A rustic wholegrain bread loaf on a kitchen countertop, with a golden-brown crust and visible seeds, in a warm kitchen setting with natural light

A Beginners Guide to Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) as a Natural Nootropic

Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is an essential nutrient crucial for energy metabolism and neuronal function. Often overlooked, it is vital for converting carbohydrates into energy, essential for proper nerve cell function and brain health.

Historically, thiamine deficiency, known as beriberi, affected populations relying heavily on polished rice. In the late 19th century, researchers in the Dutch East Indies discovered that feeding chickens brown rice, instead of white, prevented paralysis. This led to the isolation of thiamine in 1926 by Barend Jansen and Willem Donath and its synthesis by Robert Williams in 1936.

Thiamine is not just a remedy for deficiency diseases like beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome; it is also a powerful natural nootropic, enhancing memory, learning, and mental health by participating in neurotransmitter synthesis. It offers protection against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Beyond cognitive benefits, thiamine is essential for cardiovascular health, metabolic efficiency, and immune system support. Adequate intake through diet or supplementation can significantly improve overall health and well-being.

In this guide, we explore the many facets of Vitamin B1, from its chemical composition and historical context to its modern applications and benefits. Whether you aim to enhance cognitive performance, support cardiovascular health, or ensure adequate nutrient intake, this guide provides all the necessary information.



  • What is Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)?
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) as a Nootropic
  • Scientific Evidence on Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)'s Benefits
  • Health Benefits Beyond Cognition
  • How to Use Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
  • Safety and Side Effects


A Beginners Guide to Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) as a Natural Nootropic


A ripe orange hanging from a branch with glossy green leaves, set against a blurred background of an orange grove


What is Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)?

Definition and Background

Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, is an essential water-soluble vitamin that plays a crucial role in energy metabolism and neuronal function.

Thiamine acts as a coenzyme in the metabolism of carbohydrates, facilitating the conversion of nutrients into energy, which is vital for the proper functioning of cells, particularly nerve cells. Due to its involvement in glucose metabolism, thiamine is crucial for maintaining cognitive functions and overall brain health.

Chemical Composition of Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Thiamine, also known as vitamin B1, is a chemical compound made up of two main parts: a pyrimidine ring and a thiazole ring, which are connected by a small group called a methylene bridge. Its chemical formula is C12H17N4OS.

In the body, thiamine mostly exists as thiamine diphosphate (TDP), also called thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP). This form of thiamine helps important enzymes work properly in processes like the Krebs cycle and the pentose phosphate pathway. These processes are crucial for producing energy and making nucleic acids, which are the building blocks of DNA and RNA.

Historical Context and Traditional Uses

The discovery of thiamine dates back to the early 20th century when researchers were investigating the cause of beriberi, a disease prevalent in regions where polished rice was a staple food.

In 1926, Jansen and Donath isolated an anti-beriberi factor from rice bran, which was later identified as thiamine. This discovery was pivotal in understanding the role of vitamins in human health and led to the development of thiamine supplementation to prevent and treat beriberi.

Thiamine has been traditionally used to treat neurological disorders associated with its deficiency, such as Wernicke's encephalopathy and Korsakoff's syndrome. These conditions, often linked to chronic alcoholism, result from severe thiamine deficiency and affect the central nervous system, leading to symptoms like confusion, ataxia, and memory loss.

The administration of thiamine can significantly improve these symptoms, highlighting its critical role in neural health.



Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) as a Nootropic

Understanding Nootropics

Nootropics, often referred to as "smart drugs" or cognitive enhancers, are substances that improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals.

Nootropics can be natural or synthetic, with natural nootropics often being favored for their safety profiles and additional health benefits.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is a prime example of a natural nootropic, given its significant roles in energy metabolism, neuronal function, and neuroprotection.

Cognitive Enhancement and Neuroprotection

Thiamine is essential for cognitive enhancement and neuroprotection. It acts as a coenzyme for several critical enzymes involved in glucose metabolism, which is vital for brain energy production.

