I received an interesting email the other day that highlighted some of the misconceptions about using amino acid therapy, so I thought I would share it with you. The author, we’ll call her Jane, was explaining to me how she had “experimented with amino acid therapy for her trichotillomania” only to feel worse instead of better. She had read about the use of 5-HTP, tyrosine and L-dopa to correct underlying neurotransmitter imbalances, so she thought she would “give them a shot”. What she did was undoubtedly throw her system into further imbalance, which is likely why she was feeling worse than before she started her “experiment”.

This blog is filled with posts about the importance of taking amino acids in the proper balance to prevent further depletion and correct underlying neurotransmitter imbalances. Here is a synopsis of the research on the use of amino acids:


Illustration used with permission form Marty Hinz, MD.

One look at this illustration and you can clearly see that taking amino acids without proper guidance and testing will almost assuredly result in further imbalance. In particular, Jane said she was using a mucuna pruriens product she bought at her pharmacy. We use a product called D5 Mucuna 40% which is a standardized L-dopa product that is also derived from mucuna pruriens. However, we only recommend using D5 Mucuna 40% when specifically indicated by neurotransmitter testing.

The active ingredient in D5 Mucuna 40% (as well as other mucuna pruriens products) is L-dopa. During long-term use, plain or unopposed L-dopa may cause the depletion of serotonin, or the catecholamines (dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine). Using improperly balanced amino acids causes further neurotransmitter imbalance, which increases the likelihood of the worsening of symptoms or the development of additional symptoms.

I was grateful for the opportunity some days later to connect with Jane and explain this all to her. She was disheartened to learn that her experimentation may have set her back a little, but she was relieved to know there was a way out. That way is through the proper use of amino acids based on testing. I am confident we’ll help Jane resolve her neurotransmitter imbalances and eliminate her urges to pull for good.