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5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a chemical that the body makes from tryptophan (an essential amino acid that you get from food). After tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP, the chemical is changed into another chemical called serotonin (a neurotransmitter that relays signals between brain cells). 5-HTP dietary supplements help raise serotonin levels in the brain.
A 2002 review concluded that although the data evaluated suggests that 5-HTP is more effective than placebo in the treatment of depression, the evidence was insufficient to be conclusive due to a severe lack of high quality research. More and larger studies are needed to determine if 5-HTP is truly effective in treating depression. Wiki
5-HTP is POSSIBLY SAFE when taking by mouth appropriately. 5-HTP has been used safely in doses up to 400 mg daily for up to one year. However, some people who have taken it have developed a condition called eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS), a serious condition involving extreme muscle tenderness (myalgia) and blood abnormalities (eosinophilia). Some people think EMS might be caused by an accidental ingredient or contaminant in some 5-HTP products. However, there is not enough scientific evidence to know if EMS is caused by 5-HTP, a contaminant, or some other factor. Until more is known, 5-HTP should be used cautiously.
Other potential side effects of 5-HTP include heartburn, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, sexual problems, and muscle problems.
5-HTP is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in large doses. Doses from 6-10 grams daily have been linked to severe stomach problems and muscle spasms.
Special precautions & warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking 5-HTP if you are pregnant or breast feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Surgery: 5-HTP can affect a brain chemical called serotonin. Some drugs administered during surgery can also affect serotonin. Taking 5-HTP before surgery might cause too much serotonin in the brain and can result in serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Tell patients to stop taking 5-HTP at least 2 weeks before surgery.
Are there interactions with medications?
Major - Do not take this following combination.
Medications for depression (Antidepressant drugs)
5-HTP increases a brain chemical called serotonin. Some medications for depression also increase serotonin. Taking 5-HTP along with these medications for depression might increase serotonin too much and cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Do not take 5-HTP if you are taking medications for depression.
Some of these medications for depression include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), amitriptyline (Elavil), clomipramine (Anafranil), imipramine (Tofranil), and others.
Medications for depression (MAOIs)
5-HTP increases a chemical in the brain. This chemical is called serotonin. Some medications used for depression also increase serotonin. Taking 5-HTP with these medications used for depression might cause there to be too much serotonin. This could cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety.
Some of these medications used for depression include phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and others.
Moderate - Be cautious with this combination.
5-HTP can affect the brain. Carbidopa (Lodosyn) can also affect the brain. Taking 5-HTP along with carbidopa can increase the risk of serious side effects including rapid speech, anxiety, aggressiveness, and others.
Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, and others)
5-HTP can affect a brain chemical called serotonin. Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, others) can also affect serotonin. Taking 5-HTP along with dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, others) might cause too much serotonin in the brain and can result in serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Do not take 5-HTP if you are taking dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, and others).
5-HTP increases a chemical in the brain called serotonin. Meperidine (Demerol) can also increase serotonin in the brain. Taking 5-HTP along with meperidine (Demerol) might cause too much serotonin in the brain and serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety.
5-HTP increases a brain chemical called serotonin. Pentazocine (Talwin) also increases serotonin. Taking 5-HTP along with pentazocine (Talwin) might increase serotonin too much. This might cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Do not take 5-HTP if you are taking pentazocine (Talwin).
Sedative medications (CNS depressants)
5-HTP might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Taking 5-HTP along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.
Some sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien), and others.
5-HTP increases a brain chemical called serotonin. Tramadol (Ultram) can also increase serotonin. Taking 5-HTP along with tramadol (Ultram) might cause too much serotonin in the brain and might result in side effects including confusion, shivering, stiff muscles, and others.
Herbs and supplements with sedative properties
5-HTP can cause sleepiness or drowsiness. Using it along with other herbs and supplements that have the same effect might cause too much sleepiness. Some of these herbs and supplements include calamus, California poppy, catnip, hops, Jamaican dogwood, kava, St. John's wort, skullcap, valerian, yerba mansa, and others.
Herbs and supplements with serotonergic properties
5-HTP increases a brain chemical called serotonin. Taking 5-HTP along with other herbs and supplements that increase serotonin might lead to too much serotonin and cause side effects including heart problems, shivering and anxiety. Other herbs and supplements that increase serotonin levels include Hawaiian baby woodrose, L-tryptophan, S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), and St. John's wort.
A total of 74 drugs (242 brand and generic names) are known to interact with 5-hydroxytryptophan.
55 major drug interactions
19 moderate drug interactions
For the complete list and to see what the interaction is go to:
No brain zaps in 5 days
I decided to stop taking it completely b/c I really didn't think it was doing much of anything for me/I wasn't withdrawling and started taking 25 to 50 mg 5-HTP about a week ago. The 5-HTP doesn't really seem to be helping me. I am feeling more depressed...
The brain zaps are horrid, but 5-HTP really does ease them dramatically. I'm taking 100mg in the morning, and 50mg before bed. It really does help you sleep, and lifts your mood.
