What Is 5-HTP? Benefits, Side Effects, And Recommended Dosage

In this Article, We will discuss:

  • What is 5-HTP?
  • How does it work?
  • What are the health benefits of 5-HTP?
  • What is the potential for side effects of 5-HTP?
  • Use in pregnant and nursing women.
  • What is the recommended dosage of 5-HTP and how to take it?
  • Are there any interactions with medications?

What is 5-HTP?

What is 5-HTP5-HTP is a short form of 5-HydroxyTryptophan or 5-hydroxytryptophan, also named as Oxitriptan.

5-HTP is a chemical that is produced by our body through a chemical process. L-Tryptophan is one of the amino acids that our body gets through food, and this amino acid is converted into 5-HTP, i.e., 5 Hydroxy-Tryptophan.

5-hydroxytryptophan is further converted into ‘Serotonin.’ Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in our nervous systems.

5-HTP is not available in significant quantities in our foods that humans routinely consume. Though L-Tryptophan is available in our foods, 5-HTP and Serotonin are not present in routine diet that we consume on a daily basis.

Also, eating food rich in Tryptophan does not necessarily increase the levels of 5-HTP in the body.

However, scientific research has found this essential chemical in an African plant known as “Griffoniasimplicifolia”.

Seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia are used to prepare commercial preparations of 5-HTP supplement.

20% of these plant’s seeds comprise of 5-HTP. Many commercial preparations are available in the market that supply 5-HTP as a supplement.

How does it work?

5-HTP works in our body by increasing the production of serotonin in our bodies. Serotonin levels are important for the regular functioning of our body systems and minds.

Deficiency in serotonin levels in the body badly affects the sleep, mood, weight changes, appetite, sexual response and a few other sensations including pain sensation.

Depression and anxiety, insomnia, obesity are many of the conditions that are caused by the low serotonin levels in the human body. 5-HTP is advised in major depression and produce wonderful results.

Not only in sleep-disorders, but is 5-HTP also used in people having headaches due to stress, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), and seizure disorder.

Use in premenstrual disorder and Parkinson’s disease is also beneficial. Use of 5-HTP in these conditions is based on the fact that 5-HTP increases serotonin levels in the body and Serotonin play a vital role in above-mentioned conditions.

What are the health benefits of 5-HTP?

  • Effective benefits of 5-HTP in depression

Effective benefits of 5-HTP in depressionVarious studies have shown that 5-HTP is effective in managing depression. Patients with major depression also show improvement when they are put on 5-HTP.

Various studies have shown that 5-HTP consumption on a daily basis reduced symptoms of the major depressive disorder.

Many clinicians have tried to combine low doses of 5-HTP with other anti-depressants and these combinations relieved patients with depression better that anti-depressants alone. In some people, 5-HTP alone is helpful in alleviating symptoms of depression.

Various experiments had shown that remarkable improvement in depression was observed when patients were treated with 5-HTP as compared to the other group who were treated with placebo. Further clinical trials are needed to support these studies.

  • Benefits of 5-HTP in panic attacks

5-HTP is quite helpful in managing the panic attacks. Teenagers nowadays are involved in romanticism, and when it is the breakup time, or they are not getting the attention they want, panic attacks can occur to teenagers as well.

5-HTP is beneficial for such panic attacks. In cases where panic attacks occur due to low serotonin levels, 5-HTP is very helpful in relieving the symptoms.

Treatment should be continued till the stressors are managed to be removed or till the complete relief is obtained.

  • 5-HTP is recommended in anxiety

5-HTP is quite helpful in managing anxiety and depression. In many studies, 5-HTP alone was found to be effective without any other anti-anxiety medicines.

  • 5-HTP in Down’s syndrome?

5-HTP in Down’s syndrome5-HTP was previously thought to be effective in Down’s syndrome. But this can only be given as a supplement, not treatment.

5-HTP as a supplement is good for improving muscle tone and language skills.

  • 5-HTP may be effective in reducing alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Studies have shown that 5-HTP is effective in controlling alcohol withdrawal symptoms when given with phenylalanine and glutamine. But no studies have ever indicated that 5-HTP is helpful in alcoholism.

  • Benefits of 5-HTP in night terrors and dreams

Benefits of 5-HTP in night terrors and dreams5-HTP is equally effective in children and adults to manage terror dreams at night time during sleep.

Children show improvement in sleep patterns and reduction in terror dreams during their regular sleep at night times.

  • Benefits of 5-HTP in fibromyalgia

5-HTP has proven to be useful in fibromyalgia in various studies. 5-HTP improves muscle tones, reduces pain and tenderness, soothes muscular movements, and decreases anxiety in patients with fibromyalgia.

5-HTP is a useful addition to the diet of fibromyalgia patients. Increasing serotonin levels significantly reduce the anxiety that the fibromyalgia patients suffer through 5-HTP addition in the diet as a supplement.

  • 5-HTP in a migraine and stress-related headaches

5-HTP is proven to be very helpful in migraines and headaches. Especially, the headaches that are stress related are relieved by merely taking a 5-HTP supplement.

