The Postal Annex on Mission Gorge Road is listed as the company address
  • The Postal Annex on Mission Gorge Road is listed as the company address
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Feeling feebleminded? Take a smart pill. For more than 60 years, I thought smart pills were a joke, as in, “Darn! I forgot to take my smart pills today.”

Only lately did I realize there are — purportedly — such things. In polite company, they are called “cognitive enhancers” or “neuroenhancement” medicines. There is another word for them: nootropics. College students gulp them before an exam. Executives take them before a meeting that will be a snoozer.

Kratomystic Premium Ethnobotanicals sold on the internet

Kratomystic Premium Ethnobotanicals sold on the internet

Physicians and regulators are wary of them. Some universities try to ban them. Smart pills apparently have salutary effects for people with Alzheimer’s disease or narcolepsy or for young people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But the American Medical Association says that nootropics, which “include a variety of prescription drugs, supplements, or other substances,” should not be used for “otherwise healthy individuals.” So-called smart pills carry risks, but “they do not make people smarter.”

Says, a watchdog organization, “Nootropics are an emerging class of drugs… which are used for enhancement of memory and cognition, sexual performance, athletic performance or musculature.… [They] are being abused and hyped without adequate evidence.” Importantly, they are sold over the internet “without adequate regulation.”

“We only carry the highest quality powders that have passed rigorous testing,” claimed a TruNootropics website before it vanished.

“We only carry the highest quality powders that have passed rigorous testing,” claimed a TruNootropics website before it vanished.

And now we come to San Diego. Until its original website was taken down after the Reader began looking into the company, TruNootropics claimed that it was “the best place to buy nootropics online.” The company boasted, “Based out of San Diego, California, TruNootropics is the top-rated supplier of highest quality nootropics” and “a leader in nootropic research. We only carry the highest quality powders that have passed rigorous testing.” Among the products it claimed to sell were Oxiracetam, Noopept, Aniracetam, Adrafinil, Piracetam, Phenibut, and Pyritinol. “Our shipping center is located in beautiful San Diego, California.”

TruNootropics was (or may still be) a subsidiary of TruSciences, Inc., 6465 Reflection Drive, San Diego, CA 92124. Hold on. The building at 6465 Reflection Drive is part of an apartment complex in Grantville. There is no TruSciences or TruNootropics in the building.

Until the Reader began snooping around, the California secretary of state listed Trusciences, Inc., as an Irvine company with Adi Mangafic as chief executive and Joseph Fronke as chief financial officer. I reached Fronke at his Orange County home. He and Mangafic went to high school together and later briefly shared a room. Fronke once lived on Reflection Drive. “I have nothing to do with that company,” says Fronke. “[Mangafic] used my name without my permission.… He had bad credit and wanted me to cosign [a financial document]. Apparently he used my name. He never sold a dime…not one single thing.… He told me TruSciences was a nothing.” Fronke says he called the secretary of state’s office to get his name off the listing. TruSciences is now listed with the state secretary of state as a California company with Mangafic as its agent for service of processing.

I briefly reached Mangafic, who also lives in Orange County. “TruSciences, Inc., should be dissolved. We never started the business. It was a venture we were going to do but never got into it. The website never went live.” That’s odd, because I easily found it and wondered about its many boasts about being the top supplier.

Fronke says that Mangafic and two others are now deeply involved in a company with the elegant appellation of Kratomystic Premium Ethnobotanicals. That company, too, has stated on a website that it is based in San Diego — 6549 Mission Gorge Road #253. That address belongs to a Postal Annex mail drop, which, of course, won’t talk about any of its customers.

Kratomystic, too, is full of itself: “[W]e are known to be the leading provider of ethnobotanical herb[s], serving our clients with a variety of premium strains and extracts,” it brags. “We offer the best products in the market, which have passed top-notch quality assurance tests to ensure that clients get the best. Our service is impeccable, we believe in timely delivery, professionalism, research, competitive pricing, and exceeding our customer expectation is our top priority. We have become one of the most preferred choices for botanical research.”

Wow! Kratomystic executives must take their own smart pills.

This company says it is in the kratom business. Kratom is a tropical evergreen tree native to Southeast Asia. The Drug Enforcement Administration website says kratom “has stimulant effects in low doses and sedative effects in high doses.” To me, that suggests it makes you smart if you take a little bit but makes you dumb if you take too much. The drug administration warns, “It can lead to psychotic symptoms, and psychological and physiological dependence.”

In early 2016, the Food and Drug Administration announced that federal marshals at the agency’s request had seized 90,000 bottles of dietary supplements containing kratom. “We have identified kratom as a botanical substance that could pose a risk to public health,” said the agency. The Drug Enforcement Administration, citing “an imminent hazard to public safety,” began to ban it late last year. It was cited as a substance with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” It was put on a Schedule I list along with heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.

