5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a natural chemical produced by the body. It is made from an essential amino acid called tryptophan, which comes from food. Once tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP, it becomes another chemical yet, called serotonin. 1
Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter responsible for relaying signals from one area of the brain to another. Because serotonin has a widespread distribution within the brain, it is believed to influence brain and body functions such as mood, sleep, appetite, memory, sexual desire and certain social behaviors.
While tryptophan naturally occurs in food, 5-HTP does not. Therefore, 5-HTP has to be obtained via supplements, which come from the seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia, an African plant.1,2 5-HTP supplements are available and are also a common compound found in many multivitamins and other prepared herbal remedies.1
5-HTP Health Uses and Health Benefits
Because 5-HTP changes into serotonin in the body, it is believed that 5-HTP dietary supplements have very positive effects on several conditions including some that may be caused by a lack of serotonin.
5-HTP health benefits are natural and possibly include:1,2,3
- Treating mild to moderate depression
- Reducing levels of anxiety and stress
- Helping to fight fatigue and correcting sleep disorders
- Relieving pain such as with fibromyalgia
- Alleviating migraine and tension headaches
- Correcting sexual dysfunctions
- Reducing menopause and PMS symptoms
- Preventing obesity by promoting satiety or the feeling of being full
5-HTP health benefits make it a possibly effective natural treatment for the following conditions:
- Depression - Taking 5-HTP for depression can help to increase serotonin production in the body which can help elevate mood, improve sleep and correct general depressive symptoms.
- Epilepsy - People with epilepsy have severe seizures due to various brain traumas or conditions. 5-HTP has a positive effect on the brain, specifically the production of serotonin which can help to control seizures.
- Fibromyalgia Syndrome - Fibromyalgia creates a variety of symptoms such as pain, fatigue, anxiety and morning stiffness. 5-HTP is thought to help improve a variety of these fibromyalgia symptoms, including 5-HTP for sleep improvement.
- Migraine - Taking 5-HTP for migraines may have a positive effect such as reducing the sensitivity to light and other symptoms associated with migraines like nausea.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - People suffering from OCD often feel anxiety and stress. Taking 5-HTP for anxiety and stress symptoms of OCD may help to improve the condition by increasing serotonin production.
- Anxiety Disorder - Taking 5-HTP for anxiety disorder may help to improve the condition. 5-HTP may help anxiety disorder by increasing serotonin which helps to calm the brain and stabilize mood.
5-HTP Side Effects and Precautions
Here are some 5-HTP side effects and precautions to be aware of before taking this dietary supplement:
- Dietary supplements like 5-HTP may interfere with medications particularly antidepressants
- 5-HTP side effects may include heartburn, gas and nausea
- High doses of 5-HTP may cause toxicity or a condition called serotonin syndrome which is the result of too much serotonin
- If you have liver disease or are pregnant or breastfeeding you should not take 5-HTP supplements
- Always take low doses of 5-HTP to start and talk to your doctor before using 5-HTP to treat any condition