Sulbutiamine – An Overview
Sulbutiamine is a synthetic nootropic compound that, for many users, has a noticeable effect on
- Focus (ADHD)
It was originally developed in Japan in the 1960s for the treatment of beriberi, which was a public health problem in Japan until the 2nd World War1Lucien Bettendorff, Pierre Wins. Thiamine derivatives in excitable tissues: metabolism, deficiency and neurodegenerative diseases, Recent Res Devel. Neurochem.,2. 1999 .
It’s considered one of the more potent stimulatory nootropics out there. It is one of the few that you can really feel when it “kicks in.”
Many people use it as an alternative to stimulants like Adderall for short term energy boosts.
What Does Sulbutiamine Do?
Sulbutiamine For Mood
Sulbutiamine has a mood-elevating nootropic effect for many people who take it.
In fact, some users claim that it is a better antidepressant than many pharmaceuticals.
Although these reports are anecdotal, there are some clinical studies that indicate sulbutiamine can improve feelings of subjective wellbeing.
One study found that after taking thiamine for two months, a large group of women reported a higher mood.
Subjects reported feeling “more clear-headed, composed and energetic” in general.2Benton D, Griffiths R, Haller J. Thiamine supplementation mood and cognitive functioning, Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1997
Sulbutiamine For Neuroprotection
Lack of vitamin B1 is associated with cognitive decline, including conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Wernicke’s encephalopathy or Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and Huntington’s disease.3Bubko I, Gruber BM, Anuszewska EL. The role of thiamine in neurodegenerative diseases, Postepy Hig Med Dosw (Online). 2015
Sulbutiamine provides a super bioavailable form of B1 that can act take effect immediately and keep the brain healthy, especially in the face of oxidative stress.
In fact, it’s fast-acting nature could limit the damage to neurons if it is given during or shortly after a stroke.4Kwag J, Majid AS, Kang KD. Evidence for neuroprotective effect of sulbutiamine against oxygen-glucose deprivation in rat hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons, Biol Pharm Bull. 2011
Sulbutiamine for Chronic Fatigue and Energy
Sulbutiamine is one of the few nootropics that has an effect on energy that you may actually notice.
Most users feel a lift comparable to caffeine when it kicks in. Due to this effect, it may be an effective treatment for pathological fatigue, sometimes called asthenia.
In fact, sulbutiamine is prescribed for treating fatigue in France.
There is clinical evidence that sulbutiamine can treat asthenia caused by infectious disease or cerebral damage.
It is so effective that many patients saw a complete reversal in symptoms after two weeks of use.5Shah SN. Adjuvant role of vitamin B analogue (sulbutiamine) with anti-infective treatment in infection associated asthenia, J Assoc Physicians India. 2003
Multiple trials have confirmed that sulbutiamine is also effective in treating the general fatigue that comes from multiple sclerosis.
Fatigue is one of the most pervasive symptoms of MS, and many patients report that it is the aspect of the disease that lowers their quality of life the most.
Fortunately, research shows sulbutiamine can significantly increase energy in patients suffering from this disease and is extremely well-tolerated.6Sevim S, Kaleağası H, Taşdelen B. Sulbutiamine shows promising results in reducing fatigue in patients with multiple sclerosis, Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2017 7Hadjimichael O, Vollmer T, Oleen-Burkey M. Fatigue characteristics in multiple sclerosis: the North American Research Committee on Multiple Sclerosis (NARCOMS) survey, Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2008
On a related note, one interesting study found that sulbutiamine shortens the duration of what’s called “psycho-behavioral inhibition” that occurs during major depression.
Psycho-behavioral inhibition refers to the general lack of motivation and engagement that afflicts depressed people.
Even after the depression lifts, some people may still have trouble resuming day-to-day tasks.
Sulbutiamine can help motivate and re-engage people suffering from depression, although the researchers did not find any evidence of it actually treating the depression itself.8Lôo H, Poirier MF, Ollat H, Elatki S. Effects of sulbutiamine (Arcalion 200) on psycho-behavioral inhibition in major depressive episodes, Encephale. 2000
Although no official studies have been done on healthy patients, it’s clear from anecdotal reports that sulbutiamine can be used as a nootropic supplement to boost energy for people looking for an edge.
Sulbutiamine For Memory
Many nootropics users take sulbutiamine for its memory enhancing benefits. There is some clinical evidence that supports this.
According to research, sulbutiamine helps encode and store memories by modulating the flow choline, dopamine, and glutamate.
These neurotransmitters are all vital parts of the brain’s memory systems. It seems that sulbutiamine can increase the speed and ease of transmission between these receptors, allowing for better memory formation and quicker recall.9Micheau J, et al. Chronic administration of sulbutiamine improves long term memory formation in mice: possible cholinergic mediation, Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1985 10Trovero F, et al. Evidence for a modulatory effect of sulbutiamine on glutamatergic and dopaminergic cortical transmissions in the rat brain, Neurosci Lett. 2000
Numerous animal studies indicate that improving the flow of glutamate improves memory in various tasks, including spatial tasks and object recognition.
They also indicate that thiamine can increase the rate of glutamate transmission. These trials suggest that at therapeutic doses, sulbutiamine can improve memory in the rats.11Puma C, Baudoin C, Bizot JC. Effects of intraseptal infusions of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor ligands on memory in an object recognition task in rats, Neurosci Lett. 1998 12Parada-Turska J, Turski WA. Excitatory amino acid antagonists and memory: effect of drugs acting at N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors in learning and memory tasks, Neuropharmacology. 1990 13Bizot JC, et al. Chronic treatment with sulbutiamine improves memory in an object recognition task and reduces some amnesic effects of dizocilpine in a spatial delayed-non-match-to-sample task, Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2005
We also know that B1 deficiency is associated with memory problems like dementia in humans.
