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L - TRYPTOPHAN

Other Names:

L-Triptofano, L-Trypt, L-2-amino-3-(indole-3-yl) propionic acid, L-Tryptophane, Tryptophan.

L-TRYPTOPHAN Overview
L-TRYPTOPHAN Uses
L-TRYPTOPHAN Side Effects
L-TRYPTOPHAN Interactions
L-TRYPTOPHAN Dosing
L-TRYPTOPHAN Overview Information

L-tryptophan is an amino acid, a protein building block that can be found in many plant and animal proteins. L-tryptophan is called an “essential” amino acid because the body can’t make it. It must be acquired from food.

L-tryptophan is used for insomnia, sleep apnea, depression, anxiety, facial pain, a severe form of premenstrual syndrome called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), smoking cessation, grinding teeth during sleep (bruxism), attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette's syndrome, and to improve athletic performance.

How does it work?

L-tryptophan is naturally found in animal and plant proteins. L-tryptophan is considered an essential amino acid because our bodies can't make it. It is important for the development and functioning of many organs in the body. After absorbing L-tryptophan from food, our bodies convert it to 5-HTP (5-hyrdoxytryptophan), and then to serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that transmits signals between nerve cells. It also causes blood vessels to narrow. Changes in the level of serotonin in the brain can alter mood.

L-TRYPTOPHAN Uses & Effectiveness What is this?

Possibly Effective for:

  • Treating premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Taking 6 grams of L-tryptophan per day seems to decrease mood swings, tension, and irritability in women with PMDD.
  • Smoking cessation (helping people quit smoking). Taking L-tryptophan seems to improve the effectiveness of conventional treatment for smoking cessation.

Possibly Ineffective for:

  • Treating teeth grinding (bruxism).
  • Treating facial pain.
  • Improving athletic ability.

Insufficient Evidence for:

  • Depression. Developing research suggests that L-tryptophan might improve the effectiveness of common medications for depression.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Early research suggests L-tryptophan might be helpful in SAD.
  • Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There is some evidence that L-tryptophan levels are lower in children with ADHD; however, taking L-tryptophan supplements does not appear to improve ADHD symptoms.
  • Treating sleep disorders. Taking L-tryptophan might decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and improve mood in healthy people with sleep problems. There is also some evidence that taking L-tryptophan might decrease episodes in some people who periodically stop breathing during sleep (sleep apnea).
  • Anxiety.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate L-tryptophan for these uses.


L-TRYPTOPHAN Side Effects & Safety

L-tryptophan is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth. It has been linked to over 1500 reports of eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS) and 37 deaths. EMS is a neurological condition with symptoms that include fatigue; intense muscle pain; nerve pain; skin changes; baldness; rash; and pain and swelling affecting the joints, connective tissue, lungs, heart, and liver. Symptoms tend to improve over time, but some people may still experience symptoms up to 2 years after they develop EMS. Some people report that their symptoms have never gone away completely.

In 1990, L-tryptophan was recalled from the market due to these safety concerns. After the limitation of L-tryptophan products, the number of EMS cases dropped sharply. The exact cause of EMS in patients taking L-tryptophan is unknown, but some evidence suggests it may be due to contaminated L-tryptophan products. About 95% of all EMS cases were traced to L-tryptophan produced by a single manufacturer in Japan. Currently, under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994, L-tryptophan is available and marketed as a dietary supplement.

L-tryptophan can cause some side effects such as heartburn, stomach pain, belching and gas, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. It can also cause headache, lightheadedness, drowsiness, dry mouth, visual blurring, muscle weakness, and sexual problems.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: L-tryptophan is LIKELY UNSAFE in pregnancy because it may harm the unborn child. Not enough is known about the safety of L-tryptophan during breast-feeding. Avoid using L-tryptophan during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

A white blood cell disorder called eosinophilia: L-tryptophan might make this condition worse. L-tryptophan has been associated with the development of eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS).

Liver or kidney disease: L-tryptophan might make these conditions worse since it has been associated with the development of eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS).

L-TRYPTOPHAN Interactions What is this?

Major Interaction Do not take this combination

  • Medications for depression (Antidepressant drugs) interacts with L-TRYPTOPHAN

    L-tryptophan increases a brain chemical called serotonin. Some medications for depression also increase the brain chemical serotonin. Taking L-tryptophan along with these medications for depression might increase serotonin too much and cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Do not take L-tryptophan if you are taking medications for depression.

    Some of these medications for depression include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), amitriptyline (Elavil), clomipramine (Anafranil), imipramine (Tofranil), and others.

  • Medications for depression (MAOIs) interacts with L-TRYPTOPHAN

    L-tryptophan increases a chemical in the brain. This chemical is called serotonin. Some medications used for depression also increase serotonin. Taking L-tryptophan with these medications used for depression might cause there to be too much serotonin. This could cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety.

    Some of these medications used for depression include phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and others.

  • Sedative medications (CNS depressants) interacts with L-TRYPTOPHAN

    L-tryptophan might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Taking L-tryptophan along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.

    Some sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien), and others.


Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination

  • Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, and others) interacts with L-TRYPTOPHAN

    L-Tryptophan can affect a brain chemical called serotonin. Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, others) can also affect serotonin. Taking L-tryptophan along with dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, others), might cause there to be too much serotonin in the brain and serious side effects including heart problems, shivering and anxiety could occur. Do not take L-tryptophan if you are taking dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, others).

  • Meperidine (Demerol) interacts with L-TRYPTOPHAN

    L-tryptophan increases a chemical in the brain called serotonin. Meperidine (Demerol) can also increase serotonin in the brain. Taking L-tryptophan along with meperidine (Demerol) might cause too much serotonin in the brain and serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety.

  • Pentazocine (Talwin) interacts with L-TRYPTOPHAN

    L-tryptophan increases a brain chemical called serotonin. Pentazocine (Talwin) also increases serotonin. Taking L-tryptophan along with pentazocine (Talwin) might cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Do not take L-tryptophan if you are taking pentazocine (Talwin).

  • Phenothiazines interacts with L-TRYPTOPHAN

    Taking L-tryptophan with phenothiazines can cause serious side effects including movement disorders.

    Some phenothiazines include chlorpromazine (Thorazine), fluphenazine (Prolixin), trifluoperazine (Stelazine), thioridazine (Mellaril), and others.

  • Sedative medications (Benzodiazepines) interacts with L-TRYPTOPHAN

    Sedative medications can affect the nervous system. L-tryptophan can also affect the nervous system. Taking L-tryptophan along with sedative medications can cause serious side effects. Do not take L-tryptophan if you are taking sedative medications.

    Some of these sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and others.

  • Tramadol (Ultram) interacts with L-TRYPTOPHAN

    Tramadol (Ultram) can affect a chemical in the brain called serotonin. L-tryptophan can also affect serotonin. Taking L-tryptophan along with tramadol (Ultram) might cause too much serotonin in the brain and side effects including confusion, shivering, and stiff muscles could result.


L-TRYPTOPHAN Dosing

The appropriate dose of L-tryptophan depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time, there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for L-tryptophan. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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Conditions of Use and Important Information: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

This copyrighted material is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Information from this source is evidence-based and objective, and without commercial influence. For professional medical information on natural medicines, see Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Professional Version. © Therapeutic Research Faculty 2009.

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