Methylene Blue: 100 Years Old, Brand New Applications in Brain Health

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Methylene Blue is a supplement/OTC drug that comes with a healthy dose of controversy. Some popular and credible experts have scrunched their noses and confidently declared that anyone talking about methylene blue must be a crackpot because methylene blue has been used to clean fish tanks. It’s also been used to tissue stain for slide preparation in laboratories. Intensive care nurses will know methylene blue as a stain used in tube feedings so that nurses can easily distinguish feeding formula from other fluids.

What few people have ever heard of until recently is the idea that it can provide any benefit to generally healthy people. Yet there are highly credible voices going into extreme depth and detail about exactly what 100 years of research have discovered.

Methylene Blue is gaining attention in nootropics circles as a brain health supplement. It has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and possibly anti-aging properties and more.

We will address serious safety concerns. Among these concerns is sourcing of methylene blue from an Amazon vendor. This is problematic because of known issues with their vetting of suppliers. Another serious concern is the potential to accidentally order non-pharmaceutical-grade products by mistake which pose a great risk for heavy metal poisoning. Fake websites and unscrupulous companies selling contaminated methylene blue are also certainly possible. For this reason, a product purchased from Amazon’s marketplace may actually be the least risky option for a person who chooses to take methylene blue. Therefore, we have judged that suggesting a specific product from the Amazon marketplace may be the best way to reduce the risk for someone who chooses to take this supplement.

With all of those caveats, you may be wondering why methylene blue might be worth the risk. In this post, we will delve into the history of methylene blue, and explore its current and future applications in medicine. Let’s dive in!

The Long History of Methylene Blue

In the late 19th century, scientist Heinrich Caro made a significant discovery – a blue compound that he named “methylene blue.” Originally used as a dye in the textile industry, methylene blue began to show potential beyond its aesthetic appeal. In the early 20th century, researchers explored its applications in medicine, particularly for treating malaria during World War I. Its unique properties made it an effective combatant against the parasitic infection, providing relief to soldiers on the battlefield.

As scientific knowledge advanced, methylene blue found utility beyond malaria treatment. Scientists discovered its cellular and molecular interactions, leading to breakthroughs in various fields. During the mid-20th century, it became an invaluable tool in microscopy, aiding scientists in visualizing intricate cellular structures and advancing our understanding of life at a microscopic level.

As time passed, scientists delved deeper into the properties of methylene blue. They discovered its ability to interact with cells and molecules, leading to breakthroughs in various fields. In the mid-20th century, methylene blue became a valuable tool in microscopy, staining intricate cellular structures and helping unravel the mysteries of life at a microscopic level.

But in recent years, this versatile compound has captured the attention of medical researchers once again. They uncovered its potential as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of various ailments. Methylene blue showcased its power as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from damage and potentially mitigating the effects of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. [PMC3091255]

Furthermore, methylene blue demonstrated its prowess in the field of mental health. It showed promise as an adjunct treatment for depression, offering new avenues of hope for those who battled this debilitating condition. [PMID: 3555627]

Methylene blue has made the journey from a humble dye to an ally in medicine. And to this day, scientists continue to unlock its secrets

What Is Methylene Blue?

Methylene blue is a medication and dye that is used for various purposes in medicine. It is a synthetic compound with a distinctive blue color. Methylene blue has multiple pharmacological properties, including antioxidant and antimicrobial effects. It can be administered orally, topically, or intravenously depending on the intended use.

In medicine, methylene blue is used for diagnostic purposes, such as improving visualization of certain tissues or structures, and as a treatment option for certain conditions. It has been investigated for its potential benefits in rare conditions like methemoglobinemia, ifosfamide-induced encephalopathy, and as an adjunct therapy for certain mental health disorders. Methylene blue continues to be an area of ongoing research, exploring its diverse applications and potential therapeutic benefits.

How Does Methylene Blue Work Within The Cells?

Methylene blue exerts its effects within cells through several mechanisms. One of its key actions is related to its ability to act as an electron carrier and facilitate cellular energy production. It can accept and donate electrons in cellular processes, including mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation, which is essential for generating adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of cells.

Additionally, methylene blue has been found to possess antioxidant properties, meaning it can help protect cells from damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress. It acts as a scavenger of free radicals and can reduce oxidative damage to cellular components.

