Brain health and function are at the very core of our physical, mental, and emotional health and wellbeing. The brain supports — and in many ways orchestrates — cognitive, sensory, motor, social, emotional, and behavioral functions.

Our brain serves as the command center for the body’s central and peripheral nervous systems, controlling nearly every other system of the body — circulatory, respiratory, digestive, muscular, and so on. It is the center of our thoughts and memories, enabling us to learn, work, and be creative and innovative. It’s also the center of our emotions. Thanks to our brains, we can not only live but enjoy our lives and fully realize our potential.

Anything that positively impacts brain health and function enhances our overall health and the quality of our lives, including healthy diet, long-term learning / education, clean water, fresh air, physical activity, intellectual challenges, and constructive relationships.

Many medications and supplements on the market can also be helpful in supporting brain health and function, including omega-3 fatty acids, L-theanine, phosphatidylserine, resveratrol, creatine, choline, ginkgo biloba, B vitamins, vitamin E, caffeine, and others. Currently, my supplement of choice for supporting, restoring, and enhancing brain function is Semax.

Semax peptide illustrated

What Is Semax?

Semax is a therapeutic peptide based on the molecular structure of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) — a hormone produced and secreted by the pituitary gland to stimulate the release of cortisol (the stress hormone) from the adrenal gland. Semax is best known for having the following three properties:

  • Neuroprotective: Semax protects and preserves neuron structure and function, and may reduce the rate at which neurons are lost over time.
  • Nootropic: Semax may enhance cognitive abilities, including learning, memory, attention/focus, and creativity.
  • Neurorestorative (neuroplasticity): Semax may restore neuron structure and function to compensate for injury and adapt to new situations or changes in the environment.

The Doctor Asks: Unfamiliar with peptides? Read The Healing and Rejuvenating Power of Therapeutic Peptides here on my blog.

Semax is the basis for a number of drugs used in clinical practice to treat various diseases and physical and mental health conditions, including the following:

  • Ischemic stroke (stroke resulting from deficient blood flow to a part of the brain). In one clinical trial, 100 patients recovering from ischemic stroke added Semax to their conventional recovery therapy. Semax reportedly accelerated the restoration of damaged brain functions, especially those at the root of movement-related symptoms. In another trial of nearly 200 people with reduced blood flow in the brain,Semax reportedly reduced overall brain damage and potentially reduced the risk of additional future strokes. Semax was generally well tolerated and caused relatively few side-effects in these studies.
  • Dyscirculatory encephalopathy (DEP) — a progressive brain dysfunction caused by long-term insufficiency of blood flow to the brain.
  • Optic nerve disorders — including those that create deterioration of the nerve that connects the eye to the brain. This includes glaucoma optic neuropathy — nerve damage caused by glaucoma (excessive fluid pressure in the eyeball). According to studies focused on optic nerve disorders, Semax, when combined with anti-inflammatory treatments, may work to reduce the progression and severity of disorders such as optic neuritis and glaucoma.
  • Diabetic neuropathy — nerve damage caused by diabetes.
  • Pain — Semax may act as an analgesic (pain reliever) by inhibiting the breakdown of Enkephalin, an endogenous ligand that binds to the body’s opioid receptors.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Semax can improve concentration, memory, and other cognitive functions

Semax is also used in healthy individuals to enhance adaptability under extreme conditions, such as high-stress situations at home, school, or work.

Symptom Relief

As we age, our ability to complete complex tasks at work can be impaired due to stress, restless sleep, poor diets, high blood pressure, toxicity, hormonal imbalances, and many other factors. Semax can be helpful in relieving symptoms resulting from those stressors, including:

  • Brain fog
  • Memory impairment (poor short-term memory, loss of memory, forgetting names, inability to recall words)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of mental acuity
  • Chronic fatigue (need for frequent naps, not feeling rested after a good night’s sleep)

How Semax Works

Semax increases the level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) — one of the most active proteins that stimulate the survival, development, and function of neurons. Basically, BDNF supports the survival of existing neurons and encourages the growth, regeneration, and creation of new neurons and synapses.

