Natural Health and Fitness

What Is 5-HTP And What Are Its Benefits?


In a previous post, we talked about the memory boosting properties Brahmi, also known as bacopa monnieri. In this post we shall briefly touch on 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), a chemical occurring naturally in the human body that is linked to several health and neural benefits.

We’re constantly inundated with laundry lists of nutrients and phytonutrients with complex, even names. 5-HTP is one of these that has proven rather beneficial for a number of applications related to mood, focus, and even sleep patterns. But what is it?

5-HTP is produced by the amino acid tryptophan, which is considered an essential amino acid as the body cannot make it on its own. This means that you have to obtain it from the diet. However, eating foods with tryptophan does not increase 5-HTP levels very much.[1]

The compound is produced commercially from the seeds of an African plant Griffonia simplicifolia.[2]

The compound is essential for the processing and synthesis of several other amino acids in conjunction with B6. What is remarkable about it is that it crosses the blood-brain barrier—something that many substances cannot readily do.

You require this amino acid to effectively produce serotonin, a potent chemical we make in our bodies and brains to regulate mood, circadian rhythm, and even maintain focal acuity. In short, it’s especially important.

The benefits of 5-HTP include:

  • Mood enhancement.
  • May help with insomnia.
  • May help with tension headaches.
  • May help suppress appetite and therefore lose weight for people without eating disorders.[3]

However, due to the deficiencies of the modern diet and the stressors of daily life, we often don’t get enough of it, or are incapable of processing it due to deficiency of other essential nutrients.

5-HTP Side Effects

5-HTP is safe for most people. However, according to WebMD, it has been linked to development of eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS), a serious condition involving serious muscle tenderness and blod abnormalities. It is not yet known whether this is from the compound itself, a contaminant, or other factors. Use cautiously.

Other potential side effects include heartburn, nausea, drowsiness, muscle, and gastrointestinal issues.

5-HTP supplements are available, and it is also used as an ingredient in some brain and memory products. As usual, we advise buyers to do their due diligence as there are many supplements out there that are not worth the package they come in.


[1] University of Maryland: 5-Hydroxytryptophan

[2] WebMD: 5 – HTP

[3] 5-HTP

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