DMAE - An Overview
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DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol) is a naturally occurring amine in the human brain. Researchers believe it can modulate choline and possibly the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.18PEPEU G, FREEDMAN DX, GIARMAN NJ. Biochemical and pharmacological studies of dimethylaminoethanol (deanol), J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1960
It’s effects on the cholinergic system may mean it has nootropic benefits for:
In theory, DMAE could be used to enhance learning and memory, as would most cholinergic substances.
However, there is not a lot of research to back this claim up.
Despite this, many nootropics enthusiasts claim to have good results with this supplement.
DMAE As An Ingredient
It occurs naturally in some seafood, particularly anchovies.
DMAE bitartrate is the predominant form of DMAE on the market.
What Does DMAE Do?
DMAE shows promise as a treatment for many neurocognitive issues.
DMAE for ADHD
There is some evidence that DMAE may be useful for treating ADHD-like symptoms.
For decades, DMAE was sold under the brand name Deanol for treating mood and attention problems.
Over time it fell out of favor as a prescription medication in recent decades.
That doesn’t mean it is ineffective, just that research dried up.
Some users report positive results with this supplement.
The trials supporting this use were mostly done in the 70’s, before ADHD was even a real diagnosis. So, they may be outdated.
DMAE ADHD Research
One 1975 study on children who had problems with learning and hyperactivity were given either deanol, methylphenidate (Ritalin), or placebo for 3 months.
Deanol seemed to be about as effective as methylphenidate in reducing symptoms compared to placebo.
According to the researchers, “there is sufficient support for an effect of deanol in the literature to justify further investigation.”1Lewis JA, Young R. Deanol and methylphenidate in minimal brain dysfunction, Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1975
In another study, young healthy males who took DMAE for 2-3 weeks showed improved concentration, as well as sleep patterns and muscle tone.2MURPHREE HB Jr, PFEIFFER CC, BACKERMAN IA. The stimulant effect of 2-dimethylaminoethanol (deanol) in human volunteer subjects, Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1960
One animal study also found that DMAE could be used to treat learning and behavior problems and hyperkinetic behavior.3Stenbäck F, Weisburger JH, Williams GM. Effect of lifetime administration of dimethylaminoethanol on longevity, aging changes, and cryptogenic neoplasms in C3H mice, Mech Ageing Dev. 1988
In another study, young healthy males who took DMAE for 2-3 weeks showed improved concentration, as well as sleep patterns and muscle tone.4MURPHREE HB Jr, PFEIFFER CC, BACKERMAN IA. The stimulant effect of 2-dimethylaminoethanol (deanol) in human volunteer subjects, Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1960
DMAE For Mood
There is some limited evidence that DMAE can improve mood and feelings of well-being.
Many users report positive effects in this regard, although this effect has not been studied extensively.
There is one clinical trial that shows how DMAE may reduce theta and alpha brain waves. Decreases in these brain wave frequencies are associated with increased vigilance and attention.
Researchers found that the group taking DMAE “were more active and felt better.” They scored better on self-reports of well-being and showed improved brain activity under EEG scans.5Dimpfel W, Wedekind W, Keplinger I. Efficacy of dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) containing vitamin-mineral drug combination on EEG patterns in the presence of different emotional states, Eur J Med Res. 2003
These are just initial findings, and more research needs to be done.
However, they point to the possibility that DMAE may be useful for improving mood.
DMAE For Epilepsy
A recent study conducted in 2019 “clearly demonstrated an antiepileptic effect of DMEA” in human temporal lobe epilepsy patients and rat hippocampal tissue.6Kraus L, et al. Dimethylethanolamine Decreases Epileptiform Activity in Acute Human Hippocampal Slices in vitro, Front Mol Neurosci. 2019
DMAE For Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Overall, the results are mixed for DMAE and Alzheimers.
In one study, DMAE was given to 14 senile outpatients for 4 weeks. It produced positive benefits.7Ferris SH, Sathananthan G, Gershon S, Clark C. Senile dementia: treatment with deanol, J Am Geriatr Soc. 1977
In another study looking at 27 patients with Alzheimer’s disease, researchers found no significant benefit from using DMAE.
In fact, they saw that it caused negative side-effects in several participants.8Fisman M, Mersky H, Helmes E. Double-blind trial of 2-dimethylaminoethanol in Alzheimer’s disease, Journal or Am J Psychiatry. 1981
DMAE for Schizophrenia
Researchers also found that DMAE may help with some symptoms of schizophrenia.
