5-HTP: what it is, what it is for and how to take it

5-HTP, also known as 5-hydroxytryptophan, is a type of amino acid that is naturally produced by the body and is used in the production process of serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that facilitates the transmission of electrical signals between nerve cells and that contributes to good mood.

Thus, when the levels of 5-HTP are very low, the body cannot produce enough serotonin and this increases the risk of the person ending up developing several types of psychological disorders, especially anxiety, depression or problems sleeping, for example.

Thus, supplementation with 5-HTP has been increasingly used, as a way to try to increase the production of serotonin and facilitate the treatment of some common psychological disorders.

How 5-HTP is produced

After several studies, the researchers found that 5-HTP is also present in a type of African plant, in addition to the human body. The name of this plant is  Griffonia simplicifolia and the 5-HTP used to make the supplement capsules, sold in some pharmacies and health food stores, is taken from its seeds.

What is it for

All the effects of 5-HTP on the body are not yet known, however, several studies are indicating that it can be useful to help in the treatment of various conditions, such as:

1. Depression

Several studies, done with doses between 150 and 3000 mg of daily supplementation of 5-HTP, prove a positive effect on the symptoms of depression, which seem to improve after 3 or 4 weeks of continuous treatment with this supplement.

2. Anxiety

There are still not many results on the use of 5-HTP to treat cases of anxiety, however, some investigations claim that low doses of 50 to 150 mg per day can help keep anxiety more controlled.

3. Obesity

Recent studies have shown that regular supplementation with 5-HTP can help people with obesity or overweight, as the substance appears to help regulate appetite, increasing the feeling of satiety.

4. Sleep problems

Although there are few studies done in humans, animal research has shown that 5-HTP can help you sleep more easily and even have a better quality of sleep. This could possibly be explained by the fact that, by increasing serotonin levels, 5-HTP also contributes to a higher production of melatonin, the main hormone responsible for regulating sleep.

5. Fibromyalgia

Several studies have been done to try to understand the relationship between the levels of 5-HTP in the body and chronic pain. Most of these studies were done in people with fibromyalgia, who appeared to have a slight improvement in symptoms. However, these studies are very old and need to be better proven.

How to take 5-HTP

The use of 5-HTP should always be guided by a doctor or other health professional with knowledge in supplementation, as it may vary according to the problem to be treated, as well as the person’s health history.

In addition, there is no recommended dose of 5-HTP intake, and most professionals advise doses between 50 and 300 mg per day, starting with doses of 25 mg that are gradually increased.

Possible side effects

Although it is a natural supplement, the continued and misguided use of 5-HTP can aggravate the symptoms of some conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, generalized anxiety disorder or Parkinson’s disease, for example.

This is because, while increasing serotonin production, 5-HTP can also reduce the concentration of other important neurotransmitters.

Other more immediate effects may include nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. If they arise, supplementation should be interrupted and the doctor who is providing guidance should be consulted.

Who should not take

It should not be used in cases of chronic renal failure, pregnant women and children under 18, especially if there is not medical advice.

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