Vitamin B6 is a core brain health nutrient. It’s needed to help make neurotransmitters like GABA, dopamine, melatonin, and serotonin. However, stress quickly depletes your vitamin B6 reserves. As a result, you may become more irritable, distracted, and unfocused. Supplementing with B6 can improve your mood, boost cognition, and balance homocysteine levels.
Pyridoxal phosphate or simply P-5-P is the active form of Vitamin B6. More than 140 distinct biological processes in your brain and body depend on P-5-P.
Vitamin B6, aka Pyridoxine, boosts your:
- Mental well-being: As I’ve said, vitamin B6 acts as a cofactor in the creation of dopamine, epinephrine, serotonin, GABA, and other neurotransmitters. As such, it’s essential for maintaining a healthy mood and mental performance.
- Neurotransmitters: By increasing your brain’s dopamine and serotonin levels, vitamin B6 will help you feel better and have more motivation in your day to day life.
- Cerebral Blood Flow: Vitamin B6 prevents the amino acid homocysteine from going wild. Too much homocysteine in your blood can lead to inflammation and damage your blood vessels. It can even cause plaque build up in capillaries leading to more serious complications.
Even a mild deficiency of vitamin B6 will downregulate your GABA and serotonin production. This will reflect on your quality of sleep, cardiovascular health, and hormones. And if you’re a regular nootropic user, some nootropic supplements won’t work if you’re deficient in B6.
A Glance at Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 belongs to the family of 8 water-soluble B-vitamins. They all are absolutely essential for healthy function of your brain and body.
Vitamin B6, in particular, is found in every single one of your cells. It’s a necessary cofactor in the so-called ‘folate cycle,’ and helps your brain make hormones that are essential for healthy mood and cognition.
The active form of vitamin B6, P-5-P reduces inflammation in your body. If you have a vitamin B6 deficiency, it could lead to neurodegenerative diseases in the long-run.
You can find vitamin B6 in foods like pistachios, potatoes, beef, turkey, and chickpeas.
Why is Vitamin B6 Important As a Nootropic?
Two key reasons:
- Vitamin B6 is a building block for your neurotransmitters. Its role in amino acid metabolism means it’s essential for creating dopamine, GABA, serotonin, and other mood-regulating brain chemicals.
For example, L-Tyrosine is an amino acid and building block for L-DOPA, which converts to dopamine in your brain.
You may know people who supplement with Tyrosine to boost their dopamine levels, but vitamin B6 is needed for this process. If you don’t have enough vitamin B6, L-Tyrosine won’t be able to convert to dopamine properly.
- B-Vitamins regulate a wide range of cognitive processes. If you’re using nootropics to boost your mental performance, then your stack should definitely include B vitamins – particularly B6.
Disappointingly, I don’t see many nootropic users talk about the importance of this foundational nutrient when it comes to boosting mental performance.
Who is Vitamin B6 For?
Vitamin B6 is for everyone. It’s an essential vitamin, meaning your body needs to get it through food or supplements. However, some people can get away without supplementing any vitamin B6. Others don’t get enough of this nutrient from food alone, or naturally require higher amounts of it. If you belong in the latter group, supplementing with vitamin B6 will help you feel and think better.
If you have attention or focus issues, vitamin B6 can help here too. How? By boosting the synthesis of dopamine – a molecule that helps you focus, among other benefits.
Should You Worry About a Lack of Vitamin B6 in Your Diet?
I’ve said it and will say it again. Vitamin B6 is critical for pretty much every area of your health. However, the fact that it’s 100X more concentrated in your brain than the bloodstream speaks volumes about its importance as a nootropic and brain booster.
Many people fail to get enough B6, though. Be it due to unhealthy lifestyle or nutrient-deprived soils, which produce nutrient-deprived foods. This is a common dietary shortfall which can lead down to a path of cognitive decline and mood issues.
Just to give you a picture of what B6 deficiency can do. Some evidence shows that a lack of this nutrient reduces your brain’s glucose use by 50%. Now, glucose is your brain’s primary fuel. This kind of dropin glucose consumption by your brain might increase the risk of cognitive decline and mood swings.
