What is 5-HTP?
The chemical 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a byproduct of tryptophan that the body creates from it. After tryptophan's conversion to 5-HTP, the chemical is altered into serotonin (a neurotransmitter that relays messages between brain cells).
5-HTP is a chemical that also occurs naturally in the seeds of an African shrub called Griffonia simplicifolia, which is used to produce supplements. Tryptophan, however, is present in a variety of foods and 5-HTP levels are modestly increased by eating meals containing tryptophan.
Tryptophan is the least abundant of all 20 dietary amino acids in a standard diet based on animal protein or a vegetarian diet.
A high-carbohydrate, low-protein diet is the only way to increase brain tryptophan levels. Increased levels occur because the body releases large amounts of insulin when significant quantities of carbohydrates are consumed to control high blood sugar.
Insulin lowers blood sugar levels by removing the majority of the five amino acids that compete for a position on the tryptophan bus to the brain, in addition to inhibiting their uptake. As a result, tryptophan can ride solo, allowing it to reach the brain. (2)
The Health Benefits of 5-HTP
What does 5-HTP do for your body? It primarily stimulates the synthesis of serotonin, a “feel-good" neurotransmitter. Serotonin is why it may have beneficial effects on one's mood, energy levels, motivation, hunger, sleep quality, and nervous system functioning.
Because it can't cross the blood-brain barrier, serotonin cannot be taken as a supplement. However, taking 5-HTP is one approach to help the body obtain what it needs to produce more of its own serotonin.
5-HTP for Depression and Anxiety
While it is not effective for everyone, there is evidence to suggest that 5-HTP supplements can help reduce stress and depression symptoms, (3) among other things. In addition, 5-HTP may work as effectively as some antidepressant medicines in treating people with mild to moderate depression.
In essence, 5-HTP is a popular nootropic supplement that has been shown to have several advantages, but specific individuals should not use it. While some people find that 5-HTP, like the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class of antidepressants, which includes fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft), can help to elevate mood, others might have some adverse side effects.
When the effects of 5-HTP were compared to fluvoxamine (Luvox) in 63 individuals in a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, those who received 5-HTP experienced comparable outcomes to those who took Luvox, and they had fewer adverse effects. On the other hand, these small studies did not provide a definitive answer as to whether 5-HTP is as effective as SSRIs.
People who are taking antidepressants, in particular SSRIs, may find it helpful to take 5-HTP together with other antidepressants or medicines for additional assistance. In addition, people who are SSRI-resistant (4) can benefit from using 5-HTP.
A lack of serotonin, according to doctors, is often linked to anxiety and panic. However, research has yet to show that increasing serotonin with 5-HTP is an effective technique for lowering anxiety.
Levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin are also decreased in people with ADHD. Therefore, elevating serotonin levels can help improve sleep, mood, anxiety, hunger, and pain perception in persons with ADHD who take 5-HTP dietary supplements.
The serotonin nerve pathways encourage feelings of calmness, well-being, personal security, confidence, concentration, and relaxation. An article published in Nutrition Review (1) stated that serotonin nerve circuits promote feelings of well-being, calmness, relaxation, personal and security.
5-HTP May Help Improve Your Quality of Sleep
Will 5-HTP make you drowsy? It isn't the same as sleep-inducing drugs, which can leave you feeling very drowsy; however, it will help you sleep better by allowing you to feel calmer. In addition, this combination appears to work particularly well against insomnia when taken with GABA and valerian root, both of which are also available as over-the-counter supplements.
Sleep is better when serotonin is converted to melatonin, a hormone essential for regulating your circadian rhythm (your "internal clock").
People who took 5-HTP went to sleep faster and slept better than those given a placebo in one study. (5) To promote serotonin, experts recommend 200 to 400 mg at night, but it may take 6 to 12 weeks to be effective.
Obesity and Weight Loss
5-HTP has been studied in a few small research trials to see if it might assist people in losing weight. In one experiment, individuals who took 5-HTP ate less food than those who received a placebo, even though they were not attempting to diet. Researchers think that 5-HTP made people feel more satisfied after eating, even if they ate less.
When a placebo was compared to 5-HTP in a follow-up research, researchers discovered that individuals who took 5-HTP lost around 2% of body weight during the non-diet phase and another 3% during dieting. (6) Those taking a placebo did not lose any weight.
However, doses used in these trials were large, and many individuals reported adverse effects such as nausea. If you are severely overweight, see your doctor before using any weight-loss product. Remember that to lose more than a few pounds; you will have to change your eating and exercise habits.
5-HTP Improves Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
5-HTP may help your body generate more serotonin, which might help with fibromyalgia symptoms. Supplementing with 5-HTP might help reduce the severity of fibromyalgia, a disease characterized by muscular and bone discomfort as well as general weakness.
