DMAE (Dimethylaminoethanol)

Health Tips / DMAE (Dimethylaminoethanol)

What Is It?

DMAE, or dimethylaminoethanol, is a compound found in high levels in anchovies and sardines. Small amounts of DMAE are also naturally produced in the human brain. Health-food outlets sell it in capsule form to “boost brain power.” While it probably won’t make you smarter, DMAE may play a role in treating memory lapses and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Some evidence suggests it may also play a beneficial role against the impulsive and disruptive behaviors caused by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The supplement has an interesting history. Initially, drug makers were interested in selling the product as a medication for attention deficit disorder after studies in the 1970s showed that deanol, the chemical name for DMAE, reduced hyperactivity and improved concentration in schoolchildren with learning disabilities and behavior problems. However, when further testing was deemed too expensive, it was packaged as a Nutritional supplement, as this substance is naturally found in fish.

Health Benefits

Because it steps up production of brain chemicals essential for short-term memory, concentration, and learning capacity, DMAE may aid in the treatment of ADHD and other disorders affecting the brain and central nervous system.

DMAE is sometimes referred to as a “cholinergic” because it is thought to increase levels of the Neurotransmitter acetylcholine, one of the chemicals in the brain that utilized in memory formation. “Cholinergic” drugs, such as tacrine (Cognex), are used to treat dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Cholinergic drugs are also sometimes prescribed to stabilize the debilitating movements brought on by tardive dyskinesia—repetitive involuntary movements, especially of the face, that can go along with diseases such as Tourette’s Syndrome and Huntington’s chorea, and can also be a side effect of  antipsychotic drugs used to treat schizophrenia and other mental conditions. Researchers have tested DMAE for these conditions, although results of several small studies have been disappointing and a Cochrane review of the available evidence in 2002 determined there was no benefit to this therapy. (1) Still, case reports continue to report some benefits for DMAE in certain individuals with these movement disorders. Benefits, if present, may be due to a Placebo effect or to some unknown genetic factor that makes certain people more responsive to the supplement.

Marketers have also trumpeted DMAE pills and creams for everything from prolonging life and enhancing athletic performance to ridding aging skin of “liver spots.” However, there are no sound studies to support these claims. Moreover, there is no evidence that human beings can suffer from a deficiency of DMAE.

Specifically, DMAE may help to:

  • Relieve the inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Although ADHD has long been recognized as a cause of disruptive behavior and learning difficulties in school-age children, doctors are increasingly coming to recognize it as a cause of problems in adults as well. Evidence suggests that DMAE may help. Studies in children during the 1970s form the basis for DMAE’s role in treating ADHD.  In 1975, a study of 74 children with learning disabilities, including some with hyperactivity, found DMAE was more effective than placebo. Over three months, the children were treated with either 500 mg of DMAE, 40 mg of the stimulant Ritalin (methylphenidate, the most commonly prescribed drug for ADHD), or placebo. Those who were treated with either DMAE or Ritalin showed objective improvements on concentration and skills tests, while those taking placebo did not. (2) Further, a 1976 double-blind study assessed 50 hyperactive kids aged 6 to 12 years who would likely be diagnosed with ADHD based on current standards. After twelve weeks, children taking 500 mg of DMAE daily (300 mg in the morning and another 200 mg at lunch) showed greater improvements in behavior compared to children taking placebo. (3) However, two 1970s reviews of studies examining the clinical efficacy of DMAE and of ADHD treatments (including DMAE) produced inconclusive results regarding efficacy in treating ADHD. (4-5) Since then, little additional research has been done.
  • Improve memory. The possible memory-boosting effects of DMAE may help with the ordinary memory lapses that occur with normal aging. Many nutritionally oriented physicians prescribe DMAE along with another memory enhancer, the dietary supplement phosphatidylcholine. Although rigorous studies are lacking, some people who have tried DMAE report better memory (especially short-term memory), as well as improved concentration, focus, mental clarity, and sleep.

