Veins on both biceps bulging like pythons, the ripped kid in the t-shirt extended one arm towards me. He opened his clenched fist to reveal a tiny black ziplock bag. He grinned, displaying a perfect set of ivory white teeth and nodded, “Go ahead, try it!” Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was about to experience the effects of the best nootropic stack on the face of the planet.
I stepped back and raised an eyebrow. This guy had just finished completely destroying my “REALFit” test score at the ever-popular PaleoFX conference. The conference, a global gathering of biohackers, foodies, physicians, exercise freaks and bacon-and-egg-infused-coffee chugging Crossfitters, features the annual REALFit test to discover the fittest person alive. The fittest person alive at their conference, that is.
Anyways, I thought I had achieved a pretty respectable score on a host of tests including a forearm-destroying two minute maximum pull-ups test, deadlifting body weight as many times as possible in two minutes test (try that one sometime and just try to beat at least sixty, I dare you), a shuttle run, a medicine ball hurl, a vertical leap: you get the idea. This wasn't any walk in the park.
But this guy had just blown my score out of the water. And he now seemed to be extending to me some semblance of a peace offering. That or he was attempting to pull off an illegal drug deal at a health conference.
“What…is it?” I leaned forward and peered into his hand. Emblazoned in tiny gold foiling on the front of a black bag was a logo: Neurohacker Collective.
“It's basically like a God Pill.”
“A God Pill?” Somewhere deep in the back of my self-quantifying, self-experimentation obsessed lizard brain, I felt a twinge of interest. Now don't get me wrong—as a Christian, I would never believe that a mere man or woman can truly possess the superpowers of God. But at this point—just two days into the conference and after having been offered copious amounts of kombucha, kefir and other little-known fermented beverages, cannabidiol-infused dark chocolates, bacon-flavored mints, kale-powdered beef jerky and all other manner of potentially explosive diarrhea inducing samples—the mention of a supplement that could potentially transform one into even a fraction of a deity was a proposition I hadn't yet heard.
I kept staring at the bag. “Um…what does it do?”
“Dude, just try it.” He reached forward, grabbed my forearm with a vice-like gorilla grip and shoved the black bag into the palm of my hand. As if driven by an invisible, curious-infused force, my fingers closed hard around the tiny bag as though it were a handful of precious diamonds.
The guy grinned ear-to-ear one more time, winked at me, and sauntered away. Seemingly unfazed by having just thrown down a shuttle run time that made me look like an arthritic sloth, he stopped and looked back over his shoulder. “Oh, and follow the instructions very, very carefully. Enjoy the experience, man.”
Oh geez. Enjoy the experience? What had I gotten into? This was supposed to be a freaking health conference. Not an MDMA-infused rave. And now I was about to potentially go on a full public display of a crazy drug-infused mind trip.
I looked around. Nobody seemed to be watching. I carefully opened the bag, only to find two additional bags.
I took Bag #1 out and held it up to the fluorescent indoor lights. There were perhaps half-a-dozen capsules inside. On the front, in tiny letters, was written, “Step 1: Upon waking, take three on empty stomach.“
Before I read the front of the Bag #2, I suspected what it would say. After all, I'm a nutritionist, a self-professed guinea pig, and an adviser to a host of companies in the supplement industry. This means I basically design and consume pills for a living.
I'll betcha this will be the fat-soluble, take-it-with-food component.
Bingo. I was right. Bag #2 read: “Step 2: Take six with breakfast.”
I shoved Bag #2 into my pocket. Then I studied Bag #1 again. I hadn't just woken. I wasn't quite sure what I was getting into. But my stomach was indeed empty.
So what the heck?
I glanced nervously towards my twin boys, who, oblivious to my suspicious dealings, were giggling and twirling around on a giant, elephant-sized coffee mug. Upon glancing at my watch, I realized that I had two hours before I needed to be on stage as one of the keynote speakers for the event. I looked back at Bag#1, silently hoping that I wasn't about to turn into an embarrassing father who inexplicably begins climbing into the rafters at a Paleo health conference or a raging carbaholic who is suddenly struck by intense cravings for gluten-powdered baguettes. Then I tipped back my head and swallowed half the contents of Bag #1.
