptophan) is like the precursor to serotonin, that feel-good neurotransmitter that keeps your mood balanced and your brain humming smoothly. Supplementing with 5-HTP (I recommend Thorne’s formula) is like giving your body the raw materials it needs to keep the happiness flowing, promote restful sleep, and help you cope with stress. A typical dosage is about 100mg taken once or twice daily.

GABA

GABA is the brain’s main inhibitory neurotransmitter. Think of it as the chill pill of your nervous system, helping to dial down anxiety and promote relaxation. An effective dose is about 250mg per day. I also recommend Thorne’s GABA supplements, which help your brain put the brakes on overexcitement, leading to a calmer, more focused state of mind. 

7. Peptides

No discussion of cognitive enhancement would be complete without addressing peptides, which are short amino acid sequences that target intended cells to elicit certain effects — including slowed aging, fat loss, muscle gain, sexual enhancement, and better brain function — with laser-like specificity.

For example, the peptide Semax is one of my favorite nootropic-like peptides. It was originally synthesized in Russia during the 1980s with the express intention of improving cognitive function. In addition to stimulating the central nervous system, it works to modulate receptor sensitivity for a variety of neurotransmitters and brain chemicals, including acetylcholine, dopamine, serotonin, adenosine, and histamine. Like most peptides, Semax is so potent that only small doses are needed to achieve the desired results. For most people, 0.5 to 1.0mg per day is plenty. 

For an even bigger boost in brain function, Semax works quite well when combined with the peptide Selank, which usually comes in a nasal spray and can be used as two sprays once daily. Selank alone can simulate stimulants, tranquilizers, ADHDA treatments, and antidepressants all at once. It is also well-studied for cognitive recovery from strokes and can speed up recovery from traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Dihexa is another peptide I like for the brain, as it can reverse neurological damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease, and is useful for treating Parkinson’s disease.

Finally, in my opinion, the two strongest cognitive-enhancing peptides are P21 and Adamax. You can think of P21 as a heavy-duty brain repairer and Adamax as a heavy-duty nootropic. P21 is so powerful that it boosts neurogenesis in Alzheimer’s brains above that of normal controls. It can enhance neurogenesis and boost the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that plays a key role in promoting the growth, survival, and differentiation of neurons in the brain. It can also repair brain damage, and in rodent models, has a strong anti-Alzheimer’s effect (in rats). For brain fog, mental clarity, word recall, and verbal acuity, nothing beats it. I recommend stacking it with Adamax, a more potent form of Semax with enhanced BBB penetration.

Though I’ve given “per day” references, I don’t recommend stacking all these peptides every day. These days, I use a Semax/Selank combo about twice a week and an Adamax/P21 combo twice a week. VIP, a useful peptide for brain mold and mycotoxin issues, is something I also use about twice a week. 

You should know that many peptides aren’t technically FDA-approved because they aren’t patentable; therefore, you won’t see them recommended by most mainstream health authorities or mentioned on most health websites. While most peptides are not outright illegal, their legal status depends on their intended use, claims made about them, and whether they are FDA-approved for a specific use. Most peptides are not FDA-approved, which means they haven’t undergone the FDA’s rigorous review process for safety, effectiveness, and quality. Given the unregulated nature of peptides and their exclusion from FDA approval, sourcing them can be challenging. 

To dive further into peptide stacks, check out my podcast episode with Jay Campbell and my peptides resources page

The Best Brain-Boosting Stacks

There are over a thousand websites and hundreds of reference guides chock-full of complicated methods for combining the compounds described in this article, similar to the peptide stacks I just mentioned. There is a reason for this: as you have probably guessed by now, stacking nootropics can be far more effective than consuming a single, lonely nootropic in isolation. 

For example, adding choline or L-theanine to your morning coffee can make your brain feel fresh for hours. Mixing curcumin with black pepper can dramatically amp up the neural anti-inflammatory effects of both. Combating the edge of microdosed LSD or psilocybin with an adaptogen like reishi or rhodiola can assist with any jittery feelings. 

If you want to reduce anxiety and depression but don’t necessarily care to enhance your cognitive performance and don’t need to get through a day of sleep deprivation, you could stick to a single nootropic that increases dopamine levels, such as Mucuna pruriens or tryptophan.

