5 Science-Backed Benefits of 5-HTP

5-Hydroxytryptophan or 5-HTP is an amino acid that is used as a supplement. Some of it’s reported benefits include improving sleep, weight loss and alleviating depression. Due to the numerous and potentially dangerous side effects of prescription medication, 5-HTP has become a well-regarded natural alternative to prozac and sleep medication for health-conscious people.

While some may enjoy the benefit of a placebo effect, there are some studies that support its effectiveness in treating some of these conditions. It is important to discuss these potential benefits with your physician before changing or stopping any medication you have been prescribed.

We are going to review the results and dosages involved in published studies concerning the effectiveness of 5-HTP. The benefits, side effects and possible drug interactions will also be noted or reviewed.

1. 5-HTP Can Aid in Weight Loss and Obesity 

lose belly fat, jeans size

5-HTP can help you control your appetite, which can help you eat fewer calories than you consume, thus lose weight. Another study suggests taking 5-htp with a meal also help you feel fuller, which can help you eat less.

A study published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” 20 obese participants were given 900 milligrams of 5-HTP or a placebo. The study revealed that subjects managed to lose weight whether or not a diet was prescribed. The researchers noted that the participants ate less carbs and felt more sated after a meal.

Carbohydrates that are in the form of highly processed foods is one of the main reasons people put on weight or at least it’s responsible for the high calories ingested that convert to fat. 5-HTP’s ability to help you control your appetite or reduce carb cravings makes it a powerful weight-loss aid for those who are using a low-carb diet to drop the pounds.

2. 5-HTP May Improve Symptoms of Depression 

van gogh depression

The “Journal of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment” published a study on its effects on depression by a researcher that is considered a specialist on studying 5-HTP. The study involved 99 participants who are suffering from treatment-resistant depression. These are people with depression that did not respond well to traditional forms of medication, such as anti-depressants.

The researcher reported that about 43 percent of the participants made a full recovery with dosages averaging 200 milligrams of 5-HTP with a lower range dose of 50 milligrams and a higher range of 600 milligrams.

The journal notes that carbidopa ( a Parkinson’s treatment drug) is a potentiator for 5-HTP when used together; this increases it’s bioavailability in the brain. However, the study found that 5-HTP does not seem to be effective for treating depression when used alone.

5-HTP does not seem to be effective for treating depression when used alone.

These results are in range of a placebo effect (30 to 45 percent) noted in other trials involving treatment options for depression and therefore does not confirm 5-HTP’s effectiveness as a clinical depression aid.

Other more controlled studies suggest 5-HTP has the potential as a treatment for depression but larger scale studies are needed to confirm these. 5-HTP may be useful when combined with other substances that have shown promising results in treating either anxiety or depression.

Based on the information available, 5-HTP is certainly worth a try in treating mild depression, especially when combined with other supplements, such as fish oil. However, it is important not to use it to replace any medication you are currently taking without consulting with your doctor first.

3. 5-HTP May Reduce Alcohol Cravings 

Some animal studies have revealed the potential of 5-HTP supplementation in treating alcoholism. In 2006, “Synapse” published a study that suggest that 5-HTP combined with phentermine (an appetite suppressant) can help reduce alcohol intake and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

MedlinPlus reports that 5-HTP taking with two amino acids: glutamine and phenylalanine, for over a month helped reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Some other studies suggest that it may help with heroin and nicotine withdrawal. However most of these findings involve animal trails or they lack any details on whether the trails are a blind experiment or placebo. As with other factors, 5-HTP’s effectiveness seems to be connected to what other substance it is paired with.

4. 5-HTP Helps with Symptoms of Anxiety  

A small study published in the “Journal of Affective Disorders” involving 10 outpatients who took 5-HTP with carbidopa. The participants reported a significant reduction in anxiety factors. While this small study is not conclusive, it suggest that this supplement may be effective in reducing anxiety.

The “Psychiatry Research” journal published a study that investigated 5-HTP effect on panic attacks. The study involved 24 participants diagnosed with panic disorder and 24 healthy individuals. The participants underwent a Co2 induced panic attack followed by 200 milligrams of 5HTP or a placebo.

The results found that it helped significantly reduce panic attack symptoms and frequency when compared to placebo. Those who did not have any panic disorder did not benefit to the same extent as the participants diagnosed with panic disorder. The researchers suggest that the increase in serotonin is responsible for reducing the frequency of panic attacks.

5. 5-HTP Can Help Induce Sleep 

5-htp sleep 5-HTP is a precursor to neurotransmitters – melatonin and serotonin – which are vital in regulating sleep. However, it seems to be help induce sleep when combined with other substances. A placebo trial published in the “American Journal of Therapeutics” in 2010 found that 5-HTP with GABA helped shorten the time to fall asleep and help the participants sleep for longer. The study consisted of 18 volunteers and they also found that sleep latency decreased and grogginess in the morning improved.

5-HTP is unlikely to be an effective sleep aid when taking alone. Unlike melatonin, it’s best to take it as part of a sleep-aid stack containing other anxiety/sleep improving supplements such as lemon balm, chamomile, inositol and magnesium

5-HTP Side Effects  

Consult a physician before using any 5-HTP supplements; side effects may include nausea, heartburn and stomach rumblings. It may react with your high-blood pressure medication, anti-depressants, migraine medication and several pain killers.

Taking 5-HTP with carbidopa may cause hardened and thickened areas of skin and inflammation, according to University of Maryland Medical Center. Pregnant women and children should not use it without a doctor’s supervision.