All About Semax: Effects, Mechanisms, Side-Effects

Semax is a drug originally developed in Russia for the prevention and treatment of circulatory disorders. It has also been claimed to act as a “nootropic,” or “cognitive enhancer”.

Read on to learn more about this drug, its effects, mechanisms, and its potential benefits.

This post is not a recommendation or endorsement for the use of Semax. We have written this post for informational purposes, and our goal is to inform people about Semax’s mechanisms, potential effects, and possible side-effects.

What is Semax?

Semax is a synthetic peptide drug that was developed based on the molecular structure of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).

In Russia, Semax was originally used as a medication for the prevention and treatment of circulatory disorders, such as strokes. Semax became listed on the Russian List of Vital & Essential Drugs — a reference of key medications reviewed and approved by the Russian government.

Semax has also been used by some people as a potential “nootropic,” or “cognitive-enhancing” drug. These claims are based on some preliminary studies reporting potentially-interesting effects in animal models, such as reduced stress and enhanced memory performance.

Mechanisms of Action

Some early research has identified a few possible candidate mechanisms and effects, such as:

  • increased brain BDNF levels;
  • reduced breakdown of enkephalins;
  • protecting the nervous system from oxidative damage;
  • affecting the expression of certain genes related to the immune and vascular systems.

Some of these mechanisms could be connected to the effects of Semax.

Potential Uses of Semax

A few potential effects and uses of Semax have been proposed, based primarily on some research in cells and animals.

Some of these early findings suggest that Semax has some therapeutic value for certain conditions. The available evidence falls considerably short of validating some of the inflated claims that some people in the “nootropics” community often make about this drug online.

Be sure to talk to a doctor before experimenting with Semax. Like any drug, Semax has the potential to cause side-effects, and may also have negative interactions with any other medications you are taking.

Only a qualified medical professional can help you navigate these potential concerns, so make sure to keep a doctor informed of any relevant lifestyle, dietary, or supplement changes you take that could impact your health. None of the information in this post should ever be used to replace conventional medical care.

Likely Effective for:

Preventing or Reducing Brain and Nerve Damage

Some early evidence suggests that Semax is “neuro-protective,” i.e. that it helps to partially protect the brain from various types of stress and damage, such as oxidative stress, inflammation, or cardiovascular events, such as strokes.

For example, according to one clinical trial in 100 patients recovering from an ischemic stroke, adding Semax to intensive forms of conventional therapy was reported to accelerate the restoration of damaged brain functions — especially movement-related symptoms.

In another trial in almost 200 people with reduced brain blood flow (“cerebrovascular insufficiency”), Semax was reported to reduce overall brain damage as well as potentially reduce the risk of additional future strokes. Additionally, according to this trial, Semax was generally well-tolerated, meaning that it was reported to cause relatively few significant side-effects.

Two small-scale studies of patients with optic nerve disease reported that Semax when combined with other anti-inflammatory treatments, helped reduce the progression and severity of optic nerve disease.

Improving Memory

Semax is commonly touted as a potential “nootropic,” or “cognitive-enhancing” drug.

According to one small-scale Russian study in healthy male users, Semax was reported to increase memory and attention during “extreme” or “highly-demanding” tasks.

In another small-scale brain-imaging study, Semax was reported to increase neural activity in the “default mode network,” a brain region believed to be involved in episodic memory, among other cognitive functions.

Some researchers have proposed that some of the purported cognitive effects of Semax, such as improved memory, may in part be due to mechanisms such as improved brain circulation and increased resistance to oxidative stress.

Protecting Cardiovascular System

Semax has been reported to protect the heart from damage after a stroke or heart attack. This study also reported that the drug may have prevented the excessive growth (hypertrophy) of the heart caused by elevated blood pressure (hypertension), which the authors propose may suggest a protective effect on the risk of additional future cardiovascular events.

Counteracting Stress

Some studies have reported that Semax counteracts some of the negative physical and mental consequences of stress.

Relatedly, other studies have reported that Semax may counteract some of the biological changes associated with elevated stress, such as increased production of pro-inflammatory immune system cells (such as macrophages) and other potentially harmful compounds. This has led some researchers to suggest that Semax may help protect certain major organs, such as the liver and spleen, against stress-related damage.

Stimulating Neurogenesis

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is one of the most important brain growth factors (neurotrophic factors) and is believed to play a key role in stimulating neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity throughout the brain.

According to a few studies, Semax has been reported to potentially increase the levels of BDNF in the brain. Some research also suggests that BDNF levels can influence mood and that low levels of BDNF in the brain may be involved in the development of psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Relatedly, some studies have also suggested that Semax normalizes behavior associated with increased stress and anxiety — possibly as a result of BDNF-related mechanisms. Early findings such as these have led some researchers to suggest that, by increasing the level of BDNF, Semax could one day potentially be used to help alleviate anxiety and depression.

Alleviating Pain

According to some cell-based studies, Semax has been reported to inhibit the breakdown (metabolism) of compounds called enkephalins.

Enkephalins are compounds that are believed to be involved in reducing pain (e.g. by stimulating the brain’s opioid system). This finding has led some researchers to suggest that Semax may have some potential as a pain reliever.

ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)

Semax has been reported to have a number of effects that may potentially be helpful in the treatment of ADHD, such as increased attention and memory, as well as increasing the levels of a variety of neurotransmitters that are often reported to be lower in patients with ADHD (such as dopamine).

Based on these findings, some researchers have proposed evaluating Semax as a treatment for ADHD. In fact, some anecdotal evidence suggests that Semax is already occasionally used in Russia for this purpose.

If you’ve got any doubts, concerns or suggestions, please contact our qualified experts and get free advice.