What is 5-htp: Side effects, dangers, and benefits “5- Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a naturally occurring amino acid, which increases the brains serotonin levels by converting tryptophan. The supplement, 5-HTP purchased from a health food store, pharmacy, online, or supermarket, is isolated from the Griffonia simplicifolia seed, an African plant. Unlike many other supplements or medications, molecules of 5-HTP are small enough to pass from the bloodstream to the brain, where they convert to serotonin. Normally, the body converts the amino acid, tryptophan, found in high-protein foods, such as chicken, fish, beef, and dairy products. However, the increasing levels of stress and improper diet contribute to commonly low serotonin levels, symptoms of which may include: depression, obesity, carbohydrate craving, bulimia, insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, migraine, tension, and chronic headaches, premenstrual syndrome, and fibromyalgia.”
“Depression: Studies have shown 5-HTP comparable to prescription anti – depressants, such as Zoloft or Paxil, but with reduced side effects. One study documented significant improvement in patients who had previously been unresponsive to conventional treatment.
Sleep difficulties: Several studies have shown 5-HTP to be effective at promoting and maintaining a better night’s sleep. Subjects reported a reduction in the time needed to fall asleep and feeling more rested upon awakening. Due to this compound’s apparent ability to increase the duration of deep sleep and dream state, it is more effective overall than another natural sleep aid, melatonin.
Fibromyalgia and headaches: Both the nauseating pain of migraine headaches and the aching stiffness of fibromyalgia have been reduced by taking 5-HTP. It is believed that low serotonin levels could be a contributing factor to fibromyalgia, tension, and migraine headaches, and supplementing with 5-HTP minimizes the discomfort of these diseases.”
Another thing to consider I think for helping me sleep given again it is working on serotonin and could be more effective than melatonin. With potential benefits in other areas. I do like adding up potential benefits if adding a supplement. And I also like supplements with few side effects and these sorts… naturally occurring amino acids can be beneficial ways to get a boost in deficient areas. The only potential side effects known for this one are “nausea, intestinal discomfort, loss of appetite, sleepiness, nightmares, constipation, decreased interest in sex, and reduced effectiveness after taking the supplement for a period of time” BUT it does increase serotonin so it could interact with medications taken for depression and potentially cause too much serotonin and that is dangerous. Likewise, any medication that increases serotonin can cause issues, such as Tramadol (see interactions here)
Now one site says “It uses no bacterial fermentation, (such as L-tryptophan,) which could cause contamination and illness in its users.” This is why by the way in Canada you have to get actual Tryptophan by a doctors prescription because people got so ill from badly prepared batches such that now you cannot get it OTC. But on WebMD, it still says “5-HTP is POSSIBLY UNSAFE for use. There is concern that it can cause a serious side effect called eosinophilia myalgia syndrome. Some people think this side effect is only caused by a contaminant in some 5-HTP products; but there is not enough scientific evidence to know if it is caused by 5-HTP, a contaminant, or some other factor. Until more is known, 5-HTP should be avoided.” So… there is that consideration. You have to factor how reliable the manufacturer is into buying this product.
“In 1989, the presence of a contaminant called Peak X was found in tryptophan supplements. Researchers believed that an outbreak of eosinophilic myalgia syndrome (EMS, a potentially fatal disorder that affects the skin, blood, muscles, and organs) could be traced to the contaminated tryptophan, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration pulled all tryptophan supplements off the market. Since then, Peak X was also found in some 5-HTP supplements, and there have been a few reports of EMS associated with taking 5-HTP. However, the level of Peak X in 5-HTP was not high enough to cause any symptoms, unless very high doses of 5-HTP were taken. Because of this concern, however, you should talk to your health care provider before taking 5-HTP, and make sure you get the supplement from a reliable manufacturer.” (University of Maryland Medical Center)