Huperzine A, Choline, Racetams, And The Brain

In the upgrading your brain post Dave talks about the benefits of Huperzine A, and I have read elsewhere too that it is supposedly good for memory and general cognition.  However, Dave cautions that it may not be for everyone.  Apparently you can be Choline dominant or not, and Huperzine A raises acetylcholine.  This is helpful for some people but not others.  Aniracetam and Piracetam lower Choline.  I know Choline is something that we want (or at least is good for most people?) and it's good for brain health.  Presumably we should consume more Choline if we're taking racetams?  I usually get my Choline for egg yolks in my BPC but I know it can be supplemented.  I don't really know much about acetylcholine or how it interacts with regular Choline levels.


 


Dave's comments are here:


 



 


 


Huperzine A is an alkaloid found in the plant moss Huperzia serrota.  This plant has been used medicinally for headaches, swelling, fever, and blood disorders by the Chinese for centuries.   It enhances memory, increases nerve growth, and protects against Alzheimer’s.  It also increases REM sleep. But beware; it raises acetylcholine levels, which is helpful in 2/3 of people, but harmful in those who are choline dominant (like me). Watch out for a clenching jaw or headaches – if you get those, stop taking it, and double up on Aniracetam until the symptoms go away. (the racetams lower choline, which is a good thing if you have too much!)

 


 


Does anyone have any expertise or experience with combining these substances?  Or can anyone better help me understand how these different compounds work for or against each other.


Comments

  • DigitalJazzDigitalJazz There is no spoon....
    You should try to do some more reading. It sounds like you have some basic knowledge but need to know more about how to put it all together. Hacking your brain chemistry (which is what you're doing when you start taking nootropic drugs/supplements) is not something to take lightly (like someone recommending you take a multivitamin). I'm not trying to discourage you - quite the opposite. I want to encourage you to understand fully what you're getting into before you jump in and start manipulating neurotransmitter balance - a course of action that can have a broad spectrum of effects, some nasty side effects if done incorrectly, but ultimately rewarding if you know what you're doing.


    Huperzine A is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Translation: Huperzine does not increase acetylcholine levels directly. Once Acetylcholine is used it is "scheduled for retirement" and broken down by an enzyme. Huperzine inhibits this enzyme. What this means is, as you mentioned, you can be choline dominant or not and get the same benefit from it. Acetylcholine will stay active longer and your net levels will increase. From what I have learned about acetylcholinesterase inhibitors they are not something I take, and wouldn't recommend, certainly not for a newbie.


    Racetams don't "lower choline" - not directly anyway. It is generally understood that they enable your brain to more effectively utilize acetylcholine in certain ways, for certain actions, particularly when information crosses the corpus callosum (intersection of the 2 brain hemispheres), and in the hippocampus (location of memory consolidation). These are just some examples. Choline is a component of the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine, and as such when your nervous system is using more AC you will use up more choline to produce it. This is where being "choline dominant" comes in to play. If you are choline deficient you will need to subsidize this process through supplementation or diet. If you already have a surplus of choline you wont need more.


    Some common side effects of too much Acetylcholine while being in a choline deficit are: headaches, neck and back pain/stiffness.

    Some common side effects of having an excess of choline from supplementing while already being "choline dominant" are: headaches and neck/muscle stiffness.......


    This is but one small example of one of the nebulous aspects of noodling around with neurotransmitter balance. It's the sort of thing that, if your committed to trying, can take a patient person a couple of weeks to nail down possible side effects and proper dosages. Ultimately it will be up to you to keep a detailed record of everything you try and track the results so you can see what's working and what isn't.

    Lastly, when someone is just getting into nootropics I typically point them here: http://www.reddit.com/r/Nootropics/wiki/faq

    The reddit community at /r/Nootropics is loaded with information, insights, and tons of detailed outcomes from people's own experiences using various nootropics. Best of luck to you.
  • digitaljazz thank you that was illuminating :)


     


    biggamejames- FWIW, here's how I intend to begin my racetam/choline today when the mailman gets here (i have no idea what my 'choline status' is).  I added a $1 bag of choline to my order, when I try my noopept I'll add choline if it seems I need it.  Done, and done!


