What you need to know about 5-HTP: health benefits, supplements, side effects and more

In search of a natural method to boost your well-being? 5-HTP may have the power to elevate your mood, enhance your sleep, and support weight management. Learn more about this promising serotonin-boosting supplement and whether you may benefit from adding it to your wellness regimen.

Curious about 5-HTP? This natural compound, derived from dietary tryptophan, plays a pivotal role in our well-being by contributing to serotonin production in the brain. With its potential to alleviate depression, enhance sleep, and aid in weight management, 5-HTP supplements are gaining popularity. But what does the research reveal, and is it a worthwhile choice?

In this guide to 5 HTP, we’ll take a closer look at what 5-HTP is, its science-backed benefits, and some important safety considerations you should be aware of before considering supplementation. 

So, grab a tryptophan-rich snack (turkey jerky, anyone?), and let's dig in!

What is 5 HTP?

5-Hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, is a natural byproduct of tryptophan, an amino acid found in a variety of foods including milk, eggs, turkey and chicken, canned tuna, oats, and cheese. It also occurs naturally in certain plants.

The body uses 5-HTP to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that relays signals between brain cells and affects sleep, mood, and appetite, and plays a significant role in wellness and happiness [





While eating more tryptophan-rich foods won’t have much effect on 5-HTP levels, 5-HTP supplements can help raise serotonin levels in the brain [


]. Since serotonin helps regulate mood and behavior, people may take 5-HTP for its potential positive effects on sleep, mood, anxiety, and appetite. 

5-HTP benefits

Stressed man with blue sweatshirt


Early findings suggest 5-HTP may be beneficial for managing mild-to-moderate depression, potentially matching the efficacy of certain antidepressant medications.

Similar to serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft), 5-HTP can effectively elevate serotonin levels in the brain, enhance mood, and potentially lower the incidence of side effects compared to fluvoxamine (Luvox) [





Research also supports the combination of 5-HTP with certain antidepressant medications. For example, combining nialamide and 5-HTP was found to be more effective in treating a type of depression known as endogenous depression compared to using nialamide alone [


]. In another study, combining L-deprenil and 5-HTP showed significant clinical improvement in patients with depression [



While these findings show promise, these research trials are limited in number and scope; thus, more research is needed to confirm these effects [



man sleeping in bed

Sleep and sleep disorders

Serotonin plays a crucial role in sleep quality and duration and in producing melatonin, which governs your daily sleep-wake rhythm [


]. Since 5-HTP raises serotonin levels in the brain, it may benefit sleep.

In one study, a small group of sleep disorder patients given a combination of 5-HTP and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and other ingredients fell asleep faster, slept longer, and reported better sleep quality than the placebo group [



More research is needed to explore the potential benefits and dosage of 5-HTP to improve sleep and sleep disorders. 

man stepping on a white scale

Satiety and weight loss

5-HTP could also contribute to weight loss, as some studies have shown that supplementation increases satiety. 

In one study, overweight or obese women experienced greater satiety and a decrease in binge eating tendencies while supplementing with 5-HTP over one month [



Another study noted an increase in satiety and weight loss promotion with a dose of 8 mg/kg/day but no significant impact on appetite suppression [



Additional research is required to investigate the potential role and benefits of 5-HTP in enhancing satiety and its contribution to weight loss.

5-HTP supplementation

5-HTP supplements are made from extracts of the seeds of the African Griffonia simplicifolia plant [


]. 5-HTP is available in various forms, from capsules, powders, and


, as well as in some multivitamins and herbal supplements [



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5 HTP dosage

5 HTP dosage typically ranges between 300-500 mg and can be taken once daily or in smaller, divided doses [



  • A 5 HTP dosage for depression can range from 150-800 mg daily [



  • For sleep, experts recommend taking 200 to 400 mg at night to stimulate serotonin. Keep in mind, it can take 6 to 12 weeks to be fully effective [



  • For satiety and weight loss, studies have shown effectiveness at doses of 8 mg/kg/day and 750 mg/day [




    ]. To reduce food intake, take 5-HTP with a meal as it increases satiety from food [



Side effects of 5 HTP

Side effects of 5 HTP are generally mild and may include heartburn, gas, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, feelings of fullness, drowsiness, sexual problems, and muscle problems [





To minimize the risk of side effects and adverse reactions, some experts recommend starting at a low dose (for example, 25 mg/day) and gradually increasing your dose over several weeks to a level that is well tolerated and produces desired results [



