What is 5-HTP and why should I be taking it?

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5-HTP molecular structure

5-hydroxy­tryptophan or hydroxy L-tryptophan, to give it its full name, is an amino acid which is produced by the metabolism of tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in dairy, meat, potatoes and some other vegetables. It is not readily available from food.

5-HTP is probably better than tryptophan as a supplement, because it eliminates one of the steps in serotonin production and has fewer side effects. However, if you suffer from digestive problems like heartburn, nausea or diarrhea, or you start having vivid dreams or nightmares, it is best to discontinue use.

In conjunction with vitamin B6, 5-HTP is important for the production of serotonin (the “happiness vitamin”, although it’s not actually a vitamin), and melatonin – an important chemical in the sleep/wake control mechanism.

It is sold as a food supplement and used as an antidepressant, sleep aid and appetite suppressant, uses which are supported by research. It’s also sometimes taken by users of MDMA (ecstasy) in an attempt to replenish serotonin levels, which are depleted by MDMA.

Research has shown that 5-HTP supplementation:

  • improves symptoms of depression at a dose of 150-3000mg a day
  • helps reduce appetite/calorie intake and increase weight loss in obese people
  • reduces sleep problems associated with age and Alzheimer’s disease
  • improves fibromyalgia symptoms including pain, anxiety, fatigue and morning stiffness at a dose of 100mg 3 times a day
  • may reduce migraines in some affected adults
  • reduces shaking in Parkinson’s disease at a maximum dose of 150mg per day together with regular medication
  • improves schizophrenia symptoms in some patients when taken at a dose of 800-6000mg per day along with carbidopa
  • reduces withdrawal symptoms in recovering alcoholics
  • reduces insomnia and withdrawal symptoms in recovering heroin addicts at a dose of 200mg per day
5-HTP is not suitable for use by anyone who is taking prescribed medication for depression, specifically monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and SSRIs including fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), amitriptyline (Elavil), clomipramine (Anafranil), imipramine (Tofranil), phenelzine (Nardil) and tranylcypromine (Parnate). Not suitable for use without medical advice in combination with carbidopa (Lodosyn), dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM), meperidine (Demerol), pentazocine (Talwin) or tramadol (Ultram).

I offer 5-HTP in 100mg and 200mg capsules in my online shop.

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