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Happiness Inducers - A Review on Dopaminergic Supplements


According to the latest National Health and Morbidity Survey, every three in 10 adults aged 16 years and above in Malaysia undergo some form of mental health issues. Regrettably, there is still a lack of understanding on the disease specifically in terms of common mental disorders, the causes and possible consequences as well as identifying the early signs of major mental problems. Mental illness, like in many parts of the world, is an emerging issue in the country and should be taken seriously. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, mental health issues are taking a rising toll across the country. Social isolation, economic insecurity and the loss of loved ones have become major drivers of anxiety, depression, stress and other challenges.

Dopamine is a chemical that is produced in the substantia nigra, ventral tegmental area, and hypothalamus of the brain1. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in the regulation of cognition, memory, motivation, mood, attention and learning. It also aids in decision making and sleep regulation. The firing of dopaminergic neurons has been hypothesized to be motivational as a consequence of reward anticipation. When dopamine is released in the brain in response to rewards, it stimulates feelings of happiness, pleasure and wellbeing.

Natural dopamine supplements are designed to uplift dopamine levels in the brain. In this article we will discuss about the dopaminergic supplements that help boost the mood, particularly useful during this trying times.

 

Ginkgo Biloba

Being a plant native to China, ginkgo biloba has the ability to produce neuroprotection due to its chemical composition and the synergy of its components.

A review described several neuroprotective mechanisms of action such as antioxidant effects, modulation of neurotransmission, neuroendocrine regulation, and upregulation of neurotrophic factors, which underlie its potential therapeutic effect on psychiatric disorders2. In one study, 170 people with generalized anxiety were treated with either 240 mg or 480 mg of ginkgo or a placebo. The group treated with the highest dose of ginkgo reported a 45% greater reduction in symptoms of anxiety, compared to the placebo group3. Another study indicated that the stress tolerance effect before an unavoidable stressful situation was related to ginkgo’s anti-inflammatory properties, which improve the body’s ability to cope when stress hormone levels are high, showing that the group received ginkgo were less emotionally affected than the group that did not receive the supplement4.

 

Ginseng

Panax ginseng is one of the most widely used and intensively researched species of ginseng. This species, which is originally from China, Korea, and Russia, has been an important herbal remedy in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, where it has been used primarily as a treatment for weakness and fatigue5. Its anti-anxiety, antidepressant and cognition-enhancing effects has been recorded by Shi-Zhen Li in Ben Cao Gang Mu which is the most comprehensive pre-modern herbal text, compiled during the Ming Dynasty in China6.

Ginseng could help improve brain functions like memory, behavior and mood. Some test-tube and animal studies show that components in ginseng, like ginsenosides and compound K, could play a role in protecting the brain against damage caused by free radicals7-8. Total saponins and ginsenosides extracted from ginseng are responsible for the heightened levels of 5-hydroxytryptamine, dopamine and noradrenaline in the cerebral cortex9, suggesting that it may have antidepressant effects by modulation of brain monoamine levels10.

 

Green Tea

Green tea is known to contain be a rich source of flavonoid antioxidants, it also contains a unique amino acid, L-theanine that may modulate aspects of brain function in humans. L-theanine significantly uplifts activity in the alpha frequency band which implies that it relaxes the mind without inducing drowsiness11. However, this effect has only been established at higher doses than that typically found in a cup of tea (approximately 20mg)11.

Green tea consumption and depressive symptoms in elderly Japanese subjects who widely consumed green tea are studied in this cross-sectional study12. It was shown to increase dopamine production in individuals consuming 2-3 cups and more than/equal to 4 cups of green tea per day, and associated to lower rates of depressive symptoms12.

 

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera, fam. Solanaceae) is commonly known as “Indian Winter cherry” or “Indian Ginseng”13. Ashwagandha is a known adaptogen that helps to body handle mental and physical stress. Its stress-relieving properties is evident with reduced cortisol levels, a stress hormone produced by the body. Sitoindosides and acylsterylglucosides in Ashwagandha are anti-stress agents13. Active principles of Ashwagandha, for instance the sitoindosides VII-X and Withaferin-A, have been shown to have substantial anti-stress activity against acute models of experimental stress. This can be helpful in people with anxiety and insomnia by better handle stress and improved sleep quality.

In a small study, those who took 250 or 600 mg of ashwagandha extract for 8 weeks had significantly reduced perceived stress and levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared with those who took a placebo14.

 

Conclusion

The pandemic has inflicted havoc on people’s mental health — and a new study proposes the effects are widespread and longer-lasting than expected. Depression rates tripled over the course of the first year of the pandemic, according to research from Boston University published in medical journal The Lancet Regional Health. Dopamine plays a vital role in reward and movement regulation in the brain. These natural dopaminergic supplements with their biologically active ingredients mentioned in this article are helpful in boosting feelings of pleasure, reducing depressive and anxious stressful symptoms.

 

 

Reference:

  1. Olguin HJ, Guzman DC, Garcia EH, Mejia GB. The Role of Dopamine and Its Dysfunction as a Consequence of Oxidative Stress. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016; 2016: 9730467.
  2. Montes P, Ruiz-Sanchez E, Rojas C, Rojas P. Ginkgo biloba Extract 761: A Review of Basic Studies and Potential Clinical Use in Psychiatric Disorders. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2015;14(1):132-49.
  3. Woelk H, Arnoldt KH, Kieser M, Hoerr R. Ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 in generalized anxiety disorder and adjustment disorder with anxious mood: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Psychiatr Res. 2007 Sep;41(6):472-80.
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  11. Nobre AC, Rao A, Owen GN. L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:167-8.
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