But if experimentation isn’t your thing, I’ve listed the best stacks and done-for-you supplement blends I have used — the tried-and-true mixes that combine ultimate efficacy and safety with no nasty crashes or jitters. Check them out below:

1. Caffeine and Nicotine

Coffee and cigarettes have long been a popular combination. Think back to the 1950s image of a man in a tailored suit perfectly pairing his black brew with a cigarette hanging out the corner of his mouth as he enjoys the Sunday paper. 

Aside from the obvious pleasure some derive from this traditional combo, are there any benefits to simultaneously smoking and drinking coffee?

According to one study, it turns out that when compared to smokers who regularly consumed coffee, smokers who didn’t drink coffee had twice as much of the cell damage associated with tobacco use. Regular smokers who drank coffee less than twice a week had double the chances of developing cancer than those who drank coffee more frequently. So ultimately, coffee-drinking cigarette smokers have some health advantages over their smoking counterparts who don’t drink coffee.

Of course, the antioxidant content of coffee may not be the only smoking savior. And no, it is not the tobacco and nasty chemicals in a cigarette that work the magic: as other studies have proved, it is nicotine. Nicotine is pretty powerful stuff, enhancing not only locomotive performance (the ability to move with greater control and precision) and cognitive performance when combined with coffee but also ramping up exercise performance by 18 percent to 21 percent all on its own!

How do I pull off this stack? I sometimes suck on 1mg nicotine toothpicks as I down a cup of coffee (the cinnamon flavor of the toothpicks blends quite nicely with a cup of joe). 

Finally, should you want to amp this stack up a notch for even more memory and cognition enhancement, drop a sprig of rosemary in your coffee, which has been researched for these effects, and also lends a pleasant, herbaceous flavor to your brew.

2. Caffeine and L-Theanine

Most people, especially slow caffeine oxidizers, find that they can eliminate the negative side effects of caffeine (such as jitteriness and headaches) by adding L-theanine to their caffeine source of choice. Research suggests that caffeine and L-theanine together can boost concentration, focus, and energy while reducing anxiety.

For this stack, use a ratio of four parts L-theanine to one part caffeine — for example, 400mg of L-theanine with 100mg of caffeine. You may want to start with a smaller dose, such as 200mg of L-theanine and 50mg of caffeine, then work your way up to find the best dose for you. (As a reference point, an 8-ounce cup of coffee has about 100mg of caffeine.)

The beauty of this stack is that nature has already given you a perfectly packaged combination of caffeine and L-theanine in green tea, whether in the form of a cup of green tea, a bowl of matcha tea, or even a green tea extract supplement (green tea has less caffeine than coffee — about 25mg per 8-ounce cup).

Caffeine and L-theanine make a particularly convenient combination during those times when you don’t want the excess stimulation of caffeine in isolation, such as a late-evening dinner or the latter stages of a workday.

3. Caffeine, Tulsi, and Astragalus

Tulsi is one of the greatest calming adaptogens that exists and has been trusted and revered for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine and culture. Research suggests that tulsi can improve mood, support digestion, and promote stable energy levels. Because it is also an anxiolytic (meaning it reduces anxiety), tulsi, like L-theanine, helps reduce caffeine’s overstimulating effects.

You can also blend tulsi with Astragalus propinquus (astragalus), which, in Chinese medicine, is a boundlessly invigorating herb that provides a stable source of energy. Astragalus contains an enormous variety of saponins, flavonoids, and polysaccharides and, when paired with antioxidant-rich coffee and tulsi, it creates a match made in longevity heaven. For this blend, which I often make if drinking coffee in the afternoon, I am a fan of the Four Sigmatic Adaptogen Coffee, which contains coffee, astragalus, tulsi, and cinnamon.

4. Ginkgo, Bacopa, and Lion’s Mane

This unique stack boosts mental focus, memory, learning, and cognitive performance while reducing anxiety and depression. I have found that it can significantly boost mental alertness for around six hours at a time without any jitteriness or irritability. It is important to allow a grace period of about twelve weeks of daily supplementation before you feel the stack’s full potential, so don’t expect immediate results.

A typical dose for this combination is 500mg of lion’s mane per day, 240mg of ginkgo per day, and 100mg of Bacopa twice per day. For example, you could throw back a packet of Four Sigmatic lion’s mane extract with a Beekeeper’s Naturals Bacopa and gingko Brain Fuel shot. Small amounts (between 100 and 200mg) of the psychedelic psilocybin can enhance this stack.

