- Neuroplasticity – An In-Depth Guide to How it Works and How to Transform Your Brain
- Training to Develop Synaesthesia for Improved Memory and Maths Ability (Theoretically)
- How to Train Like Bruce Lee for Insane Power and Speed
- A Complete Guide to Transhumanism
- The Surface Pro 3 – Ideal Productivity for Web Entrepreneurs
- Can You Bench Press a Dinosaur??
- The Neuroscience of Genius And Increasing Intelligence
- How Caffeine Affects Neurotransmitters and Profoundly Changes Your Brain
- A Detailed Guide to Your Brain – So You Can Start Hacking It
- Almost Every Bodyweight Exercise Ever (150+ Moves)
My CILTeP Review – A Natural Alternative to Modafinil?
If you’ve been following this blog or my YouTube channel, then you’ll know I’ve been experimenting with nootropics lately to see if I can give my brain power a bit of a kick. The bulk of my income comes from writing articles for clients, and often this will mean writing huge amounts of 10-20,000 words a day. I get paid per 500 words, so if I can find a supplement to increase my output, I then increase my salary. Simples! Plus nootropics are fascinating…
The only nootropic I’ve tried that had any real impact on my work output though was modafinil. This gave me ‘laser’ focus, as well as helping to eliminate procrastination and prevent sleepiness. It also made all the lights look brighter, which was cool.
Unfortunately what modafinil also did was to give me ulcers, make me grind my teeth and dry my mouth out among other things. It also increased my heartrate to the point where I didn’t really want to work out and I found it was slightly addictive. So I didn’t want to use any more of that…
Then I heard Tim Ferriss mention to Joe Rogan that he had tried a natural nootropic stack created by a guy called Abelard Lindsay which had given him modafinil-like effects without any of the negatives.
And then a few months later, I was contacted by a representative for ‘Natural Stacks’ who had seen my Modafinil video and wanted to know if I’d like to try CILTEP. CILTEP as it turns out, is a pre-packaged version of that very stack. So as you can imagine, my answer was a resounding: ‘um, yes please’.
What is CILTeP?
CILTeP stands for ‘Chemically Induced Long Term Potentiation’. For those who haven’t read my diatribe on the workings of the brain, this is essentially the process by which neural connections get stronger making it easier for them to communicate. In other words, this stack promises to make your brain better at forming and maintaining connections, which is generally considered to be the foundation of brain plasticity and learning in general. My general belief with regards to intelligence and strength is that it amounts to adaptability – so in theory this is a very interesting product.
A ‘stack’ by the way is a term used in bodybuilding and nootropics that essentially means ‘selection of supplements’. In this case, the ‘CILTeP stack’ consists of:
- Artichoke Extract
- Vitamin B6
An Explanation of the Ingredients and Long Term Potentiation
The general idea behind CILTeP is to increase cAMP and thus CREB activation. CREB stands for ‘cAMP Response Element Binding Protein’ and CAMP stands for ‘Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate’ (which is created from ATP – our cell’s energy currency). CREB is a ‘cellular transcription factor’, meaning that it can bind to DNA sequences in order to increase or decrease downstream gene transcription. This has been shown to be supportive of neural plasticity and long term potentiation (1, 2, 3). Low amounts of cAMP meanwhile have been linked to Huntington’s disease and other neurological disorders.
If you’re interested, you can read about it on Wikipedia. Note though, that changes in gene expression are only one part of long term potentiation (part of ‘Late Phase LTP’ specifically), which is a highly complex process dependent on a great many factors.
CILTeP aims to aid in this process by increasing the availability of ‘CREB activating cAMP’ via its luteolin content which is a natural inhibitor of an enzyme called ‘PDE4’ that otherwise breaks down cAMP. Meanwhile, the forskolin (which comes from a plant called coleus forskohlii), is able to increase cAMP in the cells. So foskolin increases cAMP in the cells, while the artichoke extract prevents it from being broken down.
On top of this you then have l-phenylalanine which is an essential amino acid and precursor to dopamine. When CREB is activated, the brain responds by producing more dopamine – a neurotransmitter related to attention, focus and goal-oriented behavior. Likely, it’s an increased capacity for learning that signals to the brain that it should be focusing more and l-phenylalanine should aid in this. Acetyl-L-Carnitine is an acetylated form of l-carnitine and an amino acid (l-carnitine) that was added to the stack to try and reduce the effects of acetylcholinesterase – a byproduct of cAMP that leads to tiredness and brain fog in some (because it destroys acetylcholinesterase, which is important for neuronal transmission).
Finally, vitamin B6 is included to help with the synthesis of neurotransmitters including dopamine, serotonin and GABA.
Does CILTeP Work? Experiences and Views of Others
So far, so confusing. It certainly sounds promising, except that bit about acetylcholinesterase. But what’s the official word?
