Each capsule contains
|5-HTP Functions better when combined with:
|| 150 mg
Folate (Folic Acid)
5-HTP helps control appetite, insomnia, mood and fibromyalgia
5-HTP The Natural Way To BoostSerotonin and Overcome Depression, Obesity and Insomnia
by Michael T. Murray
2. What advantages does 5-HTP have over L-tryptophan?
There are many advantages of 5-HTP over L-tryptophan. First of all, because it is
one step closer to serotonin, 5-HTP is more effective than L-tryptophan. 5-HTP is also
inherently safer. Although L-tryptophan is safe if properly prepared and free of the
contaminants linked to severe allergic reaction known as eosinophilia myalgia syndrome
(EMS), L-tryptophan is still produced with the help of bacterial fermentation (a situation
that lends itself to contamination). In contrast, 5-HTP is isolated from a natural source
- a seed from an African plant (Griffonia simplicifolia).
Evidence that this natural source of 5-HTP does not cause
EMS is provided by researchers who have been using 5-HTP for over 25 years. They state
that "EMS has never appeared in the patients of ours who received only uncontaminated
L-tryptophan or 5-hydroxtryptophan (5-HTP)"(1). Furthermore, researchers at the NIH
studying the effects 5-HTP for various metabolic conditions have also not observed a
single case of EMS nor has a case of elevated eosinophils been attributed to 5-HTP in
3. What effect does 5-HTP have on
As far back as 1975, researchers demonstrated that administering 5-HTP to rats that
were bred to overeat and be obese resulted in significant reduction in food intake (6). It
turns out that these rats have decreased activity of the enzyme that converts tryptophan
to 5-HTP and subsequently to serotonin. In other words, these rats are fat as a result of
a genetically determined low level of activity of the enzyme that starts the manufacture
of serotonin from tryptophan. As a result, these rats never get the message to stop eating
until they have consumed far greater amounts of food than normal rats.
There is much circumstantial evidence that many humans are
genetically predisposed to obesity. This predisposition may involve the same mechanism as
that observed in rats genetically predisposed to obesity. In other words, many people may
be predisposed to being overweight because they have a decreased conversion of tryptophan
to 5-HTP and, as a result, decreased serotonin levels. By providing preformed 5-HTP, this
genetic defect is bypassed and more serotonin is manufactured. 5-HTP literally turns off
The early animal studies that used 5-HTP as a weight loss
aid have been followed by a series of three human clinical studies of overweight women,
conducted at the University of Rome (8-10). The first study showed that 5-HTP was able to
reduce caloric intake and promote weight loss despite the fact that the women made no
conscious effort to lose weight (8). The average amount of weight loss during the
five-week period of 5-HTP supplementation was a little more than 3 pounds.
The second study sought to determine whether 5-HTP helped
overweight individuals adhere to dietary recommendations (9). The twelve-week study was
divided into two six-week periods. For the first six weeks, there were no dietary
recommendations; for the second six weeks the women were placed on a 1,200-calorie diet.
As shown in Table 1, the women who took the placebo lost 2.28 pounds, while the women who
took the 5-HTP lost 10.34 pounds. As in the previous study, 5-HTP appeared to promote
weight loss by promoting satiety-the feeling of satisfaction-leading to fewer calories
being consumed at meals. Every woman who took the 5-HTP reported early satiety.
In the third study involving 5-HTP, for the first six weeks
there were no dietary restrictions, and for the second six weeks the women were placed on
a 1,200-calorie-per-day diet (10). The results from this study were even more impressive
than the previous studies for several reasons. The group that received the 5-HTP had lost
an average of 4.39 pounds at six weeks and an average of 11.63 pounds at 12 weeks. In
comparison, the placebo group had lost an average of only 0.62 pounds at six weeks and
1.87 pounds at twelve weeks. The lack of weight loss during the second six-week period in
the placebo group obviously reflects the fact that the women had difficulty adhering to
Early satiety was reported by 100 percent of the subjects
during the first six-week period. During the second six-week period, even with severe
caloric restriction, ninety percent of the women taking 5-HTP reported early satiety. Many
of the women who received the 5-HTP (300 mg three times per day) reported mild nausea
during the first six weeks of therapy. However, the symptom was never severe enough for
any of the women to drop out of the study. No other side effects were reported.