Semax also inhibits the breakdown of enkephalins — chemical compounds that are mainly involved in reducing pain and inflammation, preventing cancer cell growth, and increasing immune cell activity. Enkephalins also play a role in memory, learning, emotional behavior, and maintaining normal brain function.

Where to Get Semax and How to Take It

Semax, often combined with another therapeutic peptide named Selank, is available by prescription from a compounding pharmacy and through our office. It comes in the form of a nasal spray that is administered daily.

My Clinical Experience with Semax

Here at my practice — the Functional Health Care Group in Tampa, Florida — we use Semax to help treat patients with a variety of injuries and health conditions, ranging from severe head trauma to early onset dementia. Using Semax, we target a broad-reaching end goal of optimizing overall brain health and function by increasing BDNF and reducing inflammation to support the healing of neurons and improve blood flow and increase oxygen in the brain.

Specifically, we have found Semax to be helpful in treating the following conditions:

  • ADHD: Our typical patient with ADHD is between the ages of 35 and 55, working in an intellectually demanding position. Many of these patients have used Adderall or other stimulants to try and support the demands placed on them. However, at some point they reach a level of diminishing return. Many of our patients have used Semax successfully to improve their mental clarity and focus and their day-to-day ability to complete tasks requiring mental acuity and concentration.
  • Low dopamine: Low levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter, have been linked to Parkinson’s disease, restless legs syndrome, depression, and ADHD. Outside these diagnoses, low levels of dopamine can make you feel tired, moody, and unmotivated. Semax can help with these conditions and symptoms without the unwanted side effects of medications developed specifically to raise dopamine levels in the brain. It does this through an entirely different mechanism of action — increasing BDNF — that positively impacts neurotransmission, neuronal development, and blood flow.
  • Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS): People with ME/CFS have severe fatigue and sleep problems and are often unable to engage in their usual activities. Many patients report having a difficult time just walking the dog, or they may have post-exertional fatigue after gardening. At worst, a person with ME/CFS is so exhausted they are confined to a bed. Using Semax in combination with nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) to improve mitochondrial function can help patients with ME/CFS improve energy and quality of life. It’s not uncommon to see patients benefit dramatically from this combination as brain health begins to improve.

To be clear, I am not claiming that Semax is a silver bullet for treating all brain-related medical conditions or that it’s a “smart pill” that dramatically improves your alertness and IQ. It’s simply another tool in the medicine cabinet that can help in the treatment of a variety of conditions related to your neurological health and function. You may have other underlying conditions that also must be addressed. These would include the root cause(s) of your illness or symptoms, such as impaired digestion, an undiagnosed or untreated chronic infection, or exposure to environmental toxins.

If you’re suffering from any of the conditions or symptoms described in this post, I urge you to consult with a functional medical practice near you for a thorough diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. If you’re in or near Tampa, Florida, contact me to let me know what’s going on, or schedule an appointment. If you’re in a more remote location, I can work with you and your local providers to offer guidance on testing and treatments that may be missing from your current treatment plan.

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About the Author: Dr. Matt Lewis, D.C., DACBN, CFMP®, specializes in diagnosing and treating the underlying causes of the symptoms related to chronic and unexplained illness through nutrition, lifestyle, chiropractic, and other natural approaches to whole-health healing in Tampa, Fla. Dr. Lewis has 20 years of experience practicing nutritional and holistic medicine. He earned his B.S. in Biology from Shenandoah University, his Doctorate in Chiropractic from Life University, his Diplomate status in Clinical Nutrition from the American Clinical Board of Nutrition, his CFMP from Functional Medicine University, and his certification as a Digestive Health Specialist (DHS) through the Food Enzyme Institute. Dr. Lewis’ passion for health and wellness stems from his own personal experience. With a family history of autoimmune conditions and diabetes, and his own lab tests showing his genetic susceptibility to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (autoimmune thyroid), Dr. Lewis has learned how to restore his own health and vigor to prevent the onset of these and other illnesses and live an incredibly active life. Through this process, he acquired a deeper understanding of health and wellness, which he now offers his patients in Tampa and elsewhere.

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Dr. Matt