Due to the B6’s intake concerns, experts have called for raising the bar for the recommended daily intake of this nootropic vitamin.
How Vitamin B6 Can Help You
Scientists suggest that vitamin B6 supplementation in elderly improves information storage over the long term.
As for the younger populations, high-dosage B6 supplementation shows promise for reducing stress and balancing mood.
Mechanisms of Action
- Participates in the formation of myelin sheath in the nervous system
- Supports creation and conversion of brain chemicals
- Reduces the levels of cerebrovascular-irritating homocysteine
- Supports long-range brain function and mental clarity
- Aids memory and attention
- Provides neurotransmitter support for a bright mood
Brain Pathways Affected by Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 – how does it work in the brain? Well, you’d be right to guess that it’s a complicated process. But we can break it down into several brain pathways vitamin B6 targets.
As I’ve repeated, vitamin B6 optimizes your neurotransmitters. It helps to synthesize serotonin, GABA, and norepinephrine. Furthermore, it’s a critical component of tryptophan–>serotonin process of conversion, as well as DOPA–>dopamine conversion.
Low dopamine levels can make you feel lazy, unfocused, lethargic and unmotivated. Low serotonin, on the other hand, is often associated with depression and insomnia. This is because serotonin is needed to make melatonin, the sleep hormone. Keeping these neurotransmitters in balance is key for your success and well-being.
Your brain’s microvascular system is comprised of countless small blood vessels. However, this system is very sensitive. An amino acid called homocysteine irritates the inner lining of your blood vessels in the brain, which can over time lead to damage.
Your body responds to this damage by increasing inflammation. This stimulates the repair process, in which various proteins are involved.
However, when there’s constant damage to your small blood vessels (e.g. due to excess homocysteine), too much protein plaque can build up on the inner capillary walls, leading to cognitive decline and other mental issues.
If you’ve been with me so far, then you’ve probably seen that I mentioned how vitamin B6 helps create myelin sheath around the nerves in our brains. What does this have to do with brain protection?
Well, the myelin sheath is like insulation around an electrical wire. Myelin sheath is composed of fatty matter and helps your brain cells better transmit electrical impulses from one another. It also protects them from damage.
Vitamin B6 Nootropic Studies
Now we come to one of the most important parts of this article. If you’re interested in the science behind vitamin B6 as a nootropic, you’ll love this section.
Study #1 – Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) May Help in Fighting Parkinson’s Disease
This result was discovered by researchers in the Netherlands. They recruited 5,289 people that were older than 55 and assessed their diets and eating habits.
The researchers wanted to see if there was any correlation between B vitamin intake and the risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease. The study lasted a very long time, over 9 years, so this gave the researchers a pretty good picture of certain things.
After 9.7 years of follow-ups, the researchers had their results. Do you want to know what they’ve found?
There was no significant reduction in the risk of Parkinson’s in terms of vitamin B9 or B12 intake. But when the researchers isolated the data for vitamin B6 intake, the results showed that B6 might help reduce the risk of Parkinson’s Disease. (1) This benefit was thought to be the result of neuroprotective and antioxidant effects of vitamin B6 in the brain.
Vitamin B6 Might Help With Panic Attacks
It’s well known that low serotonin levels can lead to panic attacks. To make serotonin, your brain must have tryptophan. And to convert tryptophan to serotonin, you need iron and vitamin B6.
To highlight this point for you, I’ll show you a study that checked the link between B vitamin blood levels and panic attack occurrences. The researchers first measured blood parameters in 21 patients who suffered from panic attacks. Afterwards they did the same with 20 healthy people.
The study found that vitamin B6 and iron levels were much lower in people with panic attacks. (2)
Vitamin B6 Improves Dreams
This is an effect you’ll either love or hate. Vitamin B6 is often reported to enhance dreams. And according to science, this is actually true.
12 college students took part in a placebo-controlled study that tested B6’s effects on dream recall and vividness.
