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5-HTP: The Happy Vitamin

By Aliesha Epps

5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a chemical by-product of the protein building block L-tryptophan. It is also produced commercially from the seeds of an African plant known as Griffonia simplicifolia 5-HTP is used for sleep disorders such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, migraine and tension-type headaches, fibromyalgia, obesity, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), seizure disorder, and Parkinson's disease..

How does it work?
5-HTP works in the brain and central nervous system by increasing the production of the chemical serotonin. Serotonin can affect sleep, appetite, temperature, sexual behavior, mood and pain sensation. Since 5-HTP increases the synthesis of serotonin, it is used for several diseases where serotonin is believed to play an important role including depression, insomnia, obesity, and many other conditions.

Uses:

It can possibly be effective in fighting depression. Some clinical research shows that taking 5-HTP by mouth improves symptoms of depression. Several studies have found that doses of 150-3000 mg daily for 2-4 weeks can improve symptoms of depression. Some early research shows that 5-HTP might be as beneficial as conventional antidepressant therapy for some people. It can also possibly help improve muscle activity in those with down syndrome. Some research shows that giving 5-HTP to infants with Down syndrome might improve muscle and activity. Other research shows that it does not improve muscle or development when taken from infancy until 3-4 years of age. Research also shows that taking 5-HTP along with conventional prescription drugs does improve development, social skills, or language skills.

However 5-HTP could possible be unsafe and risky when taken by mouth in large doses. Doses from 6-10 grams daily have been linked to severe stomach problems and muscle spasms and could potentially lead to eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS) in children, a serious condition involving extreme muscle tenderness and blood abnormalities. It is best recommended to gradually increase your intake of 5-HTP. Several studies have used doses of 150-3000 mg daily in up to three divided doses for 2-6 weeks. Doses have also been gradually increased from 150 mg daily for 2 weeks up to 400 mg daily for 4 weeks.