5-HTP for Depression, Anxiety and Low Serotonin

| Modified on Sep 10, 2021
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5 HTP Benefits.

5-HTP is an amino acid derived from the seeds of the Griffonia simplicifolia, a West African medicinal plant. The full compound is 5-hydroxytryptophan and is part of the synthesis of the neurotransmitter serotonin from the amino acid tryptophan. Low serotonin levels can manifest as some modern maladies. In particular, positive associations exist between using 5-HTP and depression, and as a result, 5-HTP is useful for people coping with depression.

While a relatively new health supplement in the United States, it has been used medicinally in European countries for decades.

Additional health claims about 5-HTP promote its use for other health conditions associated with low serotonin levels, including obesity, narcolepsy, migraines and daily headaches, tension headaches, sleep apnea, insomnia, bulimia, premenstrual syndrome, fibromyalgia, and carbohydrate cravings.

How to Fight Depression and Other Ailments with 5-HTP

On this page, you can find uses for 5-HTP submitted to us by our readers.

Popular uses for 5-HTP are for alcohol addiction and depression, but we also have a number of ongoing discussions over 5-HTP use and experience.

Let us know what you use 5-HTP for, and if you know of a cure that we do not have listed yet, please do not hesitate to share it with us!

Related Links:

Dealing with Depression Naturally
Effective Natural Remedies for Anxiety
Exploring Natural Remedies for Addiction Treatment

5-HTP + Rhodiola

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by S. B. (Louisville, KY) on 01/18/2008

Just wanted to echo the positive experiences reported here. After a bit of internet research, I kind of guessed at a regimen that might work for me, which is one 250mg rhodiola capsule before breakfast, one before lunch, and then 50mg 5-HTP before bed. In fact I found this site because I Googled "5-HTP" and "rhodiola" to see if there was any danger in taking them both, but I see several of you have also come up with a similar plan. Very assuring, and I have to say I felt a bit of triumph for having arrived at the same conclusion that others have made of my own accord.

Anyway, I've been taking it for a short while and I am still flabbergasted at how effective it is. I really just can't get over it. I could feel the effects after the very first dose of rhodiola. Not only did it improve my mood, it made me feel, well, happy! And it improved my personality. Low seratonin levels were impacting my life in many negative ways but now I am a new person.

Also it seems to have eliminated my morning headaches and neck stiffness, but I can't say whether that is attributed to the rhodiola or the 5-HTP. From what I've read it may likely be the 5-HTP.

However as others have stated, I would take caution in the dosage of rhodiola. I have found that if I take the afternoon dose too close to the morning dose, I do become a bit jittery and restless. Still happy--not nervous--but jittery and restless nonetheless.

Rhodiola is obviously powerful stuff and I'm sure it's not for everyone, but if you are the type of person that it can benefit, then like the others here that have reported positive experiences, I think you'll be astounded as to how effective it can be.

5-HTP and Zoloft

Posted by Jamie (Breese, Il) on 03/13/2010

I have battled with depression since I was a freshman in highschool, im 29 now. I take 150mg of Zoloft everyday. If I wanted to try this 5-HTP would I also have to stop taking the Zoloft or could I take both. The Zoloft does not help with my times of excessive worrying, mood swings, or the feeling of being tired all the time. Any suggestion??

Replied by Bee
(Anon, Anon)

If you do take 5-HTP and Zoloft, there is a chance that your serotonin levels will rise too high. Also, realize that there is a chance of withdrawal as you wean yourself off of Zoloft. I would consult with a medical professional to help you wean off the Zoloft gradually, to ease any withdrawal. I used 5-htp to help wean off Paxil(another SSRI)- I'm at a half dose now, but not trying to reduce it any right now. I had really severe withdrawal so it may be better to give your system a break before starting the 5-htp. At least in my experience weaning off is really hard and it's important to take care of yourself and have the support of someone to help you get through it.

