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is 5-htp natural ? sources of 5-htp  is 5-htp safe ? what is 5htp made from what is in 5-htp

Is 5-htp natural? Boost your feel-good chemical with nature’s gifts

Published Jun 15, 2023 | Updated May 15, 2024

5-htp is a popular supplement as it’s the building block of your feel-good chemical serotonin which helps you regulate mood and sleep. With its rise in popularity, questions about the supplement are beginning to arise: Is 5-htp natural? Is 5-htp safe? Whilst the short answer is yes, this article answers those questions to paint a clear picture of 5-htp and its occurrence in nature. 

Watch this video to discover how to increase Serotonin naturally:

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Serotonin: your feel-good chemical

Your feel-good chemical serotonin is an important brain messenger and hormone that mediates a range of physiological functions[1]. It is usually paired together with dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins that form the so-called happiness chemicals. Serotonin can get released when you’re out in the sunlight, while exercising, getting a massage or remembering happy events[2]. When that happens, serotonin regulates your emotions, such as your mood and temperament in the frontal part of your brain[3]. When your serotonin levels are normal, you feel more emotionally stable and happier[4]. Serotonin also regulates sleep. The more normal your serotonin levels are, the better and longer you’ll sleep[4]. Your brain also needs serotonin to make your sleep hormone melatonin which regulates your sleep-wake cycle. You can read more about it here. 

What comes first? Tryptophan, 5-htp and serotonin

As described above, serotonin is a chemical messenger in your brain. It can only get released if it has been produced in your brain. But how does that happen? 

We ingest a nutrient that is needed for the production of messengers in the brain called tryptophan[5]. Tryptophan is a so-called essential amino acid which means your body has to get it from your diet instead of making it itself[5]. When tryptophan is in your body it starts competing with other molecules to be picked up by a special transporter[6]. The transporter allows tryptophan to enter the brain from the blood[6]. There, another molecule joins tryptophan and together they transform into the direct building block of serotonin, called  5-htp[6]. So, serotonin can only be produced if your brain gets the right amount of 5-htp. For example, if your body transported just a small amount of tryptophan into your brain which was then converted into 5-htp, your serotonin levels will stay low even if you exercise or stay outside in the sunshine.  So, what is 5-htp made from?

Getting enough 5-htp through a tryptophan-rich diet 

You can get the recommended daily dose of 5-htp through adequate tryptophan intake. Tryptophan is found in protein-rich foods. The World Health Organization published the Protein and amino acid requirements in human nutrition manual in 2007[7]. According to the manual, the recommended daily intake of tryptophan is 4 mg per 1 kg of human weight per day. An NHS 2019 study found that the average weight was 72.1 kg for women and 85.4 kg for men[8]. Therefore, UK women and men should ingest somewhere between 290 and 240 mg of tryptophan per day. Now take a look at how much tryptophan you can find in 100 g of different plant-based foods. 

Tryptophan in 100g of food (in mg)



Chia Seeds


Hemp Seeds


Flax Seeds


Raw Cashews


Raw Peanuts




Cremini Mushrooms






With a typical Western diet, people usually ingest around 500 mg of tryptophan per day[9]. Due to tryptophan’s competition with other amino acids to win over the transporter molecule, only 2–3% of tryptophan enters the brain where it is converted into 5-htp and then into serotonin[6,9]. 100mg daily of 5-htp has shown positive effects on mood and sleep regulation. If you do the quick math that means you should ingest around 13-14 times the usual tryptophan intake in the typical Western diet for it to be converted into the recommended daily amount of 5-htp.

Natural sources of 5-htp

Another way to get the recommended daily dose of 5-htp is directly from a natural source. There are a few 5-htp sources known as of today although it is hard to ingest them in an adequate amount naturally. 

Studies showed 5-htp can be found in some mushrooms (White bottom mushroom, Honey mushroom, Bay bolete mushroom and porcini mushroom just to name a few), weed couch grass, quack grass, St. John’s wort (when planted in a very specific way) and intertidal sea sponge in very small doses[10,11,12]. A fairly new study conducted in Brazil also showed that 5-htp is present in Brazilian honey[13]. However, the detection of 5-htp in the study and 5-htp concentrations depended on seasons, year, flowering, and climate[13,14]. Griffonia Simplicifolia seeds are the largest source of 5-htp[15,16]. One seed contains up to 20% of 5-htp by weight[15]. However, Griffonia seeds are prohibited to be consumed in the UK and Europe. Below, you can see the amounts of 5-htp in 100g of certain sources.  

