Natural nootropics are usually very safe. When you’re using the best nootropics made by reputable manufacturers with high standards, then it is highly unlikely that you will experience any side effects whatsoever. It is even more unlikely that a natural nootropic supplement will cause brain damage. As far as we know, there are no commonly-used natural nootropics which are thought to cause brain damage in any way.
Now, this does not apply to every brain supplement in existence. There are lots of substances out there which are more than capable of causing brain damage if abused; Adderall is a prime example!
This also doesn’t apply to people who have serious brain injuries or pre-existing problems with their brains. If that is you, you need to talk to your doctor before using ANY nootropics at all. In fact, we recommend getting proper advice from your regular physician before using any nootropic whoever you are.
In fact, the contrary is sometimes true: many natural nootropics can protect the brain from traumatic injury, and others can mitigate the effects of brain damage or persistent brain injury (e.g. from boxing). Some natural nootropics may even be able to promote recovery after brain injury.
But there are still a lot of people out there who worry about the potential of nootropics to cause brain damage.
Can nootropics cause brain damage? Do any nootropics help protect the brain from traumatic brain injury or concussion?
Before we answer this question, we need to properly define brain injury to delineate what nootropics can and cannot do for brain damage.
Brain damage and brain injury: What is it?
It is important to clarify what we mean by brain damage and brain injury.
For our purposes, there is a big difference between a brain injury caused by trauma (known as a Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI) and brain damage that is either genetic or caused by the body itself (this is known as Acquired Brain Injury or ABI).
In simple terms, a TBI is a brain injuries caused by things like boxing, or falling from height, or banging your head in some way. In other words, it’s when the external world effectively causes the injury.
An ABI, in contrast, is caused either by a genetic fault or by some kind of internal event such as a stroke or aneurysm.
Obviously, natural nootropics are not effective for protecting against ABIs. Nor are nootropics particularly useful for promoting recovery from ABIs or systemic brain damage.
But some natural nootropics have been found to be effective for protecting against and promoting recovery from traumatic brain injuries and minor brain damage.
Before we go any further, we need to point out that nootropics are not as effective for treating brain damage or brain injury of any kind than the medicine or treatments prescribed by your doctor. Brain injuries are extremely differential and very serious; you need tailored medical care to treat them and recover from them. Natural nootropics are not the answer; they just might help some people.
Symptoms of brain injuries
The symptoms of a brain injury of course depend on the type of brain injury, and the specific brain damage it has caused.
Significant damage to one part of the brain might impair motor skills, while brain damage in another area may cause rapid personality changes.
However, most instances of brain damage and brain injury have some similar side effects and symptoms. You should look out for these symptoms in people who have recently banged their head or been knocked unconscious as they can signal more serious brain damage.
Brain injury symptoms:
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in ears
- Slurred speech
- Memory loss
- Impaired motor skills
- Aversion to light and sound
- Mood swings
- Personality change
If you suspect someone has experienced a traumatic brain injury, a stroke, a concussion or are showing signs of brain damage in any way, it is absolutely vital that you take them to a hospital for a proper examination. Some kinds of brain damage can be reversed or prevented from becoming more serious if they are found and addressed immediately. Of course many of these symptoms of brain injury can be the result of something else, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
Can nootropics cause brain damage?
There is very little reason to suppose that nootropics cause brain damage. In the case of all of the most widely used nootropic compounds – including both synthetic nootropics and herbal nootropics – there is no evidence showing that they can cause brain damage when used in isolation at reasonable doses.
Of course, this does not apply for some compounds which are sometimes incorrectly labelled “nootropics”. Stimulant drugs like Adderall, Vyvanse and Focalin XR can absolutely cause brain damage when used for long periods of time. Chronic abuse of stimulant ADHD drugs can damage dopamine receptors and impair brain cell repair.
Even otherwise safe nootropics can potentially cause brain damage when mixed with other substances. The prime example here is alcohol. Mixing alcohol with nootropics like Fladrafinil and Aniracetam can potentially increase the risk of you experiencing alcohol-induced brain damage.
Some people have theorized that long-term, chronic use of Modafinil and its derivatives may cause brain damage due to downregulation of dopamine receptors and general neuronal overactivity. This makes sense intuitively, but there is currently no evdience that the use of Modafinil, or any other synthetic dopaminergic nootropics, can cause brain damage.
Nootropics for brain damage & brain injury
Some nootropics may actually help with brain damage. There is some ver convincing clinical evidence that certain nootropics can either help protect the brain from brain injury or help the brain recover after experiencing tissue damage.
What are the best nootropics to take for brain injuries and brain damage? Let’s go through the best options.
Citicoline is the natural nootropic with the most robust clinical backing when it comes to benefiting people with brain damage and brain injury. Citicoline is a naturally occurring compound in the human brain. It offers the potential of neuroprotection, neurorecovery, and neurofacilitation to enhance recovery after TBI, as explained in this study It seems that the ability of citicoline to promote brain cell membrane formation may facilitate recovery from TBI. So strong is this effect that citicoline is currently used as a treatment for traumatic brain injury in over 50 countries, including the United States.
2. Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s Mane Mushroom consumption promotes the release of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). This neurotrophic factor regulates the repair, maintenance, growth, proliferation, differentiation, and death of neurons. Some brain damage manifests itself in brain cell atrophy. By increasing NGF, Lion’s Mane Mushroom can speed up recovery from brain injury.
3. Bacopa monnieri
Like Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Bacopa monnieri can help people recover from brain injury by stimulating the growth of brain tissues. In the case of Bacopa monnieri though, it is not entire neurons which are targeted, but neuron dendrites.
Dendrites are the branches which connect the end of one neuron to the beginning of another; they are the communication lines of your brain cells. By stimulating the growth of dendrites, Bacopa monnieri can greatly accelerate recovery from TBI and ABI. What’s more, Bacopa monnieri is an adaptogen; it seems to support the body’s ability to deal with stress. This can further help recovery from brain injuries.
Noopept is a synthetic nootropic. It is a derivative of Piracetam. Noopept is technically not classed as a racetam as it does not have the right structure to fit the definition, but it has almost identical benefits to Piracetam and it works in similar ways (although it is much more potent).
While there is some disagreement over how Noopept produces its observed benefits, it is likely that it mostly works by increasing the production of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). BDNF controls the growth, proliferation, differentiation and maintenance of brain cells. Higher levels of BDNF means more efficient brain cell maintenance and repair. This would obviously mean a faster recover from brain injury.
Using nootropics to repair, regenerate and grow new brain tissues
Natural nootropics can definitely help someone recover from a brain injury, particularly if it is a moderate instance of traumatic brain injury (serious ABIs being much less responsive to natural nootropics).
However, if you suspect you or someone else has suffered brain damage, it is vital that you seek proper medical attention immediately. Natural nootropics cannot fix brain damage; you need proper medical treatment by qualified doctors and specialists.
We are not doctors and this is not medical advice. It is absolutely vital that you do not attempt to treat brain damage, TBI or concussion with nootropics alone. Talk to your doctor if you suspect you have long-term symptoms of concussion or brain injury. For acute brain injury or trauma, go to a hospital immediately!
Conclusion: Do nootropics cause brain damage?
Do any nootropics cause brain damage?
The answer to this question is yes when you are talking about poweful prescription drugs and pharmaceutical compounds which are not meant to be used for cognitive enhancement. While typically safe in the short-term, chronic, long-term abuse of Adderall, Modafinil and the most powerful racetams can cause lasting changes in the brain.
Consuming large doses of stimulants on a regular basis can cause brain damage over the long term. Mixing these compounds with alcohol or other substances greatly increases the chances of them causing brain damage.
However, if you’re taking reasonable doses of nootropics and not mixing them with alcohol, then generally speaking brain damage is highly unlikely. None of the most popular nootropics (including Modaifnil, Piracetam, Citicoline, Alpha-GPC, Bacopa monnieri, etc) have ever been found to cause brain damage.
The fact is that many nootropics can potentially protect against brain damage.
In particular, Citicoline, Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Bacopa monnieri and Noopept may offer significant benefits in the context of brain injury (either protecting from or promoting recovery after brain damage).
Some small studies show that some nootropic supplements can protect the brain from damage. But there is a lack of evidence from large, controlled studies to show that some of these supplements consistently work to prevent brain damage and are completely safe for all users in all circumstances.
Nootropics for Brain Damage FAQs
Can nootropics repair brain damage?
Some nootropics may help repair brain tissues following brain damage from strokes, TBI or concussions. Citicoline, Alpha-GPC, Lion’s Mane and Noopept show great promise in protecting the brain from TBI and promoting recovery following brain damage. However, no nootropic has ever completely reversed severe brain damage; rather, they may promote recovery and compliment other treatments.
Is Alpha Brain good for concussion?
Yes Alpha Brain may help with concussion recovery. The Alpha-GPC in Alpha Brain supports the brain’s ability to recover after traumatic brain injuries resulting from strokes, concussions, and cerebral contusions, according to clinical trials.
Does Lion’s Mane help with nerve damage?
All of the available clinical evidence suggests that Lion’s Mane can help repair nerve damage. Lion’s Mane Mushroom increases Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) in the brain. This promotes nerve cell regeneration and proliferation, speeding up recovery from nerve damage.
Can Lion’s Mane repair myelin?
Lion’s Mane Mushroom can promote the branching of neuron dendrites, but it does not directly repair damaged myelin. Rather, Lion’s Mane supports the growth and maintenance of the entire neuron cell.
Can Modafinil cause brain damage?
Modafinil is not known to cause brain damage if used infrequently and at sensible doses. However, Modafinil may cause small amounts of damage to your dopamine receptors. Over long periods of frequent use, this damage can lead to problems with motivation, mood, and overall cognitive function.
Brian Johnson is current Editor of Vagarights.com and a long-time writer for VAGA. A former psychologist, Brian is passionate about improving mental health and finding ways to stave off cognitive decline. He is an expert on nootropics, cognitive enhancement and biohacking more broadly. You can see his work on Google scholar.