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Qualia Premium Nootropic: Review & Buyer’s Guide

By on August 3, 2018 in Focus Supplements with 0 Comments

Qualia Mind Premium Nootropic Review

Few nootropic supplements in recent years have been as widely anticipated or as hyped in social media circles as Qualia the marquee product of the Neurohacker Collective.

Revolutionizing the way in which nootropics are formulated is no easy feat but with precision, and a carefully calibrated scientific approach, the Neurohacker team are determined to achieve just that.

Several things set the group apart from their rivals. Firstly, several well-publicized rounds of fundraising brought attention to the founder’s outsized ambition to shake-up an industry in which many firms operate on a shoestring budget, selling the same formulas as each other with minimal uniqueness in branding and labeling.

Secondly, the backing of a large team, including Harvard Medical School alumni, has also added credence to their name and forced nootropic and biohacking communities online to sit-up and take notice of the Neurohacker Collective’s efforts. This has also piqued the interest of major media outlets   such as the Wall Street Journal — which described the group’s unique approach to fundraising.

But how much of this marketing success can be attributed to clever persuasion? And to what extent does the best available science support or rebuke the bold claims made by the manufacturer?

This article will investigate the group’s leading product, Qualia Mind, and we will also touch on their ‘stack’ offering known as the Original Stack. Our goal, as ever, is to separate fact from fiction, and substance from supposition.

An All-Encompassing Approach

Two trees are shaped like human heads in jigsaw formation

The Qualia sales pitch goes to great lengths to describe the systematic or ‘systems-based’ approach used to formulate the nootropic. The label of Qualia Mind is remarkably extensive and reads almost like a novel. I counted a total of 28 separate ingredients ranging in dosage from 25mcg of Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) to 500mg of L-carnitine.

Before we delve into the scientific research behind individual ingredients, I want to touch on the overall philosophy that the group uses to engineer a product that is supposedly ‘greater than the sum of its parts’. This is an important and neglected area of most reviews and deserves scrutiny.

On their website, the Neurohacker Collective rail against a reductivist approach employed by most manufacturers in the field. Free of marketing speak, this essentially means that most blended nootropics and ‘nootropic stacks’ employed today are thrown together in the hope that each ingredient in isolation will exert its desired effects without due consideration for the fact that those ingredients can exert competing or complementary effects when consumed together.

For instance, one might hear about the antidepressant effects of St. John’s Wort and immediately decide to ‘stack’ the substance with their usual selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant. However, in this case, we may find no appreciable improvement in depression, and perhaps even a negative interaction.

That is, we may have been better off taking one substance in isolation rather than trying to combine them for greater gains. Reports of interactions from both official sources and anecdotal evidence are widespread and help explain why St. John’s Wort doesn’t feature on the label of Qualia Mind.

In the same way that doctors seek to avoid negative drug-drug interactions, the team behind Qualia are seeking to maximize the positive synergistic effects of multiple ingredients while avoiding negative interactions. While the website of the Neurohacker Collective is heavy on marketing spin (as one would imagine), the approach itself is a much-needed breath of fresh air in an industry in which both consumers and manufacturers show striking ignorance of the need for a whole-system approach to optimizing brain chemistry.

Bottom line: The Neurohacker Collective website touts a radically new approach to formulating nootropic stacks that focuses on the myriad complex interactions between ingredients. This method is aimed at maximizing positive synergies and minimizing negative side-effects.

In this article, we explore some of these synergies and the lengthy ingredient list of Qualia.

Reverse-Engineering The Product / Exploring Synergies

In this section of our analysis, we will approach the body of scientific evidence in order to explore some of the effects of Qualia’s ingredients. While it isn’t possible to analyze all listed ingredients (Qualia Mind has 28 alone) in isolation, we will pick out some of the most potent actors in the blend and seek to identify some of the key positive synergies in effect.

Acetyl-L-Carnitine + Bacopa monnieri

Flowering bacopa monnieri plant

Memory (short and long-term) is prominently situated on the supplement maker’s website as a key target area of action for the product. Any meaningful cognitive enhancement is underpinned by deeply complex science and researchers are still unearthing and investigating the mechanism(s) of action for a vast array of natural supplements and pharmaceuticals.

Much of our knowledge at present is based on relatively small-scale studies, but this research is nevertheless extremely important in identifying meaningful therapeutic outcomes and the possible pathways that underpin them.

The importance of both acetylcholine and glutamate in memory formation has long been established in the scientific literature (1). As a neurotransmitter, glutamate is known to play an important role in the function of learning and memory (2). It has been established, likewise, that acetylcholine plays a clear role in the encoding of new memories (3).

Neurotransmitters present in the healthy brain do not work in isolation. Rather, they have deeply complex and interwoven actions in the manner in which they influence cognition.

Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) is the form of L-Carnitine best suited to cognitive enhancement. It is typically taken in a dosage of 500mg-2,500mg and therefore the dosage of 500mg present in Qualia is at the low end of the therapeutic range.

A 2003 analysis of a range of earlier high-quality studies showed a significant advantage of those taking ALCAR as compared to those taking a placebo (dummy pill) (4). The studies analyzed were conducted over a period of 3-12 months and included patients with both mild cognitive impairment and early Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies have also demonstrated cognitive benefits in specific population groups, ranging from those deficient in carnitine to the elderly (5)(6). These results are highly promising but more research is needed, particularly among young and otherwise healthy participants, before wider conclusions are drawn.

ALCAR is believed to contribute to acetylcholine synthesis and this mechanism of action may underpin its clear emergence as a nootropic of choice among the biohacking community (7).

Bacopa monnieri has a long established role in memory optimization. A study of 76 healthy middle-aged adults found that a daily dose ranging from 300mg-450mg (bodyweight dependent) increased the retention of new information compared to baseline tests (8). By comparison, Qualia contains 300mg of Bacopa monnieri.

A further study with 62 healthy young and middle-aged subjects found improvements in working memory (the short-term ‘processing’ aspect of information retention) and self-reported energy levels after 90 days of continuous daily dosing (9). Participants took 300mg daily.

Other studies have reached similar conclusions (10)(11)(12)(13).

Pros

  • Highly promising data emerging from studies on both ALCAR and Bacopa monnieri suggest measurable cognitive benefits, particularly in the area of working memory.
  • ALCAR dosing may be particularly beneficial among populations with pre-existing deficiency.
  • Bacopa monnieri is a great choice for people looking for steadier, long-term improvements in important areas of cognition. Resorting to fast-acting cognitive enhancers like modafinil may carry more side-effects.

Cons

  • Most studies to date on ALCAR supplementation have focused on older people. More research is needed to investigate the nootropic effects of the substance among young and healthy people.
  • A study conducted with older participants dosing Bacopa monnieri found a higher rate of cramps and nausea in the group taking bacopa. Another study, mentioned above, found higher rates of diarrhea among people dosing with the substance (9).
  • Continous daily dosing of Bacopa monnieri for at least 90 days is recommended if the full benefits are to be attained.

Bioperine + Curcumin (Qualia Original Stack Only)

This powdered tumeric contains curcumin

The Qualia Original Stack is a two-step nootropic designed to be taken in the morning. The first dose is taken without food and the remaining capsules are consumed with food to maximize the benefits while minimizing undesirable side effects.

The original stack product includes an interesting combination of powerful antioxidants: Bioperine (piperine) and curcumin. This supplement contains a host of other antioxidants but these two deserve special examination for the manner in which they produce desirable synergistic results.

Piperine inhibits glucuronidation in the liver on a temporary basis (14). This is a vital supporting role in the context of Qualia supplementation because it helps curcumin (and other chemicals) reach the bloodstream more effectively. Piperine may increase the bioavailability of curcumin by up to 20-fold. Other important liver processes are unaffected and glucuronidation returns to normal after this brief window of absorption. This is one case example of the Neurohacker team’s methodology in selecting ingredients that offer radically complementary effects.

Curcumin, once in the bloodstream, exhibits several desirable effects. Most notable among these is the antioxidant’s ability to systematically lower inflammation in the body. Many studies have been conducted with curcumin in patients with disease states linked to states of inflammation.

In one study, ulcerative colitis (a form of inflammatory bowel disease) patients dosing curcumin alongside standard treatment were compared for relapses with patients receiving standard treatment alone. The curcumin group suffered significantly fewer relapses in their condition than the control group (15). Anti-inflammatory action has also been noted in studies of kidney disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and oral disease patients (16)(17)(18)(19).

Additionally, a strong 2017 study with 123 participants found that curcumin appears to be more effective than placebo in reducing symptoms of depression (20).

Pros

  • Piperine is highly effective at increasing the bioavailability of curcumin in the body.
  • Curcumin is a potent antioxidant with proven anti-inflammatory effects in humans.
  • Curcumin may also exhibit pro-cognitive effects and a promising study from 2017 reveals possible anti-depressant action.

Cons

  • Most studies conducted to date have used daily doses of 2-6 grams. Qualia original stack contains just 250mg. However, it’s well worth noting that piperine acts as a facilitator for the increased bioavailability of curcumin. The manufacturer also uses a specially formulated curcumin (HydroCurc) that may further enhance the substance’s action when ingested.

