Depression is painful. Overwhelming feelings of sadness, anxiety, low self-esteem and general lack of pleasure can take away much of the joy in life. Research shows the natural amino acid 5htp benefits those experiencing depressive symptoms by promoting feelings of calm and well-being without the side effects of prescription anti-depressants.
Derived from the West African plant Griffonia simplicifolia, 5htp, or 5-hydroxytryptophan, plays a vital role in our brain’s serotonin production. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter necessary for normal nerve and brain function to occur. Serotonin is largely responsible for regulating sleep, emotional moods, and perception of pain.
Decades of research have linked low serotonin levels with the symptoms of depression, including low mood, lack of energy, weight gain, insomnia, and anhedonia, or lack of pleasure. SSRI’s, or selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, have been in use to treat these symptoms for many years. SSRI’s work by artificially changing the balance of serotonin in the brain. Although generally effective, they’re associated with numerous and highly undesirable side effects, including nausea and vomiting, inability to orgasm, weight gain, dry mouth, diarrhea, insomnia, and agitation.
How effective is 5htp in comparison? A number of clinical trials have been conducted to determine how 5htp benefits those experiencing depressive symptoms, with largely favorable results. One study indicated 5htp was as effective as the prescription antidepressant fluvoxamine. Repeatedly, 5htp’s ability to increase the brain’s natural serotonin production has been shown to elevate mood, promote healthy sleep patterns, and reduce anxiety. In addition, reported side effects were infrequent and extremely mild compared to those of SSRI’s.
5htp has also been shown to improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia, reduce the frequency of migraines, and conduce appetite control and reduce carbohydrate cravings. All of these have been associated with low serotonin levels.
Most people using 5htp for depression take between 50 and 400 mg daily. Some people obtain more favorable results while taking a lower dose, so it’s advisable to start with 50 mg and add more over time if necessary. For maximum absorption, 5htp should be taken with or shortly before a meal, with a full glass of water. 5htp may not be appropriate for all mood disturbances, and should not be taken by those using anti-Parkinson’s or prescription antidepressant medications. Consulting a health care professional before beginning a 5htp regimen is advised.