5. Artichoke and Forskolin

Research suggests that artichoke extract supplements (made from the leaves of artichokes) possess potent antioxidant properties and reduce levels of blood-vessel-damaging cholesterol particles. Forskolin, derived from Coleus forskohlii, is one of the few compounds known to naturally boost cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate), which reduces brain inflammation, strengthens the blood-brain barrier, and improves neural signaling in your brain.

I have experienced enhanced memory and word recall when consuming this stack. Tim Ferriss talked about it quite a bit in my podcast with him, specifically referencing its presence in the supplement NEUROFUEL (formerly known as Ciltep). Made primarily from artichoke extract and forskolin, NEUROFUEL also contains vitamin B6, L-phenylalanine, and acetyl-L-carnitine. It is recommended that you take two to three capsules at the beginning of each day and skip dosing one or two days per week to achieve optimal results.

6. Alpha-GPC, AC-11, Bacopa, and Huperzine A

This combination is found in the supplement Alpha BRAIN from Onnit (use code Ben for 10% off food and supplements). According to a clinical trial conducted by the Boston Center for Memory, Alpha BRAIN can increase cognitive performance for healthy individuals and may boost memory and learning capacity.

Alpha-GPC has several benefits. It provides choline (which increases the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine) and appears to support cellular membranes and reduce cognitive decline. AC-11 is derived from the rainforest herb Uncaria tomentosa, and research suggests that it may be able to help slow the development of cancer due to its DNA-repairing antioxidant properties.

Bacopa is known to enhance memory and aid in treating dementia, Parkinson’s, and epilepsy. Huperzine A is derived from the Chinese club moss Huperzia serrata. Research suggests that it improves neurotransmitter levels and may also improve memory and protect neurons, making it a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s and related conditions.

As a word of caution, a recent review of the scientific literature found that the quality of the evidence supporting the use of huperzine A is low, so there is still debate over this particular nootropic. If you take a cholinesterase inhibitor like donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon), or galantamine (Razadyne) — which are all used to prevent or manage Alzheimer’s — the Alzheimer’s Association officially recommends not taking huperzine A.

This stack seems to work best if you take it daily for about two weeks. After that, the effects become more pronounced over time, so, as with the ginkgo, Bacopa, and lion’s mane stack, you need to let this blend build up in your system before you judge its overall effectiveness.

7. TianChi Chinese Adaptogenic Herb Complex

The list of herbs and ingredients in the supplement TianChi is too long to include here, but it contains nearly every Chinese adaptogen and natural nootropic described in this article. So when it comes to a nonsynthetic approach to mental enhancement, this blend tops the list. 

The herbs in TianChi are gathered from their native, wild environments or are organically grown, non-GMO, kosher-certified, non-irradiated, and pesticide-free, then formulated in small batches by a friend of mine named Roger Drummer, a repeat podcast guest who is a Chinese herbal medicine practitioner in Oregon. 

Most adaptogens in today’s market are a standardized 5:1 extract, meaning that it takes five pounds of herbs to make one pound of extract. This is not always effective because some herbs may have to be extracted at a 10:1 ratio to actually be strong enough to be efficacious. The adaptogens in TianChi are extracted at a 45:1 ratio, making this one of the most potent blends available.

I have found the brain-boosting effects of TianChi to be even more enhanced when consumed with beet juice or beet powder, probably due to beets’ vasodilating effect. This is one of my favorite blends to mix up midmorning or midafternoon on an empty stomach for a clear-headed cognitive high. If you are trying to avoid anything even remotely synthetic, TianChi is a good choice for you.

8. Qualia

Like TianChi, the nootropic blend Qualia Mind is a shotgun approach, providing over forty different ingredients, including all the adaptogens, neurovitamins, amino acids, choline donors, anti-inflammatories, and antioxidants. It also contains the synthetic nootropic noopept, which is about a thousand times more potent than piracetam, a popular compound for memory and focus. Additionally, it includes a few other helpful ingredients, such as curcumin, piperine, and, if you opt for the caffeinated version, caffeine.

9. Kava and Kratom

Kava is an extract from the Piper methysticum plant. In the South Pacific, it’s a popular drink that is used in ceremonies and for relaxation. Kavalactones in kava are believed to be responsible for its effects on reducing anxiety. It’s also traditionally used for stress, withdrawal from benzodiazepines, feelings of well-being, and sleeping issues. 

