Boosting Your Happy Brain Chemistry with 5-HTP

Posted by:

© Marnie Burkhart

© Marnie Burkhart

Many of us suffer from a variety of symptoms that we disregard as part of our personality or karma. You might think that it is just how things are, so you may as well accept it and deal with it as best as you can. Or perhaps it gets so tough, that you just can’t deal with it!

For instance, do you often…

  • Have problems falling asleep or staying asleep?
  • Find yourself edgy, irritable or angry?
  • Lack motivation or feel depressed most of the time?
  • Prefer to be left alone?
  • Have ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) in your head?
  • Worry, get anxious and find it difficult to concentrate or make decisions?
  • Have feelings of low self-esteem and lack of confidence?
  • Feel self-critical and guilty?
  • Tend to be shy or fearful?
  • Tend to be obsessive, inflexible, a control freak, or a work addict?
  • Particularly dislike the dark weather?
  • Have PMS or menopausal moodiness?
  • Have a sweet tooth or crave carbs and starchy snacks or alcohol?
  • Are all achy and/or have jaw pain?
  • Find some relief of all of these symptoms when you exercise…if you happen to get around it?
  • Do you have a family history of fibromyalgia and/or treatment with SSRIs (serotonin boosting antidepressants)?

These are all manifestations of serotonin deficiency. If you felt identified with some or all of them, then 5-HTP—an over the counter and natural supplement—can change your life forever.

5-HTP stands for 5-hydroxytryptophan, a form of the amino acid tryptophan which is found in foods like red meat, turkey, fish, or seeds. 5-HTP comes from the seeds of the African plant Griffonia simplicifolia and when taken correctly, it turns into serotonin—a brain chemical which regulates our sleep, raises our pain threshold, and elevates our mood.

We all have a right to healthy levels of serotonin, but we live in a highly stressful world where we are exposed to all kinds of toxins and pollutants, where our modern foods are often nutritionally deficient and toxic, and where people often have to turn to stimulants or anti-depressants in order to cope with life’s demands and stressful situations. We live in a world where life can be quite hard and nothing is certain except death. All of this takes a high toll on our serotonin levels, and thus on our bodies and our psychological well-being. In addition, genetic predispositions might leave you vulnerable to low levels of serotonin.  Helping the body to top up the serotonin tank when you are faced with a stressful situation is exactly what you might need.

5-HTP administration has been shown to be effective in treating anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, insomnia, binge eating, pain, and chronic headaches including migraines. Studies have revealed that it can work better than prescription medications at treating depression, and without the negative side effects!

We have more serotonin receptors in our intestinal tract than we do in our brain, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that low serotonin can also interfere with proper intestinal function. This is also the reason why 5-HTP can be beneficial in the treatment of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

In order for our bodies to convert 5-HTP into serotonin, we need calcium, magnesium and B vitamins. Unfortunately, our dietary intake often doesn’t meet our body’s needs, so it is important to supplement ourselves with a good multivitamin containing at least 50-100mg of vitamin B6, and at least 700mg of magnesium chelate, citrate, or taurate.  5-HTP will turn itself into serotonin and then into melatonin, a natural sleep hormone and powerful anti-oxidant. In fact, 5-HTP can increase the body’s production of melatonin by 200%.

In general, an average of 300mg of 5-HTP per day is the recommended dose to restore your levels of serotonin, although quite often, some end up needing around 500mg per day. Start with 50 mg at lunch and dinner and increase your dose every 2 days by 50mg until you reach 300mg of 5-HTP per day.  If you are unable to have a restorative sleep after two weeks, then you can also consider increasing the dose or supplementing yourself with melatonin at night.

Potential side effects of 5-HTP include nausea, diarrhea, and sleepiness. Also, in very rare cases, there might be insomnia and headaches, which usually happen when 5-HTP is taken on an empty stomach and when a person has “sluggish” liver issues.  The good news is that when you take 5-HTP with meals and gradually increase the dose, these side effects should be eliminated.

If you don’t respond to 5-HTP, do more research and consult a doctor. 5-HTP is not a panacea, but it can help with the misery caused by stress-induced serotonin deficiency!

