Benefit of 5-HTP supplement,
adverse effects, danger with
March 6 2014
The benefit of
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan or 5-hydroxy-l-tryptophan)
is that it converts in the brain into serotonin. Serotonin is an
important brain chemical that has a benefit in mood, behavior, appetite, and sleep. Serotonin is known as 5-HT, or 5-hydroxytryptamine, and is found in many
places in the body particularly the brain, gastrointestinal system, and blood cells.
5-HTP was introduced to the over the counter market in 1994. Our understanding of 5-HTP's clinical role and its safety is still fuzzy. We know little about the effects of chronic 5-HTP use. Therefore, until we learn more, the idea is to take 5-HTP in the minimum effective dosage and to avoid its prolonged use. In order to maximize the benefit of 5-HTP, take frequent breaks and take the least amount that works. During these breaks, other forms of therapy could be substituted. As of now, I am not aware of any reports in the medical literature of anyone who has encountered life threatening side effects from the use of 5-HTP.
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Some people who take 5-HTP benefit with improved mood, decrease in appetite, reduced anxiety, and better sleep. Some find that a benefit of 5-HTP in curbing appetite leading to weight loss. This nutrient could be used temporarily for appetite suppression while other lifestyle and dietary changes are being incorporated regarding a life long plan for keeping weight off. Not everyone notices the appetite suppressing effect from 5-HTP. 5-HTP may also be helpful in some individuals with migraine headaches and fibromyalgia.
We consider any 5-HTP dose above 50 mg a high dose. Most 5-HTP products on the market are sold in 50 and 100 mg capsules. Some people do well with 20 to 50 mg. I'm not aware of 5-HTP products on the market that are less than 50 mg. Those who do well with small doses can open a capsule and take a portion mixed with water. 5-HTP is best absorbed on an empty stomach. Medical supervision is recommended if high doses of 5HTP are required to treat a particular condition.
Danger of 5 HTP
5 HTP when taken in high dosages can pause a danger. Side effects could include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, lightheadedness, and diarrhea. There could be danger taking 5 HTP in high dosages along with prescription drugs such as SSRI drugs. One possible danger is serotonin syndrome when high dosages of 5 HTP are combined with Prozac, Zoloft, or Paxil.
Source and manufacture
5-HTP is made in the body from the amino acid tryptophan. Most of the 5-HTP produced in the body comes from its manufacture in the intestines from tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid; that is, the body does not have the capacity to synthesize it. All the supply of tryptophan must be gotten through foods that contain protein.
5-HTP sold over the counter is extracted from the Griffonia seed. The seeds come from an African tree grown mostly in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. 5-HTP can also be made synthetically in the laboratory. The final product is the same as the one made by the body. Only a small (3 to 7) percent of the griffonia seed is made of 5-HTP, therefore, consuming griffonia seeds is not an efficient way of getting 5-HTP. 5-HTP is not made from fermentation of bacteria.
5-HTP Short term side effects
Side effects from high doses of 5-HTP (which could be 100 mg and greater) include nausea and vomiting, stomach cramps, nightmares, and decreased sex drive. Serotonin has an inhibitory effect on sexual behavior. Tiredness and sleepiness can occur after several days or weeks of use which may indicate that a break should be taken from 5-HTP use. For those who experience nightmares or other side effects such as nausea or decreased libido, you may consider taking a lower dose.
Long term side effects of 5-HTP
Long term side effects with 5-HTP are not fully known. When hundreds of thousands of people start taking a supplement that has not had adequate long-term testing, there may be some individuals who have a biochemical abnormality in metabolizing that nutrient that was previously not known. We don't known the consequences on the immune system, skin, and other tissues of long-term 5-HTP therapy. Regular long term use is not recommended at this time.
At this point of our knowledge with 5-HTP, it would be best not to use it while trying to become pregnant or during pregnancy. The safety of 5-HTP during lactation and breast feeding is not known.
The use of 5-HTP in combination with SSRIs such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, and others has not been formally evaluated. Anecdotal reports indicate that many people tolerate small amount of 5-HTP, 50 mg or less, with small amounts of SSRIs when used under the guidance of a medical professional. The effects of taking 5-HTP along with a pharmaceutical antidepressant are sometimes difficult to predict. Since the SSRIs, like Prozac, block serotonin reuptake, and 5-HTP converts into serotonin, it is possible that dangerously high levels of serotonin could occur, a condition called serotonin syndrome.
It is difficult to predict the interaction of 5-HTP with lithium, MAO inhibitors, anti-anxiety agents, beta blockers, birth conrtrol pills, and other pharmaceutical medicines.
Some physicians are using a combination of two or more natural antidepressants such as 5-HTP, St. John's wort, SAM-e, and others. However the interactions are not fully known and caution is advised. Any such combination should be done under medical supervision.
Timing and Dosage of 5-HTP
It's difficult to say what the best time to take 5-HTP since it varies among individuals. It depends whether 5-HTP is being used for sleep, in that case it is taken in the evening; for anxiety or low mood, 5-HTP can be taken any time of day; or weight loss, in which case it is taken on an empty stomach an hour or two before a meal.
