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5-HTP: A Comprehensive Guide

13 Mar, 2024
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Top Ten FAQ's - 5-HTP

What is 5-HTP?

5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a naturally occurring amino acid that is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is involved in mood, appetite, and sleep regulation.1

What are the benefits of taking 5-HTP?

Benefits of 5-HTP may include improvement of mood, reduction of depressive symptoms, aid in sleep, help in controlling appetite, and potentially reducing the frequency of migraine headaches.2

How does 5-HTP work in the body?

In the body, 5-HTP is converted into serotonin, an important hormone and neurotransmitter. Serotonin can be further converted to the hormone melatonin. Both hormones are important for sleep, mood, cognition, and other neurological processes.2

How long does it take for 5-HTP to start working?

The effects of 5-HTP can vary. While some individuals may notice benefits within a few days, others may not experience benefits for several weeks or more.

Can 5-HTP help with weight loss?

Some studies suggest that 5-HTP may help control appetite and support weight loss, but more research is needed3. 5-HTP should only be used as a complement to diet and exercise, not as a sole method of weight loss.

Is 5-HTP effective for managing depression?

There is some evidence that 5-HTP may help alleviate symptoms of mild to moderate depression, but it should not replace professional medical advice or prescribed antidepressants.2

Can 5-HTP improve sleep quality?

Because of its role in serotonin and melatonin production, 5-HTP may help improve sleep quality for some people by helping regulate sleep patterns.4

How much 5-HTP should I take for anxiety?

5-HTP dosage can vary depending on individual needs, but it's common to start with a low dose and increase as needed under the guidance of a healthcare provider. Doses of up to 400 mg per day for one year are thought to be generally safe.1

Are there any side effects of taking 5-HTP?

Possible side effects of 5-HTP may include nausea, diarrhoea, heartburn, drowsiness, and stomach pain.1 In rare cases, chronic high doses of 5-HTP may lead to more serious side effects, including serotonin syndrome, especially if taken with other medications that increase serotonin.2

Can 5-HTP be taken with other medications or supplements?

It is crucial to consult a healthcare provider before combining 5-HTP with other medications or supplements. 5-HTP may interact with antidepressants and other medications or supplements that affect the brain.1

In the pursuit of well-being, many turn to natural supplements to support their health.

One such supplement that has gained attention is 5-Hydroxytryptophan, more commonly known as 5-HTP. Derived from the seeds of the African plant Griffonia simplicifolia, 5-HTP is an amino acid that serves as a precursor to serotonin, a hormone and neurotransmitter that plays a pivotal role in regulating mood, appetite, and sleep.2

The Science Behind 5-HTP 

Serotonin is often called the ‘feel-good’ chemical because of its influence on mood and emotion. However, the body cannot produce serotonin without the right building blocks, one of which is 5-HTP, a product of tryptophan metabolism. After ingestion, 5-HTP is absorbed into the bloodstream and crosses the blood-brain barrier, where it is then converted into serotonin.5 This increased serotonin level may lead to improved mood and a sense of calmness and well-being.

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Mood Enhancement and Depression 

One of the most sought-after benefits of 5-HTP is its potential to enhance mood and combat depressive symptoms. Clinical studies have shown promising results, with 5-HTP improving the mood of participants with mild to moderate depression.2 While these findings are encouraging, it's important to note that 5-HTP is not a substitute for professional medical advice or prescribed medication. If you're struggling with depression, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare provider.

Sleep Quality and Insomnia 

5-HTP's role doesn't end with serotonin production. As night falls, the body uses serotonin to produce melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep.6 By potentially increasing melatonin levels, 5-HTP supplementation may improve sleep quality.4 For those tossing and turning at night, 5-HTP could be a gentle nudge towards restful slumber.

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Weight Management 

The modern diet is often high in calories but low in satisfaction. Here, 5-HTP may offer an advantage. By influencing serotonin levels, 5-HTP may help regulate appetite and reduce cravings, potentially aiding in weight management.3 However, it should be used to complement a healthy diet and regular exercise, not as a standalone solution.

Migraine Relief 

The torment of a migraine can overshadow all else. Some research suggests that 5-HTP may help prevent migraines, making it a potential ally for sufferers. Researchers believe that 5-HTP may modulate the central nervous system and interrupt the mechanism of migraines.2 However, migraines are complex, and what helps one person may not help another, so a personalised approach is essential.

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Dosage and Side Effects 

Navigating the world of supplements can be like walking a tightrope—balance is key. The recommended dosage of 5-HTP varies, but it’s typically recommended to start with a low dose and work your way up as needed. Common doses of 5-HTP range from 150-800 mg per day.1 Starting at a lower dose and consulting with a healthcare provider may minimise potential side effects, which include nausea, dizziness, and gastrointestinal issues.1 It is important to avoid high doses to prevent serious side effects, such as serotonin syndrome, particularly if taking other medications that affect serotonin levels.2

A Word of Caution 

While 5-HTP may seem like a beacon of hope, it’s not suitable for everyone. Pregnant or breastfeeding women, those with certain health conditions, and individuals taking medications with serotonergic properties should avoid 5-HTP due to a lack of safety information.1 Long-term use is also not well-studied, so it’s recommended that you use 5-HTP for short periods under the guidance of a healthcare provider.

5-HTP holds promise as a supplement for improving mood, aiding sleep, assisting in weight management, and potentially reducing migraines. However, it’s not a magic pill. Real and lasting health benefits come from a holistic approach that includes proper diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits, with supplements like 5-HTP playing a supporting role. As with any supplement, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure it aligns with your individual health needs and circumstances.



  1. MedlinePlus. 5-HTP.
  2. Maffei ME. 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP): Natural Occurrence, Analysis, Biosynthesis, Biotechnology, Physiology and ToxicologyInt J Mol Sci. 2020;22(1):181. Doi:10.3390/ijms22010181
  3. Sauer H, Mack I, Kohler S, et al. The effects of 5-hydroxytryptophan in combination with different Fatty acids on gastrointestinal functions: a pilot experimentGastroenterol Res Pract. 2014;2014:424503. Doi:10.1155/2014/424503
  4. Sutanto C, Heng CW, Gan AX, Wang X, Fam J, Kim JE. The impact of 5-hydroxytryptophan supplementation on sleep quality of older adults in Singapore: a randomized controlled trial. Curr Dev Nutr. 2021;5(Suppl 2):372.
  5. Bamalan OA, Moore MJ, Al Khalili Y. Physiology, serotonin. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2024.
  6. Erland LA, Saxena PK. Melatonin Natural Health Products and Supplements: Presence of Serotonin and Significant Variability of Melatonin ContentJ Clin Sleep Med. 2017;13(2):275-281. doi:10.5664/jcsm.6462