5 HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a chemical byproduct of the protein building block L-tryptophan, and is produced commercially the seeds of an African plant (Griffonia simplicifolia). This naturally occurring chemical in the body works in the brain and central nervous system by increasing the production of serotonin, which can affect sleep, appetite, temperature, sexual behavior and pain sensation.
This supplement has been used to treat a variety of disorders, but the most common include anxiety, sleep disorders, depression, primary fibromyalgia syndrome and migraines. It has also used to treat PMS, ADHD, and is often paired with prescription drugs to treat seizure disorders and Parkinson’s disease.
Some claim that evidence suggests that low serotonin levels are a common consequence of modern living — a lifestyle and dietary practice that is filled with stress. As a result, people become overweight, crave unhealthy foods, and experience bouts of depression. These symptoms are correctable, according to some, by raising serotonin levels (hence why the most common conditions that 5-HTP is used to treat are associated with low serotonin levels).
Common side effects of 5-HTP include:
- Gas or bloating
- Stomach discomfort or pain
- Decrease or lack of appetite (via WebMD)
Since 5-HTP is involved with the production of serotonin, you should be careful taking it if you are taking other medications that increase levels of serotonin. Drugs that are known to have serious interactions with 5-HTP include Marpla, Zyvox, Methylene blue, Nardil, and Parnate. It is also important that you talk to your doctor about taking 5-HTP if you are taking Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor (SNRIs), Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs) and migraine medications.
Because 5-HTP is an unregulated supplement, the guidelines for proper dosing are vague. For treating depression, 150 to 300 milligrams are recommended. For primary fibromyalgia syndrome, 100 milligrams three times a day for a brief amount of time is recommended. To take 5-HTP for a specific purpose, talk to your doctor about which dosage is right for you.
Keep in mind that a lot of the studies done on 5-HTP were conducted on animals (rather than humans) and more research is needed in order to determine what this supplement is most effective at treating.