The brain's high demand for glucose makes thiamine indispensable for maintaining cognitive functions. Research has shown that thiamine supplementation can improve memory and thinking through modulation of neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine (Ach), dopamine, and serotonin​​.

Additionally, thiamine's role in preventing oxidative stress and enhancing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels further supports its neuroprotective properties​​.

Role in Energy Metabolism and Brain Function

Thiamine is crucial for energy metabolism, particularly in the brain. It exists primarily in its active form, thiamine diphosphate (ThDP), which is a coenzyme for enzymes such as pyruvate dehydrogenase complex (PDHC), oxoglutarate dehydrogenase complex (OGDHC), and transketolase (TKT).

These enzymes are essential for glucose oxidation and energy production. Thiamine deficiency disrupts these metabolic pathways, leading to reduced ATP production and impaired brain function. Ensuring adequate thiamine levels helps maintain optimal brain energy metabolism, supporting overall cognitive health.

Neuroprotective Effects Against Degeneration

Thiamine has demonstrated significant neuroprotective effects, particularly in conditions associated with neurodegeneration.

For instance, thiamine deficiency is linked to diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's. Studies have shown that thiamine and its derivatives, like benfotiamine, can reduce amyloid plaque formation and tau hyperphosphorylation, which are characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.

Furthermore, thiamine's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help protect neurons from oxidative stress and inflammation, common contributors to neurodegenerative diseases.

In experimental models, thiamine supplementation has been shown to prevent cognitive decline and improve spatial memory by increasing BDNF levels and enhancing synaptic plasticity. These findings highlight the potential of thiamine as a therapeutic agent for neuroprotection and cognitive enhancement in aging populations and those at risk of neurodegenerative diseases.


Scientific Evidence on Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)'s Benefits

Enhancing Memory and Learning

Vitamin B1 (thiamine) plays a pivotal role in cognitive functions, particularly in enhancing memory and learning.

As a coenzyme in carbohydrate metabolism, thiamine is essential for producing acetyl-CoA, which is necessary for the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in memory and learning. Studies have shown that thiamine supplementation can improve cognitive performance, especially in the elderly.

For instance, a study using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that higher dietary thiamine intake was associated with better cognitive scores on tests such as the Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST) and Animal Fluency Test (AFT). Participants in the highest quartile of thiamine intake exhibited significantly higher cognitive scores compared to those in the lowest quartile.

Animal studies further support these findings. In rats subjected to chronic stress, thiamine supplementation was shown to significantly enhance hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels and acetylcholine content, which are crucial for memory and learning.

The supplementation improved performance in spatial memory tasks, indicating that thiamine helps mitigate stress-induced cognitive impairments.

Supporting Mood and Mental Health

Thiamine's impact on mood and mental health is well-documented. Deficiency in thiamine has been linked to various mood disorders, including depression. A cross-sectional study involving over 1,500 Chinese adults found that individuals with lower thiamine levels exhibited more severe symptoms of depression.

Furthermore, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial demonstrated that thiamine supplementation significantly improved symptoms in patients with major depressive disorder over six weeks.

Thiamine's role in neurotransmitter synthesis and energy metabolism in the brain likely underpins these effects. By supporting the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, thiamine helps maintain mental health and emotional stability.

Alleviating Symptoms of Neurodegenerative Diseases

Thiamine has shown promise in alleviating symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Thiamine deficiency has been associated with cognitive deficits and reductions in brain glucose metabolism, similar to those observed in Alzheimer's disease.

Thiamine-dependent enzymes are critical for glucose metabolism, and their decline can lead to decreased energy production in the brain, exacerbating neurodegenerative processes.

Research has indicated that thiamine and its derivatives can reduce amyloid plaque formation and tau hyperphosphorylation in Alzheimer's models. For example, studies on transgenic mice models of Alzheimer's disease have shown that high-dose thiamine and its derivatives, like benfotiamine, significantly improve cognitive function and reduce pathological markers of the disease.

Additionally, in patients with Parkinson's disease, thiamine supplementation has been found to improve motor and cognitive functions. This effect is attributed to thiamine's role in mitochondrial function and reducing oxidative stress, both of which are critical in managing neurodegenerative conditions.



