Taking 5-HTP and Recommended Dosage

chemistry test tubes

If you suffer from depression, insomnia or weight gain issues, you may be asking yourself if a 5-HTP dosage is an option for you.

Understanding 5-hydroxy-tryptophan

5-hydroxy-trytophan (5-HTP) is a neurotransmitter in the body that helps regulate serotonin levels in the brain and central nervous system. Serotonin levels determine your mood, how well you sleep, and they stabilize your weight. If the level of this chemical drops or fluctuates, you may experience such symptoms as:

  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Insomnia
  • Night terrors

Lesser known studies have also pointed to increasing the 5-HTP levels as a way to alleviate:

  • High blood pressure
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic headaches
  • Risk of heart disease

However, it is unclear if these conditions are affected by the increased serotonin levels directly or indirectly. For example, it is possible the decreased risk of heart disease is attributable to the lessening of anxiety more than an actual chemical change in the body. The same would apply to chronic headaches. If you worry less, you may naturally see a decrease in the intensity and frequency of headaches.

Doctors have traditionally looked to medications such as Prozac as a means of elevating lagging 5-HTP levels, and thereby stabilizing these often debilitating symptoms. Now a non-prescription answer is available. "Griffonia simplicifoloa" seeds are now being processed into an over-the-counter supplement in the form of gelatin or vegetarian capsules. These capsules provide a 5-HTP dosage of 50mg or 100mg.

The Right 5-HTP Dosage for You

Supplement providers typically recommend taking one 50 mg or 100 mg capsule up to three times a day. The maximum dosage is debatable, but many authorities suggest maximum of 100 to 300 mg a day. Determining what dosage is right for you may require a consultation with your physician or starting out at 50 mg a day and gradually increasing the dosage over the course of a couple of months until you find a level that feels right to you.

An example of a graduate dosage plan might be:

  • Day 1-4 - Take a 50mg capsule in the morning.
  • Day 5-8 - Take a 50 mg capsule in the morning and at night.
  • Day 9-12 - Take a 50 mg capsule at morning, noon and night.
  • Day 13-16 - Up the morning dosage to 100 mg.
  • Day 17-20 - Up the evening dosage to 100 mg.
  • Day 21-24 - Up the midday dosage to 100 mg.

By now, you are at the maximum commonly recommended dosage. If at any time along the way, you experience adverse reactions, stop the increased dosage and stay at the dosage where you received the most benefit with the least number of side effects. It may help you to determine the right dosage for you by keeping a daily journal, tracking you physical and emotional changes.


depressed woman

If you are on medication or suffer from certain medical conditions, 5-HTP may not be right for you. Consult with a physician before taking this supplement if you have been diagnosed with any of the following:

  • AIDS
  • Alcoholism
  • Pregnancy
  • Eating disorders, such as Anorexia Nervosa
  • Severe allergies
  • Sickle Cell Anemia
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Lung or liver diseases
  • Hemophilia
  • Peripheral Neuropathy or Myalgia
  • Parkinsons Disease
  • Cancer
  • Autoimmune diseases

5-HTP should not be taken in concurrent usage with:

  • Anti-depressants
  • Monoamine Oxidase inhibitors
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake inhibitors
  • Tricyclic medications
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Weight loss medications
  • Chemotherapy
  • Barbiturates and tranquilizers
  • Antihistamines

In other words, if you are on medications, it is wise to consult with your doctor before taking a 5-HTP supplement.

Known Side Effects

While clinical studies show that 5-hydroxy-trytophan is safe for general consumption, some side effects have been known to occur, including:

  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rash or flushing
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased depression
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares

Time may alleviate some of these side effects, as your body adjusts to the improved serotonin levels, or you may need to adjust your 5-HTP dosage. In the event the symptoms are severe, stop usage and seek immediate medical help.

Purchasing 5-HTP Supplements

Many local pharmacies, groceries and departments stores now carry 5-HTP supplements, and you also have the option of shopping online. Look to these websites when making your purchase:

Wonder Drug

5-HTP is not a wonder drug. As with many dietary supplements and medications, it will take time before you will see significant improvement. Experts recommend allowing at least six weeks and to start with the lowest 5-HTP dosage and slowly increase the amount until you find the right dosage for you.

As with all supplements, consult with your physician if you have any concerns. Your health is one of your most valuable assets. Taking the wrong mix of medications and dietary supplements can be detrimental. Take the time to ensure you've taken proper precautions before taking 5-HTP and you may find it is the right answer for your problems.

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Taking 5-HTP and Recommended Dosage