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Depression and 5-Hydroxytryptophan

Read more about 5-Hydroxytryptophan.


Tryptophan is believed to improve depression symptoms by increasing levels of seratonin in the brain. Tryptophan is a naturally occurring essential amino acid which occurs in foods and in supplements widely available at natural food stores. The most effective forms of Tryptophan are supplements of L-tryptophan and 5-HTP or 5-hydroxytrytophan, which is a form of Tryptophan that is closer to serotonin.

A fair amount of studies have shown that Trypotophan or 5-HTP were more effective in alleviating depression as compared to no treatment (placebo) or antidepressants.

Find other natural remedies for depression.

Effect of 5-Hydroxytryptophan on Depression

Tryptophan is ingested through food or supplements. Once in the body, tryptophan synthesizes serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for regulating mood, appetite and sleep. Increased sertonin levels provided by 5-HTP help to counter the symptoms associated with depression. Although available in food sources, the concentration is not typically sufficient for absorption into the brain. Tryptophan supplements can provide the required dosage to support absorption by the brain.

Research Evidence on 5-Hydroxytryptophan

In a study published in the “Advances in Biomedical Pharmacology”, close to 50% of patients with unipolar and bipolar depression taking 5-HTP showed a drop in depression symptoms.3

In a 1991 study, thirty-six subjects compared the effectiveness of 5-HTP to an SSRI. One group was given 5-HTP, while another group was given an SSRI. After six weeks, both groups showed about the same success rate. When the numbers were totaled at the end of the study, the mean percentage was slightly greater for patients treated with 5-HTP.4

How to Use 5-Hydroxytryptophan

Tryptophan occurs naturally in foods such as turkey, milk, cheese, pumpkin seeds and legumes.1 The most effective source of Tyrptophan is supplements of L-tryptohpan or 5-HTP or 5-hydroxytrytophan which is a form of Tryptophan that is closer to serotonin.

Typical Recommended dosage for 5-HTP is 100 mg taken three times daily on an empty stomach. Vitamin C and a B-complex supplement taken along with tryptophan can support its process of becoming serotonin.2

Side Effects and Warnings

5-HTP should not be used in combination with antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) or herbs that have MAOI activity. 4

As Tryptophan is sometimes recommended for relieving insomnia, it may cause some drowsiness.

Some users have reported nausea in the first few days of usage, but it typically goes away.


1 Alternative Medicine, Burton Goldberg, Second Edition

2 [][1], Tryptophan Supplements Treat Depression, 2008

3 Costa and Greengard (1984) Frontiers in Biochemical and Pharmacological Research in Depression. Advances in Biochemical Psychopharmacology