Does 5-HTP Work?

Does 5-HTP Work?

It seems to be a trend within the health and fitness world that as a supplement becomes increasingly popular, the amount of information about it also increases, and this is certainly the case when it comes to 5-HTP.

And while it is of course a great thing that we have access to a vast amount of knowledge, it can also make it very difficult to find the right answers when it comes to supplements.

What does 5-HTP do? Does it work? Is it proven to work?

Considering this, we aim to give you these answers and more in this article, based on our analysis of scientific study findings. So take 5 minutes and get learning about the benefits of 5-HTP.

What is 5-HTP

5-HTP; full name 5-hydroxytryptophan, is a supplement in capsule form, and is a naturally occurring amino acid and a precursor in the synthesis of serotonin and melatonin. It is derived from the amino acid l-tryptophan and is produced in supplement form from the seeds of a West African plant called Griffonia Simplicifolia. [1]

It is taken orally and generally recommended doses are around 50-200mg, although as with many supplements (including some minerals) there are no established EU Recommended Daily Allowances.

What does 5-HTP do?

5-HTP is associated with a number of benefits, most commonly with improving sleep, depression, headache and weight loss. [2]

Once absorbed the supplement basically increases serotonin levels in the brain - the ‘happy’ chemical. Knowing that with low levels of serotonin we may experience insomnia, depression, anxiety and binge eating disorders, we can clearly see that increasing serotonin levels may combat these conditions.

Does 5-HTP work?

Here we take a look at some key benefits of 5-HTP and some related studies to assess whether the supplement actually works to improve these conditions.


In general the studies on sleep and 5-HTP have been minimal or with a small control group. This often leads to a consensus, particularly concerning review of literature studies, that there can be no solid scientific claims that 5-HTP promotes restful sleep, based simply on the fact that there is not enough research out there on human subjects. [3]

However, what we see in the research that is there, are studies that conclude Rapid Eye Movement - an indicator of deep, healthy sleep - increases in subjects given 5-HTP compared to a placebo [4]. And although not hugely scientific, we can also simply observe the results that people describe from taking the supplement, in which it is clear to see many have had a positive effect on sleep.

Although the scientific studies on 5-HTP are limited, the supplement continues to be very successful in naturally promoting restful sleep. This is likely due to the fact that, being derived from L-tryptophan; it produces very similar effects. L-tryptophan is highly researched and widely accepted as a promoter of sleep, although has not been used as a supplement since 1988 [2], being replaced by 5-HTP as an over-the-counter supplement.

Weight Loss

Due to the release of serotonin when taking 5-HTP, the effect is similar to any time serotonin is increased, in which more of the hormone promoting satiety (the feeling of being ‘full’ or satisfied from food) is also released, resulting in a decrease in the need to binge eat or overfeed. [5]

This has resulted in 5-HTP becoming a popular weight loss supplement for those who struggle with overeating, and is somewhat accepted as being a scientifically proven supplement for weight loss, although more human study is needed. [6]


Disruptions in a human’s emotional state and well being can be attributed to imbalances of chemicals in the brain, and one of those is serotonin. Low states of serotonin, as mentioned previously, can result in a low mood state.

There have been several successful studies showing 5-HTP to be a definite influencer for improving the mood of those diagnosed with depression. One study showed 5-HTP to be as effective as the antidepressant drug Fluoxetine [7].


5-HTP is often used to treat chronic or tension headache, although we generally found the research again needs more human study. There have been several studies proving that 5-HTP improved headache symptoms significantly in comparison to placebo, although the study groups must increase in size before we can safely provide a substantial recommendation on treating tension headache.

Is 5-HTP Safe?

5-HTP is a natural substance which is often used as an alternative to traditional prescription drugs due to the lack of side effects. [2]

One effect some may have (including the writer of this article!) is that of feeling very relaxed, a lot like you might feel after a large Turkey dinner at Christmas time!

In short, yes, 5-HTP is perfectly safe to take, providing the manufacturer's standards are up to scratch (at Love Life all our supplements are GMP approved). You should of course always consult your doctor before taking 5-HTP in conjunction with prescribed medication.

Want to learn more?

At Love Life Supplements we aim to bring you the best in supplement and diet articles that are simple yet filled with facts and research, allowing you to learn awesome stuff in a short amount of time. Be sure to come back to our Knowledge section regularly for more learning.

We’d also love to hear your experiences with the product on Facebook and in the comments section of this post.

Where can I try out 5-HTP?

Our 5-HTP is available to buy online through our sleep aids section. It is exceptional quality and one of the best selling 5-HTP products in the UK, & includes free delivery.

Article References

[1] The Essential Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and Herbal Supplements, Dr Sarah Brewer, 2009.

[2] Earl Mindell’s New Vitamin Bible, Earl Mindell, 2005.

[3] Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to 5-hydroxytryptophan, European Food Safety Authority, 2011.

[4] Effects of 5-hydroxytryptophan on the sleep of normal human subjects, Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 1971.

[5] University of Michigan health study, 2015.

[6] Natural Medical Journal, 2009.

[7] Comparative study of efficacy of l-5-hydroxytryptophan and fluoxetine in patients presenting with first depressive episode, 2012.

1 comment

John Roberts

Interesting – I’ve tried various forms of 5HTP and found a few work. Will try yours now! I’ve been using the patch version (like a nicotine patch that you put on your skin once a day). That worked really well for me but I’ve run out. I liked it because it was a lower daily dose – you don’t lose lots in the stomach lining.

John Roberts

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