Amino Acid Therapy: Natural ADHD Supplements
DISCLAIMER: The FDA requires that I tell readers to always consult a doctor before undergoing treatment of any kind.
Earlier, we talked about the virtues of Mucuna pruriens, a bean plant that’s high in the natural amino acid L-Dopa, a dopamine precursor. We talked about how this bean can be consumed by children with ADHD to literally diminish their ADHD symptoms within hours. Here, we talk about amino acid therapy for ADHD, a natural, food-based treatment that’s easy to do at home and that works through the same mechanisms as Mucuna pruriens. Parents may choose to combine the Mucuna pruriens protocol with amino acids for to ensure that their child’s neurotransmitters are balanced. Or they may choose to start with amino acid therapy. In either case, parents are likely to see noticeable results within 24 hours or less.
Amino Acids vs. Mucuna pruriens Therapy: What’s the Difference?
Amino acids include substances like L-Phenylalanine, L-Tyrosine, and L-Dopa. For the purposes of this discussion about natural ADHD treatments, we’ll talk just about these amino acids to keep things simple, but keep in mind—there are many amino acids that do all different kinds of things in the body. We’ll talk about more of them in the future.
Let’s start by making a metaphor to compare amino acids and Mucuna pruriens:
There is a physiological pathway that takes a piece of chicken or any food that’s high in protein and converts it into neurotransmitters in the brain. This metaphorical pathway starts with L-Phenylalanine, an amino acid. We can imagine L-Phenylalanine as a road sign marking an important landmark, like a city, along a long, lonely highway. So let’s imagine that we’re traveling along a highway on our way to some very interesting tourist destinations. One route that we can take to arrive at these tourist destinations passes through the city of L-Phenylalanine.
Further down the highway is L-Tyrosine. Again, we can imagine L-Tyrosine as a road sign alerting us to the city of L-Tyrosine. Inside this city is a helicopter landing pad and an airport. One could arrive at the city of L-Tyrosine by taking supplements that contain L-Tyrosine or by eating foods that contain L-Tyrosine. So, we don’t have to always drive through the city of L-Phenylalanine to get to the city of L-Tyrosine and the interesting tourist destinations that we’re trying to reach further down the road.
Further still along this highway is L-Dopa. L-Dopa can also be imagined as a road sign and as the location of a small town. L-Dopa is a much smaller city than L-Tyrosine and L-Phenylalanine. So it can be harder to arrive in the city of L-Dopa than the bigger cities, L-Tyrosine and L-Phenylalanine. Nonetheless, there is a tunnel that leads to L-Dopa via Mucuna pruriens and other beans that contain L-Dopa. So one could arrive at the city of L-Dopa either via L-Phenylalanine or via helicopter into L-Tyrosine and then a short drive to L-Dopa from there. In other words, there are several different pathways that a person could take to arrive at the city of L-Dopa.
NOTE: The above amino acid supplement contains all essential amino acids, not just BCAAs which are primarily used by muscles. Be aware that BCAA products may block the way for important brain-building, neurotransmitter-building amino acids to pass through the blood-brain barrier.
And while L-Dopa is just a small town, it is the gateway to some of the most important tourist destinations in the world. In this metaphor, let’s think of the three tourist destinations as the Egyptian pyramids, Chichen Itza, and the Great Wall of China.
In this metaphor, I think of dopamine as the Egyptian pyramids. The Egyptian pyramids (dopamine) are situated just outside of the city of L-Dopa, but to get from L-Dopa to the pyramids, you must go on a camel ride into the desert. There’s no other way to get there. You can’t go straight from L-Tyrosine or from L-Phenylalanine to dopamine (the Egyptian pyramids). In order to get to the Egyptian pyramids, you must pass through the city of L-Dopa. This is why L-Dopa is called a “dopamine precursor”. It is situated along a biochemical pathway as a portal to dopamine (the Egyptian pyramids).
