Dopamine is a chemical in your brain that plays a role in the regulation of cognition, memory, motivation, mood, attention and learning.
Under normal circumstances, dopamine production is managed effectively by your body’s nervous system. However, there are various lifestyle factors and medical conditions that can cause dopamine levels to plummet.
Symptoms of low dopamine levels include loss of pleasure in things that you once found enjoyable, lack of motivation and apathy (3).
Here are 12 dopamine supplements to boost your mood.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that line your digestive tract. They help your body function properly.
Also known as the good gut bacteria, probiotics not only benefit gut health but may also prevent or treat various health problems, including mood disorders (4).
Additionally, one study in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) found that those who received probiotic supplements had a reduction in depressive symptoms, compared to those who received a placebo (10).
While probiotic research is rapidly evolving, further studies are needed to fully understand the effect of probiotics on mood and dopamine production.
Summary Probiotics are important not only for digestive health but also for many functions in your body. They’ve been shown to increase dopamine production and improve mood in both animal and human studies.
Mucuna pruriens is a type of tropical bean native to parts of Africa, India and Southern China (11).
These beans are often processed into a dried powder and sold as dietary supplements.
Research has shown that Mucuna pruriens helps boost dopamine levels in humans, particularly those with Parkinson’s disease, a nervous system disorder that affects movement and is caused by a dopamine deficiency (13).
Mucuna pruriens may also be effective in boosting dopamine levels in those without Parkinson’s disease.
Another study found that Mucuna pruriens had an antidepressant effect in mice due to an increase in dopamine production (17).
Summary Mucuna pruriens has been shown to be effective in increasing dopamine levels in both humans and animals and may have an antidepressant effect.
Ginkgo biloba is a plant native to China that has been used for hundreds of years as a remedy for various health conditions.
Although research is inconsistent, ginkgo supplements may improve mental performance, brain function and mood in certain people.
One test-tube study showed that Ginkgo biloba extract appeared to increase dopamine secretion by reducing oxidative stress (21).
These preliminary animal and test-tube studies are promising. However, further research is needed before scientists can determine if Ginkgo biloba also increases dopamine levels in humans.
Summary Ginkgo biloba supplements have been shown to increase dopamine levels in animal and test-tube studies. However, further research is needed to conclude whether ginkgo is successful in increasing levels in humans.
It’s thought to have antidepressant effects, as it increases the release of dopamine (22).
One small, controlled study found that taking 1 gram of curcumin had similar effects as that of Prozac on improving mood in people with major depressive disorder (MDD) (23).
However, more research is needed to understand curcumin’s role in increasing dopamine levels in humans and its use in the management of depression.
Summary Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric. It has been shown to increase dopamine levels in mice and may have antidepressant effects.
One study showed that ingesting carvacrol promoted dopamine production and provided antidepressant effects in mice as a result (27).
Another study in mice found that oregano extract supplements inhibited the deterioration of dopamine and induced positive behavioral effects (28).
While these animal studies are encouraging, more human studies are warranted to determine whether oregano oil provides similar effects in people.
Summary Oregano oil supplements have been proven to increase levels of dopamine and produce antidepressant effects in mice. Human-based research is lacking.
Magnesium plays a vital role in keeping your body and mind healthy.
Magnesium and its antidepressant qualities are still not fully understood, but there is evidence that magnesium deficiency may contribute to decreased dopamine levels and an increased risk of depression (29, 30).
Currently, research on the effects of magnesium supplements on dopamine levels is limited to animal studies.
However, if you’re unable to get enough magnesium from your diet alone, taking a supplement may be a good idea to ensure you’re meeting your requirements.
Summary Most research is limited to animal studies, but magnesium deficiency may contribute to low dopamine levels. Taking a magnesium supplement can help.
Green tea has long been touted for its antioxidant properties and nutrient content.
It also contains the amino acid L-theanine, which directly affects your brain (32).
L-theanine can increase certain neurotransmitters in your brain, including dopamine.
Additionally, studies suggest that both green tea extract and frequent consumption of green tea as a beverage can increase dopamine production and are associated with lower rates of depressive symptoms (35, 36).
Summary Green tea contains the amino acid L-theanine, which has been shown to increase dopamine levels.
One study showed decreased dopamine levels in vitamin-D-deprived mice and improved levels when supplementing with vitamin D3 (38).
Since research is limited, it’s difficult to say whether vitamin D supplements would have any effect on dopamine levels without an existing vitamin D deficiency.
Preliminary animal studies show promise, but human studies are needed to better understand the relationship between vitamin D and dopamine in people.
Summary While animal studies show promise, human studies are needed to see if vitamin D supplements increase dopamine levels in those with vitamin D deficiency.
These benefits may be attributed in part to fish oil’s influence on dopamine regulation.
For instance, one rat study observed that a fish-oil-enriched diet increased dopamine levels in the frontal cortex of the brain by 40% and enhanced dopamine binding capabilities (42).
However, more human-based research is needed to make a definitive recommendation.
Summary Fish oil supplements may increase dopamine levels in the brain and prevent and treat depressive symptoms.
It’s thought that caffeine improves brain function by increasing dopamine receptor levels in your brain (45).
However, your body can develop a tolerance to caffeine, meaning it learns how to process increased amounts.
Summary Caffeine is linked to increased dopamine levels by enhancing dopamine receptors in your brain. Over time, you may develop a greater tolerance for caffeine and may need to increase your consumption to have the same effects.
Ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine since ancient times.
Its root can be eaten raw or steamed, but it’s also available in other forms, such as tea, capsules or pills.
It has also been suggested that certain components in ginseng, such as ginsenosides, are responsible for the increase of dopamine in the brain and for beneficial effects on mental health, including cognitive function and attention (52).
One study on the effects of Korean red ginseng on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children observed that lower levels of dopamine were associated with symptoms of ADHD.
The children involved in the study received 2,000 mg of Korean red ginseng daily for eight weeks. At the end of the study, the results showed that ginseng improved attention in children with ADHD (53).
However, further studies are needed to draw definite conclusions about the extent to which ginseng enhances dopamine production and brain function in humans.
Summary Many animal and test-tube studies have shown an increase in dopamine levels after supplementing with ginseng. Ginseng may increase dopamine levels in humans, especially those with ADHD, but more research is needed.
Berberine is an active component present in and extracted from certain plants and herbs.
It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for years and has recently gained popularity as a natural supplement.
Currently, there is no research on the effects of berberine supplements on dopamine in humans. Therefore, more research is needed before recommendations can be made.
Summary Many studies show that berberine increases dopamine levels in the brains of mice. However, further research is needed to fully understand the effects of berberine and dopamine levels in humans.
It’s best to consult with your healthcare provider before adding any supplement to your daily routine.
This is especially true if you have a medical condition or if you’re on any medications.
Generally, the risk associated with taking the above supplements is relatively low. They all have good safety profiles and low toxicity levels in low-to-moderate dosages.
The primary possible side effects of some of these supplements are related to digestive symptoms, such as gas, diarrhea, nausea or stomach pain.
Summary It’s important to talk to your doctor before taking dietary supplements and stop using them if negative side effects or medication interactions occur.
Dopamine is an important chemical in your body that influences many brain-related functions, such as mood, motivation and memory.
Generally, your body regulates dopamine levels well on its own, but some medical conditions and diet and lifestyle choices can lower your levels.
This, in turn, could help improve brain function and mental health.
Each of the supplements on this list has a good safety profile when used properly. However, some supplements may interfere with certain prescription or over-the-counter medications.
It’s always best to talk to your healthcare provider or registered dietitian to determine if certain supplements are right for you.