Our evidence-based analysis of Phosphatidylserine features unique references to scientific papers and anecdotal reports.
What Is Phosphatidylserine?
Phosphatidylserine or PS is a little-known but vital compound that occurs naturally in all species. It’s essential for cellular health, structure, and protection, but that’s just part of the PS picture: studies show that it’s also a powerful nootropic that may sharpen memory, increase focus, and enhance the ability to learn, reason, and solve problems.
PS is an amino acid derivative compound that’s naturally manufactured by the body but is also available through diet and supplementation. Its primary function is as a crucial component of the cellular membrane, a phospholipid layer that surrounds all cells and provides structure and protection. PS keeps the membrane flexible and fluid, promotes cellular healing, and helps the cells take in crucial nutrients and flush out waste products.
In addition, research has proven that PS is vital to virtually all aspects of cognitive function, including memory, mental processing speed and accuracy, and language. It has also been shown to fight the effects of stress and is believed to prevent or delay the onset of age-related cognitive decline effectively.
In early life, the amount of PS that the body naturally synthesizes and assimilates from foods (including soy lecithin, meat, and some fatty fish) is generally sufficient to prevent deficiency. Studies show that PS levels decline with age, suggesting that natural production and dietary assimilation may become less efficient as we get older. This change means that supplementation may be key to realizing the many therapeutic and nootropic benefits PS offers.
PS supplements were originally made from cow brains, but because of concerns about potential pathogens in animal tissue, PS supplements are now typically derived from soy lecithin, sunflower, and even cabbage.
PS is sold without a prescription as a dietary supplement in the US and Canada.
Benefits and Effects of Phosphatidylserine
At the most basic level, PS helps the entire organism by keeping cellular membranes strong, flexible, fluid, and healthy. But studies show that supplemental PS offers a host of substantial benefits for both brain and body.
PS is a tested and proven memory booster, particularly among the elderly. Japanese research involving adults aged 50 and over who had memory complaints showed that PS supplementation increased overall memory and verbal recall scores.
PS supplementation on Alzheimer’s patients had similar positive results, significantly improving memory, lifting mood, and increasing verbal fluency.
Reduces the Negative Effects of Stress
PS is known to downregulate cortisol release, often referred to as “the stress hormone.”
Cortisol is intended to provide the body with a boost of emergency energy under stressful situations; it does this by converting a portion of the body’s protein stores to glucose, fueling the “fight or flight” response.
However, high cortisol levels over extended periods of time can lead to hyperglycemia, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, suppressed libido, and other serious physical problems.
PS has been shown to significantly reduce cortisol concentrations in subjects exposed to mental stressors and help maintain the adrenal glands’ efficiency, especially in response to mental stress.
PS supplementation has also been shown to influence mood and help regulate heart rate under stress positively.
Many users self-report that PS acts as an anxiolytic, improving mood, reducing irritability, and providing a relaxed feeling.
Improves Symptoms of Depression
Studies indicate that PS supplementation can substantially improve depressive symptoms in people of all ages.
Trials involving geriatric patients of both sexes who experienced late-life depression showed that PS supplementation improved memory and reduced depression-related cognitive impairment.
In otherwise healthy young males, PS supplements improved emotional responses and reduced symptoms of distress.
In children with depressive disorder, supplementation with PS and omega-3 fatty acids improved attention and cognition and relieved depressive symptoms.
Boosts Endurance and Improves Athletic Performance
Research on PS’s ability to improve sports and athletic performance is ongoing, but there is evidence that PS supplementation can increase the amount of time that people can do strenuous exercise before reaching the point of exhaustion. This effect is believed to be due at least in part to the fact that PS helps keep the body’s choline levels stable, preventing the choline depletion associated with exhaustion and fatigue.
Relieves Symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases
One of the most exciting possibilities for supplemental PS is as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Research has shown that PS increases learning ability, improves memory and verbal fluidity, and reduces brain inflammation in Alzheimer’s patients.
PS has also been cited as a valuable adjunct therapy for Parkinson’s Disease, boosting the amount of dopamine available in the system, and improving mood and brain function in Parkinson’s patients.
May Delay the Onset of Age-Related Cognitive Decline
The body’s internal systems and metabolism become less efficient as we age. The resulting deficiency of many critical hormones and brain chemicals can lead to substantial memory loss and other forms of cognitive impairment, but researchers believe that supplementation with PS and other nutrients can delay the onset of age-related cognition issues.
Research is ongoing, but studies indicate that PS supplementation (modified to contain omega-3 fatty acids) effectively reduced memory problems in non-demented elderly people with memory complaints.
How It Works
The body primarily uses PS as a structural component of the double layer of lipids that forms the cellular membrane. In this capacity, PS appears to increase cell fluidity, facilitating the entrance of nutrients and the discharge of waste products. 
