5 HTP: what is it and why is it important?

5 HTP: Was ist das und wofür ist es wichtig?

Our body is significantly influenced and controlled by hormones. One of the most important hormones for our well-being is serotonin, our happiness hormone. In order to be able to form this, the human body needs 5 HTP. 5 HTP is an endogenous amino acid and a direct precursor of serotonin.

In our article on 5 HTP, we want to give you an overview of this particularly important amino acid. We answer all questions about its structure and composition as well as the effect and possible side effects. We also want to give you an initial understanding of the correct intake and dosage.

the essentials in brief

  • 5 HTP works in the central nervous system and brain by being responsible for the production of serotonin. The 5 HTP is the precursor of the endogenous happiness hormone.
  • Serotonin can affect appetite, sexual behavior, sleep, temperature and pain perception.
  • The 5 HTP can be used to treat various diseases. Last but not least, these are those in which serotonin plays an important role, such as obesity, depression and insomnia.

Background: What is 5 HTP and how is it used?

In our guide you will find all the important and, above all, objective information on the subject of 5 HTP. You will learn everything about the effects, intake, dosage and possible side effects of 5 HTP.

What is 5 HTP and how is it composed?

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5 HTP) is an amino acid in the human body. The 5 HTP is needed to form the hormone serotonin . It is, so to speak, a precursor of this hormone. Serotonin is generally considered the happiness hormone in the body. (1,2)

Basically, serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine are the most important neurotransmitters in the human body. They ensure that information is transmitted between nerve cells.

While tyrosine is considered the starting material for dopamine and norepinephrine, tryptophan is required as an amino acid for the formation of serotonin. (3)

In order to ultimately produce serotonin, the body needs certain enzymes and enzyme systems. As a first step, the L-tryptophan is converted into 5 HTP with the help of vitamin D and folic acid. This process is called tryptophan hydroxylase. In the second step, the 5 HTP is converted into serotonin with the help of zinc, vitamin B6 and magnesium. This is referred to as L-amino acid decarboxylase. (3)

Serotonin not only has a positive effect on your cognitive performance, but also on your well-being. The hormone also promotes healthy and deep sleep. A lack of 5 HTP and thus also of serotonin manifests itself in the form of bad mood, aggression and anxiety.

Where is 5 HTP found?

Basically, you cannot take in 5 HTP per se through your food. You can only consume the amino acid L-tryptophan, which your body needs to produce 5 HTP, through certain foods. We have prepared a clear list for you: (3,4)

  • turkey, chicken
  • milk
  • potatoes
  • pumpkin
  • sunflower seeds
  • cabbage
  • seaweed
  • Chocolate
  • Multivitamin and herbal preparations, various types of bananas
  • African black bean seeds

Of course, there are also supplements in various forms that contain L-tryptophan. These are usually obtained from the seeds of the African black bean (Griffonia simplicifolia). (4)

In what form is 5 HTP available?

It must be noted here that the 5 HTP in Germany is generally subject to prescription. In specialist shops, online from specialized companies or in pharmacies, you only get the precursor of 5 HTP, i.e. L-tryptophan as a supplement. This is available as a dietary supplement and is far less dangerous than 5 HTP.

Variants of 5 HTP

5 HTP / L-Tryyptophan is manufactured and offered on the market in the form of capsules, powder, tablets and gel. Of course, each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. (Image Source: Garak01 / pixabay)

Preparations are available in the following forms: capsules, tablets, gels and powders. It should be noted here that the most common preparations are capsules and tablets. Only occasionally is L-tryptophan also offered in the form of a gel.

However, these gels are usually very similar to the powder. In addition, they are very rarely available on the market and therefore do not belong to the typical form of 5 HTP, which is why we will not go into this type in more detail in this article. In the following part we compare capsules and tablets and describe the respective advantages and disadvantages of the variants.

5 HTP capsules

You can buy L-tryptophan mainly as capsules or powder. However, the most common variant is the capsule form. The reason for this is that, unlike tablets, these do not melt in the mouth when swallowed, but slowly dissolve in the stomach. In this way, the active ingredient can be distributed evenly throughout the body and work effectively. That's why there are so few tablet manufacturers in the 5 HTP sector. In the following you will get an overview of the exact advantages and disadvantages of 5 HTP capsules:

  • Protection of the active ingredient from light and moisture
  • Protection of the patient from the smell and taste of the active substance
  • Even distribution of the active substance in the body
  • Complicated intake
  • Shortened shelf life of the active ingredient
  • It must be taken while standing so that the capsule does not get stuck in the esophagus and hang up there

Now you have got a rough overview of the capsules. Of course, everyone has different preferences when it comes to medicines and their form.

