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5 - HTP

Other Names:

5HTP, 5 HTP, 5 Hydroxy-Tryptophan, 5 Hydroxy-Tryptophane, 5-hydroxytryptophan, 5-Hydroxytryptophane, 5-Hydroxy L-Tryptophan, 5-Hydroxy L-Tryptophane, 5-Hydroxy Tryptophan, 5-Hydroxy Tryptophane, 5-L-Hydroxytryptophan, L-5 HTP, L-5 hydroxytryptop...
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5-HTP Overview
5-HTP Uses
5-HTP Side Effects
5-HTP Interactions
5-HTP Dosing
5-HTP Overview Information

5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a chemical by-product of the protein building block L-tryptophan. It is also produced commercially from the seeds of an African plant (Griffonia simplicifolia).

5-HTP is used for sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, migraine and tension-type headaches, fibromyalgia, binge eating associated with obesity, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and along with prescription drugs to treat seizure disorder and Parkinson's disease.

How does it work?

5-HTP works in the brain and central nervous system by increasing the production of the chemical serotonin. Serotonin can affect sleep, appetite, temperature, sexual behavior, and pain sensation. Since 5-HTP increases the synthesis of serotonin, it is used for several diseases where serotonin is believed to play an important role including depression, insomnia, obesity, and many other conditions.

5-HTP Uses & Effectiveness What is this?

Possibly Effective for:


Possibly Ineffective for:

  • Treating tension headaches.

Insufficient Evidence for:

  • Alcoholism. Early research shows that taking 5-HTP with D-phenylalanine and L-glutamine for 40 days can reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms. However, taking 5-HTP with carbidopa daily for one year does not seem to help people stop drinking. The effect of 5-HTP alone for alcoholism is not clear.
  • Alzheimer's disease. Early research suggests that taking 5-HTP by mouth does not help symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Anxiety. Evidence on the effects of 5-HTP for anxiety is unclear. Taking up to 300 mg of 5-HTP daily along with carbidopa seems to reduce anxiety symptoms in people with anxiety disorders. However, taking 60 mg of 5-HTP daily through the vein does not reduce anxiety in people with panic disorders.
  • Nervous system disorder (Cerebellar ataxia). Evidence on the use of 5-HTP for cerebellar ataxia is unclear. Early evidence shows that taking 5 mg/kg of 5-HTP daily for 4 months can decrease nervous system dysfunction. However, other research shows that taking 5-HTP daily for up to one year does not improve symptoms of cerebellar ataxia.
  • Down syndrome. Taking 2 mg/kg of 5-HTP daily for 3 years does not improve muscle movement, social skills, or intellectual development in newborn children with Down syndrome.
  • Headache. Evidence on the use of 5-HTP to prevent or treat headache symptoms is unclear. Some research shows that taking 5-HTP daily can reduce headache symptoms in children with headaches. However, other studies show that 5-HTP does not reduce the number or severity of headaches.
  • Insomnia. Taking an amino acid formula (Gabadone) containing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and 5-HTP seems to help people with sleeping problems fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. The effect of 5-HTP alone on sleeping problems is unclear.
  • Menopausal symptoms. Taking 150 mg of 5-HTP daily for 4 weeks does not reduce hot flashes in postmenopausal women.
  • Migraine headache. Evidence on the effects of 5-HTP for the prevention or treatment of migraines in adults is unclear. Some studies show that taking 5-HTP daily does not reduce migraines, while other studies show that it might be as beneficial as prescription drugs. 5-HTP does not seem to reduce migraines in children.
  • Obesity. Early research suggests that taking 5-HTP might help reduce appetite, caloric intake, and weight in obese people.
  • Muscle spasms in the mouth (Palatal myoclonus). Early evidence suggests that taking 5-HTP by mouth might reduce muscle spasms in people with palatal myoclonus.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
  • Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of 5-HTP for these uses.


5-HTP Side Effects & Safety

5-HTP is POSSIBLY SAFE when taking by mouth. However, some people who have taken it have come down with eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS), a serious condition involving extreme muscle tenderness (myalgia) and blood abnormalities (eosinophilia). Some people think EMS might be caused by an accidental ingredient (contaminant) in some 5-HTP products. However, there is not enough scientific evidence to know if EMS is caused by 5-HTP, a contaminant, or some other factor. Until more is known, 5-HTP should be used cautiously.

Other potential side effects of 5-HTP include heartburn, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, sexual problems, and muscle problems.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: 5-HTP is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth when pregnant or breast-feeding. Avoid using it.

Down syndrome: There are reports of 5-HTP causing seizures in some people with Down syndrome. In one group studied, 15% of people with Down syndrome receiving long-term 5-HTP treatment experienced seizures.

Surgery: 5-HTP can affect a brain chemical called serotonin. Some drugs administered during surgery can also affect serotonin. Taking 5-HTP before surgery might cause too much serotonin in the brain and can result in serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Tell patients to stop taking 5-HTP at least 2 weeks before surgery.

5-HTP Interactions What is this?

Major Interaction Do not take this combination

  • Medications for depression (Antidepressant drugs) interacts with 5-HTP

    5-HTP increases a brain chemical called serotonin. Some medications for depression also increase serotonin. Taking 5-HTP 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 5-HTP 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 5-HTP

    5-HTP increases a chemical in the brain. This chemical is called serotonin. Some medications used for depression also increase serotonin. Taking 5-HTP 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.


Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination

  • Carbidopa (Lodosyn) interacts with 5-HTP

    5-HTP can affect the brain. Carbidopa (Lodosyn) can also affect the brain. Taking 5-HTP along with carbidopa can increase the risk of serious side effects including rapid speech, anxiety, aggressiveness, and others.

  • Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, and others) interacts with 5-HTP

    5-HTP can affect a brain chemical called serotonin. Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, others) can also affect serotonin. Taking 5-HTP along with dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, others) might cause too much serotonin in the brain and serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Do not take 5-HTP if you are taking dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, and others).

  • Meperidine (Demerol) interacts with 5-HTP

    5-HTP increases a chemical in the brain called serotonin. Meperidine (Demerol) can also increase serotonin in the brain. Taking 5-HTP 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 5-HTP

    5-HTP increases a brain chemical called serotonin. Pentazocine (Talwin) also increases serotonin. Taking 5-HTP along with pentazocine (Talwin) might increase serotonin too much. This could cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Do not take 5-HTP if you are taking pentazocine (Talwin).

  • Tramadol (Ultram) interacts with 5-HTP

    Tramadol (Ultram) can affect a chemical in the brain called serotonin. 5-HTP can also affect serotonin. Taking 5-HTP along with tramadol (Ultram) might cause too much serotonin in the brain and side effects including confusion, shivering, stiff muscles, and others.


5-HTP Dosing

The appropriate dose of 5-HTP 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 5-HTP. 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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