Supplements: 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)

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5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)

5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid. The body makes 5-HTP from tryptophan (an essential amino acid) and converts it to serotonin, an important neurotransmitter (brain chemical). 5-HTP dietary supplements help raise serotonin levels in the brain, which may have a positive effect on the following functions and processes: sleep, mood, anxiety, aggression, appetite, temperature, sexual behavior, and pain sensation.


5-HTP may be helpful in treating a wide variety of conditions related to low serotonin levels, such as the following.


Scientists believe that some forms of depression are caused by low levels of serotonin in the brain. Therefore, many of the anti-depressant drugs prescribed for depression increase serotonin levels. 5-HTP is as effective as some antidepressant drugs in treating some individuals with mild to moderate depression, and people treated with 5-HTP have shown improvements in mood, anxiety, insomnia, and physical symptoms.


This is a disorder that causes achy and stiff muscles, tender joints, and ongoing pain at various sites in the body. Although many factors can affect the severity of the disorder, the primary cause of the pain of fibromylagia is low serotonin levels. 5-HTP has been shown to increase pain tolerance, improve sleep quality, and reduce anxiety and depression in patients with fibromyalgia.


5-HTP has been shown to reduce the time required to fall asleep and to improve sleep quality.


5-HTP reduces the frequency and severity of migraine headaches with fewer side effects than migraine headache drugs.


5-HTP can decrease carbohydrate intake by promoting a feeling of satiety (fullness), and may result in weight loss in overweight individuals.

Headaches in children.

Children with headaches associated with sleep disorders can respond favorably to 5-HTP treatment.

Dietary Sources

5-HTP is extracted from the seed of the African plant Griffonia simplicifolia. It is purified, and concentrated in dietary supplements.

Other Forms

5-HTP is an ingredient in multivitamin and herbal preparations. It is also available as a single ingredient in tablets and capsules. You will find it in doses that include 25 mg, 50 mg, and 100 mg capsules and tablets.

How to Take It

Follow the directions indicated on product packages. Some experts recommend taking 50 to 100 mg of 5-HTP per day for most conditions. Higher doses of 5-HTP are necessary to produce beneficial results in certain conditions. Seek the advice of your health care provider before taking more than 100 mg of 5-HTP per day.


5-HTP causes mild gastrointestinal disturbances in some people. These side effects include mild nausea, heartburn, flatulence, feelings of fullness, and rumbling sensations.

Check with your health care provider before taking 5-HTP if any of the following applies to you.

  • You have high blood pressure.
  • You are pregnant or nursing.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You are taking antidepressant drugs, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or any other prescription medications.

Seek the advice of your health care provider before giving 5-HTP to children or adolescents.

Possible Interactions

5-HTP may add to the effects of St. John's wort.

Vitamin B6, niacin, and magnesium help convert 5-HTP to serotonin.

Excerpt from Integrative Medicine Access Copyright © 1999 Integrative Medicine Communications

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Previously Published in OSA Today Reproduced by permission
Updated on: 02/01/10