Tria - My head seems clearer and I just seem to feel more normal (knock on wood - don't want to jinx myself!) I can't say this is all due to the 5-HTP as she started me on a few other supplements as well but I only start one new supplement at a time, give it a couple weeks then start another, and my mood did improve after starting the 5-HTP.
AKAnole - I took 150mg of 5HTP every day for a few months. I stopped in December thinking I no longer needed it then over the holidays the depression came back suddenly.
brz - i am still not sure how best to take 5htp, it seems to work on a delayed "as needed" basis. does that make sense? it takes about a day to kick in but as soon as i get my anxiety under control it doesn't seem to be a problem to just stop. - which is not what i was expecting when i started last october. since many people take it on a regular basis, that is what i do. i take one 100mg time release pill every morning. just wanted to pass along my experience. however, while i have had good results from the 5htp for anxiety, i can't speak to its effectiveness as a sleep aid.
Penguin1982 - There was a post I read that even though the half life is only 12 hrs, it can stay in your liver and fat stores for months. Didn't realize that when I started supplementing with 200mg 5htp and 750mg GABA at night only to find myself peeing every ten min and shivering beyond control. After seeing that post I realized I was getting waaaay too much serotonin and creating serotonin syndrome for myself . I've since stopped both and seem to be coming back around .
AKAnole - 5 HTP to supplement the lack of serotonin that I was experiencing. It helped but didn't curb the anxiety I would experience at times. L-Tryptophan which I think works better for me mood wise but I can't take it at night or else it disrupts my sleep
FN - 5HTP worked/works great for me as well ... I did stop using it daily, and have been using it just once in a while, and was doing just fine ... however, I'm now actually considering going back on it daily, as I've been working a really stressful temp job, and I'm starting to feel a bit "unsteady" ...
There is a rebound effect from 5-htp if it is stopped cold turkey. Next time try phasing it out over a 2 week period and you will do a lot better
5thp information and discussion.
Detailed summary of scientific studies on 5HTP including anxiety and depression.
Lack of effectiveness and dangers of its use.
5-HTP is not found in the foods we eat, although tryptophan is. Eating foods with tryptophan does not increase 5-HTP levels very much, however. As a supplement, 5-HTP is made from the seeds of an African plant called Griffonia simplicifolia.
1. 5-HTP is changed into serotonin
2. Our body uses tryptophan to make 5-HTP
3. Vitamin B6, vitamin C, folic acid and magnesium are necessary for the metabolization of tryptophan. In addition, tyrosine and phenylalanine compete with tryptophan for absorption.
4. Several dietary, lifestyle, and health factors reduce the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin, including cigarette smoking, high sugar intake, alcohol abuse, excessive consumption of protein, hypoglycemia and diabetes.
5. Depression, anxiety, irritability, impatience, impulsiveness, inability to concentrate, weight gain or unexplained weight loss, slow growth in children, overeating and/or carbohydrate cravings, poor dream recall, and insomnia can all be signs that a person may need more tryptophan.
6. The following foods contain tryptophan: red meat, dairy products, nuts, seeds, legumes, soybeans and soy products, tuna, shellfish, chicken and turkey.
5-HTP can be a wonder drug for anxiety and depression but MUST be used correctly.
1st – Start out slow. Build slow
50 mg once per day for 3 days
50 mg twice a day for 3 days
50 mg three times per day for 3 days then
50-50-75 for 3 days
50-75-75 for 3 days
75-75-75 dor 3 dats and then
100- 3 times a day (maximum dose).
As you ramp up watch for stomach upset (stop at that point)
If at anytime your symptoms are minimal do not go up any more.
2nd – Absolutely do not take with a ssri/snri as it may cause serotonin syndrome (easily recognized by a fever over 102F).
3rd – Check list of incompatible drugs. Drugs.com
4th – After you have been emotionally stable for a couple weeks you need to slowly, slowly decrease the 5-HTP as your system may not need as much now that it has had a chance to catch up. Many people start out using 150 mg/day and feel fine and then taper down to 75 mg for the long haul. This is important as with long term usage 5-HTP can deplete some necessary nutrients in the body.
5th – 5-HTP can be gotten for our body by consuming foods rich in tryptophan along with a small supplement of Vitamin B6, vitamin C, folic acid and magnesium. Foods high in tryptophan include red meat, dairy products, nuts, seeds, legumes, soybeans and soy products, tuna, shellfish, chicken and turkey.
6th - Depression, anxiety, irritability, impatience, impulsiveness, inability to concentrate, weight gain or unexplained weight loss, slow growth in children, overeating and/or carbohydrate cravings, poor dream recall, and insomnia can all be signs that a person may need more tryptophan.
7th - Several dietary, lifestyle, and health factors reduce the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin, including cigarette smoking, high sugar intake, alcohol abuse, excessive consumption of protein, hypoglycemia and diabetes.