5-HTP is a naturally occurring amino acid that is commonly taken as a dietary supplement. It has shown promise as a sleep aid and treatment for anxiety and depression.


  • Very effective for treating depression and anxiety [1][2]
  • Used to sedate appetite and treat binge eating [2]
  • Effective for treating insomnia [2]

What Is 5-HTP?

5-HTP is a naturally occurring amino acid that is usually derived from the seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia. It is commonly sold over-the-counter in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada as a dietary supplement. It’s marketed for its uses as an antidepressant, sleep aid, and appetite depressant.

5-HTP Dosage Information

It is generally accepted to start with 50mg three times per day with meals. If the patient is not getting the desired effect after two weeks, dosage may be increased to 100mg three times per day. For patients dealing with insomnia the it is recommended to start with 100mg before bedtime and up the dosage to no more than 300mg if necessary. It is recommended to start with the 50mg doses as some patients experience mild nausea. [2]

How Does 5-HTP Work?

5-HTP serves as a chemical precursor and metabolic intermediate in the synthesis of the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and that affects sleep, mood, appetite, sexual behavior, and pain sensation. Melatonin is a naturally occurring compound that affects one’s biological sleep schedule. Having low levels of melatonin make it more difficult for one to fall asleep at night. [1]

Safety and Side Effects of 5-HTP

Mild side effects include heartburn, stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea. Because 5-HTP increases the neurotransmitter serotonin you should consult your physician if you are currently taking any prescription anti-depressants. Taking 5-HTP along with certain anti-depressants might increase serotonin levels too much and cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety.


Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about 5-HTP. If you have a question that’s not on this list, send it to us at [email protected] and we will answer it for you.

Should I Take 5-HTP?

5-HTP is very similar to melatonin. However, it is more geared towards fighting depression then helping with insomnia. If your goal is mood improvement and sleep aid or even weight loss then 5-HTP is a good nootropic to consider for your regimen. However, if you are just aiming for a sleep aid or a natural weight loss then I recommend you try melatonin first because it has virtually no side effects and doesn’t react with any other drugs. If you are just searching for a nootropic to help with depression then you should choose 5-HTP over melatonin

What Are Some Noticeable Studies Performed on 5-HTP?

One study was conducted by the Mood Disorders Research Center in Portland VA in 2005. This study examined the mechanism of 5-HTP and its possible use for treating depression. The study specifically stated, 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) effectively increases central nervous system synthesis of serotonin. It is the immediate precursor of serotonin and is widely available as a dietary supplement, which is well absorbed after an oral dose. Several double-blind studies have shown 5-HTP to be effective in the treatment of nondrug-induced depression.” [1]

Cited Studies

1. Turner EH, Blackwell AD (2005). “5-Hydroxytryptophan plus SSRIs for interferon-induced depression: synergistic mechanisms for normalizing synaptic serotonin”Medical Hypotheses 65 (1): 138–44. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2005.01.026PMID 15893130http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0306-9877(05)00068-X.

2. Birdsall TC (August 1998). “5-Hydroxytryptophan: a clinically-effective serotonin precursor”Alternative Medicine Review : a Journal of Clinical Therapeutic 3 (4): 271–80. PMID 9727088http://www.thorne.com/altmedrev/.fulltext/3/4/271.pdf. Retrieved 2009-07-30.