5 HTP is a chemical that produces serotonin in the brain and promotes to reduce depression and anxiety, symptoms of fibromyalgia, migraines, and may be used as a sleep aid.
What Is 5 HTP ?
5-HTP (Hydroxytryptophan) supplements are made from seeds of an African tree called Griffonia Simplicifolia.
This naturally occurring compound is not found in food, however, it creates an essential amino acid called Tryptophan.
That is found in chicken, milk, potatoes, sunflower seeds, pumpkin, turnip, seaweed and many high protein foods. However, eating these foods will not increase 5-HTP levels but are nevertheless a nutritional source of tryptophan.
The main function of 5 HTP, is to produce serotonin in the brain. This is a neurotransmitter than sends signals between the neurons and is thought to be responsible for positive effects on moods and behavior. Deficiencies in serotonin levels may lead to depression.
Also, it is thought that Serotonin is related to a hormone called Melatonin. This plays a role in promoting better sleeping patterns.
This supplement is taken by users to reduce depression and anxiety and promote relaxation for a better nights’ sleep. There are a few other benefits as well.
5 HTP Benefits
Supplementing with 5-HTP may help in reducing many symptoms that are related to moods and may have positive effects on depression, anxiety, pain sensation and appetite.
The majority of Serotonin in the body can be found in the GI track (gastrointestinal track) but it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier itself to reach the brain, so it needs to be produced within the brain. This is 5 HTP’s main function.
The production of Serotonin in the brain plays the important role on moods. It is thought to be the “happy” neurotransmitter, giving us a feeling a peace and calmness and related to reducing feelings of depression and anxiety, insomnia and generally putting you in a better mood.
In preliminary studies, it is thought that 5-HTP may treat mild to moderate depression and reduce depression levels due to its effectiveness on serotonin levels, similar to some antidepressants.
Also, the increase in Serotonin in the body may have the ability to decrease hunger, which results in weight loss. However, generally, diet pills contain stimulants that cause short-term weight loss. 5 HTP is not a stimulant.
5 HTP is also thought to increase Serotonin which converts into Melatonin at a slow rate. This is a hormone that is found in the pineal gland in the brain that regulates sleeping patterns.
This is considered our “internal clock”, letting us know when it is time to sleep and time to wake up. Levels of Melatonin rise at night and drop during the day.
The increase of Melatonin is associated with restful sleep, going to sleep and staying asleep all night.
Also some studies have suggested that 5 HTP may have positive effects for people with fibromyalgia. This is a disorder that affects the muscles and bones and causes much pain throughout the body.
Fibromyalgia is thought to be directly related to low levels of serotonin in the body. The common method that is primarily used for this is antidepressants, which function to raise serotonin.
More research needs to be done on the effectiveness of 5 HTP on all benefits. It is not approved by the FDA for prevention or treatment of any medical conditions.
Why Take 5-HTP? It Promotes;
- Better sleeping patterns
- Moods are more balanced
- Reduce depression and insomnia
- Better sense of well being
- May reduce stress
Some common user reviews when taking 5-HTP:
- Takes about an hour to kick in
- Full effects of 5-HTP can take a few weeks
- Helps with depressive thoughts and reduce depression overall
- Can take away food cravings and you eat less
- You get a very controlled feeling of relaxation
- Gives you a better nights’ sleep
How Does 5-HTP Work?
5-HTP is a chemical that is made from tryptophan, an amino acid in the body sourced from either your diet or supplements, that travels to the liver and creates 5 HTP.
Once it turns into 5-HTP, it is than able to cross the blood-brain barrier, enter the brain and create serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, that sends signals between the neurons and responsible for our pain sensations, general mood and appetite.
Itself, Serotonin cannot cross the blood-brain barrier on it’s own. Serotonin increases Melatonin production, which is the primary hormone that helps regulate sleeping patterns.
When both these levels are increased, it may help you sleep better, reduce depression, help you feel more relaxed, help you sleep and gives you an all around sense of well being.
5 HTP Side Effects
5-HTP is considered possibly safely for adults within the recommended dosages and you can expect very little side effects if any. Mild side effects reported have been:
- stomach cramps
It is not recommended for pregnant or breast feeding women, children, any individuals suffering from down syndrome or people taking prescribed anti-depressants or for other cognitive purposes without a doctor’s approval first. This specifically applies to SSRI usage where the combination can be potentially lethal.
Also, if you have a scheduled surgery, you should stop taking 5 HTP 2 weeks prior.
5 HTP Dosage
It is recommended to always stay within the lowest dose available when starting on any new Nootropic supplement. This helps you gauge your body’s effect and find what out what works best for you.
If you are healthy individual and not diagnosed by a doctor with any disorder, the recommended dosage is 50mg -100mg per dose taken up to 3 times per day. Do not exceed 500mg per day.
These are general guidelines. If you have any concerns or have other medical conditions, please consult your doctor before using 5-HTP.
Serotonin syndrome occurs when there is an excessive amount of serotonin in the brain. Although the risk of serotonin syndrome is rare when taking 5 HTP at the proper dosages, this syndrome may have some serious side effects that need to be addressed. If not treated, severe cases of serotonin syndrome can be fatal.
Symptoms of Serotonin Syndrome include;
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid heartbeat
- Change in temperature
In order to decrease the chances of this occurring;
- It is not recommended to take 5 HTP at high dosages or with other herbal supplements that promote sleepiness and sedation including St.Johns wort, Valerian root, hops, catnip and skullcap.
- Do not take 5 HTP at high dosages or combined with any supplements and/or medications that raise serotonin levels or with prescribed neurological drugs including antidepressant medications (SSRI) or (MAOI classes).
- 5 HTP may have negative interactions with but not limited to (Cough medecines like Robitussin and others) tramadol (Ultram), zolpidem (Ambien), meperidine (Demerol), carbidopa (Lodosyn), pentazocine (Talwin), dextromethorphan (Robitussin and other cough medicines), phenobarbital (Donnatal), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin), and zolpidem (Ambien).