Phenibut (β-Phenyl-GABA, β-phenyl-γ-aminobutyric acid, Noofen, Citrocard) is an analogue of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. The addition of a phenyl ring allows Phenibut to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Neurohackers prefer Phenibut when the goal is to raise GABA levels in the brain because GABA as a supplement cannot cross the BBB.
Phenibut was developed in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1963. And it has since been used as a pharmaceutical used to treat PTSD, anxiety, depression, insomnia, alcoholism and other neurological disorders.
GABA’s role is to keep glutamate, the primary excitatory neurotransmitter, from overwhelming you. Too much glutamate can cause a seizure, and too little GABA can put you in a coma. A healthy brain maintains a critical balance of GABA and glutamate.
GABA acts like a “brake” on neuron circuits during stress. Low GABA levels can result in anxiety, insomnia, poor mood and restlessness.
Clinical studies show that boosting GABA with a supplement like Phenibut relieves anxiety, stress, and boosts the production of alpha brain waves.[i] If GABA is optimized in your brain you’ll feel focused, relaxed and stress-free.
- Balance mood. Phenibut has an inhibitory effect on overly stimulated neurons because it raises GABA levels in your brain. Low GABA levels lead to anxiety, depression and insomnia. GABA helps restore that balance. Promoting a more positive mood which improves focus and relaxation.[ii]
- Boost Human Growth Hormone. Bodybuilders and athletes use Phenibut before resistance training. Studies show by raising GABA levels, you can boost blood levels of Human Growth Hormone.[iii] Promoting greater recovery support and lean muscle growth.
- Neurotransmitters. Phenibut stimulates dopamine receptors, and antagonizes beta-phenethylamine (PEA).[iv] Dopamine aids in memory formation, attention, focus, and cognition. PEA increases the action of dopamine, norepinephrine, acetylcholine and serotonin. It’s partly behind the overstimulation that causes irritability, restlessness, and agitation that could be caused by too much dopamine and norepinephrine. Phenibut can counteract this affect giving you a cognition boost without the negatives.[v]
Table of Contents
Phenibut (β-Phenyl-GABA, β-phenyl-γ-aminobutyric acid, Noofen, Citrocard) is derived from the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. The addition of a phenyl ring allows Phenibut to cross the blood-brain barrier. And the reason why neurohackers prefer Phenibut when the goal is to raise GABA levels in the brain.
So when using Phenibut to boost GABA, you enhance normal sleep cycles, and improve blood pressure. GABA even stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete Human Growth Hormone. And helps produce endorphins that make you feel good after a workout or sex.
Soon after Phenibut was discovered in St. Petersburg, Russia, it was being prescribed by doctors to lower stress and anxiety, treat PTSD and insomnia.
Phenibut was included in the medical kit for Russian astronauts on the Soyuz-19 and Salyut-4 missions as a ‘tranquilizer’.[vii] Phenibut is one of the only tranquilizers that lowers stress levels without negatively affecting performance.
As a nootropic, when you use Phenibut to normalize GABA levels you’ll experience a reduction in anxiety, insomnia, nervousness, restlessness and stress.
How does Phenibut work in the Brain?
Phenibut helps brain health and function in several ways. But two in particular stand out.
- Phenibut boosts GABA in the brain. Phenibut is a derivative of GABA. And easily crosses the blood-brain barrier. GABA on its own cannot cross this barrier unless paired with a dedicated carrier.[ix]
GABA works by preventing neural signaling associated with anxiety from reaching other neurons. It does this by attaching to the receptors that would otherwise excite those neurons. Over-stimulating neurons in certain areas of your brain is what causes anxiety-related symptoms.
The majority of studies on Phenibut have been conducted in Russia. And most studies have been done with animals. In this study using rabbits, scientists looked at anxiety behaviors and how they were effected by Phenibut.
They exposed the rabbits to emotional stimuli causing anxiety in the animals. Anxiety caused the rabbits to ‘freeze’ and exhibit defensive reactions. Behaviors very similar to what happens in humans when they’re under stress.
When the rabbits were administered Phenibut, the anxiety-caused reactions of defensiveness and passive reactions (freezing) decreased to normal behavior.[x]
- GABA changes brain waves. Using Phenibut as a nootropic helps increase GABA levels in your brain. And we know that GABA helps decrease Beta brain waves and increase Alpha brain waves.[xi]
Beta brain waves are important for attention, alertness, concentration and developing memories. But excess levels of concentration, particularly during stress, can lead to anxiety, depression, insomnia and more stress.