If you do take 5-HTP during the day, it's best to take no more than 25 mg since it could cause sleepiness. 5-HTP is absorbed better taken on an empty stomach.
There is has not been enough research done with 5-HTP to know the ideal dosages and timing. Also, there is significant individual variability to the response to 5-HTP. Hence, each person may need to find out for themselves the lowest dose that works well, and the ideal timing, whether early in the day, midday or evening.
A small amount of alcohol usually does not interfere with 5-HTP, but larger amounts may.
Benefit of 5-HTP study
5-HTP Prevents Panic Attacks -- A panic attack involves the sudden appearance of several symptoms including shortness of breath, sweating or shaking, palpitations, and the fear of dying or losing control. . Women are more likely than men to have this condition. Doctors often prescribe anti-anxiety medicines such as Xanax or Valium. However, a nutrient known as 5-HTP may play an important role. 5-HTP stands for 5-Hydroxytryptophan, a supplement available over the counter that, when ingested, goes to the brain and converts into the brain chemical serotonin. Serotonin is known to induce relaxation and balance mood. Researchers at the Department of Neuropsychology at Maastricht University in The Netherlands were able to induce a panic attack in volunteers who suffer from panic disorder by having them breathe a high concentration of carbon dioxide. They repeated the study, this time giving half of the volunteers 200-mg of 5-HTP while the others received a placebo. Those who took 5-HTP had a significantly diminished panic response compared to those on placebo.
Comments: 5-HTP is available in health food stores in a dosage of 50 mg. The results of this study are quite interesting and indicate that those with panic attacks may not have adequate levels of serotonin. If you suffer from frequent panic attacks, it would be worthwhile to discuss the findings of this 5-HTP benefit with your physician.
Single-dose administration of 5-HTP is regularly used as a challenge test of the serotonergic system. The use of 5-HTP has been limited by an apparent small window between the occurrence of neuroendocrine endpoints and the occurrence of side effects. Therefore, many dosing strategies have been tried with and without concurrent administration of carbidopa, a peripheral inhibitor of the decarboxylation from 5-HTP to serotonin.The aim of the current study was to assess the relation between pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of 5-HTP. Twelve healthy male volunteers were included in a placebo-controlled, randomized, four-way crossover, double-blind, single-dose investigation of oral 5-HTP with or without coadministration of carbidopa. The four dose regimens were placebo, 5-HTP 100 mg, 5-HTP 200 mg, and 5-HTP 100 mg with coadministration of carbidopa 100 mg and 50 mg at 3 hours before and 3 hours after the administration of 5-HTP, respectively. The last regimen resulted in a doubling of the elimination half-life, an apparent clearance at least 14 times smaller, and a 15.4 times greater area under the curve compared with 5-HTP 100 mg without carbidopa. Furthermore, it was the only regimen to induce a significant change in cortisol and prolactin. It did not induce any change in subjective psychologic symptoms or cardiovascular parameters, but it was the only regimen to induce some nausea in three participants. The authors conclude that this regimen of 5-HTP 100 mg plus carbidopa is a relatively simple, effective, and tolerable challenge of the presynaptic serotonergic system.
Depression and low mood
5-HTP may benefit depression and conditions that normally require prescription antidepressants, anti-anxiety agents, sleeping pills, and weight loss drugs.
Use for insomnia
Also consider Theanine Sleep information.
5-htp and children
Q. I would like to know if my 9 year old child can take 5 HTP pills because of the benefits of the supplement?
A. We are not aware of studies regarding the use of 5-HTP by children. Perhaps your child's doctor can read the information on this page to determine if a 5-HTP supplement is appropriate for your child.
Emails from 5-HTP users
I have been taking 50 - 300mg of 5-HTP for about 2 months at bedtime to beneiit my sleep and depression. It definitely improved my mood but I still felt tired and achy so I added 5 mg of NADH first thing in the morning to my regime for one week so far. I've had a few serious bouts of depression after adding the NADH but a lot more energy. I find it's better if I alternate between the two. Also, I've become very constipated after taking the 5-HTP. Reading your website, and from experience of reducing the amount and consistency of 5-HTP, the grogginess is less. For your info, I found that taking 5-HTP actually increased my libido but that I've already become tolerant to that benefit. I find 5-HTP relaxes me and reduces my negative thinking greatly. Reading your website, I'm pretty amazed at some of the horrific negative affects it has had on some people.
