5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a compound produced in the body from the amino acid tryptophan. It is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin.
5-HTP is manufactured from the seeds of an African plant, Griffonia simplicifolia. The supplements have become popular because it is thought that providing the body with 5-HTP in pill form can boost the body's serotonin levels, similar to the antidepressants that are thought to increase the amount of serotonin available to the brain.
The body produces serotonin through a series of chemical steps, starting with the amino acid L-tryptophan. One of the chemicals on the way from transforming L-tryptophan to serotonin is 5-HTP.
The chemical was only available via prescription until 1995Trusted Source, when the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it as an over-the-counter (OTC) supplement.
Manufacturers derive the supplement from the seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia, which is an African plant. The supplement does not naturally occur in foods.
Some people believe that taking 5-HTP can increase the amount of serotonin in the body. Doctors have previously linked a lack of serotonin with a number of medical conditions, including depression.
As a result, some doctors recommend taking 5-HTP along with regular medications for certain conditions.
In alternative medicine, 5-HTP supplements are purported to help in the treatment of conditions including:
So far, scientific support for the claim that 5-HTP can treat any condition safely and effectively is lacking. Here's a look at some of the research studies so far.
You can boost your dietary intake of L-tryptophan, which the body converts to 5-HTP. Food sources include turkey, chicken, pumpkin seeds, spinach, milk, and bananas.
5-HTP supplements are found in health food stores, online, and at some drug stores. Medical experts advise that you should be careful not to confuse 5-HTP with 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), the chemical name for the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Always exercise caution when buying this or any supplement. Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.
You can get tips on using supplements, but if you're considering the use of 5-HTP supplements, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.