5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a nootropic and an essential chemical in the body. The body derives it from an amino acid called tryptophan. It can also be obtained from the seeds of a West African plant known as Griffonia simplicifolia. Its sole duty in the human body is with the brain’s neurotransmission. It gets converted directly into a neurotransmitter called serotonin which relays signals between the brain cells. The mere fact that it is involved with brain activities makes it an absolute necessity. The brain is the driver of the body and any slight malfunction would seriously manifest itself in the general well-being of the body.

Since the body does not produce the 5-HTP by itself, herbal supplements from the plant’s seeds have been made to curb the deficiency. Though one can eat the normal food that has the tryptophan, the quantities found in food are negligibly able to raise the serotonin levels to the required level. Serotonin is well-known for its regulation of mood and behavior.

How 5-HTP works

Typically, 5-HTP works in the central nervous system and the brain by increasing the production of serotonin. An enzyme called tryptophan hydroxylase stimulates the conversion of tryptophan into 5-HTP. The normal levels of the neurotransmitter have a remarkable impact on the general mood, sleep, anxiety appetite, pain sensation, migraines, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Fibromyalgia and chronic headaches.

The benefits of 5-HTP

Quite a number of research have been done regarding the effectiveness of the use of 5-HTP. Though the evidence might not be so much compelling, a few studies have shown the 5-HTP being better than most of the other means of raising the level of serotonin. There are moreover, several propositions from medical studies suggesting and high-rating the use of the 5-HTP.

Perhaps, it would be better to understand the seriousness of the deficiency of serotonin first. Reduction in the production of serotonin in the body is often linked to age. The older an individual grow, the lesser the production and consequently the more the brain functioning depreciates. Additionally, stress could aggravate the problem of production of the neurotransmitter. This could eventually lead to disorders and conditions like insomnia, depression among other conditions mentioned above.

5-HTP for depression

Some research has previously shown that 5-HTP could equally work like the other antidepressant drugs. Just like the SSRIs such as Prozac and Zoloft, it raises the levels of serotonin in the brain. Other studies showed that taking the 5-HTP orally proves to be more effective. This is based on the fact that daily dosage of about 150-3000 mg for about 2 to 4 weeks have been observed to reduce the symptoms of depression significantly. Earlier, there were researchers who suggested that the 5-HTP could work as much well as a conventional antidepressant therapy for the affected individuals.

A sample of 63 individuals was taken in a study to compare the efficiency of 5-HTP and fluvoxamine (Luvox). The research found out that those given the 5-HTP showed the same improvements to those who used Luvox. The 5-HTP, furthermore, had fewer side effects than the Luvox. The only limitation for the research, however, was the sample size. 63 was a small number to conclude that 5-HTP is the ultimate way to fight depression.

Fighting anxiety with 5-HTP

There is little evidence to justify this. Suggestions from earlier research showed that giving about 25-150 mg accompanied with carbidopa helped individuals with anxiety disorder by reducing its symptoms. Conversely, some other early studies realized that taking higher doses of more than 225mg could escalate the anxiety. They also proved that taking about 60mg through the vein does not help reduce anxiety for people having panic disorder.

Some other recent research confirmed that 5-HTP protects against pain attacks that are carbon dioxide-induced. In an attempt to prove whether 5-HTP works like the other anti-anxiety drugs, a study that compared it with clomipramine (a medication for anxiety) was carried out. The results were not bad, only that 5-HTP was not as effective as clomipramine.

5-HTP for good sleep

Insomnia has been a condition affecting people especially the aged. Apart from fatigue, sleeping disorder could lead to other undesirable conditions like memory impairment, stress, and even depression. Tryptophan, which was previously used, proved to work well against sleeping disorder. Recent studies, however, proved that 5-HTP had better results than tryptophan. Use of 5-HTP to increase the level of serotonin also increases the level of melatonin (a hormone known to be responsible for the sleep-wake cycle). The hormone ensures consistency in the sleeping patterns and duration. The increase is, however, not sufficient to alter the sleeping patterns significantly.

Another research was carried out to compare the 5-HTP with placebo. The results indicated that people who took 5-HTP slept quicker and deeper than the latter. In fact, it was recommended that one takes 200mg to 400mg at night to stimulate serotonin which might take about 6 to 12 weeks to be fully effective.

5-HTP for Nervous system disorder

The disorder is also called Cerebellar ataxia. Early evidence showed that taking 5mg of 5-HTP daily would notably reduce nervous system dysfunction. On the contrary, other studies found out that taking the dose daily for one year do not improve the symptoms of cerebellar ataxia. Not much evidence is available for both the counter propositions.

The side effects of 5-HTP

There are quite a number of side effects resulting from its use. Common among them are the physical effects like headache, stomach pains, heart palpitations, heartburn, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, sexual problems, drowsiness, and muscle problems. Behavioral effects could include agitation, euphoria, anxiety, aggressiveness, insomnia, irritability, impaired decision making, restlessness, and mania. It could also heighten schizophrenia or any other mental disorder.

5-HTP dosage

Depending on the purpose of the administration, doses could be taken variably. Healthcare professionals recommend 50mg to be taken one to three times a day. Though some studies may recommend higher doses, it is good to keep in mind that excess of it may be parlous. For depression or anxiety, 150 to 300mg is the daily recommended dose. Splitting the dosage over the day could be the best way to deal with side effects like nausea and vomiting.

Buy 5-htp

The 5-HTP supplements are widely available in Europe though with various trade names like Levotonine, Telesol, Cincofarm, Levothym, Tript-OH, and Triptum. In the United States, UK and Canada, 5-HTP are traded over-the-counter.