After being severely depressed
for twenty years, I took Lexapro, and then, when I realized that prescription
was only helping me to a point, I tried Prozac for a year and a half (and of
course gained an unwelcome amount of weight with both). Usually, the medication
worked well, but for an instant - every time I walked past a mirror and saw this
fat woman standing where I should have been - my depression returned. Of course,
I needed an anti-depressant but certainly not one that would cause me to be
depressed whenever I happened on my reflection. I thought 5-HTP was just a
catchy name of a product that wasn't going to help me in the least. But I was
desperate to find something that wouldn't spring a side-effect on me that was
almost as uncomfortable as the condition I originally set out to cure...and my
God, 5-HTP still hasn't surprised me with any adverse reaction that ALSO has to
be treated by medication. I take 5-HTP 100 milligrams in the morning and 100 just
before dinner. My panic attacks and rollercoaster emotions are at bay, I'm
beginning to see myself in a more positive manner, appreciate and not be
suspicious of others, have the sensitivity and patience to be a good owner of a
pet, have more physical and mental energy, and (good-bye Ambien), my, my, my...I
quickly go to a restive sleep (that hasn't happened in years!). A couple of
weeks ago, my claustrophobia and vertigo (friends of mine for most of my life)
vanished! And to top it all off, I'm starting to lose weight. So far, I believe
I've lost about five pounds but - and I'm not worrying - I like what I see in
the mirror: an overweight woman who happens to be very happy and very pretty.
Just wanted to say thanks for the great info on your web site! I was looking for info on benefit of 5-HTP, as I have been on 50mgs before bed each night for almost a week now with pretty good results for my depression, anxiety, and ADD. However, I have been experiencing some of the 5-HTP side effects noted on your web page. Headaches, bizarre dreams, and stomach problems, which is the worst of the effects. The last two days I have been experiencing heavy fatigue and sleepiness early in the day, so I thought I would see what kind of information I could find about 5-HTP. It has definitely helped my mood problems and I have had literally no anxiety, which is a great thing! However, the 5-HTP side effects are too much and I have thought about trying Sam-e again.
I started taking 5-htp about 3 weeks ago now -1 75mg tab a day. At first I took it in the morning (recently I've taken it in the afternoon). I think it took a week at least to show any effects. The first time I really noticed something it was an "ecstasy" like effect extremely elevated mood and palms of hands feeling soft. That night I felt very wired , couldnt sleep because i felt like laughing! Now in my 4th week of 75mg 5-htp a day, I don't feel happy, just sluggish during the day, and I dont know if its related but ive got a bad ecezma case around my mouth. What should I do? I think I'll just quit. How on earth could anyone take 5-htp 300 mg doses like the guy whose written the book on it suggests? Sleeping is good ill say that much-but you cant operate feeling this tired all day. God i feel so let down by it.
I have suffered with Chronic Insomnia for 13 years and have been taking Ambien to gain "regular" sleep. I HATE taking prescriptions, but when you are tired and miserable for 13 years, you will do anything to get a good nightís rest! I recently tried 5-HTP for 4 days and though I did not see instant results, after the third night I found that I was obtaining better sleep. I still woke up several times throughout the evening, but I was able to fall back to sleep without much trouble. That, in and of itself, is a miracle. I did, however; find that I was getting rather bad headaches, and stomach cramps. I would love to continue taking the 5-HTP because of the positive changes I felt in my sleep, mood, alertness, and overall sense of well beingÖbut not if my stomach is going to feel like itís about to explode! I only took 50mg. per evening and thought perhaps taking a smaller dose could be a better way to go. I looked and have not been able to find it in smaller doses. Thank you for the information you have provided on 5-HTP. It has been very valuable to me. I appreciate your un-biased articles and the information you provided from others who have tried 5-HTP.
A couple months ago I began using 5HTP as a sleep aid at night. I believe I was using about 100 to 150 mg. a night. I also used some Tyrosine during the day. After about a month or so after use I began experiencing hallucinatory-like effects. They weren't true hallucinations at all, but very vivid and nightmarish images. As soon as I stopped the 5-HTP the images ceased completely. The whole ordeal was quite disturbing.
I really want to thank you for writing the book on 5-HTP. By reading it I was able to get a sense of where to start my dosage, how many days of the week to skip, what to expect, etc. I also really appreciate how you share your personal journal with us, and also that the client stories were unbiased, as those people who did not have a good experience with it are represented as well. I have recommended it to a few friends who have been taking 5-HTP without any real supervision, or knowledge, and I hope that it will help them to see that we really are, in many ways, lab experiments. So far, so good. Sleep is getting deeper. Only side effect is loose stools and stomach upset the morning after I take 5-HTP. Hopefully it will pass.
Thank you for your
5-HTP web site and your cautious
approach. I wish I could make an appointment with you but I live in Ontario, Canada! I am
currently trying to get off Paxil (with my psychiatrist's recommendation) of which I was
taking 20 mg a day for stress related insomnia. It has been absolutely awful--I have felt
than when I went on it. I have been experiencing extreme anxiety, rage and depression--and all this from going down to 10mg over about 3 months. I hear that this is not uncommon; my doctor has had all of his patients trying to get off paxil--except me--go back on it because they were not able to bear the withdrawal. (He agrees that these are genuine withdrawal symptoms and not relapses into depression.) Since I have been so desperate, I began taking 5-HTP (100mg a day) without knowing much about it, which I now realize is not a good idea. The problem is, it helps with the withdrawal tremendously. I'm sleeping far better and am much happier and calmer. At first I thought that perhaps the withdrawal symptoms were simply subsiding, but when I stopped taking the supplement, about a week later they came back. On your 5-HTP web site, and on a paxil withdrawal web site, it is recommended not to take both together, but it is very difficult for me to even consider going back to the place I was. I don't really want to talk to my psychiatrist about it as he reacts extremely negatively to any "alternative" therapy.