There aren’t a lot of foods that contain L-Dopa in high quantities. Mucuna pruriens is one of few, but fava beans contain a noticeable amount too. Not very many people use the tunnel system leading into the city of L-Dopa to get to the Egyptian pyramids (dopamine). A lot of people, in contrast, arrive at the pyramids via L-Tyrosine or L-Phenylalanine. It takes longer to get to dopamine from L-Tyrosine and L-Phenylalanine, but that’s okay in normal, healthy people. In someone who has ADHD or in a person with an addiction, however, it may be more important to arrive at the Egyptian pyramids more quickly via Mucuna pruriens.
One important landmark destination is dopamine (the Egyptian pyramids), but beyond dopamine is another important destination: norepinephrine / noradrenaline. Let’s imagine norepinephrine as Chichen Itza in Mexico. Chichen Itza is a pretty isolated destination. There’s no way to get there without passing through the city of L-Dopa and then going past the pyramids.
Norepinephrine plays a role in alertness and the feeling of being awake and interested. Having enough norepinephrine in the brain speeds up reaction time, improves mood, and improves a person’s ability to concentrate.
Beyond Chichen Itza (norepinephrine) is another vital destination: epinephrine / adrenaline. Most people are familiar with adrenaline as the fight-or-flight hormone. But when we are not in an emergency situation, small amounts of adrenaline helps us feel awake and alive. And if we are confronted with a life-or-death situation, adrenaline (epinephrine) is produced from norepinephrine so that we can respond quickly to overcome the threat. Let’s imagine adrenaline / epinephrine as The Great Wall of China.
The Great Wall of China, according to this metaphor is located in a very remote area that can only be reached by traveling from L-Dopa to the Egyptian Pyramids and then onward through Chichen Itza. Again, one can start from L-Tyrosine or even L-Phenylalanine to arrive at L-Dopa and then travel onward to The Great Wall, but it would take longer to get there. Nonetheless, some people choose to go this route and take L-Tyrosine or L-Phenylalanine rather than Mucuna pruriens / natural L-Dopa to arrive at these three tourist destinations.
Obviously, the closer one gets to dopamine and norepinephrine while traveling along this metaphorical highway, the easier it is to get to dopamine. And the closer you start along the highway toward the tourist destinations, the higher the guarantee that the traveler will make it to dopamine and the other remote destinations beyond dopamine.
It isn’t possible to start the journey with dopamine (in part because the brain imposes checks and balances on the production of dopamine). So those who start the journey toward dopamine further down the road at L-Phenylalanine or at L-Tyrosine have to travel a longer distance to get to dopamine. It is possible, in some cases, for the traveler to wander off the road toward other destinations like serotonin, for example, and never make it to dopamine. This is why it is often best to start the journey at L-Dopa, by consuming a food item that is high in L-Dopa (Mucuna pruriens). If you start the journey at L-Phenylalanine or at L-Tyrosine, it will take longer to get to dopamine and to norepinephrine. And it will take more energy for the body to travel this longer path. But basically, whether you start the journey at L-Phenylalanine, at L-Tyrosine, or at L-Dopa, the final destination is still dopamine and norepinephrine. And as long as you take the tool-chest of other nutrients your body needs to get through the journey from beginning to end, the results should be similar.
In theory, it shouldn’t matter whether you give your child L-Phenylalanine supplements, L-Tyrosine supplements, or natural L-Dopa supplements (in the form of Mucuna pruriens), the end results will be roughly similar in terms of brain health. However, if your child has certain nutrient deficiencies that make it very difficult for him or her to convert L-Phenylalanine or L-Tyrosine into L-Dopa, you may notice significant differences between the way your ADHD child behaves when taking amino acid supplements vs. Mucuna pruriens.
One significant difference between L-Phenylalanine and L-Tyrosine supplements and Mucuna pruriens supplements has to do with how much time it takes for the body to convert each of these substances into dopamine. The faster the body can convert food/protein/amino acids into dopamine, the faster you’ll see results from your natural ADHD treatment. L-Phenylalanine and L-Tyrosine could take up to 24 hours to be converted into dopamine versus L-Dopa which reliably leads to higher dopamine levels within only about 4 hours.
