Found naturally in the body, Phenylethylamine has an influence over many of the neurotransmitters associated with mood and happiness: in particular, serotonin and dopamine.
As such, it is believed to play a role in depression and other psychiatric conditions. The current view is that supplementing with this compound could boost your attitude or have a highly stimulating effect.
Proponents claim it may also have a focus and concentration-enhancing element to it as well.
What is Phenylethylamine?
Phenylethylamine has some similarities with amphetamines. Specifically in its stimulating effects and the way it releases neurotransmitters within the body.
While there is a decent body of knowledge about how this compound works and what its potential interactions within the body are, evidence of its supplemental benefits is not as thoroughly understood.
Phenylethylamine is found in all mammals and affects neurotransmitter function. By reducing the uptake of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, it can have a positive effect on mood and provide some cognitive effects.
Proponents use it to increase their athletic ability, lose weight, increase their attention spans, combat depression, and as a supplement to support better overall mood.
In fact, some researchers surmise that a daily dose of Phenylethylamine, combined with some other antidepressants may reduce depression symptoms in more than half of all individuals who take it.
Because of its potential to interact with other compounds and a lack of understanding about how it might affect otherwise healthy individuals, though, it is not recommended for supplementation by many medical professionals as of yet.
Still, it is legal to obtain, most commonly as a powder, and there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence hailing it as a rather effective mood and mental influencer.
Fun fact, this chemical is found in chocolate and cocoa and is believed to be the component that makes these treats so appealing.
Phenylethylamine is abbreviated as PEA and alternatively known by several scientific names, including β-phenylethylamine, Beta-phenylethylamine, Benzeneethanamine, 1-Amino-2-phenylethane, 2-Phenethylamine, Phenethylamine HCl, and Phenethylamine Hydrochloride.
I’ll have to admit; I was eager to try this one out. I had already heard many of the claims and wanted to know which were the real deal. I tried it a few times to confirm, and it definitely has some “oomph.” Maybe. There are there are some caveats I’ll have to mention about that.
I got the powder and decided to go with the low-end dose of 200mg. Not bad, I must say. Within 15 minutes, I felt a wave of “happiness,” for lack of a better term.
This evened out after about a half hour, at which point I was able to work with a slightly increased level of focus for a couple of hours.
The next day, I decided to give it another go, but this time at 400mg. The effects were similar but more pronounced. After the 30 minute mark, I also felt a “spacey” feeling.
It didn’t take me out of the zone, but it was almost as if I was separate from what I was doing if that makes any sense. Not bad as a nootropic so far, and I didn’t experience and acute side effects during my sessions.
Now, here’s where things got weird. I tried it again for a third day, same dosage, and…nothing. It was strange and made me recall some reports that using PEA was hit or miss.
Some have claimed that all the positive effects might be placebo in nature only. Could it be? Had I psyched myself into believing I was getting some effect?
I decided to give it a rest of for a few days to see if there were any ill effects. Nothing, though I’ve also heard reports of people coming off of PEA and experiencing major anxiety. Perhaps I should consider myself lucky? I’m going to have to file the effects on this one as undecided.
Searching online for some corroboration about my experience, I found a mixed bag of anecdotal reports. Some said it worked wonders and was everything they had ever dreamed.
Others were disappointed that if provided zero effects for them. Others still scoffed at the idea that people thought PEA could have any effect, reasoning that its abilities as a supplement were not currently backed by any research (can’t blame the last group there).
It seems, going off of individual accounts, that this stuff affects everyone a bit differently, and you might not even get the same experience consistently.
Benefits and effects
Let’s cover what the chemical is supposed to do under ideal conditions (since there’s no way to verify through research at the moment).
Some of the claims make sense, given the current understanding of how Phenylethylamine is supposed to work on the body.
The primary reason most people supplement is to achieve the supposed mood boost.
As it increases a number of neurotransmitters in the brain, it is believed that it is effective at staving off the depression that might occur as a result of having a lack of these neurotransmitters in the brain.
PEA has a nickname as the “love drug,” as it is found in chocolate and might even influence sex drive (thanks to the dopamine connection).
Where it gets tricky is that there is a debate about whether or not it can cross the blood-brain barrier to make any of these effects useful, though, there is some weighty evidence in favor of it actually doing so.
Even still, experts are divided on whether or not the chemical remains in the body long enough after supplementation to have any real effect on the brain, which is as of yet unknown.
Because of the similarity to various amphetamines, Phenylethylamine is believed to have a pronounced stimulating effect on the body.
I certainly felt it, but there are those who argue that the effects are not due to any special effect from Phenylethylamine, based on the same sort of skepticism that is placed on the mood improvement and normal health use benefit.
It certainly seems possible that it would be useful for improved alertness, but until there’s some evidence to back it up, this is just an anecdotal quality.
Supposedly, Phenylethylamine plays a “key role” in cognitive function. Forming memories, the ability to learn, executive functions, clarity, focus, and overall attention span are all bolstered by supplementing with this chemical.