Various commercial preparations available in the market for 5-HTP supplementation are quite a good source of 5-HTP. But make it sure that you get a product from the reliable manufacturer.

  • 5-HTP use in obesity

5-HTP use in obesity5-HTP is very beneficial in obesity management. 5-HTP does not directly reduce the fats. It controls the appetite and relieves the stress.

Controlling the appetite is an indicator of weight reduction.

People tend to eat more and more during stressful periods, especially during chronic stresses.

5-HTP is great in managing stresses and helpful in the production of serotonin which in turn reduces the stressful and anxious state of mind. That’s how obese people can take 5-HTP safely as a supplement.

  • Benefits of 5-HTP may reduce heroin withdrawal symptoms

Addicts who are getting the treatment to get rid of heroin addiction might be put on 5-HTP supplements along with other drugs.

  • 5-HTP is used to treat insomnia

5-HTP improves the sleep quality. It is readily converted to serotonin which relieves mind from stressors.

The brain goes into sleep mode faster. People with chronic stresses or low serotonin levels show insomnia. Circadian rhythm can also be improved with the aid of 5-HTP.

  • 5-HTP in ADHD

More research needed, but the early research shows that5-HTP in ADHD improves the symptoms in the children.

What is the potential for side effects of 5-HTP?

What is the potential for side effects of 5-HTP5-HTP is considered safe for doses up to 400mg per day for one year. But some people also developed EMS.

EMS (eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome), is the disease that causes muscle tenderness and eosinophil disorder in the blood.

Always buy the product from a reliable manufacturer. Do not exceed the doses abruptly or cut down at once.

Side effects of 5-HTP include stomach burning sensation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, sexual disorders and muscle spasms.

Use in pregnant and nursing women

Use in pregnant and nursing women5-HTP has not been studied in pregnant women and nursing mothers.

So better to stay on safer side by not consuming any supplement for which no proper research has been conducted.

For depression during pregnancy or postpartum depression, use other means to reduce symptoms than taking 5-HTP supplements.

What is the recommended dosage of 5-HTP and how to take it?

In children, the usual dose is 2mg/kg. It can be increased up to 5mg/kg safely.
The adult dose is researched for depression.

150mg per day dose is gradually increased to 400mg per day has been found safe in adults. Also, keep alert for EMS, i.e., eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome.

Many studies have used 150 to 300mg per day doses in adults. The dose should be divided into three doses per day.

In 1989, a contaminant Peak-X was found in some 5-HTP supplements preparations that were found to be causing EMS. So always buy from a reliable source and of a manufacturer.

Are there any interactions with medications?

If you are on various anti-depressants, consult your pharmacist or clinician before starting 5-HTP.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors produce synergistic effects when given along with 5-HTP supplements.

This causes severe adverse effects in the patients. The adverse effects include severe uncontrollable anxiety, shivering, and heart problems.

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) interact with 5-HTP. MAOIs are anti-depressant drugs and also increase serotonin levels. This combination may cause serious adverse effects like severe anxiety and heart problems.

Tramadol increases serotonin level in the brain. 5-HTP also increases serotonin levels. Taking both drugs causes too much serotonin in the brain. This will cause severe anxiety, confusion, and terror dreams at nights, and stiff muscles.

Meperidine, dextromethorphan, and pentazocine also cause serotonin levels increase. So avoid using 5-HTP when you are taking any of these drugs. Else you will face severe side effects like heart problems, stiff muscles, and anxiety.

See References:
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2831424/ Smaranda Leu-Semenescu, Isabelle Arnulf, Caroline Decaix, Fathi Moussa, Fabienne Clot, Camille Boniol, Yvan Touitou, Richard Levy, Marie Vidailhet, Emmanuel Roze. Sleep and Rhythm Consequences of a Genetically Induced Loss of Serotonin. Sleepv.33(3); 2010 Mar 1. PMC2831424.
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8697046 Wurtman, Wurtman JJ. Brain serotonin, carbohydrate-craving, obesity, and depression. Obes Res. 1995 Nov;3 Suppl 4:477S-480S.
  • Ceci F, Cangiano C, Cairella M, et al. The effects of oral 5-hydroxytryptophan administration on feeding behavior in obese adult female subjects. J Neural Transm. 1989;76(2):109-117.
  • Attele AS, Xie JT, Yuan CS. Treatment of insomnia: an alternative approach. Altern Med Rev. 2000;5(3):249-259.
  • Gendle MH, Young EL, Romano AC. Effects of oral 5-hydroxytryptophan on a standardized planning task: insight into possible dopamine/serotonin interactions in the forebrain. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2013;28(3):270-273.
What Is 5-HTP? Benefits, Side Effects, And Recommended Dosage
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Jennifer Kurtz studied medicine at the New Jersey School of Medicine (Rutgers). She is passionate about developing her knowledge of Cannabis, Nootropics, Kratom, and nutritional supplements. In addition to attending medical webinars and conferences, she loves to write research-based articles for magazines, healthcare professionals, and medical agencies.