What does 5-HTP do?
Posted on May 13 2019
Also known as L-5 hydroxytryptophan, 5-HTP is a naturally occurring amino acid that many people use for mood and sleep support. However, we can’t get it from our diets alone as it’s not found in any foods we eat. As a supplement, it’s sourced from the seeds of an African shrub called Griffonia simplicfolia. But what does it actually do?
It’s a precursor to serotonin
So, the big role 5-HTP plays in our bodies is being the direct precursor of serotonin. 5-HTP is converted into serotonin via a chemical reaction, which is caused by an enzyme called aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase (AAAD).1 This is important because taking serotonin itself as a medication is not effective, as it can’t pass the blood-brain barrier and be used by the brain.2 However, 5-HTP can cross the blood-brain barrier and go on to support the production of serotonin.
What does serotonin do?
It’s well known that neurotransmitters like serotonin influence our sleep-wake cycle.3 Serotonin helps boost your levels of melatonin, which is key for your biological clock working properly.4 It helps your body know when it’s time to sleep or wake up. Low serotonin levels can result in sleep disruption and sleep disorders, so it’s important to keep the serotonin in your body balanced. Healthy levels of serotonin can help restore a regular sleeping pattern for those struggling to get a good night’s rest.5
Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. This hormone impacts your entire body. It enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other, meaning it can help regulate your mood.6 A rise in levels can improve symptoms associated with depressed mood and make people more responsive to treatment.7
If you choose to supplement with 5-HTP, our 100mg tablets are a good place to start. We also offer 200mg tablets for a higher dose. For mood support, we suggest taking one tablet, twice a day, with food. For sleep support, consider taking one tablet about 45 minutes before going to bed to help you get a good night’s rest.
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1Kathryn J. Swoboda & Melissa A. Walker (2017). Neurotransmitter-Related Disorders. Swiman’s Pediatric Neurology (Sixth Edition) p. 355-361.
2Debra Rose Wilson, C. (2019). Serotonin: Facts, uses, SSRIs, and sources. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/kc/serotonin-facts-232248
3Portas, C., Bjorvatn, B., & Ursin, R. (2000). Serotonin and the sleep/wake cycle: special emphasis on microdialysis studies. Progress In Neurobiology, 60(1), 13-35.
4Masters, A., Pandi-Perumal, S. R., Seixas, A., Girardin, J. L., & McFarlane, S. I. (2014). Melatonin, the Hormone of Darkness: From Sleep Promotion to Ebola Treatment. Brain disorders & therapy, 4(1), 1000151.
5Dugovic C. (2001) Role of serotonin in sleep mechanisms. Rev Neurol (Paris). 2001 Nov;157(11 Pt 2):S16-9. Review.
6Serotonin | Hormone Health Network. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.hormone.org/hormone/hormones-and-health/hormones/serotonin
7Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). (2019). Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ssri-antidepressants/