5HTP info and 5HTP side effects by Ray Sahelian, M.D. (index of nutrition and herbal medicine)
5HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan or 5-hydroxy-l-tryptophan) is a supplement that converts in the brain into serotonin. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter involved in mood, behavior, appetite, impulse control such as gambling, and sleep. Scientists have examined the role 5HTP in anxiety, panic attacks, headache, and other conditions. Other nutrients and herbs that have an influence on stress or anxiety include passion flower, tryptophan, kava, and valerian. See the link below in blue for more info. Mind Power Rx is a formula that helps balance mood and provides mental clarity. For better sleep, consider Good Night Rx. 5HTP is not consistently effective when it comes to sleep, although using a lower dose of 10 to 30 mg may be tried one to three hours before bed.
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Developed by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
Good Night Rx with a small amount of 5HTP was formulated to be used in the evening in order to provide natural help from occasional sleepless nights. Good Night Rx can help you relax and provide a deeper sleep than you would otherwise.
Click 5HTP link above in blue for more information
5HTP and Serotonin
5HTP is a natural supplement that converts in the brain into serotonin. Serotonin is an important brain chemical involved in mood, behavior, appetite, and sleep. However, a 5HTP supplement is not consistent in inducing and maintaining sleep. Serotonin is also involved in impulse control. For instance, low serotonin levels may lead to addictive behavior such as gambling or other habits with weak will power. 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.
5HTP Benefits -- Appetite, Mood, Stress - 5HTP anxiety 5HTP depression
Some people who take 5HTP notice better mood balance, a decrease in appetite (there have been studies with 5HTP weight loss), reduced anxiety, better impulse control, and better sleep (try different times of the day or evening, and different dosages to see which dosage and timing works better for sleep. I have come across some individuals who find themselves more alert rather than in a relaxed, sleepy state of mind with 5HTP.
Some find that 5HTP helps curb appetite with better weight control. 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 5HTP. A study in rodents indicates that 5HTP may be useful in controlling the excessive food intake sometimes generated by stress.
5HTP may be temporarily helpful in conditions that normally require prescription antidepressants, anti-anxiety agents, sleeping pills, and weight loss drugs. 5HTP may also be helpful in some individuals with migraine headaches and fibromyalgia.
5HTP reduces the severity of a panic attack which may indicate that panic attacks may partly be due to low serotonin levels.
Short term 5HTP negative effects
5HTP from high doses of (which could be 70 to 100 mg and greater) can cause 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 5HTP use.
A message regarding the safe use of 5HTP
5HTP was introduced to the over the counter market in 1994. Our understanding of 5HTP's clinical role and its safety is still fuzzy. We don't know as much as we should about the effects of chronic 5HTP use. Therefore, until we learn more, the idea is to take 5HTP in the minimum effective dosage and to avoid its prolonged use. I tell my patients who use 5HTP to take frequent breaks (the frequency and length of breaks varies since each person is unique). During these breaks, other forms of therapy could be substituted. As of now, and after years of 5HTP sold to the public, I am not aware of any reports in the medical literature of anyone who has encountered life threatening or other serious side effects from the use of 5HTP.
Some studies have used dosages of 300 mg a day for depression, but I consider any 5HTP dose above 50 mg a high dose. Most 5HTP products on the market are sold in 50 and 100 mg capsules. Some people do well with 20 to 50 mg, while others may temporarily require 100 mg or more. I'm not aware of 5HTP 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. 5HTP is best absorbed on an empty stomach. Medical supervision is recommended if high doses of 5HTP are required to treat a particular condition. I don't recommend the routine use of daily intake doses greater than 100 mg since there's the possibility of nausea or nightmares. Also, we still don't know if there are any long term side effects if people take high doses for many years. 5HTP enhances dreams and makes them more vivid.
5HTP Source and manufacture
5HTP is made in the body from the amino acid tryptophan. Most of the 5HTP 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.
5HTP 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. 5HTP 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 5HTP, therefore, consuming griffonia seeds is not an efficient way of getting 5HTP. 5HTP is not made from fermentation of bacteria.
The use of 5HTP 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 5HTP, 50 mg or less, with small amounts of SSRIs when used under the guidance of a medical professional. The effects of taking 5HTP along with a pharmaceutical antidepressant are sometimes difficult to predict. Since the SSRIs, like Prozac, block serotonin reuptake, and 5HTP 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 5HTP 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 5HTP, 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 5HTP
It's difficult to say what the best time to take 5HTP since it varies among individuals. It depends whether 5HTP is being used for sleep, in that case it is taken in the evening; for anxiety or low mood, 5HTP 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 5HTP during the day, it's best to take no more than 25 mg since it could cause sleepiness. 5HTP is absorbed better taken on an empty stomach.
There is has not been enough research done with 5HTP to know the ideal dosages and timing. Also, there is significant individual variability to the response to 5HTP. 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 5HTP, but larger amounts may.
5HTP or Prozac for depression?
The choice of whether to take natural supplements for depression or pharmaceutical medicines is a personal one along with consultation with a health care professional. There are quite a number of factors, too many to list, that have to be considered. Those with mild depression may wish to try natural antidepressants first whereas those with moderate to severe depression would likely need a strong pharmaceutical medicine. Some other nutrients to consider include SAM-e and St. John's wort.
Prozac and other SSRIs have been tested more thoroughly than natural antidepressants. 5HTP is trickier to use, tolerance may develop, long-term safety not known as well, but works well for some people in improving mood, reducing appetite, and improving sleep. It's very difficult, if not nearly impossible, to predict how each person will react or respond to a medicine or nutrient. Sometimes the best method is trial and error.
