5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)


Peer Reviewed

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid that may be beneficial in treating depression, obesity and insomnia.
Woman in bed awake, suffering from insomniaMany antidepressant drugs are used to treat mild to moderate levels of depression thereby improving mood, reducing anxiety, and promoting ability to sleep.Tryptophan (TRP) is an amino acid (balances nitrogen in adults) that the body makes from 5-HTP. In turn, TRP is converted into serotonin, which is found in platelets (maintains homeostasis) in the brain cells and the intestine. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter and 5-HTP helps to raise levels of this chemical in the brain. Serotonin positively affects anxiety, aggression, pain sensitivity, sleep, temperature, and sexual behavior.

Many antidepressant drugs increase the level of serotonin in the brain. These drugs are used to treat mild to moderate levels of depression thereby improving mood, reducing anxiety, and promoting ability to sleep.

Sources of 5-HTP
5-HTP is plant based and is extracted from the seed of the African plant Griffonia simplicifolia. 5-HTP is found in multivitamin formulations and herbal preparations. It is available in tablets and capsules in the following doses: 25-mg, 50-mg, and 100-mg.

Guidelines and Cautions
5-HTP may not benefit everyone who takes it.

Some sources recommend 50-mg to 100-mg of 5-HTP daily. Magnesium, niacin, and vitamin B6 assists in 5-HTP's conversion to serotonin. The effects of St. John's wort may be enhanced when combined with 5-HTP.

5-HTP should be used together with a high-carbohydrate food or liquid such as orange juice, and as part of a comprehensive nutritional program.

If you regularly take more than 300 milligrams of 5-HTP daily, you should undergo blood testing for levels of a type of white blood cell called eosinophils every three months.

5-HTP may cause the following side effects:

  • Heartburn
  • Gas
  • A full feeling
  • Mild nausea.

Do not take 5-HTP if:

  • You take antidepressants
  • Pregnant or nursing
  • Diabetic
  • Have high blood pressure

Do not give 5-HTP to children unless directed by a medical professional.

Commentary by Richard G. Fessler, MD, PhD

Disclaimer: Many patients report feeling improvement in their general well being taking dietary supplements. The Editorial Board of SpineUniverse.com, however, cannot endorse such products since most lack peer reviewed scientific validation of their claims. In most cases an appropriate diet and a "multiple vitamin" will provide the necessary dietary supplements for most individuals. Prior to taking additional dietary supplements it is recommended that patients consult with their personal physician to discuss their specific supplement requirements.

Updated on: 01/18/19
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Wellness Center
Richard G. Fessler, MD, PhD
Professor of Neurosurgery
Rush University Medical School
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