  • edited October 2013

    I very much appreciate the response Digital Jazz, since it was a solid amount of content I'll put my questions/comments after each part in a separate color from your message.




    DigitalJazz, on 26 Sept 2013 - 02:29 AM, said:

    You should try to do some more reading. It sounds like you have some basic knowledge but need to know more about how to put it all together. Hacking your brain chemistry (which is what you're doing when you start taking nootropic drugs/supplements) is not something to take lightly (like someone recommending you take a multivitamin). I'm not trying to discourage you - quite the opposite. I want to encourage you to understand fully what you're getting into before you jump in and start manipulating neurotransmitter balance - a course of action that can have a broad spectrum of effects, some nasty side effects if done incorrectly, but ultimately rewarding if you know what you're doing.



     




     


    Certainly not upset to be reminded of the gravity of the situation.  I am always seeking to further my understanding of everything I take (from vitamins to nootropics to food.)  I've started an evernote notebook with a note for each nootrpoic or vitamin supplement I'd consider taking so I can collect my information on what it does, dosage, interactions,  and other considerations such as quality food sources, quality supplement brands, price ect.  I'll be happy to share this notebook with anyone interested.  Your information below has been directly copy+pasted into my Huperzine A entry, as was the info Dave Asprey posted about it.


     



    Huperzine A is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Translation: Huperzine does not increase acetylcholine levels directly. Once Acetylcholine is used it is "scheduled for retirement" and broken down by an enzyme. Huperzine inhibits this enzyme. What this means is, as you mentioned, you can be choline dominant or not and get the same benefit from it. Acetylcholine will stay active longer and your net levels will increase. From what I have learned about acetylcholinesterase inhibitors they are not something I take, and wouldn't recommend, certainly not for a newbie.


     


     



    What you said about Huperzine A, if I'm understanding it properly, is that it functions not be creating more Acetylcholine, but rather the effect comes from keeping Acetylcholine in the area of the brain where in functions longer.  That description puts me off of taking it for the same reason that I wouldn't take an SSRI to elevate my Serotonin levels.  Both strike me as treating the symptom and not the cause.  In your opinion, am I off-base in making this comparison?  Obviously happiness and depression is an entirely different issue, and perhaps "tricks" like inhibitors are more philosophically reasonable in 'brain hacking' for performance than I find them to be for brain hacking happiness.  It seems odd to me that Dave would recommend Huperzine A in light of it's method, but then again different things work for different people.  There are millions of people on SSRIs and I imagine some of those people believe it is their best way forward.

     


    Racetams don't "lower choline" - not directly anyway. It is generally understood that they enable your brain to more effectively utilize acetylcholine in certain ways, for certain actions, particularly when information crosses the corpus callosum (intersection of the 2 brain hemispheres), and in the hippocampus (location of memory consolidation). These are just some examples. Choline is a component of the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine, and as such when your nervous system is using more AC you will use up more choline to produce it. This is where being "choline dominant" comes in to play. If you are choline deficient you will need to subsidize this process through supplementation or diet. If you already have a surplus of choline you wont need more.


    Some common side effects of too much Acetylcholine while being in a choline deficit are: headaches, neck and back pain/stiffness.

    Some common side effects of having an excess of choline from supplementing while already being "choline dominant" are: headaches and neck/muscle stiffness.......

     



     


    So racetams are similar to an enzyme for Aceytlcholine in the sense that they enhance the reaction of this neurotransmitter with our brain?  I certainly appreciate the specifics of where in the brain different reactions take place, but it will take me some time researching to fully grasp these concepts, which is why I'm attempting to surmise my interpretation in layman's terms.  So racetams cause us to use more Acetylcholine, or to use our existing Acetylcholine more effectively, or both?  It makes sense that if we are producing more Acetylcholine and Choline is an essential component (precursor?) that we would need more of it unless we already had a surplus.  Is 'Choline dominant' just a fancy way of saying 'not Choline deficient' or does it imply a surplus?  If it's a surplus, shouldn't there be people who have neither too much or too little?  I certainly agree that it is nebulous that the side effects of too much or too little Choline are the same.  Is there a better way to tell your state than simply attempting both adding Choline or subtracting it (I already eat lots of eggs each day) if you get headaches and seeing what works?