Health Benefits Beyond Cognition

Cardiovascular Health

Vitamin B1 (thiamine) plays a crucial role in cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that adequate thiamine intake is associated with a lower risk of hypertension, heart failure, and cardiovascular mortality.

A large-scale study using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999 to 2018 found that increased dietary vitamin B1 intake significantly reduced the risk of hypertension and heart failure, with the highest quartile of intake showing the most pronounced benefits​​.

Thiamine's role as a coenzyme in energy metabolism is vital for heart function, as it helps maintain optimal myocardial energy levels and reduces systemic vascular resistance​​.

Metabolic Benefits

Thiamine is essential for glucose metabolism, making it critical for overall metabolic health. Its deficiency can lead to impaired glucose tolerance and increased risk of metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes.

A meta-analysis indicated that thiamine supplementation could significantly improve glucose metabolism and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes​​. Thiamine's involvement in the Krebs cycle and the pentose phosphate pathway supports efficient energy production and reduces oxidative stress, further promoting metabolic health​​.

Immune System Support

Thiamine also contributes to immune system support. It plays a role in the production of immune cells and the synthesis of nucleotides, which are necessary for DNA replication and repair. Thiamine deficiency has been linked to compromised immune function and increased susceptibility to infections​​. Moreover, thiamine's antioxidant properties help mitigate oxidative stress, which can otherwise impair immune responses and lead to chronic inflammation​​.


A single pistachio nut with a green kernel, partially opened, sitting on a textured surface with a soft background


How to Use Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Different Forms of Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Consumption

Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, is available in several forms to cater to different dietary preferences and medical needs. The most common forms include:

  • Dietary Sources: Thiamine is naturally present in foods such as whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. It is also found in meat, especially pork, and in fortified foods like cereals and bread​​.
  • Supplements: Thiamine supplements are widely available and come in various forms, including thiamine hydrochloride and thiamine mononitrate. These are typically used to prevent or treat deficiencies​​.
  • Derivatives with Higher Bioavailability: Benfotiamine and Sulbutiamine are synthetic derivatives of thiamine that are more bioavailable. These forms are often used in therapeutic settings to ensure higher absorption rates and efficacy, especially in treating conditions like diabetic neuropathy and cognitive decline​​​​.

Recommended Dosages for Health Benefits

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for thiamine varies based on age, sex, and physiological status. For adults, the RDA is approximately 1.2 mg/day for men and 1.1 mg/day for women. Pregnant and breastfeeding women require slightly higher amounts​​.

For specific health benefits, such as cognitive enhancement and neuroprotection, higher doses may be recommended. Clinical studies suggest that doses ranging from 50 to 100 mg per day can be effective in improving cognitive function and alleviating symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases​​​​.

Timing and Combining with Other Supplements

The timing of thiamine supplementation can influence its effectiveness. It is generally recommended to take thiamine supplements with meals to enhance absorption. For optimal cognitive benefits, combining thiamine with other B vitamins and nootropic substances can be beneficial:

  • B-Complex Vitamins: Thiamine works synergistically with other B vitamins, such as B6 and B12, to support brain function and energy metabolism. A B-complex supplement can ensure balanced intake of all essential B vitamins​​.
  • Nootropic Stacks: Combining thiamine with other natural nootropics like omega-3 fatty acids, ginkgo biloba, and ginseng can enhance cognitive benefits. These combinations can support memory, focus, and overall brain health more effectively than thiamine alone​​.
  • Antioxidants: Pairing thiamine with antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E can help mitigate oxidative stress, which is beneficial for both cognitive and cardiovascular health​​.


Safety and Side Effects

General Safety of Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is generally considered safe and well-tolerated. As a water-soluble vitamin, excess amounts are typically excreted in the urine, reducing the risk of toxicity. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for adults is approximately 1.2 mg/day for men and 1.1 mg/day for women. Higher doses, often used for therapeutic purposes, have also been shown to be safe. Clinical studies have utilized doses up to 300 mg/day without significant adverse effects.

