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What is Citicoline?

By Adam Hill
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Citicoline is a chemical found naturally in the body, which is also sometimes taken as a nutritional supplement. Also called CDP-choline, it has been researched for use in a variety of contexts since the 1970s. It appears to have effects that can protect the brain from damage that occurs as the result of a stroke or other such condition. Used by a healthy individual, it has been shown to increase alertness and even to slightly enhance the vision for a short period of time. Because it is a natural supplement, not as much study has been done with it as is done for most drugs, but it appears to have few to no side effects in the short term.

One of the more important roles that citicoline plays in the body is in the synthesis of compounds necessary for the production of gray matter in the brain. It can also be converted by brain cells into one of a class of chemicals known as phospholipids, which are important in building cell membranes. In addition to this, it can aid in replenishing the brain with another type of phospholipid called phosphatidylserine. Tests have shown that this chemical can improve learning ability and memorization when given to elderly individuals with memory impairment issues.

Citicoline is also quite notable for its ability to protect brain and nerve cells from damage when they are deprived of oxygen, such as during a stroke. Some claims suggest that it can speed up recovery from strokes, and even treat diseases which are characterized by a decrease in cognitive function, such as Alzheimer's. What is certain is that the administration of citicoline can delay the degeneration of cell membranes caused by strokes in laboratory animals, and that similar effects have been observed in clinical trials with humans.

As a nutritional supplement, citicoline is usually sold in capsules containing a dose of about 250 mg each. It has been shown to be safe at levels up to 500 mg per day over the short term, but most studies of supplemental citicoline do not last longer than a few weeks. For this reason, its long-term effects are uncertain. It is usually taken to improve motivation and mental acuity for a few hours. Its side effects are usually very mild, and include elevated body temperature and nighttime sleeplessness when taken in the late afternoon or evening.

Some of those who use supplemental citicoline have also reported positive sexual side effects and mood enhancement. Effects such as these may be due to the fact that citicoline can increase the levels of certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, in the tissues of the brain. These chemicals are closely associated with mood regulation and are the likely cause of such effects.

TheHealthBoard is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon112025 — On Sep 18, 2010

How much is too much to give? Would you think it is safe to be giving an Alzheimer's patient 3000 mg per day?

By anon101122 — On Aug 02, 2010

what are the differences between citicoline zynapse and citicoline cholinerv.

By GardenTurtle — On Jul 27, 2010

@medicchristy: Some of the common side effects associated with Citicoline are irregular heartbeat, diarrhea, dizziness, vomiting, headache, and low blood pressure.

There are, however, more serious side effects as well. Some of these include tightening of the chest, severe skin rash, difficulty breathing, closing of the throat, hives, and swelling of the lips, throat, tongue, and mouth.

The serious side effects are very rare but should still be noted.

If you experience any of the symptoms above, you should contact your doctor immediately.

By medicchristy — On Jul 27, 2010

What are the citicoline side effects?

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