This obviously doesn’t make kava sound like much of a nootropic, but when combined with the Southeast Asian plant extract kratom, (Mitragyna speciosa), derived from the leaf of a tropical deciduous tree within the coffee family, the result is a notable combination. Kratom is often used for various purposes, including improving mood, acting as an anxiolytic, aiding in insomnia, providing pain relief, boosting energy, serving as an anti-inflammatory, and lowering blood sugar levels. It elevates mood and euphoria, enhances physical endurance, and improves anxiety and depression.

So when you combine kratom and kava, a combination you can find in drinks such as Feel Free and/or New Brew, you get simultaneous euphoria and energy with relaxed focus. The only problem? Like nicotine, kratom can be very addictive and produce withdrawal symptoms like sleeplessness, irritability, and restless legs if you use too much too often and then suddenly stop. 

10. Nootopia

No, Nootopia is not some new fringe foreign country located off the coast of Madagascar or found deep in the heart of the Amazon. Rather, Nootopia is a black box that contains custom-selected nootropics and smart drugs, all hand-selected for you based on a special quiz, then delivered to your front doorstep. 

Nootopia has nineteen different formulations at its disposal for everything from verbal fluency and word recall to focus and creativity, available in a variety of capsules, liquids, and powders. 

Microdosing Psychedelics 

My experience with psychedelics originally spanned several years of tripping out with everything from psilocybin truffles to DMT inhalation to dropping acid to sipping ayahuasca. 

But several years ago, upon researching more and realizing the traditional history of large doses of these compounds in sorcery, shamanism, witchcraft, and the occult — primarily for divining with the spirit world — I came to the conclusion that their use clashed with my own Christian beliefs, and seemed to be paradoxically drawing me away from sober time spent in prayer, reading my Bible and other important elements of my spiritual disciplines and religious practice.

So, I no longer endorse or practice so-called “journeying” with drugs myself, but I still acknowledge their potential benefits when used in smaller, non-psychedelic doses. For more insight, check out part 1 and part 2 of an article series I wrote about my stance on plant medicine.microdosing

When you take a microdose of a psychedelic, it is typically referred to as a sub-perceptual dose, achieved by ingesting tiny amounts of these compounds to induce a noticeable and overall positive physical and mental effect. Sub-perceptual doses do not have a significant impact on your ability to function normally, but the effects are present in your mood and behavior. The lowest dose of a particular psychedelic that will produce a hallucinogenic effect is known as the threshold dose; since the goal is not to get a hallucinogenic effect, a microdose can be well below a psychedelic’s threshold dose.

By integrating microdosing into a weekly routine, you can achieve greater creativity, more energy, improved mood, increased focus, and better relational skills. There is a growing body of research that suggests that microdosing may also assist with depression and anxiety, help with mild alcohol and tobacco addiction, and mitigate ADD and ADHD behaviors. 

Microdosing Psilocybin

Psilocybin is naturally produced by more than two hundred species of fungi, otherwise known as “magic mushrooms.” Research from archaeological evidence suggests that humans have used psilocybin mushrooms for over seven thousand years. I have personally found microdoses of psilocybin to be best for nature immersions, hiking, journaling, and self-discovery.

Psilocybin primarily interacts with the serotonin receptors in the brain and has been used in therapeutic settings to treat headaches, anxiety, depression, addiction, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

There is limited data to show any adverse drug interactions with the use of psilocybin, and liver function, blood sugar, and hormonal regulation all appear to be unaffected during consumption. (However, to avoid any issues with significant neurotransmitter imbalances, it is best to avoid alcohol and serotonin-based antidepressants while taking any psychedelics.)

Where to Buy Psychedelics

There are a variety of websites that sell psychedelics, but not all sources contain good-quality ingredients, nor is there any guarantee that the substance you purchase is not laced with undesirable compounds.

