5-HTP: Everything You Need To Know
4 min

5-HTP: Everything You Need To Know

4 min

As a supplement, the use of 5-HTP has increased dramatically over the years. While the body naturally produces this chemical, many are looking to increase systemic levels in hopes of experiencing the benefits of this serotonin precursor. Read on to find out everything you need to know about 5-HTP.

With a name like something from a science fiction movie, 5-HTP, otherwise known as 5-hydroxytryptophan, is an all-natural supplement that leads to the production of serotonin. Once only available via prescription, today it can be purchased over the counter and online, so all can experience the possible benefits 5-HTP has to offer. But what exactly is it, and how does it work? In this article, we cover everything you need to know about 5-HTP.

What is 5-HTP?

What is 5-HTP?

5-HTP is an amino acid produced in certain animals and plants. The human body produces 5-HTP as a chemical byproduct of tryptophan, and a chemical precursor to serotonin. 5-HTP can also be found in the seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia, a climbing shrub native to West and Central Africa. From this source, 5-HTP is extracted and utilised in supplements as a means of boosting serotonin levels in the brain, resulting in a host of potential wellness benefits.

How 5-HTP works

In the body, 5-hydroxytryptophan is biosynthesised through the interaction between the amino acid L-tryptophan and the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase. From here, 5-HTP decarboxylates into serotonin—a neurotransmitter involved in regulating mood, sleep function, and digestion, among other functions. Given this, it's important that a steady supply of serotonin is available in the body. However, the half-life of 5-HTP is quite short, so it can be difficult to keep levels consistent. For this reason, there is some question over the extent of 5-HTP’s therapeutic prowess, as levels in the body can fluctuate quite dramatically. However, many people are still turning to 5-HTP supplements in an attempt to boost serotonin levels.

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Tryptophan Vs. 5-HTP: Understanding The Differences

Ways to discover 5-HTP

Ways to discover 5-HTP

Outside of naturally produced 5-HTP, the seed of Griffonia simplicifolia is the exclusive source of this chemical in supplements and other preparations. At present, all sorts of powdered extracts and capsules can be found that contain the compound in isolation or combined with other vitamins. As such, supplements make for an easy way to consistently dose 5-HTP and observe results.

Moreover, while food sources don’t contain 5-HTP itself, certain foods contain tryptophan, which then converts into 5-HTP in the body. That's right, foods such as chicken, milk, sunflower seeds, and potatoes all contain tryptophan naturally, making them another option for boosting 5-HTP levels, though indirectly and in lower concentrations than supplements.

What are the potential benefits of taking 5-HTP?

What are the potential benefits of taking 5-HTP?

As briefly discussed, the potential benefits of 5-HTP have to do with the benefits of serotonin, which plays numerous essential roles in the body. While there is little in the way of formal studies, below we highlight the key research surrounding this chemical's potential impact on wellness and various health conditions.

✅5-HTP and weight loss

There are many factors that contribute to weight loss, such as diet, exercise, and genetics. However, 5-HTP has been studied for its impact on weight loss, specifically in terms of its potential to counteract hunger-inducing hormones. In a 1998 study (Cangiano et al.), 20 participants with diabetes were given a course of 5-HTP or a placebo for two weeks. At the end of the study, results showed that those that had taken 5-HTP consumed around 400 calories less per day than participants that took the placebo. Furthermore, the increased presence of 5-HTP in the body promoted better blood sugar control as a result of reduced carbohydrate intake.

✅5-HTP and fibromyalgia

As a complex chronic condition, fibromyalgia is said to cause widespread pain throughout the body, in turn causing other ailments such as muscle stiffness, problems with sleep, and extreme fatigue, to name just a few. With no known cure for the condition, many turn to home remedies and other supplements to help manage symptoms.

In 1990, researchers examined 5-HTP in relation to muscle pain symptoms associated with the condition. However, although results are promising, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that 5-HTP is a valid future treatment for individuals with fibromyalgia. Especially since studies on the subject are dated, much more research on the relationship between fibromyalgia and 5-HTP needs to be conducted.

