Scottsdale Acupuncture


What is 5-HTP?

Posted Tuesday, May 1st, 2018 by

5-htp, supplements, health

5-HTP, or 5-hydroxytryptophan, is a chemical byproduct of L-tryptophan, which is a building block of protein. It is made both naturally in the body and synthetically and can be used to treat a wide variety of issues, from insomnia to Parkinson’s disease. 5-HTP can help with these problems because it increases serotonin production in the brain and central nervous system. Essentially, any disease or condition directly affected by serotonin can be treated or supplemented using 5-HTP.

Where Does It Come From? 

5-HTP is synthesized from the seeds of Griffonia Simplicifolia, a plant native to West and Central Africa. It’s a relatively inexpensive herbal supplement that can be found in pill form in any major vitamin store. A bottle of 60 tablets will run you around $10-$20, depending on your place of purchase. In the body, it is produced from tryptophan through the processing of the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase.

While tryptophan can be consumed through many different foods, such as milk, potatoes, and various greens, this is a much slower and less abundant source of 5-HTP than direct supplementation.

Current 5-HTP Research

Studies have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of 5-HTP in the treatment of anxiety and depression. Current research on 5-HTP has come to a few solid conclusions.  First, 5-HTP crosses the blood-brain barrier. Serotonin cannot do this. It also converts into serotonin without any feedback inhibition. What this means for you as a user is that it essentially becomes a replacement serotonin boost, since serotonin can’t be taken directly.  5-HTP can convert into serotonin infinitely. The only reason it would not is if there was a shortage of an enzyme called L-aromatic amino acid decarboxylase in the body. This enzyme is responsible for the catalyzation of 5-HTP to serotonin.

The ability of 5-HTP to convert into serotonin is hugely important for diseases in the central nervous system. It has been shown that treating CNS diseases with serotonin is the best way to create the best outcomes for patients. Countless people swear by 5-HTP and believe it’s the reason why their depression has been relieved.

5-HTP has been found to be even more effective with the addition of carbidopa, which increases the availability of 5-HTP in the central nervous system. However, this combination is not without its problems. While carbidopa helps 5-HTP work better, it causes most of the side effects associated with the combination.

Depression is not the only subject of 5-HTP studies, however.  In this study, researchers found a direct relationship between increased levels of 5-HTP and increased satiety and lower BMI in overweight females. So, for those with trouble feeling satiated after eating, you may find relief from this problem by supplementing with 5-HTP.

Treating Anxiety and Depression

The two most common uses for 5-HTP are for weight loss, or for anxiety and depression. In the above-referenced study, 5-HTP relieved depression in 43.4% of the participants.

Since its switch from a prescription to an over-the-counter drug, it has gained a cult following of users who absolutely believe in its ability to alleviate depression and anxiety.

How to take 5-HTP

As previously mentioned, 5-HTP comes in pill form. It is readily available in any vitamin store as a regular dietary supplement. It typically comes in either 50mg or 100mg capsules.  It can also be found as an oil, though this is much less common. The recommended daily dosage is usually between 100-500 mg, though if you are taking it without any other drugs or supplements, a higher dosage may be necessary.

However, if you want to boost the potential results of 5-HTP, you can utilize another powerful chemical.  This particular chemical, called EGCG, is a green tea extract. It is a natural addition to 5-HTP. While 5-HTP increases satiety, EGCG boosts energy levels while exercising. So, you’ll be taking in less calories, and burning more. It is a powerful combination for weight loss. Just remember, if you’re taking 5-HTP to help with weight loss, it is recommended that you take it with food for the best results. For more information on the relationship between 5-HTP and EGCG, check out this article.

Side Effects and Risks of 5-HTP

Most people can take 5-HTP without any side effects. The most serious side effect, however, is a condition called eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome. This condition causes extreme muscle fatigue and blood abnormalities. Other less serious problems may include sexual dysfunction, stomach pain and vomiting, diarrhea, heartburn, and drowsiness. Again, these occurrences are few and far between.

As with any change in your medical routine, it is important that when taking 5-HTP you consult your healthcare professional. If you’re looking for something to help you feel better and less anxious, then 5-HTP is for you!