From what I understand and witnessed, for many people when
they get depressed, they become overweight and have an increased appetite. In
others, perhaps more in cases of higher levels of anxiety, they develop mild
to severe anorexia. I believe that 5-HTP or a SSRI may help to balance out this
depression and anxiety, so for some people it may lower weight, and for others who are
depressed and somewhat anorexic, there may actually be a potential to gain weight.
While I'm only now discovering 5-HTP and have mostly recovered from my generalized anxiety
and anorexia that I had before (I've gained about 45 lbs since the point I was reasonably
still find that even now 5-HTP helps to stimulate and maintain a healthy appetite. I
wouldn't want to see the potential disinformation spreading around that 5-HTP will always
cause people to lose their appetite, or to
insinuate that a depressed person with anorexic symptoms will lose more weight by taking
5-HTP. I think much more research needs to be done in this area, and in 5-HTP in
I took 5-htp for several months with no side effects. Then only took 5-HTP occasionally at night (it took me months though to connect the two events). I started having this terrible problem of being awakened in the middle of the night with almost projectile emesis which would then result in horrible esophageal spasms and then diarrhea. I really didn't realize there was connection except thought maybe taking 5-HTP pills late, they would stick in my throat and cause some reaction. Then one day I took a 5htp at 11:00 AM and had the same reaction. I threw away the rest of the bottle.
I have been giving my 8 years old son
5-HTP for the past year. For me 5-HTP was preferable to the PROZAC that the physician
wanted to prescribe. For the first 6 months I gave him 50 mg of 5-HTP daily with his
evening meal. There was a noticeable improvement in his behavior within 2 weeks. For the
past 6 months I have given him 25 mg of 5-HTP combined with several other natural stress
relieving herbs (i.e. Kava Kava, St. John's Wort) with his morning meal. My sons
mood improved again and he is happier and more content than he has every been.
My son has reacted very positively to the 5-HTP. He was severely depressed, had low self-esteem and was extremely aggressive. He was hitting his school mates daily and had no friends. After 1 month on the 5HTP he has not hit a kid since. One year later he now has a couple of friends, he is generally happy all the time and we are able to reason with him.
I've been taking 5- HTP since August of this year (50 mg) every other day at bedtime for 2 months. then I stopped taking 5-HTP for 1 month as directed on your website. It's the only thing that I've found that works for me for my bi-polar. I went on ginkgo for the month that I was off the 5- HTP towards the end of the month I was starting to get down again, so I immediately went back to the 5- HTP, and now I feel good again. I was taking antidepressants from my psychiatrist without any luck. He wanted me to go on lithium, but I heard too many bad things about it, so I never took it. I also have been exercising and trying to have a positive outlook on life, whereas before, I didn't. I believe that it's due to the 5- HTP. Thank you so much for the info on it.
When I came across the book 5-HTP Nature's Serotonin Solution, it's as if I found a gold mine. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and I was weaned myself off Zoloft which I have been taking for the past 3 years. The very first day that I took 5-HTP, I managed to get out of bed and function normally after being in bed for almost 10 days. I have also been suffering from anxiety disorder. I'm only 32 years old and I've had my share of different types of antidepressants. Since I started 5-HTP my severe migraines have disappeared and I only started taking it 10 days ago. I can't believe I finally found something that will help my symptoms. Keep up your great work and God bless you and may He grant you health and strength to continue helping people.
I am 24 year-old, 240 lb. male. I had been taking 50 mg of 5-HTP, before bedtime during the week, with weekends off for 3 weeks. I woke up far more readily (I have always had a problem oversleeping) feeling refreshed, which was terrific. However, in the evening on the weekends I would get headaches about the time I would normally have taken the 5-HTP. Three or four days after I stopped using the 5-HTP entirely, the headaches went away.
I suffer form Panic/ anxiety and depression. I have been off of SSRI's for a year now and in my search for something less dangerous, you have educated me on 5-htp. Last night I took my first 5-HTP dose of 50mg at about 10:30pm, I did not fall asleep until about 3am - and had vivid harmful 'scary' thoughts & I felt quite alert. Needless to say i have the feeling wired- jitters today.
I took 100 mg of 5-HTP for a month to help me sleep. Then, I had what appeared to be gall bladder attacks. A scan the week I was sickest showed that my gall bladder was functioning at only 4%. I stopped taking the 5-HTP and haven't had an attack for two weeks.
I started taking 100mg of 5-HTP at night, 10 days ago, for depression. For the first 5 days or so I felt fine. But now, about an hour after drinking 12ozs of coffee in the morning, I get moderately dizzy & remain so for half the day. Making it very hard to do anything.
Numerous manufacturers sell 5-HTP including:
NOW 5-HTP 50 mg NOW 5-HTP 100 mg
Natrol 5-HTP 50 mg Natrol 5-HTP 100 mg
Physician Formulas 5-HTP
Q. Can 5 htp be given to children?
A. 5-HTP has not adequately been studied in children, hence it is difficult to make recommendations. If used at all, it is probably best that 5-HTP be done under medical supervision and only for brief periods.
