What Is 5 HTP?

There has been an increasing interest in the natural supplement 5-Hydroxytryptophan, more commonly known as 5-HTP. 5-HTP is actually a by-product of the amino acid L-tryptophan, which is well-known for causing a feeling of sleepiness or drowsiness. 5-HTP can now be derived from a plant native to Africa called the Griffonia simplicifolia. 5-HTP has become most popularly used to alleviate insomnia, restlessness and sleeplessness. Because 5-HTP is naturally produced by L-tryptophan, its amount in the body can be increased by eating certain foods. These foods include chicken, collard greens, seaweed, turnip greens, turkey, potatoes, milk, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. However, for the most potent dosage of 5-HTP it is best to take it in the capsule or tablet form.

Studies have shown that 5-HTP has been successful when used as a  natural sleep aid, but also when used to help alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia and depression. While there is still a great deal of research and clinical trials to be done on the effectiveness of 5-HTP in treating other conditions, many people have seen the success themselves in treating tension headaches, anxiety, aggression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), restless leg syndrome, PMS, attention deficient disorder, binge eating and various seizure disorders. 5-HTP works by increasing the chemical found in the brain called serotonin. The amount of serotonin in the brain has an impact on obesity, depression and insomnia.

Aside from helping with sleep problems and depression, other 5 htp benefits include curbing the appetite while dieting, reduce the symptoms and complications associated with cerebellar ataxia, lessen the symptoms experience during alcohol withdrawal and reduce symptoms of mania. There is also research being done the effectiveness of 5-htp to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, however no sound conclusions about its effectiveness in this area can be drawn yet.

5 HTP Dosage

The typical 5-htp dosage taken for the relief of insomnia is one 200 - 400 mg capsule or tablet at bedtime. It is strongly recommended that this dosage be taken with a full 8 ounce glass of water. Keep in mind that it can take a total of six to 12 weeks of taking 5-htp routinely at bedtime before the user experiences the full effectiveness of this natural supplement for insomnia. The typical 5-HTP dosage for the management of anxiety or depression is one 50mg pill taken once per day with a full glass of water. The dosage may be increased up to three times per day, after talking with your doctor or herbal health practitioner. Too much 5-HTP per day can cause severe health issues. The dosage varies greatly depending on what the 5-HTP is being taken for, see the references at the bottom of the article to see the appropriate milligram dosage for each ailment.

So far, research has not been able to prove or disprove if taking 5-htp while pregnant can cause any birth defects or other health issues for the mother or baby. For this reason 5-HTP should also not be taken while breastfeeding. 5-HTP should not be given to children under any circumstance without discussing it with the child’s pediatrician first.

5 HTP Side Effects

As with any type of medication or natural supplement, there are various 5-htp side effects. The most common side effects experienced by people taking 5-htp include heartburn, nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea, lack of sexual desire and muscle cramps. Other less common side effects include gas, bloating, stomach cramping, loss of appetite and numbness. Also if someone is already taking an anti-depression medication, they should consult their doctor or pharmacist before taking 5-htp because the effects of the two drugs could counteract resulting in shivering, heart problems and anxiety.

Further reading


Jeff Mann (109 Posts)

Jeff Mann is the founder and editor of Sleep Junkies.


  1. Emilie Brown says:

    200-400 mg capsule or tablet at bedtime sounds a bit high. I take 50mg per day, but as the article mentions it depends on what you are taking 5-HTP for. I have started using patches instead of tablets and the dosage on those is much, much lower (I think because the 5-HTP goes straight in to your blood), but works just as well.

    • Pouya777 says:

      i agree. i cant see how they suggest 400mg for insomnia and 50mg for anxiety and depression! i take 100mg before bed and find its a good dose

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