Improving sleep quality, balancing mood, and easing pain—these are just a few of the claimed benefits of 5-HTP supplements. But does the science back it up? Find out what research has to say about this supplement and the benefits of 5-HTP for your brain and overall health.
What Is 5-HTP?
5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a chemical that the body makes from tryptophan, an essential amino acid that comes from food (you know, that stuff in turkey that they say makes you sleepy on Thanksgiving).
When you eat foods containing tryptophan, the body breaks it down into 5-HTP. Then, 5-HTP breaks down further into serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps brain cells send messages. The process looks something like this:
- You eat foods that contain tryptophan.
- Tryptophan breaks down into 5-HTP (you can also get 5-HTP directly from supplements).
- 5-HTP becomes serotonin—the “happiness molecule”.
- The body converts serotonin into the sleep hormone melatonin.
5-HTP supports the health of the brain and central nervous system by increasing the production of the chemical serotonin. Nicknamed the “happiness molecule,” serotonin has all kinds of positive effects on the body. It improves sleep quality. It curbs your appetite (so you don’t overeat). It can also balance your mood, so you feel happy and less stressed.
Is 5-HTP safe? Keep in mind that 5-HTP has some reported mild side effects and may have possible interactions with antidepressants. If you have any medical conditions or currently take medications, make sure to check with your doctor to avoid potential 5-HTP effects.
What Are the Benefits of 5-HTP?
5-HTP has a range of benefits, from improving sleep quality to supporting a calm state of mind.
Potential benefits of 5-HTP include:
- Improving sleep quality
- Balancing mood
- Maintaining a healthy appetite and to lose weight
- Alleviating the discomfort of menopause
- Supporting mind and mood
Continue reading to find out the benefits of 5-HTP with the science behind each.
It helps you sleep.
If you have trouble sleeping, 5-HTP can help. It stimulates the production of serotonin—an important compound in the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Serotonin converts into the sleep hormone melatonin, which helps you fall (and stay) asleep at night. To promote a good night’s rest, doctors recommend taking 7.5 mg of 5-HTP 30 minutes before bedtime.
It balances mood.
Your body converts 5-HTP into serotonin, a neurotransmitter nicknamed the “happiness molecule.” Scientists have linked healthy serotonin levels to all sorts of good outcomes. It supports a balanced state of mind. It also helps you sleep better, so you can wake up feeling refreshed and in a good mood.
It helps regulate appetite.
A balanced metabolism helps your body process energy efficiently. Studies have found 5-HTP effective in supporting a healthy metabolism. It also helps reduce hunger, so you can maintain a healthy weight and avoid overeating. In a study, participants who took 5-HTP ate fewer calories, felt more satiated, and lost weight after six weeks.
It can help ease the discomfort of menopause.
The physical changes that happen during menopause can cause difficulty sleeping, low energy levels, hot flashes, and mood swings. It turns out that the 5-HTP can help alleviate many of those symptoms. It may improve sleep quality as well as balance mood. A study also found 5-HTP effective in preventing hot flashes.
It supports mental resilience.
People with higher levels of serotonin may demonstrate more mental resilience. They recover from setbacks thanks to higher energy levels and a more balanced mood. 5-HTP metabolizes into serotonin once ingested, and studies have shown that taking 5-HTP as a supplement can help boost serotonin production and support mental resilience.
How to Take 5-HTP
You can find 5-HTP supplements at your local health food store or natural grocery stores.
How long does 5-HTP take to work?
Doctors recommend taking a 5-HTP dose of 7.5 mg about 30 minutes before bedtime. This will give enough time for the supplement to take effect, to promote a restful sleep as well as its many other benefits.
You can also support sleep with additional supplements. Enjoy the health benefits of L-theanine and melatonin with 5-HTP for a restful sleep.
You can’t get 5-HTP in its pure form from food. But, you can still get it indirectly through your diet by eating foods that contain the amino acid tryptophan. Once you consume tryptophan, it makes 5-HTP. Sources of tryptophan include:
- Sunflower seeds
- Collard greens
You can also get your daily dose by taking 5-HTP supplements. 5-HTP supplements come from a licorice extract called Griffonia simplicifolia, a natural material from the African plant, Glycyrrhiza glabra.
Our health is a lifelong project, and some of the best medicine comes right from nature. While not all the benefits of 5-HTP are known, more studies are pointing to the advantages of this supplement to support health naturally.