(This week’s post is more of a rant than about a specific supplement.)
Here’s a rule of thumb that I follow for herbal supplements and nootropics and other fairly un-researched substances: always take the smallest effective dose.
Our culture has this problem in assuming that more of everything is better. This may be true in terms of stimulants and intoxicants like caffeine, alcohol and cannabis, but this can be far from the truth for other substances, because “feeling something” might mean that it might be doing you a disservice. With that, I might go so far as to say that if you don’t know that it’s working, it’s probably working at its best.
If a person is functioning optimally, they probably wouldn’t know the difference until they felt less than optimal. The gain to your well-being is a net one, and simply “feeling” like something is working is not a reliable indicator that it is. After all, do you know that your computer is working “fast” all the time, or over time do you get used to it working fast and get pissed when you feel like it’s working slow?
Aside from taking the smallest effective dose, you should also try to go off of scientific literature whenever it’s possible for you to do so. I know, it’s a bitch to go and have to research everything yourself, unless you’re me and you like to read about this stuff. In which case, it’s too late and you’re already a nerd.
Unfortunately, many supplements and substances aren’t properly researched because there isn’t a huge corporate interest working behind these substances, holding onto their patents and controlling what information gets out to the public at large about their side-effect-ridden drugs. Individuals like you and I seldom have the time, knowledge or resources to research the objective best dosages for our purposes.
The additional problem with experimenting with supplements for yourself is that you must evaluate for yourself how everything works out. Although at the end of the day your subjective experience determines whether something is effective for you or not, there are a nearly infinite number of factors that can affect your experience for anything, many of which may not be the substance itself.
For example, in reading about choline and cholinergics a couple weeks ago, I learned that too much choline can inhibit the functions of verbal memory which may be responsible for the “brain fog” that some experience from taking too much choline or a cholinergic substance like huperzine (for that, be sure to take vitamin B5 as it helps regulate choline levels).
And while we’re on that topic, here’s a little story about a cholinergic mishap I had almost two years ago: I took huperzine for the second time in a day, stared at the sun, then settled in to do some reading about an hour after taking the huperzine. I was reading the sentences and words but unable to combine the words in my mind to understand what the hell the damn sentence meant. I was reading it but not comprehending it at all. It was frustrating, but only upon researching this recently I determined it was a choline overload.
Anyway, since that incident I tend to take half of a recommended dose of certain substances before I work my way up. It’s in a supplement seller’s best interest to make sure you take a big dosage so that you run out of it faster and buy more. Mind you, I make a small income on this very site when people click through to purchase supplements. But I use the supplements myself, and understand that it’s a better business model for the supplement manufacturers and stores to make sure that people buy the stuff as often as possible. Sometimes taking the maximum dosage or even the recommended dosage is too much.
Again: Always start with, at most, half the recommended dose on the label and work your way up.
If you notice no difference, stay at the smallest dose that works the best. Dial back the dosage if something isn’t quite working for you.
If the scientific literature says nothing about dosage or about the supplement you want to take, use small doses, and pay attention to what other people have said is working for them in terms of dosage in places like Longecity, Examine, or on /r/nootropics.
Also, I would avoid anything that suggests “megadosing” unless you’re absolutely sure you know what you’re getting into. Most megadosing experiments seem to be by bored and curious people with too much of a given substance on hand.