Wasn't the drug Redux, which raises serotonin levels, taken
off the market because it caused damage to the heart valves? Is there a risk with 5-HTP
doing the same?
In September 1997, the popular weight loss drug Redux and
its chemical cousin fenfluramine, part of the "fen-phen" combination, were taken
off the market based on a study showing that these drugs may have caused permanent damage
to heart valves in as many as one-third of the people who took them. There is no evidence
that 5-HTP produces these effects. Unlike Redux, 5-HTP does not raise blood serotonin
levels to a significant degree nor does it block reuptake of serotonin. The point here is
that 5-HTP does not disrupt the normal process of serotonin release, reabsorbtion, and
elimination from the body. 5-HTP is not a synthetic drug; it is an amino acid produced
naturally by your body's metabolism.
4. How does 5-HTP compare with
melatonin in the treatment of insomnia?
5-HTP may prove to be better than
melatonin. Several clinical studies have shown 5-HTP to produce good results in promoting
and maintaining sleep in normal subjects as well as those experiencing insomnia (11-14).
One of the key benefits with 5-HTP in the treatment of insomnia is its ability to increase
5. What is fibromyalgia and how does 5-HTP help?
Fibromyalgia is a recently recognized disorder regarded as a common cause of
chronic musculoskeletal pain and fatigue. Fibromyalgia is a relatively common condition
estimated to affect about 4% of the general population. Diagnosis requires fulfillment of
all three major criteria and four or more minor criteria.
Generalized aches or stiffness of at least three anatomic
sites for at least three months.
Six or more typical, reproducible tender points.
Exclusion of other disorders which can cause similar symptoms.
- Generalized fatigue
- Chronic headache
- Sleep disturbance
- Neurological and psychological complaints
- Joint swelling
- Numbing or tingling sensations
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Variation of symptoms in relation to activity, stress, and
The history of the development of 5-HTP as an effective
treatment for fibromyalgia began with studies on the drug fenclonine (21). This drug
blocks the enzyme which converts tryptophan to 5-HTP and as a result blocks serotonin
production. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was thought that increased serotonin
formation may promote migraine headaches (the opposite of what was later proved, i.e.,
increasing serotonin levels reduce migraine headache occurrence). The researchers
discovered that providing headache sufferers with fenclonine resulted in very severe
muscle pain. This effect was exactly opposite of what was expected, but led to some
important advances in the understanding of fibromyalgia--a way to induce its severe
symptoms of (as well as symptoms nearly identical to EMS, the condition caused by
contaminated L-tryptophan). The researchers also discovered that migraine sufferers
reacted to the drug much more than non-headache sufferers. In fact, in most normal
subjects fenclonine produced no fibromyalgia. These occurrences highlight just how
sensitive migraine sufferers are to low serotonin levels.
Migraine headaches and fibromyalgia share a common feature:
both are low serotonin syndromes. After over 25 years of research, one of the lead
researchers has stated that "In our experience, as well as in that of other pain
specialists, 5-HTP can largely improve the painful picture of primary fibromyalgia"
(22). Double-blind studies support this contention (23, 24).
6. Can 5-HTP be taken with St.
John's wort extract?
Yes. In fact, the two seem to work very well together. St. John's wort extract has
been shown in over 25 double-blind studies to be as or more effective than antidepressant
drugs in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. In more severe cases, I recommend
using 5-HTP along with St. John's wort. Be sure to use the St. John's wort extract
standardized for 0.3% hypericin. The dosage for this extract is typically 300 mg three
times per day. When using it in combination with 5-HTP I recommend 50-100 mg of 5-HTP and
150-300 mg of St. John's wort extract three times daily.
7. Has 5-HTP been studied in the
treatment of depression?
Yes. In fact, there is excellent documentation that 5-HTP is an effective
antidepressant agent. 5-HTP often produces very good results in patients who are
unresponsive to standard antidepressant drugs. One of the more impressive studies involved
99 patients described as suffering from "therapy resistant" depression (3).
