5-Hydroxytryptophan is an intermediate between tryptophan and serotonin. Tryptophan is an amino acid that we get from some foods, like turkey. 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is made in the body from tryptophan and goes on to make serotonin.

5-HTP must be converted to serotonin in the brain in order to influence brain biochemistry. If this happens outside of the blood-brain barrier, it has no effect on our mental health. We want increased amounts of serotonin for optimal neurological health!

Low serotonin levels are associated with:



Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


Carbohydrate Craving




Sleep Apnea

Migraine Headache

Tension Headache

Premenstrual Syndrome



Chronic Pain Disorder

The advantage of taking 5-Hydroxytryptophan over tryptophan or L-tryptophan is that it crosses the blood-brain barrier at much higher rates than the other two. Additionally, the chemical difference in 5-HTP of an additional oxygen and hydrogen molecule make it an antioxidant.

An enzyme necessary for the conversion of tryptophan to 5-HTP may have decreased function in certain individuals. This indicates that their brain serotonin levels will be low, resulting in less than optimal brain biochemistry.

L-tryptophan needs to be given in such high levels to adequately raise blood levels that it is potentially unsafe. Since 5-HTP crosses into the brain biochemistry so easily, high amounts of it are able to be converted into serotonin.

In addition, 5-HTP raises the levels of other brain chemicals like melatonin, endorphins, dopamine, and norepinephrine. This helps explain the positive results seen with 5-HTP in regard to pain, mood, sugar cravings, insomnia, and depression.

Weight Loss

In studies, animals that were fed diets that did not contain contain tryptophan showed significant increases in their appetites, resulting in binge eating. The preferred food for the binge eating was carbohydrates, but any available food would do. This resulting low brain serotonin level causes our brains to think we are starving and stimulates the appetite control center to eat! This is in part why most diets end up failing.

The preference for carbohydrates is due to the fact that more tryptophan is absorbed across the blood-brain barrier if protein, which breaks down to other amino acids, is not available to compete for transport.

High carbohydrate low protein diets are devastating to our glycemic index and blood sugar, thus causing our bodies to store more blood sugar as fat!

In studies the amount of 5-HTP was 300 mg, three times a day, 20 minutes before meals. If nasuea occurred, the amount used was 50 - 100 mg three times a day.

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