I have personally found the following three resources to be quite helpful when purchasing psychedelics or finding a quality source:

  • The Third Wave: This website offers a host of valuable information and downloadable PDFs on dosing, sourcing, safety, and techniques — and even an entire instructional course on microdosing.
  • Reddit: Reddit contains many helpful personal anecdotes that are voted up or down by other users, and although it is rife with stories that may not apply to your specific situation, I’ve found it to be a helpful resource for discovering what DIY biohackers and psychedelic users are experimenting with in their own protocols.
  • RealChems: RealChems sources synthetic versions of 1P-LSD, ALD-52, ETH-LAD, AL-LAD, 4-AcO-DMT, and many other psychedelic and nootropic “research chemicals” that are “not sold for human consumption” (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

For most of the psychedelic purchases you make online, you usually need to use cryptocurrency and, in most cases, if you want to remain anonymous, a Tor browser or other cloaked browser. Availability seems to be changing with increasing legality, and I’ve stumbled across some nootropic companies, such as Wukiyo, that have a psilocybin and herb combination called Bliss that can be ordered online.

A psilocybin microdose ranges from 0.1 to 0.5g. I recommend you start at the lower end of the dosing range with this and any of the other psychedelics mentioned in this article. Trust me: you don’t want to dose up for a creative day of work and find yourself daydreaming under your desk while jamming to the Grateful Dead. 

For psilocybin in particular, you can combine a small dose with lion’s mane and niacin in a morning cup of tea for a very slight sensory boost without any distracting trip or gastric upset. Interestingly, blue lotus extract — which is commonly known as an aphrodisiac but can also result in a significant release of the psychedelic compound DMT (dimethyltryptamine) by the pineal gland — can be combined with psilocybin alone or the blend above for an even more pronounced effect that many describe as something similar to an ecstasy (MDMA) experience. 

Your pineal gland normally releases small amounts of DMT, but it is also found in some plants and can be chemically synthesized. When ingested in high amounts, it can result in a very noticeable, ego-dissolving psychedelic journeying effect, while smaller amounts have a pleasant nootropic effect. Blue lotus can upregulate your own production of DMT, or when taken with DMT, can magnify its effects. Essential Oil Wizardry is a brand I’d suggest checking out.

Microdosing LSD

Lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as LSD, is derived from a chemical in rye fungus. It was originally synthesized in 1938 to aid in childbirth and is widely known for its powerful hallucinogenic effects. It is less well known for what I use it for — inducing intense sparks of creativity when a merging of the left and right brain hemispheres is the desired goal, such as a day on which I need to do a great deal of creative writing or copywriting. It also works quite well for keeping you chugging along on a sleep-deprived or jet-lagged day.

Like psilocybin, LSD affects serotonin levels in the body. A dose of LSD dramatically increases levels of serotonin in the brain, which causes a feel-good dopamine release. Research suggests that LSD may also reduce blood flow to the control centers of the brain, which weakens their activity and allows for higher amounts of creativity and simultaneous use of both the right and left hemispheres of the brain, allowing for a potent combination of analytical and creative thinking that would normally be difficult to tap into. This enhanced brain connectivity is likely why users experience increased creativity and unique thought patterns. 

A typical LSD microdose ranges from 5 to 20 micrograms (not milligrams!). My own approach for dosing LSD is called the volumetric dosing method. I buy blotter paper of LSD or P-LSD, then cut out a square of 100 mcg with scissors and drop it into a 10-milliliter dropper bottle of vodka.

I then know that a single drop of the liquid contains a neat 10 micrograms of LSD. This helps me avoid the inaccurate dosing so notoriously associated with simply cutting out a square of paper and placing it in your mouth, except for that awkward time when I did the math wrong and took 100mcg — right before a massage session! If you take slightly too much LSD, a small dose of CBD (between 10 and 20mg) or any of the adaptogenic herbs in this article seems to take the edge off.

Microdosing Ibogaine

Ibogaine is derived from iboga, an evergreen shrub native to the rainforests in central Africa whose root bark has high concentrations of psychedelic compounds. It has a rich history in the Bwiti religion in Africa and has recently found its way into Western medicine to treat drug addictions, improve physical energy and cognitive performance (in microdoses), and cause a surge in positive emotions.

To microdose with ibogaine, find a tincture or root bark form (the root bark form is usually encapsulated). If you use a tincture, find a source that has the root bark extracted into its purest form and combined with iboga alkaloids. A single drop of an iboga tincture equates to about a 0.5mg microdose of ibogaine. In root bark form, an effective dose is 300 to 500mg.

I have found an iboga microdose to be most useful before a workout or any effort that combines both mental and physical demands, such as tennis, basketball, or energetic sex. It will make you hyperactive and jittery if taken just before a day of desk work, which makes sense when you consider that African tribes traditionally whipped themselves into a frenzied pre-battle state on ibogaine.

