- 1 How Nootropics Can Be Used to Alleviate Depression
- 2 List of the Best Nootropics for Depression
- 3 Where to Purchase Nootropics
- 4 References
How Nootropics Can Be Used to Alleviate Depression
Depressive illness devastates millions of lives. Modern psychiatric medicine often proves very ineffective in treating it, with SRRI’s being the most commonly diagnosed drug. In many cases depression is viewed as a “chemical imbalance” which is an outdated model of depression that is very reductionistic. The reality is that depressive illness is a complex pathology with numerous symptoms and causes. In many cases the best solution is a combination of therapy and drugs, but SRRI’s are not exactly preferential to many people due to their unreliability and often severe long-term side effects.
There are many nootropics and nootropic-like substances which have been shown to treat depression quite effectively. Due to the fact that nootropics are unregulated and unpatentable, the pharmaceutical industry is unable to monetize them for profit. Despite the overwhelming evidence that demonstrates the effectiveness of using nootropics for depression, they are still struggling to gain mainstream acceptance.
If you are looking for a reliable and safe way of alleviating depression, this post has you covered. I will discuss all the best nootropics for depression and leave you feeling like you have other options than what big pharma would have you believe.
While I don’t intend to promote any of these substances as a cure for depression, many of them have sufficient evidence to suggest they work quite well. When combined with therapy and proper lifestyle choices (high-quality sleep, healthy diet, regular exercise, etc), nootropics can be an incredible way to further alleviate symptoms of depression.
*With the exception of the uridine-based stack, all references can be found on each the individual pages for each nootropic I will be covering.
List of the Best Nootropics for Depression
While fish oil and uridine do provide their own unique benefits for depression, they are even more effective when stacked together with a choline source. The combination of uridine, fish oil, and choline has been shown to promote synaptogenesis1www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/186319942www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/192629503www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/1933944www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/194006985www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/166311436www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4011061/ – the formation of new synapses between neurons.
This research is very promising and is of considerable interest among the nootropics and medical community alike. Currently there a product called Souvenaid that undergoing multiple clinical trials to study the effects of this stack. This includes a 6-month trial being conducted in over 35 sites across the United States.
A b-complex is needed because uridine depletes the bodies supply of Vitamin B9 (folate) and Vitamin B12 (cobalamin). Therefore, for anyone planning to use this stack, I highly recommend taking a high-quality b-complex supplement. Souvenaid also includes b-vitamins in its formulation, which should further back up how essential it is.
Types of choline
While choline on its own has not been linked to direct relief for depression, when combined with uridine and fish oil, it has been shown to be synergistic and provide immense benefit.
There are three options for choline sources – Alpha-GPC, Citicoline, and Acetylcarnitine (ALCAR):
- Alpha-GPC is the most effective at delivering choline to the brain and requires the smallest dose.
- Citicoline is almost as effective as Alpha-GPC, but has the added bonus of converting to both choline and uridine in the brain. One disadvantage of Citicoline is that it’s very hard to determine how much uridine you are receiving, thus may not be advisable for those looking to control the precise ratios of all their doses.
- ALCAR is the cheapest option but is not as much of a powerhouse at delivering choline to the brain in contrast with Alpha-GPC or Citicoline.
I personally recommend Alpha-GPC, but all three are options are viable.
Uridine is a nucleoside (a component of the nucleic acids DNA and RNA) that is found ubiquitously in nature. Uridine is produced in our own bodies and serves many critical roles in the brain. It is commonly supplemented for its unique benefits to brain function, which include constructing new neuronal structures and long-term upregulation of dopamine.
Uridine is not considered to be an essential nutrient since it is produced in our own bodies, however when supplemented it is able to easily cross the blood-brain barrier and confer additional benefits.
One of the most promising features of uridine is its ability to upregulate dopamine release over the long-term. It accomplishes this by repairing dopamine functionality and preventing overstimulation. It’s been shown to enhance potassium-invoked dopamine release, with one study showing that average dopamine levels were increased by 20.5% after 1 and 6 weeks of supplementation.
Uridine has also been shown to reliably reduce depressive symptoms, which are is likely due to the enhanced dopamine release.
Fish oil is an omega-3 fatty acid commonly supplemented for its numerous health benefits, and is one of the most well-researched supplements in the world. Omega-3 fatty acid is an essential dietary nutrient critical to brain development and function, and is quite deficient in western diets.
