Serotonin is one of the four most important neurotransmitters (brain chemicals), which is thought to be responsible for happiness and mood. Before the brain creates serotonin it needs a molecule called 5-HTP. By taking a 5-HTP supplement, your brain gets more serotonin. In fact, you may get more serotonin in your brain than you would like because 5-HTP bypasses an enzyme that usually sets the upper limit.

Often 5-HTP is used to fight depression and it is involved in increased happiness and mood. Many people take a stack of L-tyrosine and 5-HTP to improve their mood and reduce feelings of anxiety, but current evidence of this is anecdotal rather than scientific. In theory, there is synergy between the two ingredients.

There are some risks of using 5-HTP as it can create a surplus of serotonin in the brain, but in general is a safe nootropic to use within the recommended dosages.

Also Known As

5-hydroxytryptophan, serotonin precursor

Editors’ Thoughts on 5-HTP

I don’t have a lot of experience with 5-HTP personally, but my girlfriend uses it specifically when she takes MDMA so that she can prevent a comedown. It seems to work really well for her and many others (though it might not be the most important tool for that purpose).

Given that I usually err on the side of caution, I would probably take tryptophan before I took 5-HTP. From what I understand, tryptophan limits the total serotonin because of an enzyme called “tryptophan hydroxylase” whereas 5-HTP is one step later and thus has no limits.

I don’t particularly want too much serotonin swimming around in my brain, but it isn’t much of a risk if you just use the recommended dosage.

Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor


Benefits of 5-HTP

The primary benefit of 5-HTP is the ability to reduce symptoms of depression. In some people who lack particular enzymes, there is a chemical cause of depression that requires supplementation in order to remedy [1]. Usually, the amount of tryptophan (and thus serotonin) can be low because of deficiencies in magnesium, vitamin B6 or stress [2].

Whether the cause is diet or genetic, 5-HTP has shown significant impact. One study showed 5-HTP (and another ingredient) helped to treat resistant depression in 43.4% of the study participants [3].

Another benefit of 5-HTP is handling stress. In one study investigating romantic stress, participants who recently experienced a breakup were given 6 weeks of 5HTP, which helped to reduce their stress levels [4].

Finally, for people struggling with anxiety and panic attacks, 5HTP shows promise. Because serotonin is associated with panic attacks, taking 5HTP could be preventative [5]. Children who suffer from night terrors also used 5HTP to create a significant reduction in frequency. A total of 93.5% of children reduced night terrors compared with 28.6% of the placebo group [6]. This lasted for 6 months even without further supplementation of 5-HTP suggesting some longer-term positive effect.

Side Effects of 5-HTP

There are a few side effects of 5-HTP even though it is a molecule our body synthesizes ourselves. For one, some people note a loss in appetite when taking 5-HTP [7]. Although this may be considered positive by some, it is unintended and negative for others. Certainly, an increase report of nausea is not something any user enjoys.

One 5-HTP side effect that is uncommon, but largely caused by human error is called serotonin syndrome. This is where the brain has too much serotonin and high doses of 5HTP can cause this condition. If you are taking the right dosage of 5HTP then you should have no problems regarding serotonin syndrome.

Finally, there are also side effects of 5-HTP that relate to prescription SSRI drugs or antidepressants. Consider this carefully if you are going to take 5HTP.

5-HTP Dosage

While 5HTP is generally safe as it is a molecule your brain synthesizes, taking too much can be problematic. The 5HTP supplement overrides the rate-limiting enzyme, which typically protects you from high doses of the serotonin. In any case, the 5-HTP dosage is 3-500 mg taken once or divided into a couple doses.

How and Where to Buy 5-HTP

This supplement is popular and ubiquitous in health food stores and even most regular grocery stores. If you want to buy 5-HTP in a cost effective manner, it is probably best to search on the internet. You can find 5-HTP for sale online through various resources, but there are some brands that have a better reputation for safety than others.

Even though our trusted vendors, Nootropics Depot and Pure Nootropics, do not sell 5-HTP currently, we suggest Natrol brand 5-HTP as they are more affordable and have a strong reputation.

Selected Community Experiences

This stuff really really helps me (depression, anxiety). Been taking 300mg 5-HTP a day with EGCg. I feel normal again.” [8] – throw135246357

The enzyme that metabolizes tryptophan to 5-HTP is rate-limiting, and conversion of Tryptophan to 5-HTP is quite regulated and you may not experience any spike in serotonin whatsoever with the former (unless you OD on carbs to increase this enzyme’s activity, and if you do just take 5-HTP) The long-term negatives associated with 5-HTP will apply to Tryptophan if it works, and if it doesn’t then there is no need to even take Tryptophan.” [9] – silverhydra

References (Click to Expand)
  1. http://www.sciencedirect.com./science/article/pii/0165032789900517
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1161737/pdf/biochemj00427-0331.pdf
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12169147
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19417589
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12559480
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15146330
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12766928
  8. https://www.reddit.com/r/Nootropics/comments/2930at/long_term_5htp/
  9. https://www.reddit.com/r/Nootropics/comments/10ydqv/why_not_take_tryptophan_instead_of_5htp/
Other Scientific Resources (Click to Expand)
  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22397264
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19752879
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22142813
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16023217
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9727088
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1161737/pdf/biochemj00427-0331.pdf
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1430228/
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12766928
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2468734
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9705024
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1384305
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1722953
  13. http://wurtmanlab.mit.edu/static/pdf/466.pdf
  14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8697046
  15. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7522410
  16. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(73)93259-5/abstract
  17. http://www.sciencedirect.com./science/article/pii/0165032789900517
  18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1907934
  19. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14592780
  20. http://www.sciencedirect.com./science/article/pii/S1043466699906610
  21. http://www.sciencedirect.com./science/article/pii/S0165032704001442
  22. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11799348
  23. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12169147
  24. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6967194
  25. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22888252
  26. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21475622
  27. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22171164
  28. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19417589
  29. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21178946
  30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18165395


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