The truth about Onnit’s Alpha Brain

A critique of the popular, celebrity-endorsed Nootropic Stack

Jonathan Roseland
7 min readMay 26


In this article, I’ll do more than just criticize and point out flaws. I’ll point out how Onnit could improve this product and suggest some superior Nootropic stacks; products that have a whole lot more credibility and integrity behind their formulation, marketing, and creation. Of course, you might say: Jonathan, it looks like you’re getting paid by these guys to promote their products (and bash Alpha Brain.) Where’s your integrity? Yes, I am affiliated with some of these Alpha Brain alternatives and I’m certainly a fallible human but my integrity is only as good as my arguments. I’d urge you to just evaluate the arguments and evidence I present about these products.

In my view, the cardinal sin that Alpha Brain commits is not proving that it contains the advertised ingredients.

And Alpha Brain is not unique in this — this is a huge problem with the supplement industry in general. Nobody is verifying that supplements actually contain the vitamins, nutrients, and Nootropic ingredients on the label or listed on their website. Somebody who just wants to make money can build an eCommerce store, create some graphics of a bottle or label and list a bunch of ingredients that empower our health but just fill the capsules with sawdust (or whatever) and make a killing. It’s an often undiscussed ethical hazard of being in the supplement game. If you don’t see a certificate of analysis (COA) for the ingredients of the product you’re really making a faith-based decision to consume it. Onnit is probably not doing this because they are a big company with a lot of money, the value of their multi-million dollar brand is probably not worth the risk of betraying their customers to maximize profits a little more but as industry leaders, they really should take that ethical step and just make their COAs public.

I’m sure there’s a good reason why they don’t do this — It’s probably because some of the individual ingredients are of questionable quality. Not all Bacopa (or any other ingredient for that matter) is created equal, there’s really good stuff that is produced by organic farms that is stringently tested and then there’s cheap stuff from China which is probably not pure and may contain problematic toxins and heavy metals — you don’t know if you don’t see a COA. In the case of Alpha Brain, they just list the ingredients…

For many of the ingredients, they don’t give us any additional information about the sourcing of the ingredients or specific derivatives used. Without more information, it’s fair to assume that they are just using what’s most cost-effective.

Huperzine — The Profiteer’s Nootropic Ingredient

Two very popular Nootropic ingredients make me raise a skeptical eyebrow when I see them in a product. DMAE and Huperzine. DMAE is an awful pseudo-Nootropic with some concerning (and often undiscussed) side effects, thankfully Alpha Brain doesn’t contain it but it does contain 400 micrograms of Huperzine-A. Huperzine is an effective energy Nootropic but less is really more.

  • Very few of Onnit’s customers probably know that large doses of it may be toxic. You want to be taking minuscule amounts of the stuff. At doses over 50 micrograms, you run into side effects like insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure, slowed heart rate, restlessness, sweating, loss of appetite, contraction of muscle fibers, constipation, and twitching.
  • Huperzine stays in your system for at least 24 hours. When you consume 400 mcg of huperzine the next day after you think that Alpha Brain’s effects have worn off there’s still 200 mcg in your system. The Huperzine in your system accumulates when you then take another 400 mcg, or maybe more if you mega-dose Alpha Brain, taking 6–8 capsules the way Joe Rogan describes doing frequently on his popular podcast. Huperzine doesn’t belong in your daily stack.

The final really important thing to understand about Huperzine is that it is cheap — at .0006 cents per dose or 2 cents for a month’s supply! If you want to make a killing, get into the Huperzine business!

My view on Onnit

Having been the internet’s smart drug dealer for the better part of the decade, I have some experience dealing with Onnit and without getting into too many sordid details I think they may be doing too many psychedelics there in Austin! My experience with them was of the organized irresponsibility that characterizes large bureaucratic organizations and companies. Usually, how a company does one thing is how it does everything. My experience with various departments of Onnit furthers my suspicion of their products’ quality assurance.

