What is 5-HTP?
5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is used to treat sleep disorders, often caused by insomnia, anxiety, depression, migraine, tension headache, obesity, PMS, Parkinson’s Disease, seizure disorder, ADHD, and other related conditions. It is a chemical by-product of L-tryptophan. It is also produced from the seeds of the Griffonia Simplicifolia plant.
How does 5-HTP work?
5-HTP increases the production of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin helps to regulate sleep, temperature, appetite, sexual drive, and sensations of pain, among other things, and so it can have a profound effect on sleep and restfulness.
What is 5-HTP used for and how effective is it?
Two of the most intriguing areas in which serotonin has been successfully applied are in the treatment of depression, and in some negative effects of Down syndrome.
Some research indicates that oral administration of 5-HTP reduces symptoms of depression. More study needs to be done, but early indications are that it might be as effective as conventional antidepressant therapy in some patients.
Some studies also show that giving 5-HTP to infants with Down syndrome can improve muscle activity – though other studies seem to contradict this. It may be that taking it alongside conventional drugs is the key to its efficacy, improving overall results to improve development, including social and language skills.
Side Effects of 5-HTP
It seems that, for most people, it is safe to take 5-HTP orally, though that is not the case for everyone. Some people report experiencing eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS) after taking the drug by mouth. EMS is a serious condition involving extreme muscle tenderness (myalgia) and blood abnormalities (eosinophilia). This may be caused by an accidental ingredient in some 5-HTP products, but this has not yet been determined.
There are some other potential side effects too, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, heartburn, stomach pain, drowsiness, muscle weakness or soreness, and problems with sexual performance.
It is not recommended to take 5-HTP by mouth in large doses. Doses of 6-10g daily can cause severe stomach problems and muscle spasms, especially in the stomach area.
Special Safety Precautions
Daily doses of up to 5mg/kg have been used safely in infants for up to 3 years, and in children up to age 12. There are still concerns about EMS, as there are for adults, and so caution is advised and a doctor should always be advised of how things are going, and of any apparent changes or possible problems or symptoms.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is recommended that you do not use 5-HTP. There is not enough reliable information on the possible negative effects of 5-HTP on unborn or nursing babies.
If you are planning on undergoing surgery, it is also recommended that you do not use 5-HTP. Since 5-HTP affects serotonin levels, it can compound with some drugs administered during surgery that also affect serotonin, creating a magnified effect. Serious side effects can occur from this combination, including uncontrollable shivering, increased anxiety, and heart problems. It is best to avoid 5-HTP if you are going into surgery, and to inform doctors of 5-HTP use in the event of an accident that may require surgery.
It’s always better to err on the side of caution.
Sometimes it might be easier for you to take a daily vitamin to increase your 5-HTP levels instead of getting it through dietary changes.
If you're interested in taking supplementation for this nutrient, then learn more about our 5-htp supplements here.