One of the beautiful things about supplements is they usually have more than one beneficial purpose. It is especially nice when the benefits of a supplement cross into the nootropic category and provide cognitive enhancement. Occasionally, there is a bit of debate as to whether or not a supplement can be considered a nootropic. A current example is Phenibut, a supplement discovered in the 1960’s with anti-anxiety and calming properties.
Phenibut is a crystallized, powdery GABA derivative that easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and, when it enters the brain, acts as a GABA receptor agonist. By acting in a similar fashion as GABA, phenibut helps carry the burden of brain chemicals that can cause stress and tension resulting in an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect. Since it works on the same receptor sites as certain prescription drugs, phenibut is often compared to barbiturates and other substances used for anxiety. The main difference between phenibut and these substances, is that phenibut doesn’t cause drowsiness like most popular anti-anxiety medications can. It’s included in the cosmonaut medical kit as a treatment for stress and anxiety for this exact reason. Phenibut also enhances dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is critical to daily function and helps control movement, emotions, response to rewards, and the brain’s pleasure center.
Phenibut is primarily used for the following:
- Stress – The overall effect of phenibut on the GABA receptors help blunt the impact of stress.
- Social Anxiety – Helps reduce tension felt around large or unfamiliar groups
- Sleeplessness – Phenibut can have a relaxing effect and help bring on sleep in the evening
- Mood Enhancer – Phenibut is used to enhance mood or help reduce trauma related stress
Without a doubt, phenibut has some properties that could be beneficial to most people. But does it act as a nootropic? Can it help boost cognition? Yes, evidence points to the effects of phenibut enhancing cognition:
- Improved cross-hemisphere brain communication. Phenibut was used in an animal study to increase the amplitude of response from one side of the brain to other. A single dose of phenibut was effective in improving the response and confirmed the efficacy of phenibut as a supplement used for learning and memory.
- More relaxed thinking. As a basis for cognitive enhancement, the reduction of stress is key. A state of stress and anxiety puts the body in position where it essentially feels unsafe. Even without adding any additional properties, reducing the amount of stress a person is under and relaxing the mind takes the brain and body out of survival mode and allows other thoughts to flow more freely.
- Improving sleep quality. Improving sleep also has downstream cognitive benefits. Sleep gives the brain and the body enough time to rest, recover and reset, thus providing an optimal environment for focus, memory, learning and thinking.
If you’re looking to help increase calmness and also boost brain power as well, phenibut is a great supplement to test out.