Unfortunately there are no actual studies on CILTeP. It grew on the Longecity forums and found many fans and critics on there. Some people claim that they don’t get any effect at all (‘non-responders’), others say it makes them tired, while others still claim that it helped their memory, gave them more desire to learn and even aided ‘social ease’.
A recent post on Reddit gives us some reason to question the mechanics of CILTeP. Here it was pointed out that Luteolin (the active compound in artichoke extract) gets modified when taken orally (4), that the amount of luteolin in artichoke is possibly too small to have any effect (5), that luteolin isn’t highly selective in its PDE4 suppression and would lead to other side effects if it were in high enough quantities (6) and that the studies on forskolin were carried out on mice using much higher doses relative to bodyweight (7).
That’s all a little damning, but it wouldn’t be fair to rule it out without giving it a try first… And some of my experiences suggest that this overview may have been a little quick to dismiss the stack…
My Experiences With CILTeP
When I first tried Natural Stacks’ CILTeP I took three capsules as suggested by the packaging on an empty stomach. For the rest of that day I had a headache which I attribute to the vasodilatory nature of the forskolin. I have low blood pressure, so I think too much made me a little light headed.
The next day I tried just two capsules and had much better luck – no headache or lightheadedness though I did feel a little tired and a little brain-foggy – consistent with an increase in acetylcholinesterase. While that might sound like a bad thing, it does however tell me that my cAMP levels probably were being increased one way or another. Whether that’s because of the artichoke extract, because of the forskolin or because of a synergy between the two is hard to say, but my guess is that it was the forskolin. While the study on mice used higher doses, there is no study showing that smaller doses don’t have an effect. Likewise, there’s no study to suggest that the two small doses might not be effective when combined (though this would mean the luteolin would have to survive being ingested orally).
Whatever the case, brain fog and tiredness isn’t great (for me it seems the L-Carnitine didn’t do anything to prevent this). But what was quite good was my productivity that day. I seemed perfectly happy to get straight down to work without my usual 20 minutes of procrastination, and when researching new topics I was actually getting really absorbed into the research.
Bear in mind that brain plasticity shouldn’t just affect ‘memory’ as we think of it, as neural connections control much more than that. I actually decided then to see if I could use CILTeP to improve my abilities on Super Hexagon – to see if my brain would adapt to the demands it placed on me faster. Unfortunately I noticed no real improvement here.
I also found that I was more interested in what people were saying to me when talking and that I was more ‘present’ – i.e. living in the here-and-now rather than daydreaming in my ‘default mode network’. I seemed to be better at remembering things people had said earlier and even at recalling old facts and memories (though I’m not sure what the mechanism for this might have been!). In fact, the social benefits are probably the most enjoyable aspect of CILTeP.
I also tried using just one tab, which felt much more normal and still seemed to provide some benefits (though it’s hard to rule out placebo at this point). In general, I’m not sure why so many people have a desire to ‘feel’ their nootropics working. I’d much rather I didn’t feel the effects working – I have no interest in walking around feeling high. I think if you want to get a buzz, then really you’re looking into nootropics for the wrong reasons.
Again, it’s hard to rule out the possible role of placebo in all these effects – and they were quite mild on just one tab. As some of theeffects were unexpected though and then backed up by my research (I didn’t know about the tiredness for instance, or the ‘social ease’ before noting them, but then found these were common effects when I researched them), I would say there’s at least something going on here. Some of the benefits might also have simply come from increased dopamine, however I didn’t find that I experienced any noticeable increase in norepinephrine or other stimulant-type effects that come from boosting dopamine in other ways (caffeine/modafinil), so that was nice.
CILTeP With Yerba Mate
Another effect some people have found from using CILTeP, is that it increases the power of other stimulants they use, particularly caffeine. I thought it might be interesting then to try taking it with Yerba Mate, but this lead to me feeling very light-headed. Again, I have naturally low blood pressure so this might not be something other people experience. Still, for me it wasn’t a good experience.
CILTeP With Modafinil
While I try not to use modafinil, I thought it would be interesting to see how these two worked together and for me this was a pretty great combo. I found I didn’t have the tiredness or the brain fog, but I did have the added ‘presence’ and memory. Not something I’d do regularly, but if I had something majorly important I had to learn or if I was writing some kind of uber project, then I might consider it as a one off.
All in all then, my experiences with CILTeP have been fairly mixed. I got a bit of tiredness and brain fog, as well as some lightheadedness. At the same time though, I’m also pretty sure I did experience a boost in memory, desire to learn and ‘social ease’ – all things that I’m interested in. Combining it with modafinil also worked well.
I don’t like the idea of using anything that aims to alter brain chemistry in the long term, especially when we’re somewhat fuzzy on the mechanisms of action still. And I think people will vary a lot in their results and experiences. For me it’s an interesting one and one I might return to on occasion when I need to do a lot of research, but I can’t say it was a 100% perfect nootropic for me due to the slight brain fog and the much milder effect as compared with modafinil when using just one tab. But then I would argue that no nootropic is perfect.