✅5-HTP and mood

There's no denying that the topic of depression, anxiety, and overall mental health is a hugely complex one. With no single “cure” for those afflicted, many choose to use various lifestyle enhancements, such as dietary supplements, in hopes of benefitting mood and easing the highs and lows of daily life. A review (K et al., 2002) sought to determine 5-HTP’s impact on depression, and considered over 108 associated trials. However, only two trials, featuring 64 patients total, met the inclusion criteria for the review. Here, 5-HTP outperformed placebo on both occasions, but the authors state that the results are still inconclusive.

✅5-HTP and sleep

5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin, the latter of which is a precursor to melatonin—a hormone crucial in regulating the sleep–wake cycle. A 2010 study (W et al.) shows data which indicates that those who took 5-HTP fell asleep faster, and overall slept for much longer compared to the placebo group. Of course, there are many factors contributing to a healthy night's sleep. Some we can control, and others we can't. However, the results of this particular study are a step in the right direction, albeit with more formal research required.

✅5-HTP and migraine

Those that suffer from migraines will attest to how debilitating they can be. So, how does 5-HTP hold up against the condition? In a trial from 1986 (Titus et al.), 124 participants prone to suffering migraines were administered 5-HTP alongside their migraine medication for 6 months. At the end of this study, around 71% of participants reported a significantly reduced number of migraines. While this doesn't supply us with concrete evidence, 5-HTP is certainly worthy of more dedicated study in this area.

Are there any side effects of using 5-HTP?

Are there any side effects of using 5-HTP?

Although mild, there are some side effects associated with taking normal doses of 5-HTP. Taken in very high doses, or when combined with serotonin-affecting medications, the threat of serotonin syndrome—a serious condition that causes elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and potentially even coma—is increased. Therefore, users should stick to the recommended daily doses listed on supplements and other products to avoid the risk of serotonin syndrome, as well as other, more mild side effects, such as:

  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhoea
  • Lightheadedness

Individuals with high blood pressure, diabetes, or those taking medication (especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, aka SSRIs) should consult a medical professional before taking 5-HTP.

Will 5-HTP show up on a drug test?

Many people are subject to regular, random drug tests, whether professionally or in a medical setting. With this in mind, does 5-HTP show up on a test or provide a false positive during drug screenings? Luckily, no; 5-HTP is not one of the substances drug testing facilities screen for, nor does it render a positive result.

Related article

Drug Tests: What You Need To Know

Take advantage of everything 5-HTP has to offer today

Take advantage of everything 5-HTP has to offer today

As you can see, there's plenty to consider when it comes to 5-HTP. While tryptophan is readily available in a wide variety of foods, when combined with 5-HTP supplements, the list of possible benefits is a long one. At the Zamnesia Healthshop, it's easy to get your hands on top-quality 5-HTP supplements that work with your lifestyle and slot right into your schedule. Head over to our store and get your pick of the finest wellness products available today.

Adam Parsons
Adam Parsons
Professional cannabis journalist, copywriter, and author Adam Parsons is a long-time staff member of Zamnesia. Tasked with covering a wide range of topics from CBD to psychedelics and everything in between, Adam creates blog posts, guides, and explores an ever-growing range of products.
  • Cangiano, C, Laviano, A, Ben, M Del, Preziosa, I, Angelico, F, Cascino, A, Rossi-Fanelli, & F. (1998, July). Effects of oral 5-hydroxy-tryptophan on energy intake and macronutrient selection in non-insulin dependent diabetic patients -
  • Caruso, I., Puttini, P. S., Cazzola, M., & Azzolini, V. (1990). Double-Blind Study of 5-Hydroxytryptophan versus Placebo in the Treatment of Primary Fibromyalgia Syndrome. Journal of International Medical Research, 18(3), 201–209. -
  • Feliu Titus, Antoni Dávalos, Jordi Alom, & Agusti Codina. (1986). 5-Hydroxytryptophan versus Methysergide in the Prophylaxis of Migraine -
  • Shaw K, Turner J, & Del Mar C. (2002). Tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan for depression -
  • Shell W, Bullias D, Charuvastra E, May LA, & Silver DS. (2010 Mar-Apr). A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of an amino acid preparation on timing and quality of sleep -
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