There is no known cause of fibromyalgia at this time, but low serotonin levels have been linked to the illness. As a result, researchers believe that increasing 5-HTP levels through supplements may help those who suffer from it.
5-HTP, in doses of at least 100 milligrams a day, three times daily, has been found to help decrease several fibromyalgia symptoms, including pain, soreness, anxiety, tiredness, and stiffness. Approximately 50% of patients experienced "fair" clinical improvement throughout the treatment period in one study. (7)
Headaches and Migraines
Researchers are still unclear about what causes migraines. According to evidence, low serotonin might be a trigger. 5-HTP can be used to treat migraines because it boosts serotonin levels and has been proven to help with migraine prevention. According to one study, 71% of people who took 5-HTP every day for six months reduced the frequency of their migraines. In another study, those who received 5-HTP experienced a 70 percent decrease in migraines, whereas the placebo group only had a 30 percent decrease. (8)
The neurotransmitter 5-HTP is found in foods, and dietary supplements containing it may help to boost serotonin levels in the brain. 5-HTP's insufficient intake of tryptophan has been linked to a range of physiological problems. Various studies have indicated that taking 5-HTP dietary supplements can improve sleep quality, mood, stress, anxiety, and pain relief.
Vital Mind is a supplement with a unique blend of precursors that can be converted into the major neurotransmitters in your nervous system. It contains 5-HTP, L-Tyrosine, Alpha GPC, and SAMe. These ingredients work together to increase alertness, focus, and motivation while also helping with stress management skills like learning new information or remembering what you have just learned - all without causing any side effects!
5-HTP in Your Diet
Chicken, turkey, milk, potatoes, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, turnip, and collard greens are all excellent sources of tryptophan.
You may be tempted to boost 5-HTP levels through foods high in tryptophan, but this is unlikely to help with your FMS or ME/CFS symptoms.
Because tryptophan in foods, such as turkey, isn't sufficient to boost your 5-HTP levels significantly, you won't get any benefits. It might also be blocked from actually getting to your brain due to the blood-brain barrier.
Meanwhile, 5-HTP supplements have more significant amounts in them, are quickly absorbed by the body, and pass through the blood-brain barrier, making them considerably more potent than dietary tryptophan.
Possible Drug Interactions
If you're presently taking any of the following medicines, you should not take 5-HTP without consulting your doctor first.
5-HTP should not be taken by anybody using antidepressants without their doctor's approval. A 5-HTP supplement should not be used if you are on any of the following medicines:
Other medications such as:
- Tramadol - used to ease/relieve pain and sometimes prescribed for people with fibromyalgia
- Carbidopa - a medication used to treat Parkinson's disease
- Triptans - medicines used to treat migraines
- Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM) - found in cough syrups, may cause serotonin levels to increase to dangerous levels,
Possible Side Effects
Although tryptophan supplements are safe in most cases, they are still prohibited in a few countries. When it comes to elevating one's mood, 5-HTP is considered an excellent alternative to tryptophan supplements and can work in a similar way. However, there are some possible side effects to be aware of.
When taking 5-HTP supplements, some people may feel nauseated or sick to their stomachs. These adverse effects are dose-related and become more severe as your dosage rises.
To minimize these adverse effects, you can start with a dosage of 50–100 mg twice daily and gradually increase until you find the optimum dose.
Serotonin can be increased in the body by certain medicines. Combining these medications with 5-HTP may result in high serotonin levels in your body. This high serotonin level is known as serotonin syndrome, a potentially fatal illness caused by combining these substances.
Certain antidepressants, cough medicines, or prescription pain relievers may also boost your serotonin levels. However, combining 5-HTP with prescription sedative drugs may induce too much sleepiness.
Consult your physician or pharmacist before taking 5-HTP supplements if you’re taking medications, as there is a chance of adverse interactions with other medicines.
It's worth talking to your healthcare provider to see if a 5-HTP supplement could improve your quality of life. If a 5-HTP supplement is for you, you can find it in our Vital Mind supplement, which has been specifically designed for the high functioning adult who is looking to maintain an elevated level of mental performance throughout the day.
Looking for a quality 5-HTP supplement?
Our Vital Mind supplement contains 5-HTP and is designed for those looking for a brain supplement that will help them to increase all aspects of their mental performance while maintaining a calm, balanced mood and without any negative effects on sleep.
Our Vital Mind supplement is also part of our Brain Protocol and Brain Protocol+ bundles, which add our Neuro Calm and Magnesium Supplements, which, alongside Vital Mind, act as the yin and yang, are designed to harmonize the rise and fall of alertness, focus, and calm states throughout the day by providing all of the building blocks needed for neuronal signaling.