Cogniflex is a nootropic supplement that includes a relatively small number of ingredients and claims to boost energy, maintain focus, and increase cognitive performance.
These ingredients include vitamin B6, choline bitartrate (in the commercialized preparation VitaCholine), theanine, caffeine, Bacopa monnieri extract, and Rhodiola rosea extract
Unlike some other nootropic formulations on the market, Cogniflex doesn't throw everything and the kitchen sink into the formula.
Unfortunately, Cogniflex, like many other nootropics, chooses to conceal the exact amount of most of these (potentially) nootropic compounds by wrapping them up in a "proprietary blend." All we know is that the sum total of all of these ingredients—save for the vitamin B6, which is listed at 10 mg or 500% of your recommended daily intake—is 780 mg.
This is a recurring problem in nootropics, especially lower-cost ones. Given that it contains caffeine, many people will want to know how much caffeine it includes. Is it a 250 mg kick-in-the-pants, or a more mild 50 mg stimulant. It's impossible to say!
While including choline in a nootropic is not a novel idea, Cogniflex does do it in a way that is unconventional. Most other competitors deliver choline in the form of citicoline, a metabolized form of the essential biological compound. Cogniflex delivers it directly in the form of a tartrate salt, which is easily absorbed.
Choline, though is synthesized in the liver. It's not an essential nutrient that you have to consume. As for whether there are any benefits to supplemental choline, there is conflicting evidence.
On one hand, supplemental choline seems to be beneficial for brain development in fetuses: a 2004 study by researchers at Boston University and Duke University showed that choline played an important role in aiding brain development—at least, in rats (1). Likewise, further research in rats done at the University of Kentucky found that choline supplementation improves recovery from a rat model of traumatic brain injury, indicating that choline could play a role in brain repair (2).
Studies in humans are less promising. While a 1980 study on a very small sample of patients with Alzheimer's disease found small benefits from very large doses of choline (8, 12, or 16 grams), the most direct study of choline for cognitive performance found no effects (3). In that study, which was published in 2002 in the journal Military Medicine, 13 men underwent both physical and cognitive testing before and after a choline supplementation regimen (4). The researchers found that choline did not impact the physical or mental performance of the test subjects.
The next two ingredients do show more promise. Theanine is an amino acid that's found in green tea, and it appears to have a combined, synergistic effect with caffeine (which is the third ingredient in Cogniflex, after choline bitartrate and theanine).
According to research by scientists in the UK, when theanine and caffeine are combined, they interact in a way that smoothes out the "bumps" of caffeine—when people consume both, they are still alert, but feel less jittery, are less prone to headaches, and can perform at a higher level on cognitive testing than when consuming either ingredient alone (5).
It's likely that there exists some optimal ratio of theanine to caffeine, but there isn't enough research on the synergistic reaction between these two compounds to identify what it is. Even if there were, we don't have the information on the absolute amounts of either in Cogniflex! All we know is that there is more theanine in it than caffeine.
The final two ingredients are both herbal extracts. Bacopa monnieri is a well-studied plant extract and is quite common in nootropic formulations. Studies on Bacopa monnieri are mostly limited to elderly populations, but results seem to be promising. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine found that a 300 mg per day supplementation regimen of Bacopa monnieri resulted in a substantial improvement in verbal memory (in a word recall test) compared to a placebo trial (6). Notably, several other measurements of cognitive performance did not increase.
Rhodiola rosea is an extract from a plant that grows in cold regions in Europe and Asia. According to a review article published in 2010 in the scientific journal Phytomedicine, Rhodiola rosea has several promising avenues for use as a supplement (7). Pertinent to our nootropic interests, it appears to be quite effective at increasing concentration and reducing fatigue. This makes it an ideal nootropic ingredient—if the dosage is correct.
Cogniflex carries the same side effect profile as any caffeine-containing supplement: jitteriness, irritability, nausea—but it's hard to predict their severity or likelihood, since the label does not tell us how much caffeine is in each capsule. On the other hand, the presence of theanine in Cogniflex should help mellow out some of the negative effects of caffeine.
The rest of the ingredients have few or mild side effects reported. Bacopa, one study notes, may cause an upset stomach thirst, or nausea. A 2000 study reports no negative side effects associated with Rhodiola rosea (8).
The Bottom Line
Cogniflex isn't a particularly flashy or innovative supplement, but it could get the job done. It's got several ingredients with a good scientific record of nootropic capabilities. The ingredients in Cogniflex cover a good range of potential effects: improved memory, better alertness and focus, and better performance under stress.
The real question is this: are the nootropic ingredients present in sufficient amounts to exert the desired effects? In the case of some ingredients, like caffeine, it seems likely. However, for others, like choline bitartrate and Bacopa monnieri, it seems less so. Barring changes to the labeling, you'll either have to roll the dice and trust the makers of Cogniflex, or opt for a different supplement with more transparent labeling practices.