Although there haven’t been any studies on healthy humans, it seems that sulbutiamine can help you maintain proper levels of this crucial vitamin and keep your memory functioning optimally.
Sulbutiamine vs. Thiamine: What’s the Difference?
Ultimately, sulbutiamine is just a more potent version of thiamine. There are some important distinctions between the two.
For one, thiamine can be found in natural sources (such as beef, legumes, nuts, milk, and oats), whereas sulbutiamine is a synthetic product.
Another important difference is that thiamine is water-soluble while sulbutiamine is fat-soluble.
This means that sulbutiamine is much more bioavailable for the brain, which is primarily composed of fat.
Thiamine will get there eventually, but it will take longer, and more of it will be metabolized before it reaches the neurons.14Marie-Laure Volvert, et al. Benfotiamine, a synthetic S-acyl thiamine derivative, has different mechanisms of action and a different pharmacological profile than lipid-soluble thiamine disulfide derivatives, BMC Pharmacol. 2008
That said, some of the sources we use will be talking about thiamine, not sulbutiamine specifically.
But keep in mind that every benefit that thiamine has, sulbutiamine has as well.
Sulbutiamine For Erectile Dysfunction
There is one small study that indicates sulbutiamine could be helpful for treating psychogenic ED.
Psychogenic ED is when erections fail for mental reasons rather than physical.
This makes sense, considering sulbutiamine can improve mood and focus. More research certainly needs to be done, but this is a promising initial finding.15Dmitriev DG, Gamidov SI, Permiakova OV. Clinical efficacy of the drug enerion in the treatment of patients with psychogenic (functional) erectile dysfunction, Urologiia. 2005
How Sulbutiamine Works In The Brain
There are still many questions as to how sulbutiamine specifically functions in the brain.
Sulbutiamine’s main role in the brain is to deliver thiamin where it is then broken down into thiamin derivatives and more effectively used.
Naturally occurring thiamin does not usually end up in the brain but can be quite beneficial when delivered via sulbutiamine.
In the brain, these derivatives are used as cofactors in mitochondrial functions and the Krebs cycle to make ATP16L Bettendorff, P Wins, M Lesourd. Subcellular Localization and Compartmentation of Thiamine Derivatives in Rat Brain, Biochim Biophys Acta. 1994 .
This might explain why sulbutiamine has been shown to increase mental energy and alertness.
The brain is also very receptive to sulbutiamine as there have been thiamine diphosphate (sulbutiamine derivative) pools discovered in brain cells that help biosynthesis of the compound.17Lucien Bettendorff 1, Pierre Wins Thiamin Diphosphate in Biological Chemistry: New Aspects of Thiamin Metabolism, Especially Triphosphate Derivatives Acting Other Than as Cofactors, FEBS J. 2009 .
Sulbutiamine also contains thiols which help upregulate glutathione status to give antioxidant benefits in the brain18Kui Dong Kang, Aman Shah Abdul Majid, Kyung-A Kim, Kyungsu Kang, Hong Ryul Ahn, Chu Won Nho, Sang Hoon Jung. Sulbutiamine Counteracts Trophic Factor Deprivation Induced Apoptotic Cell Death in Transformed Retinal Ganglion Cells, Neurochem Res. 2010 .
Is Sulbutiamine A Stimulant?
Although sulbutiamine lacks the punch of traditional stimulants, such as amphetamines, many users still find that it increases mental arousal in a somewhat similar way.
For this reason, we would caution against taking sulbutiamine too close to bedtime, as it may keep you awake.
Should I Take Sulbutiamine?
Sulbutiamine is a derivative of thiamine AKA vitamin B1.
Vitamin B1 is a critical micronutrient that cannot be made by the human body and must be absorbed from an external source.
It is extremely important for metabolism, nerve growth, and general health.
Thiamine deficiency can lead to illness and, eventually, death. In fact, sulbutiamine was first synthesized by the Japanese as a way to make up for the lack of this nutrient in their rice-based diet.19Sulbutiamine, Wikipedia
Sulbutiamine is two thiamine molecules bonded together in such a way that it can cross the blood-brain barrier very quickly.
This bond also makes it fat-soluble, which allows the brain to use immediately.20Sevim S, Kaleağası H, Taşdelen B. Sulbutiamine shows promising results in reducing fatigue in patients with multiple sclerosis, Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2017
This rapid uptake of vitamin B1 by the brain is responsible for its nootropic effect.
Most users report feeling energized, more alert, and mentally sharp when taking sulbutiamine.
In high doses, it may cause overstimulation, and it is usually a good idea to avoid taking it every day so that tolerance does not build.
How Much Sulbutiamine Should I Take?
The typical therapeutic dose is about 400-600 mg daily, ideally taken with food.
The dose can be split and taken throughout the day but be wary of taking it too close to bedtime.
Sulbutiamine Potential Side Effects
In general, sulbutiamine is well-tolerated.
Some users report mild agitation or overstimulation when taking sulbutiamine. This can usually be avoided by lowering the dose.
If this feeling persists, sulbutiamine may not be the best option for you.
There is also the possibility of allergic skin reactions, although this is quite rare.
Do you have questions about, supplementing with Sulbutiamine? Do you have experience supplementing with Sulbutiamine? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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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.