Qualia Review: The Most Comprehensive Nootropic Blend

When I first spoke on the phone with Daniel Schmachtenberger, co-founder of the Neurohacker Collective [1], 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 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 [2]. 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 [3]. 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…

qualia smart drug

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 [4], 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.

qualia review

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) [5], 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 [6]. Other additions to improve focus and attention include artichoke extract and forskolin (the foundation for the CILTEP stack) [7].

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 [8].

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) [9], which makes it a useful addition as well.

There are also a host of cholinergic compounds, which aim to increase production or utilization of acetylcholine. These include centrophenoxine, citicoline, and alpha GPC.

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.

Day 1

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” [9]. In this way, it was similar to modafinil for me.

Day 3

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) [10]. 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 [11].

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.

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.

References (Click to Expand)
  1. //neurohacker.com/daniel-schmachtenberger/
  2. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26876224
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. //docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1476W8G_gPpN9Ut-VmUBbSv943DkE55Q-SCJT9-mNzSw/edit?usp=sharing
  6. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18006208
  7. //www.longecity.org/forum/topic/51732-chemically-induced-ltp/
  8. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19145356
  9. //calnewport.com/books/deep-work/
  10. //4dv2rr2oq88x3vh6hkj2sel1.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/themes/neurohacker-collective/includes/assets/quickstart_guide/month_guide.pdf
  11. //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_of_all_trades,_master_of_none


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  • Nice breakdown and summary. I like the comparison to the DIY version. I agree that use of Qualia daily is ideal for those with higher disposable income and with cognitively demanding jobs. I tend to use it as needed, typically 2-3 times a week, which makes a bottle last far longer than a month. I also found that using 2/3 of a dose (2 step 1 and 4 step 2) worked well for me.

    • Mansal Denton

      Ahh good idea! I use as-needed as well. The lower dose might be effective for me 🙂

  • unreceivedogma

    I was looking for a serious review of this product, and got purely anecdotal bunk instead. Makes me less inclined to try the product.

    • Mansal Denton

      Haters gonna’ hate! Sorry you can’t un-read it 😉

      • Apollo

        What he says is true though.

  • Benjamin Scott

    Your price comparison section is horrifically flawed. In the ciltep comparison you explain they have higher quantities of each ingredient. You then proceed to breakdown price using the the fact those ingredients are 12% of qualia to justify price as if now the 2 are equal quantities. But let’s move past that and pretend it is done correctly. You have now set up the format of which we should expect to compare brands. We then move to alpha Brain. And there is no comparison of components at all. Just a completely ambiguous anecdotal paragraph that doesn’t actually explain anything and infact contradicts itself with the first and last sentences. You are completely biased in favour of qualia which is blantantly obvious in these hand picked and sometimes non existent statistics. Whether this product is actually better or not I am no closer to knowing after reading this.

    • Mansal Denton

      Hey Benjamin, sorry you feel that way. You’re right that it is very challenging to explain the differences in price between the two products.

      My objective was to help people take more accurate stock of the Qualia price tag because even though it is much higher than other products, it’s actually more valuable for what you get.

      I’ve had numerous people who feel this review was exactly what they needed to make a decision so it’s hard for me to justify deleting anything based on your input, though I do appreciate it! Good luck, Benjamin!

  • Allen Schell

    What about DHEA ?

    • Mansal Denton

      It’s not something I LOVE or recommend necessarily, but I don’t think it is bad in any way. I think it’s got limited evidence and questionable changes to internal hormone response.

  • Greg Erkins

    Tried but for 20% of the cost, Prevagen Apoaequorin works just as good.

    • Mansal Denton

      Interesting! Thanks for sharing the experience, Greg!

  • Elizabeth Kennedy

    Helpful article. Thank you. I’m new to Qualia and have used it for 4 days (every other day) at 1 Step One and 2 Step Two caps. I’m very sensitive to supplements, so taking it slow as I move up to 2/4. I like how it feels in my body, but I did have to cycle – the body didn’t want it every day. I am noticing slightly more clarity and ease – which may be the Qualia – we’ll see how it goes over time.

    • Mansal Denton

      Hey Elizabeth, congratulations on being a super conscious Qualia user 🙂 That’s awesome news. Glad you appreciate the content and respect yourself and limits. Keep up the mindful work !

  • Nat

    What are your current thoughts on Qualia? Is it still worth it or are there other stacks to look into?

  • Kevin Johnston

    I hope no more coops make any supplements. These guys are charging Big Pharma prices.

  • MrDarkside

    Well, I would have loved (and would still love) a comparison of this and Mind Lab Pro. Though having just bought a 3 month supply of MLP, I’ll give that a go and then cycle into Qualia. I’m intrigued.