When you are in an alert state, both Alpha and Beta brain waves can be stimulated. But the type of alertness will determine which brain wave is produced.
Alertness during an Alpha wave state is associated with a relaxed state. And a stressed alert state produces a Beta wave. But an excess of Beta brain waves contributes to a variety of nervous disorders including anxiety and stress.
Most of the clinical studies available done with humans use GABA supplementation rather than Phenibut. But the outcome of using GABA could be applied to using Phenibut to increase GABA levels in the brain. Phenibut crosses the blood-brain barrier more effectively than GABA.
In this study, researchers investigated using GABA on relaxation and immunity during stress in humans. They evaluated the effect on 13 subjects of GABA intake on brain waves.
An electroencephalogram (EEG) was used to measure brain waves after subjects took water only, GABA or L-Theanine. 60 minutes after administration, the study showed that GABA significantly increased Alpha waves and decreased Beta waves compared to water or L-Theanine.
The researchers concluded that raising brain levels of GABA induced relaxation and diminished anxiety.[xii] And you raise brain levels of GABA effectively when supplementing with Phenibut.
How things go bad
Low levels of GABA are associated with a variety of health problems.
↑ Anxiety[xiii], panic attacks, stress, PTSD, and insomnia
↑ Muscle spasms, hypertension, convulsion, Tourette’s Syndrome and epilepsy
↑ Dry skin and wrinkles
↑ Poor digestion, bloating, flatulence, and constipation
When your neurotransmitters, including GABA, are in balance, you feel motivated, productive and energetic. And you feel calm and relaxed during downtime.
When GABA levels are low you feel filled with dread, you’re constantly worried, you have racing thoughts, and you’re frequently late and disorganized.[xiv]
Many people in this GABA-slump resort to high carbohydrate foods, and drugs or alcohol to relax.
Phenibut to the rescue
We need adequate GABA levels in our brain because it’s an inhibitory neurotransmitter. When we raise GABA levels by supplementing with Phenibut, we help keep glutamate in check.
Glutamate is your body’s most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter. Which is responsible for attention span, brain energy, learning ability, memory, and staying awake.
So GABA is calming and glutamate is stimulating. And they must be in balance with each other for optimal cognitive health.
An imbalance of these two neurotransmitters can cause fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, poor memory and cognition, anxiety and depression.
But when these two neurotransmitters work together efficiently, you feel relaxed with no stress or feelings of anxiety. And you get a more restful night’s sleep.
Adding Phenibut to your nootropic stack can help bring GABA and glutamate back into balance.
How does Phenibut feel?
When you balance GABA levels in your brain, you feel relaxed and calm. But many neurohackers who try using GABA as a supplement don’t feel the effects. Because the GABA molecule is too large to cross the blood-brain barrier.[xv]
Note: If you do feel the calming effects of supplementing with GABA within a ½ hour of taking it, it may mean you have a “leaky” blood-brain barrier. Not a good thing.[xvi] Because if GABA can get through, all kinds of nasty stuff can get through too. Including toxins, undigested food particles and anything else in your blood stream that shouldn’t be in your brain.
We’ll deal with how to fix a “leaky” blood-brain barrier in another article on Nootropics Expert.
But here were talking about increasing our GABA levels using Phenibut. Neurohackers report that adding Phenibut to their stack relieves anxiety, there is less stress and they feel more relaxed.
In fact, some say it’s the best anti-anxiety ‘medication’ they’ve ever used. Including some well know pharmaceuticals (i.e. Clonazepam, Diazepam, Alprazolam) used to treat anxiety. With none of the nasty side effects that come with prescription meds.
Social functions could get some help with Phenibut. You could feel less inhibited, speak freely and feel more confident.
Others report that Phenibut boosts sex drive, and for men it helps control ejaculation. And it helps for a better night’s sleep.
Athletes report that Phenibut goes well with a workout. Because Phenibut has been shown to boost Human Growth Hormone. You’ll be able to work out with less fatigue, energy levels will go up, muscles won’t be as sore and recovery could be faster.
Phenibut takes 2 – 4 hours before you begin to feel its effects. A strong word of caution: do not increase the dose or take additional Phenibut if you think things are not happening fast enough! Wait at least 24 hours before taking another dose.
