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The Hype Behind Methylene Blue
Fish tank cleaner
Good old fish tank cleaner, aka methylene blue, has taken the biohacking community by storm. Important disclaimer: do not drink fish tank cleaner! While it contains methylene blue (MB), it is in a very impure form and loaded with heavy metals. However, when you source the right pharmaceutical grade of MB, this organic chloride salt, commonly used as a dye, now has solid research behind it demonstrating antioxidant, antimalarial, antidepressant and cardioprotective properties. Impressive huh?
Historic Uses of Methylene Blue
MB has been around since the 1800’s when it was popularly used to dye blue jeans blue, as well as other textiles. Medical applications were discovered shortly after and became a treatment for malaria (until chloroquine and other drugs entered the market).
Before the 1950s (when prescription antimicrobials became available), it was also used as an antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial agent (its antifungal properties are why it’s still used as a fish tank cleaner). Today, MB in intravenous form is FDA approved for the treatment of methemoglobinemia, a blood disorder where tissue doesn’t receive enough oxygen (which you’ll see shortly is why MB is now such a popular nootropic!).
In the late 1950s, it was further discovered that MB has antipsychotic and mood-enhancing properties. Fun fact: MB makes your urine blue, so it was a popular additive to various medications to ensure that patients are in fact taking their medication (through urine colour monitoring). Imagine that as a day job!
Methylene Blue Today
Neuroprotective benefits, improved learning and improved memory, together with the benefit to our mitochondria (powerhouses of our cells, so very important for energy production in our bodies) are some of the benefits being shown by studies on MB.
There’s been a significant resurgence in interest in MB for these reasons, and particularly interesting research on MB combined with sunlight (UV light specifically) is proving to be very promising for nootropic benefits (as well as an infection and virus treatment and is re-emerging as a malaria treatment for drug-resistant strains of malaria).
How does Methylene Blue work?
As mentioned before, the chemical MB was and is still used as a dye, particularly during diagnostic tests. It was in this use that scientists found that blue dye increases oxygen flow to various parts of the body and particularly to the brain, where it can easily cross the blood-brain barrier. Not only does it act as an antioxidant in the brain, but it has an impressive impact on our mitochondria.
Essentially, the efficiency of our mitochondria is improved by increasing the mitochondria’s oxygen consumption. The more oxygen your mitochondria have, the better they are at powering your cells and therefore your system.
So, how does it work? It all depends on the dose: at low doses (0.5 to 4.0mg per kg of body weight), MB accepts electrons. At higher doses, MB donates electrons. Once absorbed, MB hot foots it to tissue in your body where a lot of mitochondria are present (eg. brain, heart, liver, kidneys).
The bluey goodness happens at low doses:
- MB acts like oxygen in our mitochondria, producing higher ATP (energy).
- MB increases the NAD+ produced by our mitochondria, which directly slows the ageing of our cells.
MB has powerful antioxidant properties. Stick with me here, but the MB can scavenge the mitochondria for free electrons (bad) to accept an electron and neutralise them. It is suspected that this is why MB may be neuroprotective (protect the brain) and improve the appearance of our skin!
- MB has antidepressant effects by preventing the breakdown of dopamine, melatonin and serotonin, which increases these neurotransmitters.
- Similarly, MB can increase a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which is related to attention, memory and motivation.
- When combined with UV light, MB has anti-infective properties against viruses.
In moderate doses (around 4.0 – 10.0mg per kg), MB begins to donate electrons, especially in the presence of light and is showing promising potential in cancer treatment synergies.
MB is a very safe drug when taken at low doses and checked for purity. In fact, the most common (and harmless) side effect is blue urine!
At high doses (> 10.0mg), MB becomes a pro-oxidant and has the opposite effect of why you are taking it (causes oxidative stress). In fact, it can become quite harmful (hypertension, dizziness, GI distress etc). MB is also not recommended for people with high blood pressure or who are pregnant or breastfeeding, so it’s very important to be aware of the dose that you are taking (1-4 mg per kg body weight is safe) and to ensure that you have normal blood pressure and you’re not pregnant!
MB should also be avoided by people who are on SSRIs or SNRIs (basically any drugs that increase serotonin levels).
It should also really be stressed that it’s key that you only use pharmaceutical grade MB and not the stuff sold for fish tanks. The purity and quality of the MB cannot be stressed enough for safety!
Studies conducted after 2007 show that the lifespan of a cell can be increased with MB. This is very exciting from a longevity standpoint, particularly as this means that not only your years are extended, but also the quality of those years. A subsequent study in humans showed that the effects of dementia can be delayed after it has been diagnosed, which is very significant if we consider that most existing treatments require an application before diagnosis.
MB may slow the formation of amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles, which all speak to its ability to be a game changer for Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
In rat studies, improvements in cognition and memory retention were demonstrated and a further human study showed MB to help with short-term memory. All of this demonstrates why MB is so popular as a nootropic.
In a recent human study, a single low dose of oral MB showed improved memory retrieval and increased focus.
In combination with UV light, MB is looking very promising for virus killing and studies are ongoing on MB for brain injury, cancer, malaria and a number of skin conditions. Other than its nootropic effects, MB is certainly something to keep an eye on in future for these diseases and conditions!
How to Get Your Blue On!
If you’re at all biohacking-inclined, you would have over the past year or so seen a number of photos pop up on Instagram of people with blue tongues along with hashtags like #blueisthenewsmart #smurfnootropic #smurfyourself #bluetonguemagic #gofullsmurf and #blueyourself.
Blue Cannatine is formulated with 5mg of MB and is stacked with nicotine, caffeine and hemp crystals. Basically, designed to “launch your brain into limitless mode”, as there are some fabulous synergies between MB and nicotine.
Just Blue is 16mg of MB and nothing else. Per Dr Achacoso, this product functions as a brain health optimisation supplement.
The reason why I really like the Troscriptions products (Blue Cannatine is my absolute favourite) is that their troches (essentially a lozenge that you dissolve between your lips and your gums for 15-30 minutes) are made of MB which has been extensively tested for purity and potency and is believed to be the cleanest and safest source of MB. The products tick all the boxes regarding quality control, ingredient sourcing and effectiveness.
I like the fact that each troche can be split into four smaller pieces for a smaller dose. While the taste is not my favourite, the blue tongue is really fun and I do like the mental boost it provides. Pro tip: I only take mine when I’m able to get a couple of minutes of direct sunlight simultaneously! It really amps up the benefits!!
Here we have a compound that is antimicrobial, anti-oxidant, anti-depressant and a potential treatment for cancer as well as neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s). Studies are convincingly positive and judging by the number of ongoing studies, we’ll continue to see good results for MB. Have you #bluedyourself yet, and if not, what are you waiting for?!