Replied by Kimbies
(Omaha, Nebraska)

regarding the question of taking 5HTP with Zoloft. As long as you have a window of over 8-10 hours between taking the Zoloft and 5HTP it should not be a problem. Many people successfully are on both just not at the same time in the day as to avoid Seratonin overload.

Replied by Shelby
(Wilmington, Ca)

Jaime! You should look into meditation and yoga to help with your depression. Sending you lots of love and light :)

5-HTP for Children

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Melinda (Richardson, Texas) on 07/14/2008

I would love to learn more about 5-HTP or L-lysine and its use for children. I have a 6 year old with "rolandic" epilepsy and a 10 year old with adhd. We would love to find a way to medicate naturally as all the traditional medications have a list of side effects that we deal with. Any information on how to use this remedy on children would be great!

5-HTP for Children
Posted by Charlotte (Richboro, PA)

My 6 year old grandson was diagnosed with "Select Mutism" 2 years ago and rather than put him on "Prozac", my daughter did some research and learned about 5HTP and chose to try it first.

He started on 50mg every night. His psychologist saw the same results with the 5HTP as children on prescribed drugs.

It's been a miracle for him. I have since then also taken it since our family seems to have anxiety problems and ADD runs in the family and it has helped very much with these problems.

I usually take 100mg to 200mg daily depending on my stress levels at the time. We are so grateful our little grandson did not have to take Prozac or a similar drug. I would highly recommend it as a first choice to try at least.

5-HTP for Teenagers

Posted by Dana (Sheridan, Wyoming) on 12/19/2013

Would 5-HTP be advisable for my 16 year old son? He seems to be tired a lot, gets frequent headaches, looks to have low energy (except when he is with his friends and has bouts of anxiety. He has a huge homework load from AP classes but handles his homework well. I worry about his headaches and anxiety. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

Replied by Mike 62
(Denver, Colorado)

Dana: I had what your son has when I was his age, only I was a lot worse. 40 years later I learned that cooked regular food does not have any enzymes, humic acids that activate nutrients, xeronines that activate proteins, sulfur, or trace minerals. Do your son a big favor and feed him raw organic, grassfed, and superfood concentrates, and make home made water kefir. You can watch raw food videos for some great ideas.

Replied by Mama To Many
(Tennessee, Usa)

Hi Dana,

It is worrisome to see a teen work hard and be tired and have headaches! I have seen this too with my sons.

One thing is that teens do need more sleep for a time during the mid-teen years. I have worried when it appears my teens need more sleep than their younger siblings. Teens often do not get adequate sleep and often get irregular sleep. But between school and social lives etc, it can be hard to get them to sleep enough. Does he have trouble sleeping? Sleepytime tea before bed actually helps a lot for many, if so. I don't know that I would start with 5-HTP, I don't know much about it. But others may have another thought on this.

I agree with Mike that getting him some concentration nutrition is important. Teens are growing and need extra nutrition. Unfortunately, they are often not getting a very good diet, especially if they are consuming fast food, energy drinks, caffeine, etc. In fact, MSG (in fast food or processed food), processed sugar, and energy drinks can all cause headaches and anxiety.

Most of us are iodine deficient. A drop of Lugol's iodine daily, or a kelp tablet (not as much iodine, but still helpful to some.) might be helpful. Low iodine affects energy poorly. Also, daily vitamin C and D and B complex would be good. I did this for my son who is 17 and it did make a noticeable difference.

Sometimes a few simple changes will help. Sometimes it might be more complex. An underlying virus could cause be involved and then I would consider Dave's colloidal silver plan.

Keep us posted on what you try and how it is going. If the first things you try don't work, EC posters will likely have some more ideas for you!