But kratom supporters rallied in front of the White House, and 142,000 people signed a petition asking the federal government to change its mind. Backers argued that kratom can help those addicted to opioids recover. The American Kratom Association argued that the substance, which it calls no more harmful than coffee, can excel in “management of minor pain” and promotion of “a sense of health and well-being.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration has put any action on hold for now, as it awaits word from the Food and Drug Administration.

Kratomystic is not listed with the California secretary of state. Mangafic says the company sells “herbal powders, aromas,” but that is a euphemistic description of a company allegedly selling kratom-based products with names like Borneo White, Green Malaysian, Maeng Da, Red Bali, and Ultra Enhanced Indo. “We don’t conduct business in San Diego,” he says, but that is not surprising, because San Diego bans kratom. Mangafic said he would have his lawyer call me and hurried off the phone. The lawyer didn’t call. I emailed Mangafic and phoned Fronke twice and asked him to have Mangafic call me. That was to no avail.

The Los Angeles and San Diego offices of the Drug Enforcement Administration have nothing they can say about Mangafic, Fronke, TruSciences, TruNootropics, or Kratomystic. In late September, the Food and Drug Administration, along with international regulators working through Interpol, sent warning letters to 400 websites in search of rogue online outfits selling dangerous drugs. These so-called San Diego companies weren’t on the list.

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JustWondering Oct. 25, 2017 @ 8:51 a.m.

I’m just wondering, if Mangafic isn’t living in San Diego, who’s picking up the mail at the Postal Annex? If there is question of legality to this enterprise and Postal Annex is enabling it, does the franchise owner and their corporate partners hold liability?


Don Bauder Oct. 25, 2017 @ 9:29 a.m.

JustWondering: There is the possibility that Kratomystic is inactive now, awaiting the decision by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Food and Drug Administration. Or perhaps it is now being sold from an Orange County location, such as one of the promoters' homes. However, the internet sales pitches say it is sold from San Diego.

Would Postal Annex be liable if kratom is found dangerous? I don't know the rules on that. Best, Don Bauder


swell Oct. 25, 2017 @ 8:50 p.m.

Sounds like a sleazy operation, but no worse than the DEA itself. The DEA, along with other 'authorities' have never acted with honor or honesty. They banned marijuana and LSD without any research, declaring them dangerous substances. Various authorities are in the process of criminalizing e-cigarettes without evidence of harm. Not only that but the Feds made it illegal to even study LSD in a science environment. The AMA likewise ignores science in their kneejerk emotional reaction to any new 'substance':

"But the American Medical Association says that nootropics, which “include a variety of prescription drugs, supplements, or other substances,” should not be used for “otherwise healthy individuals.” So-called smart pills carry risks, but “they do not make people smarter.”"

Have they studied these substances, or are they just making assumptions? I think that the general rule is that if young people are interested in a 'substance' then by default it must be harmful. No need to study them. If coffee were discovered today it would be declared a dangerous illegal drug.


Don Bauder Oct. 25, 2017 @ 10:06 p.m.

swell: I am generations older than the Reader's target market. I have only had drugs twice, other than alcohol. I was given a Quaalude prior to heart bypass surgery and I swallowed something like Oxycodone to relieve pain from gout. I am probably not as sympathetic to these drugs as younger people are, although I voted to legalize marijuana without ever having sampled the stuff.

Tonight on CNN I saw a bullish report on kratom. It was hailed as possibly offering help to opioid addicts. Kratom might be declared legal.

However, these young men claiming that they had a product that was the "top-rated" one on the market, but never selling any, and closing down, was really the gist of the story. I don't like that kind of behavior. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Oct. 25, 2017 @ 10:10 p.m.

Andrew Graham: I didn't mean to imply that a crime was committed. But these young men said on the internet that they had a "top-rated" product that was a "leader" in research. But they never sold any and shut the company down, although their touts were still online. That may not be illegal, but I find it repugnant. Best, Don Bauder


swell Oct. 26, 2017 @ 11:41 p.m.

I agree Don. Distributors bear the burden of proof that their product is safe and effective and functional. Many of these distributors are buying their supplies in bulk from Chinese suppliers and repackaging them for local consumers.

I use a number of nutrient supplements from American suppliers who verify the ingredients on their own and independent labs. Some come from China, some from around the world. None are opiates or 'neuroenhancement' products to date. My 30 year experience with a particular supplier is more than satisfactory and when they offer such a product I will consider it.

If anyone is interested, I will offer their name. Meanwhile, know that there are local researchers who are aware and interested in sharing research on longevity and health.


Don Bauder Oct. 27, 2017 @ 10:18 a.m.

swell: This article highlights the risks of buying drugs over the internet. The young men boasted that their product was "top-rated" and their firm was a "leader" in research. Yet their company rang up no sales and shut down.