Q. I have 5-HTP from Natrol brand. Is Natrol -5HTP reliable?
Is Natrol 5-HTP better than NOW 5-HTP?
A. We have no reason to believe that Natrol 5-HTP brand is of any concern, nor do we have reason to believe NOW 5-HTP is of concern. They should both be good quality.
Q. Does 5-HTP pose a danger if combined with SSRI drugs
like Zoloft or Paxil?
A. It is possible that the danger of serotonin syndrome could occur if 5-HTP is combined in high dosages with SSRI drugs such as Paxil, Zoloft, or Prozac.
Q. I'm 55 years old. My thyroid was removed due to
papillary Cancer and I'm taking synthroid alternating dose of 125 and 150ml. I
developed insomnia and anxiety, probably as a side effects of this hormone. I'm
taking 5-HTP 50mg, the formula sold by Physician Formulas twice daily and this
eliminates my anxiety, but sleep is still deprived. Could you
suggest something for me.
A. There are many factors that influence sleep, and high doses of thyroid hormones are a possible cause. You may wish to read about sleep at a good website.
Q. Where can I find 5-HTP bulk powder?
A. We don't know of a source of 5-HTP bulk powder at this time but a google search should help.
Q. I started on 5 HTP 50 mg per day for anxiety and
mild depression and after 2 weeks started to have worse anxiety symptoms and
muscle trembles, i reduced the 5-HTP dose to 50mg every other day after being
inspired by some of the good reports on the forum here and after a further 3
weeks i have experienced further very bad anxiety symptoms and dreams and not
much in the way of good feelings at all during the whole period apart from maybe
a few days here and there, so even on a low 5-HTP dose it has a bad effect, can
i ask? should i continue with an even lower dose after a break or just leave
them off completely and try a prescription drug from my doctor? and why is the
5-HTP having this terrible effect on me at such a low dose after the total
period of 5 weeks?
A. Each person is different in their response to supplements. It is impossible for us to say whether a lower 5-HTP dosage would help you. You may consider reading information on anxiety at the web page anxiety and discuss with your doctor the best option.
Q. I have left the 5 HTP off for a few days and feel much better, in fact much better than i did before taking them, could they have increased the serotonin level during my 6 weeks taking them? or were they just bad for me personally and leaving them off reduced the bad anxiety they were causing? would it be worth taking maybe 10mg a few times a week?
A. Some people may be very sensitive to 5-HTP or other supplements, and lower dosages could help more than higher amounts. It is impossible for us to predict a response to 5-HTP in any individual case since there is a wide range of response among users. The best way to find out is by trial and error, and erring on the side of using less rather than more. Keep us updated.
Q. I found 5-HTP works great to clear up my acne, and
makes my hair thicker too. The problem is the nausea and fatigue keeps me from
using it more than a few days. The majority of supplements and acne synthetic
drugs makes me feel this way too. I was wondering why 5-HTP clears up my skin
from it's acne? St. John's wort and primrose oil do the same thing, but I cannot
stay on any of these because of the painful side effects that interfere with my
life. Eating dairy and citrus makes me break out, but I can eat these while on
the 5 HTP, if I go off 5 HTP while eating these my skin goes cystic. I wish
there was another way to get the benefit from 5-HTP without it having to be in
my stomach. I used accutane almost 10 years ago and I marvel at how there still
is not a really saving solution for my acne. I can live with it, its not so bad.
A. Using smaller amounts of 5-HTP, such as a quarter of a capsule may work with fewer side effects. The side effects of 5-HTP are dose dependent, and perhaps with trial and error you can find an amount that works well for you with minimal side effects.
Q. On your 5-HTP page, in regards to vitamin B6, I do
not take 5-HTP and vitamin B6 together, however I do take a multivitamin which
contains vitamin B6 and would like to know how much time you recommend spacing
Hi, the multivitamin can be taken in the morning and the 5-HTP in the afternoon or evening.
A. The multivitamin can be taken in the morning and the 5-HTP in the afternoon or evening.
Q. I've been taking 5-HTP for 6 months now and have
found it such a great help with my sleep - after being a chronic insomniac
for 11 years. I'm glad that I've found a natural product for this condition.
I've recently been told that it is an antihistemine - which I have not read or
been told about anywhere before. I am now wondering if it really is as I am
having two of the side effects I got from taking too much Nytol tablets, that of
extremely itchy skin on arms knee and around the mouth, like eczema; also a
slightly dry mouth. Maybe this is one area you could perhaps do more research
on. I am now taking a break from it, and will then go back onto a lower doseage
of it. (I was taking 1 x 100mg a night).
A. We have not heard of this side effect of 5-HTP before, but it is possible that in some people excess 5-HTP and serotonin could cause unusual adverse events. It seems to be a good idea to take a break.
