“Intermezzo 2”: My Favorite Supplements for the Brain

Janus Bifacciale… Looks out and within. At the past and the future..

Ah, yes! The supplements for the brain. Some of the most useful and convincing regarding the value of supplements. After the supplements, I will talk a bit about Alzheimer’s Disease and how supplements help slow its onset.


In Intermezzo I, I talked about the value of DMAE, a precursor of choline and a surfactant that helps neurons take out lipofuscin, a kind of metabolic trash that accumulates in cells, especially in cells that derive from the ectoderm, the outer embryonic layer that becomes brain, nerves and skin. That’s what old age spots are.

DMAE can also get converted to choline. It’s considered a B vitamin of sorts and has it own value. For example, choline is especially good with a condition called “fatty liver”, often brought about by chemical damage to the liver, including alcohol, or infections, or by a high-fat diet or being overweight.

Rats exposed to chemicals that damage the liver and bring about the condition of fatty liver recover with extra choline added to their diet.

Choline also helps preserve the dendrites, the off-shoot connectors, of the neurons as the brain ages.

 Choline is the precursor to acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter of the neuromuscular conjunction (motor endplate) and essential to the functioning of the “parasympathetic” part of the autonomic nervous system. The parasympathetic system is involved in digestion and works with the sympathetic system in sex. Arousal is run by the parasympathetic half of the autonomic nervous system, while the climax is sympathetic.

But, the reason that most people take choline as a supplement is that it boosts memory and attention.

I first took choline because I had misinterpreted Adelle Davis’s book on vitamins. I thought I needed high choline levels to balance out the B-complex I was taking. What I noticed, however, was that my concentration and memory improved. I was under a lot of stress at the time, unemployed and without a good place to live.

Then, one day, I read how additional choline on the level of 3 grams given to MIT students improved their memory and recall of stuff without a particularly strong image or association. So, what I had observed in me was valid.

Eventually the new “improved” choline, choline chloride, a liquid, came out. Choline chloride causes far less GI tract disturbance. Choline pills are choline with the carrier “bi-tartrate”. That’s what can cause gastric disturbance. Nowadays, I can’t find choline chloride, so I take the bi-tartrate form in several small doses a day.

When I was living in Italy and wanted to make a good impression at, let’s say, a dinner with my Italian, I would take 3 grams of choline and some Hydergine or an extra cup of coffee. Wow! Really worked.

Now, I find that my memory and my short-term memory, in particular, NEED choline or I will just sit there with a blank mind trying to hunt down that apparently forgotten item.

One more story.

Someone I knew well, late at night, would lose her train of thought. I would ask, “Did you take your choline today?”. Was always true that she had skipped it. And, she got compliments from friends for being so lucid at 3 in the morning when she did take the choline.

Amino acid transmitter precursors.

In the early ’80s two books came out that helped transform your humble health food store into something awesome in terms of empowering us to prevent or delay aging as well as improve our health in the here-and-now. Even our athletic performance..

The books were Life Extension-A Scientific Approach by Pearson and Shaw and the second book was Eat to Win by Robert Haas who happened to have been Martina Navratilova’s nutritionist during her long record-breaking winning streak.

From those two books I learned that if you took precursors to adrenaline on an empty stomach, you could load the brain with those precursors and boost considerably the production of adrenaline and L-DOPA in the brain.

The same basic process as taking choline to augment the levels of acetylcholine and improve concentration and memory, only this time you get more adrenaline, L-DOPA, and even serotonin.

Really, really works. That I can tell you.

I would take tyrosine (or phenylalanine) after having not eaten for 3 hours. Within less than 15 minutes I could feel the rush of adrenaline. Then I would take my caffeine. Was quite a combination. I was ready to lift weights, getting every muscle pumped. Then I would run several miles quickly, followed by jumping into a hot tub at the spa. Total adrenaline high.

So, it’s like this. Your brain has the famous “blood-brain barrier” to prevent possibly harmful elements getting into the central nervous system. There is competition to get into the brain. When the amino acid supply in the bloodstream is low, the ones you take make it in more easily. When you take phenylalanine/tyrosine, the amino acids are more likely to be used to make adrenaline, nor-adrenaline and L-DOPA, an important neurotransmitter of the extrapyramidal tracts, the lack of which causes Parkinson’s Disease.

