Levodopa as a Nootropic: L-DOPA Supplement Info

Levodopa as a Nootropic - Supplement Info & Review

Levodopa, L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine, or simply L-DOPA is an amino acid produced in your brain from another amino acid called l-tyrosine.

L-DOPA is a direct building block for several neurotransmitters, including the catecholamines dopamine, epinephrine (adrenaline), and norepinephrine (noradrenaline).

Mucuna Pruriens, or Velvet Bean, is a strong natural source of L-DOPA. Mucuna is often used as a nootropic since dopamine itself can’t pass the blood-brain barrier.

Dopamine and norepinephrine are vital for positive mood, healthy cognition, and good memory. A lack of either of these brain chemicals can lead to brain fog, low energy, irritable mood, and poor concentration.

In the sections below, we’ll analyze how Levodopa works and what the research says about it.


*Please remember that PDPPro doesn’t offer advice; our posts are for entertainment and informational purposes only! Always get a go-ahead from a qualified professional before considering a new supplement.


Physical Effects

  • Supports exercise performance
  • May aid weight loss [5, 6]
  • May support natural testosterone levels by inhibiting prolactin [1, 2]

Cognitive Effects

  • Enhances concentration
  • May help reduce stress [3]
  • Promotes mental alertness [4]

How Does Levodopa Work?

1. Converts to Dopamine in the Brain

Levodopa (L-DOPA) is naturally synthesized in your brain by the element l-tyrosine. L-Tyrosine is naturally occurring in foods like bananas and cheese.

Once your brain turns L-Tyrosine to L-DOPA, it then gets converted to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine belongs to a group of brain chemicals known as ‘catecholamines’.

The other two catecholamines include epinephrine and norepinephrine. Your brain makes them from the extra unused dopamine.

Due to its molecular structure, dopamine doesn’t cross your blood-brain barrier. But L-DOPA does. This is why people take L-DOPA supplements instead of dopamine supplements.

The most common source of natural L-DOPA is Mucuna Pruriens, a tropical legume plant which is naturally high in the dopamine precursor. Mucuna has been used in Auyurvedic medicine since 1500 B.C. Its common uses included treating snakebites, sexual issues, and low mood.

Current science shows us that raising levels of the chemical dopamine in your brain helps regulate cognition and mood. [7] Therefore, L-DOPA is commonly supplemented to help with different aspects of mental function, some of which we’ll look into below.

2. Supports Long-Term Memory Retention

In a randomized double-blind study from the Münster University in Germany, researchers split the 40 participants into two groups:

  • The first group received 100mg of Levodopa daily for 5 days.
  • The second group received a placebo pill for the same duration.

90 minutes after their dose each day, study participants took part in vocabulary-based memory tests. The results showed a significant iincrease in speed, long-term retention of novel words, and overall success in the levodopa group. [8]

3. Encourages Neural Activity

Studies suggest Mucuna Pruriens (the strongest natural source of Levodopa) can regulate cognitive function, and even stimulate neural activity. In doing so, it may help protect the brain.

In a study from India, researchers found evidence that Mucuna Pruriens is a strong antioxidant. They found high levels of enzymatic and nonezymatic antioxidants in Mucuna Pruriens extracts – including alkaloids, gallic acids, and flavonoids among others. [9]

All of these compounds are known for scavenging free radicals in the body and brain. Free radicals are created during normal metabolic activity, such as the creation of ATP (energy currency) in your cell’s mitochondria.

Your body and brain have a native antioxidant network that deals with some of these free radicals. However, in today’s environment, free radicals can rise to levels that are overwhelming for our body and brain. The result?

An increase in inflammation which can damage cells, affecting everything from energy levels to memory, cognition, and muscle recovery. As one of the best sources of L-DOPA, Mucuna Pruriens has been shown to be very effective at taming inflammation, as well as have antibacterial properties. [10]

4. Helps With Stress

In a study from Medical University in Lucknow India, researchers looked into the effects of Mucuna Pruriens on male infertility. The study recruited 60 similarly aged men and split them into two groups. One group took 5 grams of Mucuna Pruriens powder daily for 3 months, while the other group took a placebo.

The researchers took semen samples of men at the beginning and at the end of the study. What they found was a significant reduction in stress levels in the Mucuna-treated group. Additionally, the men’s sperm count increased to the same levels as the control group of fertile men.

The study concluded that M. pruriens not only enhances the antioxidant defense system of infertile males – it also helps improve semen quality and manage stress. [11]

5. May Support Anabolic Hormone Testosterone

The most notable physical effect of L-DOPA on men is the increase in testosterone levels.

In a small study with 32 participants who suffered from a degenerative condition, Levodopa prevented the decrease in their testosterone levels.

Animal studies show similar results. Rats who were given Levodopa experienced an increase in their levels of testosterone.

Researchers speculate that this could be due to Levodopa’s ability to inhibit prolactin, which is an enzyme that destroys luteinizing hormone (the precursor to testosterone) and testosterone itself. [12, 13]

Side Effects

Your body naturally makes Levodopa. As such, the compound is considered well-tolerated and safe.

In terms of supplements, L-DOPA from Mucuna Pruriens is considered particularly well tolerated by most healthy individuals.