5 HTP tablets

5 HTP tablets are also very common in terms of 5 HTP. We have briefly summarized the advantages and disadvantages of the 5 HTP tablets for you in the next table:

  • Uncomplicated intake
  • Highly concentrated active ingredient
  • Exact dosing possible
  • Risk of getting stuck in the esophagus
  • Patients need sufficient liquid when swallowing
  • Unpleasant aftertaste

Generally, tablets are smaller than capsules. This makes them more suitable for people who have trouble swallowing medication. It is therefore also important here to respond to the respective needs of the people.

What is the effect of 5 HTP?

5 HTP is used to treat depression, obesity, sleep disorders and fibromyalgia. 5 HTP has also been studied in animals in connection with nicotine dependence. However, studies related to humans have not yet been conducted, so the research results in this area are not yet very meaningful. (3)

Studies have also been conducted on the subject of 5 HTP and alcoholism. The results show initial success, because alcohol withdrawal symptoms could indeed be reduced. However, the relapse rate seems to remain the same, because even with the addition of 5 HTP, it does not significantly stop people from renewed excessive consumption. More intensive research needs to be done in this area. (5)

5 HTP for depression

Depression is attributed to a reduction in serotonin activity. Therefore, 5 HTP is often given to your body to treat depression to stimulate serotonin production. In plain language, this means that the formation of the happiness hormone is increased again and depression can be fought effectively. (3.7)

However, this effect depends on the person affected and is not a panacea for everyone. Therefore, antidepressants are unavoidable in some cases. (7)

5 HTP for overweight

It has been proven that 5 HTP has a positive effect on weight loss in some cases. In a study with overweight women it turned out that with the help of 5 HTP the feeling of satiety lasts stronger and longer.

In addition, stamina during diets could be increased and the risk of food cravings reduced. (3.8) However, in order to lose weight effectively and in the long term and to be able to maintain the weight, it takes more than just 5 HTP. Additional diets and sports must still be observed.

5 HTP for insomnia

The 5 HTP has already proven to be effective, especially for problems with sleeping through, as it has a positive influence on the REM phase (Rapid Eye Movement). This phase is usually a guarantee for a deep and restful sleep.

5 HTP for insomnia

5 HTP can increase your sleep quality. (Image source: unsplash / shane)

Serotonin plays a role here again, because it helps to form the sleep hormone melatonin and thus achieve a deeper sleep. (3,9) So when there is a deficiency of 5 HTP in your body, less serotonin is also produced. This in turn means that less melatonin is produced and your sleep quality is affected.

5 HTP for fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic and long-lasting bone and muscle pain (eosinophilia myalgia syndrome), fatigue, sleep disturbances and morning stiffness. The origin of the disease has not yet been fully elucidated. However, far lower levels of serotonin and tryptophan were already found in the patients. This suggests the addition of 5 HTP to increase production again and specifically improve the disease. (3)

What should be considered when taking 5 HTP?

L-tryptophan or 5 HTP is only taken in addition to food if there is an acute deficiency. Due to the high potential for side effects and interactions with other medications, you should always take 5 HTP and dietary supplements in general only under the supervision of a doctor. (4)

If you suffer from high blood pressure or are diabetic, it is advisable to contact your doctor about taking 5 HTP. In short: there can be interactions with those drugs. (6.8)

Even if you take antidepressants, taking 5 HTP is not recommended.

Furthermore, pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding and people with liver diseases should refrain from taking it. (4) In addition, the 5 HTP is by no means suitable for children. (4)

What basically applies to the intake of 5 HTP and L-tryptophan: if a deficiency of 5 HTP is diagnosed, it is important to determine the cause and treat it specifically. And here it is the same as with almost all substances in life: the dose makes the poison. That is why it is so important to act in consultation with a specialist. In addition, when taking L-tryptophan, the symptoms may first worsen before they are alleviated.

How is 5 HTP dosed correctly?

In either case, the 5 HTP and L-tryptophan are taken by mouth. It is not possible to give an all-encompassing answer about the right dosage . Because it always depends on which course of the disease is to be treated with the 5 HTP or L-tryptophan supplement. Or what cause is being fought. (10)

revenue opportunity

5 HTP and L-tryptophan are taken orally only. The two substances cannot be injected into the body, nor can they be administered in any other form. (Image source: Isaac Quesada / unsplash)

Usually you can distinguish between an effective dose of L-tryptophan and 5 HTP. For L-tryptophan, an effective amount is approximately 500 mg - 1500 mg daily.

