When I first spoke on the phone with Daniel Schmachtenberger, co-founder of the Neurohacker Collective , I had researched neither the man nor the business and had no idea what to expect.
After speaking for nearly an hour and a half, he had not only impressed me with his approach to nootropics and cognitive enhancement, but also showed where the Neurohacker Collective was headed (hint: it’s a collective, not just a company)
This context is important when viewing their flagship product Qualia, which is one of the most comprehensive and well-crafted unique nootropic stacks currently on the market.
With 42 ingredients split between two dosages (Step 1 and Step 2) and a guidebook (called the “Bio-Hardware Upgrade”), Qualia is definitely not for the feint of heart and neither is the hefty price tag.
But the price tag might be worth it.
For certain people with certain goals, Qualia might be the right fit. For others, less so.
This Qualia review will help you not only determine if the nootropic stack works, but also whether it is worth the price and what potential drawbacks you might experience.
A Whole New Approach
As someone immersed within the nootropic and smart drug space, the thing that excites me the most about Qualia is the new approach.
Every company that produces a unique nootropic blend has to also consider themselves as a business with a profit motive. Thus far, this has led to many nootropic stacks of dubious quality.
The two that stand out the most are Alpha Brain, Mind Lab Pro, and OptiMind with the former being better than the latter. At least Alpha Brain has invested in a brand that rewards transparency (to see their doses) in addition to clinical trials . Both are still lacking in many ways.
Qualia seems to provide a completely different approach to unique nootropic stacks than any other brand I have seen. It’s an approach whereby they are paying more attention to detail and disregarding the cost to themselves.
#1. Qualia is a split stack – some natural compounds are fat soluble (such as bacopa) while others are not. Instead of treating everything the same, Qualia has gone to great expense to provide two separate bottles and products for early AM fasted state and with food later in the day.
#2. Qualia doses nootropics adequately – while “adequate” is subjective, Qualia puts doses of each ingredient that are either within the standard dosage or nearly as much . Many other companies “fairy dust” meaning they sprinkle some compounds so they can use it in marketing, but the quantity is not nearly enough for any psychoactive compounds.
This is why Qualia Part 2 consists of sucking down 6 horse pills in the afternoon (it’s not that bad).
Focusing more attention on detail, Qualia costs the manufacturers more to make, which they must pass on to the customer. But the price difference might not be as bad as you think…
What Does Qualia Cost and Is it Worth It?
To purchase Qualia for a full month supply, it is $149. If you purchase a subscription it is $129 (read until the end of this section and I’ll give you a discount code).
Before you balk at the price, consider comparing Qualia with many of the other popular nootropic stacks on the market AND what it would cost for you to buy all the ingredients yourself.
Qualia vs. CILTEP
The main ingredients to create the CILTEP stack (there are 5) are all found in Qualia. The dosage for many of these 5 ingredients is smaller in Qualia, but still effective for psychoactive effects.
A single bottle of CILTEP is $43 for 20 days, which means it costs $2.15 per serving. In Qualia, these 5 ingredients are only 12% of the total ingredients (42 total). Thus, if Qualia costs $6.77 per serving then 12% ($6.77 x 0.12) is $0.81 per serving.
To summarize, for similar ingredients to perform chemically-induced long-term potentiation (CILTEP):
CILTEP Natural Stacks = $2.15 / serving
Qualia Neurohacker Collective = $0.81 / serving
There are plenty of flaws with this math , but it goes to show Qualia may be expensive… but you may get a lot more for your money.
Qualia vs. Alpha Brain
This isn’t even a comparison. These are two completely separate tiers.
The cost of Alpha Brain is $2.33 / serving while Qualia is $6.77 / serving. Without going into too much math or analysis, this suggests Alpha Brain is about ⅓ of the cost.
It is plausible to suggest Alpha Brain is ⅓ the benefit of Qualia (that’s generous), which means the two are equally priced for what they can provide.
So as a ratio of cost and benefits (subjective to my opinion), Alpha Brain and Qualia are about equally priced.
Do it Yourself Qualia: What’s the Burden?
