Citicoline Benefits, Uses, and Side-Effects: Find Out Everything About This Naturally Occurring Brain Chemical

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Our brains are bioengineering marvels – hundreds of billions of cells work together to ensure we complete mundane and complicated tasks without issue. To keep our brain working in top condition, it’s necessary to take care of it. That means having a proper diet and stimulating the brain with activities that foster growth.

Thankfully, the brain itself already does a decent job of producing certain chemicals that help it in its day-to-day endeavors. One such chemical is citicoline.

This article will delve deep into citicoline benefits, side effects, the “hows” and “whys” behind its production, and much more!

So get ready to absorb all the citicoline knowledge you could possibly need.

What Is Citicoline?


Citicoline is a naturally occurring chemical, namely a nucleotide, produced by the human body.

The proper name of the chemical substance is cytidine 5′-diphosphocholine.

Citicoline is the name used when the chemical is ingested into the body as a drug – in other words, when its origins are exogenous.

When secreted naturally by your body, the term scientists use for it is CDP-choline.

How Does Citicoline Form in the Brain?

Citicoline — also known as CDP-choline — plays a vital role in the synthesis of phosphatidylcholine which is an essential component of cell membranes, and is involved in various neuronal processes.

Citicoline helps with cell membrane repair, neuroprotection, and neurotransmitter synthesis and its formation in the brain occurs through a two-step process.

It starts with choline, which is transformed into phosphocholine by a helpful enzyme called choline kinase. Next, phosphocholine teams up with cytidine triphosphate (CTP) in a reaction led by the enzyme CTP: phosphocholine cytidylyltransferase. This results in citicoline, also known as cytidine diphosphate-choline (CDP-choline). This process releases inorganic pyrophosphate as a byproduct.

Citicoline isn’t exclusive to just the brain — it’s also synthesized in other tissues and organs throughout the body. You can consume citicoline through diet and supplementation too!

Citicoline has been shown to provide neuroprotective and cognitive-enhancing effects, particularly in conditions like stroke, traumatic brain injury, and age-related cognitive decline.

So, the next time you’re exploring ways to support your brain health, remember that citicoline may be the secret ingredient you’ve been looking for.

Let’s dig into the various benefits of Citicoline for our health in detail.

Citicoline Benefits: Should You Go for Supplementation?

Attractive woman holding a supplement bottle

While some of the known citicoline benefits are encouraging, we still need more research to fully uncover citicoline’s true capabilities.

However, there’s no doubt that this naturally occurring brain compound has some astonishing potential, and you might be amazed at what its supplements could do for you.

Here are a few citicoline benefits and how they could change your life for the better:


Citicoline offers neuroprotection against neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis.

The neuroprotective beneficial effects of citicoline involve fortifying cell membranes, amplifying neurotransmitter production, enhancing blood flow, and improving mitochondrial function (which helps shield against energy deficits).

Cognitive Enhancement

Citicoline might be the answer for those looking for a mental boost as it’s been shown to enhance memory, attention, and overall cognitive function. This is especially promising for individuals experiencing age-related cognitive decline or mild cognitive impairment.

But it must not be taken without a proper prescription. Side effects can be as intense as stomach pain, blurred vision, back pain, constipation, and more.

Stroke Recovery

Citicoline can be a game-changer for stroke patients. By improving neurological function and reducing brain damage, citicoline may pave the way for better recovery outcomes.

The benefits may involve enhanced recovery because stroke patients often have cognitive impairment right after due to lack of oxygen and blood.

Inflammation is also another common response following a stroke and citicoline helps regulate it by creating a favorable environment for recovery.

Traumatic Brain Injury

If you or someone you know has suffered a concussion or other brain injury, citicoline could be your new best friend. It can help to improve cognitive function and reduce lingering symptoms.

TBI rehabilitation often involves a multidisciplinary approach, including physical, occupational, and speech therapy. The cognitive-enhancing effects of citicoline may complement these therapies by helping patients learn new skills and adapt to their verbal memory more easily.

Patients with a traumatic brain injury may also experience mood swings, depression, and even anxiety. Doctors may prescribe a citicoline supplement for these patients to improve mental performance.

Vision Health

Citicoline has been shown to bolster retinal function and enhance visual sharpness, even in instances of glaucoma and other eye-related issues.

AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration) is another prevalent eye condition that leads to central vision loss as we grow older, mainly due to the degeneration of the macula — the central region of the retina in charge of clear, detailed sight.

Though more research is required, some studies hint that citicoline might help slow down AMD’s progression.

Amblyopia is another developmental disorder in which one eye struggles to achieve normal visual clarity, despite the use of corrective lenses. When combined with vision therapy, citicoline supplements may help improve visual function in individuals suffering from this disorder.

Optic nerve disorders and diabetic retinopathy are some other eye issues that citicoline can potentially help with.

Substance Addiction Recovery

Early research suggests that citicoline could play a role in reducing addiction cravings and boosting cognitive function for individuals recovering from substance abuse.

Citicoline has proven to decrease cravings for cocaine abuse, so it’s safe to trust in its association with substance addiction therapy. Like most addiction recovery techniques, however, the use of citicoline supplementation must be paired up with the right guidance, behavioral techniques, and therapies.

As a result of reduced cravings, the patient may begin to experience better brain health, less brain fog, reduced cognitive impairment, and better growth of brain cells.

While the benefits of citicoline seem incredibly promising, it’s important to remember that more research is needed to fully understand its effects and establish optimal dosing.

If you’re considering taking a citicoline dietary supplement, always consult a healthcare professional first.

Bipolar Disorder

While still in the preliminary stages, emerging research hints at possible benefits for those grappling with this complex mental health issue.

Bipolar disorder — a tumultuous cycle of extreme mood shifts, from deep depressive lows to exhilarating manic highs — can take a significant toll on a person’s life.

Citicoline could potentially help stabilize mood and enhance cognitive function in individuals living with bipolar disorder.

What’s the secret behind citicoline’s potential impact on bipolar disorder? It might be due to its neuroprotective qualities and its ability to affect neurotransmitter systems involved in mood regulation.

However, it’s crucial to proceed with caution in this scenario and closely monitor the results/side effects to avoid any unwelcome consequences.

Side Effects of Citicoline

Young woman feeling headaches

Citicoline is generally considered safe, but it has to be taken at appropriate doses. As with any supplement or medication, some individuals may experience side effects.

It’s important to be aware of any potential side effects, though many of them are relatively mild and infrequent.

Here’s a closer look at some of the side effects that have been reported in association with citicoline supplementation:

Gastrointestinal Issues

When taking citicoline supplements, some people may experience gastrointestinal side effects such as stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting.

These symptoms are usually mild and often resolve themselves on their own as the body adjusts to the supplement. If, however, your issues are intense and persist, it’s important to consult your doctor who prescribed it.


Citicoline may cause headaches in some individuals, particularly at the beginning of supplementation. Consult a healthcare professional if headaches persist. You may also try working out and managing your caffeine intake.


Occasionally, citicoline might result in difficulty falling or staying asleep. This side effect could be more pronounced at higher doses or if consumed too close to bedtime.

Some people may find that their sleep is disrupted due to a stimulating effect on the nervous system. This could be due to an increase in acetylcholine and dopamine levels, which are linked to alertness and waking states.

Heightened levels of these neurotransmitters could also make some people feel uneasy or restless, making it challenging for them to wind down and drift off to sleep.

Although it’s not a frequently mentioned side effect, there are instances where citicoline users have reported experiencing vivid dreams or nightmares. These experiences can interrupt sleep cycles or cause sleep to be less restorative.

Hypotension (Low Blood Pressure)

It’s rare, but citicoline has been connected to a dip in blood pressure for some people.

If you’ve had low blood pressure in the past or are on medications that influence blood pressure, speak with a healthcare professional before using citicoline.

Allergic Reactions

While uncommon, some people may have an allergic reaction to citicoline, which manifests as a skin rash, itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing.

If you think you’re experiencing an allergic reaction, stop using the product and seek medical assistance right away.

Drug Interactions

Citicoline might not react well with certain medications, such as blood thinners or medications that impact neurotransmitter levels. If you’re taking these prescriptions, let your doctor know before adding citicoline to the mix.

More on the Safety of Citicoline

While these side effects are generally the most common, side effects may vary from one person to another.

Oral citicoline’s side effects are generally minimal and negligible when the supplements are taken in appropriate doses. Therefore, it’s generally considered safe to consume, and side effects are usually infrequent. If you experience any particular side effects, make sure to visit your healthcare professional immediately.