The next 120 minutes were a blur. Like gears gradually grinding into faster and faster motion, my thoughts and word recall and verbal fluency seemed to double in speed within about twenty minutes and kept getting comfortably faster. As I chased my two eight-year-old boys through the expanse of the PaleoFX expo, colors became more vibrant, sounds and light more intense. Allow me to point out that I have indeed micro-dosed with LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA—all of which produced comparable effects. But not at a response time near as fast. Or with as “clean” of a thought pattern.
What the heck was this stuff?
Two hours later, with a belly full of bacon-flavored truffles, beet-powder-infused salmon jerky, and raw camel's milk, I looked down at my hand. My fingers were wrapped around Bag #2.
I opened it, dumped six capsules into my mouth and swallowed. Then I clenched and unclenched my fists, took one deep breath, and stepped onto the massive PaleoFX stage to speak, ironically, about how to safely and effectively hack one's brain.
Limitless & Lucy
Perhaps it was the combination of eighteen different primal fuels and kombucha fermenting in my stomach. Perhaps it was the edgy death-like, I-hope-I-zipped-my-fly fear that accompanies stepping onto stage in front of hundreds of people. Or perhaps it was Bag #2 kicking into action.
But the effects of what was in those two black bags became even more magnified the moment I stepped on stage.
Whatever it was, I didn't complain. I just held on tight for the ride on stage as my mouth worked to catch up to my rapidly firing brain. My lucidity and clarity of thought became unparalleled. I wondered if someone had slipped a No-Doz caffeine pill into my camel's milk, but realized I had none of the agitation or nervousness that accompanies copious such amounts of caffeine. I wondered if this was how Bradley Cooper's character felt in the movie Limitless.
No, scratch that. Probably more like the way Scarlet Johansson's character in the movie Lucy felt when Asian terrorists sewed a leaky bag full of smart drugs into her gut lining, but without any scalpels involved.
I had to find out where this stuff came from.
I had to hunt down this mysterious “Neurohacker Collective“.
So I did. And in this article, you'll discover exactly what I found about the best nootropic stack I've ever used, the actual ingredients packed into Bag #1 and Bag #2, as well as what new and exciting formulas they've cooked up since my experience at PaleoFX.
What Is “Neurohacker Collective”?
As you may have heard on the podcast “42 Different Ways To Build A Better Brain, The Problem With Modern Smart Drugs, Hacking Your Neurons & More.”, I did indeed eventually connect with the brilliant minds at Neurohacker Collective—specifically a man named Daniel Schmachtenberger.
During that podcast episode, Daniel described how he began seriously studying health and neurology when he became afflicted with neurological and autoimmune illnesses that had no known solutions in either allopathic or complementary medicine. The insights that lead to his healing came from developing a new model for understanding physiology and pathology. He then applied these insights to helping many people address various forms of complex illness and optimize their capabilities beyond their previous healthy baselines.
As he worked to create Neurohacker Collective, Daniel was simultaneously the academic dean for a college of mind-body medicine and consulted for a host of functional, integrative physicians and medical clinics to help find novel solutions for complex cases. He created and ran a think tank developing complex systems solutions for environmental and social issues, and directed a transdisciplinary group of scholars on a philosophy of mind project addressing core questions of the mind-brain interface and what he calls “an axiomatic reformulation for the epistemology of neuroscience.”
And he's guinea-pigged extensively with psychedelics, nootropics, meditation, depth psychology, and a plethora of other tools for evolving states and stages of consciousness and evolving the human experience.
Ultimately, Daniel focuses on bringing together scientific research on each individual mechanism and pathway supporting cognitive development and integrating them into a whole-systems view, a complex framework of integrative neuroscience that focused for many years on creating one of the best nootropic stacks ever made.
During our podcast, Daniel describes how many “smart drugs” work by artificially increasing one chemical in the brain by overriding its natural function. Problem is, this can cause depletion or neglect of other things, causing imbalances and negative consequences like dependency or a post-smart drug “crash.”