At least, according to its staunchest supporters. The chemistry makes sense, but in practice, not enough is known about how supplementation works in real life to make a definitive determination on how effective Phenylethylamine is at enhancing mental functions.
I’m pretty sure I felt something, I’m hoping with more study, researchers can learn about how this compound actually works as a nootropic, if at all.
How It Works
As mentioned, this is an endogenous amine that affects neurotransmitter activity in the brain. In human (and other mammalian bodies) the chemical is in short supply and metabolizes rapidly (with a half-life of about a half minute).
Though contested, evidence suggests that it can pass the blood brain barrier after injection into the body, where it gets to work.
Research suggests that its main ability is to inhibit dopamine uptake while simultaneously inducing increased dopamine production.
It has a similar effect on serotonin and other norepinephrine but to a reduced extent. Because of these abilities, it is thought to have a profound effect on mood, which some evidence supports. How it works exactly, though, is still a matter up for debate, requiring more inquiry.
When supplemented, users will often feel the effects within 15 minutes. The acute effects will last for a couple of hours at most (due to the rapid metabolization).
The interactions with other compounds are not understood to a great degree as of yet, though, there is some evidence showing that amines like Phenylethylamine will inhibit the secretion of prolactin (the hormone responsible for milk production in females).
The official stance on supplementation is as follows:
“At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for phenethylamine. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important.”
That being said, anecdotal reports can provide us with some knowledge on the topic. The standard dose that most find effective ranges from 100-500 milligrams.
The powdered form seems to be the most common, though you can also find several varieties of capsules if that is your preferred method of ingestion.
At lower doses, Phenylethylamine provides a mildly pleasing effect. At higher doses, it offers a more intense pleasurable sensation, along with the supposed cognitive effects.
Complicating this seemingly simple dosing guide, though, is the fact that some individuals have reported even the higher range of Phenylethylamine having no effect.
These users claim to have taken doses as high as 2-3 grams with little to no effect. This goes back to the opening point, though: not enough is understood about how this chemical functions in supplement form to lock down a firm dosing guide at this point.
Taking Phenylethylamine comes with an array of standard acute side effects, like headaches, heartburn, nausea, dizziness, constipation, and insomnia. The more pressing concern is the potential for abuse and possible negative long-term health outcomes:
“The long-term negative health outcomes, such as cognitive impairment, drug dependence, and mental health disorders, associated with the use of the tryptamines and phenethylamines are unknown.
Cognitive impairment and neurological toxicity, for instance, has been associated with more common tryptamines and phenethylamines.”
As such, researchers advocate for more study into the long-term effects if for nothing else than safety’s sake. Professionals also advise certain groups against attempting supplementation with Phenylethylamine.
Those with Schizophrenia, for example, should not take this compound, as it has (at least) some tangential links, and might worsen hallucinations or delusions.
There is a similar warning for those with Bipolar disorder. Pregnant women should not take this chemical, nor should those anticipating a surgical procedure, due to possible effects on the central nervous system.
Because there is such a dearth of knowledge about Phenylethylamine’s supplement effects and interaction, I’d advise against trying it out with a bunch of other compounds.
Specifically, because of its stimulating effects and similarities with amphetamines, using it with nootropics could be a risky proposition for some.
Still, there are a few brave souls who have given it a go, combining this chemical with caffeine for a greater energy boost. The 100-500 milligram Phenylethylamine dose with a cup of coffee seems to be the preferred method.
Other stacks include standard stuff like OptiMind and Noopept. Two definite “no-no” combinations are MAOIs and SSRIs (both very dangerous as they are powerful antidepressants in their own right, and the combination with Phenylethylamine could result in some potent unintended consequences).
For combating depression, just about any antidepressant could be a potential alternative. For the other enhancement effects, though, you might take a look at:
If it’s cognitive enhancement you want, Piracetam might be the way to go. Part of the overarching “racetam” family, it provides a fair-to-middling brain boost and improves performance on some mental tasks by enhancing “cellular membrane fluidity.” You won’t get the stimulating or mood altering effects that Phenylethylamine offers, though.
It’s like Piracetam, but much more potent. In addition to the cognitive benefits, Noopept is also supposed to provide a psychostimulatory effect (it makes you feel happy).
It isn’t the most well-studied compound, though, so you’ll have to exercise skepticism about its more bombastic claims.
Phenibut is supposed to help reduce anxiety, fear, tension, and stress through an effect similar to the brain chemical Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA).
Current research is mostly animal-related, but there is reason to believe that the functions are the same in humans, though further study is needed to confirm to what extent.
I’d like to recommend Phenylethylamine outright, though, I can’t because the body of research just isn’t there yet. When it comes to anecdotal reports, they’re all over the place, so it’s not like there’s even a consensus among the community either.
Still, there seems to be some potential, particularly with the mood enhancing and stimulating effects that this compound confers.