     


    This is but one small example of one of the nebulous aspects of noodling around with neurotransmitter balance. It's the sort of thing that, if your committed to trying, can take a patient person a couple of weeks to nail down possible side effects and proper dosages. Ultimately it will be up to you to keep a detailed record of everything you try and track the results so you can see what's working and what isn't.

    Lastly, when someone is just getting into nootropics I typically point them here: http://www.reddit.com/r/Nootropics/wiki/faq

    The reddit community at /r/Nootropics is loaded with information, insights, and tons of detailed outcomes from people's own experiences using various nootropics. Best of luck to you

     



    .


     


    Thanks again for an awesome response.  It's certainly going to encourage me to be more active on this forum.  After all, the people make the forum.  I have gotten some info on nootropics from the reddit forum int he past, but I'll certainly use that as a more primary resource per your recommendation.  Good luck to you also, and if you have the time to answer some of my questions so I can know if I'm on the right track that would be wonderful.  Good luck to you also.




     


     



    johnnymcjohnson, on 26 Sept 2013 - 3:50 PM, said:

    digitaljazz thank you that was illuminating  :)


     


    biggamejames- FWIW, here's how I intend to begin my racetam/choline today when the mailman gets here (i have no idea what my 'choline status' is).  I added a $1 bag of choline to my order, when I try my noopept I'll add choline if it seems I need it.  Done, and done!



     




     




     


    Cool!  How is it going?  I have heard some people do a big dose to feel the effects of racetams and then once they know what the impact is, they can take a much smaller does regularly.  I've seen this referred to as an 'attack' dosage.  Personally when I took Pricetam in the past I didn't feel an effect, but I'm someone who took Adderall (aka the devil's skittles) for far too long b/c I trusted that doctors knew what they were talking about.  Then one day I realized it's just speed, and it's neuro-toxic.  I was basically trading my future brain for better performance now, and I wish that it had been presented to me that way when I was first recommended it.  That's a big reason I'm so proactive in understanding what I put in my body these days.  As a result of the adderall, and it being just an 'on something' effect it can be harder for me to recognize more subtle effects of things.  


     


    I have tried taking large doses (4800-5600mg) or piracetam and I noticed an effect, although not life changing.  Previously then I took the bottle-recommended doeses of both aniracetam and piracetam I felt close to nothing, but the idea is you can feel it more when you know what to look for.  I did feel a strong effect when I had modafinil, but at significantly higher dosages than most others report (I would take 200-400mg) however I could see a diminishing need for a significant dosage over time since I think you internalize some of the positive effect.


     


    As for Choline, the consensus I've found is that a pastured egg has 150-200mg Choline, so I try to just get my Choline from there.  Pretty easy food source imo.  Figuring out how much Choline I need, if at all, is probably harder ;)


  • DigitalJazzDigitalJazz There is no spoon....
    I think you are on the right line of thinking with Huperazine. Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitors are a little scary, and guys who know more than me have advised against using them, or only using them for very brief periods of time for people studying for big tests (LSATs, med school, that sort of thing).

    Start off with just a racetam. Get your choline from eggs. 99% of the time if you eat a few eggs everyday anyway you wont ever need to supplement with choline.

    Regarding your comment about "feeling" Piracetam. You will never "feel" a racetam the way you feel something like Adderall. Adderall is a methamphetamine. Powerful stimulants like that, or other drugs that can potentially get you "high", have a very different mechanism of action compared to racetams.

    The racetam family of compounds have a subtle effect that is almost unnoticeable until you are actively engaged in some sort of very mentally challenging activity. Take the recommended dose for a week or so, then plan some time to sit down and do some Algebra. Read a book about a subject that is foreign to you. Play a music instrument. Go to a public gathering/event and attempt to address a group of people about something you are knowledgable about.

    Do something that engages your brain on an extremely active level.

    If you need a tool to help you quantify this further, check out:

    http://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com
  • edited October 2013


    I think you are on the right line of thinking with Huperazine. Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitors are a little scary, and guys who know more than me have advised against using them, or only using them for very brief periods of time for people studying for big tests (LSATs, med school, that sort of thing).

    Start off with just a racetam. Get your choline from eggs. 99% of the time if you eat a few eggs everyday anyway you wont ever need to supplement with choline.

    Regarding your comment about "feeling" Piracetam. You will never "feel" a racetam the way you feel something like Adderall. Adderall is a methamphetamine. Powerful stimulants like that, or other drugs that can potentially get you "high", have a very different mechanism of action compared to racetams.

    The racetam family of compounds have a subtle effect that is almost unnoticeable until you are actively engaged in some sort of very mentally challenging activity. Take the recommended dose for a week or so, then plan some time to sit down and do some Algebra. Read a book about a subject that is foreign to you. Play a music instrument. Go to a public gathering/event and attempt to address a group of people about something you are knowledgable about.

    Do something that engages your brain on an extremely active level.

    If you need a tool to help you quantify this further, check out:
    http://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com




     


     


    Hey, I appreciate the response.  I think I'll probably avoid Huperzine A unless I have a particularly short time that I need to be especially focused for.  I'm really looking for something that is sustainable for either daily or at least frequent usage.  I'm a professional online poker player, so I get to do pretty complex math on a daily basis, which is the main activity I've been using to rate the effectiveness of these different supplements.  Other activites I look or an effect on are reading, mediation (hopefully positive) and then sleep and eating (hopefully not reduced.)


     


      I understand that I won't feel like I'm on something the way you do with Adderall but that's something I'm very happy about.  I could write a book on how terrible I think Adderall is, especially when taken with any sort of regularity.  I'm interested in nootropics bc I like the idea that I can enhance myself or be my best self, whereas Adderall makes me feel like a different person.  I become this overly chipper version of myself that I generally just don't like.  Neurotoxic/Neuroprotective is probably the #1 thing, but not wanting to be "Adderall James" is definitely a close second.  I find that Adderall makes uninteresting things interesting.  In college I could take an Adderall and all of a sudden anything from Russain History to Civilizations of Mecca becomes artificially interesting to me.  I actually like that when I take Modafinil I don't experience this.  It doesn't do the work for you the way Adderall does,  Adderall makes mundane tasks enjoyable while you're on it, whereas modafinil in my experience makes you more likely to figure out a way to avoid doing mundane tasks even if it means drastically altering your life. I think this is why it's popular with start-ups.  I do occasionally feel an "on drugs" feeling with modafinil only in the sense that I feel that sometimes it makes me talk a lot (kinda dislike, especially if I should be working) and sometimes it makes buildings and trees and stuff outside look sharper (which I actually quite enjoy.)


     


    As for Piracetam, I just didn't really notice it as much as the Modafinil, even in pretty big doeses.  I understand each nootropic will have a different effect.  With Piracetam I noticed effects in larger doses (5-6x800mg) but not really any at the recommended (1-2x800mg,) and at the higher does where I felt an effect, it was still much more subtle than Modafinil which I previously taken for a few weeks.  I generally have a high tolerance for drugs compared to my peers, especially stimulants.  I know piracetam isn't exactly a stimulant but I have a high tolerance for pretty much any drug I've ever tried except for Marijuana oddly enough.


  • adderall (sp?) is a racemic amphetamine (dextro amphetamine) mixture, not a methylated amphetamine ('meth', or the pharmaceutical product 'desoxyn') These products are not the monster they're made out to be in this thread when used in a proper manner; because they lend themselves to abuse this is clearly their biggest drawback.

    My update on noopept was that it was completely bunk. I used it daily for ~1wk, usually 10-20mg/day but as high as 40's, both orally and sublingual. Never became active in the slightest sense (and my daily routine involves much 'higher-level' analytic thought/work). Would not recommend, because if there *is* an effect, it's so subtle that the risk/reward doesn't come close to what I expect (I do not have any specifics for 'risk' beyond "it's new and not as tested/long-term safe as I would want, given how minute/absent the effects are. Would take caffeine over it any day)


  • My update on noopept was that it was completely bunk. I used it daily for ~1wk, usually 10-20mg/day but as high as 40's, both orally and sublingual. Never became active in the slightest sense (and my daily routine involves much 'higher-level' analytic thought/work). Would not recommend, because if there *is* an effect, it's so subtle that the risk/reward doesn't come close to what I expect (I do not have any specifics for 'risk' beyond "it's new and not as tested/long-term safe as I would want, given how minute/absent the effects are. Would take caffeine over it any day)




     


    Crud - I just bought some Noopept this morning.  Oh well - I gotta give it a try for myself.  I'll let you know if I have a similar experience.

  • Definitely appreciate the feedback on noopept and look forward to hearing more.


     


    I may unfairly demonize adderall/ritalin style drugs at times.  Certainly I never had such strong feelings against them when I was a once in a while for a big exam user, but then I found myself in a life situation where I need to perform every day, and that was the performance enhancer I knew of, and consequently what I expected of a performance enhancer.  


    I don't think Adderall/Ritalin use is sustainable, and the fact that it's prescribed for daily use, to kids as young as 8 years old, really drives me insane.  If you have to study for the Bar or MCATs or something and it's just to get through a uniquely difficult situation, there is probably nothing that works as well so by all means.  I personally still use it for driving long stretches but will probably try modafinil for this instead.  If you need to be your best every day for the foreseeable future I think It's wise to look elsewhere.


  • I have to say that I've had nothing but great results with Phenylpiracatam.  I've dosed on 4 different occasions in the last 2 months (150-200mg dosage) and I got through some very difficult subject matter for me that I would have otherwise just skipped.  I think that selective use is the right strategy for the Phenyl.


     


    I'm unconvinced that there are any nootropics that are sustainable when used daily except maybe moderate doses (1g or less) of Piracetam.




  • I have to say that I've had nothing but great results with Phenylpiracatam.  I've dosed on 4 different occasions in the last 2 months (150-200mg dosage) and I got through some very difficult subject matter for me that I would have otherwise just skipped.  I think that selective use is the right strategy for the Phenyl.


     


    I'm unconvinced that there are any nootropics that are sustainable when used daily except maybe moderate doses (1g or less) of Piracetam.




     


    Is this due to tolerance or do you think there is a risk of neurotoxicity/negative brain changes?


     


    To my knowledge many nootropics are said to be neuroprotective.  


     


    In my limited experiance with modafinil I did about 100 pills and then didn't use for about a month now and I feel that I made positive changes while taking the pills that I have retained.  I can tell you if I had taken adderall daily 1-2 pills a day for a couple months and then ran out it would have been a different story.


     


    I think long term health benefits/risks is a really important discussion.

  • edited October 2013


    Is this due to tolerance or do you think there is a risk of neurotoxicity/negative brain changes?


     


    To my knowledge many nootropics are said to be neuroprotective.  


     


    In my limited experiance with modafinil I did about 100 pills and then didn't use for about a month now and I feel that I made positive changes while taking the pills that I have retained.  I can tell you if I had taken adderall daily 1-2 pills a day for a couple months and then ran out it would have been a different story.


     


    I think long term health benefits/risks is a really important discussion.




     


    I think part of it is due to tolerance (caffeine/phenyl/pram/etc. all the substances that work immediately build tolerance).  The other part of it is that nobody can be sure what impact these substances really have in the long term and it is a big gamble to use everyday and not eventually doubt whether or not you're doing the right thing unless you can directly see the benefits.  


     


    All that said, I think in some ways it is more about the journey and what I learn from it than the destination or the experience of any particular drug.  I believe that lives can be enhanced by a variety of occasional/responsible drug use.




  • All that said, I think in some ways it is more about the journey and what I learn from it than the destination or the experience of any particular drug.  I believe that lives can be enhanced by a variety of occasional/responsible drug use.




     


    Certainly preaching to the choir on this one ;)


     


    I think it is good to figure out which things belong in the "regular supplementation" category (Vitamin D, C, A ect),which ones are in the "rare spiritual experience" category (DMT, Mushrooms) and then where things lie in between for optimum brain health, life enjoyment, perspective ect ect.  Everyone's balancing act will be different, but there are things I should do almost every day, things I should do once a week, once a month, once a year or once in a lifetime.   Ultimately we make our own choices, and many of which I feel knowledgeable enough to make for myself.  Sharing info and experience with others about some substances I know less about is still helpful, and probably a big reason we're all on this forum together :)

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