Citicoline is a supplement that may boost brain performance, improve memory, and help treat neurological diseases. Research on its effectiveness is mixed.

Citicoline is a naturally occurring brain chemical that has neuroprotective effects, meaning it helps protect and repair the cells, structure, and function of your nervous system. Citicoline is available as a dietary supplement that can be used to enhance thinking ability and memory.

Researchers have also examined citicoline as a drug for neurological conditions such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, and dementia.

This article takes a closer look at citicoline’s potential uses and benefits, side effects, and dosage.

Citicoline is a naturally occurring chemical compound that supports brain function and health. It’s also known as cytidine 5’-diphosphocholine or CDP-choline.

In the human body, citicoline plays a crucial role in forming neuron cell membranes. It’s known to have neuroprotective properties such as promoting brain metabolism and increasing neurotransmitter levels in the central nervous system.

Citicoline is available as a dietary supplement that is chemically identical to the naturally occurring compound. It belongs to a class of substances called nootropic agents, which are used to improve thinking ability and memory.

The dietary supplement is available over the counter in the United States and as a prescription drug in Europe and Japan.

In a clinical setting, healthcare professionals may give citicoline therapy as a medication you take by mouth, as an injection into a muscle, or as an intravenous medication that flows directly into your vein.

Citicoline vs. choline

Citicoline and choline are both dietary supplements that support brain health, but they are not the same.

Citicoline supplements release two main substances into your body: cytidine and choline. Once absorbed, they cross the blood-brain barrier and reach your central nervous system, where they produce a range of neuroprotective effects.

In contrast, choline supplements provide only choline, an essential nutrient that supports fat metabolism, liver health, and brain function.

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As a dietary supplement, citicoline is used to boost brain performance and improve memory. It has also been investigated as a drug to treat a wide range of conditions, including stroke, dementia, bipolar disorder, and depression.

While some research has been promising, results have been mixed. Here’s what current research has found out about citicoline’s effectiveness for specific uses.

Memory and brain function

Many studies have found evidence to suggest that citicoline improves memory and brain function.

A small 2021 study with 100 participants found that citicoline dietary supplements improved overall memory in older adults with age-related memory impairment. A 2023 review also noted that citicoline is beneficial for memory function in older adults.

A 2022 review of more than 800 studies on citicoline concluded that it improves memory and attention in generally healthy people and in people with vascular dementia. In addition, a 2008 study suggests that citicoline supplements increase energy use and energy reserves in the brain.

However, some of these studies were performed in animals, and most studies in humans used small sample sizes. More research is needed to explore the potential benefits of citicoline for brain function and memory.

Neurological conditions

Citicoline has been investigated for the treatment of various neurological conditions, including:

Some early clinical studies in 1997 found that citicoline improved recovery from stroke and traumatic brain injury. But more recent, large clinical trials found no evidence to support this.

According to a 2021 review, citicoline may improve cognitive function in people with Parkinson’s disease when used after primary treatment. Additionally, studies included in a 2022 review suggest that citicoline may have protective effects against Alzheimer’s disease.

Still, more research is needed to support these findings.


Researchers have examined the use of citicoline for glaucoma, which is now considered a neurodegenerative disease.

A 2022 study found that a combination of oral citicoline and homotaurine improved visual function in people with glaucoma.

Mental health conditions

Some research suggests citicoline may be beneficial in the treatment of mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

However, research has been limited to either animal models or small sample sizes in humans. More large-scale, long-term studies in humans are needed.

Because citicoline occurs naturally in your body, it has low toxicity and a low risk of side effects.

Research, including a small 2021 trial, suggests that citicoline is safe and well tolerated. Side effects are rare and mild.

The side effects of citicoline may include:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • stomach pain
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • restlessness

Research suggests that citicoline interacts with the drug levodopa, a dopaminergic agent used to treat Parkinson’s disease.

Talk with a healthcare professional before taking citicoline as a dietary supplement. They can provide information about any potential side effects or interactions it may have with medications you use.

Who should not use citicoline?

People who are pregnant or nursing should not use citicoline. The safety of citicoline for these populations is unknown.

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The recommended dosage of citicoline as a dietary supplement is 500 milligrams (mg) per day. It’s important not to take more than the recommended amount.

When citicoline is used as a drug for specific medical conditions, the dosage ranges from 500 to 2,000 mg per day. Clinical trials have investigated citicoline use for 3–12 weeks, depending on the condition being treated.

Before taking citicoline dietary supplements, be sure to talk with a healthcare professional. They can recommend a safe dosage and duration based on your overall health and any medications you’re currently taking.

What to look for when purchasing citicoline dietary supplements

  • Choose products that use transparent third-party testing for safe ingredients and potency.
  • Select brands that adhere to Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) standards.
  • Make sure the label on the supplement package clearly lists all ingredients.
  • Check customer reviews online and look for products with positive and genuine reviews.
  • Compare prices to find an affordable product that suits your budget.
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Citicoline is a naturally occurring brain chemical that has neuroprotective properties. It’s available as a dietary supplement that can be used to improve memory and thinking ability.

Some research supports these uses, especially in older adults with memory loss, but more research is needed on the potential benefits of citicoline.

Talk with a healthcare professional before taking citicoline supplements. They can discuss any safety concerns and potential interactions with other medications.