This is because cognitive capacity is a nuanced relationship that involves many variables. Optimizing for one variable of cognitive function at the expense of other critical ones doesn't really bestow comprehensive enhancement of human capability. For instance, having cognitive drive without the ability to focus well could result in you leaping into your office in a post-smart-drug-infused craze and churning out a hundred tiny multi-tasks like a keyboarded berserker…without actually accomplishing anything deep or meaningful or truly productive.
Or you could develop steely willpower without emotional resilience, resulting in you being the smartest guy or girl at the office who treats your co-workers like complete crap because you've suddenly become a robot-like, hard-charging, high-achiever with a complete loss of empathy. For that reason, Daniel's goal was to design a formula that deliberately balances subjective effects to give meaningful enhancement in a comprehensive way—what he describes as “a whole system upgrade.”
In other words, as he designed the capsules that I swallowed in Bag #1 and Bag #2, Daniel's goal was to support the body’s endogenous neurochemical production and regulatory processes, rather than creating fake, temporary, exogenous brain overrides.
Take IQ, for example—also known as “Intelligence Quotient”
Recent research suggests that the notion of a single intelligence quotient vastly oversimplifies intelligence, which is in fact composed of various aspects of what is called “multiple intelligences,” such as verbal intelligence, problem-solving, spatial reasoning, etc.
The studies on IQ were led by Adrian Owen of the Brain and Mind Institute at Western. His studies included more than 100,000 participants from around the globe asking them to complete 12 cognitive tests looking at their memory, reasoning, attention, and planning abilities. These findings were published in an article, “Fractioning Human Intelligence” in the Journal Neuron in December of 2012, and a couple of follow-up articles appeared on Science Daily: “Scientists debunk the IQ myth: Notion of measuring one's intelligence quotient by singular, standardized test is highly misleading” and Western University: Canada: “Debunking the IQ myth“.
This is all based on a theory proposed by Howard Gardner which states that intelligence is not unified, but rather multiple, consisting of a set of relatively independent intelligences including linguistic intelligence, mathematical intelligence, spatial intelligence, musical intelligence, kinesthetic intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, naturalist intelligence, and even based on more recent research, the addition of spiritual intelligence and emotional intelligence. According to this theory, different intelligences can develop at different rates in individuals. Thus, a single measure like IQ neglects within-person variability across multiple kinds of intelligence.
So basically, if a smart drug or nootropic promises to increase IQ, you must ask yourself if it is increasing multiple intelligences, or just one factor of IQ, such as your ability to blast through multiplication tables or progress through your Suzuki violin manual at lightning speed.
It's an interesting theory indeed.
And a glance at the Neurohacker Collective website promises that they have fully researched this complex problem for years. As a result, they have designed the best nootropic stack in the world today, containing 28 scientifically researched ingredients designed to amplify all the aspects that matter most for optimal cognitive and nervous system functioning.
Yep, that's quite a claim.
But it's one thing to wax flowery biohacking poetic on a website and quite another to produce a product that actually works. So leading up to my podcast interview with Daniel, Neurohacker Collective hooked me up with a supply of their top-shelf nootropic.
It was time to find out whether my experience at PaleoFX was an isolated fluke, or if this Qualia stuff actually works when used with longer-term dosage in one's comfortable, familiar home and office environment.
Let's delve into my own experience, shall we?
My Experience With Qualia
Now, I'm not going to kick a nootropic, smart-drug infused horse to death and dwell upon what you are probably already aware of when it comes to the claims behind these trendy cognitive-enhancing compounds.
Sure, on my first morning (and for the next four days leading up to my podcast with Daniel), I certainly experienced a manifestation of all of the following claims…
- Better focus
- Increased cognitive drive
- Faster reaction time
- Less distractibility
- Enhanced verbal fluency and memory recall
Frankly, as I describe in my article on How To Make Your Own Smart Drugs, I've experimented with just about every nootropic that exists, and many psychedelic compounds and smart drugs to boot. I certainly get some semblance of the effects stated above with many, many of these supplements. So it would be unfair to claim that Qualia is isolated in its ability to deliver these types of effects.
