- 5-HTP stands for 5-hydroxytryptophan.
- It comes from the seed of the Griffonia Simplicifolia plant.
- It is the precursor to serotonin, the happy hormone.
- 5-HTP increases brain serotonin.
- Benefits include improved sleep and reduced stress and anxiety. It may also help depression.
- Side effects include nausea in a small percentage of the population.
- 300-500mg of 5-HTP should be taken daily to get the associated benefits.
- 5-HTP SHOULD NOT be taken with antidepressants.
- 5-HTP can be bought as a standalone supplement or included in a comprehensive sleep supplement like SleepElite X Formulator’s Cut.
I would be willing to be the farm that everyone wants to feel happier.
Study after study has demonstrated the feeling happy can improve heart health, reduce stress, combat pain, increase longevity, and create a stronger immune system.
There are many ways to create more happiness in your life. Close friendships, a daily exercise program, a hobby you enjoy, spending times with loved one, and volunteering your time towards a worthy cause can all contribute to increased feelings of joy.
While the above examples are the best ways to create more happiness, sometimes it is not enough. This is where the supplement 5-HTP may be able to help.
In the article we will discuss what 5-HTP is, how it works, the benefits, side effects, and correct dosage.
What is 5-HTP?
5-HTP is a byproduct of L-Tryptophan (the amino acid that can make you sleepy) that is turned into serotonin in your brain. Everyone is probably familiar with or has heard of serotonin.
Serotonin is the hormone in your body that is involved with happiness and can have anti-depression effects.
It is used to treat several conditions such as depression, insomnia, and anxiety. So far 5-HTP sounds swell doesn’t it?
In sum, 5-HTP is a simple and effective way to increase brain serotonin which in turn can make you feel happier. But there are so many more benefit 5-HTP than just happiness. We will get to those after answering a few more questions about 5-HTP.
What does 5-HTP stand for?
Get ready for a mouthful. 5-HTP stands for 5 hydroxytryptophan (hi drox e trip toe fan). Basically 5-HTP is made in the body from the amino acid tryptophan before is it converted to serotonin by the enzyme L-amino acid decarboxylase.
Where does 5-HTP come from?
5-HTP can be naturally in the body via tryptophan but it can also be made in supplemental form from the seed of Griffonia Simplicifolia, a plant that is native to Africa.
Now on to the good stuff. Let’s briefly look at the benefits of 5-HTP before doing a deep dive into the research on it.
The benefits of 5-HTP include:
- Improves sleep
- Combats night terrors
- May help with depression
- Reduces stress and anxiety
Let’s look at the research behind these claims to see if 5-HTP is legit or not.
We already know 5-HTP is converted into serotonin in the body. What’s even better is this serotonin can then be converted into melatonin.
From previous articles we know the melatonin can help you feel asleep faster and lead to greater sleep quality.
However, there is one catch with 5-HTP and sleep quality. That is that is needs to be combined with GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) for it to be effective.
Case in point is a 2010 study conducted by Shell and colleagues.
This study was randomized, double blinded, and placebo controlled. In other words, it was legit. The researchers took eighteen patients with sleep disorders that were randomized into either a treatment group that received 5-HTP and GABA or a placebo group.
They measured variables such as sleep quality via a visual scale, sleep latency and duration using daily questionnaires, and autonomic nervous system function by measuring heart rate variability. After the data was collected and analyzed, the results were quite astounding. The researchers discovered:
- The time to fall asleep in the treatment group was reduced by 19 minutes whereas the placebo group had no change.
- Time spent asleep increased by ~2 hours in the treatment group whereas the placebo group increased time asleep by 30 minutes.
- Ease of falling asleep, awakenings, and AM grogginess improved in the treatment group but not the placebo group.
- Parasympathetic function improved in the treatment group by not the placebo group.
In sum the subjects who took the 5-HTP/GABA supplement reduced time to fall asleep, decreased sleep latency, increased the duration of sleep, and improved quality of sleep compared to placebo.
No one like nightmares and sleep terrors unless you are into that kind of stuff. The good news is 5-HTP may be able to squash frightening dreams.
A 2004 study conducted by Bruni et. al took 45 subjects (male and female) with a history of night terrors and gave then either 5-HTP or placebo on a nightly basis for 20 days.
The researchers discovered that the subjects who took 5-HTP had significantly fewer night terrors during the 20 days and for 6 months afterwards compared to placebo.