We are not into pumping product providers on this website. But since you have been a reliable contributor to the website, and claim to have 30 years of positive experience, I guess there would be no problem mentioning the name of the provider. If your post gets taken down, you will see that I was overruled. Best, Don Bauder


swell Oct. 27, 2017 @ 8:06 p.m.

Thanks Don. It's at . They also run a non-profit called Life Extension Foundation that does original research and funds research elsewhere. They host conferences and provide a focal point for health experts worldwide. Members pay plenty, like at Costco and Amazon, but get discounts and vital information about new developments that can affect health. My investment in their supplements costs me plenty, but my theory is that if it keeps me out of the hospital then I've saved $.

They are focused on health and they offer the usual vitamins, amino acids, hormone balancers, etc. They are often the first American company to promote newer products that have been approved in Europe and elsewhere. They have waged battle with the FDA over accessibility of essential products.

Very little of what they sell is patentable- vitamins, etc. There is no big markup on these as with patented drugs. Thus, the drug companies see them as competition and use the FDA to try to limit access. Meanwhile, there is no big profit in vitamin C (etc) to support a massive legal defense to keep it available. Ordinary Americans become the victims.

There are many suspicious 'herbal' products on the market. Every product from Life Extension is backed by published science from around the world. Their free glossy newsletter offers long lists of references in regard to every supplement offered. They want us to live longer and healthier.

The FDA offers the 'food pyramid' and lists the minimum requirement for vitamin C (etc) in our diet. That would be the amount to prevent imminent death. This company suggests optimal amounts of nutrients- the amount that gives the best benefit, and with studies to prove it.

Yeah, this sounds like an advert. I get nothing out of it, but they seem to be a unique source in the US and I'd like to see more like them. Anyone can sell vitamins, they offer life enhancing state-of-the-art information.


Don Bauder Oct. 28, 2017 @ 12:35 p.m.

swell: I have always been suspicious of the big claims made for so-called herbal medicines. However, I can't denounce Life Extension Foundation until I have done some homework. Maybe it does some good, as you say. I know a lot of intelligent persons who buy into the herbal story. Best, Don Bauder


AlexClarke Oct. 28, 2017 @ 7:17 a.m.

It sounds like they have tapped into a market filled with gullible ready-to-fleece customers.


Don Bauder Oct. 28, 2017 @ 12:37 p.m.

AlexClarke: That is definitely true of a lot of these so-called herbal remedies. Some people think they work because of the placebo effect. But I will have to look into this one. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan Oct. 28, 2017 @ 9:27 a.m.

swell - sounds like real science to me. I used kava when I was withdrawing from alcohol dependence but as pure and little as possible, short term, if I felt any relief benefit. The real deal is food as medicine for me. I do love my supplements though, chlorophyll and spirulina are my new additions.


Don Bauder Oct. 28, 2017 @ 12:38 p.m.

shirleyberan: I am happy you said "additions" and not "addictions." Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan Oct. 28, 2017 @ 10:11 a.m.

I chew (so it doesn't damage stomach, Bayer, less useless ingredients?) an aspirin or two pretty much every day. Have heard there might be anti-cancer properties and proven blood anti-heart attack, plus anti-pain. So-called wonder drug sounds good to me.


Don Bauder Oct. 28, 2017 @ 12:40 p.m.

shirleyberan: I take several coated aspirins a day because of lifelong headaches, and also my cardiologists recommend aspirin for the heart. Best, Don Bauder


swell Oct. 28, 2017 @ 2:59 p.m.

shirleyberan: Isn't it amazing how many ordinary things are healthful? A few years ago it was red wine, in the last two years coffee seems to have become a miracle food. Aspirin does have many benefits and as you note can upset the stomach. I take a small coated one every other day and my blood pressure is remarkably low.

Still, some of the most common foods are dangerous to most people. Carbohydrates- all those white things we love: potatoes, flour, sugar, chips… Most people know by now that they make us fat and sick and lead to diabetes; but recently it was discovered that excessive carbs increase your odds of dementia by 40%. The current advice to eat more fat is very hard for people to take after 30 years of indoctrination the other way.


Don Bauder Oct. 29, 2017 @ 8:18 p.m.

swell: All these do's and don'ts on food are ever-changing. If you like something that people tell you is dangerous, just keep eating it. Soon the doctors will say it has medicinal qualities. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan Oct. 28, 2017 @ 4:58 p.m.

