When it comes to improving brain function, nicotine is king. There’s quite a few benefits from nicotine that you might not be aware of.
Note: By writing this post, we are not recommending this drug. Some of our readers who were already taking the drug requested that we commission a post on it, and we are simply providing information that is available in the scientific literature. Please discuss your medications with your doctor.
- The Good
- 1-4) Nicotine Increases Wakefulness, Motivation, Alertness and Creativity
- 5-7) Nicotine Improves Attention, Memory and Fine Motor Skills
- 8) Nicotine Can Help with ADHD
- 9) Nicotine Acts as a Neuroprotective
- 10-11) Nicotine is a Preventative and Treatment for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
- 12) Nicotine is an Anti-inflammatory
- 13) Nicotine May Reduce Pain
- 14) Nicotine Helps the Gut
- 15-16) Nicotine Helps in Weight and Insulin Control
- 17) Nicotine Helps Repair Tissue
- 18) Nicotine Can Help with Schizophrenia
- 19) Nicotine Can help with Tourette’s Syndrome
- 20-28) Other Interesting Information About Nicotine
- Some Important Mechanisms For How Nicotine Works in The Brain
- The Bad
- Health Tools I Wish I Had When I Was Sick
Nicotine, considered a potent nootropic is a naturally occurring liquid alkaloid found in many plants of the nightshade family.
Tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and tobacco all contain nicotine, although for humans, tobacco is the only plant containing significant enough quantities to have an effect (R).
Nicotine has recently been under the scope of research examining its beneficial role in ADHD, anxiety disorders, depression, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia, and even cognitive performance in the general population.
**This post is not suggesting to take up smoking as a means for nicotine consumption.
Contrary to common opinion, nicotine is not a carcinogenic substance, but it may be a ‘tumor promoter’ for some kinds of tumors (R).
Nicotine stimulates the growth of new blood vessels and increases the number of red blood cells (R).
Growing new blood vessels can help your health and brain function, but it can also promote tumors, even if it doesn’t cause cancer itself. Therefore, when it comes to cancer, nicotine is somewhat like IGF-1.
1-4) Nicotine Increases Wakefulness, Motivation, Alertness and Creativity
Nicotine also increases wakefulness, mood and motivation via activating orexin.
Nicotine increases activity across both hemispheres of the brain, also known as bilateral neocortical activation (this is a good thing) (R).
Nicotine improves brain activity in users by enhancing activation in areas associated with visual attention, arousal, and motor activation (R).
Nicotine increases activity in the following regions of the brain: parietal cortex, thalamus, caudate, and occipital cortex (R).
5-7) Nicotine Improves Attention, Memory and Fine Motor Skills
Nicotine has been proven to benefit the brain in the following areas:
- Fine Motor Skills
- Alerting attention – accuracy and response time
- Orienting attention – accuracy and response time
- Short-term memory – accuracy
- Long-term memory – accuracy
- Working memory – accuracy and response time (R)
Nicotine helps to consolidate learned information in the brain (R).
It improves immediate and long term memory in human and animal models (R).
Nicotine improves multitasking ability by enhancing executive function, through its modulation of multiple brain networks and transmitter systems (R).
8) Nicotine Can Help with ADHD
Nicotine has been shown to increase vigor, quicken reaction time, increase attentionand accuracy in non-smoking ADHD patients (R).
Nicotine caused a significant decrease in self-reported depression in ADHD (R).
9) Nicotine Acts as a Neuroprotective
There are several mechanisms through which nicotine acts as a neuroprotective:
- Through estrogen blocking (‘anti-estrogenic effects’)
- Reducing inflammation (regulates prostaglandin production: prostanoids promote or restrain acute inflammation)
- Stimulation of nicotinic cholinergic receptors in the brain (R).
10-11) Nicotine is a Preventative and Treatment for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Nicotine has potential in treating patients with Alzheimer’s (R).
When taking nicotine Parkinson’s patients show increased processing speed of more complex tasks (R).
Animal research models showed nicotine protected against brain damage in dopaminergic pathways typically associated with Parkinson’s (R).
Nicotine, acting on Nicotinic receptors has a beneficial influence on the brain which plays a role in the development of movement and degenerative disorders such as Alzeimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Tourette’s (R, R2, R3, R4).
