5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a by-product of the amino acid L-tryptophan, and a precursor to the neurotransmitter called serotonin (which is a neurotransmitter commonly associated with happiness) and is used to increase the production of serotonin, reduce stress and suppress appetite.
5-HTP is produced in the body but is derived from the African shrub Griffonia Simplicifolia when used as a supplement. Low serotonin levels are associated with sleep disorders such as insomnia, depression, weight gain, and anxiety – to name a few (1, 2).
As such, supplementation may be beneficial for even the simple reason of retaining homeostasis.
1Natrol 5-HTP Tablets
The Natrol Time Release 5-HTP tablet is our number 1 pick and designed to lighten your mood and reduce your stress through a natural solution. This 5-HTP supplement provides a controlled release effect and is considered maximum strength. Each tablet is 200 mg so only one tablet per day is recommended and each bottle contains 60 tablets. The primary ingredients in this tablet are 5-HTP directly from Griffonia simplicifolia with 55 mg of calcium as well.
There are some additional ingredients used to form the tablet, which are common tablet ingredients and nothing that cause notable concern. Additionally, there is no artificial flavor or coloring and no added sugars. Natrol is manufactured in the USA and is one of the leading brands for 5-HTP in the nation.
2Arazo Nutrition 5-HTP Capsules
Arazo Nutrition designed their 5-HTP capsules to help you sleep deeply and wake up refreshed with no groggy effects in the morning. The formula is intended to improve brain function, improve your moods, and enhance your sleep quality.
This particular compound is very potent and pure. Arazo Nutrition’s formula contains 200 mg of pure 5-HTP from the Griffonia simplicifolia with some additional calcium. The capsules are veggie capsules and all ingredients are plant-derived.
Each bottle comes with 120 capsules and a dose is 2 capsules. This product was made in a USA facility that is both FDA and GMP certified. Additionally, this product undergoes third-party lab testing for purity.
3Pure Encapsulations 5-HTP Hypoallergenic Capsule
Pure Encapsulations lives up to the pure in their title with this particular supplement. Their version of 5-HTP contains only pure 5-HTP at 100 mg with no other additives to the supplement. There are some additional ingredients for the veggie capsule but they are minor and inconsequential.
This capsule is unique in that it is designed to be hypoallergenic. Even the capsule is made with hypoallergenic plant fibers in an effort to promote your emotional well-being through better sleep with a wholly pure solution. Pure Encapsulations capsule is both vegan and vegetarian-friendly. This formula is commonly recommended by medical professionals. This low dose allows you to take more than one capsule if you desire.
4Nature Bell 5-HTP
If you’re looking for an affordable solution that meets high-quality standards, this could be the solution for you. Nature’s Bell provides a natural 5-HTP solution to improve your sleep and your moods.
This formula is 200 mg per serving and a serving is easily adjustable since it is 2 capsules. The compound is made with only 5-HTP from Griffonia simplicifolia and no other additives. This is a veggie capsule that is well put together.
This supplement is considered pharmaceutical grade. It is made in a USA facility and the product is third-party lab tested before it is sent to market.
NutraChamps has another great 5-HTP supplement option that is worth checking out. They advertise their formula as “planting the seed of serotonin” and encourage a positive outlook as the intended result from this vitamin.
This formula contains 200 mg of 5-HTP from Griffonia simplicifolia in a 2-capsule dosage. They have also added both Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C for absorption purposes in an effort to get you maximum results. Each bottle contains 60 servings of the supplement.
This compound is third-party tested and is manufactured at a GMP-registered facility located within the US. This company has a unique characteristic in that they support non-profit Vitamin Angels.
6NOW 5-HTP 100mg
NOW is a well-known name brand in the supplement market. In this particular ranking, we would like to point out that we specifically recommend only the 100 mg 5-HTP option as their 200 mg does not meet our standards. This option though certainly presents a reasonable option.
This formula contains 100 mg of 5-HTP from Griffonia simplicifolia. The recommended dosage is 1 capsule per day. Because it is a low dose you can adjust some as needed. There are no other additives to this specific dosage and the capsule is a veggie capsule.
NOW foods also contributes to non-profit Vitamin Angels. These products are prepared in the USA in a GMP-certified facility that is NPA A-rated. This supplement has also undergone third-party lab testing.
7Thorne Research 5-HTP
Thorne’s 5-HTP formula is highly rated in middle-aged individuals, mostly between the ages of 30-50 but can work well for any age group. It’s designed to optimally support an age group that tends to be stressed, anxious, moody, and tired.
This formula is 100 mg of 5-HTP with a small amount of B6 for absorption purposes. Thorne makes all of their supplements from scratch and offers their own unique rendition of their supplements, this particular one included.