Earlier in this article we discussed how 5-HTP can increase brain serotonin levels. This is the primary mechanism by which 5-HTP is though to help with depression. However, more robust evidence in needed to fully support this claim.
Several studies have discovered reduced symptoms of depression when subjects take 5-HTP, but most are not placebo controlled or 5-HTP is combined with other compounds which make the results harder to decipher.
One such study conducted by van Hiele discovered that the combination of 5-HTP and carbidopa improved the treatment outcomes of 43 out of 99 clinically depressed subjects. The dose given was 50-600mg daily.
Everyone deals with stress and one of the top causes of stress in breaking up with a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend. Leave it to science to see if 5-HTP can reduce the stress of being dumped.
A 2010 study conducted by Emanuele et al. took 15 healthy subjects (11 females and 4 males) who recently experienced a breakup and were stressed out of their mind about it.
Researchers had the subjects take 60mg of 5-HTP daily for 6 weeks and were evaluated at baseline, at 3 weeks, and at the end of the 6-week supplemental period.
Using questionnaires and measuring serotonin levels, they found significant improvements in stress scores compared to baseline and increased platelet serotonin values.
How much 5-HTP should I take?
The dosage used in most studies to provide the benefits listed above is 300-500mg daily. This dose can either be taken once or divided into two doses throughout the day.
What’s particularly important about the dosage is the 5-HTP should by standardized to 98% and be derived from the Griffonia Simplicifolia plant.
There is some evidence to support that 5-HTP can act as an appetite suppressant which can in turn reduce weight. If you are using 5-HTP for this purpose it should be taken with meals
When to take 5-HTP
As a rule of thumb 5-HTP should be taken every day. While it provides acute benefits, the research supports it working better when taken for 20 days or more.
- When using as a sleep aid, take 5-HTP 20-30 minutes before bedtime.
- When using to reduce stress and anxiety, take 5-HTP first thing in the morning with breakfast
- When using to reduce appetite, take with a meal
How long does it take 5-HTP to work?
5-HTP can work in as little as 30-45 minutes to increase serotonin levels in the brain.
5-HTP side effects
Overall, 5-HTP has very few side effects in a small percentage of the population. These side effects can include:
- Muscle tenderness
- Copious amounts of happiness 😊
Who should not take 5-HTP?
According to examine.com “5-HTP should not be taken with any neurological drug that has been prescribed for antidepressant or other cognitive purposes unless cleared by a medical doctor. This is most important for SSRI usage, wherein the combination with 5-HTP is potentially lethal.”
Where to buy 5-HTP
5-HTP can be purchased as a stand-alone supplement on several online marketplaces for roughly $15-$30 or it can be purchased as part of a comprehensive supplement such as SleepElite X – Formulator’s Cut. A potent, research backed sleep supplement packed with 5-HTP, GABA, and several other sleep compounds that help you fall asleep fast and stay asleep all night.
About the author
Matt Mosman (MS, CISSN, CSCS) is a research scientist, endurance athlete, and the founder and Chief Endurance Officer at EndurElite. Matt holds his B.S. in Exercise Science from Creighton University and his M.S. in Exercise Physiology from the University of California. Matt and his family reside in Spearfish South Dakota, where they enjoy running, mountain biking, camping, and all the outdoor adventures Spearfish has to offer.
- Shell, W., Bullias, D., Charuvastra, E., May, L. A., & Silver, D. S. (2010). A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of an amino acid preparation on timing and quality of sleep. American journal of therapeutics, 17(2), 133-139.
- Guilleminault, C., Palombini, L., Pelayo, R., & Chervin, R. D. (2003). Sleepwalking and sleep terrors in prepubertal children: what triggers them? Pediatrics, 111(1), e17-e25.
- VAN, H., & VAN HIELE, L. J. (1980). L-5-HYDROXYTRYPTOPHAN IN DEPRESSION: THE FIRST SUBSTITUTION THERAPY IN PSYCHIATRY. THE TREATMENT OF 99 OUT-PATIENTS WITH" THERAPY-RESISTANT" DEPRESSIONS.
- Emanuele, E., Bertona, M., Minoretti, P., & Geroldi, D. (2010). An open-label trial of L-5-hydroxytryptophan in subjects with romantic stress. Neuroendocrinology Letters, 31(5), 663.
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