Microdosing Huachuma

Microdosing with huachuma, also known as San Pedro cactus or mescaline, can have subtle yet profound effects, particularly on social and human connectivity. The magic behind huachuma’s social alchemy lies in its primary psychoactive component, mescaline, which interacts with serotonin receptors in the brain. At doses as low as 200 to 300mg, mescaline binds to these receptors, particularly the 5-HT2A receptor. This can lead to increased serotonin release, promoting feelings of well-being and empathy. 

The intricate interplay between mescaline and serotonin pathways may contribute to the reported cognitive and social benefits observed during microdosing with huachuma.

This interaction can elevate mood, induce feelings of empathy, and enhance interpersonal communication. Mescaline’s serotonin modulation may contribute to an increased awareness of emotional nuances, making social interactions more nuanced and meaningful.

People often describe a heightened ability to read nonverbal cues, fostering a deeper connection with others and an improved understanding of social dynamics. This chemical dance within the brain, when orchestrated in microdoses, creates a cocktail of social experience-upgrading effects that make a small dose perfect in my case for a social function or a date night with my wife.

Microdosing Ketamine

Ketamine is a general anesthetic commonly used on animals but originally devised for and tested on humans (in fact, my paramedic brother commonly uses it on the patients he transports in the ambulance). 

Ketamine received notoriety as a party drug in the 1990s but is now gaining momentum as a very effective treatment for depression, although I wouldn’t quite classify the dose being used in such settings as a microdose. 

When administered as an IV infusion, ketamine works very quickly on brain receptors and offers relief from depression symptoms in as little as twenty-four hours.

In contrast, traditional antidepressants can take up to eight weeks to become effective and are accompanied by a host of negative side effects that ketamine doesn’t seem to cause. These traditional antidepressants work by flooding neurotransmitters or blocking their reuptake in the central nervous system. But ketamine directly blocks glutamate and opiate receptors, both of which affect depression and pain responses, from being acted upon by neurotransmitters — resulting in a profound antidepressant effect without neurotransmitter desensitization, and, if a habit is halted within the first twenty-four to forty-eight hours after ketamine, an easier time breaking addictions.

Getting Started with Microdosing

For any of the psychedelic compounds discussed in this article, I recommend following the protocol laid out by James Fadiman in chapter 16 of his book Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide:

  • Consume a microdose of your chosen psychedelic twice per week for ten weeks.
  • Allow two to three days between each microdosing day (for example, consume your microdoses on Wednesdays and Sundays).
  • Write about your experience and be mindful of your expectations and desires.
  • Especially in the early stages of experimentation, use the compound in a familiar or controlled setting.
  • At the end of the ten weeks (or however many weeks you microdose), reflect on your experience and ask yourself, “Did I accomplish my purpose for microdosing?”

For one of the more comprehensive and insightful guides on microdosing, I also recommend Michael Pollan’s book How to Change Your Mind, in which the author — an immersive journalist with little to no psychedelic experience — takes a deep dive into the world of psilocybin, LSD, DMT, and beyond.

The Last Word

When it comes to using chemistry, modern science, and ancestral wisdom to make your brain work better, there are obviously plenty of options. While I would urge you to use caution with smart drugs, I also encourage you to consider the use of both natural and synthetic nootropics to enhance both productivity and cognitive performance and to tap into the power of psychedelics for personal breakthroughs, creativity, and connectivity. 

While there’s no substitute for quality sleep, brain-supporting foods (like dark chocolate, fresh pressed olive oil, or sustainable omega-3 rich fish), and mitigation of environmental toxins and pollutants, experimenting with the stacks and supportive neurovitamins and neurominerals can be a truly mind-altering and brain-bettering experience, particularly if you feel as though your brain could use a boost.

Are you feeling a bit of paralysis by analysis with all these mind-altering tactics? Does it seem like there are too many choices?

Fear not: I have laid out an example of how I personally weave all these compounds together into a week.

While you may not find yourself mixing up a magic mushroom homebrew in your kitchen anytime soon, a bit of better living through science, a few choice herbs, and nootropics may be exactly what you need to upgrade your productivity, creativity, and overall cognitive performance. 

You are now equipped with every shred of knowledge necessary to do so, whether you choose a risky smart drug approach, a natural nootropic approach, a synthetic nootropic approach, a psychedelic approach, or a blend of all four.