This supplement is completed in a USA facility that is third-party certified. All of their products go through multiple testing processes prior to distribution for quality purposes.
8Dr. Emil Nutrition 5-HTP Plus Serotonin Supplement
Dr. Emil Nutrition is a company that manufactures supplements based on a doctor and nutrition coach’s superior nutrition and supplement knowledge. This doctor felt the need to provide high-quality supplements from a medical standpoint.
This formula contains 200 mg 5-HTP as well as Vitamin B6, L-Tryptophan, and S-Adenosyl Methionine in their formula. Each of these is still natural ingredients conducive to the cause of getting better sleep and improving moods and mental health through that posturing.
This compound is allergen and hormone-free and 100% natural. It is manufactured in a USA facility that is FDA and GMP-certified and all products undergo third-party lab testing.
9Toniiq Ultra-High Strength 5-HTP
Toniiq’s rendition of the 5-HTP supplement boasts an extremely pure formula that is a 12:1 ratio concentrated extract from Griffonia Seed. This elevated formula means you are getting the best dosage and purity in each capsule.
This formula is sourced from Ghana, where the Griffonia seed is locally harvested and then it is crafted in the USA. The blend is made from all-natural seeds with no additives or fillers for the capsules.
This supplement is made and manufactured in a GMP and FDA-compliant facility located within the US. Toniiq is so sure of their product they even offer a lifetime guarantee for satisfaction.
10Nature Wise 5-HTP Veggie Capsules
Nature Wise is another long standing company that provides natural supplements and options that are suitable quality. This particular supplement is a plant-based formula designed at a mild dosage to provide support for both sleep and mood.
This formula is 100 mg of 5-HTP from Griffonia simplicifolia and a small amount of Vitamin B6 for absorption purposes. This is a veggie capsule with no binders or fillers. This supplement is manufactured in the US and the company also supports non-profit Vitamin Angels. The product is quality-tested but it is unclear whether it is produced in a GMP facility.
How We Rank
The first thing we looked at, when formulating our rankings of the best 5-HTP, was the dosage. While it’s possible to see the benefits in low dosages, it is recommended to take 100-300 mg for the best results. No matter what you are taking the supplement for, the lowest recommended dosage is 100 mg. It was for this reason that we did not include anything whose primary option came in only 50 mg doses like Designs for Health and Solaray.
Next we looked at the ingredients. We wanted to ensure that 5-HTP was the primary ingredient focus and we eliminated many recommended options solely for not meeting expectations. For example, we recommended NOW 100 mg but made it clear NOW 200 mg did not meet our criteria. The 200 mg NOW supplement contained unnecessary additives and not just one but several. This is why the label is important. These are made by the same company but one option was better than the other. Onnit brand was eliminated from our list because we felt as though they made themselves the expert in the field with nothing to back up their expertise. Their supplement contained a multitude of blends that had various ingredients and skipped around 5-HTP, making it an option that didn’t meet our criteria.
Third, we looked at purity and absorbability. You will notice that many of the supplements in our ranks, like Nutra Champs and Thorne Research contained B6 or calcium in small doses. These were allowable additives as they are used to deliver maximum potency and maximum absorbability. We rarely recommend a product that is a blend or more specifically a “proprietary blend”. This is because we can’t review what is in the blend and often it only contains trace amounts of the supplement we are specifically pinpointing.
Trio Nutrition is a well-known brand whose 5-HTP was a proprietary blend and therefore it did not make our list despite high ratings. Another well-known brand is Doctor’s Best and we eliminated this one from our list because while it was advertised as 5-HTP is contained only a small amount of 5-HTP and the calcium dosage was nearly double the 5-HTP making it, ultimately, a calcium supplement.
Finally, we looked at company quality, reputation and trust. We felt that it was important that the company represent their brand by putting their 5-HTP supplement through either quality control processing or through third-party lab testing. Lab-testing and quality control procedures tell us we can rely on the substance to be superior quality.
After all this, we determined the top 10 best 5-HTP supplements on the market.
15-HTP can reduce depression. Since serotonin is associated with feelings of happiness and 5-HTP leads to serotonin production, the 5-HTP supplementation could potentially have some benefits for people who are depressed (3, 4, 5).
In a small clinical trial involving 52 healthy male subjects, either oral 5-HTP or antidepressant enhanced serotonin levels by 35% and 100%, but a combination between antidepressant and 5-HTP by 500% (6).
There is certainly potential for 5-HTP to be an effective means to be a part of a depression treatment program. The current research hasn’t shown that 5-HTP supplementation alone is enough to treat depression. However, it has shown preliminary signs of efficacy (9).