PS is also involved in neural signaling, or transferring information from one nerve cell to another. In this role, PS is instrumental in initiating blood clotting and in triggering the elimination of dead cells.
Also, PS appears to modulate the production of specific enzymes, upregulating some and downregulating others. PS decreases the production and release of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Decreasing the amount of acetylcholine in the brain effectively increases the amount of immediately available acetylcholine, which is closely associated with all aspects of cognition. The ability to boost acetylcholine levels plays a major role in the compound’s nootropic properties and is the basis for the use of PS as an Alzheimer’s disease treatment; one of the effects of Alzheimer’s is cholinergic hypofunction, which results in acetylcholine deficiency and cognitive decline.
At the same time, PS promotes the production of Na+/K+ stimulated ATPase, an enzyme that pumps sodium out of cells and pumps potassium into them. This action is associated with PS’s ability to extend the time that physical activity can go on before a point of exhaustion is reached.
PS also affects mood, motivation, and cognition by decreasing the release of cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone typically triggered by stress, and increasing levels of both serotonin (“the happiness molecule”) and dopamine (“the motivation molecule”). The ability to modulate the release of these critical compounds is, in large part, responsible for PS’s ability to lift mood and combat depression. It is also why PS is considered a valuable adjunct treatment for Parkinson’s disease, which is characterized by the loss of dopamine production.
PS has further been shown to prevent the decay of dendritic spines, portions of nerve cells in the hippocampus that are crucial to information storage. Dendritic spines are known to decay with age, negatively affecting synaptic action and inhibiting the transmission of information between cells. Loss of synaptic function directly correlates with cognitive decline, and PS’s action on dendritic spines is an integral part of its ability to restore memory and delay the onset of age-related cognitive decline.
PS may also increase Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) to support brain cell creation, maintenance, and repair, potentially making it a great supplement for building long-term, lasting structural improvements to the brain.
For adults, the standard base dosage of 100 mg taken three times daily for a total of 300 mg is both safe and effective for preventing cognitive decline.
The appropriate dosage may vary depending on age, condition, and the results being sought; lower doses have been effective for some people, and tests involving adolescents and healthy non-elderly people typically involved doses from 200–400 mg.
As with all supplements, it is good practice to start with the lowest effective dosage and only increase as needed. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult their physicians before taking PS, as should those taking antidepressants, antihistamines, or medications for Alzheimer’s disease or glaucoma.
There have been concerns that PS derived from bovine brain tissue could transmit pathogens, including mad cow disease. Though no instance of such transmission has been documented, it’s safest to take PS synthesized from plants, which is just as effective as bovine-sourced PS and is widely available.
PS appears to be safe and very well tolerated when taken in doses of 300 mg or less daily.
Reported side effects include insomnia and upset stomach, but both of these effects are associated with higher dosages.
PS has been safely administered to adults for more than six months and to children for up to 4 months with no adverse effects.
Phosphatidylserine is commonly taken along with other cognitive enhancing supplements to maximize its effects.
An Example All-Natural Stack
1x–2x per day
- 100 mg Phosphatidylserine
- 1 g Fish Oil
- 300 mg CDP Choline
- 250 mg Uridine Monophosphate
- 1000 mg Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Phosphatidylserine Stack for Universal Cognitive Enhancement
For a preformulated nootropic that contains a blend of 11 cognitive enhancing supplements, including phosphatidylserine, 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.
Where to Buy
Phosphatidylserine supplements are relatively easy to purchase.
We recommend buying phosphatidylserine online from PureNootropics.net, as they are a one-stop-shop for cognitive enhancing supplements.
If you prefer doing your shopping on Amazon.com, we recommend sticking to Double Wood Supplements Phosphatidylserine Capsules as a source of high-quality phosphatidylserine.
Alternatively, if you’d like to take a supplement that contains a blend of 11 cognitive enhancing nootropics, including phosphatidylserine, we recommend Mind Lab Pro. Read our Mind Lab Pro review for a detailed overview.
Phosphatidylserine doesn’t get a lot of publicity; it’s not rare, it’s not flashy, and it certainly doesn’t have a catchy name. Instead, it’s a quietly efficient multitasker that keeps both brain and body working at peak productivity.
It boosts the brain chemicals that can enhance mood, motivation, and cognition, and it has been shown to combat both stress and depression effectively.
It may improve endurance so you can exercise longer and more efficiently, and it can keep your brain working better as you get older. And while it’s doing all that, it also provides structure and protection to every cell in your body.
For anyone interested in maximizing their mental and physical capabilities and staying sharp as they age, phosphatidylserine is a nootropic worth considering.
Planning to start a new supplementation regimen? See our medical disclaimer.
This page was last updated on July 16, 2021.