Last modified on March 12th, 2023
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s an essential part of how we feel, our moods, and our overall mental health. There are various situations where someone might have a dopamine deficiency. As such, we review our top 8 picks for the best dopamine supplements.
What Is Dopamine?
Dopamine is a major neurotransmitter in the brain. Neurotransmitters transmit signals between the neurons of our brain. Few neurons make dopamine, and some of those are located in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra. That is where the dopamine cells die during Parkinson’s disease.
When there is an activation of dopamine neurons, they release dopamine.
Dopamine’s critical to how we feel pleasure. Dopamine is relevant as far as how we find things interesting, how we focus, and how we think and plan.
There are four pathways in the brain through which your body spreads dopamine. Too much or too little can be very problematic.
How Dopamine Works
Your dopamine is made during two steps in the brain. First, the amino acid tyrosine is changed to dopa, which becomes dopamine.
The functions affected by dopamine include:
- Heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting
- How you process pain
- Kidney function
- Blood vessel function
Dopamine is often linked to mood disorders, which may stem from having too much or too little in the brain.
- ADHD is thought to be linked to insufficient dopamine in the brain. Some ADHD medicines like Ritalin can boost dopamine levels and the amount of dopamine in your brain.
- Schizophrenia may be due to having too much dopamine in certain areas of your brain.
- Addiction to drugs and alcohol is thought to be linked to dopamine. Taking a psychoactive substance causes a big, unnatural spike in dopamine, which triggers your brain’s natural reward system, and then you’re compelled to continue to seek that trigger out. Eventually, your body responds to substance exposure by producing less dopamine naturally, so when you aren’t using drugs or alcohol, you may experience depression symptoms or a low mood.
- With Parkinson’s disease, your body makes less dopamine, and that imbalance in your brain chemicals can create the symptoms of the disease. These can include problems with balance and coordination, tremors, and stiffness.
- Many people don’t realize obesity may be linked to dopamine. This could be because people with obesity may have problems with their natural reward system in the brain, impacting when they feel satisfied from eating. There have been imaging studies of people with obesity that have found there may not be enough dopamine released by the body or enough serotonin, which is also considered a feel-good brain chemical.
- Sometimes dopamine supplementation is even used to treat medical conditions like low blood pressure and certain instances of septic shock.
If you’re considering a supplement to increase dopamine production further, you may believe you have a deficiency.
Low dopamine is most frequently associated with mental health disorders such as depression and psychosis. Drug abuse can also deplete dopamine.
Growing evidence shows that a diet high in saturated fats and sugar can suppress dopamine. Additionally, if you don’t consume enough protein, you might not have enough l-tyrosine. L-tyrosine is an amino acid required by your body to create dopamine.
Symptoms of Dopamine Deficiency
There are many wide-ranging symptoms of dopamine deficiency, some of which can include:
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Aches and pains
- Stiff muscles
- Coordination and balance problems
- Weight loss
- Weight gain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Trouble sleeping
- Low energy levels
- GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
- Problems focusing and concentrating
- Loss of motivation
- Feeling sad for no reason
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling anxious
- Low sex drive
- Feelings of guilt
- Lack of self-awareness
Low Dopamine Treatments
If someone has low dopamine levels because of a medical condition and an underlying diagnosable condition, they may be prescribed medications to support dopamine. Medications can include mood stabilizers and antidepressants. Medications like ropinirole and pramipexole are also often used to increase dopamine levels, and they’re frequently prescribed as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease, as is something called levodopa.
If you don’t have a medical condition but still feel that you have low dopamine levels, or you’d like to give yourself a general boost to feel more focused and energetic, there are things you can do naturally, including changes in your diet and adding certain natural supplements too.
The following are our picks for the best supplements to increase dopamine, although you should always speak with your doctor before taking any supplements.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors Effects on Dopamine Levels
I took an SSRI for anxiety for several years. I decided that I would stop taking in it, and I realized then that I was experiencing dopamine deficiency symptoms. Along with low mood, I experienced a lot of tingling in my feet and some of the other symptoms listed above. I started to do research and found that SSRI use may impact dopamine.
Based on currently available research, selective serotonin (5-HT) reuptake inhibitors can potentially inhibit dopamine and the firing of dopamine neurons. The dopamine system plays an important role in motivation and reward, and there’s a theory among researchers that some patients may not experience benefits with SSRIs because they’re then affecting their dopamine firing and decreasing dopamine production.
I bring this up because dopamine supplements might be something you look into if you’re currently on SSRIs or have come off them and are interested in rebalancing your brain health. You might want to look for supplements to help your body release dopamine.
What Are the Best Dopamine Boosting Supplements?
The following are our picks for the best supplements to help with boosting dopamine levels.
