Understanding 5-HTP Benefits & Side Effects: A Beginner’s Guide

Curious about 5-HTP benefits and side effects? 5-HTP is one of the oldest and most popular nootropics supplements. This nootropic is extremely effective and is taken for a variety of reasons with little to no side effects.

There has been significant clinical research on this drug to confirm 5-HTP benefits and side effects. 5-HTP is the byproduct of amino acid L-Tryptophan, an essential building block that the body creates naturally and is a precursor to serotonin.

The current commercial production method is creating 5-HTP from a plant called Griffonia Simplicifolia. At this time there are no other sources for commercial production.

5-HTP is sold over the counter (OTC) and is said to work in isolation (without taking other nootropics / supplements) and without fear of addiction. Both statements require further research needs to be done before they can be confirmed.

5-HTP Benefits

There are many supposed 5-HTP benefits. We only included the benefits that research and more confirmation so we include at least one 5-HTP research study or resource for each benefit.

These are the general benefits of 5-HTP. Any individual may or may not experience these because, as with any medication, everyone reacts differently to different medications and supplements.

1. Antidepressant – See the study here

Since 5-HTP increases serotonin it’s only natural to think of it as an anti depressant. It’s been seen to work short term in several studies now. While there needs to be more research and time for long case studies, there does seem to be some improvement, though the effects of 5-HTP seem to be nullified if there is a dopamine depletion.

2. Appetite Suppressant / Obesity – See the source here

There have been a couple of studies that have shown 5-HTP to help with weight loss. The nootropic has been shown to curb appetite by leaving the consumer more satisfied with their meal.

In multiple studies test subjects who took 5-HTP lost up to 2% of weight while those who took placebos did not lose any weight.

3. Insomnia Reduction – See the study here

There has been several case studies about using 5-HTP for insomnia. While most of them have been in the context of reducing night terrors, researchers and 5-HTP users have noticed consumption helped individuals fall asleep faster.

Typically there are increases REM sleep up to 25% and increase time spent in deep sleep states without needing to increase the total time asleep.

4. Fibromyalgia – see the journal publication and write up

In a double blind study the efficacy and tolerability of 5-HTP were studied on the drug’s interaction with 50 individuals affected by Fibromyalgia.

Using 5-HTP for fibromyalgia was proven to be an effective treatment method, reducing pain points and the amount of pain felt. The results were statistically significant and conclusive. Only a third of the total patients experienced mild side effects and one patient of which was withdrawn from the study.

5-HTP dosage for fibromyalgia in the study was 100 MG 3 times a day per patient.

5. Migraines and Headaches – see the studies here and here

The effectiveness of 5-HTP for headaches and migraines isn’t as conclusive as it is for the other benefits.

In the 2 studies 5-HTP seemed to be effective in dealing with headache symptoms – both severity and frequency. However, the results were not statistically significant in both studies.

5-HTP dosage in study: 400 MG / day

5-HTP Side Effects

One reason this smart drug is so popular is because of the vast 5-HTP benefits combined with very few, mild side effects. Many people use 5-HTP as an alternative to sleeping pills for this very reason.

Like we mentioned earlier, 5-HTP may cause different reactions so any individual may feel different side effects from taking this nootropic. It’s important to note that not all of these are negative side effects.

1. Drowsiness – Read the study here (previously mentioned)

We mentioned that one of the common 5-HTP benefits is insomnia reduction because it helps people fall asleep. As we can see in this drug, it can be a double edged sword for those wanting to stay alert after taking 5-HTP.

5-HTP can produce small amounts of melatonin (in addition to serotonin) which can lead to some drowsiness. Although the effects (if even felt) are mild, it is recommended to not take it in the morning to prevent this side effect.

2. Nausea – read the study here (previously mentioned)

Some test subjects have experienced some slight to medium discomfort from nausea. Though it isn’t a common side effect of 5-HTP, nausea needs to be mentioned as it was severe enough in one patient to be dismissed from the study.