I’ve created a small chart that shows you what it would be like to create the Qualia stack on your own. I ensured I was buying the higher quality products as I imagine the Neurohacker Collective is doing.
If you buy all of the ingredients yourself it’s going to cost a total of $711.67 (give or take $100 in either direction) , but that will yield more servings. Here is where the DIY price comparison gets really interesting…
The price per serving of Qualia is $6.77 if you purchase a single $149 order.
The price per serving of Qualia is $5.86 if you purchase a subscription at $129 per month.
The price per serving of DIY Qualia is $9.16 if you purchase all the ingredients separately by yourself with moderate quality.
Wait, what? Is it possible that Neurohacker Collective is a non-profit organization selling Qualia and losing money to help improve your brain?
Well, no. They have a much cheaper price on ingredients because they buy in bulk and they purchase lower quantities of certain ingredients than you can find for sale.
But the point is, you couldn’t save money doing it yourself, which suggests the current price of Qualia is quite good.
The bigger question is whether or not you’d like to consume 43-80 capsules per day. I have a hard enough with 9 from both steps of Qualia so “no, thank you” is my answer.
What Are the Benefits of Qualia?
Even if Qualia isn’t as outrageously expensive as it might initially seem, the harder test is whether the benefits of this all-inclusive supplement are worthwhile.
A skim of the ingredients will show any nootropic enthusiast that the objective with Qualia is essentially everything. They’re trying to build an all-in-one stack.
Personally, I feel like this isn’t the optimal approach because each individual’s biochemistry is so different, genetics vary, life experiences, etc. etc. It really should be each person’s individual responsibility to determine specific goals and seek to supplement to achieve them.
But, I live in the real world and realize that 9 / 10 people don’t want to spend the time and energy to develop a personal stack.
That means getting a trusted source to achieve ALL of these benefits (click on each to drop-down a more detailed analysis):
- Focus & Concentration
Qualia increases focus and concentration through various mechanisms. The most obvious is the combination of caffeine and L-theanine in the proper ratio . Other additions to improve focus and attention include artichoke extract and forskolin (the foundation for the CILTEP stack) .
For many people, ingredients such as noopept, rhodiola, alpha GPC, theobromine, lion’s mane, and acetyl-L-carnitine can be useful for improving focus and concentration as well. Qualia is well equipped in this department.
- Memory Formation & Learning
There is plenty of overlap between the memory and concentration benefits. The CILTEP stack mentioned above is also said to enhance memory formation. Noopept is currently used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and degenerative diseases .
Ginkgo biloba is very popular as a memory enhancer and bacopa monnieri is one of the most famous Ayurvedic herbs. Lion’s mane mushroom is known to increase nerve-growth factor (NGF) , which makes it a useful addition as well.
- Anti-Oxidant & Inflammation
The anti-oxidant and anti-inflammation of Qualia seems pretty strong. The big benefits here are the combination of curcumin and bioperine. Then ingredients like quercetin, green tea extract, and the BioPQQ are also useful.
- Stress & Anxiety
There are a few compounds in Qualia that can also improve feelings of stress and anxiety. Specifically, N-acetyl-L-tyrosine (NALT) is effective as is rhodiola rosea.
A host of vitamins and minerals may also relieve stress and anxiety. Due to lacking modern nutrition, fulfilling these daily requirements can be as effective (if not more so) than taking any alternative anxiety drug.
This Qualia nootropic review may be incomplete due to my ignorance, but these are the basics.
Personal Experience with Qualia
Realistically, this entire Qualia supplement review has been peppered with my personal experience and philosophy, but I have 3 days of subjective information to go by with a few conclusions.
This was not a great start for Qualia. The comparison was all subjective (to other experiences), but my focus felt a bit scattered compared to my usual caffeine + l-theanine combination. There were frequent moments of odd headaches.
Part 2 brought increased focus, but I had a tendency to desire monotonous / repetitive tasks versus creative or “deep work” . In this way, it was similar to modafinil for me.
The third time I took Qualia (non-consecutive days) was much, much better. It seemed like my brain had adapted to the new confluence of substances. I felt more productive, but very different from caffeine (the first day it was only subtle differences between Qualia and caffeine).
