L-Dopa is a natural substance that can have great effects on the human body. For that reason, it has a variety of uses in the medical world, sports, and for personal use. L-Dopa is a naturally occurring dietary supplement and psychoactive drug; it can be found in certain foods and herbs. It is synthesized from the essential amino acid L-tyrosine in humans and some other mammals. L-Dopa precedes the formation (or is a precursor) of three neurotransmitters: dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine.

Uses of L-Dopa and Benefits

  • In the clinical treatment of Parkinson’s disease (which is caused by a depletion of dopamine in the brain) and Dopamine-Responsive Dystonia. It works by increasing dopamine concentration in the brain since it can cross the blood-brain barrier, and dopamine itself cannot. Although it has some side effects, it has the least amount of side effects compared to other treatments for Parkinson’s.
  • In Parkinson’s, L-Dopa is beneficial for the symptoms of trembling, rigidity, and slow movements.
  • Herbal supplements with standardized dosages of L-Dopa are available over-the-counter.
  • L-Dopa is one of the precursors for the pigment melanin, which gives skin its color.
  • Increases the body’s natural production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH).
  • Increases libido (sexual desire).
  • Lowers blood sugar and blood pressure (this last one can be dangerous if it gets too low).
  • Reduces spasms and can relieve pain.
  • Can lower cholesterol.
  • It has been studied for the treatment of restless leg syndrome.
  • L-Dopa regulates prolactin production from the pituitary gland.

Side Effects
There are some side effects associated with taking L-Dopa, particularly in a clinical setting. Some of these can be reduced by the addition of certain medications to the drug regimen. The doctors will do their best to work this out the best for the patient. Also, some of these side effects only are risked if a high dose is given. Most often, the doctors will try to hold off giving a dose of L-Dopa until it is absolutely necessary because chronic use can lead to very serious, life-threatening side effects.

  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)—this happens mostly in the first few weeks when the body is getting used to the new medication; drink lots of fluid and increase salt intake to stabilize blood pressure levels.
  • Arrhythmias, although these are rare.
  • Nausea
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding or other internal bleeding
  • Disturbed respiration
  • Hair loss
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Extreme emotional states (anxiety, extreme libido)
  • Vivid dreams
  • Insomnia
  • Auditory and/or visual hallucinations
  • Different effects on learning (improves working memory, harmful to other functions)
  • Sleeping too much
  • Narcolepsy
  • Another side effect is a condition very similar to psychosis

The following are the more serious side effects that come from chronic use of L-Dopa:

  • Freezing during movement (temporary paralysis)
  • Instability of the nervous system
  • Drug resistance
  • Problems with making voluntary movements
  • Possible serotonin depletion (a way to avoid this is by giving proper levels of serotonin during a dose of L-Dopa)
  • Possible dopamine dysregulation (which leads to self-control problems)
  • End-of-dose deterioration of function
  • On/off oscillations
  • L-Dopa can become toxic after long-term use

Always talk with your healthcare provider before starting on any dietary supplements, particularly one that can have serious side effects when taken in excess. Stick to a dosage of 1 gram or less when taking it as a dietary supplement as directed on the package, unless directed otherwise by a doctor.

Last updated on Aug 29th, 2010 and filed under Health Supplements. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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