Note: It is practically impossible to reach a serotonin overdose, but a combination of 5-HTP and drugs like SSRIs (serotonin boosting antidepressants) and especially MAOI (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors) can result in an overdose. Please, do not take 5-HTP and these prescription drugs without consulting your physician first.


A frequently asked question is when to stop 5-HTP?  The important thing is that when you see that the 5-HTP is giving you (or you are having) symptoms that it is supposed to cure while you are taking it, you should stop the 5-HTP immediately. It means you don’t need it or you filled up your tank. Also, if you are getting too groggy or oversleepy, it is time to decrease the dose. Usually it just takes a few months – sometimes more depending on the individual – but you don’t have to take 5-HTP forever.

Further reading:

Michael Murray, N.D.  5-HTP: The Natural Way to Overcome Depression, Obesity, and Insomnia. New York: Bantam Books, 1998.

Dr. Rodger H. Murphree, Treating and Beating Anxiety and Depression with Orthomolecular Medicine. Birmingham: Harrison and Hamptom Publishing Inc., 2005.

Julia Ross, M.A. The Mood Cure. New York: Viking Penguin, 2002.

Dr. Rodger H. Murphree, Treating and Beating Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Birmingham: Harrison and Hamptom Publishing Inc., 2008.

  Related Posts


  1. Diana Gazes  September 19, 2010

    Hello, Thank you for your fine work and being so specific in your sharing.

    My question: I use about 100 mg. 5-HTPit for sleep and an uplifting mood the next day together with 500mg of melatonin. (Jarrow formulas 5omg caps) you mention taking it with meals: (The good news is that when you take 5-HTP with meals and gradually increase the dose, these side effects should be eliminated.)

    I only take it at night when I don’t have meals so would it be a good idea to take it with a good multi or perhaps B6 and magnesium and if i took it during the day would I get sleepy?

    I never realized the doses would go as high as 300 to 500 depending on what is needed. I will tune in and test to see what I need. Thank you for that info and your reply.

    Blessings, Diana

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  September 19, 2010

      Hi Diana,

      Some people may find that 100mg plus a little bit of melatonin doesn’t work for them. Often, stressed and serotonin deprived individuals may find themselves needing around 300mg or more of 5-HTP, so the safest thing is to have it with meals. But if you sleep fine you can keep your current protocol with melatonin. Then, during times when you are overwhelmed and stressed, you can consider taking more 5 HTP throughout the day. If it makes you too sleepy, you can cut back the dose. It will mean that “your tank is full.”

      The magnesium and a good multivitamin (usually it has B6 on it) is an exc idea. You can take this during the day. They are exc for detox and well being and it will guarantee your production of serotonin.

      I love melatonin. Other than a natural sleeping remedy, it is a powerful antioxidant as well. Thanks for the feedback.


  2. shantam  September 25, 2010

    i have heard that taking melatonin will make the body’s own capacity to create melatonin to turn off and therefore is not recommended.. What do you think?


    • Gabriela Segura, MD  September 26, 2010

      I find it difficult to turn off all sources of melatonin in the body with natural supplementation at recommended doses. The benefits of melatonin are so well documented, that it is highly suggested for those in need as a natural alternative to conventional drugs. Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland, but there are also numerous sources of melatonin in the body including the digestive system, respiratory tract, retina, and kidneys. Total amount of melatonin in the gastrointestinal region may be 400 times higher than that in the pineal gland. It also seems that high content of gastrointestinal melatonin is independent of the pineal gland and that it is synthesized in the gastrointestinal cells, after oral or parenteral administration of its substrate, l-tryptophan (the precursor of 5-HTP).

  3. shantam  September 26, 2010

    thank you dr s..

    i appreciate your stlye and the sense of intelligence and integrity in your wiring… i am enjoying your website…

    i will first try the 5-HTP up to 500 mg and see if i must add melatonin later..

    i am also wondering if there is a lab test to check seratonin levels and if that could be a guide as to how much 5-HTP is needed..

    peace and blessings…

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  September 27, 2010

      Hi Shantam,

      The clinical response is still the best. See how you do with 300mg of 5 HTP for two weeks before adding more and remember to start with a low dose, increasing by 50mg every 2-3 days.

