5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a chemical by-product of the protein building block L-tryptophan. It is also produced commercially from the seeds of an African plant known as Griffonia simplicifolia 5-HTP is used for sleep disorders such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, migraine and tension-type headaches, fibromyalgia, obesity, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), seizure disorder, and Parkinson's disease.
Supporting research & information
5-HTP is a compound which gets converted into serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is one of the principal neurotransmitters involved in happiness and anti-depression.
5-HTP has been used with success to restore serotonin levels in those that may suffer from decreased serotonin levels, such as the depressed and those with high levels of body inflammation (typically seen in metabolic syndrome).
5 Science-Based Benefits of 5-HTP (plus dosage and side effects)
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid that your body naturally produces. Your body uses it to produce serotonin, a chemical messenger that sends signals between your nerve cells.
Low serotonin levels are associated with depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, weight gain and other health problems. Therefore, increasing your body’s production of serotonin may have various benefits.
For this reason, serotonin-producing 5-HTP supplements have become increasingly popular.
Here are 5 potential health benefits of 5-HTP, based on science.
1. It Can Aid Weight Loss by Increasing Feelings of Fullness
5-HTP may increase feelings of fullness, causing you to eat less and lose weight. Weight loss can increase the production of hormones that make you feel hungry. These feelings of constant hunger can make losing weight unsustainable in the long term. 5-HTP may counteract these hunger-inducing hormones, working to suppress appetite and help you lose weight. In one study, 20 people with diabetes were randomly assigned to receive either 5-HTP or a placebo for two weeks. The results showed that those who received 5-HTP consumed approximately 435 fewer calories per day, compared to the placebo group.
What’s more, 5-HTP primarily inhibited the intake of calories from carbohydrates, which was associated with better blood sugar control. Many other studies have also found that 5-HTP increased feelings of fullness and aided weight loss in overweight or obese people.
Moreover, animal studies have shown that 5-HTP may reduce excessive food intake due to stress or depression.
SUMMARY: 5-HTP is likely effective at increasing feelings of fullness, which may help you eat less and lose weight.
2. Helps With Depression by Increasing Serotonin Levels
The effects of 5-HTP on symptoms of depression have been well studied. While the exact cause of depression is largely unknown, some researchers believe that a serotonin imbalance may influence your mood in a way that leads to depression. 5-HTP supplements are thought to treat depression by increasing serotonin levels. In fact, several small studies have found that 5-HTP reduced symptoms of depression. However, two of them did not use placebos for comparison, limiting the strength of their findings. Similarly, another analysis concluded that 5-HTP may help treat depression.
However, much of the research suggests that the potential antidepressive effects of 5-HTP are stronger when combined with other substances or antidepressant medications, compared to when they are used alone. Moreover, many reviews conclude that additional, high-quality studies are needed before 5-HTP can be recommended as a treatment for depression.
SUMMARY: 5-HTP supplements increase serotonin levels in your body, which may improve symptoms of depression, especially when used in combination with other antidepressant substances or medications. Nonetheless, more research is needed.
Can Promote Sleep by Increasing Your Melatonin Production
5-HTP produces serotonin, which can be converted into the hormone melatonin. Melatonin plays an important role in regulating sleep. Its levels begin to rise in the evening to promote sleep and fall in the morning to help wake you up. Therefore, supplementing with 5-HTP may promote sleep by increasing melatonin production in your body.
One human-based study showed that a combination of 5-HTP and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) significantly reduced the time it took to fall asleep, increased sleep duration and improved sleep quality. GABA is a chemical messenger that promotes relaxation. Combining it with 5-HTP likely has a synergistic effect. In fact, several animal and insect studies suggest that 5-HTP improves sleep quality and that the effect is greater when combined with GABA. While these results are promising, the lack of human-based studies makes it difficult to recommend 5-HTP for improving sleep quality, especially when it is used in isolation.
SUMMARY 5-HTP may promote sleep by increasing melatonin production, an important sleep-regulating hormone.
The Bottom Line
Your body converts 5-HTP into serotonin, a substance that regulates appetite, pain sensations and sleep. Supplementing with it is an effective way to boost your serotonin levels. Higher serotonin levels may provide many benefits, such as promoting weight loss, improving the symptoms of depression and fibromyalgia, decreasing the frequency of migraine attacks and helping you sleep better. Minor side effects have been linked to 5-HTP, but they can be minimized by starting with smaller doses and increasing the dosage gradually. Given that 5-HTP may negatively interact with several medications, talk to your doctor to ensure it’s safe for you to use.
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid precursor of serotonin with anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, sleep, and weight loss benefits, but with some caveats.
5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid that serves as a precursor for the biosynthesis of serotonin and melatonin in the brain from the other amino acid tryptophan.
Currently, depression is hypothetically described as caused by having low levels of serotonin in the brain, although we still don’t understand exactly what causes depression.
5-HTP in supplement form is extracted from the plant Griffonia simplicifolia,an African shrub.
Health Benefits of 5-HTP Supplementation
5-HTP May Help with Depression
Small clinical studies have shown that 5-HTP alleviates depression better than placebo. However, more large-scale and higher quality studies are necessary to confirm the safety and effectiveness of 5-HTP. The antidepressant effects of 5-HTP are comparable to that of some antidepressants. Combined treatments of 5-HTP and SSRI seem to have strong synergistic effects on serotonin levels in rats and humans so that some clinicians recommend the use of slow-released 5-HTP in combination with SSRIs. However, additional clinical trials are required to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of this approach, and combinations of 5-HTP and medications should only be used under medical supervision.
In a small clinical trial involving 52 healthy male subjects, either oral 5-HTP or antidepressant enhanced serotonin levels by 35% and 100%, but a combination between antidepressant and 5-HTP by 500%.