If you watch just a few of the podcasts that they produce you’ll see that they embrace a lot of postmodern pseudo-social science and wuwu new age spirituality. This is good for marketing I’m sure but this doesn’t seem like a very appropriate corporate culture for the rigorous endeavor of creating scientifically-backed health products.

A final thing I don’t love about Onnit is that they were acquired by Unilever, the multinational consumer goods corporation that produces like half of the stuff that you’ll find below your sink. It’s very naive to assume that Unilever won’t sacrifice product quality at Onnit to cut costs and increase shareholder value. Your purchase of Alpha Brain or other Onnit supplements no longer supports the (now very wealthy) men, Aubrey and Joe, who you have a one-way parasocial relationship with thanks to their popular podcasts.

The Cost Question

The final crucial point of comparison is cost. A 45-day 90 capsule supply (for most biohackers, a month’s supply) of Alpha Brain (with 18000 micrograms of Huperzine!) is about $75 (a lot cheaper I’m sure when they run discounts).

Biohacker Review: A decent brain power supplement but no real life NZT-48

In January 2012 I began taking the AlphaBrain by Onnit Labs. I heard about this Nootropic supplement from Joe Rogan’s (Host of Fear Factor, UFC commentator guy) podcast.

The first Nootropic I ever tried

Overall I’m a little disappointed in AlphaBrain, the ad copy on their website suggests near ‘Limitless pill’ NZT-like mental enhancement and this is the effect I was hoping for. AlphaBrain did not deliver this effect to me, while on AlphaBrain I felt 10%-20% mentally sharper than I do normally. We should note that I’m a young man, who is pretty healthy and active. 6 days out of the week I eat a very brain and heart-healthy diet so I like to think that my brain is already operating at a very efficient level but I would still hope for more of a noticeable increase in brainpower.

I noticed that sometimes AlphaBRAIN seems to make me, umm, gassy. This seems to happen frequently if I take it in the morning while drinking coffee. Not a big problem though since I’m trying to decrease my coffee intake anyway. Hopefully, we’ll get some feedback from some other reviewers on this.

During the time I was on AlphaBrain, I was very productive in my business and made excellent progress towards two large New years resolutions of mine. I cannot say that this was a direct result of taking AlphaBrain but it is interesting to note that a highly productive time of my life coincided with me taking AlphaBrain.

Nootropics and sales psychology FOR THE WIN

Under suggested use, it recommends taking 1–2 capsules. I tried upping the dosage several times and it didn’t seem to make much of a difference.

One thing to note, the pill container is rather small but it does contain 30 capsules. When I got it I thought it looked small so I poured out the capsules and counted them to make sure they were all there.

While I didn’t experience any ‘Limitless pill’ NZT-like effects from AlphaBrain I’m confident that it does have a positive mental effect on your brain. Overall I did feel slightly sharper while on it than off it. If AlphaBrain was the only Nootropic supplement on the market I would continue to order it every month. Since it’s not I’m going to try some of the other Nootropic supplements out there and see what kind of comparative results I get. I will be ordering Onnit’s other product New Mood as well.

This Nootropic stack stands alone as a scientifically validated tool for the enhancement of Verbal Memory, Processing Speed, and Peak Alpha (Flowstate).

The marketers of the product Alpha Brain frequently mention that it promotes peak alpha (or flowstate) but the clinical trial behind this claim demonstrated it only after 45 days of dosing and the uptick was rather small; an increase of just 6% from baseline. These Nootropic stacks, while certainly not useless, are pretty far from being a Limitless pill for flow.

Originally published on I’m not a doctor, medical professional, or trained therapist. I’m a researcher and pragmatic biohacking practitioner exercising free speech to share evidence as I find it. I make no claims. Please practice skepticism and rational critical thinking. You should consult a professional about any serious decisions that you might make about your health. Affiliate links in this article support Limitless Mindset — spend over $150 and you’ll be eligible to join the Limitless Mindset Secret Society.



Jonathan Roseland

Adventuring philosopher, Pompous pontificator, Writer, K-Selected Biohacker, Tantric husband, Raconteur & Smart Drug Dealer 🇺🇸