But with Qualia—and I realize this is a bit nebulous—these effects seemed to just happen faster and cleaner. And in addition to increases in focus, drive and emotional resilience, I noticed a host of other subtle, less-expected, positive experiences.
Take procrastination, for example.
Like most people I know, I tend to have a history of procrastinating on everything from doing my taxes to cleaning out my desk drawer to organizing the ever-growing collection of random tools in the garage. But by the end of my first day on Qualia, I had somehow discovered the willpower, focus, and drive to organize my entire biohacking gym corner-to-corner, neatly placing kettlebells, monster bands, maces, stability training balls, balance pads, foam rollers, vibration therapy tools, electrostimulation devices and all other manner of other fitness geekery in tightly systematized sequences.
Hooray for me, and perhaps more importantly, the bonus points scored with my wife.
Then came the dreams. Seriously. I dreamt like crazy.
Perhaps part of this was my recent foray into red light therapy on my gonads to increase testosterone production, but it began with mostly sex dreams. Not bad, horny-clowns-chasing-me-down sex dreams but instead intense, lucid, and very pleasant dreams that at one point had me waking up my wife at 2 am for a very, very early morning “workout.” I also experienced the sensation of flying through the air like an NBA player dunking a basketball (every time I took a step in my dream), soaring through space like Superman, driving a car extremely high speeds with extreme precision, and simply staring off the edge of a cliff while watching wisps of clouds below and seeing the whole of planet Earth, as if I were some kind of – well – deity.
Daniel informed me later that within the first week of taking the product, many people do indeed report a reregulation of their sleep cycles—sometimes needing less sleep and sometimes sleeping at different times. They notice they remember their dreams more, there’s more lucidity to them, and that they feel more meaningful. Since science suggests that dreaming is associated with memory consolidation and psychological processing of events, I'll take this as a good sign.
Next, an overwhelming sensation of patience and relaxation.
The next phenomenon was one I didn't notice until after four days. On my fourth morning of taking Qualia, I began to wake up in the morning with an almost lazy feeling that I possessed an “affluence of time.” This may seem ironic considering that a nootropic should actually speed up cognitive processing speed and task achievement. But despite experiencing an enormous boost in cognition, I still felt more patient, settled, and relaxed as I connected my heart rate monitor and began my daily HRV measurement. I spent more time writing in my gratitude journal. I dwelt more heavily on the truth in my OurDailyBread devotions. Life seemed less hectic, less fast-paced.
Focus and empowerment in the face of stress and challenge.
On the fifth day, I noticed something that Daniel mentioned during our podcast: the ability of a full-spectrum nootropic to allow one to respond gracefully to difficult things—specifically an increased sense of empowerment in how one deals with the difficult challenges that arise in life. Instead of going into overwhelm or hopelessness or devastation, Daniel describes that a Qualia user may feel capable of doing what needs to be done in the presence of challenge.
Now mind you, I hadn't yet spoken to Daniel about this effect, and I didn't notice this until after five days. But on that fifth day—when I finally turned on my computer to work and the e-mails came flying out of my inbox like a rabid chihuahua wielding a bullet-slinging uzi—I simply sat there, took a deep breath, and experienced an overwhelming wash of relief and a sensation that everything was going to be just fine.
In other words, the normal morning stress did not faze me. This was getting interesting.
Since recording the podcast with Daniel, I've noticed two more interesting phenomena while continuing to take Qualia.
Less internal emotion and drama.
This includes feeling less concern about what other people think or about proving something to the world.
This manifested itself physically too. My voice has become just slightly more monotone, and a little bit more robotic, especially during business dealings. This had been a tendency for me already, as you may know, if you listened to the podcast entitled “I Am A 98% Angry, No-Nonsense, Perfectionistic, Extremely Unconventional, Rule-Breaking, Fearless Assassin-Sniper.” But it became more pronounced, in a good way. Meaning that I thought more quickly, had better verbal fluency, experienced superior memory recall, and became more like a well-oiled Ferrari engine, but without an actual loss of empathy for others.