Some research also points to deficits in short-term, or working, memory in both children and adults with ADHD (although long-term memory is fine in these patients). Some of DMAE’s possible benefits for ADHD may, therefore, be due to its memory-boosting potential. Studies have yet to confirm this effect, but preliminary evidence in animals indicates a potential benefit. A 1983 study in mice found cholinergic drugs including DMAE improved working memory retention during a test one week after treatment. Memory retention improved as doses were increased, up to an optimal dosage. (6) And in 1995, another study in rats found those treated with DMAE showed improvement in working memory while navigating a maze. (7) More research is needed in this area to determine the effects of DMAE in humans.

  • Slow the progressive dementia of Alzheimer’s disease. The severe and progressive memory loss of Alzheimer’s disease is due in part to the loss of brain cells that produce acetylcholine, a key chemical messenger for enhancing communication between brain cells. Acetylcholine is essential for learning and memory. In fact, it’s for these reasons that doctors routinely prescribe drugs that boost levels of acetylcholine, such as tacrine (Cognex), donepezil (Aricept), rivasatigmine (Exelon), and galantamine (Reminyl).

In animal studies, DMAE supplements have led to significant improvements in short-term memory, possibly due to cholinergic effects.

Not all studies have been positive, however. In a 1977 study of fourteen senile patients with dementia, patients received 600 mg of DMAE three times daily for four weeks (including a two-week introduction period with smaller doses gradually increasing to 600 mg). In ten patients, depression, irritability, and anxiety were reduced, while motivation-initiative improved. However, cognitive tests showed that neither memory nor other cognitive functions improved with treatment. Symptoms in the remaining four patients remained unchanged. (8) And four years later, when researchers compared DMAE to a placebo in 27 patients with moderately severe or severe Alzheimer’s, the DMAE supplements provided no benefit. In fact, nearly half of the patients stopped taking DMAE due to unpleasant side effects such as drowsiness and increased confusion. (9) Other research investigating whether DMAE is truly a precursor of acetylcholine has been mixed as well, calling into question the supplement’s effectiveness for Alzheimer’s and other memory disorders.

  • Increase skin tension. By potentially increasing acetylcholine in tissues, DMAE is touted for its ability to increase skin tone. Preliminary evidence indicates applying a topical preparation of DMAE may yield this benefit. In a 2002 double-blind trial, a topical gel containing 3% DMAE seemed to increase the firmness of skin in 30 volunteers who applied the preparation to their faces daily for 16 weeks. Improvements were noted in forehead lines and lines around the eyes, as well as in lip shape, fullness, and the appearance of aging skin. The improvements were sustained after a two-week cessation of the application. (10) A 2005 review indicated an open-label extension of this trial showed that long-term application of DMAE gel for up to one year was deemed safe. And, according to the review, in vitro studies also indicate DMAE is an effective anti-inflammatory agent, particularly in the skin, a site of acetylcholine synthesis, storage, secretion, metabolism, and receptivity. However, researchers called for further studies comparing the efficacy of DMAE to other skin-care regimens such as topical Antioxidant creams and alpha-hydroxy acids.


  • tablet
  • liquid
  • cream
  • capsule

Dosage Information

  • For ADHD: 100 to 300 mg, taken orally once or twice a day.
  • For memory problems: 100 to 300 mg, taken orally once or twice a day.
  • For skin health: Apply a 3% DMAE solution according to package directions.

Dosage Information Special tips:

  • Start slowly. DMAE can over-stimulate the nervous system and cause headaches, tense muscles, or insomnia, although these side effects are uncommon. Drowsiness has also been reported. Begin with a low dose and see how you respond before gradually increasing the amount you take. If side effects develop, stop taking the supplement for a day or two and begin at a lower dose.
  • Effects are not immediate but should be noticeable within several weeks.
  • DMAE by itself is relatively inexpensive. It is, however, sometimes sold in costly “brain-boosting formulas” that contain other supplements such as phosphatidylserine (PS) or acetyl-L-carnitine; these additions may or may not be right for you but they will definitely increase the cost of the product.
  • Tablets or capsules in doses of 50 mg, 100 mg, or 130 mg are common. Pills containing 350 mg or more of DMAE bitartrate, which typically contain about 130 mg of “active” DMAE, are also available.