5-HTP Helps with Panic Attacks and Anxiety
In young adults who suffer stress or anxiety from unreciprocated romanticism, a 6-week supplementation of 5-HTP decreased anxiety in 3 weeks by increasing serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels and serotonin levels . People who suffer from chronic panic attacks due to lower availability of serotonin in the brain found significant relief through supplementation of 200 mg of 5-hydroxytryptophan. In human clinical trials, herbal extracts of 5-HTP were shown to increase GABA receptor agonists or increase GABA levels entirely, promoting a sense of relaxation and decreased anxiety.
5-HTP Helps with Night Terrors in Children
Children aged 3-10 who suffer from sleep terrors nightly had a reduction of 93.5% after taking a supplement of 2 mg/kg every night before bed for a month.
5-HTP Helps Reduce Appetite, Craving, and Weight Loss
Carbohydrate increases serotonin levels in the brain, so increasing serotonin levels, such as by supplementing with 5-HTP, can mitigate carbohydrate craving and appetite, thus helps with adherence to dietary interventions and weight loss.
In small clinical trials, 5-HTP supplementation in obese women resulted in no mood changes but decreased food intake and weight loss.
5-HTP Helps Improve Sleep Quality
A human with a genetic mutation that causes serotonin deficiency lacks circadian rhythm and overeats. For this person, supplementation with 5-HTP restores normal circadian rhythm and food intake. Over long periods of supplementation, natural transcription of GABA receptors increased which assisted with natural sleep cycles and promotion of healthy sleep. A small clinical trial demonstrated that the use of 5-HTP in combination with GABA significantly improves sleep quality in 9 subjects with sleep disorders, in comparison to placebo. It’s not normal to struggle falling asleep and wake up in the morning feeling more tired than when you went to bed.
How to Take
Recommended dosage, active amounts, other details
A typical dose of 5-HTP is in the range of 300-500 mg, taken either once daily or in divided doses. Lower doses may also be effective, although usually when paired with other substances.
For the purpose of reducing food intake, 5-HTP should be taken with a meal as it increases satiety from food intake (rather than reducing appetite/hunger).
5-HTP should not be taken with any neurological drug that has been prescribed for antidepressant or other cognitive purposes unless cleared by a medical doctor. This is most important for SSRI usage, wherein the combination with 5-HTP is potentially lethal.
How does it work?
5-HTP works in the brain and central nervous system by increasing the production of the chemical serotonin. Serotonin can affect sleep, appetite, temperature, sexual behaviour, and pain sensation. Since 5-HTP increases the synthesis of serotonin, it is used for several diseases where serotonin is believed to play an important role including depression, insomnia, obesity, and many other conditions.
L-5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is the immediate precursor of serotonin. It is readily synthesized into serotonin without biochemical feedback. This nutrient has a large and strong following who advocate exaggerated and inaccurate claims relating to its effectiveness in the treatment of depression and a number of other serotonin-related diseases. These assertions are not supported by the science. Under close examination, 5-HTP may be contraindicated for depression in some of the very patients for whom promoters of 5-HTP advocate its use.
(University of Maryland)
5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a chemical that the body makes from tryptophan (an essential amino acid that you get from food). After tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP, the chemical is changed into another chemical called serotonin (a neurotransmitter that relays signals between brain cells). 5-HTP dietary supplements help raise serotonin levels in the brain. Since serotonin helps regulate mood and behavior, 5-HTP may have a positive effect on sleep, mood, anxiety, appetite, and pain sensation.
5-HTP is not found in the foods we eat, although tryptophan is found in foods. Eating foods with tryptophan does not increase 5-HTP levels very much, however. As a supplement, 5-HTP is made from the seeds of an African plant called Griffonia simplicifolia.
In 1989, the presence of a contaminant called Peak X was found in tryptophan supplements. Researchers believed that an outbreak of eosinophilic myalgia syndrome (EMS, a potentially fatal disorder that affects the skin, blood, muscles, and organs) could be traced to the contaminated tryptophan, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration pulled all tryptophan supplements off the market. Since then, Peak X was also found in some 5-HTP supplements, and there have been a few reports of EMS associated with taking 5-HTP. However, the level of Peak X in 5-HTP was not high enough to cause any symptoms, unless very high doses of 5-HTP were taken. Because of this concern, however, you should talk to your health care provider before taking 5-HTP, and make sure you get the supplement from a reliable manufacturer. (See "Precautions" section.)
5-Hydroxytryptophan: A Clinically-Effective Serotonin Precursor
Timothy C. Birdsall, N.D.
Abstract 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5- HTP) is the intermediate metabolite of the essential amino acid L-tryptophan (LT) in the biosynthesis of serotonin. Intestinal absorption of 5-HTP does not require the presence of a transport molecule, and is not affected by the presence of other amino acids; therefore it may be taken with meals without reducing its effectiveness. Unlike LT, 5-HTP cannot be shunted into niacin or protein production. Therapeutic use of 5-HTP bypasses the conversion of LT into 5-HTP by the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase, which is the rate-limiting step in the synthesis of serotonin. 5- HTP is well absorbed from an oral dose, with about 70 percent ending up in the bloodstream. It easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and effectively increases central nervous system (CNS) synthesis of serotonin. In the CNS, serotonin levels have been implicated in the regulation of sleep, depression, anxiety, aggression, appetite, temperature, sexual behavior, and pain sensation. Therapeutic administration of 5-HTP has been shown to be effective in treating a wide variety of conditions, including depression, fibromyalgia, insomnia, binge eating associated with obesity, chronic headaches, and insomnia. (Altern Med Rev 1998;3(4):271-280)