More Ingredients

Qualia Mind Label:

Qualia Mind Supplement Facts

Vitamin B12
  • The cheapest and most common vitamin B12 supplements contain cyanocobalamin. The Neurohacker team have chosen methylcobalamin for its purported functional superiority. This is largely due to its better retention within the body. Research suggests that B12 supplementation can help improve memory and concentration while offsetting age-related cognitive decline (21)(22).
N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine
  • N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine is included in Qualia Mind at a dosage of 250mg. The substance is a precursor to dopamine and also supports thyroid hormone production (23). Military personnel supplementing the chemical have seen significant improvements in mood and cognitive function when faced with acutely stressful situations (24).
Rhodiola Rosea
  • An adaptogen, Rhodiola rosea is a flowering plant that exhibits a multitude of effects when ingested. In a nutshell, biologically active compounds in adaptogens are able to reduce the numerous undesirable effects of stress on both mental and physical health. A multitude of studies have demonstrated its ability to alleviate fatigue associated with stress (25)(26)(27). Rhodiola Rosea also appears to boost psychological well-being through mechanisms that are not yet fully understood (28).
Theanine
  • Theanine possesses stress-reducing properties. After completing a math task, one study found that those taking a theanine supplement had 50% lower levels of a common salivary stress marker than those taking a placebo.

Qualia Original Stack Label:

Step 1:

Qualia Original Stack Step One Ingredients

Step 2:

Qualia Original Stack Step Two Ingredients

Ginkgo Biloba
  • Supplementation in healthy middle-aged adults appears to lead to improved information recall after six weeks of dosing (29). However, this study was unable to demonstrate improvements in other areas of cognition, such as recognition memory. After 3 months of supplementing with Ginkgo biloba, elderly individuals with cognitive decline (but not dementia) saw improvements in cognition and reaction time (30).
Noopept
  • Noopept is a widely hyped nootropic substance, but its freshness to the market means that high-quality studies are relatively few-and-far-between. Animal studies suggest an ability to upregulate neurotrophin factors NGF and BDNF (31). This behavior in the brain may provide a route to long-term memory improvements (32).  Noopept may exhibit anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects in humans by regulating activity in the hippocampus (33).
Alpha-GPC
  • Alpha-GPC is a choline donor. Choline has an essential role in many bodily processes but is also crucial to cognition. It is a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and, by increasing the levels of acetylcholine in the brain, choline may support a multitude of cognitive processes, including memory and learning. When supplemented by Alzheimer’s disease patients, Alpha-GPC appears to lessen symptoms of the condition across all recognized rating scales (34).
Phosphatidylserine
  • Another recognized nootropic substance, phosphatidylserine was investigated in a short trial with young male (age 18-29) participants. After two weeks, those taking phosphatidylserine (instead of a placebo) saw an increase in ‘speed of calculations’ (20%) and gave more right answers and fewer incorrect answers in cognitive testing (35). These improvements were shown to be independent of fatigue levels and mood state.

Qualia Mind vs Qualia Original Stack

The key difference between Neurohacker’s two main products is that Qualia Mind is to be consumed in one step: first thing in the morning, before breakfast. Qualia Original Stack is taken in two stages: the stage one supplement is taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, and stage two is consumed around 30 minutes later with food.

The ingredient list of Qualia Original Stack is therefore unsurprisingly longer. Here are the ingredients present in the original stack that aren’t present in Qualia Mind:

Nootropic Compounds

  • Noopept
  • Pure Energy (caffeine + pterostilbene)
  • Vinpocetine
  • Hordenine HCI
  • Phenylethylamine HCL

Antioxidants

  • Quercetin
  • Green tea extract
  • Bioperine (piperine)
  • Curcumin

Adaptogen Extracts

  • Lion’s Mane
  • Gynostemma

Amino Acids

  • N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine
  • Taurine
  • L-Theanine
  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine
  • DL-Phenylalanine

Choline Donors

  • Alpha-GPC
  • Cognizin Citicoline
  • Centrophenoxine

Neuro-Minerals

  • Magnesium Threonate
  • Lithium Orotate
  • Zinc Picolinate

Here are the ingredients present in Qualia Mind that aren’t present in the original stack:

Nootropic Compounds

  • Celastrus Paniculatus Seed Extract

Qualia Original Stack vs Alpha Brain vs Mind Lab Pro

Many people are rightfully eager to know which premium nootropic brand is the best on the market today. These individuals have often already made up their mind that they’d rather take a pre-blended nootropic stack than assemble their own bit-by-bit, but they are confused by competing claims made by the leading manufacturers.

We created this table to summarize some of the key differences between three popular brands: Qualia Original Stack, Alpha Brain, and Mind Lab Pro.