You can take either phenylalanine or tyrosine. Phenylalanine is converted to tyrosine, so it makes little difference.

One of the differences between the child’s brain and the adult’s is that the child’s brain gets the amino acids to make adrenaline out of the bloodstream more effectively. Also converts more of it more quickly to adrenaline. And, the child’s brain is more sensitive to adrenaline. They get a better, longer-lasting “high” out of it. Just watch any kid enjoying himself climbing a sliding board over and over again. There it is.

When a person is depressed, usually it means that the central nervous system has a low level of adrenaline and serotonin.  Some drugs inhibit the breakdown of both those neurotransmitters, but, in my own experience with someone on those drugs, taking tyrosine restored adrenaline levels so well that the doctor took my friend off her medication. That was after only two days on tyrosine supplementation.

The question you would want to ask: why doesn’t the psychiatric profession recognize the usefulness of tyrosine supplementation? Almost everything I write about in this blog is devoted to that question.

The answer is not exactly that Big Pharma owns their soul. They don’t make money directly off prescribing the psychiatric drugs. They “follow the leader” and won’t recommend amino acids because “it hasn’t been studied”…not really true. More like “my professional narcissism and fear of going outside the group prevent me from doing anything that our professional leadership class has not okayed.”

Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin. Once again, you would have to take tryptophan on an empty stomach  to get the effect. Serotonin improves mood. One theory as to why we take in sugar when we feel down is that the sugar induces a rise in insulin resulting in an increase in amino acids getting into the brain. Insulin gets the gates to the cells opened. Out of that, the brain gets more tryptophan and you get more serotonin.

But, you also get the rise and fall of blood sugar levels. Better to just take the tryptophan. But, tryptophan has two drawbacks. One is that it is relatively expensive, and the other is that you have to have that two to three hours of not eating for it to work.

But, now you can take 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), the intermediary compound that, in fact, is made from tryptophan, which is then converted to serotonin. This substance was found in flowers (Griffonia plants) and, so it is now cheaper and much more convenient to use it.

Some people have found that the combination of tyrosine to increase adrenaline and 5-HTP to increase serotonin, allows more focus. This combination can obviate the need for attention deficit drugs. Those drugs are all a version of methamphetamine. They create dependency because they make the brain put out more adrenaline, but this can create a deficit, as you use up your supply faster than you can refurbish it.

If I had a child with attention deficit syndrome, I would attempt to, at least, minimize the drug use by using the supplements. As I have written elsewhere in this blog, the medical establishment, from the ordinary MD to the FDA, look askance at any use of “medical foods”, ie, supplements, that undercut the need for prescription drugs.

Other supplements.

For the brain, turmeric is also indicated as a tremendous preventative of Alzheimer’s. The rate of Alzheimer’s in India is well correlated with the amount of turmeric in their diet according to research.

I also use Bacopa, an herb. Will have your brain working at 3 AM as if it was 9 AM, while you are driving your friend to the airport without any sense of being stimulated.

Ashwaghanda also helps me with my concentration. I had been trying to remember the name of a book I had read decades ago. Been trying for literally several years. Nothing on the Internet helped. Three days on Ashwaghanda and the name just popped into my head.

Not a scientific experiment, but consistent with the premise of its effectiveness.

Hydergine is a drug that appears to be on its way out, but improves IQ when used in moderate doses over a period as short as six weeks. Hydergine helps the brain work under conditions of low oxygen or too much oxygen. As I wrote, it helped me speak Italian very well late at night when I would be otherwise stumbling through, trying to express myself.

More to come.

Published by Roy Cameron

Janus “Bi-Facciale”, as the Italians call him. Gatekeeper. Looks out from and into the courtyard. He is, in fact, the “janitor”. Born on the East Coast, but lived on the West Coast for a decade before living in Italy for a decade. Science, psychology and extreme history buff. Presently, in the Northwest. “Fourth Way”, Jung, primal therapy. Eclectic. Very, very eclectic. “What’s it all about, Alfie?” contrarywarriorhealthblog@gmail.com

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