This article has been published for reference purposes (originally published in 2016) and does not represent beliefs or ethos of the current Peak Nootropics editorial team.
There are many types of Acetylcholine supplements. While there is no “pure” acetylcholine supplement, there are many different types of supplements that produce or affect the acetylcholine system. Below is a list of the major supplements that involve acetylcholine and its associated systems. One thing to remember is that the word “choline” does not necessarily mean “acetylcholine” even though it is a direct precursor.
Phosphatidylcholine is a phospholipid that turns into choline. Your body obtains phosphatidylcholine through foods and converts it into choline. Phosphatidylcholine can be purified from certain foods like soy lecithin and manufactured into supplements. These supplements aren’t as effective as other choline sources because you only get a small amount of phosphatidylcholine turning into choline. Usually the amount is 10-12% actual choline conversion.
Choline can be purified as a pure form into salts. There are many types of choline salts but the most commonly ingested ones are choline bitartrate and citrate. This is because they have the best absorption rates and are friendly on the digestive system. Consuming these choline supplements will ultimately, lead to higher levels of choline and acetylcholine.
ALCAR acts as precursor to acetylcholine in another way. It breaks down into a chemical called acetyl-COA which combines with choline to create acetylcholine. ALCAR is a great acetylcholine supplement because it helps make the conversion of choline into acetylcholine more efficient. ALCAR needs choline to create acetylcholine so it is often stacked with a choline salt for maximum effectiveness.
Centrophenoxine is suggested as a precursor to Acetylcholine. It is derived in part from DMAE however it is suggested to be much more effective at entering the brain. There have been many studies on Centrophenoxine as a nootropic however its effects on the exact synthesis into acetylcholine remain unclear. Unlike PS and choline salts, centrophenoxine is considered a nootropic when taken alone.
CITICOLINE (CDP CHOLINE)
Citcoline is much more effective at increasing acetylcholine than other choline supplements. It crosses the blood brain barrier very easily and works to free up choline in the brain. By doing this, your body makes more choline available for acetylcholine conversion. Citicoline is nootropic when taken alone and is not usually stacked with other choline supplements due to its power. This acetylcholine supplement also has a less chance of causing side effects than other choline supplements.
Alpha GPC is a compound synthesized from soy lecithin. It is much more effective than other choline sources at turning into acetylcholine and is considered nootropic alone. Like citicoline, alpha GPC will not usually be combined with other choline sources because it is already really effective. Alpha GPC also leaves less chances of causing headaches.
RACETAMS (PIRACETAM, ANIRACETAM, ETC…)
Racetams do not act as precursors to acetylcholine but instead stimulate the acetylcholine receptors. This triggers more acetylcholine to be needed by the body. This is the actual nootropic action of racetams. It is suggested that not having enough acetylcholine in the brain while taking racetams will limit their effectiveness and possibly even cause the opposite action to take place.
Acetylcholinesterase is a natural enzyme that breaks down Acetylcholine. The enzyme is necessary for neuromuscular movement. Too much acetylcholinesterase can cause negative effects and cognitive decline. Most anti-Alzheimer’s drugs work to limit the levels of this enzyme. People also use acetylcholinesterase inhibitors as general nootropics . There are natural acetylcholinesterase inhibitors like Huperzine A which can be obtained as a nootropic supplement over-the-counter.