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 . 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 . Serotonin levels have been connected to depression, mood disorders, the regulation of sleep, anxiety and pain sensation, among other conditions . 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 .
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 . 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-htp for sleep
Birdsall's research has further proven that taking 5-htp for insomnia and a better night’s sleep is highly effective . 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 .
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) . 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 .
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.
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 Birdsall, T.C., 5-Hydroxytryptophan: A Clinically-Effective Serotonin Precursor. Alternative Medicine Review, 1998. 3(4): p. 271-280.
 Berumen, L.C., et al., Serotonin Receptors in Hippocampus. The Scientific World Journal, 2012. 2012: p. 15.
 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
 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.
 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
 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.
 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