The best way I can describe this is that I spoke and argued and debated and podcasted and had phone calls with far fewer vocal “ups and downs.” Sure, I suppose this could be a bad thing if I were, say, an opera singer, but pretty good for getting business done like a well-sharpened sushi knife—cutting straight through the flesh of a conversation or problem like butter.
Sense of “aha.”
The final unpredictable sensation I'm now experiencing while taking Qualia is that of epiphany, which I'd describe as a sense of “aha” or revelation about things that involve though synthesis. This was a pretty cool hidden gem that has led to breakthroughs in business and personal areas that I was originally stuck. I've actually been forced to begin carrying my Moleskin notebook around more religiously because thoughts and epiphanies have begun to strike me at any moment. Brainstorms. Big picture business insights. Sudden plot breakthroughs for my work of fiction. You get the idea. All good things.
What on earth is in this stuff? Let's find out.
Ingredients and How This Stuff Works
Each ingredient included in Qualia is based on a whole system design methodology. This means that Daniel and his team have taken singular care to understand the specific effects of 28 different ingredients and how they combine with each other to affect the mind, brain, and body interface.
I also want to mention that although there have been some formulation changes from the original 1.0 Qualia product to the 2.0 product called Qualia Mind. They've been all upside tweaks, with the same powerful results, now in a more streamlined, once-a-day formula rather than the clunky twice-a-day original formula.
They pulled this off by engaging in a rigorous examination of something called “neuropsychopharmacology,” an interdisciplinary science that combines psychopharmacology (which is the study of how chemicals affect the mind) and neuroscience (which is the study of the neural mechanisms that chemicals act upon to influence behavior).
The team at Neurohacker Collective performed a comprehensive analysis of neuroscience research to determine the underlying regulatory hardware responsible for mediating the desired subjective and performative effects they wanted to get out of a pill. Along the way, their goal stayed constant: to magnify all normal and healthy physiologic pathways and processes. This was done with the goal of evolving a more robust and complex neural network and regulatory system functioning.
The end result was 28 different ingredients split into 7 different categories, and below you will find a full list of Qualia’s ingredients and categories. You can click here for very intense, nitty-gritty details about why they included these specific compounds in this stack and to read more of the research behind the formulation.
Category 1: Nootropic Compounds.
Psychoactive and neuroactive chemicals that play key roles in modulating receptor sites, synaptic enzymes, membrane structures, cerebral perfusion, biogenic processes, neuroendocrine regulation and more.
Category 2: Choline Donors.
Active forms of choline donors that work through different pathways in the peripheral and central nervous system to support acetylcholine levels, along with the other synergistically stacked cholinergics (acetyl donors, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, racetamic compounds, etc).
Category 3: Amino Acids
The building blocks for key neurotransmitters and hormones, and agents that are part of the processes of cellular energy production, osmoregulation, signaling, antioxidation, neurogenesis, and neuroprotection.
Category 4: Neuro-Vitamins
Key limiting factor vitamins in specific activated forms required for major neuroregulatory and neurodevelopmental processes.
Category 5: Adaptogen Extracts
These herbal adaptogens are concentrating active compounds while maintaining complex synergistic co-factors—supporting adrenal/HPA regulation, long term potentiation, AMPK activation, neurogenesis, catecholamine production, tissue regeneration, and many regulatory functions.
Category 6: Neuro-Minerals
Limiting factor minerals required for major neurochemical regulatory processes in forms that are bioavailable and can cross the blood-brain barrier.
Category 7: Neuro-Anti-inflammatories and Antioxidants
Synergist compounds that support nutrient transport and utilization, cytokine and eicosanoid modulation, neurotrophin factors, redox reactions, cholesterol regulation, and much more.
And lest you think these raw ingredients are sourced from outdated, giant wooden bins in China where they're getting sprayed with ethylene oxide and other preservatives, then take heart.
These folks are using, for lack of a better phrase, high-quality s&*t.
For example, all the Qualia ingredients are chosen based on the strong empirical basis of their safety and efficacy. They take into account several kinds of research: Phase II & III university and clinical trials, quantified self-research data, and over 40+ years of international research on nootropic stack formulation.