Methylene blue has been shown to influence the activity of certain enzymes and signaling pathways within cells. It can inhibit the activity of an enzyme called guanylate cyclase, which affects processes such as smooth muscle contraction and neurotransmitter release. It can also modulate certain signaling pathways involved in cellular growth, differentiation, and survival.

Also, methylene blue has been found to have an affinity for certain cellular structures, such as mitochondria and lysosomes. This enables it to interact with and influence processes within these organelles, such as mitochondrial respiration, lysosomal function, and autophagy.

A deep dive into how methylene blue mops up superoxide radicals in the mitochondria is offered in this YouTube video and a follow-up YouTube goes further into dosing MB shown below.

Overall, methylene blue works within cells through its electron carrier activity, antioxidant properties, modulation of enzyme activity and signaling pathways, and interactions with cellular structures. These actions contribute to its diverse range of effects and potential therapeutic applications.

Methylene Blue and The Electron Transport Chain

On a more technical level, methylene blue performs the role of accepting and transferring electrons in the electron transport chain more efficiently. This results in fewer free radicals to damage the mitochondrial membranes and better ATP production.

Methylene Blue Mops Up Free Radicals To Prevent Mitochondrial Damage

What Are The Health Benefits Of Methylene Blue?

Methylene blue has been studied for its potential health benefits in various areas. Here are some potential health benefits of methylene blue:

  • Neuroprotection in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s: It has been investigated as a potential therapy for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease [PMID: 19433072], vascular dementia [PMID: 25079810], and Parkinson’s disease [PMID: 28694175].
  • Anti-inflammatory activity: Methylene blue exhibits anti-inflammatory properties, which may contribute to its potential in mitigating inflammatory conditions. It has been explored as a therapeutic option for diseases such as sepsis and acute lung injury. MB is being investigated in animal models of osteoarthritis. [PMC5863598]
  • Antioxidant properties: Methylene blue acts as an antioxidant, helping to neutralize harmful free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. This antioxidative activity may have implications in various conditions related to oxidative damage including heart diseases, cancers, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases (like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s), premature aging, chronic inflammatory diseases, liver diseases, kidney diseases, respiratory diseases, and conditions tied to the immune system. [PMID: 1650213]
  • Mitochondrial function: Methylene blue has been found to interact with mitochondria, the powerhouses of cells, and improve their function. This effect may enhance cellular energy production and potentially benefit conditions associated with mitochondrial dysfunction, including neurodegenerative diseases (such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s), heart disease, diabetes, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, as well as a group of genetic mitochondrial diseases. [PMC7262767]
  • Mood enhancement: Methylene blue has been investigated for its potential antidepressant [PMID: 3555627] and mood-enhancing effects. It may modulate certain neurotransmitters and neural pathways related to mood regulation.
  • Enhanced memory and cognitive function: Some studies suggest that methylene blue may have cognitive-enhancing effects, potentially improving memory and cognitive performance. It has been explored as a cognitive enhancer in both healthy individuals and those with cognitive impairment. [PMID: 20463399]
  • Neuroprotective effects in Acute Stroke and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): Methylene blue has shown promise in protecting nerve cells from damage and promoting neuronal survival in TBI [PMC4291210] and stroke [PMC4559527] models.
  • Antimicrobial properties: Methylene blue has demonstrated antimicrobial activity against a range of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It has been studied for its potential as an adjunct treatment for certain infections, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and malaria. [PMC9821080]
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Methylene Blue (MB) can adjust activity and interconnection of brain regions involved in perception and memory during task performance and at rest, as shown in brain imaging studies of healthy adults. [PMC5018244]
  • Anti-Aging: Methylene blue (MB) may work as an anti-aging drug by reducing mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress in age-related conditions such as neurodegeneration, memory loss, and skin aging. [PMC8699482]

It is important to note that the application of methylene blue for specific health conditions requires careful consideration, professional guidance, and further research. The potential benefits of methylene blue are a subject of ongoing investigation.

Safety Warnings: Be Careful With Methylene Blue

Never consume chemical or industrial-grade methylene blue. These are sold as stain or dye and must never be consumed because of high levels of toxic contaminants sometimes 8-11%. “Even pharmaceutical (USP) grade MB contains impurities, such as arsenic, aluminum, cadmium, mercury, and lead. At low doses, the presence of contaminants is not of great concern, but at higher doses non-specific effects due to accumulation of various toxic and bioactive substances are possible” [PMC3265679] Some have theorized that contaminants may be the reason that low doses of methylene blue have positive effects, while higher doses can be associated with negative effects.

