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How Long Do Nootropics Take To Work? (Explained)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: January 26, 2023
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As a fitness coach, one question I regularly get from clients who take brain enhancers to help their fitness journeys is how long it takes for nootropics to work.

There’s no straightforward answer to this, as it may depend on several factors. However, I wanted to establish if there’s some sort of time frame.

So, I teamed up with a nutritionist and nootropics expert, and we went over some scientific material on cognitive enhancers and how long it takes for the effects to show.

Let's dive in.

Quick Summary

  • Prescription and synthetic nootropics have faster effects than natural nootropics.
  • Common natural nootropics include caffeine, L-theanine, Bacopa monnieri, Lion’s mane mushroom, and Rhodiola rosea.
  • Nootropics can work faster when stacked together and when combined with exercise and a proper diet full of vitamins and minerals.

How Long Does It Take for Nootropics to Kick In?

A woman drinking nootropics at home

The amount of time it takes for nootropics to kick in mostly depends on the type of nootropic supplement.

Synthetic prescription drugs generally take minutes, while natural compounds may take days for the effects to show.

Additionally, the effects of fast-acting nootropics on cognitive ability are generally short-lived when compared to their long-lasting counterparts.

Let's examine the types and how fast they act.

Types of Nootropics and Their Acting Speeds

A doctor explaining the different type of nootropics to a patient

There are three types of smart drugs: 

  • Natural nootropics
  • Synthetic nootropics
  • Prescription nootropics

Let's examine them in detail.

Prescription Nootropics

Prescription nootropics are generally designed to treat cognitive decline conditions such as dementia and ADHD.

They are only available on a doctor's prescription and are often not approved for cognitive enhancement.

These drugs are fast acting in general. Their effects start showing almost immediately (within minutes to a few hours at most).

Typical compounds include:

  • Ritalin
  • Adderall
  • Modafinil

Synthetic Nootropics

A lab worker making synthetic nootropics

These are also lab-created compounds, some of which are available over the counter with no prescription needed.

The racetam family is the most common group of synthetic substances in the nootropic industry.

They generally enhance memory through their interactions with glutamate receptors in the central nervous system [1].

Below are common racetam compounds and how fast they work:

  • Aniracetam: 45 - 90 minutes
  • Piracetam: 60 - 90 minutes
  • Oxiracetam: 30 -  90 minutes
  • Pramiracetam: 30- 90 minutes
  • Phenylpiracetam: 30 - 60 minutes

Natural Nootropics

Farmers picking out coffee beans

They are dietary supplements that consist of plant extracts, amino acids, and other natural nutrients that help treat cognitive impairment and improve brain function.

Below are 9 common natural nootropic compounds:


It is probably the most popular stimulant that helps boost mental alertness and focus.

“Caffeine gives you more access to several chemicals (neurotransmitters) in your brains such as acetylcholine, which helps with short-term memory and learning.”

- Chris D'Adamo, PhD

The effects of caffeine typically start about 15 minutes after taking it [2].


Theanine is a compound found in tea. It's also quite popular as a nootropic, thanks to its calming effects and its benefits in mental clarity.

According to scientists, the calming effects typically occur about 30 minutes after intake and may go on up to 5 hours after ingestion [3].

Bacopa Monnieri

Close up shot of Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa monnieri is a herbal supplement with cognitive-enhancing effects, particularly affecting information processing and memory enhancement [4].

But these effects take longer to show.

According to most users, it may need at least four weeks of regular intake before the effects start to show.

Panax Ginseng

Studies show that Panax ginseng is effective in enhancing memory [5].

Users report experiencing the first effects of this smart drug about a day or two after taking it.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom

This compound is a powerful nootropic helpful in memory regeneration.

It's one of the long-lasting brain enhancers that take a couple of days to a few weeks of regular intake to take effect.

Most users generally experience the effects after two weeks.

Maritime Pine Extract

Close up shot of pine bark outside

The intake of Maritime pine extract can improve focus and attention.

According to many nootropics users, the effects can be felt about six hours after taking.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea is a common nootropic compound with benefits in stress and mental fatigue reduction.

Clinical trials show that the effects can be felt about three days to a week after you start using it [6].