25-HTP can improve sleep. Quality and duration of sleep has been shown to increase with 5-HTP supplementation in normal patients and those with diagnosed sleep disorders (10).
One reason being that 5-HTP produces serotonin, which can be converted into the hormone melatonin. Moreover, since melatonin regulates your sleep cycle and quality, increasing melatonin availability via 5-HTP supplementation works wonders on sleep.
A 2010 human study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics showed that a combination of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and 5-HTP increased sleep duration, improved sleep quality and significantly reduced the time it took individuals to fall asleep (11).
35-HTP can help with weight loss. One study showed that 5-HTP may increase feelings of fullness (via serotonin secretion), causing you to eat less and lose weight (12).
Another study was done in 1998 and involved 20 people with diabetes who were randomly assigned to receive either 5-HTP or a placebo for two weeks. The results showed that the patients who received 5-HTP consumed approximately 435 fewer calories per day (mainly carbohydrates and fat) and reduced their body weight, compared to the placebo group (13).
Interestingly, 5-HTP has been shown to lead to a lower intake of carbohydrates, thereby increasing compliance with dietary restrictions (14).
It is important to note that 5-HTP does not directly lead to weight loss, but rather, leads to a change in eating behavior which then results in weight loss (19).
One 1986 study involving 124 people compared the ability of 5-HTP and methysergide, a common migraine medication, to prevent migraines. The study concluded that 71% of participants had a decrease in migraine attacks after supplementing with 5-HTP every day for six months prior (22).
The following year (1987) another study involving 48 students showed that a 70% decrease in headache frequency, was noted with 5-HTP supplementation versus a mere 11% decrease in the placebo group (23).
55-HTP helps with night terrors in children. A 2004 study published in the European Journal of Pediatrics showed that a 93.5% reduction in sleep terrors in children aged 3-10 after taking 2 mg of 5-HTP/kg every night before bed for a month (24).
65-HTP can help with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals. There is currently no known cause of fibromyalgia, but low serotonin levels have been associated with the condition (25).
A 1996 study showed that people with fibromyalgia who were given monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) (a type of antidepressant medication) in combination with 5-HTP reported significantly reduced pain (29).
In patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia, the use of 5-HTP has been preliminarily shown to improve symptoms within a 3 month period (30).
75-HTP can help reduce the likelihood of panic attacks. Low levels of serotonin alone have not been shown to lead to increased panic or anxiety (31).
However, the reduced serotonin may lead to increased susceptibility to panic or anxiety attacks (32).
85-HTP may lesson withdrawal symptoms from alcohol. A 2011 study involving 20 subjects going through alcohol withdrawal showed that 5 HTP in combination with glutamine, D-phenylalanine and some trace minerals decreased withdrawal symptoms over 40 days (35)
95-HTP can lower cortisol and stress responses. A 2010 study found that 5-HTP supplementation helped to reduce stress induced by a break-up for up to 3 weeks post break-up. The study looked at non-depressed youth who went through a recent break-up. After being given 12.8mg of 5-HTP for 6 weeks, twice per day, patients noted less romantic stress measured at the 3-week mark (36).
This is only preliminary research, but it suggests that 5-HTP may play a role in reducing the stressors of everyday life.
105-HTP can help combat anxiety. In young adults who suffer stress or anxiety from unreciprocated romanticism, a 6-week supplementation of 5-HTP decreased anxiety in 3 weeks by increasing blood BDNF levels and serotonin levels (37).
In human clinical trials, herbal extracts of 5-HTP were shown to activate GABA receptors or increase GABA levels, promoting a sense of relaxation and decreased anxiety (38).
115-HTP is easily made into serotonin. The amino acid tryptophan is converted to 5-HTP before it is converted to serotonin. TPH1 and TPH2, the enzymes responsible for converting tryptophan to 5-HTP, are the slowest (rate-limiting) enzymes in serotonin production (39).
5-HTP is readily and freely converted to serotonin without biochemical inhibition.
125-HTP effortlessly crosses the blood-brain barrier. Tryptophan competes with leucine, valine, tyrosine, and isoleucine to cross the blood-brain barrier (40).
5-HTP, however, does not compete with other amino acids to enter the brain. 5-HTP readily crosses the blood-brain barrier without receptors or channels. Serotonin does not cross the blood-brain barrier, so serotonin outside of the brain (in the gut, platelets, heart, and liver) stays separate from serotonin in the brain.
5-HTP gets converted into serotonin both inside and outside of the brain.
