Can Nootropics Trigger Headaches? (Expert Analysis)

Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD
Published by Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD | Medical Doctor
Last updated: December 28, 2023
Our content is meticulously researched and reviewed by an expert team of fact checkers and medical professionals. They ensure accuracy, relevance, and timeliness using the latest reputable sources, which are cited within the text and listed at the end of the article. Before publication and upon significant updates, we confirm factual accuracy, committed to providing readers with well-informed content. Learn more.

I've observed that nootropic pills are favored by many for boosting motivation and attention during exercises. In my professional experience, I've noticed patients, under the guidance of their fitness trainers, often achieve their goals more swiftly when incorporating these supplements.

However, it's important to consider the potential side effects of these products, including the question: can nootropics cause headaches?

To delve deeper into this, I dedicated a few weeks to extensive research on how nootropics might lead to headaches. Additionally, I consulted with a colleague specializing in fitness training, who provided valuable insights and contributed to the information in this article.

Quick Summary

  • Nootropics can cause headaches, particularly when certain types are combined or if they contain stimulants like caffeine.
  • The headaches from nootropics are often due to overactivity in cerebral blood vessels, nerves, or muscles, and specific chemicals in nootropics are more prone to causing these headaches.
  • According to the National Institute of Health, headaches can result from blood vessel dilation caused by some nootropics, which increases blood and oxygen circulation in the brain.
  • In my opinion, while nootropics offer cognitive benefits, it's essential to use them judiciously and be aware of potential side effects like headaches, especially when mixed with other substances.

What Are Nootropics?

White Nootropics supplement spilled from container

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), nootropics (smart drugs) are medications and supplements that promise to improve cognitive function by enhancing brain function, including memory, concentration, mental function, creativity, and others [1].

Nootropics like Ashwagandha and lion's mane are often taken alone, but you can also find them in nootropic stacks.

These stacks mix several effective nootropics to enhance cognition through different brain pathways. You might turn to nootropics for a quick brainpower lift or for sustained cognitive health and performance.

Some of the most important advantages of nootropics are:

  • Mood stabilization
  • Memory enhancement
  • Brain fog elimination
  • Increasing energy (without the stimulants)
  • Increasing cognitive abilities and mental health
  • Stress management
  • Promotes learning and motivation
  • Brain restoration
  • Neuroprotection

Nootropics provide both short-term and long-term advantages for cognitive decline. Their side effects are usually mild and infrequent.

However, no need to worry as we have already done the hard part for you. We've tested and tried numerous nootropics and came up with a list of the ones that are safe and more beneficial.

How Do Nootropics Cause Headaches?

Pouring nootropics on hand

Nootropics cause headaches when two that don't interact well are stacked together. Nootropic stimulants may also cause headaches.

It's understood that headaches can stem from overactivity in cerebral blood vessels, nerves, or muscles. This explains why certain nootropics might trigger them.

I've observed that some nootropics notably increase cerebral blood flow by widening blood vessels, which in turn improves blood and oxygen circulation.

According to NIH, as your vessels enlarge, you may have slight headaches [2].

Blood artery dilatation may also impose minor pressure on other portions of your brain, producing nerve or muscle discomfort.

Some nootropics trigger nerve activation, leading to potential head discomfort if they overstimulate nerves. The exact reasons why nootropics cause headaches aren't fully understood yet.

Some specific chemicals in nootropics are more prone to causing headaches, with a few linked to severe cases. These compounds, according to NIH, may cause headaches by constricting blood vessels, irritating brain cells, and increasing blood pressure [3].

Which Nootropics Cause Headaches?

Choices between supplement pills or nootropics

Nootropics that cause headaches include Huperzine A, Ginkgo Biloba, Vinpocetine, and Modanofil.

The term "nootropics" refers to a vast range of natural nootropics and synthetic substances whose effects and safety vary widely.

However, certain nootropics appear to produce headaches more frequently than others. Taking too many portions too regularly may lead to an overdose, which can cause side effects, including headaches.

The maximum daily consumption varies widely depending on the nootropic, for example:

  • Citicoline: The safe daily dose varies from 500 to 2000 mg. According to NIH, anything over 2000 mg may result in headaches [4].
  • Caffeine: According to WebMed, anything over 400 mg daily may induce adverse effects [5].

Here is a list of the most common nootropics that cause headaches:

These nootropics are commonly associated with causing headaches. The last three, in particular, have been known to trigger severe and prolonged headaches. Consequently, I do not recommend them to any of my patients.

