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For depression, 300 mg per day is often effective, though much of the research used 5-HTP in combination with drugs or was uncontrolled.3, 4, 5 For insomnia, a single 100-mg nighttime dose of 5-HTP was sufficient to improve the duration and depth of sleep in one placebo-controlled trial.6 For migraine headaches, amounts ranging from 400–600 mg per day have been shown to be effective at reducing the frequency and severity of attacks in most clinical trials.7, 8, 9, 10, 11 For tension headaches, 100 mg of 5-HTP taken three times per day led to a significant decrease in consumption of pain-relievers, but no significant change in headache duration or intensity.12
Appetite reduction and weight loss (averaging 11 pounds in 12 weeks) has occurred with amounts of 600–900 mg daily.13, 14 In another clinical trial, 750 mg per day has been shown to be effective at decreasing carbohydrate and fat intake, and promoting weight loss.15
5-HTP is not present in significant amounts in a typical diet. The human body manufactures 5-HTP from L-tryptophan, a natural amino acid found in most dietary proteins. However, eating food that contains L-tryptophan does not significantly increase 5-HTP levels. Supplemental 5-HTP is naturally derived from the seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia, a West African medicinal plant.
Disruptions in emotional well-being, including depression and anxiety, have been linked to serotonin imbalances in the brain.16 People with fibromyalgia often have low serotonin levels in their blood.17, 18, 19 Supplements of 5-HTP may increase serotonin synthesis in these cases. The cause of migraine headaches is related to abnormal serotonin function in blood vessels,20 and 5-HTP may help correct this abnormality.21 therefore, 5-HTP may provide a remedy for this condition.
5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a metabolite of L-tryptophan in the body. There are some reasons for taking L-tryptophan instead of 5-HTP. These include the fact that 5-HTP bypasses the rate-limiting step for serotonin production and therefore could, in theory, result in excessive levels of serotonin; L-tryptophan is metabolized into 5-HTP plus other beneficial compounds and so might provide broader benefits; and some safety issues around possible contaminants in 5-HTP products have not yet been resolved.22
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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2017.