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5-HTP Supplement: Benefits, Dosage, When to Take & More

In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in mental health conditions. As more and more people struggle with things like anxiety and depression, the need for complementary medicine for these conditions grows. Enter, the 5-HTP supplement has become increasingly popular as a remedy for various health conditions, including depression, anxiety, insomnia, and migraines. A serotonin precursor chemical, 5-HTP (you will also see it as oxitriptan) can boost your “happy chemicals” to relieve depression and it also shows promise in weight loss, migraine, fibromyalgia, and more.

In this article, we will explore the benefits of 5-HTP supplement, its recommended dosage, safety, and when to take it. We will also address some frequently asked questions about this supplement. Read on for everything you need to know about 5-HTP.

What Is 5-HTP?

5-HTP, short for 5-hydroxytryptophan, is a chemical compound that is naturally produced in the body from the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid you can find in protein-rich foods such as meat, dairy, and eggs. Unfortunately, you won’t find much of 5-HTP itself in dietary sources – it’s pretty abundant in Griffonia simplicifolia seeds, though, which are a herbal supplement and we’ll cover them later.

So, how does 5-HTP impact your brain?

5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is involved in regulating mood, appetite, and sleep. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.

5-HTP Supplement Benefits

Now that you understand what 5-HTP is and how it acts in your body, you might be able to guess what it can help with. As a serotonin precursor, it’s one of the preferred supplements to enhance mental health (though it can’t and shouldn’t replace therapy and medication, if neccessary.) But, while the mood-boosting perks are a huge selling point, they’re not the only potential benefit.

Let’s look at what 5-HTP can do for you – and what the evidence is there.

Reduces Depression and Anxiety Symptoms

One of the main benefits of 5-HTP supplement is its ability to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Studies have shown that 5-HTP can increase serotonin levels in the brain, which can help improve mood and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.

There are, however, limitations to this research. As a 2020 meta-analysis highlighted, while the evidence is mounting (and promising), we need more placebo-controlled trials to confirm 5-HTPs efficiency. [1]

One of those trials happened the following year when researchers looked at 5-HTP supplementation and social cognition. The best thing about that study? It was a double-blind placebo-controlled fMRI study – exactly what you want for strong evidence – and it found an impact from the 5-HTP supplement. [2] The caveat with this, however, is it evaluates social cognition, which is one of the aspects of maintaining good mental health, but not the cure for depression.

Is there any more science about it? Sure, and researchers have been looking at it since the 70s. So far, we know 5-HTP supplements + pharmacological intervention (read: antidepressant medication) make sense and there are animal model studies as proof-of-concept. [3]. There are also several small human studies looking at 5-HTP supplementation lowering depressive symptoms – not large, placebo-controlled ones, but still a beginning. [4], [5]

Promotes Better Sleep

5-HTP is the precursor to serotonin – and serotonin gets converted into melatonin in the brain to regulate sleep patterns. Then, it is logical that a 5-HTP supplement will impact your sleep quality, much like a melatonin pill does.

But does it work in practice?

Yes, but it’s best to combine it with GABA. GABA “relaxes” your nerve cells by lowering their ability to send and receive signals. As a supplement, it has a similar effect on your entire system – it lowers stress, makes you less reactive, relaxes you.

5-HTP and GABA work together to promote a calmer mood -and this is likely how they improve your sleep. We already have a randomized, placebo-controlled trial for this 5-HTP benefit, too – and it showed people fell asleep easier, woke up fewer times throughout the night, and woke up more refreshed [6].

The practical tips here are clear – take your 5-HTP at night and consider stacking it with a GABA supplement to get the most out of the two.

Reduces Migraines

Migraines are a type of headache that are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. If you’ve experienced a bout of migraines, you know how debilitating it can be – and how difficult it is to manage, even with the current available medications.

Since we have research that serotonin may play a role in migraines, 5-HTP is a natural candidate for an anti-migraines supplement. By increasing serotonin levels, 5-HTP may help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. And, again, we have some research to prove it. One study found 71% of people experienced a significant drop in their migraines attacks with daily 5-HTP supplementation. [7]

Aids in Weight Loss

Lowering calorie intake is a part of weight loss – but, it also means you’re feeling hungry, sometimes way, way hungry. It can be frustrating and unsustainable. That’s where 5-HTP comes in – it may counteract those hunger-inducing hormones, suppress your appetite, and help you lose weight in a sustainable way.

Studies have shown that 5-HTP can increase feelings of fullness, leading to a decrease in calorie intake. One study found 5-HTP supplementation can help you eat over 400 less calories per day [8] – plus, the supplement mostly stops you from eating carbs, which improves blood sugar control and (again) helps you feel more satiated.