Keep in mind that 5-HTP can be toxic at high doses. Doses of 6-10 g/day have been linked to severe stomach problems and muscle spasms and may increase your risk of serotonin syndrome, a dangerous condition caused by too much serotonin in the body [






While 5-HTP supplementation is safe for many, it’s not for everyone. You should not take 5 HTP if you take antidepressants, have liver disease, or are pregnant or breastfeeding [


]. If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, you should talk to your doctor before taking 5-HTP [



5 HTP medication interactions

5-HTP can interact with certain medications and increase your risk of serotonin syndrome. Speak to your healthcare provider before taking 5-HTP if you are currently being treated with any of the following medications [



  • Antidepressants: including SSRIs, Tricyclics, Monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and Nefazodone

  • Carbidopa: A medication prescribed to manage symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

  • Tramadol (Ultram): A common medication for fibromyalgia

  • Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, and others): A cough suppressant 

  • Meperidine (Demerol): A pain medication

  • Triptans (Axert, Relpax, and more): Used to treat migraines

What is the best 5 HTP supplement?

The best 5-HTP supplement is one that has been third-party tested for quality and purity.

There are many 5-HTP supplements on the market, but not all are created equal. Elo Health has rigorous

third-party testing practices

which means members can trust that their supplements are safe, composed of the highest quality ingredients, and optimized for outcomes.

Learn more about Elo’s rigorous

third-party testing

Frequently asked questions about 5-HTP

Is 5 HTP safe?

Research shows 5-HTP is likely safe in doses up to 400 mg/day for up to one year [



Large doses of 5-HTP (such as 6-10 g/day) have been linked to severe stomach problems and muscle spasms and may not be safe [




]. High doses have also been linked to serotonin syndrome, a dangerous condition caused by too much serotonin in the body [



Additionally, a small amount of people who have taken 5-HTP have developed a serious condition called eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS). This potentially fatal disorder affects the skin, blood, organs, and muscles. While EMS has been linked to tryptophan supplementation, there is not enough scientific evidence to know whether 5-HTP, a contaminant, or some other factor cause EMS. For this reason, 5-HTP should be taken with caution. [





How long does it take for 5-HTP to work? 

The time it takes for 5-HTP to take effect can vary from person to person and depends on several factors, including the individual's


, the desired outcome, and the dosage. 

While some may experience effects within a few hours to a few days, others may take a week or longer to notice any differences. For example, antidepressant effects have been seen within two weeks of treatment, whereas maximal sleep benefits may take 6-12 weeks [





Because of this, it's typically recommended to use 5-HTP for several weeks to see its full potential benefits. 

Can 5 HTP cause insomnia?

Common side effects associated with 5-HTP include symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. Additionally, some individuals have reported insomnia, restlessness, euphoria, mood swings, anxiety, aggressiveness, and agitation [



Can 5 HTP cause nausea?

Nausea is a common side effect associated with 5-HTP supplementation. To reduce your risk of nausea, consider reducing your dosage or splitting your daily intake into two smaller doses. 

How long does 5 HTP stay in your system?

With a half-life of 2.2–7 hours, 5-HTP will stay in your system for approximately 11-36 hours [






5-Hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, is a naturally occurring compound derived from tryptophan that plays a pivotal role in serotonin production, impacting your sleep, mood, anxiety, and appetite. While preliminary research suggests it may aid in managing depression, improve sleep quality, and support weight management, more extensive studies are needed to confirm these effects. Despite its promising benefits, 5-HTP isn’t for everyone. When considering 5-HTP supplementation, it's important to be aware of potential interactions and dosage recommendations. 

Disclaimer: The text, images, videos, and other media on this page are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to treat, diagnose, or replace personalized medical care.

Key takeaways

  • 5-HTP plays a crucial role in serotonin production, influencing sleep, mood, anxiety, and appetite.

  • Preliminary research suggests that 5-HTP supplementation may offer benefits in managing mild-to-moderate depression, improving sleep quality, and supporting weight management, although more research is needed to validate these effects.

  • Before taking 5-HTP, it's essential to be aware of potential medication interactions and health precautions as 5-HTP is not appropriate for everyone.

  • If you decide 5-HTP supplementation is for you, you can add a daily dose of 5-HTP to your Elo

    Smart Gummies

    , personalized gummy vitamins designed to match your unique nutrition needs and health goals. 


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