Vasopressin, otherwise known as Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH), is produced by the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland in the brain. It has roles in water balance and blood pressure, but it’s also sought after as a smart drug. Learn the pros and cons of high and low vasopressin and how to manipulate your levels in your favor.

What is Vasopressin?

Role in the Body

Why is vasopressin so important? Vasopressin plays a major role in keeping your body hydrated, your mind sharp, and your mood bright.

  • If you’re an athlete, you’ll want to make sure your vasopressin isn’t too high, or you will have difficulty holding onto salt, a key electrolyte.
  • If you’re concerned about mental sharpness, you may want to find ways to increase your vasopressin, which is considered a “smart drug” by many and is being studied as a treatment for dementia.
  • If you struggle with frequent urination or if your child struggles with bedwetting, low levels of vasopressin may be to blame.
  • If you feel nauseated after drinking a lot of water or get headaches after intense exercise, your vasopressin may be too high.
  • If you feel like you’re constantly thirsty and always running to the bathroom, your vasopressin is probably on the low side [1].
  • If you do a test and find out your vasopressin is elevated, you may be dealing with stress and/or chronic inflammation [2].

Although it’s seldom discussed, even in health circles, vasopressin clearly plays a major role in our everyday health and well-being.

Understanding how it manifests in different health conditions can be a turning point in returning our bodies to a healthy state.


Vasopressin is otherwise known as Arginine-Vasopressin (AVP) because in most species it contains Arginine.

It’s also called Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH) because it reduces urination (diuresis).

Vasopressin is especially active at night, eliminating the interruption of getting up to go to the bathroom every couple of hours, and allowing you to sleep straight through until morning [34].

Besides helping the body to retain water, is also constricts blood vessels, which increases blood pressure. You can think of it as inhibiting flow – of water and of blood. That’s where the name “vasopressin” comes from – causing a restriction in blood vessels.

How Vasopressin Affects Your Brain

It all starts in the brain.

When the brain gets the signal that the body is getting dehydrated (blood pressure is low, blood is highly concentrated), vasopressin is released and the kidneys are given the message to conserve water and prevent the loss of water in the urine. Instead, the urine is more concentrated and water is reabsorbed into the body, diluting the blood, and restoring balance to the body.

Vasopressin does much more than just regulate our water and salt concentrations. It also has a role in memory, regulating blood pressure and body temperature, CRH release, socio-sexual behavior, and even our circadian rhythm [5].

It can act as a neurotransmitter, and it can stimulate the production of other needed neurotransmitters [6].

Vasopressin is also considered to be a stress hormone like cortisol or CRH [7].

Health Benefits of Vasopressin

Nootropic Effects

  • Vasopressin is used as a nootropic/smart drug. Vasopressin increases mental clarity, attention to detailshort-term memory [89] and long-term memory [910].
  • It enhances learning in mice [11].
  • It is also being considered for the treatment of memory problems associated with aging, dementia, drug toxicity, and amnesia [8].
  • High Vasopressin can make you more cooperative [12].

Dangers of Low Vasopressin

The following conditions have been linked with low vasopressin:

  • Bed wetting [13].
  • Diabetes Insipidus [14].
  • Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (based on anecdotes from Shoemaker, which may not be true, since the testing used isn’t accurate). Most healthy patients have vasopressin come in at under 1.
  • Insomnia in the elderly – vasopressin nose sprays increase sleep quality in older subjects [1516].
  • Slow gut flow (motility) in the digestive tract (in rabbits) [17]. Vasopressin has also been found in the human digestive tract with implications for involvement there [18].

How to Increase Vasopressin (AVP Promoters)

