5 Best Natural Nootropics to Replace Adderall

5 Best Natural Nootropics to Replace Adderall

February 05, 2019

Adderall is one of the most common prescriptions globally, used for treating attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other health conditions like narcolepsy.

Chemically speaking, Adderall is a mixture of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine salts, which have a comprehensive body of evidence supporting their efficacy as cognition-stimulating substances.

Unfortunately, Adderall is a potent central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, making it impractical for use close to bedtime. Moreover, it's stimulatory nature brings with it risks for bothersome side effects, such as anxiety, loss of appetite, nausea, and headache. In extreme cases, Adderall use can even cause seizures.

Naturally, interest is growing in nootropics that can effectively reproduce the beneficial properties of Adderall without unwanted side effects. Moreover, it remains to be seen what Adderall really does to the brain when used chronically for decades.

As such, this article is going to detail the five best nootropics to replace Adderall in your venture to achieve better focus, mood, and cognitive function.

Adderall and Long-Term Safety

While some studies have analyzed the effects of Adderall use over 10-15 years, Millenials are basically the first generation that has been readily prescribed the drug in the history of humanity. It’s particularly important to note that people without ADHD who use Adderall are most likely to experience serious side effects, especially if it’s abused over a long period of time.

What’s frightening is that a 2012 review published in Brain and Behavior found that nonmedical use of Adderall was the second most common form of illicit drug use (marijuana was number one). [1]

Even more disconcerting is that the rate of workers in the United States who tested positive for amphetamines rose by a whopping 44% between 2011-2015. It’s not particularly surprising that Adderall addiction and misuse is on the rise when you consider that it’s essentially the “little brother” of methamphetamine.

Moreover, a recent pilot study of healthy college students found that Adderall provided little benefit for cognitive function. [2] This suggests that people who don’t have ADHD don’t gain much from using Adderall, at least in terms of mental performance. Hence, if you’re a student and looking to “study smarter” the night before an exam, buying Adderall off your peers isn’t the actual smart way to go about it (nor is it legal).

In the case of people who have ADHD, Adderall is undoubtedly effective (tons of research supports this). [3] But how does Adderall work for treating ADHD?

What Causes ADHD?

Many myths regarding the cause of ADHD still persist to this day despite underwhelming evidence of there veracity. Many people believe ADHD is the result of a diet too rich in sugar, bad parenting, or playing too many video games. There is no conclusive data suggesting that any of these increase the likelihood of an ADHD diagnosis.

Does this mean that bad parenting, excessive sugar intake, and playing video games around the clock are conducive to healthy cognitive development in children and adolescents? Of course not. Just because something doesn’t appear to cause ADHD doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthy or good for the brain.

Research suggests is that ADHD is a biological disorder that is suspected to be caused by genes that alter dopamine production in key functional regions of the brain. [4] In children and adults who are genetically predisposed to ADHD, bad parenting, poor diet, and playing too many video games could certainly exacerbate the symptoms.

Symptoms of ADHD generally include the inability to focus/concentrate, forgetfulness, lack of motivation, frequent talking, impulsiveness, being disorganized, poor time management, and many others.

Some new and controversial theories argue that ADHD is a disease of modernity and the result of the sharp contrast between our fast-paced, stressful daily lives and the slow, methodical pacing in the classroom/workplace setting.

The 21st century has brought about a new era of technology and connectivity unlike anything before it's time. Children are raised with smartphones that have access to anything there mind can imagine, video games that are more immersive, and instant messaging that enables them to be in touch with their friends at all times. standards. The rapid pacing and sense of urgency of these kids’ daily life then transfer to the classroom (and to the workplace for adults).

While ADHD is at least partly (if not mostly) a genetic disorder, it’s time we acknowledge that our cultural and societal environments have influenced its incidence.

On that note, let’s take a look at how Adderall works for treating ADHD and what it can do to those without ADHD.

How Does Adderall Work?

Amphetamines, like Adderall (which is a mixture of levoamphetamine and dextroamphetamine) and ecstasy/MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), rapidly elevate levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, which surge through the brain’s synapses and increase focus, attentiveness, arousal, and motivation.

In fact, dopamine tends to be the primary neurotransmitter responsible for the pleasure of virtually every experience that feels great, whether it’s eating a sugary piece of cake, having sex, or winning a sporting competition. This is why we crave dopamine as humans because it motivates us to achieve those rewarding and pleasurable feelings.

Intuitively, the rush of dopamine that drugs like Adderall induce becomes highly addictive, especially in those who don’t have ADHD. As a person without ADHD begins to overuse a substance like Adderall, the brain — like the rest of the body — fights for homeostasis and  tries to compensate for all the extra dopamine by stripping out its own dopamine receptors.

Over time, this changes the structural makeup of the brain and reduces the number of dopamine receptors, meaning the person needs more and more Adderall to reproduce the euphoric effects it once offered.

This is why people who don’t have ADHD usually end up taking exorbitant amounts of Adderall and/or start snorting or mainlining it so they can revive the “high” they crave.  