All the ingredients are tested for heavy metals, mycotoxins, pesticides, and other forms of environmental toxin, and ensured to be at levels far lower than FDA GMPs requirements. No silica, magnesium stearate, animal, or toxic binders or fillers are used.
They use only high-quality raw ingredients. Many of which come from patented sources and are considered “best in class” in the supplements industry.
Each ingredient is concentrated to the highest potency and bioavailability currently commercially possible.
All of their herbs and botanicals are standardized for potency and purity of active ingredients.
Every single ingredient that Neurohacker Collective uses arrives from a supplier with a Certificate of Analysis (CoA). This ensures its purity and potency.
Then they go a step further and batch test every ingredient coming in by using the most advanced chromatography and spectrometry available and the same spendy kind of lab analysis techniques I talked about in this behind-the-scenes supplement interview with the lead physician at Thorne, including, in addition to batch testing raw materials coming in, pulling bottles of market-ready product and verifying the formulation inside each capsule.
All their nutraceuticals are in the most biologically active form for the purpose intended (i.e. methylated, acetylated, phosphorylated, L-form, D-form, etc). The form of the nutrient makes orders of magnitude difference to its effectiveness. (That's why the $30,000 bottle of ketones I chugged in a recent Snapchat video beats the pants off other forms of ketone salts—because it's in a certain molecular configuration I talk about here.)
In addition to Neurohacker Collective‘s manufacturing lab, they also have a research & development lab where they produce and test dozens of iterations of their nootropic formulations. They have had over two years of internal testing demonstrating safety and efficacy, and have consulted dozens of doctors, researchers, and formulators in the development of Qualia Mind.
- Yes, it's vegan.
- And gluten-free, lest you not want bread with your smart drugs.
- Non-GMO? Check.
- No artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners.
- Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose (HPMC) vegetarian capsules. (Fancy word for fiber, basically.)
And no proprietary blend invocations. Neurohacker is fully transparent with the formulation for Qualia Mind, including their more elusive ingredients. (Good luck finding Celastrus paniculatus seed extract at your local health food store.)
If you’ve seen the surreal smart-drug movies I mentioned earlier (“Limitless” or “Lucy“) you probably have a sense of what may one day be possible, at least if your friend gives you a secret drug while you're facing unemployment and a girlfriend's rejection, or you're being captured by Japanese terrorists. Qualia Mind isn’t quite like what you see in these thrilling movies, but it’s the closest thing to a “magic pill” movie experience that’s out there. Which is especially impressive considering that it is legal. And readily purchasable.
A God pill?
Mmm…that's a bit too potentially blasphemous and offensive for me to continue to label it as such.
But a “magic” pill?
I'll take it.
And now you can too.
If you want to play it safe and just try a month's supply, which is a single bottle, then just click here and use discount code: GREENFIELD2018 to save 15%.
If you're all in and ready to spring for a monthly subscription (which can be canceled at any time) code: GREENFIELD2018 will also save you 15% off a subscription order.
Finally, should you be a soccer mom or college student or bartender scratching your head about whether this is something that no folks other than professional athletes or hard-charging CEO's or insane biohackers would ever take, then please know that Qualia Mind is not just some “natural” prescription drug alternative for fringe rich people or self-quantifying guinea pigs.
Scientists, artists, creators, entrepreneurs, activists, parents, and students of every kind are now using this stuff. Qualia Mind is designed for anyone who wants to do meaningful things with their life, have deep and profound experiences, and fully optimize their capability towards those goals, even if it means lucid dreaming, late night sex sessions, and achieving zero e-mails in your inbox at an unfair rate of speed.
Anyways, if you have questions, thoughts or feedback about Qualia Mind, about the concept of “neurohacking” in general, about nootropics, smart drugs, or anything else related to enhancing cognitive performance via nutrition, then leave your comments below and I will reply!
You can also click here to listen to my podcast with its creator Daniel Schmachtenberger. If you want to get your hands on this stuff now, just use code GREENFIELD2018 to save 15% on either a single order or subscription order. And as that dude in the beginning of this story told me, enjoy the experience. ;)
Also published on Medium.