  • Restricting water
  • Dietary Sodium [19]
  • Standing [20]
  • Exercise [21]
  • Sauna [22]
  • Forskolin/cAMP [23]
  • Glycine [24, 25]
  • Rhodiola – Lowers endopeptidase activity, leading to higher vasopressin. Rhodiola sacra [26] and Rhodiola sachalinensis [27]. I couldn’t find a study using the more common, Rhodiola rosea.
  • Ginkgo – Lowers endopeptidase activity, leading to higher vasopressin [28]
  • Baicalein – Inhibits endopeptidase, raising vasopressin [29]
  • Berberine – Inhibits endopeptidase, raising vasopressin [30]
  • Acetylcholine – Increases vasopressin (in rat studies) [31]
  • Increase IL-1beta [32]
  • Increase Interleukin-6 [33]
  • Increase CRH, which increases vasopressin [34]
  • Inhibit IGF-1, which inhibits vasopressin [35]
  • Increase BMAL1, which is needed for the production of vasopressin [36]
  • Stimulate 5-HT2C receptors, which leads to an increase in vasopressin [39]. Some 5-HT2C activators include Serotonin [39], Ginseng [40], and Bacopa (rats) [41].
  • Vasopressin – Vasopressin is also used as a nootropic/smart drug. Ask your doctor about vasopressin.
  • Nicotine (rabbits, cats, men) [42, 43, 44].
  • Racetams – Raise Acetylcholine, raising vasopressin
  • Pramiracetam – Inhibits endopeptidase, raising vasopressin [45].
  • Desmopressin – Synthetic vasopressin that has 10 times the antidiuretic effects of vasopressin, but 1500 times less of the constricting effect on blood vessels [46]. I tested out the nasal desmopressin to see what vasopressin feels like. It did increase orexin and wakefulness as the research suggests. It ruined my sleep and the next day caused some cognitive dysfunction. I don’t recommend it to anyone. The nasal spray has been implicated in two deaths due to hyponatremia or low salt levels. I made sure not to drink water and consumed adequate salt beforehand.
  • Other Drugs that increase vasopressin: morphine, amitriptyline, barbiturates, desipramine, and carbamazepine (47).

Health Risks of High Vasopressin

Too much vasopressin can have the opposite effect. It may contribute to major depression, unsteady gait, and memory problems. Below is a list of conditions linked with high vasopressin levels [48, 4950, 51].

Associated Conditions

  • Stress – in humans [48, 52] and in rats [53] and mice [54]
  • Pain – in humans [55]
  • High blood pressure [56]
  • Major depression [48]
  • Diabetes (Type 2)
  • Low Cortisol [57]
  • Low sodium/Hyponatremia/Syndrome of Inappropriate Diuretic Hormone (SIADH) secretion
    • Unsteady gait [49]
    • impaired memory [51]
  • Low Thyroid [58]
  • Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome [59]
  • Autism [60]
  • Kidney Stones – Vasopressin causes our urine to be less dilute.
  • High Blood Sugar – Insulin can cause the release of vasopressin [61]. Vasopressin causes insulin release in mice [1].
  • Low BUN (Blood Urea Nitrogen) levels [62]
  • Low Uric Acid levels particularly in SIADH [63]
  • High CRH – Vasopressin releases CRH [34]
  • Anorexia – vasopressin suppresses appetite [64, 65]

How to Lower Vasopressin (AVP Inhibitors)

  • Cold (humans and rats) [66, 67] – this can be done with a cold shower.
  • Lying down – Inhibits vasopressin [68].
  • California Poppy – Has 2 compounds that inhibit the V1 receptor [6970].
  • Lithium – In human studies [71].
  • Decrease Interleukin-6 [33].
  • Decrease IL-1beta [32].
  • Decrease CRH  CRH increases Vasopressin [34].
  • Increase MSH – MSH decreases ADH/Vasopressin in rat studies [72].
  • Increase IGF-1, which inhibits vasopressin [35].


  • Increase Progesterone – Progesterone therapy caused a decrease in blood levels of vasopressin [73].
  • Combine Estrogen with Progesterone – There was no change in blood levels of vasopressin with estrogen treatment alone, but following a combined administration of estrogen and progesterone [74].
  • Increase Testosterone [74].
  • Increase Oxytocin – under certain circumstances, oxytocin indirectly inhibits the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and, in those situations, may be considered an antagonist of vasopressin [75].


  • Danggui-Shaoyao-San (Chinese herb formula) (rat and mouse models) [76].
  • Alisma plantago-aquatica – (cell studies) [77].
  • Alcohol – Inhibits vasopressin [78].
  • Decrease BMAL1, which is needed for the production of vasopressin [36].

Lectins. WGA (a lectin in wheat) and ConA (a lectin in legumes) was found to bind to animal vasotocin neurons which are very similar to human vasopressin [83].

Irregular Vasopressin Levels?

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