Best fruit for antioxidants are berries. Fat is still fattening. I started eating coconut oil as if it was important but realized even unsaturated is probably overrated, better on hair and skin, not a weight loss tool. Am using olive oil instead of (traditional) butter. I was having heart pain and when I told my daughter she said she read that Bill Clinton's doctors made him cut out fat(most/all, even fish I think) after his heart surgery. I cut back, feel better, think I should focus on getting 20-30 lbs of fat off my body to feel more energy. Just watched a PBS Tai Chi exercise class for over 60 year olds as safe physical activity if heart is a worry. In Don's case helpful for over 80 years young.


Don Bauder Oct. 28, 2017 @ 9:15 p.m.

shirleyberan: If there is some food that you feel guilt ingesting, just wait: somebody will come out with a study saying it is healthy after all. Conversely, some medicine you have been taking faithfully because it is saving your life will be declared useless. That's happened to me with at least two and possibly three things I took for years for my heart. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan Oct. 28, 2017 @ 5:34 p.m.

And in his new book, Tom Friggin Brady talks about drinking half his body weight in water, on active days. Go ahead and google it.


Don Bauder Oct. 28, 2017 @ 9:16 p.m.

shirleyberal Both of my current cardiologists stress that I must drink a lot of water. Best, Don Bauder


danfogel Oct. 29, 2017 @ 9:52 a.m.

shirleyberan, You really MUST pay more attention to what you read!!! I don't need to Google it. What he said was drink at least one-half of your body weight in ounces of water every day. I'll do the math for you. If you weigh 200 lbs, then you drink 100 oz of water. That's 12.5 8 oz glasses of water. Now if you were to Google, you would find that many organizations recommend more than the "traditional" 64oz per day. For example, the Mayo clinic recommends adult males over the age of 19 consume 124 oz., as does The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Their recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages and also food, with about 80 percent of daily fluid intake usually coming from what you drink. I am 61 years old and weigh about 215, give or take. In an average week, I run 20 miles, I bike 25-50 miles and I hit the gym at least 3 times a week, 4 if I have the time, for 2-3 hours each visit. And I can tell you that I consume at least 120 oz of fluids a day, and a lot more than that if I am in AZ and it is summertime.


Don Bauder Oct. 29, 2017 @ 8:22 p.m.

danfogel: The cardiologists tell me to drink more water, but I am not even close to what you drink. Best, Don Bauder


danfogel Oct. 29, 2017 @ 10:05 p.m.

don bauder My guess is that I may be just a wee bit more physically active than you are.


Don Bauder Oct. 30, 2017 @ 10:01 a.m.

danfogel: There is no doubt about that. But I am 20 years older than you are. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Oct. 31, 2017 @ 9:23 a.m.

danfogel: And 'twill always be. Not considering the days/months in which we were born, I will remain 20 years older than you until I croak. Best, Don Bauder


sdgirlie Oct. 28, 2017 @ 9:08 p.m.

As someone who struggled with and beat cancer, Kratom saved my life. I read this article several times in an attempt to fully understand, yet I’m still unsure what it’s about. For one, it seems like you haven’t researched kratom, or nootropics enough to write about this subject, and what’s even more surprising and upsetting is you’re making it seem like there’s a crime being committed here. This article is so poorly written that it perfectly explains why a writer like you doesn’t write for big publications.


Don Bauder Oct. 28, 2017 @ 9:24 p.m.

sdgirlie:Would it surprise you to know that I have written for big publications? E.g. Business Week Magazine for nine years and the Union-Tribune for 30 years. Like a couple of other readers, you missed the point of the article. I really didn't take a position on kratom. The article really focused on young men claiming on the internet that their product was "top-rated" and their research was about the best in the business, but in reality they never really launched the company and shut it down. I find that reprehensible.. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Oct. 31, 2017 @ 9:24 a.m.

sdgirlie: I forgot that I have also free-lanced for Barron's and Forbes. Best, Don Buder


shirleyberan Oct. 29, 2017 @ 6:43 a.m.

Apparently they knew it wouldn't pass product evaluation for safety or truthfulness. But I recall it was nuts, maybe not fish oil, that seems to be health beneficial but has to be consumed in limited amount. My question is how much oil is too much? Should be curing illnesses and admitting causes of physical problems with more education, not hide relevant facts from us. Our kids don't deserve that. Plus, on kratom, it doesn't make sense to take a pill with a questionable reputation till reputably we know one way or other. Although if it is beneficial to the body it's a shame to waste the idea. Weird that marijuana is still schedule 1 drug but everywhere.


Don Bauder Oct. 29, 2017 @ 4:40 p.m.

shirleyberan: Actually, some people are deathly allergic to peanuts. That's why you are so often warned that food you may eat has peanuts. Some take fish oil for eyes. People have been using kratom for decades and decades, but probably not so much in the U.S. It may make you alert (I didn't say smart) in small doses but I would be concerned about taking too much. Suppose you are taking an exam or driving a long distance. If you take too much kratom, you may have made a huge mistake. Best, Don Bauder


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