How effective is 5-htp?

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Amino acid precursors have been prescribed for decades to help treat a range of clinical conditions. Despite their long-term use, in the past the effectiveness of 5-htp has been unclear. However, due to more UK and EU funding available for nutritional research, newer studies are now emerging and they have examined whether 5-htp can positively help patients suffering from depression, sleep issues and PMD.

What is 5-htp?

According to research by Birdsall, 5-htp is the transitional metabolite of L-tryptophan (LT), the essential amino acid in the biosynthesis of serotonin [1]. Serotonin, as described by Berumen et al., is a recognised neurotransmitter distributed brain wide with a particular presence in the hippocampus - a major component of the brain [2]. Serotonin levels have been connected to depression, mood disorders, the regulation of sleep, anxiety and pain sensation, among other conditions [3]. Nutrient precursors, such as 5-htp, have been shown to be effective in treating many of these conditions, as well as sharing promise for fibromyalgia and binge eating that is associated with obesity [1].

5-htp for depression

Research conducted by Nakajima et al., on patients with depression found that those who took 5-htp experienced marked improvements, some of whom noticed excellent progress within just one week [4]. A similar study by Alino et al., also found that patients who took nialamide + 5-htp as opposed to nialamide alone achieved a fuller recovery [5].

5-htp for sleep

Birdsall's research has further proven that taking 5-htp for insomnia and a better night’s sleep is highly effective [1]. One of the main factors that can contribute to difficulty falling or staying asleep is a hormonal imbalance (including melatonin and serotonin). At night, serotonin can be converted into melatonin, which is the hormone directly involved in the daily wake/sleep cycle (melatonin is light sensitive and therefore the conversion happens as it gets dark). Once the levels of these neurotransmitters are increased through the intake of 5-htp, individuals should experience a better night’s rest [6].

5-htp for PMD/ PMS

In recent studies, medications prescribed to boost serotonin proved to be effective in relieving the main psychological symptoms faced by women with PMD (Premenstrual Dysphoria) [7]. Another study by Eriksson et al., also found that taking 5-htp seemed to lift the often disabling mood conditions experienced by women with the condition [8].

Although more research may still need to be undertaken in regards to 5-htp, the studies discussed above prove that 5-hydroxytryptophan can be effective when treating certain clinical conditions.

brain feed’s 5-htp supplements are the smallest yet most nutrient-dense tablets available on the market. The UK’s premium supplier, brain feed put your health and wellbeing front and centre of product design, using 100% naturally derived ingredients to drive results grounded in science. Made from the highest quality extracts taken from sustainable sources – in this case, from griffonia seeds – they are twice the strength of 5-htp available from Holland & Barrett and MyProtein, helping you to relieve your anxiety in an easy-to-swallow, reliable and consistent tablet.

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[1] Birdsall, T.C., 5-Hydroxytryptophan: A Clinically-Effective Serotonin Precursor. Alternative Medicine Review, 1998. 3(4): p. 271-280.

[2] Berumen, L.C., et al., Serotonin Receptors in Hippocampus. The Scientific World Journal, 2012. 2012: p. 15.

[3] Trachte, G.J., T. Uncini, and M. Hinz, Both stimulatory and inhibitory effects of dietary 5-hydroxytryptophan and tyrosine are found on urinary excretion of serotonin and dopamine in a large human population. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 2009. 5: p.227-235.11

[4] Nakajima, WT.,Y. Kudo, and Z. Kaneko, Clinical Evaluation of 5-Hydroxy-L-Tryptophan as an Antidepressant Drug. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 1978. 32(2): p. 223-230.

[5] Alino, J.J., J.L. Gutierrez, and M.L. Iglesias, 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) and a MAOI (nialamide) in the treatment of depressions. A double-blind controlled study. Int Pharmacopsychiatry,1976. 11(1): p. 8


[7]  Eriksson O et al. Mood changes correlate to changes in brain serotonin precursor trapping in women with premenstrual dysphoria. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging , Volume 146 , Issue 2 , 107 - 116.

[8] Eriksson O, Wall A, Olsson U, Marteinsdottir I, HolstadM, Ågren H, et al. (2016) Women with Premenstrual Dysphoria Lack the SeeminglyNormal PremenstrualRight-Sided Relative Dominance of 5-HTP-Derived Serotonergic Activity in the Dorsolateral PrefrontalCortices - A Possible Cause of DisablingMood Symptoms. PLoS ONE 11(9): e0159538. doi:10.1371/journal. pone.0159538

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