5-HTP (hydroxytryptophan) is an amino acid precursor which is thought to help support healthy sleep and mood. 5-HTP supplements increase levels of serotonin - a chemical produced naturally in the body which plays an important role in controlling mood. The question is, how great an impact does 5-HTP have on serotonin levels and what impact does this have on the body and brain?
What is 5-HTP?
5-HTP is produced from the seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia, a woody shrub that grows in tropical Africa. This plant has long been used in traditional African medicine and has a range of purported health benefits.
For example, the plant's leaves are applied to burns, while its sap is applied to inflamed eyes. It is thought that decoctions made from the leaves and stems can relieve constipation or be used as topical antiseptics.
It is also believed that chewing on the stems of the plant could have an aphrodisiac effect. Much research is yet to be done to understand the full realm of potential treatments and health benefits the Griffonia simplicifolia plant could provide.
However, there is scientific evidence to suggest that 5-HTP sourced from the plant's seeds can help to improve serotonin levels and subsequently benefit the brain and body in a variety of ways.
Does 5-HTP improve depression and mood disorders?
Serotonin is one of several chemicals produced in the body which impacts mood. Although the exact cause of depression is still not fully understood, it is thought that serotonin imbalances might be a factor that leads to depression.
It therefore stands to reason that by modifying serotonin levels it may be possible to alleviate symptoms of depression. Several small studies support this idea, including one which found that 5-HTP was particularly helpful for patients with therapy-resistant depression.
However, several reviews into 5-HTP claim that much more research is yet to be done to understand if the serotonin-boosting impact of 5-HTP is truly useful for the treatment of depression, and even question whether it is suitable for certain depressed patients.
If you are struggling with low mood, stress or anxiety, it is important to seek medical advice and treatment from a qualified professional. While 5-HTP supplements might help to support normal psychological function, they should not be used in place of medicines or treatments prescribed by a doctor.
It is also important to consult a doctor before taking 5-HTP supplements if you are already taking prescribed medications for depression or other mood disorders.
Does 5-HTP cure insomnia?
Serotonin can be converted by the body into melatonin - a hormone that plays a big role in regulating sleep. By boosting serotonin it is believed that 5-HTP can subsequently improve melatonin levels and lead to better quality sleep.
Sleep - and lack of sleep - can have a big impact on our mood and state of mind. By adopting a better sleeping pattern and getting plenty of regular, good-quality sleep, many people find that they feel more energetic and positive. Several scientific studies have found a link between 5-HTP and improved sleep quality.
For example, one study found that it reduced the amount of time it took participants to fall asleep and increased the duration of sleep. However, this study only investigated 5-HTP combined with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA - a chemical that promotes relaxation).
There have yet to be any human trials into the effects of 5-HTP alone on sleep quality, but animal and insect studies have been promising. The best way to get good sleep is to adopt a healthy sleep hygiene routine, for example going to bed and waking at the same times each day, reducing caffeine consumption in the evening, and minimising screen time before bed.
However, 5-HTP supplements might give your body a little extra support when it comes to feeling asleep and getting a good night's rest.
Are there any other health benefits of 5-HTP?
There is some evidence to suggest that 5-HTP might help to reduce appetite and subsequently support weight loss. One trial involved a group of 20 obese patients, half of which took 5-HTP for two weeks while the other half took a placebo. Neither group were told to restrict their diet.
Those who took 5-HTP ate less over the two-week period and subsequently reduced their body weight. Several other studies have similar results. If you are already adhering to a healthy diet and exercise regime, 5-HTP might help to control your hunger pangs and therefore support your weight loss efforts.
5-HTP could also help to improve symptoms of fibromyalgia thanks to its ability to increase serotonin levels. Although the cause of fibromyalgia isn't fully understood, it is believed that low serotonin levels may play a role in the condition.
While several studies indicate that 5-HTP can relieve common fibromyalgia symptoms such as pain, insomnia, depression and anxiety, much more research needs to be done to confirm its usefulness.
How do I take 5-HTP supplements?
Most 5-HTP supplements are administered in capsule format and are designed to be swallowed with a glass of water.
For some people, it can be difficult to swallow large capsules which makes it difficult to incorporate 5-HTP into their lifestyle. Our raspberry-flavoured 5-HTP Gummies are a brilliant alternative to capsules.
They are a delicious and simple way to incorporate 5-HTP into your lifestyle. Plus, they contain added Magnesium and Vitamin B12 to support healthy psychological and nervous system functioning.
Ultimately, 5-HTP supplements are unlikely to transform your mood overnight, but there is lots of evidence to suggest that they might have a positive impact on overall wellbeing. If you're striving to get better sleep and feel your best, they could certainly help.