Guidelines for Use

  • DMAE supplements won’t work for everybody and are not intended as a cure. But they are safe and may be helpful.
  • Take DMAE with meals for best absorption.
  • To help jump-start your day, open the capsules and pour the contents into a smoothie or fruit juice as part of your morning routine.
  • Maximum safe dosages for children or for pregnant or nursing mothers have not been established.
  • Due to conflicting research results and the use of DMAE in various product mixtures, a specific dose cannot be recommended. 100-300mg once or twice day with meals has been used. Consult an experienced nutritionally oriented practitioner regarding dose and product selection, especially if a child is being treated.

General Interaction

There are no known nutrient interactions associated with DMAE. Much remains to be learned about the risks associated with this supplement, however.

Because DMAE is thought to increase acetylcholine levels, it may interact with acetylcholinesterase (AchE) inhibitors, anti-cholinergic and cholinergic drugs to excessively increase acetylcholine levels. Some herbs also have this property including Butterbur, Huperzia, and Rosemary.

Possible Side Effects

  • Most people taking DMAE do not experience side effects. However, all of the following have been observed: constipation, urticaria, headache, drowsiness, insomnia, over stimulation, vivid dreams, confusion, depression, blood pressure elevation, hypomania, an increase in schizophrenia symptoms, and orofacial and respiratory tardive dyskinesia.
  • Drowsiness, confusion, and high blood pressure have occurred in people with Alzheimer’s who were taking this supplement, particularly when high doses were used.
  • DMAE can be over-stimulating for some people. Headaches, irritability, and tense muscles may result, including tightness in the jaw, neck, or shoulders.
  • Weight loss and insomnia may also occur. Lucid dreams have also been reported.


  • People with epilepsy, a history of convulsions, or bipolar disorder (manic depression) should avoid DMAE because it may exacerbate the condition.
  • Although DMAE may help produce brain chemicals needed for mental sharpness; drowsiness and cognitive impairment have been reported in some people. Monitor the effects of DMAE before driving or handling heavy machinery.
  • People with kidney or liver disease should consult a doctor before taking DMAE. These conditions can affect levels of the supplement in the body.
  • If unusual movement problems develop while taking DMAE, consult a doctor.


  • ADHD and Memory Loss/Impairment – Due to conflicting research results and the use of DMAE in various product mixtures, a specific dose cannot be recommended. 100-300mg once or twice day with meals has been used. Consult an experienced nutritionally oriented practitioner regarding dose and product selection, especially if a child is being treated.
  • Skin Health – Apply topically according to package instructions

For product recommendations and orders click here for the Natural Apothecary or call 773-296-6700, ext. 2001.

46 thoughts on “DMAE (Dimethylaminoethanol)

    I’m just finding it makes me tired. Just one dose, 250 mgs. I know you don’t get the entire 250 mgs of dmae due to breakdown and bioavailability, but if I take this in the morning I’m useless. I try to take it after I’m done with my chores and workout, I think the fact that it slows me down helps me focus on my work, but, being used to having energy throughout the day, I’m not a fan. I take my 1st capsule around 2:00, the second at 5 and the 3rd at 9:30. The directions say 3 in divided doses. It doesn’t impact my sleep.

    Posted July 18, 2023 at 3:09 pm

    I am pharmacist.
    can you mention your references.
    because some times when we said something we need to refer to main references.

    Posted November 30, 2021 at 6:15 am

    Good morning

    I just found out I was 4 weeks pregnant and ive been taking a pre-workout with 500mg
    If I take 1/4 of a scoop will this harm the baby? Ive heard mixed reviews being pregnant. I love it for depression and concentration

    Kristen Bezemer
    Posted November 6, 2020 at 6:48 am

      Hi Kristen,

      This is best answered by your OB, midwife, or PCP. Please get in touch with them so they know what you’re taking during your pregnancy and can collaborate with you individually.