My diet and sleep on both days were good, but diet on this day was even better. I fasted for longer, ate sardines, greens, and coconut / butter green tea along with my Step 2. Even though I still had a sense of “buzzing” (which might be uncomfortable for some), it didn’t feel like overstimulation, which I have felt with modafinil or high caffeine doses.
The only drawback on this day was a slight stomachache. For some context, it has been probably a year since I’ve had a stomach ache so it’s pretty safe to draw a correlation.
Side Effects of Qualia: What Are the Drawbacks?
According to the Qualia product guide / website, users can see more advantages with extended use (5 times per week) . This may work for some people, but is simply too much for me. I’m very sensitive to compounds and Qualia has a lot of stuff going on.
Someone with a very simple approach to nootropics might say Qualia has too much going on. As the old adage goes, jack of all trades, master of none .
Having slight headaches and stomachaches aren’t the end of the world (especially given how brief they are), but if it happens every time and it’s impossible to take out the culprit ingredient, the results make me question whether or not it is worth it.
In the end, I’d say it is worth it, but not 5 times per week. More of an “as-needed” stack. I currently include it 2-3 times per week.
Finally, even though Qualia tackles most aspects of cognitive health and enhanced performance, in some aspects they simply fall short. Most notably, 200 mg of algal DHA is not nearly enough per day. You will need to consume some sort of fish oil omega-3 supplement in addition to Qualia.
I’m sure this wasn’t malicious or underhanded in any way (perhaps limitations of space), but it’s important to note so that you aren’t considering Qualia the “one and done” nootropic option.
The Neurohacker Collective Team
One reason it's so easy to get behind Qualia is because of the Neurohacker Collective team. While we have done a Neurohacker Collective spotlight, it's useful to note the team's capabilities in this review of Qualia as well.
Daniel Schmachtenberger, his brother James Schmachtenberger, and Jordan Greenhall are individually credentialed enough with knowledge and previous ventures to make Neurohacker successful. Combined, these three create a powerhouse in the nootropics industry.
During the Brain Optimization Summit, I did an interview with Daniel Schmachtenberger that was too good not to share.
On a Mission – Who is Qualia For?
Imagine a sales executive for a software business who makes over 6-figures per year. He’s aware that having the best mental performance means more money and a higher likelihood of getting promoted.
He’s a little more interested in optimizing his brain than simply picking up a mainstream product, such as Alpha Brain, but with a host of familial responsibilities and a mission to climb the corporate ladder, he also refuses to spend time researching and tweaking his personal nootropic stack.
This is the type of person Qualia was made for.
Qualia is most useful for high performance individuals (entrepreneurs, executives, professionals) who want to outsource their brain health 100% to somebody else because focusing on the minutia doesn’t interest them.
However, with plenty of money to spend, there is no reason to outsource complete brain health to just anybody. It might as well be the best unique blend that money can buy.
Does this seem like you? If so, check out Qualia here and make sure to use the coupon code “NOOTROPEDIA” to save 10% on your order.
2018 Qualia Review
What could change in 1.5 years of using Qualia? Well, many things…
…but it is hard to pinpoint how Qualia has directly influenced my life more broadly.
Using a product for any length of time offers a more nuanced understanding not only of the drug, but also how it interacts with our complex brain and body.
Taking a substance like Qualia for over 1.5 years has offered me a few luxuries, which are worth sharing after the fact to make your experience even more effective.
Homeostatic Equilibrium: Why Cycle Qualia?
There is a phrase I refer to often, which is a quote from a famous neuroscientist:
“homeostatic equilibrium shall not be denied”
This essentially means that our complex body and brain is constantly seeking a state of equilibrium where it feels balanced and “normal”. Most nootropic users (or professionals for that matter) have experience drinking a cup of coffee and then quickly building a tolerance over a few days that requires more and more in order to have the same effect.
This is the body trying to find equilibrium. It has several mechanisms of doing so and all are very complex. This is relevant because I have found that cycling Qualia has a huge impact on the experience that I have with the stack.
As I indicated before, there are so many well-dosed ingredients in this stack, but what happens when you are taking it every single day (or 5 times per week as they've recommended)? Many times people experience the cognitive effects start to wear off over time.