Now, does this mean that people without ADHD who use intermittent, small doses (e.g. 20-30 mg) of Adderall will experience permanent damage to the brain? Certainly not. There will be some short-term biological changes, but they won’t be irreversible.

However, the long-term misuse of Adderall is definitely something to be worried about, especially in people who don’t truly have ADHD.

The good news is that there are certainly alternatives to Adderall that are safer for your brain in the long run.

Best Nootropics to Replace Adderall

It goes without saying that if you have ADHD and currently take Adderall to treat it then you should not stop using it or try replacing it with these nootropics. Always consult with your doctor/psychiatrist before making changes to your medications.

For people without ADHD, though, these are some of the top nootropics to replace Adderall:


L-tyrosine is a dietary amino acid and precursor to both dopamine and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters implicated with feelings of motivation and reward. Research shows that supplementing with L-tyrosine can significantly enhance cognitive performance, especially under acutely stressful situations (like cramming the night before an exam). [5]

L-Tyrosine has also been shown to enhance “cognitive flexibility,” meaning it can enhance your ability to adapt to changing cognitive demands, enhance brain dopamine levels, and improve the ability to block extraneous thoughts. [6]

One study also found that L-tyrosine improves ‘deep thinking’ rather than brainstorming (divergent thinking). [7] Basically, this nootropic is perfect for a night of intense studying.

It is suggested that the benefits of L-tyrosine use are most prominent in subjects who lack healthy amounts of norepinephrine. [8]


Vinpocetine is an organic compound derived from the Periwinkle plant. It is unique in that it actually decreases heart rate while simultaneously improving memory retention and cognitive function. [9]

Moreover, vinpocetine improves blood flow to the brain and increases neuronal uptake of nutrients (e.g. it enhances brain metabolism). [10,11] What’s particularly intriguing about vinpocetine is that is exceptionally safe (nearly no documented side effects in standard dosages) and makes for a great adjunct to other nootropics on this list.

For example, combining vinpocetine with caffeine can help mitigate any jittery, stimulatory side effects of the latter, without interfering with the nootropic benefits.


Huperzine is derived from the Chinese herb Huperzia serrata and functions as an acetylcholinesterase/ACE inhibitor (decreases the rate of acetylcholine breakdown/recycling, which increases the availability of that neurotransmitter for neuronal signaling). [12]

At least one study has demonstrated huperzine-A enhances memory and improves learning in healthy subjects. [13] It is also highly safe with minimal documented side effects. Huperzine-A, similar to vinpocetine, makes for a great synergistic nootropic, particularly when combined with caffeine or L-tyrosine.


On the molecular level, caffeine (chemically known as 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine) is an alkaline, naturally occurring substance derived from xanthine - a biologically important purine base found in many bodily tissues and fluids. In nature, caffeine is most abundant in cocoa beans and coffee beans, as well as various tea leaves.

Methylxanthines like caffeine and theobromine serve as stimulators of the CNS and heart (similar to the effects of Adderall). Caffeine also tends to constrict blood vessels; as such, you should limit/avoid intake of caffeine if you have hypertension.

Physiologically, methylxanthines work by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase (ACE) and phosphodiesterase (PDE) enzymes, thereby inducing changes in cellular metabolism. Firstly, PDE enzymes act to degrade key cellular messengers, namely cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) and cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP).

Since caffeine effectively blocks the actions of PDE enzymes, cAMP and cGMP levels increase, enabling cells to transmit signals more efficiently. [14]

Secondly, since caffeine inhibits ACE, acetylcholine (which is an excitatory neurotransmitter) levels rise; the result is a rapid increase in cognitive function and feelings of motivation. [15] Given that huperzine-A acts on the same enzyme, caffeine and Huperzia serrata may have additive effects.

Since caffeine is a stimulant, be sure not to take it too late at night or you may have trouble getting a restful night of sleep. For earlier in the day, though, it’s a fantastic option for replacing Adderall.

CDP-Choline and Alpha-GPC

CDP-choline and alpha-GPC are highly bioavailable forms of choline - an organic water-soluble vitamin found in the brain. Choline is a necessary micronutrient in the body as it’s a component of acetylcholine - a neurotransmitter in our brains that plays a major role in arousal, motivation, cognition, and memory enhancement. [16] As such, CDP-choline and alpha-GPC appear to have a multitude of nootropic properties in the brain.

Moreover, research suggests that alpha-GPC and CDP-choline can increase strength performance by as much as 3% in just a matter of days. [17] While 3% may not seem like a lot, it’s actually quite a significant improvement when you look at the bigger picture.

Before you buy a choline supplement, be aware that many nootropic formulas contain choline bitartrate which is poorly absorbed and ineffective. Even exceptionally large doses of choline bitartrate provide minimal amounts of absorbable choline, making it essentially bunk. [18]


There’s no disputing the cognitive benefits of Adderall; however, it remains an imprudent option in the long run for people without ADHD due to the side effects and potential health ramifications (and the fact that it’s a controlled substance in many countries).