L-tyrosine, also known as tyrosine, is helpful for improving focus, attention, and alertness because it promotes dopamine production and may improve mild depression symptoms.
This is considered a dopamine supplement for these reasons, and it can help your brain create the chemicals needed for nerve cell communication. There’s also research suggesting l-tyrosine can help with mood regulation.
Tyrosine is an amino acid, and it’s found in some foods like cheese and foods with high protein. Tyrosine helps your body make dopamine, but it also helps you make adrenaline and thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones help regulate your metabolism.
When tyrosine is used as a dietary supplement, sometimes people take it alone or blend it as part of their pre-workout supplement. It may also be included in some pre-workout supplements.
Animal studies have shown that when rats were given a tyrosine supplement, it helped reduce a decline in their brain neurotransmitters caused by stress, and it also helped improve their memory during stressful times.
A study of 22 women found that tyrosine significantly improved working memory, and tyrosine has also been shown to boost cognitive flexibility over a placebo. Cognitive flexibility is your ability to switch between tasks quickly.
If you don’t get a lot of sleep for one reason or another, tyrosine can help reverse the effects of this deprivation, and tyrosine may help reverse declines in cognition.
As far as helping with symptoms of depression, the evidence on this is mixed. Some studies have found that tyrosine does help with some mild depression symptoms, while others have shown less significant effects.
Mucuna pruriens is often called natural Adderall, one of the top dopamine supplements.
Mucuna pruriens can boost your mood and productivity naturally. It’s known as the dopa bean and has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine to reduce stress and anxiety, improve concentration and focus, boost libido, and elevate mood.
Mucuna pruriens is an adaptogen, which are plants that help regulate your hormones, so you’re better able to handle stress.
Mucuna pruriens has a high level of L-dopa, a dopamine precursor. L-dopa is an amino acid, and because it helps increase brain levels of dopamine, some Ayurvedic practitioners use it to treat Parkinson’s.
In 2014, research was done to look at the effects of mucuna pruriens on reducing anxiety in animal studies. The results showed that mucuna pruriens had a significant anti-anxiety effect.
If you struggle with depression, on the other hand, you should be cautious when supplementing with mucuna pruriens. It can make your depression worse because it may interfere with the production of serotonin.
Several studies have shown that mucuna pruriens help boost learning and reaction time.
L-theanine is a wonderful dopamine supplement, and it’s a great supplement if you struggle with anxiety.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea and leaves; you can take it as a pill or tablet. It’s been shown to help promote a sense of relaxation without causing you to feel drowsy.
L-theanine may also help increase attention and focus, as demonstrated in several studies. For example, a 2013 study in which young people were given moderate doses of caffeine were better able to focus when doing challenging tasks. The study participants also reported feeling less tired and more alert.
Research has shown L-theanine can help you get a better night’s sleep in terms of quality, and it’s sometimes used to help children with ADHD. For example, there was a 2011 study of boys between the ages of 8 and 12. A randomized group was given L-theanine tablets twice daily, and the other group received a placebo.
After six weeks, the group taking L-theanine had a longer and more restful sleep.
Unlike some supplements, L-theanine can cross the blood-brain barrier, and there, it has a modulating effect on not only dopamine receptors but also selective serotonin. It also can bind to certain glutamate receptors, which may have positive neuro effects too.
Rhodiola Rosea is an herbal way to reduce stress and fight brain fog that can stem from feeling stressed. Rhodiola is also considered an adaptogen, and it was long used in Arctic and Russian cultures to help people deal with the physical stress of being in a cold climate.
Rhodiola has been shown to have a tremendous effect on balancing brain neurotransmitters. For example, lab studies have found it can increase neuron sensitivity to dopamine and serotonin.
As a result, Rhodiola is sometimes used as an alternative to antidepressants in Europe.
Rhodiola is also thought to help increase the ability of our red blood cells to transport oxygen, so it may help with endurance, strength, and fatigue reduction. Rhodiola can also reduce cortisol in the blood, a hormone we release when experiencing stress. Excess cortisol levels can harm our overall health and may lead to weight gain, especially around the midsection.
Another potential use of Rhodiola, aside from being a general dopamine supplement, may be that it can help with symptoms of social anxiety.
Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi)
Bacopa monnieri, also known as Brahmi, is an herbal adaptogen used in Ayurvedic medicine that’s been getting a lot of attention in recent years.
In Ayurveda, Brahmi is used for reducing anxiety and improving memory. It’s also thought to improve overall brain and cognitive function too.
Brahmi is thought to be able to regulate levels of certain neurotransmitters together. It’s a master regulator, meaning it can increase dopamine production or decrease depending on what your brain and body need. The neurotransmitters affected by Brahmi include dopamine as well as serotonin and GABA.
There are many other benefits of Brahmi, aside from being a powerful dopamine supplement.