This is not the end of the world. After all, one of the highlights of Qualia is that they aren't simply trying to activate a stress response with stimulants, but are trying to upgrade all aspects of cognition. From their own page, they're focused on the following:
As you can see from these six approaches, it is possible to experience the benefits of Qualia without actually subjectively feeling them.
For someone who is obsessed with achieving a certain feeling of mental stimulation, cycling off of Qualia and using it less frequently might be a good idea. For someone who is interested in the entire benefit of the nootropic stack, it's fine to take it as recommended (5 times per week), but know that you are making a sacrifice in that way.
If you're on board with that, consider other nootropics during the week that might go well with Qualia. For example, many people use racetams alongside Qualia throughout the week. Phenylpiracetam and fasoracetam are two such stimulating racetams that develops a tolerance and require cycling.
Many of the others (including piracetam, aniracetam, and oxiracetam) can be taken in combination with or during a cycling protocol. I tend to use some type of stimulatory nootropic with a more long-term and sustainable mitochondria support nootropic.
Added Qualia Benefit: Increased Empathy
The original article was published on Qualia after a month or two of using the nootropic stack. The results were obviously there, but a nuanced understanding of how Qualia interacted with my brain in comparison to other nootropics was not.
Over 18 months of using Qualia all over the world while traveling, in my documentary A Head Above, and elsewhere, I have noticed the added one benefit of Qualia that was unexpected:
Feeling empathy for others and having a deeper ability to understand their feelings is a rare feature of a nootropic compound. The only time I've experienced added empathy through a substance has come from psychedelics like psilocybin or ayahuasca (including the psychoactive ingredient DMT).
Traditionally, psychedelics are the best substances to add empathy as a cognitive skill. It is virtually impossible (save perhaps oxytocin) for nootropics to provide any added benefit in empathy so this nuanced subjective experience is telling.
Even though my subjective experience over 18 months has noticed a trend of increased empathy while using Qualia, that does not automatically make it true for everyone. This is based heavily on my anecdotal and subjective experience and there is little scientific inquiry into which of the ingredients (or combinations of ingredients) might be the cause of this feeling.
Nonetheless, added empathy is perhaps one of the rarest and most useful cognitive skills to attain from a nootropic. Why?
In a world filled with more machines, artificial intelligence, and technology, empathy will be one of the major remaining human-only capabilities.
Machines can currently program well and create amazing feats of engineering, but they are a lot further away from consoling a sick or grief-stricken person. That requires other humans.
Not only do professions that help others require added empathy, but so do entrepreneurs, sales people, and anyone who makes a living based on the decisions of others. When we can increase our empathy, we are able to communicate and resolve conflicts with others, which makes us far more likely to be successful.
So as lacking in scientific backing as my claim of increased empathy through Qualia might be, it is worth noting given the importance of this skill in the wider world.
What Comes After Qualia?
Given my connections within the nootropics world, I've had the opportunity to also meet and spend time with all the Neurohacker Collective founders over the past 18 months (including staying at their home and developing a closer relationship with them).
From that, I've learned quite a few things about their future plans and while I cannot give away too many details, I will say it looks promising. Qualia has already propelled the Neurohacker Collective into a top spot as one of the most successful nootropic companies that currently exists. They're in the same category as Onnit or HVMN (formerly Nootrobox).
Unlike those companies, they only have a single product…
What is coming down the pipeline seems to be worth paying attention to even if you buy Qualia and don't find it to be at the level that you desire. The products they will be releasing over the next months are going to be focused on specific intentions, but all of them are studied with well-researched formulators and the support of an advisory team that is pretty stellar.
If you haven't had a chance to buy Qualia check it out here and make sure to use the coupon code “NOOTROPEDIA” to save 10% on your order.
- References (Click to Expand)
- Many ingredients have less than the recommended dose because there are synergies between ingredients. For example, you don’t need as much citicoline when you have alpha GPC in the same drug.
- The biggest flaw with this math is to assume the CILTEP ingredients are only 12% of the cost because they are 12% of the ingredients. I’m sure this isn’t true.