Potential Side Effects and Precautions

While thiamine is safe for most people, potential side effects are rare and usually mild. These may include gastrointestinal disturbances such as nausea and mild diarrhoea. High doses administered via injection can occasionally cause allergic reactions, presenting symptoms like itching, rash, or swelling.

It's crucial to monitor for signs of thiamine deficiency, especially in populations at risk. Thiamine deficiency can lead to severe conditions such as beriberi, characterized by weakness, cardiovascular issues, and neurological symptoms, or Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which affects the brain and can cause memory loss and confusion.

Interactions with Medications and Specific Health Conditions

Thiamine can interact with certain medications and health conditions. For example, diuretics, often prescribed for hypertension, can increase the excretion of thiamine, potentially leading to a deficiency.

Additionally, individuals with chronic alcoholism are at a higher risk of thiamine deficiency due to impaired absorption and increased excretion of the vitamin. It's also important to consider interactions with other medications that might affect thiamine levels, such as some chemotherapy agents and anticonvulsants.

Patients with specific health conditions, such as diabetes or heart failure, may require careful monitoring and adjustment of thiamine dosages. For instance, studies have shown that thiamine supplementation can help improve glucose metabolism and cardiovascular function in diabetic and heart failure patients.

Importance of Moderation and Consulting with a Healthcare Professional

Moderation is key when supplementing with thiamine. While it is generally safe, taking excessively high doses without medical supervision can lead to unnecessary risks. Consulting with a healthcare professional is crucial to determine the appropriate dosage based on individual health needs and conditions. This ensures that supplementation is both safe and effective, particularly when dealing with potential interactions with other medications or underlying health issues.


Close-up of a fresh green pea pod with peas nestled inside, surrounded by green leaves and tendrils, in soft natural lighting



Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is a vital nutrient with extensive benefits that go beyond its well-known role in preventing deficiency diseases like beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

As a natural nootropic, thiamine enhances cognitive functions, including memory and learning, by supporting neurotransmitter synthesis and brain energy metabolism. It also provides neuroprotective effects, reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Beyond cognition, thiamine contributes to cardiovascular health, metabolic efficiency, and immune system support. Its ability to improve glucose metabolism and reduce oxidative stress makes it an essential component of a healthy diet and supplementation regimen.

Incorporating Vitamin B1 (thiamine) into your daily wellness and cognitive enhancement regimen can yield significant health benefits. Whether through dietary sources like whole grains, legumes, and nuts, or through supplements, ensuring adequate thiamine intake is crucial for maintaining optimal brain and body functions.

For those seeking to enhance cognitive performance and protect against age-related cognitive decline, thiamine offers a safe and effective solution. Combining thiamine with other nootropics and maintaining a balanced diet can further amplify its benefits.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)?

Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamine, is a water-soluble vitamin essential for energy metabolism and brain function.

How does Vitamin B1 work as a nootropic?

Vitamin B1 enhances cognitive function by supporting energy production in brain cells and aiding in the synthesis of neurotransmitters.

Can Vitamin B1 improve memory?

Yes, adequate levels of Vitamin B1 can improve memory and cognitive performance by ensuring efficient brain energy metabolism.

Is Vitamin B1 safe for daily use?

Vitamin B1 is generally safe for daily use, as it is water-soluble and excess amounts are excreted in urine. However, it’s best to follow recommended dosages.

What are the benefits of Vitamin B1 for the brain?

Vitamin B1 supports brain health by improving mental clarity, reducing brain fog, enhancing memory, and protecting against cognitive decline.

How much Vitamin B1 should I take for cognitive benefits?

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for adults is about 1.1-1.2 mg, but higher doses (50-100 mg) are often used in nootropic supplements.

Are there any side effects of taking Vitamin B1?

Vitamin B1 is well-tolerated with no significant side effects when taken within recommended limits. Very high doses might cause minor gastrointestinal issues.

Can Vitamin B1 help with anxiety and depression?

Vitamin B1 can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression by supporting overall brain health and improving energy levels.

What is the best way to take Vitamin B1 for nootropic effects?

Vitamin B1 can be taken in supplement form, often as part of a B-complex vitamin, and should be taken with meals to enhance absorption.