Research shows that Mucuna Pruriens’ natural L-DOPA provides the same effects as the synthetic version of L-DOPA, but without the side effects, which could include [14]:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches

Still, since it directly interacts with dopamine, you should be careful about supplementing Levodopa. If you have any type of condition, you need to speak with your MD before thinking about taking this supplement.

Needless to say, like any natural supplement, it’s always best to look for organic source of L-DOPA.

Dosage

The most common form of L-DOPA used in research is the Mucuna Pruriens 98% extract. The typical dosage is 250-500mg per day.

L-DOPA is often cycled in the following way: 4 or 5 days of the week on it, 2-3 day off off it. This is done to avoid tolerance and dependency, which are common with dopamine agonists.

References

  1. Okun MS, Wu SS, Jennings D, Marek K, Rodriguez RL, Fernandez HH. Testosterone level and the effect of levodopa and agonists in early Parkinson disease: results from the INSPECT cohort. J Clin Mov Disord. 2014 Nov 26;1:8. doi: 10.1186/2054-7072-1-8. PMID: 26788334; PMCID: PMC4711001.
  2. Yamada T, Nakamura J, Murakami M, Okuno Y, Hosokawa S, Matsuo M, Yamada H. Effect of chronic L-dopa administration on serum luteinizing hormone levels in male rats. Toxicology. 1995 Mar 31;97(1-3):173-82. doi: 10.1016/0300-483x(94)02946-r. PMID: 7716783.
  3. Müller T, Welnic J, Muhlack S. Acute levodopa administration reduces cortisol release in patients with Parkinson’s disease. J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2007 Mar;114(3):347-50. doi: 10.1007/s00702-006-0552-0. Epub 2006 Aug 24. PMID: 16932991.
  4. Bliwise DL, Trotti LM, Wilson AG, Greer SA, Wood-Siverio C, Juncos JJ, Factor SA, Freeman A, Rye DB. Daytime alertness in Parkinson’s disease: potentially dose-dependent, divergent effects by drug class. Mov Disord. 2012 Aug;27(9):1118-24. doi: 10.1002/mds.25082. Epub 2012 Jul 2. PMID: 22753297; PMCID: PMC3589103.
  5. Pålhagen S, Lorefält B, Carlsson M, Ganowiak W, Toss G, Unosson M, Granérus AK. Does L-dopa treatment contribute to reduction in body weight in elderly patients with Parkinson’s disease? Acta Neurol Scand. 2005 Jan;111(1):12-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0404.2004.00364.x. PMID: 15595933.
  6. Vardi J, Oberman Z, Rabey I, Streifler M, Ayalon D, Herzberg M. Weight loss in patients treated long-term with levodopa. Metabolic aspects. J Neurol Sci. 1976 Nov;30(1):33-40. doi: 10.1016/0022-510x(76)90253-7. PMID: 824407.
  7. Arnsten AF, Wang MJ, Paspalas CD. Neuromodulation of thought: flexibilities and vulnerabilities in prefrontal cortical network synapses. Neuron. 2012;76(1):223-239. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2012.08.038
  8. Knecht S, Breitenstein C, Bushuven S, Wailke S, Kamping S, Flöel A, Zwitserlood P, Ringelstein EB. Levodopa: faster and better word learning in normal humans. Ann Neurol. 2004 Jul;56(1):20-6. doi: 10.1002/ana.20125. PMID: 15236398.
  9. Uma S, Gurumoorthi P. Dietary antioxidant activities in different germplasms of Mucuna. J Med Food. 2013 Jul;16(7):618-24. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2012.2697. PMID: 23875901.
  10. Bala, V., Debnath, A., Shill, A. K., and Bose, U. (2011). Anti-inflammatory, diuretic and antibacterial activities of aerial parts of Mucuna pruriens Linn. International Journal of Pharmacology 7 (4) 498-503.
  11. Shukla KK, Mahdi AA, Ahmad MK, Jaiswar SP, Shankwar SN, Tiwari SC. Mucuna pruriens Reduces Stress and Improves the Quality of Semen in Infertile Men. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2010 Mar;7(1):137-44. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nem171. Epub 2007 Dec 18. PMID: 18955292; PMCID: PMC2816389.
  12. Okun MS, Wu SS, Jennings D, Marek K, Rodriguez RL, Fernandez HH. Testosterone level and the effect of levodopa and agonists in early Parkinson disease: results from the INSPECT cohort. J Clin Mov Disord. 2014 Nov 26;1:8. doi: 10.1186/2054-7072-1-8. PMID: 26788334; PMCID: PMC4711001.
  13. Yamada T, Nakamura J, Murakami M, Okuno Y, Hosokawa S, Matsuo M, Yamada H. Effect of chronic L-dopa administration on serum luteinizing hormone levels in male rats. Toxicology. 1995 Mar 31;97(1-3):173-82. doi: 10.1016/0300-483x(94)02946-r. PMID: 7716783.
  14. Tharakan B, Dhanasekaran M, Mize-Berge J, Manyam BV. Anti-Parkinson botanical Mucuna pruriens prevents levodopa induced plasmid and genomic DNA damage. Phytother Res. 2007 Dec;21(12):1124-6. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2219. PMID: 17622977.

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