These patients had not responded to any previous therapy including all available
antidepressant drugs as well as electro convulsive therapy. These therapy resistant
patients received 5-HTP at dosages averaging 200 mg daily but ranging from 50 to 600 mg
per day. Complete recovery was seen in 43 of the 99 patients and significant improvement
was noted in 8 more. Such significant improvement in patients suffering from
long-standing, unresponsive depression is quite impressive prompting the author of another
study to state "5-HTP merits a place in the front of the ranks of the antidepressants
instead of being used as a last resort. I have never in 20 years used an agent which: (1
was effective so quickly; (2 restored the patients so completely to the persons they had
been and their partners had known; [and] (3 was so entirely without side effects"
8. Are there any studies where
5-HTP was compared directly to antidepressant drugs?
Yes, there are several. 5-HTP is equal to or better than standard antidepressant
drugs and the side effects are much less severe. The study with the most significance was
one that compared to fluvoxamine, a "selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor"
like Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft. In the study, subjects received either 5-HTP (100 mg) or
fluvoxamine (50 mg) three times daily for 6 weeks (5). The percentage decrease in overall
depression scores was slightly better in the 5-HTP group (60.7% vs. 56.1%). More patients
responded to 5-HTP than fluvoxamine and 5-HTP was quicker acting than the fluvoxamine.
The real advantage of 5-HTP in this study was the low rate
of side effect. Here is how the physicians described the differences among the two groups:
"Whereas the two treatment groups did not differ
significantly in the number of patients sustaining adverse events, the interaction between
the degree of severity and the type of medication was highly significant: fluvoxamine
predominantly produced moderate to severe, oxitriptan [5-HTP] primarily mild forms of
The most common side effects with 5-HTP were nausea,
heartburn, and gastrointestinal problems (flatulence, feelings of fullness, and rumbling
sensations). These side effects were rated as being very mild to mild. In contrast, most
of the side effects experienced in the fluvoxamine group were of moderate to severe
9. How does 5-HTP benefit headache
Because chronic headache sufferers have low levels of serotonin in their tissues,
some researchers refer to migraine and chronic headaches as a "low serotonin
syndrome" (15). There have been several clinical studies with 5-HTP in headaches,
both migraine and tension headaches, that have showed excellent results (15-20). In
particular, the use of 5-HTP in the prevention of migraine headache offers considerable
advantages over drug therapy. Although a number of drugs have been shown to be useful in
the prevention of migraine headaches, all of them carry significant side effects. In
contrast, 5-HTP is very safe.
10. What is the best way to take
For depression, weight loss, headaches, and fibromyalgia the dosage should be
started at 50 mg three times per day. If the response is inadequate after two weeks,
increase the dosage to 100 mg three times per day. This recommendation will greatly reduce
the mild symptoms of nausea often experienced during the first few weeks of 5-HTP therapy.
Using enteric-coated capsules or tablets (pills prepared in a manner so that they will not
dissolve in the stomach) significantly reduces the likelihood of nausea. Because 5-HTP
does not rely on the same transport vehicle as L-tryptophan, it can also be taken with
food. But, if you are taking 5-HTP for weight loss I recommend taking it 20 minutes before
For insomnia, I recommend 100 to 300 mg thirty to
forty-five minutes before retiring. Start with the lower dose for at least three days
before increasing dosage.
11. Where can I get 5-HTP?
5-HTP is a nutritional supplement available without a prescription. You can
purchase 5-HTP on this secure site by simply "clicking" on the bottle of your
choice. Your personal information will remain private and confidential. We ship via
USPS Priority. Orders normally arrive in 3-4 days. You may also order by calling 1-800-225-6799
12. Where can I get
more information on 5-HTP?
Michael T. Murray wrote a book, 5-HTP: The Natural Way to Overcome Depression, Obesity, and
Insomnia (Bantam, 1998), that provides more detailed information on 5-HTP. It is available
in bookstores, health food stores, and, of course, online via www.amazon.com.