People taking antidepressants need to be particularly careful to consult a physician before using MB because the combination of SSRI medication and methylene blue can possibly lead to serotonin syndrome, which is potentially fatal. MB also causes birth defects, so it must never be used in pregnancy. This is worrisome for any woman of childbearing age because it means birth control must be 100%. MB shouldn’t be used by anyone with kidney problems unless there is careful medical oversight by a nephrologist. Methylene blue causes hemolysis of red blood cells in people with a condition called G6PD, therefore the consequences can be very serious for these individuals. A MedicineNet page discusses side effects and dosage considerations for MB.

Medication Interactions with Methalene Blue

As stated previously, many people take SSRI’s and combining these with MB can lead to potentially fatal serotonin syndrome. MB also interacts with many other drug classes making it very unwise to begin using methylene blue without consulting a physician first. Here is a list of drugs that interact with methylene blue:

  • Antidepressants:
    • SSRIs and SNRIs: Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil), Sertraline (Zoloft), Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
    • Herbal Supplement: St. John’s Wort
    • MAOIs: Phenelzine (Nardil), Isocarboxazid (Marplan), Tranylcypromine (Parnate)
  • Antipsychotics: Risperidone (Risperdal), Quetiapine (Seroquel), Aripiprazole (Abilify)
  • Sedatives/Anxiolytics (Benzodiazepines): Diazepam (Valium), Alprazolam (Xanax), Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Antihypertensives: Atenolol (Tenormin), Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL)
  • Nitrates: Nitroglycerin (Nitrostat, Nitro-Dur), Isosorbide dinitrate (Isordil)
  • Anticoagulants: Warfarin (Coumadin), Heparin
  • Antidiabetic Medications: Metformin (Glucophage), Insulin (various brands)
  • Antiarrhythmics: Amiodarone (Cordarone), Flecainide (Tambocor), Propafenone (Rythmol)
  • Opioid Analgesic and Addiction Treatment: Methadone

Inflammatory Health Conditions

Methylene blue acts as an anti-inflammatory. That means it may help dampen the inflammatory drivers of a huge range of health problems connected with inflammation. These include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), psoriasis, eczema, gout, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), vasculitis, multiple sclerosis, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), chronic sinusitis, endometriosis, temporal arteritis, giant cell arteritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, sarcoidosis, autoimmune hepatitis, and ankylosing spondylitis.

Conditions Related to Oxidative Stress

Methylene blue acts as an antioxidant, helping to neutralize harmful free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. This antioxidative activity may have implications in various conditions related to oxidative damage. The list is long when it comes to health conditions thought to be related to oxidative stress.

These include cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and ALS), cancer, diabetes, chronic inflammatory diseases (like rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and COPD), aging, liver diseases (such as alcoholic liver disease, NAFLD, and viral hepatitis), kidney diseases (including chronic kidney disease, diabetic nephropathy, and glomerulonephritis), and respiratory diseases (such as asthma and COPD). While oxidative stress is associated with these conditions, it is important to note that it is often just one of many contributing factors, and the exact mechanisms and interactions can be complex.

Health Conditions Related To Mitochondrial Dysfunction

Methylene blue has been found to interact with mitochondria, the powerhouses of cells, and improve their function. This effect may enhance cellular energy production and potentially benefit conditions associated with mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondrial dysfunction is associated with a long list health conditions. Aside from classic mitochondrial diseases resulting from genetic disorders, there is an emerging understanding that many of the chronic conditions we are facing today can be improved if we address mitochondrial dysfunction.

Neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) have also been linked to mitochondrial dysfunction. Metabolic disorders such as diabetes mellitus, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) can be influenced by mitochondrial dysfunction. Certain forms of cardiomyopathies, including hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, dilated cardiomyopathy, and arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, have been associated with mitochondrial dysfunction. Optic neuropathies, like Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) and dominant optic atrophy, can result from mitochondrial dysfunction.

