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What Is the Difference between Niacin and Niacinamide?

A. Pasbjerg
A. Pasbjerg

While niacin and niacinamide are both components of vitamin B3 and are often used interchangeably as supplements, there are some critical differences between the two. Niacinamide is the amide derived from niacin, which is also known as nicotinic acid. The two can have different physical effects on the body, and people sensitive to those changes may prefer to use one over the other. They also vary in their usefulness for treating certain conditions such as circulatory problems, high cholesterol, and osteoarthritis.

The most basic difference between niacin and niacinamide is that the second is a derivative of the first. Niacinamide is a type of chemical compound known as an amide, which is defined by a nitrogen atom combined with a carbonyl group, or C=O, which all amides contain. The human body can convert niacin into niacinamide after it is ingested.

Niacin side effects may include itchiness.
Niacin side effects may include itchiness.

Due to a difference in the pharmacological properties of niacin and niacinamide, people can have very different physical reactions when taking one versus the other. Niacin has a distinct vasodilating effect on most people, meaning it will cause their blood vessels to widen when it is taken. This often results in a common side effect, sometimes known as a niacin flush, where the capillaries under the skin open to allow more blood than normal to flow through them and the skin then becomes red, itchy, or even painful for a brief period. Niacinamide does not dilate the blood vessels and therefore does not cause skin flushing, but it may lead to excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis. Which effect is more likely to be an issue for a person can determine which supplement he or she chooses to take to get adequate amounts of vitamin B3.

Niacinamide may cause excessive sweating.
Niacinamide may cause excessive sweating.

Niacin and niacinamide both work equally well when used as a vitamin supplement and can both be used to treat pellagra, or niacin deficiency, but their effectiveness often differs when they are used to treat other conditions. For circulatory issues, niacin is the preferred supplement due to its effects on the blood vessels. It is also well known for its role in lowering high cholesterol levels, preventing hardening of the arteries, and reducing the risk of a heart attack, an effect that niacinamide does not have. Niacinamide, on the other hand, can help treat diabetes and osteoarthritis, whereas niacin is not helpful for these conditions.

Discussion Comments


Niacin and Vitamin C saved my mother's life. My mother was diagnosed as schizophrenic and bipolar. She was in and out of hospitals for over eight years and had taken most anti-psychotic medication on the market (to include monthly shots). Unfortunately, nothing seemed to be working for her. We were told by a counselor in a very reputable mental health hospital to consider placing her in an institution or community housing. I knew that due to her behavior (when unbalanced) that would not work. My mother heard voices and responded to them, she threatened to kill everyone in the family, thought individuals wanted to kill her, and saw things that were not there (hallucinated). It was a very scary time for my small family and myself. My father (retired) and sister (who suffers from CIPD) lived with her. I worked in a leadership role in the educational system and was a business owner. From the outside looking in my life was great. But behind closed doors, I lived a nightmare!! I offered lots of support but that did not solve the problem. My mother went from being admitted into hospitals once or twice a year to every other week. I was told that she was the worst case they had seen and there was not much more they could do. What was I to do???

I went on an education journey to learn as much as I could about my mother's disorder. I ran across a video that changed my mother's life and saved my family. In that video, a psychiatrist by the name of Abram Hoffer stated that there is a cure for mental illness and he'd helped many individuals live thriving lives, who were once written of by society. Initially, I was in disbelief. I watched the video waiting to see if he would request that the viewer buy some kind of special oil or pill and he did not. Dr. Hoffer stated that Niacin and Vitamin C can cure many patients diagnosed as schizophrenic. I looked at all the videos he made. I then purchased every book I could find about him. During this time, my mother continued to flow in and out of mental institutions. The anti-psych medications were taking a toll on her mentally and physically, my dad was exhausted, and my sister could not walk and was also in and out of the hospital. My mother was furious with anyone who said anything about her mind. She felt that there was nothing wrong with her. I knew that even after reading all the books on niacin, she had to be in agreement with the protocol.

