5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a precursor to the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin. Some people report 5-HTP may contribute to vivid or disturbing dreams, while others say for them it can reduce or eliminate vivid or disturbing dreams.
When taken as a supplement 5-HTP may reduce levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Because dopamine is a precursor to norepinephrine and epinephrine, reduced dopamine could limit the amount of norepinephrine and epinephrine the body is able to synthesize.
If you take large doses of 5-HTP, or take it on a daily basis, a small dose of L-dopa taken at the same time can help keep dopamine levels within proper ranges. See this about the relationship between dopamine and serotonin precursor supplements.
5-HTP Effects And Classification
5-HTP can be classified as:
--- A serotonin precursor.
--- An anti-anxiety agent.
--- An anti-depressant.
--- A nootropic.
Tryptophan and 5-HTP are precursors to serotonin. The process happens by tryptophan being converted to 5-HTP, then 5-HTP being converted to serotonin. Because of this, supplementing 5-HTP can help the human body increase serotonin production.
A majority of individuals find 5-HTP relaxing and sedating, those that do sometimes utilize it as a sleep aid. Combining it with substances that increase, or produce effects similar to increasing, GABA can strengthen the sleep inducing properties.
In addition, there are those who find 5-HTP is helpful at reducing anxiety, appetite, depression, pain. A minority of people who ingest 5-HTP find it neutral on a sedative/stimulant scale, and there are others who find it somewhat stimulating.
ADHD patients and others may experience an increase in focus and a reduction in pain, depression, hyperactivity. Fibromyalgia sufferers may experience reduced anxiety and pain with the ability to sleep better. 5-HTP may also prevent or treat headaches and migraines.
People recovering from addictions may find relief in the anti-depressant and anti-anxiety properties of 5-HTP. It also can reduce pain and aid in increasing drowsiness which can be helpful with getting some sleep.
Start with small doses around 20 mg and if necessary, raise the dose size slowly on subsequent attempts. Most people find doses around 50-400 mg optimal. Some require as little as 20 mg, while others need 500 mg or more, to produce satisfactory results.
5-HTP is not addictive and it is fat soluble. Taking it with a bit of food that contains fat will aid the body with absorption. Taking it with water on an empty stomach usually works, but your body might not be able to absorb as much as it possibly could.
Fish oil can help with absorption if no fatty food is available. Some people like to combine 5-HTP and vitamin B6 to help convert 5-HTP into serotonin. A minority feel B6 converts 5-HTP to serotonin too fast, and it doesn't reach the brain.
Instead of taking 1 large dose, you can divide it into 2 or 3 smaller doses (taken at regular intervals) so it works all day. Combining 5-HTP with tranquilizers can make them more potent. If you mix them, keep dose sizes low and increase gradually.
There are some recommendations about combining 5-HTP with green tea extract because the mixture can help increase the positive benefits of both substances, while decreasing or eliminating some possible negative side effects.
Tryptophan is also a serotonin precursor. If you find 5-HTP produces positive results but is too strong, tryptophan may be a good alternative. It can produce somewhat similar effects but is more gentle in comparison.
Prior to utilizing 5-HTP, to be safe discuss it with your physician. On your first attempt it might be the best thing to try working with a small quantity, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 milligrams or less.
A small dose size will give you an indication of the possible results as well as alerting you to any negative reactions. At small dose sizes, the effects are subtle and some people might not notice anything.
5-HTP Warnings, Side Effects
To decrease chances of negative side effects, limit maximum intake of 5-HTP to about 500 milligrams per day. If you notice any problems that you associate with 5-HTP intake, reduce dose size (or stop taking it altogether) and inform your physician.
Possible common 5-HTP side effects include:
--- Stomach pain.
--- Muscle problems.
--- Breathing difficulties.
--- Changes in heart rate.
5-HTP is a serotonin precursor. In the body 5-HTP is converted into serotonin. If you take 5-HTP daily for months or years and interrupt the external supply, it may take time for your body to synthesize 5-HTP and serotonin at normal levels.
Serotonin syndrome is a possible response of the body to extremely high levels of serotonin. It usually occurs within a few minutes of the body experiencing excess serotonin levels.
Because 5-hydroxytryptophan is a serotonin precursor, there is a theoretical possibility of extremely large doses of 5-HTP being converted to extremely high levels of serotonin and causing serotonin syndrome.
However, the chances of 5-HTP alone causing serotonin syndrome are rare. There is a real chance of inducing serotonin syndrome by combining high doses of 5-HTP with high doses of other substances that increase serotonin levels.
Substances that can increase serotonin include:
--- SSRI's (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).
--- MAOI's (monoamine oxidase inhibitors).
--- TCA's (tricyclic antidepressant).
--- SNRI's (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors).
Treatment for serotonin syndrome includes stopping the intake of drugs that increase serotonin, and in moderate to severe cases giving the patient a serotonin antagonist. Agitation may be reduced by administering benzodiazepines.
Serotonin syndrome is usually not fatal, but if not treated can be. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include:
--- Increased reflex response.
--- High body temperature.
--- Dilated pupils.
5-HTP efficacy and contraindications at NCBI.
MedlinePlus 5-HTP page.