With 5 HTP, only a tenth of this amount, i.e. 50 mg - 150 mg, is necessary. These doses can be obtained in a Griffonia simplicifolia dietary supplement standardized to 10% 5 HTP. We have illustrated this data for you in the following table:

Type Crowd
L-tryptophan 500mg - 1500mg
5 HTP 50mg - 150mg

Of course, everyone is different, and sometimes a higher or lower dose may be required for personal needs. The exact dosage will be prescribed to you by the doctor anyway and should not be based on estimates. (10)

Of course, these amounts vary depending on the clinical picture and severity. We want to give you an example based on depression. Here, most 150 to 800 mg are taken daily for 2 to 6 weeks.

These doses are sometimes divided and given as 50 mg to 100 mg three times a day. Sometimes the dose starts out low and is steadily increased every 1-2 weeks until a target dose is reached. Rarely, higher doses are used. (11)

What are possible side effects of 5 HTP?

5-HTP side effects are usually mild and can include nausea, heartburn, gas, bloating, and grumbling in some people. Other possible side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, or muscle problems. (4)

Possible side effects of 5 HTP

Conventional home remedies can reduce common side effects such as nausea or nausea. In the long term, they also do not cause significant harm to the body. (Image source: Anastasia Gepp / pixabay)

There is only one exceptional case that has more serious consequences. Serotonin syndrome can occur at particularly high doses. (6,8) This is a dangerous condition caused by too much serotonin in the body.

Serotonin syndrome describes mental changes, hot flashes, rapidly fluctuating blood pressure and an irregular heart rate. In the worst case, the syndrome can also lead to a coma. It is therefore particularly important to consult your doctor if you increase your dose. (4)

What interactions can occur with other medications?

When taking 5 HTP you need to be extra careful if you are taking one or more of the following medications at the same time.

5 HTP and antidepressants

Antidepressants in combination with 5 HTP can cause the already mentioned serotonin syndrome (6,8). The following antidepressants are exceptions that are better tolerated with 5 HTP and thus may minimize or even eliminate interactions:

  • SSRIs: Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Fluvoxamine (Luvox), Paroxetine (Paxil), Fluoxetine (Prozac), Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Tricyclics: amitriptyline (Elavil), nortriptyline (Pamelor), imipramine (Tofranil)
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs): Phenelzine, (Nardil), Tranylcypromine (Parnate)
  • Nefazodone (Serzone)

Here it is again urgently necessary that you contact your doctor and only start taking it under supervision. Despite the lower risk associated with these drugs, interactions can never be 100% ruled out.

5 HTP and carbidopa

5-HTP and carbidopa can both affect the brain. Usually carbidopa is used to treat Parkinson's disease. Taking 5-HTP with carbidopa may increase the risk of serious side effects, such as speaking quickly, feeling anxious, or becoming aggressive. (12,13) ​​Also, the combination can cause a scleroderma-like condition. This is a condition in which the skin becomes hard, thick, and inflamed. (14.15)

5HTP and tramadol

Tramadol is used to manage pain and is sometimes prescribed for people suffering from fibromyalgia. It can also increase serotonin levels too much when taken in combination with 5 HTP. Serotonin syndrome has been reported to occur in some people who have taken both drugs together. (14.16)

Does 5 HTP supplementation make sense?

In industrialized countries, a lack of L-tryptophan or 5 HTP is rarely found. Basically, a sufficient amount is ingested through food. If a major deficiency is really found, it can make sense to integrate a dietary supplement into everyday life. However, as has already been emphasized several times, this undertaking should not be carried out without medical guidance and supervision.


The 5 HTP is an important component in the human body as it contributes to the production of serotonin. Among other things, serotonin is responsible for our well-being, our sleep quality and our perception of pain. 5 HTP is also used for sleep disorders, fibromyalgia, obesity or depression. However, special caution is required if other drugs are already being used to combat these diseases.

L-tryptophan is the starting material responsible for the formation of 5 HTP. Basically, enough of it is ingested through our food. 5 HTP requires a prescription and should only be taken under the direction of a doctor. Whereas the L-tryptophan is conventionally available in the form of capsules, tablets or powder. Overall, it is less dangerous than 5 HTP.


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  3. Hormone Center at the Opera - Endocrinology Munich. 5-HTP - Renaissance of a natural active ingredient. 2020 Source
  4. Mount Sinai. 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). 2020 Source
  5. US National Library of Medicine. 5-HTP. 2017 Source
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  11. US Food and Drug Administration Pharmacy Compounding Advisory Committee meeting. 17-18 Jun, 2015. Source
  12. RxList. 5-HTP. 17 Sep, 2019. Source
  13. PeaceHealth. Carbidopa - Drug Information. 2020 Source
  14. St Luke's Hospital. Possible Interactions with: 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). 2020 Source
  15. Winchester Hospital. Health Library - Levodopa/Carbidopa. 2020 Source
  16. PeaceHealth. Tramadol - Drug Information. 2020 Source
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