What You Should Know About Citicoline

woman putting sticky note on wall in office
Hero Images/Getty Images

Citicoline is a chemical available in dietary supplement form. It's considered a nootropic (i.e., a type of drug designed to enhance memory and improve brain function).  Initially developed for the treatment of stroke, citicoline is said to help treat a variety of conditions affecting the brain.

When ingested, citicoline breaks down into choline and cytidine (a component of ribonucleic acid, which is a molecule that plays a key role in protein synthesis). Both choline and cytidine are involved in the synthesis of phosphatidylcholine, a chemical essential for healthy brain function.

Uses for Citicoline

Citicoline is typically used in the treatment of the following health problems:

In addition, citicoline is said to sharpen memory, promote recovery from head trauma, and stimulate circulation throughout the brain.

Benefits of Citicoline

Research suggests that citicoline may offer a number of health benefits. Here's a look at several key findings on the health effects of citicoline:

1)  Stroke

Citicoline appears to be a safe and promising approach to promoting recovering from stroke, according to a report published in the journal Stroke in 2011.

For the report, scientists analyzed previously published findings from clinical trials and animal-based studies testing citicoline's effectiveness in protecting against stroke-related cognitive impairment. Although the report's authors note that research on citicoline's effects in stroke patients is limited, they found some evidence that use of citicoline may help prevent post-stroke cognitive decline and improve several markers of cognitive function.

2)  Alzheimer's Disease

Several studies show that citicoline may be of some benefit to people with Alzheimer's disease. In a 2010 report published in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences, for instance, researchers sized up the available research on citicoline's potential to inhibit cognitive decline. Along with preliminary studies showing that citicoline may stimulate brain repair action, the report's authors found a few clinical trials indicating that citicoline may have long-term effects on cognitive function in people with Alzheimer's disease.

Clinical trials testing citicoline's effects on Alzheimer's disease patients include a small study published in Methods and Findings in Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology in 1999. For the study, 30 patients with Alzheimer's disease were assigned to 12 weeks of treatment with either citicoline or a placebo. Compared to those given the placebo, study members treated with citicoline showed significantly greater improvements in cognitive performance (as well as in blood flow throughout the brain).

3)  Glaucoma

Citicoline shows promise in the treatment of glaucoma, suggests a 2002 report published in the Journal of Neuroscience Research. Looking at the available research on citicoline and glaucoma (including one clinical trial), the report's authors determined that citicoline may help treat glaucoma in part by stimulating certain systems of nerve cells involved in regulating vision.


While citicoline appears to be safe for short-term use, there's some concern that it may trigger a number of side effects (including diarrheaheadachehigh blood pressureinsomnia, and nausea).

Keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get further tips on using supplements here.

Alternatives to Citicoline

Several other dietary supplements may help enhance brain function. For instance, there's some evidence that increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids (a type of healthy fat found naturally in flaxseed and in oily fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel) may help fight age-related decline in cognitive function.

Research also indicates that drinking green tea may help fight the formation of amyloid plaques (substances known to damage brain cells and cause the loss of memory and motor function associated with Alzheimer's disease).

Where to Find It

Citicoline is available for purchase online and sold in many drugstores and stores specializing in nutritional supplements.

Should You Use Citicoline for Health?

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend citicoline as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using it for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

  • Alvarez-Sabín J1, Román GC. "Citicoline in vascular cognitive impairment and vascular dementia after stroke." Stroke. 2011 Jan;42(1 Suppl):S40-3.
  • Alvarez XA1, Mouzo R, Pichel V, Pérez P, Laredo M, Fernández-Novoa L, Corzo L, Zas R, Alcaraz M, Secades JJ, Lozano R, Cacabelos R. "Double-blind placebo-controlled study with citicoline in APOE genotyped Alzheimer's disease patients. Effects on cognitive performance, brain bioelectrical activity and cerebral perfusion." Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol. 1999 Nov;21(9):633-44.
  • García-Cobos R1, Frank-García A, Gutiérrez-Fernández M, Díez-Tejedor E. "Citicoline, use in cognitive decline: vascular and degenerative." J Neurol Sci. 2010 Dec 15;299(1-2):188-92.
  • Grieb P1, Rejdak R. "Pharmacodynamics of citicoline relevant to the treatment of glaucoma." J Neurosci Res. 2002 Jan 15;67(2):143-8.