Over-the-Counter Treatment for ADHD With L-Tyrosine

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A little girl with her mother speaking with a doctor while holding a medicine capsule. (Image: shironosov/iStock/Getty Images)

Traditional treatments for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, tend to focus on prescription medications or behavioral modifications. But there are parents of ADHD children or even adults with ADHD who are looking for more natural ways to modify some of the disorder’s symptoms. The amino acid tyrosine, also known as L-tyrosine, has been suggested as helpful in treating the symptoms of ADHD. Get your doctor's approval before using an over-the-counter product like L-tyrosine for any purpose.

Tyrosine

Tyrosine, also referred to as L-Tyrosine, is an amino acid that is created from phenylalanine, another amino acid in the body. Tyrosine is essential to the creation of critical neurotransmitters, including dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, which help control mood and communication between cells. Another role of tyrosine is to assist with the functioning of the thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary glands, which help to control hormones. Tyrosine also assists in the production of melanin.

Use of Tyrosine

Tyrosine naturally occurs in foods such as avocados, bananas, peanuts, milk, cheese, chicken, fish, and lima beans. As a dietary supplement, over-the-counter tyrosine tablets or capsules can be purchased at a health foods or supplement store. A recommended dose for an adult would be 500 mg to 1,000 mg per day. This amount should be taken three times a day, before each meal. The recommended time for taking the pill or capsule is half an hour before a meal.

Research on Tyrosine

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, research on tyrosine’s effects is limited. While it has been suggested that tyrosine may be beneficial for individuals with phenylketonuria, to enhance performance and memory for those under stress, and to make individuals with sleep deprivation more alert, the research data is limited. NYU’s Langone Medical Center suggests that tyrosine supplements may be useful for persons who are sleep-deprived and experiencing stress and those who are jet lagged. It may improve sports performance and help those who are depressed. However, there is limited research to support these claims, as well.

ADHD

Individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may experience three different subsets of symptoms; mainly inattentive symptoms, mainly hyperactive/impulsive symptoms, or a combination of both. Inattentive symptoms include being forgetful, easily distracted, difficulty focusing, not listening, and difficulty following directions. Hyperactive and impulsive symptoms include difficulty staying seated, fidgeting, talking constantly, interrupting others, and difficulty waiting turns. Diagnosis usually occurs before children enter school. The exact cause of the disorder is unknown, but genes, environmental factors, and differences in brain functioning are suspected.

ADHD and L-Tyrosine

NYU’s Langone Medical Center reports that tyrosine may improve symptoms of ADHD over the first few weeks, but then the effects diminish. They suggest that combining tyrosine with other amino acids such as GABA, phenylaline and glutamine may be more beneficial, but there is no evidence to support this. An older study published in the "Journal of Clinical Psychiatry" said that tyrosine’s effect on neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine, which are thought to be deficient in ADHD, might help to minimize symptoms. However, the researchers found no significant improvement in their patients. Yet another study found that tyrosine did improve the symptoms of ADHD after two weeks, but that by six weeks, the benefits had disappeared. These findings suggest no concrete evidence of the long-term usefulness of tyrosine for ADHD; however, there is a clear need for up-to-date research.

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