CILTEP might have once been one of the top dogs of the nootropics industry, but it is showing obvious signs of age today! Compared to some of the other brain supplements currently on the market, it barely looks like a nootropic. Artichoke extract doesn’t pack much of a punch, and forskolin lacks conclusive proof that it works in humans. Neither phenylalanine nor carnitine do anything for brain function. Better nootropics are out there than CILTEP. That’s putting it mildly!
CILTEP Review: Is this nootropic stack still competitive?
CILTEP is a natural nootropic stack from Natural Stacks. These guys are one of the biggest players in the supplement industry – or rather the nootropics supplement industry. They make a wide range of products designed to enhance brain function, mental health, and overall human performance.
Natural Stacks were one of the first supplement brands to bring brain supplements into the mainstream. CILTEP was among the first premium nootropics to market to a wider audience. Before the likes of CILTEP, Optimind, and Alpha Brain, nootropics were a niche, almost underground phenomenon. Nowadays we have hyper-modern stacks like Performance Lab Mind, but this wasn’t always the case.
So, what does CILTEP claim to do exactly?
CILTEP is described on the bottle as a natural nootropic for mental performance.
According to the Natural Stacks website, CILTEP does the following:
- Keeps you focused “for hours”
- Promotes clarity and mental sharpness
- Clears brain fog
- Enhances memory formation and improves retention
- Improves mood and reduces social anxiety
- Promotes ‘long-term potentiation’
That is a fantastic list of benefits. Clearly then, this is a supplement designed to provide total cognitive enhancement. CILTEP is sold as a complete brain supplement – a once-daily nootropic for all-round cognitive enhancement.
The long-term potentiation claim is especially interesting. According to Natural Stacks, CILTEP can strengthen your synapses and promote better intra-brain cell communication. The end result is lasting, long-term improvements in brain function.
This sounds like a pretty amazing nootropic.
But does CILTEP really work as advertised? How much of this can it really do? Is it safe? What side effects might it cause? Find out by reading our detailed CILTEP review below. Have you used CILTEP yourself? Let us know what you think of it in the comments!
Here is the CILTEP ingredients list as it is shown on the bottle:
We’re surprised that there are so few ingredients in CILTEP given the things it promises to do for you. But Performance Lab Mind is a three-ingredient stack, and that over-delivers if anything. Here is a quick breakdown of what each CILTEP ingredient does, what we make of the scientific data behind it, and what we think of the dose.
Artichoke Extract (5% cyanins) – 900mg
Artichoke extract is an extremely interesting substance. This natural nootropic is thought to improve intracellular signalling in the brain through the inhibition of PDE4. PDE4 is the enzyme which breaks down cAMP (Cyclic adenosine monophosphate) molecules. cAMP molecules are important messenger compounds in the brain. Reducing PDE4 activity would raise cAMP molecule availability, thereby improving intracellular communication in the brain, which in turn will enhance cognitive function.
What’s interesting here is that CILTEP does not state the luteolin content of their artichoke extract. They tell us it is 5% cyanins, but it is not the cyanins in artichoke which inhibit PDE4, but the luteolin. Both luteolin and cyanin are types of flavonoids, but they are not the same thing. In any case, this is an interesting ingredient.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine – 750mg
Carnitine is an amino acid. It is highly prevalent in the normal human diet – everything from beef to milk to beans to avocados contain some carnitine. Some people supplement with carnitine in order to boost energy levels in the gym. However, as it is so prevalent in the diet, the effects of supplementation are pretty insignificant.
We wouldn’t call Carnitine a nootropic. It might be said to have an indirect on mental function because of its role in energy metabolism. But it isn’t going to make a noticeable difference to your day-to-day cognitive performance. It’s a shame that CILTEP has used this benign amino acid as one of its main ingredients!
L-Phenylalanine – 500mg
Again with the common amino acids! Phenylalanine is ubiquitous in the human diet. If a food is rich in protein, then chances are it contains at least some phenylalanine. If you’re talking about meat, dairy, or soy, then chances are it contains a lot of phenylalanine. For example, an ounce of dried tofu contains about 550mg of phenylalanine. An ounce of parmesan contains about the same amount.
Phenylalanine’s job in the body isn’t quite clear. It is a proteinogenic amino acid. It therefore contributes to the building of proteins. But beyond that, it doesn’t seem to do a great deal – certainly no more than any other proteinogenic amino acid.
Again, we don’t know why Natural Stacks have included any phenylalanine in CILTEP. We don’t know why any supplement contains phenylalanine. It’s clear that they don’t think it is a potent nootropic – the CILTEP merchant page just says it is a building block for dopamine. But we’ve not seen any evidence that phenylalanine availability is what limits dopamine synthesis.
Coleus Forskohlii (20% forskolin) – 20mg
There is some evidence to suggest that forskolin might be effective for promoting long-term brain health and mental performance. In some rodent studies, forskolin administration (in high doses) has been shown to reduce brain inflammation, decrease plaque deposits in the hippocampus, improve nest construction ability, and improve sociability (source). However, it is important to note that in this study, the mice had induced amyloidosis – an abnormal build-up of the protein amyloid in tissues. It’s also important to realise that so far, only rodent studies have shown significant effects from forskolin supplementation.
