L-dopa, or levodopa, is an amino acid and a hormone that is produced naturally by some plants and animals. Humans can synthesize l-dopa using another amino acid, l-tyrosine. L-dopa is a precursor of several neuroendocrine transmitters and these are dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. These three neuroendocrine transmitters are called catecholamines and their primary role is to excite and stimulate brain.
As a direct precursor of dopamine, l-dopa is categorized as a psychostimulant. L-dopamine activates the release of dopamine in the brain’s neurons affecting several of the brain’s cognitive processes like learning, memory, movement, motivation, and pleasure. This is the reason why dopamine is also considered as a cognitive enhancing agent.
As a supplement, one significant advantage of l-dopa over supplementing with dopamine is that l-dopa is able to cross the blood-brain barrier, an ability that dopamine doesn’t have. Instead of dopamine therefore, l-dopamine administration is preferred for the treatment and management of neurological conditions like Parkinson’s Disease and dopamine responsive dystonia. L-dopa is also much stronger than other dopamine precursors like L-tyrosine.
Mucuna pruriens, a plant belonging to the legume family, is a rich dietary source of l-dopa. Extracts from mucuna pruriens has long been used as a sexual potency enhancer and it is also being marketed as such in herbal supplement forms. The libido enhancing properties of mucuna pruriens is also attributed to l-dopa as a few clinical studies suggests that it can influence the sex drive of those supplementing with it, especially the males.
Studies have shown that the dopaminergic qualities of l-dopa can enhance the cognitive processes of the brain. A dopamine “high” has been shown to improve learning skills, focus, concentration, motivation, and mental energy. These cognitive enhancements are also complemented by l-dopa’s ability to regulate mood and reduce the incidence of anxiety attacks.
L-dopa’s ability to increase libido is also thought to be a result of its ability to increase testosterone production. This is the reason why l-dopa is also an appealing supplement to athletes as it can help speed up their recovery after hard training. Another benefit that one can enjoy from l-dopa supplementation is that it is also an anti-oxidant that can help rid the body of free radicals and delay the ageing process.
Being a dopaminergic compound, one of the primary negative effects of l-dopa is neurotoxicity. Prolonged use of l-dopa may lead to a degradation of brain neurons. Also a cause for concern for users is the downregulation or tolerance that dopamine is notoriously known for. Dopamine upregulation is also known to cause side effects such as aggressive behavior, tachycardia, mood swings, nausea, diarrhea, irritation of the GI tract, and anxiety and depression often experienced during downregulation.
- It is a direct precursor of dopamine.
- It has positive nootropic effects.
- It can improve your mood and add motivation.
- It has a lot of side benefits.
- It is a potent antioxidant.
- Prolonged use can damage neurons in the brain.
- One can develop a tolerance for it.
- Downregulation may cause a reversal of its positive effects.
- It has a lot of unpleasant side effects.
In order to deal with neurotoxicity and the downregulation that comes with l-dopa supplementation, one should cycle with it in monthly on-off intervals of 2-1. If you develop faster tolerance for it, then you should start cycling earlier with longer “off” phases.
There are a lot of varying opinions when it comes to the daily recommended dosage of l-dopa, which range from 100 to 900mg daily. As medical experts would have it though, the safe dose for l-dopa is at 250 to 500mg daily. It is highly recommended that you first consult with a physician before you start supplementation with l-dopa.