      Best wishes for a healthy pregnancy!
      -Dr M

      Posted November 15, 2020 at 10:10 pm

    Wow reading this article and all the comments i must say that DMAE looks very promising for overall brain health and better brain performance! I have did some research about this compound and have find out that Centrophenoxide is the best way to get your DMAE, because it has a better bio-availability and crosses the blood-brain barrier much better than DMAE as a individual substance. Just like Alpha GPC is superior to other sources of Choline, Centrophenoxide is superior to DMAE alone. There is only one thing that bothers me and that is that i red online somewhere that DMAE could cause brain cell death if used for extended period of time! I looked it up via Google and i could not find any useful information that DMAE was indeed killing brain cells, so it must be an assumption at best as no real evidence is foun online. The only thing that comes close to this, is that some sites say DMAE in cosmetic products could swell skin cells by absorping to much water so the cells could basically drown and die. But that’s a whole different story then oral consumption! I think the sites stated that DMAE could kill brain cells must have mistaken this with skin cells in the cosmetic products. And even for this i could not find very much evidence, so DMAE in skin products is most likely safe, but just to stay on the safe side i would ignore such skin products that contain DMAE. Any thougts on this?? Can anybody tell me with more medical knowledge if DMAE is really safe for oral consumption? I want to know for sure. Thank you! 🙂

    Rick Beijer
    Posted May 13, 2019 at 11:33 am

    It sounds like a muscle spasm. I suggest you see a chiropractor to firm up the diagnosis and go off the DMAE

    Dr E
    Posted May 7, 2019 at 9:30 am

    I’ve been taking 800mg of DMAE for about two months. Today I woke up with neck pain and back pain. My head felt like it was going to burst. Feeling better after taking neurofen. Head feels tight. I also feel my blood pressure is high. Is there anything that can get rid of this tension in my head and body?

    Posted May 6, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    I usually take one DMAE capsule in the morning and one in the late afternoon. It definitely helps with focus and concentration and confidence. On a cross-ocuntry drive, I take one capsule every 3 hours so I stay alert. Fine supplement.

    Posted April 30, 2019 at 6:33 pm

    Hi Ellen
    Actually, I have not seen any actual research showing DMAE cannot be used by MS patients. In fact, some nutritionally oriented physicians recommend it to their MS patients. I would like to see the research your son is referring to. However rather than DMAE, you might want to explore LDN (low dose naltrexone). If you Google “LDN multiple sclerosis” you’ll see quite a lot. You’ll need a prescription from your physician for LDN and a compounding pharmacist to fill it

    Dr E
    Posted February 10, 2019 at 10:15 am

    My son (who has a phd in biology) had recommended DMAE so I did take 1 tab/day for several weeks. Then he sent me a study about possible effects not so good for MS which I have and other effects for liver issue (which I don’t have.) I didn’t feel anything different except maybe by eyesight was better one night and maybe I was able to recall words quicker, but I’m not positive about that. I stopped taking it after I read the article. But many people have felt good on it, so is there any definite reason why I should not take it b/c I have ms? Is take it maybe three times a week ok instead of daily?

    Posted February 10, 2019 at 1:33 am

    What is the effect of DMAE on hashimoto hypothyroidism

    Posted September 2, 2018 at 10:45 am

    In previous information it
    had stated that Dmae, helps
    with thyroid problems &
    increases progesterone
    Is 250 mg safe with menopause?

