What is 5-HTP?
5-Hydroxytryptophan became available in 1995 as an extract from the seeds of an African shrub Griffonia simplicifolia. It converts into serotonin which notably enhances relaxation, sleep and mood. 5-HTP can be taken with or without food and can be used with many other supplements safely. It is commonly available and considered to be a natural and safe supplement
How does 5-HTP work?
As a naturally occurring amino acid, 5-HTP is like the 'mother' of serotonin, the brain's 'happy' neurotransmitter. Some people have relatively low levels of serotonin and as a result can experience depression of various levels. Using 5-HTP to boost serotonin levels can have a very positive effect on mood, sleep disorders and even obesity due to its appetite reducing properties.
Studies on 5-HTP
Double-blind trials show good comparative results. One trial at the Basle University of Psychiatry gave 34 patients 300mg of 5-HTP and 29 patients the prescription antidepressant fluvoxamine which is from the same family of drugs as Prozac (SSRI - selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). At the end of the 6 week trial, although both groups showed significant improvement on assessment for depression, 5-HTP showed greater improvement in all four categories assessed: depression, anxiety, insomnia and physical symptoms.
* Depression, strong evidence exists for its effectiveness as a mood enhancer
* Fibromyalgia, the relief of symptoms such as sleeplessness, stiffness and pain
* Sleep disorders/insomnia
* SAD (seasonal affective disorder)
* Bipolar disorder
* Parkinson's disease
* Alzheimer's disease
* Weight loss/obesity
Potential side effects
At one time, there was a concern about 5-HTP and EMS (eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome) which was due to a contaminant in early supplies in the USA. Since then, 5-HTP has been used safely with no published reports of serious side effects. Because it works by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, 5-HTP should not be used with other serotonin enhancing supplements or with drugs used for the treatment of depression. There have been reports that 5-HTP use may cause seizures in some people with Down's syndrome. When combined with carpidopa (as a Parkinson's disease treatment) there have been reports of nausea and vomiting.
Recommendations vary, but many sources suggest 50-100mg three times a day and some suggest starting with less and gradually increasing the dose. If used to aid sleep then 50-100mg of the daily total is recommended at night. It may take six weeks before full affects are achieved.
5-HTP is often given to spiders by silk farmers in order to stimulate production of stronger silk.