~Mama to Many~

5-HTP Side Effects

5 User Reviews
3 star (1) 
1 star (1) 

Posted by Ann (Louisville, KY) on 09/10/2021


WARNING! I have been taking 5-HTP with Vitamin B6 (50mg) for the past month and have had serious side effects. I would take one dose in the morning with breakfast and one in the evening when I first started, but invariably would miss the second dose as I would forget to take it with my dinner. I then noticed I was having more diarrhea than normal and researched 5-HTP to find that that was a side effect. So I cut back to only taking 50mg every other day. During the early morning hours of Thursday, September 9th, I had a violent tremor outbreak that was happening over my whole body. It lasted between 45 minutes to an hour and only seemed to release when I would cough hard or yell and the reprieve only lasted a minute or so. I took off work on September 9th because I was wasted after this occurrence and slept the whole day. After returning to work today (Friday, September 10th), I again researched 5-HTP to see if there was any link and there was. Quote from draxe.com "There are some potential side effects to be aware of: indigestion and stomach problems; heartburn; nausea; vomiting; fatigue and drowsiness; sexual dysfunction; and muscular spasms and dysfunction." According to other research, these muscular spasms only happen to a select few (I'm one of the lucky ones).

I only researched 5-HTP, because I knew of no other reason why I would be having this type of tremor episode. I am on blood pressure medication and have been for years without having this type of episode before. So I am truly thinking that it has something to do with the 5-HTP. The weird thing is, I was only taking 50mg doses and just recently those were only taken every other day, so I don't think there was that much of an increase of serotonin in my system. Perhaps it's because the Vitamin B6 caused the 5-HTP to be more effective more quickly. I don't really know. I've given my doctor my observations and wait to see what she says. Just wanted to give everyone a heads up on here as I use earthclinic.com any time I am researching for natural supplements.

5-HTP Side Effects
Posted by Charlotte (Honolulu, Hi) on 02/02/2013


hey everyone who wants to try 5-HTP you should research it first... It's the cause of Eosinophilia Myalgia Syndrome (EMS). I thought I was going to try it until I read about this. The side effects among other things are extreme muscle pain, tremors, and it's a life-long condition. It has also killed people.

Replied by Neukoln
(Edinburgh, Scotland, Uk)

I can't find the post, but someone commented that taking a lower dose of 5HTP is more effective. [It may have been on the Depression pages?] I have to agree with this. I had crippling depression, and so I had gradually increased to 300mg/day (3 x 100mg) thinking that I needed the maximum dose - because my depression was almost making me bed-ridden. But that very high dose gave me a weird anxiety, and racing heart, and I took ages to fall asleep. And I got very loose bowels too.

I am now taking 200mg. I break open one of the capsules and have 50mg under the tongue 1/2 hour before breakfast, then 100mg under the tongue 1/2 hour before dinner, and finally 50mg under the tongue 1/2 hour before bed. I feel so much better. My depression has completely gone. I feel happy. I am thinking of reducing the 100mg dinner-time dose to 50mg. But maybe when the Winter has passed.

5-HTP Side Effects
Posted by Guata (Provo, Ut) on 07/27/2012

Better But With Side Effects

I tried 5-HTP, 50 mg. I slept great but woke up with burst blood vessels in my left eye. I tried it a few nights later and the same thing happened: I slept great again but had the burst blood vessels again. I don't dare use it anymore.

5-HTP Side Effects
Posted by Susan (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) on 02/13/2010

After hearing the great things about 5-HTP, I gave it a whirl for my anxiety and sleeplessness. I reacted very paradoxically to this supplement, as within two hours I was alert and energetic to the point of hyperactivity, also my mood became very agitated and I was extremely cranky with those that I love. The only good thing was that I got through a mountain of housework in a half day because I just could not stop. The effects carried on into the night and I only was able to sleep for an hour at most. Wanting to give this a really good trial, I carried on for about a week but the effects were the same, I hated the way I was feeling, and I finally gave the tablets away.

Replied by Sheryn
(Milwaukee, Wi)

Susan and others...I noticed while researching several options to treat low-level depression, that many caution against using if your depression has a bipolar (manic) component. My guess is that increasing serotonin in that instance leads to the manic activity and irritability (depressed mood manic energy me = one serious crabby-butt, lesson learned with an ill-fated combo of stimulants for attention deficit).

The solution for you may lie in working with other parts of your brain chemistry. Maybe see what folks are recommending for bipolar/cyclothymia.

