L-Tyrosine (tyrosine) is an amino acid that is the precursor to dopamine and norepinephrine. It is considered “non-essential” because we make it, rather than requiring it from our diet. It can be found in high-protein foods like turkey, almonds, chicken and dairy products. Broadly speaking, since low levels of dopamine are generally the cause behind depression, L-tyrosine is being examined as a potential therapy for those suffering from mild to moderate depression.
Symptoms associated with a lack of dopamine can include low energy, low interest in activities, and general listlessness. On the flip side, regular/higher dopamine levels improve feelings of mental focus, sexual desire and motivation.
SSRIs, the medications typically prescribed for depression, increase and balance serotonin levels in the brain. L-tyrosine works on raising dopamine levels by balancing the adrenal glands. Tyrosine also contributes to norepinephrine production, which is the neurotransmitter that makes our hearts pound during “fight or flight” types of stress reactions.
When we are in an ongoing state of stress, we can produce too much norepinephrine, thus leading to a depletion, so we are less able to cope. In its ability to enhance norepinephrine levels, L-tyrosine is thought to help us cope with stressful situations. Based on results of recent studies, it’s fair to say that L-Tyrosine can help to alleviate many of the symptoms experienced by depression and anxiety sufferers.
A small study on humans exposed to 4.5 hours of cold showed that tyrosine lowers stress reactions (such as adverse moods) and produced higher overall performance than the control group. In another study on rats, L-tyrosine was shown to lower blood pressure. Most studies result in at least a small amount of evidence (albeit inconclusive) that L-tyrosine is likely to bring relief and balance from various kinds of stress and fatigue. Another study showed that subjects who were given L-tyrosone while they stayed awake for 24 hours (therefore experiencing cognitive decline due to sleep deprivation), did better on tests than those who did not take the supplement.
Because of its high ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, it can get into the Central Nervous System rapidly, so it can even be used occasionally or in the short term for immediate relief from acutely stressful situations (for instance). Generally, those who use L-Tyrosine over a longer period of time report higher energy and an improved sense of well-being, also reporting a higher tolerance to anxiety-producing situations.
Some users “stack” L-Tyrosine with other nootropics such as Racetams, Noopept, Aniracetam, Acetyl-L-Carnitine (for ADHD) and Citoline. Some Nootropics users report that L-Tyrosine is more effective when combined with N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine (NALT) but the actual effectiveness of L-Tyrosine alone versus NALT remains uncertain.
User reports from using L-Tyrosine for depression and ADHD report overall effectiveness on Web MD. Consumer reports from one of the top L-Tyrosene brands on Amazon claim that it is effective in managing depression, hunger and ADHD. We can see similar reports about it being effective in increasing energy, motivation, clarity and happiness, as well as helping with “mild ADD” and addiction in Reddit forums. Users report that over the longer term, it’s possible to build up a tolerance to this supplement.
“I’m glad you enjoy it. Personally, it only worked for 2 days.”
“I’ve been taking L-Tyrosine with equal quantities of L-Tryptophan for the last 9 months.”
“Fairly dramatic effect in my case; I went from barely coping with everyday life (just staying at home) to doing unexpectedly well in college, which I hadn’t thought would ever be a real option for me.”
Most sources suggest that L-tyrosine is safe to supplement for up to 3 months (90 days), but it is unknown as to whether side effects and/or adverse reactions are more likely following several months.
This 2015 article in Somerset Live reports a possible connection between L-Tyrosine and skin cancer.
L-Tyrosine is quickly absorbed in the blood and stays at peak levels for about 2-4 hours. It is generally safe if taken in higher doses, however everyone should educate themselves on the possible interactions of this substance and start at a safe, low dosage. Start with 500 mg taken about an hour before situations that may be stressful to the mind or body, or regularly for depression. The recommended dose is 100-150 mg/kg of body weight, or 500-2000 mg. Results will vary depending on a range of psychological factors.