5-HTP, known as 5-hydroxytryptophan is a naturally occurring amino acid and serves as a precursor to the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is one of our key neurotransmitters that’s found in both the brain and gut.
Best Uses for 5-HTP
- Seasonal affective disorder
- Carbohydrate cravings
- Low mood
- Mild to moderate depression
Here’s How 5-HTP Works
5-HTP is the halfway molecule between the amino acid tryptophan (you’ve heard that large amounts of this amino acid can make you sleepy) and serotonin. Taking 5-HTP allows the body to bypass this route, which can run ‘slow’ for several reasons like high stress, aging, insulin resistance and certain vitamin deficiencies like iron, folate and vitamin C.
5-HTP in supplemental form is derived from the seeds of the plant Griffonia simplicifolia; this formula also contains the active form of vitamin B6 (pyridoxal 5’-phosphate) which serves as an important cofactor in the conversion of 5-HTP to serotonin.
When balanced, serotonin helps to ensure a buoyant mood, deep sleep and even decreased cravings for sugar. This of course makes it an ideal addition to one’s regimen for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), wherein low mood and ‘carb cravings’ become quite intense.
5-HTP is readily absorbed and taking it with food won’t affect it’s availability in the body - it easily crosses into the brain where it works directly on boosting serotonin.
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is the intermediate metabolite the body produces when it initiates the process of converting the essential amino acid L-tryptophan to serotonin. Therefore, supplementation with 5-HTP will bypass the conversion of L-tryptophan into 5-HTP by the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase – which is the rate-limiting step in the synthesis of serotonin – and is a conversion that can be inhibited by a number of factors, including stress, insulin resistance, increasing age, and deficiencies of vitamin C, folate, and iron.
5-HTP has been studied in depth in regard to mood disorders with several showing support for using 5-HTP in a dose ranging from 50-300mg daily. We’ve found in helpful for boosting mood in cases of anxiety, mild to moderate depression, and seasonal affective disorder. Additionally, it’s quite helpful in straight cases of insomnia as well, when taken along with melatonin.
Always use caution taking 5-HTP if you’re also taking prescription anti-depressants.