12) Nicotine is an Anti-inflammatory
Bacterial lipopolysaccharides (LPS) decrease nicotinic receptors (α7 nAChRs) in the mouse brain, exacerbating chronic inflammation, beta-amyloid accumulation and episodic memory decline, which mimics the early stages of Alzheimer’s (R).
This is perhaps why people who get get infections (like CIRS people) often suffer from symptoms that resemble low levels of actetylcholine.
13) Nicotine May Reduce Pain
14) Nicotine Helps the Gut
The use of Nicotine patches for 4-6 weeks resulted in clinical improvement in Ulcerative colitis (R).
Nicotine enhances the protection of the intestinal mucosa by increasing the thickness of mucus in the colon (R).
A dose of 5 mg nicotine (+ carbomer) in 100ml liquid enema, is a therapeutic additive to conventional therapy in the treatment of ulcerative colitis (R).
Another study showed that Nicotine can slow the transit time from ingesting food to bowel movements (R). But my experience is that it makes me go to the bathroom
Another study mentions that Nicotine delays the emptying of contents in the stomach (R).
An increase in nicotine blood levels is directly related to a decrease of blood flow in the rectum (this can be a good thing) (R).
15-16) Nicotine Helps in Weight and Insulin Control
17) Nicotine Helps Repair Tissue
This can be done with a Nicotine patch.
Nicotine stimulates the systems in the body which increase growth of tissues andblood vessel capillaries (vasculogenesis and angiogenesis) (R).
18) Nicotine Can Help with Schizophrenia
If you are a schizophrenic, you will be more likely to smoke than not. 80% of schizophrenics smoke compared to 25% of the general population (R).
Schizophrenics may be more genetically predisposed to the beneficial effects of nicotine on the brain, and it has been suggested that smoking in schizophrenia may be a form of self-medication in an attempt to treat the underlying disease (R, R2, R3)
19) Nicotine Can help with Tourette’s Syndrome
Nicotine gum was found to enhance the efficacy of Tourette’s treatment drugs by reducing involuntary-movement symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome (R).
Nicotine patches was superior to a placebo in reducing behavioral symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome when used in combination with treatment drug haloperidol (R).
Administration of 2 mg nicotine gum or 7 mg nicotine patches enhances the therapeutic properties of neuroleptic drugs (R).
This effect of reducing behavioral symptoms continues even after the drug doses are halved, and the nicotine patch had been discontinued (R).
Nicotine patches improves attention and behavior in children and adolescents with Tourette’s syndrome (R).
20-28) Other Interesting Information About Nicotine
Users of Tobacco tend to be associated with lower incidence of:
- Uterine fibroids (R)
- Canker sores (R)
- Endometriosis and endometriosis cancer (R) – nicotinic activators are being explored to treat endometriosis (R)
- High blood pressure
- Vomiting during pregnancy (R)
- Venous thrombosis (probably not causal) (R)
- Fatality in heart attacks (probably not causal) (R)
Chronic nicotine treatment enhances relaxation of blood vessels in rats (via activation of PKG pathway) (R).
Some Important Mechanisms For How Nicotine Works in The Brain
Nicotine is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) (R).
MAOIs prevent the breakdown of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in the brain, effectively increasing their levels (R).
Nicotine mimics the effects of acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine is an excitatory neurotransmitter capable of carrying out electrical impulses, making it possible for nerves to communicate (R).
Nicotine acts upon a series of subsets of the nicotinic transmitters, specifically alpha-4:beta-2, and alpha-7 (R).
It is through these receptors that nicotine is able to act upon the brain and parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest part) (R).
Through the alpha-7 receptor specifically, nicotine is able to influence 55 genes (R).
Nicotine increases blood flow in the thalamus, occipital cortex, and cerebellum (R).
There are some potential downsides to nicotine.
If you don’t do it in moderation, it can become a problem.
- First, it should be used if your brain has fully developed.
- Second, if you have or had cancer, it might not be smart to use nicotine.
- Third, if you have an H pylori infection, you shouldn’t use nicotine until you get rid of it.
1) It’s Addictive, and Quitting is Difficult
Trying to quit a nicotine (more specifically Tobacco/smoking) habit may cause strong cravings for the substance, increased appetite, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, anger, frustration, depression, irritability, and restlessness (R).