Risk Factors For Nootropic Headaches

Man having headache while massaging head

A lot occurs between when a nootropic plant grows in the ground and when a user takes it in a pill. These intermediate factors may increase the likelihood of headaches.

Here are a few of the most important risk indicators to consider when assessing whether or not a nootropic will produce adverse effects:

1. Anecdotal Evidence & Research

I always tell my patients that among the greatest methods to check nootropic safety is to look at other people's experiences and the science behind it. This may be divided into two categories:

  • Anecdotal evidence: Some nootropics were taken for hundreds, if not thousands, of years with minimal to no adverse effects. Some nootropics are also used by individuals all over the globe today, and they solely report positive results.
  • Scientific evidence: Anecdotal evidence is great, but scientific research is better. If a nootropic was studied in big, reliable human clinical studies and found to have no negative side effects, then it is great to try it out.

That's all there is to it when it comes to determining nootropic tolerability.

2. Quality

The grade of nootropic substances varies dramatically. Two components that appear to be the same might have wildly different effects. Here's how:

  • A good nootropic plant can be cultivated in a harmful environment contaminated with pollution and heavy metals. As a result, taking it as a pill is futile and poses health hazards.

“Poor-quality nootropic herbs may be produced in toxic settings (think automobile pollution), resulting in a herbal extract and powder containing concentrated toxic metals like mercury and cadmium.”

- Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea, Chemist and Psychologist

  • To cut expenses, a manufacturer may employ a low-cost, synthetic variant of vitamins. However, this substance may be difficult for some people to digest and may even induce adverse effects such as headaches.

When you use a nootropic herb with high-quality substances, its safety may be better than inexpensive nootropics.

Standardized herbs, labeled nootropics, and natural components, for example, provide cofactors and enzymes in types your body perceives as food and, therefore, can easily absorb.

3. Ingredients & Formulation

Health professional giving nootropics supplement

When it comes to the quality of every supplement, it all comes down to its nootropic formulas.

Not all nootropics should be combined.

A bad combination might result in headaches and other unpleasant nootropic side effects.

4. Production Guidelines

Even though a nootropic has high-quality components, it might be contaminated with chemicals and other toxins if manufactured in an unclean and unhealthy environment.

To avoid receiving such nootropics, search for GMP accreditation on the package. GMP is an abbreviation for Good Manufacturing Practices.

It supervises production quality and assures that the nootropic product is manufactured in a safe and clean environment with good manufacturing standards.

5. Interaction with Other Medications

Nootropics can interact with other medications, potentially leading to adverse effects like headaches.

These interactions may occur because nootropics can affect neurotransmitter levels in the brain, altering the efficacy or metabolism of other drugs.

For instance, nootropics might amplify or diminish the effects of antidepressants, blood thinners, or stimulants, leading to increased side effects or reduced therapeutic benefits.

I consistently recommend that my patients first seek professional consultation before using nootropics if they are already on other medications.


Cab Brain Supplements Cause Headaches?

Yes, brain supplements may cause headaches. This is caused by several factors, such as stimulant-containing nootropics or using premade nootropic stacks that do not complement each other.

Why Are My Supplements Giving Me Headaches?

Your supplements may be giving you headaches because of the massive levels of fat-soluble vitamins contained in them that accumulate in the body. Excessive vitamin A, for example, might cause headaches.

Can Too Much Vitamin D Cause Migraines?

No. Too much vitamin D cannot cause migraines as there is no link found between migraine and blood vitamin D levels.


Was this article helpful?

About The Author

Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy

You May Also Like

By James Cunningham, BSc, CPT 5 months ago
TRT Before And After Analysis Based On Real-Life Experiences
HTLT Pre-Workout 2.0 with a person at the background doing cardio
By Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC 4 months ago
HTLT Pre-Workout 2.0 Review: A Comprehensive Analysis
A woman holding a model of a brain and a rubiks cube
By Christiana Mikesch, CPT 4 months ago
10 Best Nootropics for Memory (2024 Review)
Nootropics supplement on hand
By James Cunningham, BSc, CPT 1 month ago
Do Athletes Take Nootropics? (According To Experts)
Top view spilled nootropics supplement
By James Cunningham, BSc, CPT 5 months ago
What Are Nootropics? (Benefits, Usage & Side Effects)
Line of different nootropics for brain fog
By James Cunningham, BSc, CPT 4 months ago
10 Best Nootropics for Brain Fog (2024 Review)

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Our scoring system is the result of objective testing data and subjective expert analysis by a team of fitness coaches and medical experts. Our scoring factors are weighted based on importance. For more information, see our product review guidelines.