Carbidopa and 5HTP
There's a pharmaceutical medicine called carbidopa which blocks the metabolism of 5HTP in the blood stream allowing for more to be present in the body. The question as to whether it is preferable to take carbidopa along with 5HTP is not clear at this time but could be considered under medical supervision. Taking carbidopa would most likely reduce the dosage required for 5HTP since less 5HTP would be broken down in the bloodstream and more would be available to enter the brain.
5HTP Research update
5-hydroxytryptophan is a more potent in vitro hydroxyl radical scavenger than melatonin or vitamin C.
J Pineal Research. 2005 Jan;38(1):62-6.
Hydroxyl radicals are involved in direct damage of important biomolecules. Potent radical scavengers such as vitamin C and indoles of the tryptophan family can avert the potential damage. Melatonin and its precursor 5-hydroxytryptophan ( 5HTP ) were compared with water-soluble vitamin C. Different scavenger concentrations were measured in a steady-state luminol chemiluminescence system (SLCL-system) with combined Fe(II) chloride (0.1 mm) and hydrogen peroxide (1.0 mm) as hydroxyl radical generators. 5HTP showed highest hydroxyl radical scavenging effects with a 50% inhibition concentration (IC50) of 1.8 microm. For vitamin C an IC50 of 12.7 microm was measured, whereas melatonin in pure demineralized water was much less efficient (IC50=724 microm).
Effect of orally administered L-tryptophan on serotonin, melatonin, and the innate immune response in the rat.
Mol Cell Biochem. 2004 Dec;267(1-2):39-46.
To assess the effects of external administration of L-tryptophan on the synthesis of serotonin and melatonin as well as on the immune function of Wistar rats, 300 mg of the amino acid were administered either during daylight (08:00) or at night (20:00) for 5 days. Brain, plasma, and peritoneal macrophage samples were collected 4 h after the administration. The accumulation of 5-hydroxytryptophan ( 5HTP ) after decarboxylase inhibition was used to measure the rate of tryptophan hydroxylation in vivo. The results showed a diurnal increase in the brain 5HTP, serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT), and 5-hydroxyindolacetic acid (5-HIAA) of the animals which had received tryptophan at 08:00 and were killed 4 h later. In the animals which received tryptophan during the dark period, the 5-HT declined but the 5-HT/5-HIAA ratio remained unchanged. There was also a significant increase in nocturnal circulating melatonin levels.
5HTP induced increase in salivary cortisol in panic disorder patients and healthy volunteers.
Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2002 Jun;161(4):365-9.
Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Brain and Behaviour, Maastricht University, Maastricht The Netherlands
Hypersensitivity of brain serotonin receptors has been proposed as a causal mechanism in the pathophysiology of panic disorder. This theory can be tested, using serotonergic stimulation of the HPA axis. Up to now, plasma cortisol has generally been used as the outcome measure in such studies. Assessment of salivary cortisol is a non-invasive alternative to measure HPA axis activity. METHOD: Salivary cortisol levels were measured in 24 panic disorder patients and 24 healthy volunteers, following ingestion of 200 mg 5htp or placebo. RESULTS: A significant rise in cortisol was observed in both patients and controls following ingestion of 5htp. No such effects were seen in the placebo condition. CONCLUSION: The results show that 5htp stimulated salivary cortisol is a useful probe of serotonin function in healthy volunteers as well as panic disorder patients, and provide some evidence against a serotonin receptor hypersensitivity in panic disorder.
5HTP 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 5HTP may play an important role. 5HTP 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 5HTP while the others received a placebo. Those who took 5HTP had a significantly diminished panic response compared to those on placebo.
Dr. Sahelian says: 5HTP 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 5HTP study with your physician.
Tryptophan taken orally can convert into serotonin and melatonin
Tryptophan is an amino acid available in food. A few years ago tryptophan reappeared on the market as an over the counter supplement. The biochemistry of tryptophan is fascinating and quite important. It has been known for some time that in the body and brain, tryptophan gets converted into 5-hydroxy-tryptophan ( 5HTP ) which then converts into serotonin, a crucial brain chemical involved in mood, appetite, impulse control and sleep. Serotonin, in turn, is able to convert at night into melatonin.
To confirm this knowledge, tryptophan was given to a group of rats at 8 am in the morning, and to another group of rats at 8 PM at night. Four hours after administration, researchers measured the blood and brain fluid levels of serotonin and melatonin. During daytime administration, tryptophan raised the levels of serotonin. Interestingly, when tryptophan was given at night, serotonin levels did not increase, but melatonin levels increased significantly. Therefore, the serotonin that was generated by tryptophan administration was being converted into melatonin. Another study I came across in the January 2005 issue of the Journal of Pineal Research indicates that 5-HTP is a more potent antioxidant than Vitamin C.
My comments: First, this study confirms again that levels of 5HTP, serotonin, and melatonin can be influenced by supplements. Second, it shows that the timing of a supplement can make a difference on how it is metabolized. Since tryptophan, 5HTP, and melatonin are available as supplements, I have had many questions over the years asking which one is best to take for depression, sleep, anxiety, or appetite control. This is difficult to answer since each person has a different biochemistry and would respond differently. The most reliable way to find out is by trial and error. There's really no practical blood study that can be done to determine which supplement someone will respond to, and in what dosage. As a rule, melatonin is most helpful for sleep and does not have a strong influence on mood or appetite. 5HTP has a strong influence on mood, appetite and anxiety. Tryptophan has been used for depression and sleep.