Every day

I have a cup of black coffee or mushroom or adaptogenic tea every morning. If I consume any extra coffee in the afternoon, I add tulsi, reishi, astragalus, or L-theanine to it. If I am using coffee to help me plow through a demanding day or a period of sleep deprivation, I occasionally combine it with nicotine. On my hardest workout days of the week, I usually throw back a can of Update or New Brew prior.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday

I take Qualia, Wukiyo, Notable, or Nootopia on busier days when intense work demands arise, especially if I need enhanced creativity or, faster word recall or brain processing speed (for example, if I am being interviewed for a podcast or speaking on stage). 

You don’t have to own and use all those aforementioned brands, but I just happen to because I’m a health podcaster with a garage full of supplements. If I have been traveling or am jet-lagged, I will include a dose of methylene blue to mitigate neuroinflammation, and if sleep-deprived, NAD and creatine.

Thursday

Thursdays tend to be less busy. I take TianChi if I need to gently boost blood flow and want to keep neural inflammation at bay. If I am doing more intense studying, reading, meditating (perhaps while utilizing Muse), or memorizing, I’ll pop a Beekeeper’s Brain Fuel or add a touch of lion’s mane into the mix.

Friday

This is often a creative writing, problem-solving, and brainstorming day. I often microdose with psilocybin or LSD in the morning to enhance the coordination between my left and right brain hemispheres. Joovv is another light therapy device I turn to on Fridays, the weekends, or whenever I need extra support for my overall mental and physical well-being. 

Saturday

This is my off day. I try to consume no brain-boosters aside from a piping-hot cup of coffee. You gotta take a break sometimes, right? I also make a point to get solid sleep to naturally boost my mood, energy, and recovery. I turn to tools like the Apollo wearable (use code BG15 for 15% off) to help me chill out more easily, and AYO, the first circadian health wearable, to improve the amount of restorative sleep I get. 

Sunday

I devote Sundays to spiritual disciplines, personal exploration (such as with my Spiritual Disciplines Journal), a hefty dose of neurogenesis, breathwork (with help from The Breath Source or Othership), and the occasional massage. On these days, I use a more potent neuron-sprouting and ego-dissolving mix: a microdose of psilocybin blended with lion’s mane extract and niacin, and, for a massage, a microdose of ketamine.

Throughout the Week

Depending on my schedule, goals, and mood, other therapies and devices I throw into the weekly mix to amplify the effects of nootropics and supplements include:

  • Grounding, specifically with the Ultimate Longevity grounding sleep mat. Grounding, aka “earthing,” offers impressive benefits for my sleep, focus, and blood sugar control, and for fighting anxiety, stiffness, and inflammation, including while I’m traveling.
  • Infrasonic waves, which I get from the Sensate device and app. This device, which is worn around the head, utilizes intrasonic waves to stimulate the autonomic nervous system, resulting in rapid relaxation, heightened sleep quality, and increased self-regulation abilities (use code BGL for $30 off).
  • The BrainTap headset is an LED visor and head device that uses immersive audio to complement meditation, visualization, and breathwork practices. It’s useful for boosting creativity, fighting mental blocks and negative thinking, and improving concentration and problem-solving.
  • VIZR, a “drug-free microdosing” device, offers a unique experience using light and sound that works similarly to low-level psychedelic compounds to stimulate your brain’s potential for growth and change (use code BEN10 for 10% off).
  • HigherDOSE’s PEMF Mat is an infrared sauna blanket that gives you all the benefits of a sauna session in an affordable, portable device. I like to nap on it, or simply zip myself up, relax, and reap the benefits like enhanced exercise recovery, reduced soreness, and greater energy (use code BEN for 15% off).
  • The Vielight Neuro is my go-to source for transcranial-intranasal brain photobiomodulation, or PBM, a scientifically proven way to enhance cognitive ability and increase cerebral blood flow. It targets the nasal passage (olfactory bulb), which is directly connected to brain regions, including the prefrontal cortex, responsible for vital cognitive processes and storing long-term memories (use code BG15 for 15% off).

Believe it or not, this article is a short list of the hacks I use for brain optimization.

For the full guide, check out Ben Greenfield’s Brain Boost Blueprint — an exclusive resource that is packed to the brim with discounts on all of my favorite biohacks for your brain.

Don’t worry — you don’t need to download it or provide an email address! Simply click here to access it now.

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