5-Hydroxytryptophan or 5-HTP is an amino acid that increases production of serotonin in the brain alleviating anxiety, depression, insomnia, pain, carbohydrate cravings and more.
Here are some excerpts from an excellent paper published in Alternative Medicine Review in 1998 titled 5-Hydroxytryptophan: a clinically-effective serotonin precursor:
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an aromatic amino acid naturally produced by the body from the essential amino acid L-tryptophan. Produced commercially by extraction from the seeds of the African plant, Griffonia simplicifolia, 5-HTP has been used clinically for over 30 years. The clinical efficacy of 5-HTP is due to its ability to increase production of serotonin in the brain.
In the central nervous system (CNS), serotonin has been implicated in regulation of sleep, depression, anxiety, aggression, appetite, temperature, sexual behavior, and pain sensation.
Therapeutic administration of 5-HTP has been shown to be effective in treating a wide variety of conditions, including depression, fibromyalgia, binge eating associated with obesity, chronic headaches, and insomnia.
I advise my clients to take all the amino acids between meals and away from protein containing food so they are no getting competition from other amino acids, thereby affecting absorption of the targeted individual amino acid they are taking. I typically make the same recommendation for taking 5-HTP however I simply do this to make things less complicated. In actual fact, 5-HTP can be taken with meals:
Intestinal absorption of 5-HTP does not require the presence of a transport molecule, and is not affected by the presence of other amino acids; therefore it may be taken with meals without reducing its effectiveness.
The recommended starting dose for 5-HTP is 50mg two or three times a day and it is well absorbed:
Initial dosage for 5-HTP is usually 50 mg three times per day with meals. If the clinical response is inadequate after two weeks, dosage may be increased to 100 mg three times per day. For insomnia, the dosage is usually 100-300 mg before bedtime. Because some patients may experience mild nausea when initiating treatment with 5-HTP, it is advisable to begin with 50 mg doses and titrate upwards.
5-HTP is well absorbed from an oral dose, with about 70 percent ending up in the bloodstream. It easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and effectively increases central nervous system synthesis of serotonin.
It’s well recognized that 5-HTP (and tryptophan) can impact both serotonin and melatonin levels but is often less recognized that other neurotransmitters can be increased too:
Other neurotransmitters and CNS chemicals, such as melatonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and beta-endorphin have also been shown to increase following oral administration of 5-HTP.
You can read the complete paper here at altmedrev.com, a publication of Thorne Research Inc.
The author does seem to favor 5-HTP over tryptophan but I have found that many of my clients do better on one versus the other. I typically start my clients on tryptophan unless they have benefited from 5-HTP in the past. I would also recommend tryptophan at night if someone is wired-tired and adrenal testing shows high cortisol levels as 5-HTP can raise cortisol levels.
It really all comes down to our own biochemical individuality. I recommend doing a trial to see which amino acid is going to work for your symptoms. I write about this in this blog: How to do an amino acid trial for anxiety
Low serotonin MAY be a factor in anxiety and/or depression (and research shows this to be a fact). Anxiety and/or depression could have one of many possible causes – low serotonin, blood sugar instability, poor diet, not eating enough protein, sugar, caffeine, gluten, low dopamine (for depression), pyroluria, inflammation etc.
If low serotonin is a factor then 5-HTP (or tryptophan) is one way to start to raise serotonin levels so you can feel calm, confident, happy, pain-free again, as well as sleep through the night and end the afternoon and evening cravings.
Have you found 5-HTP to be effective? Please share how much you take/took and when, and how it made you feel. Did you also try tryptophan and do you prefer 5-HTP? We’d love to hear in the comments below.
Have you got questions? Feel free to ask in the comments below.
If this information sounds intriguing and you’d like practical help to figure out if you could possibly benefit from 5-HTP or one of the other amino acids, I invite you to join us in one of The Amazing Aminos for Anxiety homestudy group programs. This homestudy group program will provide guidance with using each of the targeted individual amino acids.