Evidence Based
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5 Sulbutiamine (Arcalion) Benefits + Dosage, Side Effects

Written by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:
Jonathan Ritter
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology), Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:

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Sulbutiamine is a fat-soluble derivative of thiamine. It is considered an energy booster and is used in France to reduce fatigue. It may also stimulate digestion, boost memory, and protect the brain, but the research is limited. Read on to learn more about the health benefits of sulbutiamine, dosage, and possible side effects.

What Is Sulbutiamine?

Japanese scientists developed sulbutiamine in the 60s while exploring treatments for thiamine deficiency. Some brand names for this compound are Enerion and Arcalion [1].

Sulbutiamine is synthetically produced by binding two thiamine (vitamin B1) molecules together. Sulbutiamine is more fat-soluble than thiamine, allowing it to pass to the brain easier (cross the blood-brain barrier) [2].

Sulbutiamine increases thiamine in the brain more than other forms of thiamine [3, 4].

Snapshot

Proponents:

  • Reduces fatigue
  • May improve cognition
  • May protect the brain and nerves
  • May stimulate digestion

Skeptics:

  • Most uses lack clinical evidence
  • Long-term safety is unknown

How Does it Work?

  • May Increase thiamine (and thiamine derivative) levels more than thiamine itself [1].
  • Increases dopamine (D1) and glutamate activity in decision-making regions of the brain (such as the prefrontal cortex) [5, 6].
  • Supports mental health (by changing how glutamate acts on dopamine) [5].
  • Increases energy use in the brain (by increasing thiamine triphosphate) [4].
  • Supports memory formation (by increasing activity in the hippocampus) [9].

Health Benefits of Sulbutiamine

Possibly Effective:

1) Fatigue

In a study of 1,772 patients with infections and chronic fatigue, sulbutiamine (along with anti-infective treatment) helped with low energy. Fifty-two percent of the patients felt a significant boost in mood and energy [10].

326 patients with chronic fatigue (post-infection) were treated with sulbutiamine or a placebo. Some individuals felt an energy boost from sulbutiamine, but the results were not significant [11].

Sulbutiamine reduced fatigue by 44% in 341 patients with chronic fatigue, but this study lacked a placebo control [12].

In another uncontrolled study of 40 participants, sulbutiamine treatment (400 mg daily for 1 month) greatly improved symptoms of severe depression, anxiety, and fatigue in most patients (75%) [13].

36 patients with chronic weakness from posttraumatic disorders were treated with either piracetam or sulbutiamine. Sulbutiamine was more effective in improving energy and functionality than piracetam [14].

Fatigue is a major symptom of multiple sclerosis (MS). Sulbutiamine treatment (400 mg daily for 2 months) significantly improved energy levels of 20 MS patients. Once again, the lack of a placebo control makes the results questionable [15].

Larger, well-designed clinical trials are needed to verify the therapeutic effects of sulbutiamine for fatigue.

Insufficient Evidence:

No valid clinical evidence supports the use of sulbutiamine for any of the conditions in this section. Below is a summary of up-to-date animal studies, cell-based research, or low-quality clinical trials which should spark further investigation. However, you shouldn’t interpret them as supportive of any health benefit.

2) Memory Improvement

Sulbutiamine, when used with donepezil, improved memory in a study of 26 patients with Alzheimer’s Disease [16].

Sulbutiamine improved long-term memory in rats. This is a result of boosting neurotransmitters (such as choline), which may increase memory retention [6, 9].

3) Diabetic Neuropathy

Nerve damage can be caused by high blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes. A 6-week treatment of sulbutiamine (400 mg daily) in 15 patients with diabetes significantly improved nerve and muscle function [17].

4) Erectile Dysfunction

Sulbutiamine treatment for 30 days restored sexual performance in 16 patients out of 20 with erectile dysfunction, but the study lacked a placebo control [18].

5) Indigestion

In a study of 33 patients, sulbutiamine restored digestion after kidney surgery. It also greatly improved gut flow in tissue studies, but the clinical importance of this effect is unknown [19, 20].

Animal and Cellular Research (Lacking Evidence)

No clinical evidence supports the use of sulbutiamine for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based studies. They should guide further investigational efforts but should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

1) Brain Protection

Nutrient-deprived brain cells treated with sulbutiamine lived much longer than cells that weren’t treated [8].

Additionally, sulbutiamine improved the lifespan of brain cells that were deprived of oxygen and sugar. It also increased activity in the memory-forming part of the brain (hippocampus) [21].

2) Antioxidant Support

Sulbutiamine treatment increased the activity of antioxidant enzymes (GSH) in cells and decreased levels of harmful compounds (ROS) [8].

Limitations and Caveats

  • The majority of the human studies were carried out without control groups.
  • Only a few studies assessed the use of sulbutiamine orally.
  • Some benefits were demonstrated in animal and cell models but lack clinical data.

Sulbutiamine Side Effects and Risks

This list does not cover all possible side effects. Contact your doctor or pharmacist if you notice any other side effects. In the US, you may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or at www.fda.gov/medwatch. In Canada, you may report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345.

In general, sulbutiamine is well tolerated with doses up to 600 mg/day [10].

Side effects are infrequent and include mild skin allergies, mild agitation (in the elderly), and headaches [22].

Euphoria and sleep pattern disturbance may occur in high doses [23].

In combination with antibiotics, nausea, headache, insomnia, diarrhea, tremor, and drowsiness were reported by 0.6% of patients in one study [10].

Sulbutiamine Supplements & Dosage

Sulbutiamine supplements have not been approved by the FDA for medical use. In general, regulatory bodies aren’t assuring the quality, safety, and efficacy of supplements. Speak with your doctor before supplementing.

The below doses may not apply to you personally. If your doctor suggests using a grape seed extract supplement, work with them to find the optimal dosage according to your health condition and other factors.

The standard sulbutiamine dose is 200 – 600 mg/day. This dosage should be divided into 2 or 3 times a day [10].

User Experiences

The opinions expressed in this section are solely from the users who may or may not have a medical background. SelfHacked does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment. Do not consider user experiences as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on SelfHacked.

Users report that the effects of sulbutiamine were immediately seen in most cases. Positive mood, focus, and motivation are the main reported benefits.

On the other hand, irritability, insomnia, and euphoria are the most cited negative effects. In addition, some people do not feel any different while using sulbutiamine.

About the Author

Ana Aleksic

Ana Aleksic

MSc (Pharmacy)
Ana received her MS in Pharmacy from the University of Belgrade.
Ana has many years of experience in clinical research and health advising. She loves communicating science and empowering people to achieve their optimal health. Ana spent years working with patients who suffer from various mental health issues and chronic health problems. She is a strong advocate of integrating scientific knowledge and holistic medicine.

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