Even More Potential Benefits

In addition to the benefits mentioned above, 5-HTP supplement may also have other potential benefits. Some studies suggest that 5-HTP may help improve symptoms of:

  • Fibromyalgia: We don’t know what exactly causes fibromyalgia but scientists suspect serotonin may be involved – meaning 5-HTP might be a viable solution. And, early evidence is really encouraging, showing 5-HTP may help improve pain, morning stiffness, and sleep in people with fibromyalgia. If you’re struggling with fibromyalgia, 5-HTP is definitely worth a shot. [9]
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS): Irritability, mood swings, food cravings… PMS is unpleasant and tough to control. Some early research seems to show 5-HTP deficiency can play a part in the syndrome – so, supplementing 5-HTP might help alleviate your symptoms. [10]
  • ADHD: There is some anecdotal evidence that 5-HTP may help improve symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. You can hear it from parents who started their children on a 5-HTP supplementation regimen and got amazing results. However, when it comes to the actual science behind it, there is still little research – or, at least, little unbiased research published in peer-controlled journals. While this is a low-risk intervention, definitely ask your pediatrician before putting your child on a new supplement.

It is important to note that more research is needed to confirm these potential benefits and to determine the optimal dosage and duration of 5-HTP supplementation.

Dosage and Safety

So, how do you take 5-HTP for the best results? Let’s talk about it.

Recommended Dosage

The recommended dosage of 5-HTP supplement may vary depending on the condition being treated. In general, most studies have used doses ranging from 100-300 mg per day. 5-HTP has a relatively short half-life (so it doesn’t really last very long in your body) so looking for an extended release tablet is a better option – and we even have some promising science to back that up. [11]

Still, it’s a must to consult with a healthcare professional before taking 5-HTP supplement – especially if you are taking any medications or have any underlying medical conditions.

Potential Side Effects

While 5-HTP supplement is generally considered safe for most people, it may cause some side effects in some individuals. Common side effects may include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Loss of appetite

There is a theoretic connection between 5-HTP and a condition called serotonin syndrome, which is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when serotonin levels in the brain become too high. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome may include:

  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Muscle rigidity

5-HTP alone doesn’t put you in a significant risk for this, but be very mindful if you’re already taking antidepressants, since those raise your serotonin levels, too.


It is important to take precautions when taking 5-HTP supplement, especially if you are taking any medications or have any underlying medical conditions. Some precautions to consider include:

  • Avoid taking 5-HTP supplement if you are taking antidepressants, as this may increase the risk of serotonin syndrome.
  • Consult with a healthcare professional before taking 5-HTP supplement if you have liver or kidney disease.
  • Do not take 5-HTP supplement if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as the safety of this supplement during pregnancy and breastfeeding is not known.

In general, even if you don’t have underlying conditions, it’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.

When to Take 5-HTP Supplement

There is no bad time to take 5-HTP, since the supplement isn’t irritating to your stomach and it likely won’t make you nauseous. Still, my recommendation is 30 minutes before bedtime to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality – you’ll avoid potential drowsiness throughout your day, rest better, and still get the rest of the perks, too.


5-HTP supplement is a natural remedy that has been shown to have various potential health benefits, including reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, promoting better sleep, reducing migraines, and aiding in weight loss.

However, it is important to take precautions when taking 5-HTP supplement and to consult with a healthcare professional before using this supplement, especially if you are taking any medications or have any underlying medical conditions. By understanding the benefits, dosage, safety, and when to take 5-HTP supplement, you can make an informed decision about whether or not to include this supplement in your mental health regimen.


Is 5-HTP addictive?

No, 5-HTP supplement is not addictive.

Can I take 5-HTP with other medications?

5-HTP can interact with some medications (especially antidepressants.) It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking 5-HTP supplements if you are on any prescription drugs.

How long does it take for 5-HTP to work?

In general, it may take several weeks of regular use to see significant improvement in symptoms. The time it takes for 5-HTP supplement to work may vary depending on the condition and how severe your symptoms are. If you’re struggling with a physical or a mental health issue, 5-HTP alone might not cut it – talk to your healthcare provider about other options like therapy and medication.

Can 5-HTP help with fibromyalgia?

Some studies suggest that 5-HTP may help improve pain, morning stiffness, and sleep in people with fibromyalgia. However, more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness and optimal dosage. If you struggle with fibromyalgia, talk to your doctor before introducing new supplements to your routine.

Is 5-HTP safe for children?

The safety and effectiveness of 5-HTP supplement in children is not well established. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before giving 5-HTP supplement to children.


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  2. Zamoscik V, Schmidt SNL, Bravo R, Ugartemendia L, Plieger T, Rodríguez AB, Reuter M, Kirsch P. Tryptophan-enriched diet or 5-hydroxytryptophan supplementation given in a randomized controlled trial impacts social cognition on a neural and behavioral level. Sci Rep. 2021 Nov 4;11(1):21637. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-01164-y. PMID: 34737364; PMCID: PMC8568973.
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