Thankfully, you can mimic the nootropic benefits of Adderall with the five natural alternatives presented in this article. Best of all, the side effects of the suggested nootropics are rare and much less harsh.

A good option would be to start with a daily dose of AMBITION™, which contains a clinical dose of CDP-choline, L-tyrosine, and huperzine-A. If you feel like you want a little more of a “kick” to get you going, try adding one serving of CAFFEINE L-THEANINE for synergistic nootropic benefits.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by giving them a shot and seeing how you respond.


1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23139911 Lakhan, S. E., & Kirchgessner, A. (2012). Prescription stimulants in individuals with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: misuse, cognitive impact, and adverse effects. Brain and behavior, 2(5), 661-77.
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29954141 Weyandt, L., White, T., Gudmundsdottir, B., Nitenson, A., Rathkey, E., De Leon, K., & Bjorn, S. (2018). Neurocognitive, autonomic, and mood effects of Adderall: a pilot study of healthy college students. Pharmacy, 6(3), 58.
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15908835 Mcgough, J. J., Biederman, J., Wigal, S. B., Lopez, F. A., Mccracken, J. T., Spencer, T., ... & Tulloch, S. J. (2005). Long-term tolerability and effectiveness of once-daily mixed amphetamine salts (Adderall XR) in children with ADHD. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 44(6), 530-538.
4.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3774416/ Franke, B., Neale, B. M., & Faraone, S. V. (2009). Genome-wide association studies in ADHD. Human genetics, 126(1), 13-50.
5.  Bryant J.Jongkeesa. N.Bernhard, Hommela...SimoneKühnb..Lorenza S.Colzato 2015. Effect of tyrosine supplementation on clinical and healthy populations under stress or cognitive demands-a review. Journal of psychiatric research, 70, 50-57
6.  Steenbergen sellaro hommel colzato. 2015. Tyrosine promotes cognitive flexibility: evidence from proactive vs reactive controls during task switching performance. Neuropsychologia , 69, 50-55
7.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25257259 Colzato, de haan, hommel. 2015. Food for creativity: tyrosine promotes deep thinking. Psychological research, 79(5), 709-714.
8. Hase, jung, het rot. 2015. Behavioral and cognitive effects of tyrosine intake in healthy human adults. Pharmacology biochemistry and behavior, 133, 1-6.
9. researchbank.acu.edu.au/fhs_pub/4142/ Con Stough,1 Christina Kure,1 Jo Tarasuik,1 Jenny Lloyd,1 Luke A. Downey,1 Andrew Scholey,1 Keith Wesnes1,. (2009) A randomized double blind placebo controlled study examining the effects of a combination nutraceutical formula on cognitive functioning and mood. Journal of the american nutraceutical association, 12(1),
10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2396997 Tohgi H, Sasaki K, Chiba K, Nozaki Y. Effect of vinpocetine on oxygen release of hemoglobin and erythrocyte organic polyphosphate concentrations in patients with vascular dementia of the Binswanger type.Arzneimittel-Forschung. 1990; 40(6): 640-643.
11.  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/16047470_The_effect_of_vinpocetine_on_brain_glucose_uptake_in_mice Shibota M, Kakihana M, Nagaoka A. The effect of vinpocetine on brain glucose uptake in mice. Nipponyakurigaku zasshi.
12.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8701750 Xu SS, Gao ZX, Weng Z, Du ZM, Xu WA, Yang JS,Zhang ML, Tong ZH, Fang YS, Chai XS, et al. Efficacy of tablet huperzine-A on memory, cognition, and behavior in Alzheimer’s disease. Acta Pharmacologica Sinica.1995;16 (3):391-395.
13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10678121 Sun QQ, Xu SS, Pan JL, Guo HM, Cao WM. Huperzine-A capsules enhance memory and learning performance in 34 pairs of matched adolescent students. Acta Pharmacologica Sinica. 1999;20:601-603.
14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16402111 Boswell‐Smith, V., Spina, D., & Page, C. P. (2006). Phosphodiesterase inhibitors. British journal of pharmacology, 147(S1).
15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7752065 Carter, A. J., O'Connor, W. T., Carter, M. J., & Ungerstedt, U. (1995). Caffeine enhances acetylcholine release in the hippocampus in vivo by a selective interaction with adenosine A1 receptors. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 273(2), 637-642.
16. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/s10254-003-0005-1 Hogg, R. C., Raggenbass, M., & Bertrand, D. (2003). Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors: from structure to brain function. Reviews of physiology, biochemistry and pharmacology (pp. 1-46). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
17.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26582972 Bellar, D., LeBlanc, N. R., & Campbell, B. (2015). The effect of 6 days of alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine on isometric strength. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 1-6.
18.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27341028 Lippelt, D. P., van der Kint, S., van Herk, K., & Naber, M. (2016). No acute effects of choline bitartrate food supplements on memory in healthy, young, human adults. PloS one, 11(6), e0157714.

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