    Donna Coloutes
    Posted January 26, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Thank you for your work here. I nearly died in 2010 and learned that I sometimes have a bad reaction to pharmaceutical meds. So, I started looking for natural resources, herbs, nutrition, supplements- and resources to help me learn how to heal myself. I just want to give you a big hug and thank you for the job you are doing. Over the years I have read many sites. What amazes me is that not only is there intelligent and broad coverage of the issues which respects the intelligence of your audience, but that you ALSO have a means of communication. This is a very rare combination. I will treasure this resource! Thanks again, tlv

    Posted January 7, 2018 at 8:21 am

    Hi Cindy
    There’s nothing significant in DMAE to test “positive” and I cannot fine any research or warnings about DMAE and drug testing

    Dr E
    Posted December 31, 2017 at 7:35 am

    Hi,and Happy New Year! Another site says that DMAE will show up on a drug test, along with green tea leaves, and Aleve and Ibuprofen, which just blew my mind! Really need to know if DMAE will show up on a drug test, due to my fiance going for his tractor trailer licence. Only info. I can find is all conflicting! Any NEW updated information??

    Posted December 30, 2017 at 10:15 am

    Hi Cristina
    To be honest, there has been virtually no research done on DMAE drug interactions.

    Dr E
    Posted November 15, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    My son (4-5 years old) had complex partial seizure. He took medicine (trileptal 300mg) for 2 years. Now he has a year without medicication. Can he take this medicine? With DMAE? He (7 years old) has ASD and ADHD

    Posted November 14, 2017 at 7:42 am

    Hi Christine
    DMAE can be used with Vyvanse

    Dr E
    Posted October 4, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    Can this be taken with 50 mg of Vyvanse caps that I take daily? I’m just not getting the same results as when I first started Vyvanse. I felt great – accomplished many things, remembered what I needed to, didn’t sleep most of the day away. I’m still taking this (diagnosed with ADHD by my psychiatrist) but if I don’t take at least this my life is horrible. So can I combine the two? The Dr will not increase the Vyvanse dosage because he says it gives me high blood pressure. HELP

    Christine Karnes
    Posted October 2, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    I must be extremely sensitive. I had serotonine syndrome once and it was bad. I cannot take SSRI’s. So maybe there is a problem with my brain chemistry. I have taken 1 250 mg DMAE capsule three days in a row. On the first day within ten minutes I felt brighter and like my brain was wired. It wasnt too unpleasant. Day two same feeling but a slight ache in the brain. I still felt switched on. Maybe a little over hyper. Day three same kind of feeling but headachy in the left temple and sore neck. Today i didnt take it. But I have had the most agonizing headache with pain centred on the left temple I have ever had in my life. I wondered if I was having a stroke it was so bad. I think there are positive effects to taking this suppleent but I could never live through the pain of that headache again and I cannot come up with any other explanation as to how I got it.

    krystal Kouvaras
    Posted September 18, 2017 at 1:23 am

    Hi Michell
    Should not cause a positive drug test

    Hi Claire
    I have not heard of this as a side effect however everyone is unique. Stop it for a few days and if the symptom goes away, it’s a possibility. Then restart it and of the symptom returns, you’ve answered your question

    Dr E
    Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:53 am

    Does DMAE cause skin crawling ? I am getting that and wonder what is causing it. I take supplements and one DMAE a day following a period of great stress

    Posted September 3, 2017 at 2:19 am

    Will using DMAE fail me in a drug test.I am taking a Pre-workout supplement with DMAE in it. We do have random drug testing at work. I am just wanting to know if I should stop taking it.

    Michell R Conner
    Posted September 2, 2017 at 6:51 am

    Hi Lana
    I think three a day is sufficient. There is some evidence showing that if you increase DMAE too high, then it has a negative effect (worse memory). You can however add a second brain enhancing supplement.Consider Acetyl-L-Carnitine 500 mg twice a day and/or Citicholine 250 mg twice a day. Both available in our apothecary

    Dr E
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    hi! i started taking a supplement with DMAE 2 days ago and it makes me drowsy, slow and tired along with tense jaw muscles and fuzzy head. i used it for 2 days with same symptoms…should i continue using it for the mental clarity to come or quit as its giving me multiple side effects though none of them is too severe…

    Posted August 10, 2017 at 12:35 pm

      SF. Please check Dr. E’s response to Lana regarding DMAE.

