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Is 5-HTP the best natural antidepressant?


Serotonin is your brain chemical that puts you in a good mood and makes you happy. Serotonin levels can drop by 50% in depression [1]. For the brain to keep you happy, it needs regular serotonin production to avoid depressive episodes. The good news is that you can help your brain make adequate serotonin for its needs. 

How to help your brain make more serotonin?

Certain protein-rich foods like tofu, dairy, eggs, and beef contain a nutrient called tryptophan. Tryptophan is the building block of serotonin. When tryptophan enters the brain, it is first converted to 5-HTP and then to serotonin.

Tryptophan → 5-HTP → Serotonin

It is prudent to consume adequate tryptophan in your diet. Less than 3% of the tryptophan you eat is used to make serotonin [2]. This calls for more efficient ways to produce enough serotonin to keep you happy.

5-HTP: the easy and efficient route to serotonin

Maintaining adequate serotonin levels is a protective measure against depression. One way to ensure a good balance of serotonin is to supplement with 5-HTP. It is the direct precursor to serotonin and involves a single step production. It can freely enter the brain for a safe and natural serotonin boost. 

5-HTP → Serotonin

5-HTP is extracted from a plant called Griffonia Simplicifolia. Brain feed’s 100mg 5-htp supplement is the smallest, most nutrient-dense tablet available. You can read more about it here.

Use of 5-HTP for depression is making waves in the research world due to its ability to increase serotonin levels safely and efficiently.

Is 5-HTP natural antidepressant

An extensive review of 13 studies found that 5-HTP showed positive effects in 14 different types of depression [3]. The review included different 5-HTP dosages for depression and a certified scoring tool to assess change in symptoms. The positive 5-HTP reviews for depression that make it one of the best natural anti-depressants are:

  • Quick effect: Animal studies found there was a 4-fold increase in serotonin levels just 4 hours after 5-HTP intake [4]. Depressed patients had a 50% improvement in depressive symptoms within a week of taking 5-HTP [3]. 
  • Small dose benefits: 5-HTP has shown benefits even in small doses of 50mg [3]. A study among older depressed patients supplemented with 50mg 5-HTP found that it reduced depressive scores by 20% in 12 weeks [5].
  • Complete resolution: 6 studies reported that depression resolved in 70% of the patients who were supplemented [3]. These patients were taking 5-HTP for at least 21 days. Longer duration of 5-HTP intake helps maintain the beneficial effects. 
  • Safe: 5-HTP safety is evidenced by lack of toxicity reports even at high doses of 50mg/kg body weight [6]. Even high doses of 3000 mg/day were safe with minimal side effects[3].


  1. Maurer-Spurej, E. et al. (2007). Platelet serotonin levels support depression scores for women with postpartum depression. J Psychiatry Neurosci, [online] 32(1). 
  2. Richard, D.M., et al. (2009). L-Tryptophan: Basic Metabolic Functions, Behavioral Research and Therapeutic Indications. International Journal of Tryptophan Research, [online] 2, p.IJTR.S2129. 
  3. Javelle, F. et al. (2020). Effects of 5-hydroxytryptophan on distinct types of depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrition reviews78(1), 77–88.
  4. Sharma, A. et al. (2019). Chapter One - 5-Hydroxytryptophan: A precursor of serotonin influences regional blood-brain barrier breakdown, cerebral blood flow, brain edema formation, and neuropathology. [online] 
  5. Meloni, M. et al. (2020). Efficacy and safety of 5‐hydroxytryptophan on depression and apathy in Parkinson’s disease: a preliminary finding. European Journal of Neurology, 27(5), pp.779–786.
  6. Frank, K. et al. (2022). Research Breakdown on 5-HTP - Examine. 
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