What Is CDP Choline?

CDP Choline, also known as citicoline, is a powerful nootropic supplement best known for its potential to enhance memory and protect the brain against memory loss.‍[1]

However, enhanced memory is only part of the CDP choline picture; it has also been shown to heighten focus, increase mental energy, improve reaction time, and provide better clarity of thought.‍[2]

Recent studies indicate that in addition to boosting many aspects of cognition, CDP choline may also be a useful treatment for a host of medical problems including head injuries,‍[3] stroke,‍[4] age-related neurodegenerative diseases,‍[5] glaucoma,‍[6] and even cocaine dependency.‍[7]

For nootropic users, one of the most interesting aspects of CDP Choline is its ability to amplify and enhance the effects of other nootropic supplements. As a cholinergic precursor that helps increase acetylcholine levels in the brain,‍[8] CDP choline works synergistically with racetam class nootropics, significantly potentiating the effects of memory boosters such as piracetam and pramiracetam while preventing the minor but annoying headaches that are common side effects associated with racetam supplementation.

CDP choline is available by prescription only in some countries, including Brazil and parts of the EU. In the US and Canada, it is unregulated and is sold as a  nutritional supplement.‍[9]

Benefits and Effects of CDP Choline

CDP choline is a powerful nootropic supplement that potentiates other nootropics and works on its own to enhance many aspects of cognition and brain health.

Memory Enhancement

CDP Choline is perhaps best known for its ability to improve memory and prevent memory loss. It is frequently associated with anti-aging and has been studied as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.‍[10]

Increased Mental Energy

Maintaining peak mental energy is important for everyone, from students facing exams to older people suffering from the mental slow-down often associated with aging. Clinical trials have shown that CDP Choline has a significant positive effect on mental energy, increasing frontal lobe bioenergetics and mitigating the cognitive declines associated with aging.‍[11]

Better Focus and Concentration

CDP choline can increase the ability to concentrate for longer periods with less distraction, enhancing the focus needed for studying, mastering a new skill, or completing any complex and mentally demanding task. Studies show that CDP choline can improve concentration even in serious conditions including stroke, brain injury, and Alzheimer’s disease.‍[12]

Potentiating and Amplifying Other Nootropics

Many nootropic users consider CDP choline a must-have when constructing any stack or combination of supplements. An outstanding choline source, it works particularly well with racetam class nootropics, making their effects stronger and at the same time preventing the minor headache that is sometimes associated with racetams. It has been shown to delay the onset of cognitive deterioration in Alzheimer’s disease when used in combination with piracetam.‍[13]

How It Works

Unlike those of many nootropics, CDP choline’s mechanisms of action have been extensively studied and understood.

CDP choline is a psychostimulant nootropic that works in several ways:

  • Restores and repairs neuronal membranes‍[14]
  • Increases the levels of dopamine, adrenaline, and norepinephrine in the central nervous system‍[15]
  • Enhances the production of the “learning neurotransmitter,” acetylcholine‍[16]

CDP choline is a phospholipid that is hydrolyzed in the intestines and rapidly absorbed. On absorption, CDP choline splits into choline and cytidine and is resynthesized in the liver and other tissues. It then disperses throughout the body, crossing the blood-brain barrier and entering the central nervous system.‍[17]

The cytidine is then converted into uridine, a nucleotide base that is crucial to neural membrane synthesis and is believed to enhance cognition. The released choline acts as a cholinergic, increasing levels of choline in the brain.

Interaction with Racetam Class Nootropics

CDP choline’s post-absorption action as a cholinergic makes it an ideal complement to racetam class nootropic supplements like piracetam, oxiracetam, and aniracetam,  which draw heavily on choline for their brain-enhancing functions.

Choline is the precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is essential for many aspects of cognitive function such as learning and memory. Racetam class nootropics like piracetam are considered acetylcholine agonists, compounds that increase the production and release of acetylcholine by stimulating the appropriate neurotransmitter receptor sites.

When sufficient choline is present, the increased production and release of acetylcholine creates significant cognitive enhancements, ranging from better memory to better focus, clearer thought, faster recall, and even enhanced sensory perceptions. But when choline supplies in the brain are insufficient the effect of racetam supplements is significantly diminished. Additionally, the minor but annoying headaches that are occasionally associated with racetam use are mainly attributable to insufficient choline.

For these reasons, many nootropic users consider CDP choline a must when assembling a stack that includes racetams. Each is a powerful brain enhancer on its own, but together they’re far more potent than either one could be on their own.

Users report that taking CDP choline boosts mood and lifts brain fog.‍[18] Others report that adding CDP choline to stacks containing racetams helps prevent headaches, eliminate racetam-related depression, and improves libido and erectile function.‍[19]‍[20]‍[21]

Interaction With Catecholamine Neurotransmitters

Studies show that CDP Choline impacts levels of adrenaline, norepinephrine, and dopamine, crucial neurotransmitters that are referred to as catecholamines.‍[22]

The choline component of CDP choline is believed to directly increase serum levels of adrenaline and norepinephrine, while the uridine component is thought to augment dopaminergic signaling.