One day, she was sitting in her room, talking to herself and I asked, "May I talk to you? " She replied, "What do you want?!" I said, " I've been doing some research and I think that the reason you're in and out of the hospitals is because your body is in need of two vitamins that we can buy at our local pharmacy. They're called niacin and Vitamin C. I want to try giving you small amounts and we will gradually increase the amounts until the voices go away. Together we will monitor your progress." To my surprise, my mother said, "Okay." I told my father the plan and he thought I was beginning to lose my mind. I explained my research and showed him the video.

He said, "Okay, this may help her." I knew that if my mother felt any discomfort during the process, she would immediately stop, so I chose the “no flush” niacin. After the two weeks on the protocol, I did not notice a big difference. I thought to myself that I had failed her or she had been mentally ill too long for the protocol to work. On day eleven, the school secretary called my office phone and said, "Your mother would like to speak to you." I said, "Transfer her to me." My heart was beating like drums. I thought that she was calling to tell me that she killed my dad. When I heard her voice, I quickly said, "Hi, mom. Is everything okay?" She said, "Yes, I was just thinking about you." I asked, " Where is dad?" She said, "He is in the other room,"

As you can imagine, I wanted to know if he was alive in the other room. I asked her if I could call her right back. I called my dad's mobile phone and he answered. I asked if he was okay. He replied, "Yes." I sat in my office and thought about what had just happened. My mother's status had changed enough for her to call me and say she was thinking about me. Note: For a very long time she only sat and talked to herself. I called her back and said, "Mother, it is great to hear from you. I will drop by to talk to you when I get off work."

When I arrived at my parents' home, I sat and talked to my mother -- something I had not been able to do for a very long time. My dad just stared at me. He said very little. I'm sure he was in disbelief or thought the results were temporary. I asked him if he was okay because he looked overwhelmed by what he was seeing. He said, "Maybe her psych medications are finally working. I replied, "She is not taking any psych medication. I've been gradually reducing them as I increased her niacin and Vitamin C.” At that point I thought he would pass out. His eyes bulged and and said,"Are you telling me she is not on psych medication!?" I replied, "You are correct."

He wanted me to tell him the name of the what she was taking again. He rushed out the room, rushed to his bedroom, and returned with a prescription of niacin that was given to him by cardiologist for his heart. How ironic, I thought. During all these years my mother was suffering mentally, the cure was on my dad's dresser. We continued the protocol and my mother remains mentally clear. Often, I see my dad staring at me and I know that he wonders why I was able to help my mother when many psychiatrists could not. The difference between me and the psychiatrist is their license would not allow them to suggest that a patient take large doses of niacin. And many of them do not know about Orthomolecular Psychiatry.

I hope my Niacin experience helps someone. Niacin saved a small family in Memphis, TN. God bless.


@SarahGen-- That's niacinamide. I know because my grandmother takes it. She's eighty and she had been very sharp until a few years ago when she started forgetting things a lot. Then she starting taking naicinamide and it made a huge difference. We always known when she has forgotten to take it because she keeps asking where she put things. And we remind her to take her supplements. Niacinamide is said to be great for skin too but I have no idea as I've never tried it.


@discographer-- I take niacin supplements for cholesterol. I take the "flush free" type, so I don't experience the annoying flushing side effect. My cholesterol has been improving gradually even though I am not taking cholesterol medications, just niacin. I realize that supplements may not work for everyone, but at the recommended doses, I think niacin is safe and very beneficial for those with high bad cholesterol.

Does anyone know which of these -- niacin or naicinamide-- is good for memory? I'm guessing it's not niacin because I haven't noticed any improvement in my mental function and ability to remember things. But if I remember correctly, one of these is supposed to be great for memory and is recommended for the elderly. Which is it?


Both niacin and niacinamide sound quite harmful with their side effects. I'm not sure why anyone would use them unless there is a deficiency and it's doctor's orders to do so. If we eat enough healthy and variety foods, I'm sure that we won't need supplements. Vegetarians may have more of a problem getting their dairy requirement because meats like fish, chicken and red meat are the richest in niacin.

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    • Niacin side effects may include itchiness.
      By: Piotr Marcinski
      Niacin side effects may include itchiness.
    • Niacinamide may cause excessive sweating.
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      Niacinamide may cause excessive sweating.
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      Niacin and niacinamide can be used to treat osteoarthritis.
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      High doses of niacin may cause fatigue.