Eating broccoli may have seemed like a chore as a child, but mothers worldwide seemed to have gotten it right. Sulforaphane is a compound found in all cruciferous vegetables, but primarily broccoli, which has potent antioxidant properties  and immune boosting effects .
Sulforaphane isn’t new, but Dr. Rhonda Patrick and other popular health figures have increased the popularity of this compound for general and cognitive enhancement purposes. The compound isn’t an essential nutrient, but has powerful benefits similar on scale to curcumin.
Many sulforaphane benefits are lacking in research, but some evidence suggests strong neuroprotective effects and even a reduction in symptoms of diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia .
Also Known As
Broccoli sprouts, broccoli extract
Editors’ Thoughts on Sulforaphane
I first learned about sulforaphane from Dr. Rhonda Patrick, who has really brought this specific compound into the mainstream consciousness (via help from Joe Rogan). My 23andme results suggest I remove toxins from my body slowly and carcinogens build up in my system. One suggestion was to eat more broccoli and this is one of the reasons why.
Sulforaphane isn’t going to be a compound that increases focus or concentration in any significant way, but will aid overall longevity and brain health. It is similar to taking a general wellness supplement, but this is far more targeted towards removing harmful toxins from the body.
I’ve just started using sulforaphane and it doesn’t provide any noticeable effects, but the research convinces me of the theoretical value. Dr. Rhonda Patrick is also a well-respected member of the community so I’m pretty confident in her promoting a sulforaphane supplement or even broccoli sprouts.
Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor
The main cognitive sulforaphane benefit is neuroprotection and prevention of many neurodegenerative diseases. A 2013 study suggested sulforaphane could reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease even though scientists couldn’t determine why .
The same broccoli sprout extract can have neuroprotective effects against Parkinson’s disease, which afflicts dopaminergic functioning in the brain . Between Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, there are millions of elderly worldwide suffering and sulforaphane seems to be a naturally derived solution.
All of these neuroprotective effects are downstream results from the antioxidant sulforaphane benefits. Though these are many and varied, one is called the “NRF2” pathway. No need to remember this fact, but it seems to be one of the main benefits of sulforaphane in addition to “heat shock proteins” . Enough confusing science for now…
Beyond the neuroprotection, these same sulforaphane benefits can help overcome traumatic brain injury (TBI). One study of mice immediately following a TBI showed memory enhancements using only this powerful antioxidant .
A major sulforaphane benefit is for cancer reduction and prevention. Because of the strong immune boosting and antioxidant properties, sulforaphane can reduce risk of prostate, colorectal, and a host of other cancer types  . While the compound may help reduce symptoms after cancer has formed, it is primarily useful for prevention more than anything else.
Finally, as if all of the neuroprotection and anti-cancer benefits weren’t enough, a major sulforaphane benefit is for mood disorders. One study showed the NRF2 pathway (mentioned above) has significant impacts on depression. This suggests sulforaphane could help reduce symptoms of depression, though more research is needed to confirm .
How Does Sulforaphane Work?
Sulforaphane works primarily by reducing inflammation and oxidizing toxins. The primarily pathways sulforaphane improves are unique to cruciferous vegetables . In this 2014 study in the Journal of Nutrition, scientists found that cruciferous vegetables alone contribute to a significant reduction in markers of inflammation within humans.
The main reason cruciferous vegetables are so healthy is because of the benefits of sulforaphane. This makes sense given the importance placed on vegetables within the human diet over our history as a species.
Sulforaphane and Dr. Rhonda Patrick
One of the largest proponents for broccoli extract is Dr. Rhonda Patrick. As part of her video series, she accumulated dozens of studies showing that sulforaphane extract is a powerful tool for many mechanisms.
The sulforaphane from broccoli seems to be a favored nutrient for Patrick. She has found evidence to suggest the broccoli sprouts sulforaphane benefits may include added longevity. A study of red flour beetles showed a 15 – 32% jump in mean lifespan with a broccoli heavy diet . She also suggests that a sulforaphane supplement could reduce DNA damage.
Sulforaphane Side Effects
There are no known sulforaphane side effects, though most people familiar with supplements will recognize that there is always a “catch”. With sulforaphane, the most likely side effect would be related to a poor quality product or too heavy dosage.
Because human dosage recommendations are not well-known, there is a range (see below) to start with. Some people may experience gastrointestinal distress from a dosage that is too high. The concentrated nature of anything (including broccoli extract) can cause a reaction.
The right broccoli extract dosage is dependent upon weight. Each sulforaphane dosage will be dependent on weight, but follows ranges that are between 0.1 – 0.5 mg / kg of bodyweight. A good marker to go by is:
- 7 – 34 mg for a 150 lb. person
- 9 – 45 mg for a 200 lb person
The optimal sulforaphane dosage isn’t known, though many of the studies have varying suggestions. It may be useful to start off with 20 mg of sulforaphane in addition to broccoli sprouts or raw broccoli. Below there are figures in human studies suggesting ranges of up to 40 – 60 mg per day.
This is a higher sulforaphane dosage, but it is a good starting point for general antioxidant, immune support, and cognitive protection.
How and Where to Buy Sulforaphane
The sulforaphane from broccoli is often challenging to get from the vegetable itself. It seems that broccoli goes through an enzyme reaction to produce sulforaphane only when it is cut. This is why broccoli sprouts and damaged raw broccoli has sulforaphane while the cooked versions we eat do not.
This means it is possible to make sulforaphane for yourself, but easier to get a sulforaphane supplement. There are a few brands selling broccoli extract, but we suggest first looking into the broccoli sprouts.
According to Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s figures, the cancer and heart disease studies show 40 – 60 mg per day is useful, which is possible by consuming 100 – 140 mg of raw broccoli sprouts.
If you are going to take sulforaphane in supplemental form (if you don’t have the patience or budget for high quantities of broccoli sprouts), it’s important to understand a few errors people make.
The most common form of sulforaphane supplement is called glucosinolate as this is one of the main active ingredients affecting inflammation markers. Most of the studies show that sulforaphane glucosinolate is popular, but not effective for supplementation purposes.
The reason sulforaphane glucosinolate doesn’t work is because it misses a key enzyme called “myrosinase”, which is found in the cruciferous vegetables as well. Unfortunately, this is removed upon heating for extended periods so be mindful of that.
Luckily, we can consume sulforaphane glucosinolate with some other form of “myrosinase”, which should be able to do the trick . The best way to do this seems to be adding mustard seed or some type of myrosinase.
Finally, it seems the best sulforaphane supplement is currently called Avmacol by Nutramax. As you can see from Rhonda Patrick’s comment below, this is the best currently available supplement form of sulforaphane.
Selected Community Experiences
“This is why I have 4 jars in rotation sprouting broccoli. I have fresh stuff almost every day.” 
“The best way to process broccoli to optimize sulforaphane production maybe to chop it up fine or blend it up raw and allow it to stand at room temperature a while. The chopping it up simulates an insect attack and the sulforaphane purpose maybe defense. After the enzyme has had time to do its magic cooking methods likely will not matter much. You do end up with perhaps something only suitable to make soup with.”  – 1WithTheUniverse
These few sulforaphane reviews online aren’t good indicators of the true value of this compound. Most of the research is theoretical and finding adequate supplementation is difficult. Until now, there are few options besides making broccoli sprouts at home (or buying them).
Of course, more sulforaphane reviews will help you to make a decision. It does seem like this is an effective cognitive enhancer and neuroprotective based on the scientific studies alone.
- References (Click to Expand)