What is 5-HTP?

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid that your body naturally produces.

5-HTP is also one of the main active ingredients in a shrubby, evergreen climber called Griffonia simplicifolia, that grows on mountain slopes in West Africa. The seeds, bark and leaves have all been used to treat a range of ailments in traditional African medicine.

This amino acid is produced in the body from another amino acid called tryptophan. It is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin. Serotonin is a chemical messenger that sends signals between your nerve cells. Low serotonin levels are associated with depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, weight gain and other health problems. Melatonin also helps your body to keep to daily rhythms and seasonal cycles.

5-HTP is often used to support the regulation of appetite, concentration, brain activity and sleep cycles. A 5-HTP supplement is sometimes used by people with sleep problems or pain throughout their body. Eating soy products, red meat, poultry, fish, oat bran, cheese and dark chocolate will trigger conversion of the amino acid tryptophan to 5-HTP or you may prefer to take your 5-HTP as a supplement.

Try adding 5-HTP powder to a nutritious smoothie. You don’t need a lot. A 100mg serving of 5-HTP powder is approximately one rounded 1/16 teaspoon. To be accurate you are best using scales that can measure milligrams.

Please contact your health professional if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking any medications, before using HTP as a supplement. Some prescription medications may interact with 5-HTP, including those for depression, anxiety and Parkinson's disease, and 5-HTP supplements should not be taken with these drugs.