Supplement of the Month: 5-HTP

What is 5-HTP and where is it found?

5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a byproduct from the amino acid, tryptophan. It is naturally produced from tryptophan in the body as the body makes serotonin. It is also found in various plants, including the seeds of a West African plant called griffonia simplicifolia. However, the amount of 5-HTP in foods is insignificant, so 5-HTP is sold as an over-the-counter supplement.

What are the benefits of 5-HTP?

5-HTP has been shown to be effective as an antidepressant. It may also be effective as a treatment for fibromyalgia and its symptoms, such as pain, morning stiffness, and sleeplessness.  Some people take 5-HTP to treat sleep disorders, anxiety, migraines, tension headaches, and PMS. Others take 5-HTP as an appetite suppressant and use it to aid in weight loss.

Are there interactions with 5-HTP and food or medications?

5-HTP should not be taken with MAOI or SSRI antidepressants. It should also be avoided if taking carbidopa, demerol, tramadol or pentazocine.

Are there side effects of 5-HTP?

5-HTP may cause heartburn, stomach pain, flatulence, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and anorexia.  There is some concern, though it is unclear, that 5-HTP may cause eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS), which is condition that presents with muscle tenderness and blood abnormalities. However, this is controversial and some research suggests EMS may have been caused by a contaminant in the supplement rather than the 5-HTP itself. If you decide to take 5-HTP, it is very important that you buy a trusted, reputable brand that will be free of any impurities or contaminants.

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