3. Agitation – read our source here

Feeling agitation from this drug is pretty rare, and even when felt there wasn’t a huge increase. More research needs to be done on this potential side effect, but given the impact this could have it deserves recognition.

4. Increased Dream Recollection – read a personal account here 

This is one of the more common side effects, but it’s not necessarily a negative side effect of 5-HTP.

Not only do people who take 5-HTP remember more of their dreams, many people also state that dreams seem longer and more intense. This side effect was also observed in this clinical research study (mentioned previously).

How does 5-HTP work?

5-HTP is a natural precursor to serotonin. When taken, it is processed by the body and increases the levels of serotonin. 5-HTP is also said to produce melatonin in smaller amounts because, like with serotonin, 5-HTP is also a precursor to melatonin.

How to take 5-HTP

The recommended 5-HTP dosage is between 100-300 mg / day and can be found as a supplement and in multi vitamins. We recommend starting out at 100 mg first if you are just trying 5-HTP for the first time.

The most popular form to take it is in capsule form. 5-HTP levels can also be increased indirectly when taking tryptophan, since the body converts tryptophan into 5-HTP.

Where to Buy 5-HTP

When buying any, you’ll want to make sure that you are buying from a reputable and safe brand. 5-HTP is of no exception, and most of the companies selling 5-HTP are pretty safe given the older age of this supplement (compared to other nootropics). However, it’s still important to purchase the highest quality product that you know works and can trust.

We’ve tried 4 different 5-HTP products and out of all 4 of them we decided on a clear winner:

Natrol’s 5-HTP Time Release Capsules

Natrol 5-HTP TabletsNatrol’s 5-HTP was a clear winner for us as we experienced no negative side effects  (we only felt side effects in 1 of the products though) and we felt that we noticed a general improvement in our moods.

It’s important to note we took 5-HTP to improve our mood, and did not take it for any other benefits. However, during the 2 weeks we took Natrol’s 5-HTP tablets one of us found that she was able to both sleep better and feel more full from her meals.

Another one of our team members reported sleeping better as well. These experiences with Natrol’s 5-HTP are merely observations. Remember, we didn’t do any testing with placebos and so there may be some bias from our team members.

The only thing we didn’t like about this product was the size of the 200 mg tablets. We preferred the 100mg tablets because they are easier to swallow and gives more control to dosage. Because the tablet size is 200 mg it’s very difficult to just take 100 mg dose using this brand.

Despite the small problem of lack of 5-HTP dosage flexibility we still really liked Natrol’s brand of 5-HTP. We found that this product had one of the best costs for each pill when compared to other products and gave us the consistent benefits we were seeking.

Affordable and extremely effective? We’d take that any day.

5-HTP Benefits – Overall

5-HTP is one of the best nootropic supplements out there. The are many 5-HTP benefits. It’s a great supplement to take to increase your daily mood and sleeping functions, and to even try out as a weight loss aid.

Because it has few and mild negative side effects with extensive research studies to back it up, it is a low risk nootropic to try out. One key point to mention again is that it is best to be taken alone if you are trying it out on your own or are new to nootropics. There are a few other nootropics that work well with 5-HTP but even these combinations can have some side effects.

Especially avoid taking 5-HTP if you are already on anti-depressants. 

As with experimenting with any new supplement, make sure that when you try out 5-HTP you don’t try anything else new as well. Trying multiple new things at a time makes it difficult to pinpoint any positive benefits and negative side effects.

A recommend dosage starting out is at 100mg / day to see how your body reacts. To feel more of the effects of 5-HTP you can increase your dosage by 50 mg or 100 mg a day, but never go more than 300 mg /day.

Hopefully you found this resource useful and that you are able to fully understand the benefits and risks of this supplement. If you have any questions or want any advice on 5-HTP, sound off in the comments below.

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Jake D

Travel junkie turned blogger. Location independent. From the Midwest, but often based in Latin America. Big on beaches, rumba, and rum. Addicted to the gym. Committed to showing a different style of travel - one that involves actually interacting with locals and exploring different cultures.

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