GABA was identified as a neurotransmitter several decades ago. And there had been a lot of research on GABA published since. But most of it is focused on how GABA works. And the drugs and chemicals which affect its action.
There is very little research available on using GABA as a supplement. Likely because most scientists believe that GABA taken as a supplement will not cross the blood-brain barrier.
And there is even less research available on using Phenibut. Particularly in humans. Most of the clinical trials have been done in Russia and were done with animals.
Here we talk about how GABA can affect your cognition and overall health. This research supports the idea that using Phenibut to raise GABA levels can have a profound effect on your quality of life.
GABA Increases Human Growth Hormone
Bodybuilders and athletes use Phenibut or even GABA to help repair and build muscle. And there are several studies supporting the notion that GABA increases Human Growth Hormone.
In one study, researchers worked with 19 subjects who were given a single oral dose of 5 grams of GABA. 18 subjects were given a placebo during this trial. 3 hours after the administration of GABA, blood samples were taken. The team reported that “GABA caused a significant elevation of plasma growth hormone levels”.[xvii]
GABA helps Reduce Insomnia
A Los Angeles study conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial with 18 patients with sleep disorders. The patients received either a placebo, or Gabadone (a combination of GABA and 5-hydroxytryptophan).
The difference between the two groups of sleep-deprived patients was significant. The Gabadone group fell asleep faster, stayed asleep longer, and had a better quality of sleep than the placebo group.[xviii]
Neurohackers consistently report a similar effect on sleep quality when using Phenibut.
More experienced Phenibut users go with 1 – 1 ½ grams per dose. And up to 3-times per week.
Since you can quickly build up a tolerance to Phenibut dosing less often is preferred. Many advise keeping Phenibut use to once or twice per week with almost no side effects and no hangover the next day.
Phenibut can be very addictive for some people and the withdrawal from continuous use is particularly nasty. So if you’re going to try Phenibut make sure you follow dosage recommendations.
Phenibut is considered safe when taken in normal recommended doses.
Bodybuilders who use much higher doses of Phenibut do report experiencing flushing, tingling, a spike in heart rate and blood pressure, and anxiety.
You can build up tolerance to Phenibut quickly. And if you have an addictive personality you should avoid using Phenibut.
Most neurohackers suggest cycling Phenibut. Using recommended doses for 4 or 5 days and taking a few days off. Others suggest only using Phenibut once per week.
You’ll have to find out what works for you if you decide to try Phenibut. And expect to have a rough ride at first. Too much and the withdrawal can be nasty.
You are strongly advised not to combine Phenibut with alcohol. And absolutely DO NOT combine Phenibut with benzodiazepines.
Phenibut as a supplement is available in tablet, capsule and powder. Scientists have shown that Phenibut easily crosses the blood-brain barrier.
Phenibut is an analogue of GABA developed in Russia, and it increases levels of GABA in your brain. While some report that Phenibut causes drowsiness and fatigue, it’s a much safer way to boost GABA than with a pharmaceutical like Valium or Xanax.
Nootropics Expert Recommendation
Phenibut 200 – 300 mg per day.
Your body does make GABA on its own from glutamate in your brain. Most healthy people have an adequate supply of GABA. But if you’re dealing with anxiety or stress and need some extra help in calming things down, Phenibut can help.
Phenibut is particularly helpful if you’re dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I’ve seen reports by combat veterans who say that Phenibut worked far better than any prescription anti-anxiety med.
We suggest trying a Phenibut supplement first at a dose of 200 – 300 mg. Phenibut can be a powerful method of boosting GABA levels in your brain. But it also has addictive potential especially if you’re prone to addiction.
Phenibut takes 2 – 4 hours to take effect in your body. Do not yield to temptation and take more just because you’re not feeling anything. Sometimes the beneficial effects of Phenibut are not felt until the next day.
Cycle your use of Phenibut to avoid tolerance and side effects. Your sweet spot could be every 2nd or 3rd day. Or even just once a week. Find out what works best for you.
The ‘hangover’ from abusing Phenibut is particularly nasty. You should be able to avoid these side effects by keeping doses low. And limiting the days you use Phenibut.
You can safely work your way up to 1,500 mg of Phenibut per day on the day that you dose. Some athletes go as high as 3,000 mg. But for nootropic use, a higher dose is not necessary or recommended.