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Vitamins, Minerals and Dietary Supplements

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5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)

What is 5-HTP? Why do we need it?

5-HTP is an amino acid that occurs in the body. The body makes 5-HTP from tryptothan (an essential amino acid) and coverts it to serotonin, an important neurotransmitter. 5-HTP supplements help raise serotonin levels in the brain, which may have a positive effect on many body functions.

5-HTP may be helpful in treating a wide variety of conditions related to low serotonin levels. Studies suggest it as effective as some antidepressant drugs in treating mild to moderate depression, with patients reporting improvements in mood, anxiety, insomnia, and physical symptoms.

5-HTP may also benefit fibromyalgia patients. The primary cause of fibromyalgic pain is believed to come from low serotonin levels. 5-HTP has been shown to increase tolerance to pain, improve the quality of sleep, and relieve anxiety and depression associated with fibromyalgia.

How much 5-HTP should I take?

Many health experts recommend between 50-100 milligrams of 5-HTP per day for most conditions. Certain conditions may require higher doses; however, make sure to consult with your health practitioner before taking more than 100 milligrams per day.

What are some good sources of 5-HTP?

5-HTP is extracted from the seeds of griffonia simplicifolia, an African plant. The extract is purified and sold in individual supplements, or as part of a multivitamin. Dietary supplements of 5-HTP should be manufactured to a purity level of at least 99%.

What can happen if I don't get enough 5-HTP?

5-HTP is the immediate precursor of serotonin. A lack of 5-HTP can lead to lowered serotonin levels and associated conditions such as depression, increased anxiety, moodiness and sleep disorders.

What can happen if I take too much? Are there any side-effects I should be aware of?

5-HTP can cause mild nausea and flatulence. If you have high blood pressure or diabetes; are pregnant or nursing; and are taking antidepressant drugs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), make sure to consult your health care provider first. 5-HTP should also not be given to children or adolescents.

References

  • Birdsall TC. 5-hydroxytryptophan: a clinically-effective serotonin precursor. Altern
  • Med Rev 1998;3:271—280.
  • Byerley WF, et al. 5-hydroxytryptophan: a review of its antidepressant efficacy and adverse effects. J Clin Psychopharmacol 1987;7:127—137.
  • Juhl JH. Primary fibromyalgia syndrome and 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan: a 90-day open study. Altern Med Rev 1998;3:367—375.
  • Reibring L, Agren H, Hartvig P, et al. Uptake and utilization of [beta-11c] 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) in human brain studied by positron emission tomography. Pyschiatry Research 1992;45:215—225.
  • Van Hiele LJ. L-5-hydroxytryptophan in depression: the first substitution therapy in psychiatry? Neuropsychobiology 1980;6:230—240.

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