CDP choline has a neuroprotective effect on dopamine cells and has been shown to protect dopaminergic neurons from damage by toxins associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Dosage

A daily cumulative dose of anywhere from 250–1000 mg, either in a single dose or in two doses 8 to 12 hours apart, is generally considered safe and effective.‍[23]

Dosages used in studies include 1000–2000 mg (to combat cognitive decline); 600 mg (for chronic cerebrovascular disease); and 500–2000 mg per day (for immediate treatment of ischemic stroke).‍[24]

Because CDP choline is so well tolerated, a wide range of doses have been documented without significant side effects.

Interestingly, an MIT study shows that the effects a dose of 4000 mg were not measurably different from those of a 2000 mg dose, which seems to indicate there is little value in taking very high doses.‍[25]

It is water soluble, and as much as 95% of an oral dose is absorbed by the body.

Stacking

For nootropics users, one of the most important aspects of CDP choline is its value as a potentiator for other nootropics. This is especially true for racetams, which really shine when paired with CDP choline. The ratios and actual dosages vary depending on which of the racetam class nootropics you use.

Here are some example stack ideas to get you started.

Piracetam and CDP Choline Stack

Good for overall cognitive enhancement, with neither stimulant nor calming properties.

1x per day

Pramiracetam and CDP Choline Stack

Similar to the piracetam stack, but the racetam component is considerably stronger (pramiracetam is 10 or more times as powerful as piracetam), so lower doses are needed to achieve optimal effects. When taken with CDP choline, pramiracetam’s cognitive enhancements, which include improvement of memory, thought clarity, focus, and sensory perception, will be potentiated.

1x–2x per day

Oxiracetam and CDP Choline Stack

This powerful and popular racetam, sometimes referred to as the “speedy racetam,” combines the cognitive enhancements of piracetam with a major boost in energy, alertness, and wakefulness.

This stack has a marked stimulant effect and could potentially interfere with sleep if taken late in the day.

1x–2x per day

Aniracetam and CDP Choline Stack

Aniracetam boosts cognitive abilities while creating a relaxing and sedative-like effect. This stack has a noticeable calming effect.

1x–2x per day

CDP Choline Stack for Universal Cognitive Enhancement

For a preformulated nootropic that contains a blend of 11 cognitive enhancing supplements, including CDP choline, designed to optimize a wide array of cognitive functions, we recommend Mind Lab Pro.

Mind Lab Pro’s strategy aims at all aspects of memory, mental performance, mood and stress resistance, and brain repair, and maintenance. Their combination of nootropics is designed to affect brain energy, neurotransmitters, brain blood flow, brain waves, neuroprotection, and regeneration.

Read our Mind Lab Pro review for a detailed overview.

Side Effects

Clinical trials and studies indicate that CDP choline has no documented serious side effects, even at high doses.‍[26]

Toxicological tests have shown that it has no serious effects on the cholinergic system and it is perfectly tolerated.‍[27]

Indigestion, headache, insomnia, and diarrhea have infrequently been reported as possible side effects.

In addition, some users report that high doses of CDP choline can lead to depression, lethargy, and anxiety.‍[28]‍[29]‍[30]

No studies on the effect on pregnant women have been completed, so those who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised to refrain from supplementing with CDP choline.

Where to Buy

We recommend buying CDP choline from PureNootropics.net as they are a trusted supplier of nootropics. All their products are tested for purity by 3rd party laboratories to ensure purity.

If you prefer to do your shopping on Amazon, make sure to choose high-quality products, such as Double Wood Supplements CDP Choline Capsules.

Alternatively, if you’d like to take a supplement that contains a blend of 11 cognitive enhancing nootropics, including CDP choline, we recommend Mind Lab Pro. Read our Mind Lab Pro review for a detailed overview.

Closing Thoughts

CDP choline is an excellent addition to any nootropic user’s supplement regimen.

On its own, it’s a proven memory enhancer, known to improve recall and prevent memory loss related to aging, illness, and injury. It provides increased mental energy, better focus, and clearer thought.

In combination with other nootropics it’s a powerful potentiator, and when stacked with racetams it creates synergistic effects that take cognitive enhancement to a level that neither supplement could reach without the other.

Clinically tested and studied for decades, CDP choline has been shown to be extremely well tolerated even at high doses, though high doses are not necessary to achieve optimal results.

There are no documented serious side effects, and it’s approved for medical treatment in both Europe and Japan.

CDP choline is an affordable, readily available supplement that has a strong and growing following among nootropic users. If you want to get the most from your nootropic stacks, CDP choline is a choline source worth trying.

References   [ + ]

Planning to start a new supplementation regimen? See our medical disclaimer.

This page was last updated on April 8, 2019.