Until we see some long-term human trials showing big benefits from forskolin consumption, we’re unconvinced about this one.
Our Thoughts On The CILTEP Formula
Honesty, we don’t think very much of CILTEP as a nootropic.
To be blunt, this is one boring formula.
CILTEP provides a large dose of artichoke extract. This may well boost cAMP availability, which in turn promotes efficient brain cell signalling. But there isn’t much in the way of hard clinical evidence backing this one up. Nor is there a lot of anecdotal evidence telling us that artichoke consumption massive boosts cognitive performance.
Even if artichoke extract does enhance cognitive function, it’s likely that the effects are limited.
You certainly aren’t going to get the same kind of sharp, noticeable increase in concentration, energy, and mental clarity that you get from the likes of Huperzine A, Alpha-GPC, or Citicoline.
As for the rest of the CILTEP formula, what can we say?
Carnitine is an amino acid found in large amounts in many foods. It does not have any known nootropic properties. People regularly consume carnitine supplements for boosting physical energy levels. They don’t regularly report experiencing massive spikes in brain power!
Phenylalanine – like Carnitine – is not a nootropic. It has no nootropic effects to speak of. It has never been shown to positively affect focus, learning, memory, or mood. It does not promote brain cell growth in any meaningful way. Phenylalanine’s job in the body is actually not well understood.
It seems to just build proteins, like all amino acids!
As for forskolin, we’re kind of on the fence. Initial studies on mice look promising, but we can’t find any clinical trials conducted on humans. Until we do, we’re staying neutral. A potentially promising but as yet unproven nootropic.
So on the whole, we can’t say that we’re too impressed with CILTEP. It doesn’t do a great deal. Compared with the more complete nootropics on the market today, it barely even looks like a brain supplement!
If you are looking for a supplement to give you a competitive edge, or to simply promote overall better brain function going forward, CILTEP is far from the ideal choice. Better nootropics are available, no doubt about that!
CILTEP User Reviews – What do other people say about CILTEP?
One thing that really surprised us about CILTEP is the testimonials.
Apparently this is the go-to stack for a number of individuals for whom performance is everything.
The most notable is Martin Jacobson, the Word Series of Poker Champion of 2014:
Professional poker players need to be able to stay completely focused on their game for hours, even days at a time.
Keeping track of their opponents’ behaviors, betting patterns, and so on requires a laser-like degree of concentration.
But CILTEP doesn’t provide anything which brings about a dramatic increase in focus, information processing, or attention span!
If we were going to design a stack specifically for a poker player, we’d make include Citicoline, Huperzine A, Tyrosine, and Ginkgo biloba.
CILTEP doesn’t contain any of that!
Side Effects – Is CILTEP safe long-term?
CILTEP users are unlikely to experience any side effects whatsoever – that’s in our opinion at least.
There’s nothing in CILTEP which we think you need to be worried about. None of these ingredients are thought to be dangerous either in the short or long term.
Each ingredient has been tested in clinical conditions and deemed generally safe for human consumption.
They are all found naturally in plant and animal foods. They are all also used widely in supplements of various kinds. They are not known to cause side effects on a regular basis.
None of CILTEP’s ingredients are thought to pose significant health or side effect risks.
Some users might experience some digestive discomfort. After all, CILTEP contains some unusual herbal extracts that your digestive system might not be used to handling.
But any side effects should be mild and transient.
That said, you’re all different. You all have unique physiologies and medical histories. Do your own research carefully and talk to a doctor before you continue.
In conclusion – Is CILTEP a good choice for brain enhancement?
CILTEP is not a good option for anybody looking to enhance their cognitive performance in any way. It doesn’t matter what your specific goals are – whether they’re long-term or short-term focused.
That’s our honest opinion.
CILTEP might have been right for the market when it was first launched all those years ago.
But today, the nootropics market is different; it is much more mature.
Our standards have improved considerably. The body of research we have to draw on is significantly greater. Yet CILTEP has remained the same. That is not a good thing.
With the exception of forskolin, CILTEP’s ingredients are all easily obtainable from food.
Neither Carnitine nor Phenylalanine have any nootropic properties whatsoever – they DO NOT contribute to better brain function in any way.
Artichoke extract might enhance cAMP signalling, but this alone isn’t going to make much of a difference to your cognitive function on a day-to-day basis. You wont notice any difference; you definitely wont feel it the same way you would feel a nice big dose of Citicoline.
CILTEP promises us a great deal. It claims to enhance multiple aspects of cognition. It says that it ramps up focus while supporting long-term brain development. We don’t see any evidence for this in the formula.
Whether you want short-term increases in focus and learning or a more long-term brain support stack, CILTEP is not the answer. Not any more.
Brian Johnson is a former academic researcher, psychologist, and tireless proponent of bio-hacking. Brian has dedicated all of his time since leaving academia and private practice to promoting the benefits to be obtained from the application of biotechnology and bio-hacking supplements. He has years of experience with nootropics, as well as prebiotics, probiotics, and other natural nutritional supplements. He has published scholarly research on natural nootropics; you can find his papers on his Google Scholar page.