135-HTP is only converted into serotonin. While tryptophan can be used for protein synthesis and turning into niacin, 5-HTP can only be used for converting into serotonin (41).
This makes 5-HTP a super effective supplement at resolving serotonin-related body and brain issues.
15-HTP supplementation can cause nausea. Since serotonin in the digestive system controls gut movement, all interventions that increase serotonin levels, including 5-HTP supplementation and SSRI antidepressants, can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Slow-released 5-HTP may be better tolerated and less likely to cause side effects (44).
2Other common side effects include headaches, fatigue, drowsiness and muscular pain (45).
3Serotonin Syndrome (an overdose of serotonin in the body) has been noted at higher doses using lab rats. However at the same dose (relative to body weight), this side effect has not been shown in humans; it is, however, worth noting (46).
With normal dosages of 5-HTP (typically around 300mg a day), however, side effects and the serotonin syndrome have not been observed in humans even with congestion of anti-depressants such as MAOIs (47).
4Long-term supplementation with 5-HTP can deplete dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. Serotonin shares the same conversion and breakdown enzyme (MAO) with other neurotransmitters (dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine). Long-term supplementation of 5-HTP can cause imbalances of these neurotransmitters, which can worsen neurological and psychiatric diseases. It is therefore recommended that 5-HTP supplementation is supervised by qualified clinicians and balanced with neurotransmitter precursors (48).
In cases where there is too much 5-HTP, it will reduce dopamine synthesis as a result of overwhelming the AAAD enzyme through competitive inhibition, leading to depletion of dopamine, norepinephrine and other neurotransmitters (49).
With increasing doses of 5-HTP, MAO activity increases. When this happens, MAO can then break down dopamine and cause it to decrease (50).
55-HTP can cause serotonin specific side effects. Because 5-HTP converts to serotonin in your system, it is expected that you could experience serotonin-related side effects. These side effects include changes in appetite, body temperature, sexual behavior, and pain sensation.
While 5-HTP is typically used to improve your sleep quality, it is possible that the serotonin will negatively affect your sleep, although this is a rare side effect.
65-HTP may cause EMS. While 5-HTP is considered primarily safe to take as a supplement there have been cases in which individuals who have regularly taken high doses of this supplement might develop EMS (eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome, which is a condition that mimics fibromyalgia with extreme muscle tenderness with additional blood abnormalities.
Studies also suggest that pure 5-HTP supplements do not typically pose this threat but supplements that contain other additives can contaminate the supplement and lead to this effect. This is a factor that leaves remaining unknown information as to what truly causes these effects within a 5-HTP supplement.
75-HTP may not be safe for children. 5-HTP is only recommended for children in extremely small doses of only up to 5 mg per day if the child is under 12 years of age. It is incredibly hard to find a dosage this minimal in this type of supplement.
While there are benefits for some children to taking the supplement, it is important to be mindful of the dosage and do not have the child take it for more than 3 years continually. Some studies show that children who take high doses for extended lengths of time are more likely to develop EMS.
8High doses of 5-HTP taken orally can potentially be unsafe. This is primarily true of doses that are taken in excess for extended periods of time. For example, the daily recommended dose of 5-HTP is between 100-300 mg for adult dosage.
Studies show that adults who have taken daily doses of 6-10 grams suffer from serious and uncomfortable side effects. This is 6,000 or more mg which exceeds the recommended daily dose dramatically. The intended effects of 5-HTP are then negated and the consumer could also experience muscle spasms as well as severe stomach disorders.
How much 5-HTP you should take depends on your reason for using it.
As a sleep aid, you should use 100-300mg 45 min before bed (51).
For appetite suppression to help with weight loss, take 250mg about 30 min before a meal (52).
For combating depression and elevating mood, take 50-100mg, 3 times per day with food. You need at least 7 days for it to saturate in your system before you will start to experience the full benefits (53).
Lastly to help deal with headaches, take 100-200mg, 3 times per day with food. You’ll need at least 21 days to feel the full effect (54).
Is 5-HTP dangerous? Generally no, 5-HTP is a safe supplement. However, too much 5-HTP in your system can cause a spike in serotonin levels, resulting in side effects such as anxiety, shivering, and serious heart problems.
Does 5-HTP help with anxiety? Evidence on the effects of 5-HTP for anxiety is unclear.
Does 5-HTP help with sleep? 5-HTP has been shown in scientific studies to promote relaxation and alleviate stress which are often the main culprits that fight against good sleep.
Does 5 HTP help with weight loss? Yes, 5-HTP can help increase satiety and thus help with weight loss.
When is the best time to take 5-HTP? It doesn’t matter as long as it is with food.
