Supplement Forms/Alternate Names

5-HTP, L-5-HTP


5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is made from the seeds of an African plant. You can take it by mouth in pill form. It has been used to treat depression and anxiety. It has also been used to treat obesity, migraines, fibromyalgia, and sleep problems. It raises the amount of serotonin the body makes. Serotonin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that helps to make your mood stable.


Studies have used doses of 100 to 400 milligrams daily.

What Research Shows

May Be Effective

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Safety Notes

5-HTP appears likely to be safe in low doses. The most common problems people have had are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and sleepiness. It should not be taken by pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding. There is not enough known about its safety.3


Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse, such as:

  • People taking medicine that affects serotonin levels, such as anti-depressants, should consult with their doctor before taking 5-HTP.3


1. Shaw K, Turner J, et al. Tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan for depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(1):CD003198.

2. Jangid P, Malik P, et al. Comparative study of efficacy of l-5-hydroxytryptophan and fluoxetine in patients presenting with first depressive episode. Asian J Psychiatr. 2013 Feb;6(1):29-34.

3. 5-HTP safety concerns. National Capital Poison Center website. Available at: https://www.poison.org/articles/5htp-safety-concerns-173. Accessed January 10, 2019.

Last reviewed March 2019 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC

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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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