 Qualia Original StackAlpha BrainMind Lab Pro
Manufacturer:Neurohacker CollectiveOnnit Labs, Inc.Opti-Nutra Ltd.
Monthly Price (when taken as recommended):$89.00 (first shipment)$50.90$65.00
Serving size:3 capsules in step one, 9 capsules in step two.2 capsules per day.2 capsules per day.
Advantages:Potent, synergistic formulation with the greatest variety and number of cognitive enhancers.Best value for money. Contains numerous adaptogens, amino acids, and nootropics.Contains 11 proven ingredients and offers a noticeable boost to many users.
Disadvantages:Pricey choice but the extra money may be worthwhile for serious nootropic consumers.Lacks the punch of formulations with more ingredients.As with Alpha Brain, the Mind Lab Pro formula is not as comprehensive or all-encompassing as Qualia.

Is it worth the money?

Verdict: Yes, for serious nootropic consumers looking for a gold-standard product.

If you are looking to nootropics as a casual consumer, or with a strictly limited budget, you may be forced to look elsewhere.

However, while this article is not able to explore each of the dozens of ingredients, in turn, taking each alone is an impractical choice due to the scope and size of the Qualia formula.

A common argument made by nootropic blend skeptics is that it is significantly cheaper to take all of these ingredients separately to replicate the stack. However, trying to assemble 30+ individual supplement bottles to emulate Qualia would be unwieldy, difficult and roughly as expensive.

Even for those who are willing and able to assemble a shopping cart of that size, a true replication of Qualia would be difficult because even within the ingredient selection we see specially chosen items like the HydroCurc form of Curcumin and the less common form of over-the-counter Vitamin B12.

In addition, feedback from the nootropics community has been resoundingly strong for Qualia. The all-encompassing, all-bases-covered method of ingredient selection make this a must-try for the serious.

How to buy

The product is available on the Neurohacker Collective website. It is also retailed on Amazon with characteristically fast delivery. Buyers searching for some extra value for money can use the coupon code: $10SALE, to save some extra pennies on their order.

How to take

Qualia Mind:

Neurohacker suggests taking 7 capsules with water, first thing in the morning. Some ingredients, like Ginkgo biloba, can cause stomach upset. If you experience any nausea or stomach discomfort, try taking Qualia Mind with breakfast instead.

Interestingly, the manufacturer rightly acknowledges that the optimal dosage of this supplement will vary from person to person. Experimentation with dosage is therefore encouraged; starting from the initial 7 capsules and working up or down as required.

The product is designed for ‘cycling’. This means combining “on days” and “off days” to enjoy optimal results while maintaining sensitivity to the nootropic effects of the ingredients. The recommended cycle is 5 days on and 2 days off per week. The 2 days need not be consecutive. The cycle can also be adjusted as needed. For instance, you may combine 4 days on with 3 days off. However, it’s worth noting that the supplement is designed for regular use in order to maximize medium and long-term results.

Bacopa monnieri, for example, may take around 90 days of regular supplementation to begin offering measurable improvements in memory.

Qualia Original Stack:

The recommended dosage of Qualia Original Stack is 3 capsules of step one and 9 capsules of step two per day. Step one is consumed first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and step two follows 30 minutes later with breakfast.

With the original stack, it may be a good idea to start your dosage small and work up to a desirable amount. Maintaining a ratio of 3:1 (step two: step one) is recommended. However, some people prefer to adjust the dose of step two down, particularly those with a sensitivity to stimulants.

Qualia is not intended as a substitute for restful sleep and maintaining healthy sleep patterns is vital to cognitive function.

Note: before starting any new nootropic supplement, remember to consult your doctor for personalized advice. Qualia may interact negatively with other drugs and may be contraindicated in the presence of certain health issues.

Minimizing side effects

The most commonly observed side effects:

  • Nausea/stomach discomfort – if affected, take your usual dosage with food instead of on an empty stomach.
  • Excessive stimulation or ‘jitters’ – if affected, experiment with lowering your dose to a level that leaves you feeling calmer.

Conclusion — Does it work?

This review has focused heavily on a scientific examination of the product’s ingredient list. Although we haven’t covered all of the dozens of ingredients on the label, we have covered more ground than any other review of Qualia to date.

Crucially, unlike other reviewers, we try to avoid first-hand anecdotal reports because these are prone to bias and lack science-based grounding in facts.

Here is another look at the pros and cons:

Pros

  • Qualia boasts the most comprehensive selection of nootropics, adaptogens, amino acids, and antioxidants ever assembled into one supplement.
  • The methodology behind the product’s creation emphasizes a wholistic strategy in combining ingredients specifically suited not just to the body, but to each other.
  • Substantial discount available on first orders.

Cons

  • Qualia is unsurprisingly somewhat more expensive than rival blends. This may put off consumers looking for an inexpensive introduction to nootropics. The price of repeat orders is also higher than the initial introductory price of your first bottle.

More opinions / Further viewing

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About the Author

About the Author: Tom Andrews BSc is the editor of MentalWellnessToday.com. He devotes his time to psychology and mental health research and also enjoys climbing, hiking, and team sports. Tom is a contributor to several other highly regarded health magazines and blogs.

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