Q. Just curious to know if you've come across anyone who
has taken 5-HTP and become seriously depressed. I'd been taking 50mg a day,
along with a Stresstab and a B-complex vitamin. About a month later, I was hit
very hard with a bout of depression like I've never experienced in my life. I
eventually went to my doctor, thinking it might be a thyroid thing as it runs in
my family (all my mother's 13 siblings, their children, my brother and sister,
and my father and his sister). Blood tests showed that I had no thyroid problem,
just elevated glucose. I was referred to a psychiatrist who diagnosed my ADHD
(it was something I knew before then but never considered it a problem). I'm
stable now (on Wellbutrin and Concerta) and stopped all the vitamins but was
considering trying amino acids as an alternative. I never mentioned to my
doctors what I had been taking previously as it never occurred to me that there
could be a connection. It was only as I began looking into natural remedies, and
then went to my medicine cabinet and checked out what I'd been taking, that this
crossed my mind. I had no other side-effects (stomach upset, nightmares or even
vivid dreams). I thought I would ask you first as I think you probably have more
experience with this.
A. We have not had anyone report to us before of 5-HTP making them more depressed. We don't know whether the combination with B vitamins and Stresstab had an influence or not on your depression symptoms.
Q. I'm contacting you from Australia. My chiropractor /
naturopath practitioner prescribed 5-htp 200mg and pregaba 200mg each day for
what he suspected was IBS. He did not warn me about the effects of mixing this
with alcohol. I rarely drink but a month after taking it i went to a friends for
dinner and we hadn't seen them in ages- chatted for 12hours and i consumed 8
drinks. I noticed i was high as a kite the whole night. Buzzing around, it was
I then woke up with a panic attack the next morning, took a quarter of a sleeping tablet to calm me down and on re-waking i had a migraine, it lasted for a week in which i went off his prescription, my doc and practitioner said it had nothing to do with the 5-htp and sick of the migraine i took one tablet, i completely flipped out- my poor boyfriend and mum! and had complete derealization, anxiety, chest pain, sometimes headaches and couldn't sleep, i have now suffered for two weeks with steady, heavy depression or headache / anxiety. I feel like the last month of my life has been a complete nightmare and i just want to have my old self back!
5-HTP for mood, sleep, and stress reduction
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a natural supplement that converts in the brain into serotonin. Serotonin is an important brain chemical involved in mood, behavior, appetite, and sleep. Serotonin is also involved in impulse control. For instance, low serotonin levels may lead to addictive behavior such as gambling or other habits caused by weak will power.
From tryptophan to melatonin
You probably have heard of the amino acid tryptophan. In the body, tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP which in turn is converted into serotonin. At night, the pineal gland converts serotonin into melatonin for deeper sleep.
Benefits of 5-HTP
Many people who take 5-HTP notice the benefit of better mood balance, reduced anxiety, decrease in appetite, and better sleep.
5-HTP may be temporarily helpful in conditions that normally require prescription antidepressants if a person has mild or moderate case of depression, particularly if the depression is associated with anxiety. 5-HTP reduces the severity of a panic attack which may indicate that panic attacks may partly be due to low serotonin levels. 5-HTP could be used temporarily for appetite suppression while other lifestyle and dietary changes are being incorporated regarding a life long plan for keeping weight off.
As to sleep, you can open a 50 mg capsule and take half of it on an empty stomach an hour or two before bed. Higher doses can give vivid dreams, including nightmares.
How is 5-HTP available?
You can buy 5-HTP in health food stores or on the internet. It usually comes in two dosages, 50 mg and 100 mg. I do not suggest buying the 100 mg capsule since the side effects are quite common on this dosage. One bottle of 60 capsules of 50 mg of 5-HTP is usually sold for less than 10 dollars. Some people do well with 20 to 50 mg a day, while others may temporarily require 100 mg or more. 5-HTP is best absorbed on an empty stomach.
5-HTP side effects
5-HTP was introduced to the over the counter market in 1994. Our understanding of 5-HTP's clinical role and its side effect profile is still fuzzy. We don't know as much as we should about the effects of chronic 5-HTP use. Therefore, until we learn more, the idea is to take 5-HTP in the minimum effective dosage and to avoid its prolonged continuous use. Common side effects with 5-HTP include nausea, stomach upset, loose stools or constipation, and headache. These are dose dependent, meaning the less you take, the less likely side effects will occur.
5-HTP is an appropriate nutrient to use in cases of mild depression associated with anxiety, for temporary help in sleep induction, and for appetite control. I recommend taking a day off a week and a week off each month.
