DL-phenylalanine is a compound made of L-phenylalanine and D-phenylalanine, the two chemical forms of phenylalanine. L-phenylalanine occurs naturally while D-phenylalanine is manmade. Phenylalanine is what is known as an essential amino acid, meaning that it’s absolutely necessary to your body’s ability to function and maintain good health; you need it to survive, but your body cannot produce it on its own.
People who don’t have enough phenylalanine may experience lethargy, depression, mental agitation, reduced cognitive abilities including memory loss, and anorexia, or appetite loss. It is the body’s precursor to tyrosine, an amino acid, which is then turned into important neurotransmitters like L-DOPA, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. All of which are important to your brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are also important for balancing your mood and stabilizing your emotional state.
DL-phenylalanine is primarily used as an anti-depressant and pain blocker. It is thought to treat depression by increasing the amount of norepinephrine in your body. In two double-blind trials, it was found that DL-phenylalanine can provide results equal to that of imipramine, a commonly prescribed anti-depressant. The results suggested that DL-phenylalanine might actually be a speedier treatment option than imipramine.[5,6] As a pain blocker, DL-phenylalanine inhibits enkephalinase, which has been theorized to lower pain tolerance and increase the sensation of pain in your body. Though multiple studies have not shown a significant decrease in pain through the use of DL-phenylalanine, people have self-reported an alleviation of chronic pain when they use the supplement.
DL-phenylalanine might also be an effective supplement to help treat ADHD. Some research suggests that ADHD sufferers have decreased levels of phenylalanine and other essential amino acids. Some research has also shown that DL-phenylalanine can increase the availability of some chemicals that are closely linked to concentration and focus. The implications of DL-phenylalanine’s effects on ADHD imply that it may help healthy individuals to improve concentration and focus, as well.
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5. Heller B. Pharmacological and clinical effects of D-phenylalanine in depression and Parkinson’s disease. In: Mosnaim AD, Wolf ME, eds. Noncatecholic Phenylethylamines . Part 1. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker; 1978:397-417.
6. Beckmann H, Athen D, Olteanu M, et al. DL-phenylalanine versus imipramine: a double-blind controlled study. Arch Psychiat Nervenkr. 1979;227:49-58.