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Nootropics vs. Adaptogens

Adaptogens and nootropics are popular buzzwords in the health and wellness industry. Although both come from natural sources, each refers to specific types of superplants. Nootropics are natural supplements that can potentially support your cognitive abilities*, while adaptogens are plant-based compounds that might help us manage stress*. Both have been used for centuries in traditional applications, and they are still growing in popularity.

Regarding market sizes, adaptogens have a bigger share at around USD 10.7 billion in 2022, while the nootropics market was valued at USD 3.4 billion. In this blog post, we’ll explore more of each substance to discover their differences, potential benefits*, and how they work in our bodies.

What Are Nootropics?

Nootropics are defined as substances that may support brain and cognitive performance*, like memory, focus, and motivation. The name was coined by Cornelius E. Giurgea and derived from two Greek words: noos (thinking) and tropein (to guide).

Nootropics are thought to support the brain’s supply of glucose and oxygen, have anti-hypoxic effects, and may protect brain tissue from neurotoxicity*. These natural substances can penetrate the blood-brain barrier to affect the brain’s metabolism.

These are some examples of popular nootropics and their potential benefits.

  • Caffeine: This is one example of a nootropic you might be familiar with. Caffeine is present in over sixty plants, the most popular being coffee. The main effects include sustained attention, supported reaction speed, and accuracy.
  • L-Theanine: Commonly found in green tea, L-Theanine is thought to help with ADHD symptoms by increasing dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain. Ultimately, it may support focus and concentration and reduce hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention.
  • Nootropic mushrooms: Another popular type of nootropics is mushroom-derived supplements. For example, Lion’s Mane has been shown to support working memory, complex attention, and reaction time in a particular study.
  • Reishi Mushroom: Nootropic mushrooms such as Reishi, Cordyceps, Chaga, or Lion’s Mane mushrooms have been known to boost memory and focus and protect brain cells from damage.

Aside from the above mentioned, there are plenty of other nootropics, such as herbs like bacopa monnieri. We’ve got you covered if you’d like to learn more about nootropics and other smart drugs!

What Are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens are compounds or extracts that may have the ability to support the body’s ability to adapt to stress, maintain metabolic functions, raise energy levels, and support mental and physical performance*.

People have used plant adaptogens for centuries in different parts of the world, but the term was invented by Soviet scientist Lazarev in 1947. Adaptogens work by normalizing chronically elevated cortisol or corticosterone levels, hormones associated with stress.

There are some examples of adaptogens and their potential benefits:

  • Ashwagandha: This herb extract is popular in Ayurvedic applications and is available in powder, tablet, and drinkable forms. Research has found that it can significantly decrease cortisol levels and perceived stress scale in mentally stressed adults after 56 to 60 days of treatment*.
  • Rhodiola Rosea: Another herbal extract that’s commonly used to combat stress, a study found that ingestion of 500 mg of Rhodiola Rosea may decrease long-term depression-like plasticity in humans*.
  • Ginseng​​: Ginseng has been used for thousands of years for a series of wellness applications; one key use in traditional Chinese applications is reducing everyday stress*. In addition, Panax ginseng is thought to support mental wellness by interacting with the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal or HPA, where cortisol is produced.

Critical Differences Between Nootropics and Adaptogens

These are some key differences between nootropics and adaptogens.

  • They each have their own supposed beneficial effects*. Nootropics are thought to support cognitive performance, such as concentration, focus, and motivation*. Adaptogens are used to support the body’s ability to handle physical and everyday mental stressors*.
  • They work on different parts of the brain and mechanisms. Nootropics support the brain’s supply of glucose and oxygen and protect the brain from neurotoxicity*. Adaptogens work by normalizing the stress hormone cortisol and corticosterone levels in our brains*.
  • Both have different uses. Nootropics are sometimes used for learning disabilities, such as ADHD*. Adaptogens are used to support mental function*.
  • Nootropics have generally faster effects after use, while you may need a longer time to feel the effects of adaptogens.

Aside from these differences, both have similarities:

  • Both are available from natural and synthetic sources.
  • Both still have limited research on its long-term effects, so it’s best to consult your healthcare provider to avoid adverse reactions.

Combining Adaptogens and Nootropics for Synergistic Effects

Rather than working alone, you may also gain synergistic effects by combining them. A study of caffeine and L-Theanine pairing found a positive interaction between the two compounds, and it may support brain function, short-term sustained attention, and overall mental performance*.

It could also potentially support physical performance*. Research on elite curling athletes found improved shooting scores and reduced error rates after using caffeine and L-theanine supplements.

There’s also the option of picking botanicals that serve as both nootropics and adaptogens to gain synergistic effects. Plants such as Ashwagandha and Rhodiola Rosea can act as nootropics and adaptogens. Ashwagandha has been thought to have adaptogenic properties by reducing cortisol levels and supporting sleep quality*. On the other hand, its leaves have nootropic potential by supporting memory and protecting the brain against neurotoxins*.


Adaptogens and nootropics are substances that have their purposes. Nootropics support cognitive functions, while adaptogens are mainly used to support against everyday stressors*. Nootropics have a more immediate effect, while adaptogens require more time. You may achieve synergistic effects by combining two different extracts or consuming botanicals that have both properties*.

The choice of whether or not you should choose nootropics or adaptogens relies on your personal goals and preferences; it’s also better if you can consult a medical professional to help you make a decision. If your answer is nootropics, check out Blessed Wellness’ line of supplements carefully crafted to support your needs!

Nootropics and Adaptogens: FAQs

Can you combine adaptogens and nootropics?

Yes, you can combine adaptogens with nootropics. By combining them, you may create synergistic effects and get the best of both worlds: support cognitive performance with nootropics and reduce everyday stress with adaptogens*.

How long does it take for adaptogens to show effects?

The potential benefits of adaptogens will not be shown immediately, and you may need up to several weeks or even months to see noticeable changes. The effects may also vary from one person to another.

Are there any safety concerns with using nootropics?

Nootropics are popular for their potential cognitive-supporting abilities, but their long-term safety and efficacy still require further scientific studies. You could also experience some side effects if you’re consuming other medications, so it’s best to consult your physician before use.

How do adaptogens work in the body?

Adaptogens work by helping the body resist everyday stressors by modulating the stress response system, such as reducing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol/corticosterone. Its main objective is to maintain homeostasis and achieve balance in physiological functions.

Which is better for stress: adaptogens or nootropics?

Adaptogens are generally better for everyday stress management*. As mentioned, adaptogens may help modulate the body’s stress response and reduce hormones associated with everyday stress. On the other hand, nootropics are mainly used to support cognitive functions, such as memory and concentration*.

It is important to note that the benefits of these products have not been conclusively proven. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, and the NHS has not made any guarantees about the efficacy of such products.

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