5-HTP Side Effects
Posted by jill (Rochester, UK) on 12/14/2007

I would be interested to know if anyone else has had horrible side effects from taking 5-HTP I get stomach cramps terrible palpitations dizzyness and still feel awful the next day. Am I the only one, everyone I read about seems to think it's the best thing since sliced bread. Help!!

Replied by Violet
(Atlanta, Georgia)

For Jill--yes 50 mg of 5htp did make me feel anxious, flushed, and a little weird. I now take just 25 mg a day and that makes me sleep much better...the calming effect still feels a little odd to me, but I think this supplement has raised my mood, which was extremely depressed. I would suggest lowering your dose. A lot of info. on the web suggests taking very high dosages a day and I think this may be based on clinical trials, which use a lot of a drug to see the effects quickly. This is not necessarily advisable for everyday folks.

Replied by Rolf
(Los Angeles, Ca, Usa)

Interestingly enough, and rather contrary to the popular marketing perspective, much of the research on tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan documents that it isn't particularly beneficial for insomnia and depression.

Worst of all, there are many distressing side effects from the use of (prolonged) tryptophan supplements, such as cancer promotion. I wrote an article on this, "Tryptophan Side Effects: L-Tryptophan Is Far From Harmless", which you can access at http://www.supplements-and-health.com/tryptophan-side-effects.html

Replied by Jillery
(North Carolina (nc))
89 posts

All this information goes to show how differently we all are and all can react to different supplements. There is not just one cure all for depression. Look at the book Nutrition Power and it discusses the different types of depressions. My holistic psychiatrist suggested I read it. I weaned myself off psych meds about 8 years ago using the TrueHope site and vitamins. I have been off meds but have not been taking supplements or meditating like I should have. I went into a large depression after losing my job (situational depression)-- I found this new psychiatrist and I am taking multi vits, omega 3's, D, aminos along with additional 5HTP and GABA. It seems I am serotonin lacking as the last two supplements got me around the corner. But everyones system is vastly different. Best wishes. I get most of my vitamins on Amazon-- the better brands.

Replied by Quercus

When one reads about studies concerning either the good or bad about a supplement, it would be wise to ascertain who paid for those studies. Also, it is a good idea to look at the number of participants. While there can be a lot good info gleemed off the internet, there are also a lot of information that is untrue, out of context or without full disclosure. Some websites promote the image of being impartial, when they are not.

As with any prescription anti-depressant, it would be wise when taking a new supplement to start out slowly.

Replied by Denise
50 posts

I can't agree with this more, especially about the treating symptoms instead of looking at possible causes. For the first time in my 66 years, I am looking at my whole food intake, and exercise habits. I've changed a lot already, and honestly, for me it isn't about living longer, it's just about feeling as good as possible, and doing the things I love for as long as I am here.

I am starting to be hooked on healthy, food choices, and if I feel I am not getting enough of some nutrient, I am supplementing with vitamins and minerals. I don't expect to cure every single issue I have, but many of those issues are improving and that is enough for me to stick with this. Love EC, and the people here that share what they've tried, and what they've been successful with. I know we all are unique so I also never expect something to work for me, or at least not at the same dose etc.

5-HTP vs L-Tyrptophan

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Robin (Rural, VA) on 11/15/2008

Somebody help me clear up something. I came across some L-Tryotophan 500 mg at a drug store, in a sale bin, which I understand is no longer being sold. Doing a little research, this is a typical size dosage. I had been planning on buying some 5Htp anyway. Which is generally sold in 100 mg. I keep reading that L-Tryptophan and 5Htp are the same thing. Why would there be such a vast difference in the amount of the capsules? And if they are not the same thing, someone please explain the difference.

I had also read that if you are using 5Htp to help you sleep, you have to take a lot (maybe 5) of capsules. This is not very cost effective, as a bottle of 60 would cost you about $20. I had sleep in mind when I bought the L-Tryptophan, and took one capsule. I slept like a baby. And believe me that is rare for me.