NOTE: This powdered amino acid supplement is vegetable-based and it tastes good to kids. You can combine this supplement with milk or honey to provide your child with a well-rounded amino acid supplement in addition to Mucuna pruriens supplementation, or L-Phenylalanine / L-Tyrosine.
Be aware that PKU (Phenylketonuria) is a rare disorder that causes L-Phenylalanine to build up in the body. Most parents are aware that their child has a problem with L-Phenylalanine prior to giving them supplements because children have serious health problems whenever they eat foods that contain L-Phenylalanine or foods that contain aspartame. Many American babies are screened for PKU shortly after birth. A lot of foods contain this amino acid, so parents discover the problem early and children with this problem must follow a special diet. If your child does not have PKU, then he or she should not experience any problems taking 1-10 grams (1000-10,000 mg) per day of L-Phenylalanine.
NOTE: Administer 1000-10,000 mg per day of L-Tyrosine instead of Mucuna pruriens if you have concerns about using Mucuna on a long-term basis as a natural ADHD supplement. Though Mucuna pruriens is totally safe for long-term use, L-Tyrosine or L-Phenylalanine can be taken daily along with Mucuna in a 2-3 days on, 1 day off cycle such that on the days off, the L-Tyrosine and L-Phenylalanine should still promote the production of dopamine, albeit at a slower rate and perhaps in lesser quantities.
But if you don’t want to give your child L-Phenylalalnine or Mucuna pruriens, consider giving them L-Tyrosine at a dose of 1-10 grams (1000-10,000 mg) daily as a natural ADHD treatment.
You can give your child L-Phenylalanine or L-Tyrosine supplements even while they are still taking their other ADHD medications. Use these amino acids to wean kids off ADHD medications. These amino acids are present in foods and your child needs these amino acids to produce dopamine. If your child isn’t eating enough of the right foods to produce dopamine, he or she will experience outbursts and an inability to control himself or herself. ADHD medications are designed to force the brain to RELEASE dopamine from neurons into the synapse (the gap between neurons), not to PRODUCE dopamine (which must be stored in neurons after being produced from the diet or from supplements). Many prescription ADHD medications cause big bursts of dopamine to be released into the synapse. Over time, this damages the dopamine receptors, creating a downward spiral in terms of the child’s behavior. With each big burst of dopamine, the neuron gets depleted more and more because the brain tells the body to produce LESS dopamine in order to protect the fragile dopamine receptors which are being INUNDATED with too much dopamine.
NOTE: Use either L-Tyrosine or L-Phenylalanine as an alternative to the natural L-Dopa in Mucuna pruriens. L-Tyrosine will be converted to dopamine more quickly than L-Phenylalanine, but either supplement will boost dopamine levels and work as an ADHD natural treatment, albeit more slowly than Mucuna pruriens supplementation.
In terms of herbs for ADHD, Mucuna pruriens is the most important plant-medicine for this disorder because it contains L-Dopa as well as 5-HTP (which is a serotonin precursor) as well as other substances that help the brain regrow dopamine receptors while restoring dopamine levels to normal. Mucuna pruriens is neuroprotective which means that it protects the brain from the damaging effects of prescription drugs. As dopamine levels are restored to normal by Mucuna, prescription drugs have less and less of an effect on a child’s behavior. The pharmaceuticals like Focalin or Ritalin, or Atomoxetine will still have negative effects for as long as your child continues taking them, but children become more level behaviorally throughout the day when they are also taking Mucuna or L-Tyrosine because dopamine is readily available in their neurons. Children experience natural dopamine “hits” throughout the day as a result of taking these supplements. These dopamine hits happen in response to things like friendly social interactions, observing a kitten playing, or the excitement about getting home from school. These natural levels of dopamine that happen in the synapse encourage the brain to keep producing more dopamine in a normal, balanced way. And though children may still feel the effects of the prescription drugs they’re taking, the prescription drugs begin to have less and less of an effect on their behavior. Parents may forget to give their child the drug after a day or two of either Mucuna supplementation for ADHD or the use of amino acids for ADHD. As the overall store of dopamine is increased in the neurons, kids experience fewer roller coaster mood swings from having the drugs force huge bursts of dopamine into the synapse followed by a dopamine famine that lasts for hours. Rather, children regularly experience natural dopamine hits with normal levels of dopamine being released into the synapse in response to normal daily activities. Their concentration levels are enhanced by the regular availability of dopamine. Their behavior starts to make sense again.
