I’ve had a number of patients come to me recently looking for new options for the treatment of some rather common conditions. Some individuals are already following a dietary plan that includes supplements for health maintenance, but are particularly interested in what 5-HTP could offer them.

There seems to be a revived interest in 5-HTP, a chemical our bodies make from the amino acid tryptophan we get from food. After tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP, it’s synthesized into 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, currently knowledge suggests 5-HTP may have a positive effect on:

  • *sleep
  • *mood
  • *anxiety
  • *appetite
  • *pain sensation

5-HTP isn’t found in the foods we eat. Although the tryptophan it’s derived from is found in foods, eating foods with tryptophan doesn’t provide a significant increase 5-HTP levels. To increase the level of 5-HTP, we need to look for natural ways to supplement our body’s 5-HTP production.

As a supplement, 5-HTP is made from the seeds of an African plant called Griffonia simplicifolia.

Researchers are finding exciting evidence that 5-HTP can help treat a wide variety of conditions related to low serotonin levels. While more research is ongoing, current knowledge tell us there are a number of conditions helped by 5-HTP, including:

Depression

Preliminary studies indicate that 5-HTP may work as well as certain antidepressant drugs to treat people with mild-to-moderate depression, but with fewer side effects.

Fibromyalgia

Many people with fibromyalgia have low levels of serotonin. As we’ve learned, 5-HTP raises levels of serotonin in the brain. This is why researchers are finding support for 5-HTP improving fibromyalgia symptoms, including:

  • * pain
  • * anxiety
  • * morning stiffness
  • * fatigue

Insomnia

In one study, people who took 5-HTP went to sleep quicker and slept more deeply than those who took a placebo. Researchers recommend 200 to 400 mg at night to stimulate serotonin, but it may take 6 to 12 weeks to be fully effective.

Migraines and Other Headaches

Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed for migraine headaches. Studies suggest that high doses of 5-HTP may help people with various types of headaches, including migraines.

Obesity

A few small studies have investigated whether 5-HTP can help people lose weight. In one study, those who took 5-HTP ate fewer calories, although they were not trying to diet, compared to those who took placebo. Researchers believe 5-HTP led people to feel more full (satiated) after eating, so they ate less.

How to Take It

Adult Only

Health care professionals generally recommend 50 mg of 5-HTP taken 1 to 3 times per day. Some studies have used higher doses, but because 5-HTP can be toxic at high doses, you should talk to your health care provider before raising the dose. Your health care provider can help determine the right dose for you.

For anxiety or depression, the dose is 150 to 300 mg daily.

 Special Note

Due to an outbreak of a life threatening illness of an allergic nature in 1989, eosinopillic myalgia syndrome(EMS) which affected individuals who had consumed tryptophan, or 5-HTP, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration pulled all tryptophan supplements off the market. The contaminant called Peak X has since been found in individuals who had not consumed tryptophan.  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.