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5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptofan) – naturally occurring amino acid, as well as chemical precursor of serotonin. 5-HTP is involved in the synthesis of serotonin and melatonin from tryptophan (tryptophan is converting into 5-HTP, then the chemical is changed to serotonin). The neurotransmitter called serotonin is responsible for the regulation of mood, behaviour, sleep, appetite, memory and concentration and also helps to maintain stress and pain.

How does 5-HTP work?

5-HTP works in the brain and central nervous system by increasing the production of serotonin.  Serotonin is thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness. It regulates mood, appetite, sleep and pain sensation. Since 5-HTP increases synthesis of serotonin, it is used for cases where serotonin deficiency may cause the diseases, including depression, insomnia, obesity and others conditions.

5-HTP supplements increased the amount and availability of serotonin produced by the body. It is able to cross the blood brain barrier to increase both serotonin levels and serotonin production in the brain so it is possible to regain a healthy balance while sleeping, feeling emotions or eating.

5-HTP is good for anxiety and for depression because it increases the amount of serotonin and levels the sudden mood swings. In addition 5-HTP can be used for sleep regulation because it reduces the time needed sleep (increases REM). 5-HTP is also beneficial for weight loose by decreasing appetite.

5-HTP main benefits are:

  • Helps to maintain an appropriate level of serotonin in the brain
  • Facilitate calm and deep sleep
  • Control pain and emotions
  • Helps to prevent headaches, anxieties and eating disorders
  • Improve concentration
  • Improves mood

There are some benefits for men using 5-HTP. Since serotonin regulate mood and sleep, and maintain stress it is possible to improve sexual function. When organism is well rested, the healthful state allows for more oxygen into the penis, thereby combating erectile dysfunction.

Advantages of 5-HTP and weight loss:

5-HTP as a dietary supplement helps with strict diet, when levels of serotonin significantly decreases, which reveals a craving for carbohydrates. 5-HTP stops appetite and greatly helps to deal with starvation during the diet. When serotonin levels are too low, there may be sudden aggression, fatigue and depression.

Since the amino acid 5-HTP improves mood and increases energy levels, using the serotonin supplements is much easier to persevere in the ongoing weight loss treatment. Some studies have shown that low serotonin levels are directly associated with increased appetite and binge eating. Therefore, by increasing serotonin levels appetite is reduced and the craving for carbohydrates is diminished completely.

5-HTP use:

Depression: Researches proved that 5-HTP depression treatment might be as effective as prescription antidepressant or anti anxiety medications and fewer side effects appears.

Migraine: Migraine is caused, inter alia, incorrect functioning of serotonin in the blood vessels. 5-HTP may help correct the interference functional.

Insomnia: 5-HTP reduces time of falling asleep halfway, but without disturbing sleeping patterns. Besides helps to return to wakefulness faster and to quicker concentration. It’s all thanks to cooperation with melatonin, which is serotonin metabolite and depends on its level.

Decrease appetite and weight loss: It has been demonstrated that 5-HTP reduces appetite and after a relatively short period of time can lead to significant weight loss. 5-HTP is safe and easy digestible.

Heart and circulatory system diseases: It is known that adrenaline stimulates the heart muscle and increases cardiac output (ventricular ejection of blood into the arteries). Consequently rises systolic blood pressure. Trough damping fear and aggression properties, 5-HTP has positive effect on the heart and circulatory system by protecting from excessive doses of adrenaline. Which also may leads to proper blood pressure.

Fibromyalgia: Increasing levels of serotonin by taking 5-HTP improves symptoms including pain severity, anxiety, joint rigidity, morning stiffness and sleeplessness. However it may not work for all people with that disease and more studies are needed to prove its effect.

Panic attacks: 5-HTP may reduce the severity of a panic attack which can partly be due to low serotonin levels.

5-HTP sources:

5-HTP is made from tryptophan in the body which can be found in food like turkey, chicken, milk, potatoes, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, turnip and collard greens, and seaweed. However the production and intake may not be sufficient. There are some supplements which are made from extracts of the seeds of the African tree Griffonia simplicifolia.5-HTP can also be found in many multivitamin and herbal preparations.

5-HTP dosage:

There is no 5-HTP dose for children and it should not be given to children.
Generally is recommended to take 50mg 1-3 times per day. It is always good to consult the dose with health care provider, who can help determine the right dose for patient.