In one study, schizophrenic patients showed increased motor and verbal activity after taking DMAE. Researchers concluded that the improvements may take as long as 6 months to fully take effect.9PFEIFFER CC, et al. Stimulant effect of 2-dimethylaminoethanol; possible precursor of brain acetylcholine, Science. 1957
DMAE for Neuroprotection
DMAE may have benefits for neuroprotection, longevity, and anti-aging.
One study saw that DMAE significantly increased survival in aged mice.10Hochschild R. Effect of dimethylaminoethanol on the life span of senile male A-J mice, Exp Gerontol. 1973
This may be due to the aging process involving alterations in cell membranes. Choline is essential in the formation of cell membranes, and DMAE is a precursor to choline while at the same time inhibiting choline metabolism.11Haubrich DR, Gerber NH, Pflueger AB. Deanol affects choline metabolism in peripheral tissues of mice, J Neurochem. 1981
Another theory of DMAE’s anti-aging properties is its ability to scavenge free-radicals.
According to some research, DMAE goes out and kills free radicals that would normally be responsible for mutating cells.12Nagy I, Floyd RA. Electron spin resonance spectroscopic demonstration of the hydroxyl free radical scavenger properties of dimethylaminoethanol in spin trapping experiments confirming the molecular basis for the biological effects of centrophenoxine, Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 1984
However, this animal study in female mice showed no difference between DMAE treated and placebo in anti- cancer properties or longevity.
So there is some question as to how effective DMAE may be. More research, especially on humans, is needed.13Stenbäck F, Weisburger JH, Williams GM. Effect of lifetime administration of dimethylaminoethanol on longevity, aging changes, and cryptogenic neoplasms in C3H mice, Mech Ageing Dev. 1988
How DMAE Works In The Brain
Some sources claim that DMAE is an acetylcholine (ACh) precursor. However, this does not appear to be the case according to clinical research.
Instead, DMAE may increase acetylcholine indirectly by stimulating choline production, but the evidence is still conflicted.
One study found that DMEA is not methylated to choline and so does not alter brain ACh levels.
It did, however, increase brain choline.
So it may prove therapeutically useful when the production of choline is reduced or when the utilization of choline for the synthesis of acetylcholine is impaired.14Jope RS, Jenden DJ. Dimethylaminoethanol (deanol) metabolism in rat brain and its effect on acetylcholine synthesis, J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1979
Another report explains that it is still unknown how DMAE increases brain and plasma levels of choline, despite its cholinergic properties.15Kraus L, et al. Dimethylethanolamine Decreases Epileptiform Activity in Acute Human Hippocampal Slices in vitro, Front Mol Neurosci. 2019
It’s possible that it could stimulate neurons to make choline naturally. Or, it could prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine from happening as fast.
There is not enough evidence either way.16Kostopoulos GK, Phillis JW. The effects of dimethylaminoethanol (deanol) on cerebral cortical neurons, Psychopharmacol Commun. 1975
Ultimately, the jury is still out on how exactly DMAE affects the cholinergic system. If you are looking to directly increase ACh, you are probably better off with a different nootropic.
DMAE’s Anti-Inflammatory Properties
DMAE can also act as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, scrubbing free radicals from your cells.17Nagy I, Floyd RA. Electron spin resonance spectroscopic demonstration of the hydroxyl free radical scavenger properties of dimethylaminoethanol in spin trapping experiments confirming the molecular basis for the biological effects of centrophenoxine, Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 1984
DMAE Potential Side Effects
DMAE is a natural compound produced by the body. It is non toxic and should not produce any side effects when taken in the appropriate doses.
Many people stack it with a choline source for extra effect. Choline seems to have a synergistic effect with DMAE according to some anecdotal reports.
In high doses, some people report:
- Muscle pain
DMAE lowered the seizure threshold in rats and mice in large doses, so be mindful if you suffer from related conditions.
We strive to bring you the most up to date, research-based information about DMAE and other nootropics.
Something we missed? Do you use DMAE? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
About the author:
Erik Levi is a co-founder of HolisticNootropics.com and a certified holistic nutritional therapy practitioner.
As an NTP Erik takes a nutrition first approach to health. He has worked with many different people to help them use nutrition to optimize their quality of life.
Erik believes that mental health is a physiological process and cognitive enhancement is not something that can be achieved by just taking some pills with good Amazon reviews.
Instead, true cognitive enhancement comes with the right balance of nutrients, movement, and gratitude. Erik continues to stay up to date with the most current nootropic and holistic health research and promises to deliver the best solutions possible.
You can check out his personal health blog/podcast/YouTube Channel all under the name Holistic A-Hole.