5-htp in 100g of source (in mg)

The amount of ingested source to reach 100mg of 5-htp

White bottom mushroom


100 kg 

Honey mushroom


100 kg

Bay bolete mushroom


100 kg

Porcini mushroom


55 kg

Brazilian honey


5 kg

It’s fair to say that getting an adequate intake of 5-htp from most of the above-mentioned natural sources would be almost impossible and definitely unhealthy as high amounts of those natural sources contain other compounds which can be toxic when ingested in big amounts. 

5-htp natural supplement 

If you’re looking to supplement 5-htp you can opt for brain feed’s high-quality serotonin enhancement product. 

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Pack Size

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So, what is in 5-htp? 5-htp is just one of the compounds found in Griffonia seeds, therefore, it has to be extracted. The 5-htp in brain feed’s 5-htp 100 mg tablets is extracted and isolated from Ghanian Griffonia Simplicifolia seeds. 98% of the tablet is comprised of 5-htp making it the smallest, nutrient-dense tablet available without including unnecessary bulking agents. 100 mg 5-htp per tablet is a high-quality and high-strength product. You should start by taking only 1 tablet with a meal. You can take a maximum of 2 tablets of 5-htp per day. 200 mg of 5-htp and more per day have been safely taken for up to one year. brain feed recommends taking 5-htp when you have an emotional need for the product. All new customers get 15% off their first purchase when using the code ‘NEW15’ at the checkout.

With all the questions answered you’re encouraged to be mindful of your tryptophan and 5-htp intake so you can better regulate your mood and sleep.


[1] Jones, L. A., Sun, E. W., Martin, A. M., & Keating, D. J. (2020). The ever-changing roles of serotonin. The International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology, 125, 105776. 

[2] Korb, A. (2017). Boosting Your Serotonin Activity. Psychology Today.,a%20more%20in%2Ddepth%20look.

[3] Hariri, A. R., & Brown, S. M. (2006). Serotonin. American Journal of Psychiatry, 163(1), 12–12.

[4] Serotonin (2022). Cleveland Clinic.,serotonin%20are%20associated%20with%20depression.

[5] Tryptophan (n.d.). National Library of Medicine.,get%20it%20from%20your%20diet.

[6] Jenkins, T. A., Nguyen, J. C. D., Polglaze, K. E., & Bertrand, P. P. (2016). Influence of Tryptophan and Serotonin on Mood and Cognition with a Possible Role of the Gut-Brain Axis. Nutrients, 8(1), 56.

[7] Moody, A. (2020). Health Survey for England 2019 Overweight and obesity in adults and children. NHS Digital.

[8] The World Health Organization. (2007). Protein and amino acid requirements in human nutrition manual. WHO Technical Report Series.

[9] L-tryptophan & 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) (n.d.). Accurate Clinic.,HTP

[10] Fijałkowska, A., Jędrejko, K., Sułkowska-Ziaja, K., Ziaja, M., Kała, K., & Muszyńska, B. (2022). Edible Mushrooms as a Potential Component of Dietary Interventions for Major Depressive Disorder. Foods, 11(10), Article 10.

[11] Maffei, M. E. (2021). 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP): Natural Occurrence, Analysis, Biosynthesis, Biotechnology, Physiology and Toxicology. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 22(1), Article 1. 

[12] Muszyńska, B., Sułkowska-Ziaja, K., & Wójcik, A. (2013). Levels of physiologically active indole derivatives in the fruiting bodies of some edible mushrooms (Basidiomycota) before and after thermal processing. Mycoscience, 54(5), 321–326. 

[13] Kim, T.-K., Fabisiak, A., Brzeminski, P., Reiter, R. J., & Slominski, A. T. (2022). Serotonin, melatonin and their precursors and metabolites and vitamin D3 derivatives in honey. Melatonin Research, 5(3), 374–380. 

[14] Borges, C. V., Nunes, A., Costa, V. E., Orsi, R. de O., Basilio, L. S. P., Monteiro, G. C., Maraschin, M., & Lima, G. P. P. (2022). Tryptophan and Biogenic Amines in the Differentiation and Quality of Honey. International Journal of Tryptophan Research, 15, 11786469221102098.

[15] Patel, K. (2022). Griffonia Simplicifolia. Examine.

[16] Giurleo, D. (2017). A phytochemical exploration of Griffonia simplicifolia seeds and leaves [Master Thesis]. Graduate School-New Brunswick Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

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