How long does it take to see the effects of Vitamin B1 on cognitive function?

Cognitive benefits of Vitamin B1 can typically be noticed within a few weeks of consistent use, depending on individual health status and dosage


Learn more about the vitamins, minerals and plant extracts we use to give your brain a daily boost



  • Butterworth, R. F. (2003). Thiamin deficiency and brain disorders. Nutrition Research Reviews, 16(2), 277–284. https://doi.org/10.1079/nrr200367
  • Dhir, S., Tarasenko, M., Napoli, E., & Giulivi, C. R. (2019). Neurological, psychiatric, and biochemical aspects of thiamine deficiency in children and adults. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00207
  • Dief, A. E., Samy, D. M., & Dowedar, F. I. (2015). Impact of Exercise and Vitamin B<sub>1</sub> Intake on Hippocampal Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor and Spatial Memory Performance in a Rat Model of Stress. Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, 61(1), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.3177/jnsv.61.1
  • Gibson, G. E., Hirsch, J. A., Fonzetti, P., Jordan, B. D., Cirio, R. T., & Elder, J. (2016). Vitamin B1 (thiamine) and dementia. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1367(1), 21–30. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.13031
  • Jia, W., Wang, H., Li, C., Shi, J., Yong, F., & Jia, H. (2024). Association between dietary vitamin B1 intake and cognitive function among older adults: a cross-sectional study. Journal of Translational Medicine, 22(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-024-04969-3
  • Karimi, E., Gholizadeh, M., Abdolahi, M., Sedighiyan, M., Salehinia, F., Siri, G., Asanjarani, B., Yousefi, A., Gandomkar, H., & Abdollahi, H. (2023). Effect of vitamin B1 supplementation on blood creatinine and lactate levels and clinical outcomes in patients in intensive care units: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition Reviews. https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuad096
  • Liu, D., Ke, Z., & Luo, J. (2016). Thiamine Deficiency and Neurodegeneration: the Interplay Among Oxidative Stress, Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress, and Autophagy. Molecular Neurobiology, 54(7), 5440–5448. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12035-016-0079-9
  • Lonsdale, D. (2006). A Review of the Biochemistry, Metabolism and Clinical Benefits of Thiamin(e) and Its Derivatives. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 3(1), 49–59. https://doi.org/10.1093/ecam/nek009
  • Measelle, J. R., Baldwin, D. A., Gallant, J., Chan, K., Green, T. J., Wieringa, F. T., Borath, M., Prak, S., Hampel, D., Shahab‐Ferdows, S., Allen, L. H., Kroeun, H., & Whitfield, K. C. (2021). Thiamine supplementation holds neurocognitive benefits for breastfed infants during the first year of life. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1498(1), 116–132. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.14610
  • Mrowicka, M., Mrowicki, J., Dragan, G., & Majsterek, I. (2023). The importance of thiamine (vitamin B1) in humans. Bioscience Reports, 43(10). https://doi.org/10.1042/bsr20230374
  • Pourhassan, M., Angersbach, B., Lueg, G., Klimek, C. N., & Wirth, R. (2018). Blood thiamine level and cognitive function in older hospitalized patients. Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology, 32(2), 90–96. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891988718819862
  • Sambon, M., Wins, P., & Bettendorff, L. (2021). Neuroprotective Effects of Thiamine and Precursors with Higher Bioavailability: Focus on Benfotiamine and Dibenzoylthiamine. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 22(11), 5418. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms22115418
  • Wen, H., Niu, X., Zhao, R., Wang, Q., Sun, N., Ma, L., Li, Y., & Zhang, W. (2023). Association of vitamin B1 with cardiovascular diseases, all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in US adults. Frontiers in Nutrition, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2023.1175961
  • Young, L. M., Pipingas, A., White, D. J., Gauci, S., & Scholey, A. (2019). A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of B Vitamin Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms, Anxiety, and Stress: Effects on Healthy and ‘At-Risk’ individuals. Nutrients, 11(9), 2232. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11092232
Back to blog

Explore nooroots

1 of 2