      Dr. R
      Posted August 14, 2017 at 6:54 am

    I have been taking DMAE for years im 72 started with one a day then 2 a day 3 a day up untill recently went to 4 a day they are 150 mgs per caspsule with 37% Dmae…i started taking for memory quicker recall …i’m concerned about increasing it to 4.. will i eventually be increasing it to? when should i worry? i do not have demtentia in family or alzheimers… i am just using it for faster recall… thank you

    lana stokes
    Posted August 9, 2017 at 10:38 am

    Now I am wondering if CDP choline has the same bad effects as DMAE. Anybody know??

    Posted February 3, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    I too just started and realized I had much more energy and sleeping less….BUT I am so glad I read this. I (right now) am on a heating pad for tight neck muscles. Also I have had persistent headaches. Thank you Steve for posting. I will drop down on dosage and monitor.

    Posted January 26, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    I had a mild stroke 15 years ago and have had some cognitive issues. Dmae/acetyl l carnitine and the more expensive but superior cdp choline help me function normally. Despite having a dodgy brain I still occasionally get small roles on tv.

    Posted January 9, 2017 at 10:29 am




    Posted November 6, 2016 at 3:48 am

    Hi MMG
    I have not come across any contrraindications regarding stroke victims or anyone taking blood thinners

    Dr E
    Posted October 16, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Do you know of any contraindicators for DMAE and people who have had a stroke? I am taking a blood thinner (Eliquis) and a statin (10MG for inflammation, not cholesterol) but would like to take DMAE a well. Thanks!

    Posted October 13, 2016 at 6:32 am

    I am looking for DMAE H-3 to buy

    Sally J. McDaniel
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    Hi Haley
    No. And come to think of it, you shouldn’t consider smoking anything, from DMAE to Marlboro Lights.
    Dr E

    Dr E
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 6:40 am

    Can you smoke it?

    Posted August 24, 2016 at 4:57 am

    I have used DMAE-H3 by Twinlab to great effect for over 25 years as an aid to concentration and to treat adult ADD. I cannot find it anymore. I assume Twinlabs has stopped producing it. Although it may be unrelated, at 63 and after years of significant exposure to solar radiation I have no age spots whatsoever. I have always assumed my improved concentration and skin condition resulted from it’s use.

    Chip W
    Posted July 4, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    This my first time taking it, I read and heard good result so am looking forward to its enhancement of my concentration.

    Casmo Griffiths
    Posted May 11, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    It’s enormous that you are getting thoughts from this piece of writing as well as from
    our argument made at this time.

    BrainPlus IQ
    Posted February 5, 2016 at 11:12 pm

    Steve, just reduce the dosage.

    Posted December 9, 2015 at 11:32 am

    […] DMAE supplements are commonly known for treating ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, and Autism. However, that’s not just a misconception. It stems from outdated research on acetylcholine, an essential neurotransmitter for memory and learning. Researchers claimed that DMAE increased acetylcholine. The truth is that there’s little evidence that DMAE increases acetylcholine levels. […]

    Posted April 28, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    I am a long term DMAE user, I am using it for 14 years. Not for whole period but for several weeks or months each year, during which period I need to boost my mental performance.I use small doses – one pill in the morning. I must say that I positively feel many great effects – easier learning, better concentration, better sexual libido, overall better feeling, more energy, less sleep needed. Here is the price: very annoying and painfull neck muscle tense and also raised mental irritability at the end of dosage period. It took me very long time to find this neck/back pain to be connected to DMAE. I dont recommend DMAE for long term usage. Be cautious…

    Posted January 25, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    […] tissue, and like bacopin, it's also been discovered to be an antioxidant. Both DMAE and choline boost blood oxygen levels, helping to promote optimal cell function in the brain. The role of DMAE in brain health has been […]

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    Posted October 16, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    Very informative and clearly explained

    Posted September 7, 2014 at 11:21 am

    This was exceptionally thorough and informative just like or even better than a PDR.

    Posted August 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm

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