As with the use of Mucuna pruriens as a source of L-Dopa, you will need to provide your child with supplements and a healthy diet to ensure that he or she can convert the amino acids into dopamine over time. Remember, if you are giving your child amino acids instead of Mucuna pruriens, this will require more energy from the body to convert the amino acids into dopamine. Do not give your child amino acids at the exact same time as you give him or her Mucuna because aminos like L-Phenylalanine and L-Tyrosine are much bigger than L-Dopa and they can block passage through the blood-brain barrier, making it harder for L-Dopa to pass through. Instead, wait 30 minutes between doses of Mucuna and L-Phenylalanine or L-Tyrosine to ensure that the natural L-Dopa in Mucuna can easily pass through the blood-brain barrier to become dopamine.
Vitamins, Minerals, and Supplements to Support Amino Acid Therapy for ADHD:
- Vitamin B6 – 25 mg or 3 dropperfuls of the liquid vitamin B6 supplement recommended above for kids. Without adequate levels of vitamin B6, children cannot convert any amino acids, including L-Dopa into dopamine. Always supplement with vitamin B6 for ADHD to ensure that your child has enough of this vitamin to produce adequate levels of dopamine.
- Magnesium – 300 – 500 mg daily in divided doses. Start with a lower dose (1 gummy) and work up to the full 500 mg dose over the course of a few days. If you don’t let the body acclimate to magnesium slowly, the child may develop diarrhea. Without magnesium, ADHD children cannot convert amino acids into dopamine.
- Zinc – 20 mg per day. Any child with ADHD should take at least 20 mg of zinc daily. Studies have shown that most kids with ADHD are deficient in zinc. Alleviating a zinc deficiency can make it easier for the body to convert proteins and amino acids into dopamine. The Frunatta Zinc product above contains 5 mg of zinc per serving. Be give your child at least 3 to 4 servings of this supplement daily to meet the minimum requirement of 20 mg.
- Lugol’s Iodine 2% – Up to 10 drops per day on the arm or put it in water for your child to drink it. Iodine is a complex topic. Most Americans and many Europeans are deficient in iodine which can lead to reproductive organ cancers as well as thyroid cancers. In children, a deficiency of iodine often manifests as learning difficulties.
- Iron – Follow the daily dosage instructions by age. Most children with an ADHD diagnosis have an iron deficiency. Correcting this deficiency can have an amazing effect on kids’ behavior. Many parents find that when they use ADHD natural pills like iron supplements, that their child often develops much more positive behavior. If you want to know how to help a child with severe ADHD, you definitely need to provide them with an iron supplement as well as amino acids or Mucuna pruriens.
- Picky Eater Multivitamin – Follow the daily dosage instructions by age. This multivitamin is perfect in terms of ADHD natural supplements. It meshes well with the supplements above in terms of dosages for each of the vitamins and minerals suggested for ADHD.
- Cod Liver Oil – Give your child one capful per day of Carlson Cod Liver Oil to fulfill fat-soluble vitamin needs as well as omega 3, 6, and 9 needs. The omega fatty acids are particularly important as an ADHD natural treatment. Without omega fatty acids, kids who have been on pharmaceuticals may have a difficult time rebuilding their dopamine neurons.
Cure ADHD Now: The No-Nonsense Guide to Plants, Vitamins, and Minerals
That Are Scientifically and Anecdotally Proven to Cure ADHD
Other Important Links: