5-HTP: A Key to Feeling Better Naturally?



It may sound like a secret code, but 5-HTP actually is a natural health supplement that could be the key to relieving symptoms of depression and insomnia for people with fibromyalgia.


5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is, as its name indicates, related to the essential amino acid tryptophan. Both occur naturally in the body, where they ultimately are converted to serotonin, a neurotransmitter connected to sleep, depression, and memory.


Serotonin abnormalities may be responsible for depression and insomnia—issues that many fibromyalgia patients face. Gleaned from the 5-HTP-rich West African shrub Griffonia simplicifolia, 5-HTP supplements could raise low serotonin levels and help alleviate symptoms like sleeplessness.


5-HTP and Fibromyalgia


Studies have investigated how 5-HTP compares to anti-depressants like Prozac. While Prozac lengthens the life of chemicals already in the body, research has found that the natural supplement 5-HTP works just as well, but doesn’t cause the side-effects produced by many of these prescription drugs.


One study focused on the effects of 5-HTP on people with fibromyalgia. In this double-blind trial, 50 subjects with fibromyalgia were given either 100 mg of 5-HTP or a placebo three times daily for a month. Results indicated that 5-HTP was beneficial to the patients.


That’s something that many fibromyalgia patients have already decided for themselves. Pro Health Inc. ( is a nutritional supplement company that serves customers around the world with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Pro Health ranks 5-HTP in its top 20 sellers.


"It addresses many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia," explains Bob Brunsman, Pro Health’s director of marketing. "Many of the studies that have been done … show fibromyalgia patients have low serotonin levels."


How It Works

Tryptophan, usually taken into the body through protein foods, is converted into serotonin (and other substances, like niacin) in the body. Serotonin is responsible for—among other things—creating a feeling of calm and well-being.


A popular nutritional supplement in the 1970s and 80s, tryptophan was banned in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration, after the 1989 outbreak of the flu-like illness eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS). The illness was traced to a contaminated batch of L-Tryptophan from a Japanese manufacturer.


5-HTP is another natural precursor of serotonin, even more closely linked to production of serotonin than tryptophan is—and it’s legal.


Things to Watch Out For


Though recommended dosages of 5-HTP vary (one source lists an appropriate dose range from 50 mg to 500 mg), Pro Health offers two: 50 mg and 200 mg. The company recommends taking the 50 mg capsules several times throughout the day for mood enhancement, pain control, and maintaining serotonin levels; or taking the 200 mg capsule just before bed to enhance sleep.


"I think the sales of the product [show] the [customer] reaction," says Brunsman. "It’s one of our better sellers. People keep using it."


Keep in mind that 5-HTP should not be combined with other drugs that also raise serotonin levels, including some anti-depressants and weight loss medications.


Before adopting a regimen of 5-HTP, consult your physician.

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