Clinical Studies on Citicoline to Help You Understand Its Beneficial Effects

Cinical researchers

There have been studies involving the use of citicoline supplements over the last three decades. We’ve highlighted two of these below:

A Randomized Efficacy Trial of Citicoline in Patients with Acute Ischemic Stroke

In a study evaluating the safety and efficacy of citicoline in patients with an acute ischemic stroke, the researchers had a burning question: could citicoline improve functional outcomes and shrink the size of the stroke-affected area (also known as infarct volume)?

To find out, they set up a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial with 259 patients.

The patients in the study received either citicoline (500 mg or 2000 mg) or a placebo, within 24 hours of having a stroke for 6 weeks.

Here are some of the results of the study:

  1. Patients tolerated citicoline well, and it didn’t cause any significant problems.
  2. Although citicoline-treated patients seemed to fare slightly better than the placebo group, the difference wasn’t statistically significant.
  3. Patients with moderate to severe strokes who received the higher citicoline dose (2000 mg) did show a significant improvement compared to the placebo group.
  4. The reduction in infarct volume wasn’t significantly different between the citicoline and placebo groups.

To summarize, citicoline proved to be safe and well-tolerated in patients with acute ischemic stroke, and it might even be helpful for certain patients.

Citicoline and Memory Function in Healthy Older Adults: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial

Another study was conducted to determine if citicoline could give a memory boost to healthy older adults.

This study had 100 participants aged 50-85 years, and it was set up as a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. The patients were divided into two groups: one received citicoline (500 mg/day), while the other received a placebo.

Participants received their respective treatments for 12 weeks. Cognitive assessments were conducted before and after the intervention. Here are the key findings:

  1. The citicoline group showed significant improvements in memory function compared to the placebo group. They particularly shined in verbal learning and delayed recall tasks.
  2. The citicoline group also displayed significant improvements in attention compared to the placebo group, as measured by specific cognitive tests.
  3. No significant differences in executive function were observed between the citicoline and placebo groups.
  4. Citicoline supplementation was well-tolerated, and there were no reported serious adverse events during the study.

This study demonstrated that citicoline supplementation (500 mg/day) for 12 weeks led to significant improvements in memory function and attention in healthy older adults. This finding suggests that citicoline may be an option to support cognitive health in aging populations.

What Processes Does Citicoline Perform?

Citicoline is a fascinating compound that does many essential things in our bodies. Let’s list some of these:

  1. Citicoline plays a crucial role in the production of phosphatidylcholine, which is a major component of our cell membranes.
  2. Citicoline is involved in repairing cell membranes, especially when they’ve been damaged. Imagine it as a tiny superhero, rushing to the rescue whenever our cells need a little TLC.
  3. Citicoline also lends a hand in the world of neurotransmitters. These chemical messengers are responsible for communication between our brain cells, and citicoline helps synthesize key players like acetylcholine.
  4. Citicoline has a protective side and is known for its neuroprotective effects, meaning it can shield our neurons from harm, like inflammation or oxidative stress.
  5. Citicoline boosts the production of key brain chemicals called sphingomyelin and cardiolipin, which are chemicals vital for nerve cell function and cellular energy production.
  6. Citicoline can also promote the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a big part in our mood, motivation, and reward system. So, in a way, citicoline helps us stay happy and driven.
  7. Citicoline can increase the availability of glucose in the brain. Glucose is the brain’s primary fuel source, so having more of it available means our brain can work more efficiently. Talk about having a full tank of gas for our mental engine!

So, there you have it! Citicoline takes on several important tasks and has multiple beneficial effects on our body, from keeping our cell membranes strong to ensuring our neurons are well-protected.

The Bottom Line

There have been dozens of effects of citicoline on animals as well as humans in double-blind placebo-controlled atmospheres. Studies so far have led us to believe that appropriate daily doses of citicoline have positive effects on neuroprotection, cardiovascular health, neurological disorders, blood flow, and more.

There’s a list of common side effects involved with citicoline use, but nothing too frequent or intense. The citicoline benefits, however, are significant and we’ve even seen that in the results of the most various clinical studies.

With all of that said, if you’re thinking about taking citicoline, we strongly recommend that you consult with your healthcare professional first.

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