For example, it increases blood flow to the brain. Blood brings oxygen, neurotransmitters, hormones, and nutrients to the brain.
It’s an antioxidant that can combat free radical damage to the brain and body and encourage new nerve cell growth.
Brahmi is also an anti-inflammatory. Inflammation in the brain is associated with anxiety, depression, stroke, memory loss, and Alzheimer’s.
There have been a few studies that have looked at the potential of Brahmi to help with ADHD symptoms. For example, there was a study with 31 children between the ages of 6 and 12. Taking 225 mg of Brahmi extract daily for six months reduced ADHD symptoms, including restlessness and impulsivity, in 85% of participants.
Berberine is an amazing supplement in so many ways, in addition to being a berberine supplement. Berberine may be one of the most effective dietary supplements that you can find, in fact.
Berberine is bioactive, and it’s characterized as an alkaloid. This dopamine supplement has long been used in Chinese medicine.
When you take berberine, it can bind to molecular targets to alter their function, similar to when you take a pharmaceutical drug.
One of the ways berberine has an effect is by activating something called AMPK inside your cells. It’s an enzyme known as the metabolic master switch, and it’s in cells throughout your body, including your brain, liver, muscles, kidneys, and heart.
As far as being a dopamine supplement, studies have shown it can help with anxiety in animals, and it has antidepressant effects as well.
Berberine is frequently used to lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. The effectiveness is on par with metformin, a commonly used diabetes medication.
Berberine may also help people lose weight. Studies have shown impressive benefits, particularly for people with metabolic syndrome. It’s likely because berberine helps boost the function of fat-regulating hormones like insulin and leptin, and it may also reduce the growth of fat cells.
Studies have found berberine may help reduce the growth and spread of certain types of cancers, and it may also help fight infections from bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.
Fish Oil Supplements
Fish oil is a great all-around supplement with many benefits, including the fact that it’s also a dopamine supplement. You can’t make serotonin or dopamine without having omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil. There’s a certain component called EPA, which reduces inflammation in your own brain cells and facilitates the release of serotonin and dopamine.
Fish oils have anti-inflammatory functions throughout the body, including the brain.
Studies have found that taking a fish oil supplement can reduce symptoms of depression in some cases as much as antidepressant drugs. They are also beneficial when used along with antidepressants.
Finally, vitamin D3 is critical for overall nutrition and brain function, health, physical health, and immune function. It’s one of the supplements we most often recommend.
Micronutrients like D3 have an impressive effect on the dopamine system. There are thought to be dopamine neurons in the midbrain that express vitamin D3 receptor protein.
Research finds that dopamine circuits are modulated by D3 signaling.
Generally, vitamin D helps regulate mood, and having low levels or being deficient is linked to an increased prevalence of anxiety and depression.
As well as vitamin D, vitamin C is also important for dopamine release and overall mental performance and brain health. Vitamin C can also improve mood. If you’re worried about your overall brain health, want to improve your dopamine release, or have a dopamine deficiency, get plenty of vitamin C.
Dopamine is a critical neurotransmitter that is essential to our mental and physical health. When you have low levels of dopamine, you may experience a loss of motivation, symptoms of depression, and an inability to focus. It can also lead to low libido.
By considering the above dopamine supplements, you may be able to increase your levels of naturally occurring chemicals.
As with any supplement, speak to your doctor before you try any dopamine supplements listed above.
The best supplement to increase dopamine is L-tyrosine, also just known as tyrosine. Your body uses -tyrosine to make dopamine and norepinephrine. People who are depressed or have ADHD often have low tyrosine levels. Other good supplements for increasing dopamine levels include mucuna pruriens, an adaptogen that balances hormones, and l-theanine. L-theanine helps with attention and focus, and it’s also excellent for anxiety. Certain vitamins like vitamin D and C can help increase dopamine levels.
There’s no magic pill, at least not naturally, that’s going to increase dopamine. Supplements can support your body’s ability to naturally produce dopamine, with L-tyrosine being one of the most effective and fastest-acting options.
Certain supplements can help you increase dopamine levels. Other things that can help include a healthy diet, exercise, and sunlight exposure.
Along with vitamins C and D, B vitamins are also involved in synthesizing neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. For example, many people with depression, or reduced concentration, memory, and attention have low B12 levels.
You can’t buy dopamine because it’s a neurotransmitter your brain and body must produce. What you can do is find OTC pills that help naturally increase your body’s ability to make dopamine, as well as other feel-good neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and epinephrine.
Our Editorial Process
All of our reviews are completely unbiased. We have an in-depth review and ranking methodology for each of our products. We base our reviews on:
- Peer-reviewed scientific studies and research
- Real customer reviews
- Our own experience using products
- Price and availability
Whenever possible, we review and rank products that we actually use to provide a better understanding of what you can expect.