Fish oil has various roles in the body, and is typically used for its ability to improve brain and joint health and for promoting healthy aging and longevity. Overall, fish oil is one of the best natural nootropics out there and its popularity is well deserved.
In people with major depression, fish oil has very strong evidence that it is as extremely effective at reducing symptoms. Fish oil also has some profound effects on cognition and brain health. It improves blood flow and oxygenation in the brain, and can help prevent cognitive decline in the elderly. The effects you get from fish oil primarily come down to the specific ratio of EHA:DHA.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble, essential micronutrient that plays a critical role in many bodily functions. Vitamin D is synthesized in our own bodies after sun exposure, but this is not a practical option for many people. And while Vitamin D is found in some foods, it is very difficult to maintain adequate levels from diet alone. Therefore, supplementation of Vitamin D is considered essential for many people, as it is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies.
Most importantly, Vitamin D has been linked to the occurrence of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), especially in countries with low levels of sunlight. There are numerous studies which show a strong correlation between vitamin D deficiency and depression, and while the exact degree of causality between this correlation has yet to be determined, there is a clear link between the two.
Tianeptine (Stablon, Coaxil) is unique, atypical antidepressant drug developed that was developed in 1981 in France. It improves mood and has reliable anti-depressive, anxiolytic, and nootropic qualities. Among its many unique qualities, one of the most significant is its ability to enhance BDNF expression.
BDNF is brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a molecule produced in the brain that promotes the proliferation and survival of new neurons. It also causes neuroplasticity (structural changes in the brain) by reversing the neuronal damage that occurs from chronic stress.
Tianeptine is also characterized by a distinct lack of sedation or anticholinergic effects (which are common of other antidepressant drugs).
Creatine is naturally occurring substance that is found in many foods, particularly in red meat, and is an important nutrient for our body. When supplemented it can provide further benefits that would be hard to attain from diet alone.
Creatine is no joke, there is perhaps no supplement in history which has been studied more thoroughly than creatine. This is for a simple reason: it works. This is not a placebo supplement that doesn’t actually do anything – it has real effects and real benefits. It also is extremely inexpensive and has almost no side effects except for GI distress (which only happens if you don’t drink enough water).
Creatine has been shown to notably reduce symptoms of depression, which demonstrates its critical role in maintaining mental health.
Magnesium is an essential dietary mineral and one of the common nutritional deficiencies in the world, especially in the US and other western countries. Magnesium has countless roles in the body, including the regulation of heart health, blood pressure, glucose, insulin, and is critical for maintaining mental health.
Magnesium acts as an NMDA antagonist, preventing overstimulation and thereby causing a calming effect on the brain.
Magnesium has been shown to improve sleep, and deficient levels of magnesium have been strongly implicated in ADHD, depression, and anxiety. Upon supplementation, magnesium has been shown to reduce all of the above symptoms, which demonstrates its critical role in brain health.
Panax ginseng is the prototypical “ginseng” herb. Typically when people refer to ginseng they are referring to panax ginseng (often in the form of Korean red ginseng, Chinese ginseng, and Asian ginseng, which are all panax but simply processed in different ways). Among these, Korean red ginseng appears to the the most effective, especially for depression.
Panax ginseng an adaptogen, a class of compounds that promote homeostasis – in turn reducing stress, reducing fatigue, and stabilizing mood. Ginseng is fairly well-rounded substance that can benefit people in different ways.
Ginseng also shows a lot of promise for improving general mental health, elevating mood, and alleviating depression.
Bacopa Monnieri is a nootropic herb with a history of medicinal use in India (Ayurvedic medicine) with strong adaptogenic and nootropic properties.
Bacopa has demonstrated immense potential for preventing cognitive disorders and causes cognitive enhancement in both healthy people and the elderly. In terms of cognitive enhancement, it appears to most strongly enhance memory.
Bacopa is often used to improve mood, as it has been shown to have antidepressive, anxiolytic, and anti-stress properties.
Rhodiola rosea is a nootropic herb of the adaptogen class that shares some similarities with panax ginseng. Like other adaptogens, it is characterized by conferring a wide range of benefits to both mental and physical health. It’s primary benefit appears to be reducing fatigue, and does so quite effectively. It has also been shown to have strong nootropic effects, with improvements in cognition and memory being the most significant.
Rhodiola has been shown to improve mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and reduce the symptoms of depression.
Aniracetam is a slightly more potent, fat soluble version of Piracetam.
Like Piracetam, it appears to increase blood flow and activity in regions of the cortex responsible for collective and abstract thought.
However, aniracetam differs from Piracetam in that it has more notable effects on other systems in the brain. Specifically, it effects the glutaminergic system even more so than Piracetam, and is technically classified as an ampakine. Ampakines are a very unique class of drugs that are known for modulating the glutaminergic system via the AMPA receptor.
Aniracetam also appears to have anti-depressive and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) qualities,which are most likely caused by an indirect release of dopamine and serotonin.
Phenylpiracetam is a nootropic stimulant that was developed in Russia in 1983. The motivation for its development was to aid Russian Cosmonauts in maintaining alertness and warding off stress while in outer space.
Phenylpiracetam exhibits strong anti-depressive qualities as well as anxiolytic and anti-stress properties.
Semax is a drug developed in Russia and promoted for its nootropic properties. It’s been shown to significantly improve memory and attention in healthy people under extreme conditions, and improve brain circulation and resistance to oxygen deficiency (hypoxia). It significantly increases BDNF levels and the corresponding signaling receptor (trkB) in the hippocampus. It has also been shown to significantly increase levels of the serotonin and enhance the release of striatal dopamine.
Semax has demonstrated reliable antidepressant and anxiolytic effects. It also reduces the neurological effects of chronic stress. All these properties are due to its activation of the serotoninergic system and increased BDNF expression in the hippocampus.
Selank is a nootropic peptide developed in Russia. It provides anxiolytic, psychostimulatory, and antidepressant effects.
It’s also been shown to cause alterations in the expression of genes involved in inflammation. Specifically, It has been shown to modulate the expression of Interleukin-6 (IL-6) and regulate levels of Th1/Th2/Tred cytokines through direct and indirect mechanisms.
This demonstrates immunomodulating and adapotgenic effects, and is particularly effective for people with depression and anxiety.
Selank raises levels of norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and BDNF, which are key neurochemicals for maintaining proper mood.
Where to Purchase Nootropics
I recommend Nootropics Depot because they have been around for a long time and have maintained a solid reputation. They have excellent quality control metrics: they do in-house testing as well as independent 3rd-party testing, and they have certificates of analysis available for all of their products.
*Use coupon code REDDITS and receive 10% off your order.
Vitamin D, B-Complex, Tianeptine, Semax/Selank are unfortunately not available at Nootropics Depot. Below I will provide recommendations based off of Labdoor supplement rankings and/or from word of mouth/reputation.
This is a very-high quality b-complex that is one of the highest rated on Labdoor. It contains metafolin ((6S)-5-methyltetrahydrofolate), which is a patented form of folate that is far more bioavailable than folic acid.
Nutrigold is a highly reputable brand with excellent products. This is also one of the highest rated vitamin D products on Labdoor.
If 5000 UI sounds like too much for you, they also offer a 2000 UI form.
However, right now their 5000 UI form is being sold at a steep discount (even cheaper than the 2000 UI form for the same amount of capsules!), so it might not be a bad idea to purchase it now.
Once again, this fish oil product is one of the highest rated on Labdoor.
One serving contains a whopping 1400mg of EPA and 480mg of DHA, which is almost unparalleled in fish oil products. It is also well-packaged and contains mixed tocopherols (an effective antioxidant) which are two factors that are crucial to prevent fish oil from going rancid and causing oxidization in the body.
At first glance the price may seem a bit steep, but due to the superior levels of EPA/DHA, it’s actually quite reasonable and will save you money in the long-run. Fish oil products are not something you want to skimp out on anyway, since poor-quality fish oil does more harm than good.
Tianeptine (in the sulfate form) may be purchased at Nootropics.com.
They offer certificates of authenticity for Tianeptine and all of their other products, which is something you should always look for when choosing a seller.
As far as I am aware, they are the only reputable vendor left that sells legitimate Tianeptine. Due to the unjust legal scrutiny Tianeptine is facing, it might not be a bad idea to stock up on a lot of it while you still can, as many other sellers have been removing it from their product line due to pushback from payment processing vendors.
While the price is a bit high, I would skip the temptation to order it from other sites who sell it for cheaper (such as BlueBrainBoost, which has severe quality-control problems).
May be purchased at Cosmic Nootropic. Phenylpiracetam is also available.
Products sold at Cosmic Nootropic are direct from pharmacies and will therefore be consistent, pharmaceutical-grade products.