We understand that you may not have heard of 5-HTP (hydroxytryptophan) or don’t have the foggiest idea what it actually does. The fact that 5-HTP is a powerful, naturally occurring amino acid that contributes to the production of serotonin might not have ever come up. We get it, so we’re here to answer your questions on what 5-HTP is, when to take it, and how much your doses should be.
What Is 5-HTP?
So, what is this magical amino acid we speak of and why is it so important? Well, it’s likely that you’ve heard of serotonin, which is actually a chemical messenger that sends signals between your nerve cells. An adequate supply of serotonin has a huge effect on your brain. It's necessary for regulating many different aspects of your mood, including depression and anxiety. It also effects things like appetite, sleep, and memory. You may also know serotonin as the chemical in your brain that makes you feel happy. So, what does 5-HTP actually have to do with this? Well, without 5-HTP, your body would not be able to create serotonin – that's right, it's a serotonin precursor so it's important to make sure your brain has enough of it. You know, if you’re concerned with things like regulating your mood, promoting weight loss, beating insomnia, and improving depression. No big deal.
How Do You Take 5-HTP?
5-HTP isn't found in food which is part of the reason why 5-HTP supplement tablets exist. Fun fact: although you won't find 5-HTP in food, it can be produced commercially from the seeds of an African plant known as griffonia simplicifolia. Who knew? The amino acid l-tryptophan is found in foods such as turkey, chicken, potatoes, and pumpkin. Tryptophan converts to 5-HTP in the body but studies have found that taking 5-HTP directly is much more beneficial to serotonin levels in the brain than waiting for tryptophan to convert in your body. Why? Because 5-HTP crosses the blood-brain barrier at a higher rate, therefore is converted to serotonin more quickly and efficiently – which can only mean that you reap the benefits faster and more effectively.
Why Take 5-HTP?
There is an array of reasons why people take 5-HTP. It can help combat the effects of several issues, including:
- Obesity and weight loss
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Sleep disorders
- PMS (premenstrual syndrome) symptoms
- Hot flashes
- Panic attacks
There are many other possible reasons why one might take 5-HTP, although not all of these have been proven to have any real or lasting effect. These include Down syndrome, alcoholism, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and ADHD.
Depression is so far the only illness that has been somewhat proven during clinical research to be helped by the regular consumption of 5-HTP but there is evidence to suggest that it does improve other previously mentioned illnesses and ailments by raising serotonin levels.
Dosage Guide and Instructions
Now, before starting a new daily vitamin or supplement, remember to consult your doctor to ensure that it is safe, especially if you are currently on any medications. However, if this is something that you are interested in taking, the recommended dose for 5-HTP as a fully-grown adult is 300-400 mg, usually broken up into two or three doses. If you prefer to take just one dose (or else can’t remember to have to take a supplement 2-3 times per day), it is recommended to take 5-HTP before bed as it potentially will make you drowsy. It is also usually recommended that you take 5-HTP with food, although this can vary from supplement to supplement.
It is potentially safe for infants and children up to 12 years old to take doses of up to 5 mg of 5-HTP daily, though you should talk to your child's pediatrician before starting them on any dietary supplements. There is also a risk that it is unsafe for pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding. Because there has not been enough research or a clinical trial in regards to the latter, it is best to avoid taking 5-HTP when pregnant or breastfeeding.
When it comes to our RaveAid dietary supplements, we include 100 mg of 5-HTP per serving, which is about 1/3 to ¼ of the daily recommended dosage if taken alone. Of course, our RaveAid supplements include a number of other beneficial dietary supplements that work together to prevent that dreaded crashing feeling after a night of raving. (That said, they’re also not meant to be taken as a daily supplement!)
When Not to Take 5-HTP and Side Effects
Of course, as with all dietary supplements, there’s a possibility of side effects, especially if not taken correctly. This is why it’s especially important to follow dosage instructions and not to mix 5-HTP with certain medications.
We cannot stress enough to always check with your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you are currently on other medications. For example, is highly recommended that you avoid taking 5-HTP if you are currently on medication to combat depression or anxiety as antidepressant drugs are meant to increase serotonin in the brain as well. When you combine two drugs or supplements that increase the production of serotonin, you are at the risk of elevated serotonin levels - yes, there is such thing as too much serotonin! This could result in heart problems, shivering and anxiety, which is directly the opposite effect of what you’re looking for.
Other potential side effects of 5-HTP include:
- EMS (eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome)
- Stomach pain
- Sexual problems
- Muscle problems
Again, these are all potential side effects which you can speak to your doctor about before beginning a regular dosage of 5-HTP. Your doctor can also help you decide what doses are best for you and if you should start gradually and work your way to a higher one. This is usually recommended with new dietary supplements or medications to help avoid potential side effects. It has been suggested that EMS has only been diagnosed due to 5-HTP due to impurities in the supplements. While this has not been 100% proven, it is best to look for NSF or USP seals. These indicate that the dietary supplements are high quality and have been tested to make sure they do not contain impurities.As with any supplement, natural or otherwise, 5-HTP has the potential to carry wonderful benefits as well as possible risks and side effects. It is so important to do your research and study anything that you’re putting in your body, never mind if it’s something you’re consuming every day. Having said that, 5-HTP could be a great natural solution for you if you are struggling with depression, anxiety, migraine headaches, or any disorder listed above. And if you want to try 5-HTP in a small dose along with a select few other supporting dietary supplements, you know where to find RaveAid!