Phenylalanine is the same as phenylethylamine

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Phenethylamine (also β-Phenylethylamine, PEA) is an alkaloid and, along with theobromine, is one of the main active ingredients in chocolate. Prominent derivatives with a PEA structure are the neurotransmitter dopamine, the amino acid phenylalanine and the drug mescaline. Phenethylamine causes blood sugar levels to rise and, like dopamine, has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system. Phenylethylamine is also the parent substance of the phenylethylamine group. Phenylethylamine is also blamed for many foodborne migraines.



In one possible synthesis variant, benzaldehyde is condensed with nitromethane to form nitrostyrene. The hydrogenation gives PEA.

Structural consideration

Homologues: The next higher side chain homolog is the amphetamine (-β-ethyl versus -isopropyl), other homologues are known. Mescaline is an example of one Phenyl nucleus-Derivative (3,4,5-trimethoxy-substituted).

At the same time core and Norepinephrine is substituted by side chains. Diverse derivatization options open up a wide field of structural variants: PEA derivatives.


In humans, PEA is an endogenous hormone that is partly responsible for the feeling of happiness. A release of PEA can be triggered both physically and mentally. In both cases there is an overwhelming feeling of happiness. It is released during endurance training, which results in the "jogger high" (named after the documentaries in which runners were in a state of intoxication after prolonged training). In the psychological area, PEA occurs mainly in lovers, with varying degrees of impact. In addition to the well-known tingling sensation in the stomach, in some cases it can turn into a high, which literally makes lovers blind. "Blindness" arises because PEA inhibits the areas in the brain that are responsible for rational thinking. The state of intoxication can last up to 4 years (if psychologically caused, i.e. not after exercise), but over time the body gets used to the increased PEA level. If this happens, the dreamy, stormy love often passes. If the PEA level falls, a withdrawal symptom occurs, in which a depressive behavior can usually be perceived. In fact, a lowered PEA level could also be demonstrated in depressed people.

In animals, it is not known whether PEA has similar effects and whether it is produced by the body itself. But it cannot be ruled out, and in the case of related animal species such as primates, it is even very likely.

Luxury and intoxicants

A natural content of PEA was found in the chocolate. On the one hand, it can be used to explain why chocolate consumption triggers a feeling of happiness in many people and, on the other hand, why it is potentially addictive. It is also proof that plants are also capable of producing PEA. In fact, many herbal drugs, such as mescaline, are based on the basic structure of PEA. Since the symptoms of intoxicants are mostly similar to those of PEA, it can be concluded that these drugs occupy the same receptors in the brain and thereby trigger the intoxication.

Individual evidence

  1. abcdefG Entry on phenethylamine in the GESTIS substance database of the BGIA, accessed on November 19, 2007 (JavaScript required)


  • Alexander Shulgin, Ann Shulgin: PIHKAL - A Chemical Love Story. Transform Press, ISBN 0-96300-960-5

Categories: Corrosive Substance | Phenylethylamine | alkaloid