5-HTP - The precursor to the mood-enhancing neurotransmitter Serotonin

Posted by Jonathan Lewell on

5-HTP is a powerful Serotonin supplement extracted from an African shrub called Griffonia simplicifolia. In this ultimate guide to 5-HTP, we're going to look at the studies, dosages, and alternatives to this mood-boosting nootropic.

Table of Contents

  1. Quick Overview of 5-HTP
  2. What is 5-HTP and Where Does it Come From?
  3. Studies on Serotonin and Mood
  4. How to Take 5-HTP (Step-by-Step)
  5. 5-HTP vs L-Tryptophan - Which is the Better Serotonin Supplement?
  6. Stack 5-HTP with Vitamin B6 for a Boost in Serotonin Production

Quick Overview of 5-HTP

  • Benefits: Anxiety and Depression
  • Actions: 5-HTP immediately converts into Serotonin, the "feel good" neurotransmitter.
  • Dietary sources: 5-HTP is created from L-Tryptophan, which is found in foods high in protein. e.g. oats, chicken, turkey.
  • Who is it good for? People low in Serotonin typically feel "down", crave chocolate and don't eat a lot of protein.
  • Quality of studies: Many clinical trials conclude 5-HTP to benefit mood by increasing Serotonin. Over 5000 studies published on Pubmed.
  • Time to effect: Typically immediate.
  • Stacks with: Vitamin B6 to help 5-HTP metabolise into Serotonin.
  • Don't stack with: Any other Serotonin supplement including L-Tryptophan - this is very important to avoid desensitising your Serotonin receptors which can make you feel worse than before.
  • Recommended dose: 150mg - 300mg /day
  • Cycling: It is recommended to only take 5-HTP about 3-4 times per week, and only when you really need it.
  • Alternatives: L-Tryptophan for a more long-term Serotonin supplement.

What is 5-HTP and Where Does it Come From?

For people wanting a more positive state of mind, 5-HTP is a naturally occurring and fast-acting Serotonin supplement made from a plant called the Griffonia Simplicifolia.

Serotonin production is nutrition-dependent; high protein foods give us the amino acid L-Tryptophan, which is then turned into 5-HTP and then Serotonin.

Since 5-HTP is one step closer to Serotonin than L-Tryptophan, it is considered a more powerful and faster-acting Serotonin supplement, best suited for short-term use. For long-term and more sustained use, consider L-Tryptophan.

Studies on Serotonin and Mood

1. Researchers observed a 35% increase in mood rating, compared to a 6% decline in mood rating for a placebo group. (University of Groningen - link to study)

2. The 5-HTP pathway is reported to be involved in the alleviation of stress. (University Hospital Utrecht - link to study)

3. Researchers observed 5-HTP to reduce symptoms of panic. (Maastricht University - link to study)

4. L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP were both seen to increase mood compared to placebo during human trials. (University of Queensland - link to study)

    How to Take 5-HTP (Step-by-Step)

      1. The recommended 5-HTP dosage: It is recommended to take between 150mg – 300mg of 5-HTP per day.

      2. Be sure to cycle it on and off: 5-HTP is a very effective Serotonin supplement, so you need to cycle it to avoid desensitisation. Take it 3-4 days at a time and try to only use it when you feel like you need to.

      3. Don't take another Serotonin supplement at the same time: It is very important to not take any other Serotonin supplement like L-Tryptophan or any anti-depressant drugs. Extremely high levels of Serotonin will cause you to desensitise to Serotonin and can also be a health risk.

        5-HTP vs L-Tryptophan - Which is the Better Serotonin Supplement?

        For long-term or every day use, take L-Tryptophan. For short-term and immediate lifts in Serotonin and mood, 5-HTP is a better choice.

        L-Tryptophan’s conversion into 5-HTP is dependent on enzymes, which work to ensure that you do not produce “too much” Serotonin which can overwhelm you. 5-HTP skips this controlled conversion process and therefore causes a much more immediate rise of Serotonin.

        5-HTP for the Short-Term

          1. 5-HTP causes a more immediate and larger increase in Serotonin

          2. You have to cycle 5-HTP on and off to avoid desensitization

            L-Tryptophan for the long-term

              1. L-Trytophan causes a slower rise of Serotonin because it also breaks down into other proteins

              2. You don't have to cycle L-Tryptophan on and off

                Regardless of which one you choose, please remember to not take them both at the same time. You can alternate between them on separate days, but taking them both simultaneously is a big no-no.

                Stack 5-HTP with Vitamin B6 for a Boost in Serotonin Production

                When 5-HTP converts into Serotonin, it makes use of your Vitamin B6 supply. We get Vitamin B6 from fish, beef liver and other meats including chicken (here’s a list of food sources).

                To maximize the amount of Serotonin you produce from your 5-HTP, taking a Vitamin B6 supplement can help to increase the amount of Serotonin your 5-HTP is able to produce.

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