Age-related disorders such as sarcopenia, osteoporosis, and age-related macular degeneration may involve mitochondrial dysfunction. There is some evidence of a potential link between mitochondrial dysfunction and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Mitochondrial myopathies, characterized by muscle weakness, fatigue, and exercise intolerance, are muscle disorders associated with mitochondrial dysfunction. Additionally, certain forms of sensorineural hearing loss have been connected to mitochondrial dysfunction.

These conditions involve complex interactions between genetic and environmental factors, and proper diagnosis and management typically require specialized medical evaluation and care. Researchers are theorizing that methylene blue may be a part of future treatments for many of these conditions.

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Order Methylene Blue Online

Order Carefully: Never substitute chemical-grade or industrial-grade products.

Methylene Blue by BioPharm- 1% Pharmaceutical Grade Solution

Dosing: 0.5 to 2 mg/kg body weight (Toxicity has been observed above 5mg/kg) Do NOT use methylene blue without first discussing it with your physician.

CONTRAINDICATIONS:

  • PREGNANCY WARNING: Methylene Blue causes birth defects, therefore it must not be used by anyone who is currently or may become pregnant.
  • KIDNEY WARNING: Do not use methylene blue if you have kidney problems.
  • G6PD WARNING: Methylene blue is a trigger for hemolytic anemia in people with a condition called 6 Phosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency (G6PD).
  • SSRI WARNING: DO NOT COMBINE METHYLENE BLUE WITH ANTIDEPRESSANT (SSRI) MEDICATIONS. THIS INTERACTION MAY CAUSE SEROTONIN SYNDROME, A POTENTIALLY FATAL CONDITION.

SIDE EFFECTS: Blue-green urine is normal and stool will be stained. Methylene Blue will stain teeth and mouth.

Methylene blue is considered a safe drug at a therapeutic dose of less than 2 mg/kg; Serotonin syndrome has been found to occur when combining serotonergic agents with methylene blue at a dose of 5 mg/kg.  [NBK557593]

Methylene Blue, USP (Pharmaceutical) Grade: 50-mL Blue Glass Dropper Bottle with 8 fl oz Blue Glass Refill Bottle

Methylene Blue, USP (Pharmaceutical) Grade, 1% Solution (0.5 mg per Drop) — 50 mL (1.69 fl oz) in Blue Glass Dropper Bottle. There are 1000 drops in a 50 mL bottle. Each drop is 0.5 mg of active ingredient or a total of 500 mg of MB in a 50 mL (1.69 oz) bottle.

Your Body Weight0.5 mg/kg1 mg/kg2 mg/kg
110 Lbs. (50 kg)25 mg
50 drops
50 mg
100 drops
100 mg
200 drops
121 Lbs. (55 kg)27.5 mg
55 drops
55 mg
110 drops
110 mg
220 drops
132 Lbs. ( 60 kg)30 mg
60 drops
60 mg
120 drops
120 mg
240 drops
143 Lbs. ( 65 kg)32.5 mg
65 drops
65 mg
130 drops
130 mg
260 drops
154 Lbs. ( 70 kg)35 mg
70 drops
70 mg
140 drops
140 mg
280 drops
Lbs. ( 75 kg)37.5 mg
75 drops
75mg
150 drops
150 mg
300 drops
Lbs. ( 80 kg)40 mg
80 drops
80 mg
160 drops
160 mg
320 drops
Lbs. ( 85 kg)42.5 mg
85 drops
85 mg
170 drops
170 mg
340 drops
Lbs. ( 90 kg)45 mg
90 drops
90 mg
180 drops
180 mg
360 drops
Lbs. ( 95 kg)47.5 mg
95 drops
95 mg
190 drops
190 mg
drops380
Lbs. ( 100 kg)50 mg
100 drops
100 mg
200 drops
200 mg
400 drops

To Sum It Up

We’ve looked at methylene blue, a well-known medical compound, in a new light as a dietary supplement. It might help our cells, slow aging, and prevent diseases. But, we must be careful. Too much can be harmful and it can react with other medications. Even though methylene blue seems promising, we always need more research. If you’re hearing about methylene blue as the hot new health and wellness trend, we hope you have found this enlightening.


This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.


About the Author

Stephanie Figon, MS, RDN, LD

Founder of NutriScape.NET. As a dietitian since 1992, Steph Figon has had experiences in consulting, 15 years in clinical, and has operated a private practice nutrition counseling office for since 2011. Connect on Linkedin

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