Related: Side Effects of Rhodiola Rosea

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish oils and omega-3s act as building blocks for a healthy brain and may protect brain cells against damage [7].

Taking it can benefit brain health and improve certain symptoms of brain fog, like attention and memory.

Studies done by scientists at the University of Wisconsin show that it may take anywhere from six weeks to six months for the effects to start showing [8].

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba has been shown to improve cognitive functions, such as mood and memory. It's also used to treat chronic diseases such as ADHD and dementia.

The compound appears to be most effective when taken in doses. Effects, in this case, might be experienced after 4-6 weeks [9].

What Affects How Fast They Work?

A doctor writing down how fast nootropics work

The type of nootropics, your brain chemistry, body weight, and how you take them can affect how fast nootropics work in your system.

Type of nootropic - Synthetic nootropics generally take minutes for the effects to show, while natural compounds may take days or weeks.

Brain chemistry - People have different levels of tolerance and sensitivity. For instance, a cup of coffee may boost one person's alertness in an instant, while it may not work at all for another.

Body weight - Cognitive enhancers generally react faster in a lighter person than in an overweight person. So, you may need to shed some pounds to see a quicker effect.

More on that shortly.

How you take them - Water soluble nootropics work faster on an empty stomach than when full. Also, combining some drugs or increasing dosage may have an effect on how quickly the reaction occurs.

Do Nootropics Have a Permanent Effect?

A doctor listing down the permanent effects of nootropics

No, nootropics as cognitive enhancers do not have a permanent effect.

Fast-acting brain enhancers generally have a half-life of about 1-6 hours, while long-lasting nootropics take longer for the effects to wade off.

However, the effects are never permanent. Half-life is the time it takes your body to reduce the drug’s active substance in your blood by half.

You may still feel the effects after half-life, but they gradually wear off after peaking.

How to Make Them Work Faster and Better

A doctor smiling while holding nootropics

While factors like sensitivity affect how fast nootropics work, here’s how to make the drugs work faster in your system.


Combining different nootropics might trigger a quicker reaction and achieve synergistic effects.

While you may achieve maximum cognitive function, you should be careful as the potential adverse effects might also increase.

Increasing Dosage

Taking a specific enhancer for too long might increase your tolerance to the drug.

With time, you might need to increase your dosage to feel the effects faster.

Knowing When to Take Them

Knowing whether to take them (e.g., when hungry or when full) can make a difference in how fast a brain enhancer works.

And that has a lot to do with whether the drug is fat-soluble or water-soluble.

  • Water-soluble: easily dissolves in water.
  • Fat-soluble: only dissolves in fats and oil.

That said, water-soluble nootropics like caffeine, piracetam, and CDP choline work faster on an empty stomach.

On the other hand, fat-soluble nootropics like aniracetam and pramiracetam are better taken after a small meal as they tend to bind to fat cells easily.

How to Take Them

Close up shot of a spoonful of nootropics

Nootropics mostly come in capsule and powdered forms.

Other forms like oral liquid and nasal spray (which absorb faster than capsule and powdered form) are rare.

Now, although pills are convenient, they may take longer to work than powdered form because they do not dissolve as quickly and require more effort in digestion and absorption into the bloodstream.


Exercise is not only good for your physique but also your mental health.

The benefits include a boost in focus, mood, and energy; the same benefits people seek from nootropics.

By combining both exercise and supplementation, you’re likely to hit the jackpot in terms of faster results.

Hydrate and Eat Healthy

Brain enhancers are not substitutes for a balanced diet.

For faster results, I always advise my clients to combine them with a balanced diet with important nutrients for optimal brain health, such as vitamins and minerals.

Hydrating is also important. In fact, studies show that inadequate hydration may directly reduce cognitive performance [10].

Eat Healthily and Exercise Regularly for Faster Results

Nootropics work well and fast when combined with a proper diet, water intake, and exercise.

However, nootropic supplements generally differ in the quality of the ingredient, which can hugely affect their acting speed and overall efficacy.

That's why we’ve spent months testing dozens of different products to come up with these lists:

Pick one for yourself and see how quickly you will feel the effect on your mood and mental state.


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