5HTP (5-hydroxytriptan) is one of ten amino acids your body produces when you consume protein.
Your body uses 5HTP to produce serotonin (AKA ‘the happy chemical’), a neurotransmitter that helps moderate the transmission of signals between nerve cells. Thus, 5HTP supplements are used to treat health problems associated with low serotonin levels – such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
5HTP supplements are also an all-natural alternative to antidepressants. However, the main drawback is the lack of research regarding its effects.
In addition to the health concerns noted above, 5HTP has also been shown to improve symptoms for patients with the following conditions:
- Migraines and tension headaches
- Eating disorders
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Nervous system disorders
- Ramsey-Hunt syndrome
- Alcohol and drug withdrawal symptoms
As with any other supplement, it’s important to speak with your doctor to find out if 5HTP could interfere with existing medications. Start with a small dose and work your way up until you begin to notice effects.
Keep in mind that 5HTP is an unregulated supplement that has not been approved by the FDA for medicinal use. Do your research before you buy to ensure you are purchasing a quality product and taking the proper dose.
Doses between 25mg and 500mg have been studied in the lab, although not all studies included human participants. Researchers recommend taking between 150-300 mg per day for depression.
Some common side effects associated with 5HTP:
- Heartburns, gas, blasting
- Stomach pain
- Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting
- Low appetite
- Excessive sleepiness
- Sexual problems
- Muscle spasms
Rare side effects include eosinophilia myalgia syndrome (EMS) and asymptomatic eosinophilia.
Do not take 5HTP if you are already taking medication to increase serotonin levels (including SSRIs and MAOIs) or otherwise alter brain chemistry. Do not take it if you are preparing for surgery, have recently had surgery, or are taking medication for Parkinson’s disease. And do not take it if you are breastfeeding or if you have kidney disease, certain stomach problems like peptic ulcers, or Down syndrome.