The body is constantly producing the essential chemicals that it needs from various sources, including amino acids, vitamins, protein, minerals, and other nutrients you consume on a daily basis. These chemicals the body creates are then often used to produce even more specific chemicals. 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a good example of such a chemical. The body uses tryptophan, an amino acid found in food, to produce the 5-HTP chemical, which is then subsequently used to synthesize the neurotransmitter known as serotonin. Serotonin is one of the neurotransmitters researchers believe contributes to a sense of well-being and happiness and can help regulate anxiety levels and related symptoms.
However, while tryptophan is found in food, 5-HTP is not found in any food source. Nevertheless, there are dietary supplements which can raise 5-HTP levels and subsequently raise serotonin levels. These supplements are created from the seeds of the Griffonia simplicifolia shrub native to West and Central Africa, and are widely available.
There is as large body of research related to the study of 5-HTP. Rather than attempt to summarize all of the scientific literature, we will list these studies for you to review at your convenience:
- Effect of a serotonin precursor and uptake inhibitor in anxiety disorders; a double-blind comparison of 5-hydroxytryptophan, clomipramine and placebo.
- 5-HTP efficacy and contraindications
- The treatment of depression with L-5-hydroxytryptophan versus imipramine. Results of two open and one double-blind study.
- Behavioral, neuroendocrine, and biochemical effects of 5-hydroxytryptophan administration in panic disorder.
Mechanism of Action
5-HTP primarily functions as a building block for the serotonin neurotransmitter. Consumption of 5-HTP via dietary supplements will thus cause the body to create more serotonin, thereby possibly producing a sense of well-being and happiness in the individual while also decreasing anxiety and any related symptoms.
Side Effects & Safety
Due to the rare possibility of the “Peak X” contaminant in 5-HTP supplements, it is important to not take more than a regular dose of 5-HTP. Read more about this contaminant problem here.
Other side effects may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Heart burn
Consult with your doctor before taking 5-HTP supplements in conjunction with psychiatric medications, as there may be negative interactions between them.
Pregnant or nursing women should not take 5-HTP supplements.
Where to Purchase
5-HTP supplements can be purchased on Amazon.