How much 5-HTP do you take for depression? 50–100 mg, 3 times per day with meals.
Does 5-HTP suppress appetite? 5-HTP dietary supplements raise the serotonin levels in the brain, which helps support mood and appetite balance. Low levels of serotonin can contribute to the development of depression and increased appetite.
Is it better to take 5-HTP or L-tryptophan? 5-HTP is a better choice for many reasons. It is only made into serotonin, crosses the brain blood-barrier with ease and doesn’t have the chance to turn into toxic metabolites, like it’s counterpart L-tryptophan.
Does 5-HTP make you sleep? While it’s not the main effect, 5-HTP can make some individuals tired and sleepy.
Does 5-HTP raise blood pressure? No, in fact, 5-HTP may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised for patients taking drugs that lower blood pressure already.
How long does 5-HTP take to work? In one to two weeks, the person should feel a difference and see some results. If nothing is noticed a dosage increase might be necessary. Always be sure to titrate slowly, jumping no more than 100mg upwards at a time.
Is it possible to test serotonin brain levels? Currently, it is not possible to measure serotonin levels in a human brain without a brain biopsy. Indirect markers that are good indicators of serotonin levels in the brain are cortisol levels and blood or urinary HIAA levels (55, 56).
What is the best way to take serotonin? 5-HTP is rapidly absorbed in the upper intestine, with 50% of 5-HTP absorbed in 1.5 hours. Elimination of 5-HTP is also rapid, with 50% absorbed in 2 hours. Due to the rapid pharmacokinetics of 5-HTP, slow-release supplementation of 5-HTP may be more beneficial to maintain serotonin levels in the brain (57).
How do I know if I am a good candidate for taking 5-HTP? 5-HTP is considered probably safe for all individuals when taken in recommended dosage levels and not as a lifetime supplement. You should periodically allow your body to rest from the supplement.
It is not recommended to take 5-HTP if you have Down Syndrome or if you suffer from various seizure-related disorders. Additionally, you should be cautious about taking this supplement if you are pregnant or breastfeeding as limited study information is available. It is also not recommended to take 5-HTP within 2 weeks of a scheduled surgery as the serotonin production could interfere with various drugs that are used in accordance with surgical procedures.
Can 5-HTP be taken daily? There is insufficient information about the extended use of 5-HTP within the recommended dosage levels. Most studies show that taking 5-HTP for up to one year daily is safe.
However, with the limited information available, it is recommended that once a year you take a cyclical break from the supplement to allow your body time to adapt without it. You may find that you no longer need the supplement after this time off. But if you determine you do still need the supplement you can take it again after a short break.
Does 5-HTP negatively interact with medications? There is limited research information available as to how 5-HTP supplements work with other medications. However, it is recommended that if you take any type of medication for depression, you should not mix that with 5-HTP supplements as it could lead to serotonin overdoses. This includes both anti-depressants and MAOIs.
Additionally, you should not take 5-HTP at the same time as taking any type of medicine (including over-the-counter) that contains Dextromethorphan as this can also lead to too much serotonin in the brain. Demerol, Talwin, Tramadol, and various sedatives have been shown to have similar reactions as well.
Each of the aforementioned medicines can cause brain reactions such as shivering, confusion, muscle soreness, grogginess, excessive sleepiness, anxiety, rapid speech, or aggressiveness. It has also been shown to produce heart problems. We recommend talking to your health professional before beginning use of this supplement.
5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter strongly associated with feelings of happiness. It acts to increase serotonin production which may lead to euphoric feelings, decreased appetite, increased satiety, increased quality of sleep and improvements in depression.
5-HTP appears to be safe and effective at moderate dosages of between 100 – 300mg but has not been properly evaluated for its safety in conjunction with prescription drugs. 5-HTP is rapidly absorbed in the upper intestine, with 50% of 5-HTP absorbed in 1.5 hours. Elimination of 5-HTP is also rapid, with 50% absorbed in 2 hours
Generally 5-HTP is a safe supplement. However, too much 5-HTP in your system can cause a spike in serotonin levels, resulting in side effects such as anxiety, shivering, and serious heart problems. You should not take 5-HTP at the same time as taking any type of medicine (including over-the-counter) that contains Dextromethorphan as this can also lead to too much serotonin in the brain.
In one to two weeks, the person should feel a difference and see some results from 5-HTP supplementation. If nothing is noticed a dosage increase might be necessary. Always be sure to titrate slowly, jumping no more than 100mg upwards at a time.
It’s not recommend for children to supplement with 5-HTP, due to the high possibility of overdose. Promising research is being done to better understand the efficacy of 5-HTP supplementation and how to better supplement with it.