Many antidepressant drugs work, at least in part, by raising serotonin levels. The supplement 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) has been tried in cases of depression for a similar reason: the body uses 5-HTP to make serotonin, so providing the body with 5-HTP might, therefore, raise serotonin levels.
As a supplement, 5-HTP has also been proposed for all the same uses as other antidepressants, including aiding weight loss, preventing migraine headaches, decreasing the discomfort of fibromyalgia, improving sleep quality, and reducing anxiety.
5-HTP is not found in foods to any appreciable extent. For use as a supplement, it is manufactured from the seeds of an African plant (Griffonia simplicifolia) .
A typical dosage of 5-HTP is 100 to 300 mg 3 times daily. Once 5-HTP starts to work, it may be possible to reduce the dosage significantly and still maintain good results.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for 5-Hydroxytryptophan?
Migraine and Other Headaches
There is some evidence that 5-HTP may help prevent migraines when taken at a dosage of 400 to 600 mg daily. Lower doses may not be effective.
Putting all this evidence together, it appears likely that 5-HTP can help people with frequent migraine headaches if taken in sufficient doses, but further research needs to be done. In particular, we need a large double-blind study that compares 5-HTP against placebo over a period of several months.
Obesity (Weight Loss)
The drug fenfluramine was one member of the now infamous phen-fen treatment for weight loss . Although very successful, fenfluramine was later associated with damage to the valves of the heart and was removed from the market. Because fenfluramine raises serotonin levels, it seems reasonable to believe that other substances that affect serotonin might also be useful for weight reduction.
Participants receiving placebo did not lose weight during either period. However, those receiving 5-HTP lost about 2% of their initial body weight during the no-diet period and an additional 3% while on the diet. Thus, a woman with an initial weight of 170 lbs lost about 3-1/2 lbs after 6 weeks of using 5-HTP without dieting and another 5 lbs while dieting. Once again, participants taking 5-HTP experienced quicker satiety.
No significant adverse effects have been reported in clinical trials of 5-HTP. Side effects appear to be generally limited to short-term, mild digestive distress and possible allergic reactions.
Interactions You Should Know About
If you are taking:
- Prescription antidepressants (including SSRIs , MAO inhibitors , or tricyclics ), the pain drug tramadol , or migraine drugs in the triptan family (such as sumatriptan): Do not take 5-HTP in addition, except on a physician's advice.
- The Parkinson's disease medication carbidopa : Taking 5-HTP at the same time might cause skin changes similar to those that develop in the disease scleroderma.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 07/2012 -
- Update Date: 07/25/2012 -