The appropriate dose of 5-HTP depends on health and other conditions:

  • Depression: 300 – 400 mg per day
  • Migraine: 400 – 600 mg per day
  • Insomnia: 100 – 300 mg per day
  • Fibromyalgia: 300 mg per day
  • Weight loss: 600 – 900 mg per day

To improve the general well-being and mood 5-HTP dose is 100 – 200 mg per day.

5-HTP should be taken within two hours before or after a meal. It works best with a carbohydrate rich-snack or some liquid (e.g. orange juice). After taking 5-HTP it is good to avoid food rich in protein to optimize the absorption of the supplement into the blood. It is necessary to take vitamin C, B3, B6 and magnesium at the same time.
Overdosing 5-HTP may cause nausea, diarrhea, stomach upset and vomiting.

5-HTP and side effects

Side effect of 5-HTP are mild and may include heartburn, stomach pain, gas, feelings of fullness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, sexual problems and muscle problems.
5-HTP may cause a serious side effect called eosinophilia myalgia syndrome but there is not enough scientific evidence to know it for sure.

People with high blood pressure or diabetes should talk to their doctors before using 5-HTP. People with liver disease, pregnant or breastfeeding woman should not take 5-HTP. There are some reports of 5-HTP causing seizures in some people with Down syndrome.
It is possible that regular use of 5-HTP in high doses could cause impotence in some men and dampen sex drive in a man and woman. Erections are often returned to normal after a week or two of stopping it. To help improve libido Passion Rx is a good option, so are maca, muira puama, catuaba, tribulus terrestris, and horny goat weed.

Possible 5-HTP drug interactions

Although interactions with other drugs are not well known, people who takes 5-HTP should be cautioned and consult with their doctors before using it. The dangerous side effects may occur after taking 5-HTP with other medication.

Antidepressants – some medications for depression also increase serotonin and taking 5-HTP along with these medications might increase serotonin too much and cause serious side effect called serotonin syndrome. It is dangerous condition involving mental changes, hot flashes, rapidly fluctuating blood pressure and heart rate and possibly coma.

Antidepressant medication that can interact with 5-HTP include:

  • SSRIs: Citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Laxapro), fluvoxamine (Luvox), paroxetine (Paxil), fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Tricyclics: Amitriptyline (Elavil), nortryptyline (Pamelor), imipramine (Tofranil)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): Phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate)
  • Nefazodone (Serzone)


Carbidoba – medication used as a treatment for symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Taking 5-HTP with carbidoba may cause a scleroderma-like illness. Scleroderma is a condition where the skin becomes hard, thick and inflamed.

Tramadol (Ultram) – used for pain relief and sometimes prescribes for people with fibromyalgia. If taken with 5-HTP may raise serotonin levels in the brain too much and cause serotonin syndrome.
Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, and others) – found in cough syrups. Taking 5-HTP along with dextromethorphan might cause too much serotonin in the brain and serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, anxiety and condition called serotonin syndrome.
Meperidine (Demerol) – Taking 5-HTP with Demerol may dangerously increase serotonin levels and cause heart problems, shivering, anxiety and condition called serotonin syndrome.
Triptans – used to treat migraines. 5-HTP can increase the risk of side effects, including serotonin syndrome, when taken with these medications:

  • Naratriptan (Amerge)
  • Rizatriptan (Maxalt)
  • Sumatriptan (Imitrex)
  • Zolmitriptan (Zomig)

Pentazocine (Talwin) – Taking 5-HTP along with Talwin might increase serotonin too much. This could cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering and anxiety.

5-HTP and alcohol

Alcohol same as 5-HTP affects serotonin pathways. It is impossible to know exactly how combination of 5-HTP and alcohol may turn out especially since serotonin has a complex effect in the central nervous system. However, alcohol reduces serotonin levels and activity almost immediately.

Therefore, those taking 5-HTP for its health benefits should avoid taking alcohol since this will reduce the therapeutic benefits of 5-HTP supplementation. At least six hours should be allowed between using alcohol and 5-HTP. Even so there were some cases that combination of 5-HTP and alcohol caused nausea and heart palpitation while maintain the time interval.
Long – term use of alcohol allows the body develop tolerance and physical dependence to the psychoactive agent. When alcohol consumptions is stopped, alcohol withdrawal syndrome may occur. Signs of alcohol withdrawal syndrome include headache, migraines, irritability, restlessness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sleep disorders.

Since most of the symptoms can be alleviated by increasing serotonin levels in the central nervous system, dietary supplements such as 5-HTP can safely be used as adjunct therapy in the management of alcoholism. 5-HTP by increasing serotonin levels can help to improve mood, sleep and memory.

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