The students took either 100mg of vitamin B6, 200mg of vitamin B6, or a placebo (aka, sugar pill). They did this every night before bed for 5 nights. Morning reports of these students showed significant improvements in their dream vividness, emotionality, and color.
We don’t know why this happens. The researchers say that vitamin B6 may increase the brain’s ‘arousal’ during REM (rapid-eye-movement) sleep. This is thought to have something to do with the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. (4)
Many people often say that vitamin B6 improves their mood and energy. It also seems to raise libido in both men and women. Women in particular report that B6 reduces their PMS symptoms such as mood swings.
Some nootropic users say it helps them with sleep. Not only do they get asleep faster but, as I’ve already mentioned, many of them say their dreams get more vivid. Many even completely ditch their melatonin supplements and use vitamin B6 instead.
There’s more benefits that people report from taking vitamin B6. For example, some have found a relief in their carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. Similarly, vitamin B6 seems to help with joint pain in some people as well.
As vitamin B6 is needed for the process of dopamine synthesis, it also potentially helps with symptoms of ADD – such as lack of focus and impulsiveness.
How to Get the Most Out of Vitamin B6 as a Nootropic
Many multivitamins or B complex vitamins aren’t bioavailable to your body. Meaning, you can’t absorb them that well.
For nootropic goals, look for vitamin B6 that comes as P-5-P. This is the most bioactive form that your body can easily utilize.
As I’ve mentioned above, Mind Lab Pro offers a high quality form of this B vitamin, along with other B complex vitamins and nootropic ingredients that support cognitive health.
- Another great option is Performance Lab Whole-Food Multi. Which is the most advanced multivitamin formula I’ve ever seen, in all my years of testing and researching supplements. Performance Lab products are developed using BioGenesis® technology.
Optimal vitamin B6 dose (assuming you’re taking the bioavailable pyridoxal 5′-phosphate or simply P-5-P) is up to 100mg per day. I’d recommend not taking more than 50mg per day if supplementing long-term. Even 25-30mg per day is plenty for your brain and body.
On the flip side, it’s suggested that vitamin B6 dosage from the diet alone isn’t enough. As you excrete it through urine, you’ll need to get optimal amounts of B6 daily. Even if you have an ideal diet, this can be hard. So supplementation is recommended.
There’s no toxicity from taking B6 in recommended doses. It’s a safe vitamin that doesn’t cause any side effects.
Only if you take too high dosages could your risk side effects like nausea or diarrhea. If you push it really far with the dosage and keep taking it long-term, you may risk nerve damage.
So just stick to the dosage instructions of the supplement manufacturer and you’ll be fine.
Anything Else to Consider?
Your body can’t make any vitamin B6 on its own. And as we’ve established before, soil depletion and our lifestyles are just some of the factors that make getting enough vitamin B6 through diet alone almost impossible.
There’s also another factor. Vitamin B6 is water soluble and easily excreted through your body. Since you can’t store it like vitamin D for example, you should ensure to get optimal amounts of B6 daily.
Again, I don’t suggest supplementing with vitamin B6 alone – instead, as a part of a B complex. Or take it as a part of a proven nootropic formula, which I’ve already talked about briefly. I’m talking about Mind Lab Pro – the most advanced premium nootropic stack on the market.
Alternatively, you can get vitamin B6 in a high-quality multivitamin like Performance Lab Whole-Food Multi which is the current market leader in its category. And my personal favorite.
Conclusion on Vitamin B6 as a Nootropic
So, is vitamin B6 the right nootropic for you? Well, going back to the basics, vitamin B6 is essential for overall mental and physical function. As such it is a nutrient we must obtain daily to avoid deficiency.
However, if you’re concerned about not being able to meet your vitamin B6 intake through food alone (which, surprisingly, is very common), then taking a vitamin B6 supplement could be your answer.
I recommend taking B6 as a part of a high quality B-vitamin complex or in a multivitamin formula.
And if you’re a regular nootropic user, you’ll definitely want to have vitamin B6 in your stack as many nootropic supplements can’t work without this foundational nutrient.