Citicoline (also referred to as CDP choline) is just what your liver and kidney eating grandmother always wanted. Like these organs, citicoline is a reliable and bioavailable source of choline, the precursor for a brain chemical called acetylcholine. The CDP choline supplement tastes far better than organ meats and has many other benefits as well.

The CDP choline is a prodrug for choline and uridine. This is primarily useful for improving working memory and executive function [1], but many elderly use this compound to mitigate age related memory loss and neuronal decay [2]. Citicoline is also considered a neuroprotective agent, which is quite safe for human consumption [3].

CDP choline is one of the best and most bioavailable sources of choline (compared to lecithin, choline bitartrate, etc), which makes it a powerful and worthwhile tool. Given that our ancestors had far more choline-rich foods in their diet, citicoline can be a way to supplement this essential nutrient.

Also Known As

Citicholine, Cytidine Diphosphocholine

Editors’ Thoughts on Citicoline

I’ve had the good fortune to not only experience the benefit of citicoline, but also see it in others. Before my grandfather’s passing, he was taking CDP choline for memory loss and neuroprotective purposes. It was definitely helping him to maintain a better memory.

I don’t have much more experience with citicoline besides using it as a tool for racetams. I don’t get headaches with aniracetam or oxiracetam, but I choose to take a choline source anyway so I don’t have to worry about it.

Not everyone can benefit from more choline (I’ve heard lots of anecdotes of people who suffer from too much acetylcholine) so I would not recommend anyone take this with racetams purely because people discuss it on popular online forums.

Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor

Benefits of Citicoline

While there are many citicoline benefits, the most commonly discussed are the memory enhancement and support against cognitive decline. Because citicoline is a reliable source of choline (and thus acetylcholine), it is primarily known for this benefit. Indeed, one study of 24 elderly subjects showed increased working memory with CDP choline supplements [4]. Another test confirmed the same findings with “verbal memory formation” over the course of 2 – 3 months [5].

However, citicoline can be beneficial for far more than simply memory and cognition. In one novel study, CDP choline was used to increase focus and attention in healthy adult women [6]. Another series of studies indicated that citicoline was a good anti-addictive agent against cocaine addiction [7].

Another major benefit of CDP choline is the bioavailability. Most choline prodrugs, such as choline bitartrate or soy lecithin, are poorly absorbed by humans. In contrast, CDP is highly bioavailable so you can avoid huge doses and inefficient supplementation.

Finally, much evidence suggests that citicoline can be incredibly neuroprotective as well. This component is most likely due to uridine by way of preserving “dopaminergic neurons” in studies of different toxins [8].

How Does Citicoline Work?

There are two main ways that citicoline works in order to improve your memory formation, cognitive abilities, and prevent neurological decline. These are referred to as the “mechanism of action” and both are important for the whole process:

  1. Citicoline into Choline – this is one of the main ways CDP choline works to improve your brain function. The conversion to choline (with other steps in between) helps provide the precursor for acetylcholine, a brain neurotransmitter useful for memory formation in the hippocampus. This is primarily what racetams use to support memory formation and acetylcholine is a major part of that process.
  2. Citicoline into Uridine – the less common mechanism of action for citicoline is uridine, which is the more important molecule for neuroprotection of the brain [9]. While uridine can also improve acetylcholine levels [10], it has many talents that improve cognitive abilities.

Side Effects of Citicoline

There are relatively few side effects of citicoline, but every brain chemistry is different. Some people who take citicoline complain of headaches sometimes due to a higher volume of acetylcholine in the brain. This can create tension, pressure, and ultimately feels like a headache that is building. While some people anecdotally report this same feeling with racetams when they lack acetylcholine, a similar feeling has been reported when people have too much.

This is one thing to be careful of when combining citicoline with any other nootropic. Some people like to stack citicoline with unique blends like Qualia, Mind Lab Pro, or Alpha Brain, but all of these have a cholinergic compound already, which can create too much. The same can be said of taking citicoline and eating a high quantity of eggs at one time or even taking high powered racetams (like fasoracetam or phenylpiracetam).

Other citicoline side effects include anxiety and leg swelling, but both are rare and relatively mind. CDP choline is considered a very safe compound that has hundreds of studies, much scientific evidence, and plenty of safety research.

Citicoline Dosage

The standard dosage of citicoline will depend on your goals and desires. Most common references put the number at 250 – 1000 mg per day, but the higher end of this dose range is useful for memory formation and learning ability. Some studies and researchers even recommend doses as high as 2000 mg (broken up into two doses).

In contrast, the lone study showing CDP choline could improve attention found 250 mg was better than higher doses [11].

Citicoline vs Alpha GPC

Citicoline is the most bioavailable form of choline, but alpha GPC is also a good source. By weight, alpha GPC is considered the best acetylcholine precursor and can help mitigate age related degenerative diseases similar to citicoline.

When comparing citicoline vs. alpha GPC, there is plenty of uniqueness and it is not as simple as describing one as “better” or “worse” than the other. CDP choline has unique effects of providing uridine, which is neuroprotective. Alpha GPC choline is highly bioavailable, supports memory formation, prevents cognitive decline, and even has stimulating effects on the brain that can impact power output [12].

Pure Nootropics has created a blend of citicoline and Alpha GPC choline together, which may be able to provide the benefits of both in a single product.

Citicoline and Stimulants

While citicoline is technically a cholinergic that interacts with memory formation and learning ability, it also has effects on stimulation and concentration. Some people find that CDP choline is a good stimulant without the traditional anxiety-inducing options. For the people sensitive in this way, that makes things much easier.

For those who want a little bit more, sometimes it is useful to combine citicoline with stimulants like modafinil (or cousins adrafinil and armodafinil). A simpler bet is to combine with a basic nootropic combination like caffeine and L-theanine so as to avoid overstimulation.

How and Where to Buy Citicoline

Citicoline is approved and considered safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which means you can find this product in just about any grocery or supplement store. You can buy citicoline online if you need to do research and find effective pricing and margins. Most of the time, online retailers who sell piracetam and similar memory related compounds will also have choline products like citicoline.

The important thing when buying citicoline is to read the labels and actually find this specific compound. Many citicoline compounds will be labeled as “choline”, which can then be confused with choline bitartrate and soy lecithin. These are both less bioavailable and worthwhile products for improving cognitive function.

You are better off looking at the label to find CDP choline or citicoline specifically. This is one of the reasons why making a CDP choline purchase on the internet can be more effective. We recommend PureNootropics for purchases. PureNootropics is one of our most trusted vendors, they use third party testing to ensure quality and purity of the product.

Selected Community Experiences

I have been taking 250mg cdp choline before bed everyday for 4 months. 70% of my sleep I have vivid dreams…I have no problem to sleep and I don't feel tired after waking up though. [13]- tronatula

this is probebly the best choline source avaliable while also being a motivational drug that decreases the risk of schizophrenia by fixing the HPA axis. (alpha gpc was an utter waste of money and time while lacking any substantial nootropic qualities)…” [14]- huge_hefner

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