While evidence-based meds may be the go-to for some, a natural supplement is causing a stir in the ADHD community.

Whether you’ve heard about it on TikTok or spotted it in a Reddit thread, you might be wondering about the benefits of L-tyrosine for symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

It may pique your interest if you’re familiar with the benefits of prescription medication for some symptoms, but you know this may come with drawbacks as well.

The myth of a “natural Adderall” may be tempting, but there’s more you need to know about this misconception. This is what the research says so far.

L-tyrosine is one type of tyrosine, 1 of 20 nonessential amino acids, which are the building blocks for protein in your body.

A nonessential amino acid is one that your body naturally produces if you don’t get it from your diet. As with all amino acids, tyrosine needs enough protein sources to be produced.

Tyrosine is synthesized from phenylalanine and it helps produce necessary chemicals and neurotransmitters such as:

  • epinephrine
  • dopamine
  • norepinephrine

These chemicals support your mood, energy level, and stress response, among other vital functions.

If you eat nutrient-dense foods, it’s likely you already have the optimal amount of tyrosine in your system.

Common sources of tyrosine include:

  • almonds
  • avocados
  • bananas
  • cheese
  • lima beans
  • milk
  • peanuts
  • poultry
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • soy
  • yogurt

Is L-tyrosine like Adderall?

No, it is not.

Adderall is an amphetamine, which is a stimulant in the central nervous system. It raises dopamine and norepinephrine levels in your brain for improved memory, focus, and attention.

Tyrosine, as a precursor to dopamine, does not promote the same levels of activity in the brain as Adderall does. In fact, the exact amount needed to achieve these levels is currently unknown.

“At first glance, the proposed link between dopamine and symptoms of ADHD might suggest that other types of therapeutic drugs could be effective, but that does not seem to be the case with L-tyrosine,” says Matthew Edelstein, a licensed psychologist in Baltimore.

“There is no empirical evidence to support the use of L-tyrosine in the treatment of symptoms related to ADHD,” he adds.

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ADHD treatment works in children and adults differently. Only a trained health professional can diagnose the condition and help you determine the best approach to symptom management.

Also, keep in mind that there are three types of ADHD, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA). These include:

  • inattentive ADHD
  • hyperactive/impulsive ADHD
  • combined ADHD

Since everyone’s different, and ADHD can also manifest in various ways, a health professional may or may not recommend prescription medication. Also, the medication that works for you might not work for someone else.

With that said, tyrosine is thought to help with some symptoms of the first type of ADHD — inattention — by increasing functions such as memory and focus.

However, more research is still needed because:

  • The existing studies on tyrosine are older than 8 years.
  • Most studies work with small sample sizes.
  • There is limited research on ADHD and tyrosine, specifically.
  • Some data has been proven not effective or been retracted.

Here is a specific breakdown of what the research says so far:

Tyrosine for ADHD symptoms in children

Experts previously thought that lower tyrosine levels in the body may be responsible for ADHD symptoms in children. However, research from 2016 suggests that most children living with ADHD have typical levels of tyrosine in their blood.

A 2011 study found that children experienced a decrease in ADHD symptoms with a combination of tyrosine and 5-HTP, but those study results were later retracted.

Tyrosine for ADHD symptoms in adults

The main claim to tyrosine for the treatment of ADHD symptoms comes from a small 1987 study. During the course of research, 12 adults living with ADHD did see an improvement in their symptoms during the first 2 weeks of supplementing with L-tyrosine.

But by 6 weeks, participants developed a tolerance. By 8 weeks, the initial tyrosine effects leveled out.

The study authors concluded that tyrosine was not effective for the treatment of adult ADHD.

Tyrosine for memory

A 2007 study on 19 adults found that tyrosine could protect memory decline during severe cold exposure. Results also showed that when participants took tyrosine, they were able to provide test answers more quickly and accurately.

Later, a review of 15 studies found that tyrosine may counteract strain on memory or cognitive processing, brought on by extreme weather or other demanding conditions.

However, in both cases, the studies worked with adults who hadn’t received an ADHD diagnosis.

Tyrosine for cognitive function

The research on this is mixed.

A 2007 article by Dr. Simon Young debunked the use of tyrosine for stress relief to improve cognitive function, saying there would only be a notable difference in extreme circumstances, like military training.

A 2015 study of 22 adults found that tyrosine could improve cognitive flexibility, like the ability to adjust to changing circumstances or come up with diverse ideas.

A 2015 literature review concluded that tyrosine is effective for improving acquiring knowledge, but only if dopamine stores are depleted already.

Again, all studies were conducted on neurotypical brains, so it’s not clear if these benefits may apply to those living with ADHD.

There are no known drug interactions between tyrosine and common ADHD medications, such as Ritalin or Adderall, but that still doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe. It’s highly advisable to discuss potential side effects and interactions with your health team.

Tyrosine should not be mixed with a class of antidepressant medications known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) because it could lead to a rapid increase in blood pressure.

Tyrosine should also be avoided for those who take thyroid hormone medications or levodopa (L-dopa), a medication used for Parkinson’s disease.

Also, supplements aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the same way as prescription medications. This means there are no established safety and use protocols. It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before you begin taking any supplements.

The existing evidence does not support the use or benefits of tyrosine for ADHD, specifically.

“While there have been some studies that suggest dietary supplementation with tyrosine can impact memory or other types of performance when animals are under physical stress, the research is extremely limited
and should be interpreted with caution,” says Edelstein.

“In the absence of additional research, the best conclusion about the use of L-tyrosine is that it has not been evaluated for long-term safety and should only be used in consultation with a trained medical professional.”

You may not need a tyrosine supplement at all if you get adequate amounts of protein from your diet.

The best way to know if tyrosine is right for you is to speak with your doctor directly. Before you begin or change any medication, it’s always advisable to work with a professional.