Q. I am using an energy-boosting product called Cheia Vida, distributed by Alive World Wide, which has a blend of Acai, yerbe mate, cha de bugre and green tea extract-EGCG- (all from Brazil), 5HTP - from griffonia extract, stevia, cinnamon twig extract and galangal root extract (800mgm of all of these), plus apple juice conc., grape skin extract. There is 45 mgm of "caffeine" (from the mate} and 15 mgm of 5HTP per 1oz serving - Recommended amount on the bottle is 1oz, but when you talk to the company and CEO, he recommends 1-3 oz.- and some people take more than this. 3oz would put an individual at almost a low (generally) 50mgm therapeutic dose. The reason for the 5HTP is to take the edge off of any potential extra "buzz" type energy. My problem is the fact that the company only lists Acai, yerba mate, green tea extract (EGCG) and cha de bugre on their website - they say nothing about the 5HTP. The purchaser does not know until he gets the bottle that it has 5HTP in it - and then may not really read the label or know what this is. There is also no "caution" on the label. So people who are gung-ho, could conceivably take large amounts of the product, and for months or years, all the while ingesting 5-HTP. There are a couple coffee houses in my area that would like to add the product to their beverages. I have reservations re: them selling it to some of their clients (teens with hormones raging and fluctuating, people on SSRI's or other meds, etc). Most people like the product - nice, sustained, even energy with good mental clarity and focus, better mood. - and they sleep better. But they do not have a clue what 5-HTP is. What is your perspective on this, in selling it to the general public, without their knowledge of this ingredient? Some health food stores tout 5-HTP as a benign, next-best-thing supplement.
A. The ingredients in a dietary supplement product need to be listed so the consumer is aware of them. The dosages are not required if it is a proprietary blend.
Q. I suffer from panic disorder. I have been taking
5-htp 100mg everyday for a month with fish oil and magnesium and vitamin b6. I
am still going through my panic symptoms which is globus in my throat and
lightheadedness . How long Until i should notice the full effect of 5-htp
A. 5-HTP usually has its effects within a few days or a week.
Q. I was reading your website information on 5-HTP and
I want to say thank you for all the good information about this, just have one
simple question for you. Can we take 5-HTP 200mg with Centrum (multiple
vitamins) or with a Super B-COMPLEX ?
A. There are many factors that influence the benefit of various combinations of supplements and each person may react differently so it is not possible for us to say whether this combination is good for you or not. In general, we fell a daily dose of more than 50 to 100 mg of 5-HTP is excessive for most people but some people need that amount if treating a particular condition.
Q. I would like to try 5-htp for depression and sleep.
I'm presently taking 25 mg. of nortriptyline daily. Can I take 50 mg. of 5-htp
one night and then alternate with 25 mg. of nortriptyline?
A. Alternating 5-HTP one night and nortriptyline another night is an interesting option and if your doctor approves it is worth a try.
Q. Im currently taking 50 mg of 5-HTP, but I would like
to try Diet Rx. Can you tell me the amount of 5- HTP found in diet Rx product
and if it is safe to take it with Caffeine Free Hydroxycut? I know about the
proprietary blend, but I only want to know about the 5 HTP, not the whole blend
and if I dont know the amount I cant discuss the information with my doctor as
she doesnt know your product.
A. Diet Rx is effective by itself and it is not necessary to take it the same day as 5-HTP. Only Dr. Ray Sahelian knows the amount of the ingredients in this product and it is a proprietary blend. We suggest not taking Diet Rx the same day as caffeine free Hydroxycut. It is best to learn how each supplement or formula works by itself rather than combining them without knowing how they each effect you individually.
Q. I just had a question on 5-HTP if you could help me
with any advice that would be good. I am on my second day on the stuff mainly
for Carb Cravings and to improve my mood. I have bought the Doctors Best Brand
100mg Vegie Caps and on the bottle it says to take one 5-htp capsule 3 times a
day with or without food. So that is 300mg a day. Is this a high amount for a
healthy 26 year old male?
A. We cannot comment on what an appropriate dose is for any individual, but we suggest reading the cautions on this 5-HTP page and 5-HTP side effects and to use the least dosage that works.
Q. I had read the info about 5 htp on your website,
while researching alternative ways of dealing with depression and anxiety. I
decided to try the product and I believe I was getting some good results, after
5 days, taking 50 mg twice a day. The problem was 5 htp side effects. I had a
moderately severe allergic reaction to it, welts, asthma, etc, so I discontinued
it, (reluctantly) and the symptoms disappeared. Is there any way I could retry
the 5 htp, at a lower dose, or something I havenít thought of? I would really
like to give the product a chance. I take quercetin for allergic reactions and I
have moderate allergies and seasonal asthma.
A. If your doctor approves you can try one capsule daily or even half a capsule, or try a different brand of 5 htp. Allergic reactions are not common to 5 htp supplement use, but many 5 htp side effects are dosage dependent. There are other supplements that are used for depression.
Q. I've tried 5-htp recently to help me cope with my
anxiety. I was taking 50mg 2 times a day. after a few weeks I felt slightly more
relaxed (maybe 25%) and also I found it easier to rationalize negative thoughts. However my libido seems to have gone down
substantially. I can still perform but I'm not really ''into it''. is there anything I can do to help? is the 5-htp causing this?
A. 5-HTP converts into serotonin which is known to decrease libido and sexual interest. You may wish to discuss with your doctor other options in the treatment of anxiety that do not reduce sexual desire. There are certain herbs that improve libido.
Q. I wanted to inquire if there is an contradictions
between 5HTP and neurontin. Any info on Neurontin and 5-HTP would be helpful.
Neurontin is the product name for gabapentin.
A. We have not seen any studies regarding the combination of 5-HTP and Neurontin (gabapentin). As a general rule it is best to learn how each supplement or medication works for you alone in different dosages, and to have medical doctor approval when combining. Interactions between medications and supplements often depends on the dosages used. When combining 5-HTP and Neurontin the first time, it may be wise to use a portion of a capsule or tablet.
Q. It looks as though Dr. Sahelian's book on 5-HTP:
Nature's Serotonin Solution is no longer in print. Have you considered making it
available via .pdf from your website? Would be great to be able to download it,
especially as it may be the only way to get it.
A. The book 5-HTP: Nature's Serotonin Solution was written in the mid 1990s, Dr. Sahelian's website on 5-HTP has latest updats for free.
Q. I would like to understand a principle of
5-htp action in organism. I understand that it is something like instant
temporary (this is the important thing i don't know - does serotonin gained from
5-htp vanish after some time or does serotonin stay in brain and there is still
more and more of it by every next dose?) supply of amino acid which is converted
into serotonin in the brain. Why then various users report different time needed
to start feeling positive effects of 5-htp? I read some topics where users say
about immediate onset. However, some of them report improvement in two weeks.
Why does it take so long? I read about the mechanism of 5-htp, but did not find
answer for this. Today, I started to use 25 mg twice daily. How long in average
should one wait before increasing dose, if the improvement still won't be
noticed? I was on Seroxat for three months because of depression, but it didn't
work well for me. I experienced some kind of repeating sinusoid - one week
feeling bad and two days feeling absolutely cured. However, it showed me that
it's just problems with neurotransmiters and I have realized many things during
this treatment. Nowadays I'm not depressed and don't have these problems with
confidence, feeling hopeless and some other stuff conected with depression, but
I am still low on serotonin, I am in no mood, I have problem to do any little
things, and feel not like living, but surviving. Do taking of 5-htp dose also
before bedtime make relevance in this case? Does that night dose have long-term
effect or is it just temporary for good sleeping and effects wear off after few
hours? You will help me a lot giving me answers, because my psychiatrist did not
even hear about 5-htp and I am on my own in this nasty situation.
A. How long the 5-HTP effects last is a matter of dosage and individual reaction. For some the effects of 5-HTP can come very quickly, within an hour, for others it takes several hours and for others it may take a few days to start working. Each person is different but the effects do seem to accumulate over time so if 50 mg one day does not seem to help, taking the 50 mg the second and third day can start having an effect. It also can change depending on whether it is taken with food or empty stomach. 5-HTP seems to work better when taken on an empty stomach. Some people even try it under the tongue but a lesser dosage.
Q. I am curious as to whether your 5 HTP product is
Enteric Coated for better access to the brain?
A. 5-HTP need not be enteric coated, it is quite well absorbed and is transported and goes across the blood brain barrier very well.
Q. I was reading on your website the different 5-htp
dosages. I understand that everyone is different. I also understand that time
off is needed. I saw where you advise that taking 2 days off a week AND a week
off a month for 5-htp is suggested. But I also saw where people have used it
every other day. My question is this, if I take it every other day do I still
need to take a week off a month? And, if I decide to take it everyday with two
days off a week, do I still need to take a week off a month. My problem is with
GAD and depression associated with the anxious thoughts that I have. My husband
got me a CBT program. I am greatfull. My problem is I have not been motivated to
use it on a regular basis and I know that some people need to be on medication
for the short term to help them with therapy. I have thought about this, but I
really don't want to get on drugs for fear I'll become dependant. What I want,
is to be calm, relaxed, motivated and able to control my thoughts so that I can
use the CBT that my husband got me so that I can get the therapy learned. I have
been on CBT before and it did work, for a little while. The one I have now is a
different one. Part of my problem, due to my anxious thoughts, is the fear it
won't work. I would like my self confidance back. The CBT has this information
in it but I just can't get motivated. From what I have read, 5-htp may be what
I've been looking for. Thank you for any and all information you put on your
website and to me.
A. If a person takes 5-HTP supplements every other day, they do not need to take breaks as often.
Q. I was wondering what would happen long term if one
was to use 5-htp at say 100mg 2x a day for an extended period? I've read of
tachycardia, low eosinophil counts and other stuff. I'm sure this stuff is safer
than Prozac and Zoloft but wanted to get your take on this.
A. Long term studies for several years have not been done with 5-HTP supplements and therefore it is difficult to predict the long term benefits and risks on organs and tissues. It is a good idea to take breaks from use.
Q. I take 5-htp
for sleep and mood. I used to be able to take it at night, but for the last few
months, I wake up in the middle of the night with a peculiar energy. Would
taking it in the day help with sleep at night?
A. It's possible. Some people prefer to take a lower dosage in early evening which seems to help with sleep better than a higher one before bed. 5-HTP supplements are absorbed better on an empty stomach.
Q. Is there a benefit of 5-HTP or safety issues with Paxil, or any study regarding benefits of 5-HTP or danger with this SSRI drug?
A. Use the combination of 5-HTP and Paxil cautiously since adverse effects could occur. They both increase serotonin levels in the brain.
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