Replied by Peggy
(Loveland, Co)

My understanding is that 5-HTP is the intermediate biochemical in the body between tryptophan and serotonin. Tryptophan is in some foods like turkey and Brazil nuts, and our bodies turn it into 5-HTP, which is then turned into serotonin. L-tryptophan was the supplement version of tryptophan, but apparently had some unpleasant side effects so it was pulled. www.5-HTP.org has some good info about it. I have had good luck with 100 mg of 5-HTP on an empty stomach about an hour before bedtime. I sleep more restfully and am happier when I wake up. I understand it's good to start with 50 mg and see if that works, and add more if needed. If I run out and don't get more for a few days, I start having more insomnia and sadness within a few days. Also, it took a few days to take effect, but has been well worth it and no side effects.

Replied by Anonymous
(Oz, Middle Earth,)

Hello, not insult to anyone but when you get vitamins from Walgreens, Walmart etc. it is not good for your health. Walmart's food is GMO (Genetically Modified=cancer etc. Do your research and look at fillers in vitamins. GMO foods are banned everywhere but in the U.S, why because MONSANTO is here. Do your research. MONSANTO cannot be sued in the U.S. i.e., MONSANTO PROTECTION ACT passed this year. Our organic farmers crops are being poisoned and sterilized by their chemicals. GMO foods and their side affects are lethal. Support your local farmers. Dr. Mercola and Dr. Andrew Lessman are the best vitamins (natural) I've found. Lessman's are even grown in solar powered nurseries etc. Please do your research. <3 and Peace to all of you.

Alcohol Addiction

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Jake (Middletown, New York) on 05/02/2009

Help to stop drinking: I have had difficulty with alcohol consumption for years, did not drink every day but when I did I did to excess.Then a friend sugessted 5-HTP which has greatly reduced my desire to drink and when I do I have a few and just get that feel that I dont want any more.I take 200mg 5-HTP at bedtime and 100mg in morning both on empty stomach. I now sleep great feel, calm and just drink socially now like those without drinking issues.


2 User Reviews
5 star (2) 

Posted by Gail (Branson, Missouri) on 01/20/2012

My husband got the 5-HTP from reading about it in Ray and Terry's info... I can get grouchy, so I took some to see the effect. I took 100mg in the morning and I forgot about it as I was busy that day... Then later in the day when I was doing school work with my kids and my son didn't want to focus and was acting up, which usually upsets me, I felt calm and I noticed it... It was nice... I guess you could say it took the edge off of my irritation?? I had no side effects other than vivid dreams but not bad dreams... I think it depends on your brain chemistry and particular problems.

I know a friend who had severe depression for years who recently cured it with ACV and some slight diet changes, so go figure. My husband tends toward anxiety and he likes what it does for him, but he does not take it every day, more like every other. We have learned over the years often with anxiety/depression you need magnesium and homeopathic meds are often good for this or epsom salt baths.

Posted by Harrier (Long Beach, CA) on 11/27/2005

I was recently diagnosed as having some mild anxiety was was given Zoloft. However the side effects were too great for me to continue. I have been trying L- Glutamine and 5 HTP for about a month and appear to find a leveling off or those problems. For me although it seems to have helped, the jury is still out and I'm not sure if this is helping or its me in the fact I only recently recognized it was a problem. I have read that 90% of the people who try natural alternatives for depression / anxiety return to prescriptions. That is very high. I only wish I recognized my problem earlier. The only people I see pushing the natural alternatives are people who have things to gain. There have been no real blind study on 5 HTP. I do not crave junk food or caffeine nearly as much. If that is a symptom of improvement, perhaps I'm getting there.

Anxiety, Depression

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Susanne (Indianapolis, In) on 11/30/2007

I began taking 5-HTP for depression and anxiety and sleeplessness during a very emotionally stressful breakup. I have Not had an anxity attack since 3-07 which I had suffered from off and on for several years. I sleep so much better. I am able to think clearer and stay focused and concentrate so much better as well as improved my memory. I am thankful for this. My dr. wanted to put me on Wellbutrine. NO Thank U!

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