Nicotine is not a sedative or a relaxant. Studies have shown that the ‘sedative’ or ‘calming’ effect from cigarettes is only due to relieving the symptoms of withdrawal (R).
2) Nicotine Can Increase Tumor Growth
Nicotine is a very strong promoter of increased capillary blood vessel growth.
This new growth is usually considered a good thing except in the case of tumors, where nicotine has been shown to increase tumor growth in colon, pancreas, breast, larynx, and lung cancers (R, R2, R3, R4, R5).
Nicotine increases the progression and growth of tumors initiated by tobacco carcinogens (R).
Mice treated with nicotine had a nearly 40% higher tumor recurrence after initial tumors were successfully removed (R).
3) Adolescents Should Steer Clear of Nicotine
Nicotine ingestion shows impairment in the prefrontal cortex in adolescent users (R).
Cigarette smoking and/or nicotine ingestion could impair development of the prefrontal cortex region of the brain in users under the age of 25 (R).
Nicotine use during adolescence actually increases risk of cognitive impairment later in life (R).
4) Nicotine Increases Risk of H.Pylori
Nicotine is a supplement whose dosage is typically self-determined by the individual to reach desired effect. Self dosage typically ranges between 0.2-8.0 mg. A middle range is considered to be between 1-4 mg.
Cigarettes contain roughly 10-20 mg of nicotine with the smoker taking in 1-2 mg of vaporized nicotine per cigarette (R)
Most gums and chews contain 2 mg per piece. It is recommended to limit intake to 24 pieces in a day. I personally use 1 piece of gum on most days.
Only 10-20% of the nicotine present in a pinch of Swedish snus is absorbed via the mucous membrane and reaches the systemic circulation.
This means that only 1-2 mg of nicotine in snus is absorbed into the blood from a one gram pinch of snus containing 10 mg of nicotine (R).
Chewing tobacco varies widely depending upon the brand and type, containing free nicotine in amounts anywhere from 0.5 to 6 mg per dose (R).
Nicotine patches come in a selection of higher doses (ex. 21 mg/day) which are released over a longer period of time.
Symptoms of Overdose
Nicotine poisoning delivers a biphasic effect — it first acts as a stimulant in the body but rapidly turns into a depressant. Vomiting is the most common symptom of nicotine poisoning and can begin as quickly as 15 minutes after ingestion (R, R2).
Nicotine is lethal if ingested in high enough doses.
An oral dose of 50 to 60 mg of nicotine is enough to kill a 160 lb person (R).
Nicotine overdose can cause death in as little as an hour (R).
Nicotine behaves the same way in the brain as acetylcholine. In excessive amounts, it will overload synapses and disrupt nerve impulses. Over-stimulation of neurons can cause the destruction of brain tissues (R).
Health Tools I Wish I Had When I Was Sick
At SelfHacked, it’s our goal to offer our readers all the tools possible to get optimally healthy. When I was struggling with chronic health issues I felt stuck because I didn’t have any tools to help me get better. I had to spend literally thousands of hours trying to read through studies on pubmed to figure out how the body worked and how to fix it.
That’s why I decided to create tools that will help others cut down the guesswork:
- Lab Test Analyzer – a software tool that will analyze your labs and tell you what the optimal values are for each marker — as well as provide you with actionable tips and personalized health and lifestyle recommendations to help you get there.
- SelfDecode – a software tool that will help you analyze your genetic data from companies such as 23andme and ancestry. You will learn how your health is being impacted by your genes, and how to use this knowledge to your advantage.
- SelfHacked Secrets – an ebook where we examine and explain the biggest overlooked environmental factors that cause disease. This ebook is a great place to start your journey if you want to learn the essential steps to optimizing your health.
- SelfHacked Elimination Diet course – a video course that will help you figure out which diet works best for you
- Selfhacked Inflammation course – a video course on inflammation and how to bring it down
- Biohacking insomnia – an ebook on how to get great sleep
- Lectin Avoidance Cookbook – an e-cookbook for people with food sensitivities
- BrainGauge – a device that detects subtle brain changes and allows you to test what’s working for you
- SelfHacked VIP – an area where you can ask me (Joe) questions about health topics
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