      If you are still unable to have a restorative sleep, you can consider melatonin.

      People who find it hard to fall asleep before the early morning hours and then end up sleeping through the day, may be suffering from a disruption of normal circadian rhythms. Studies have shown that 5 mg of melatonin taken at 11 p.m. helps advance and reset these rhythms. But one can always experiment with lower doses of melatonin first: 1-3mg.

      Blessings and thanks for the feedback!

  4. Quan  June 7, 2011


    Where are the best sources for the supplements you advise?

    I am looking for the argan oil, magnesium, htp5 and any of the others you sugest for aperson with a multitude of illnesses. Lyme…bartonella..leaky gut specifically.


    • Gabriela Segura, MD  June 7, 2011

      Hello Quan,

      You can try for a full range of brands and prices. I like Now company, Twin Lab, Source Naturals, etc. Just make sure it is certified to be soy, corn, gluten and dairy free. Usually those brands are pretty good at that.

  5. Lisa  April 14, 2012


    I stumbled onto your site after some research looking for an alternative to nortriptyline and clonazepam for migraine associated vertigo. I’ve been taking these for approx. 4 years now and am just tired of the side effects. I cannot lose weight, even with strenuous exercise – P90X!!! and aerobic workouts expending 600-700 calories in an hour. My entire sleep/wake cycle is completely BROKEN! I’ve already decreased my nortrip dosage and am continuing to slowly decrease with my docs a-ok. I am a customer with and like their products. They offer a “Neuro Bundle” which includes 5-htp, Vit B supplement and L-Theanine. I’ve been using their Magnesium for years and find it very helpful. Can I use all of these supplements together once I’ve gotten off my meds? Also, is there any benefit in adding melatonin to that regimen? Thanks for your help with this.

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  April 14, 2012

      If the supplements come from a reliable source, then they can be used in combination. I highly recommend that you read “Primal Body, Primal Mind” by Nora Gedgaudas, as it is full of invaluable information that will help you. A proper diet will make it much easier on you to do this transition. All the best.

  6. Shelia  March 19, 2013

    Hi, I am taking 5HTP for extreme PMS and anxiety. I have been taking 100MG at night…around 10:00 when I go to bed. I am finding myself waking up more and I am very drowsy the following day. However, it IS working for the PMS and anxiety. I made it through the worst phase of my cycle this month with only a few flare ups and even those were much milder than normal.

    The other thing I noticed was a flat feeling…almost apathetic and just no joy or feeling. So, I was wondering if possibly I need to cut back the dose and should I be taking it at night or mid afternoon?

    Thank you!

  7. Paul  May 6, 2013


    Thank you for the article and helpful information. I have been taking 5HTP for about 6 years to treat mild to moderate depression and anxiety. Over the last year – due to some major life changes/events, my depression has increased so I have upped the dosage to around 350mg a day. However, I am continually struggling with ups and downs during the day. I usually take 50mg at lunch, another 50mg at dinner and then start increasing it from there. After much experimentation, I found that if I take it later in the day it negatively affects me the least (as far as drowsiness) – and I sleep much better. I would love to feel more alert during the day as I do at night, but for some reason when I have tried taking more during the day, it just makes me feel sleepy!

    Would it be better to take 100-150mg with breakfast lunch and dinner to help avoid these “yo-you felings” I get throughout the day? For example, mid afternoon I will have major brain fog, feel anxious but then at dinner when I take my second pill, I feel dramatically better shortly after – and my mood continues to improve throughout the night. I have been afraid to take that much during the day since when I have tried it in the past, I became super sleepy.

    Any advice would be appreciated, since I do not have insurance and am trying to manage my depression as best I can to get to get working again and back on track.
    Thanks so much…


    • Gabriela Segura, MD  May 12, 2013

      Hi Paul,

      I would try approaching your mood problem from a dietary point of view. See Primal Body, Primal Mind by Nora Gedgaudas for some great information. You can up your dose, but you don’t want to be so sleepy! Your health and mood will thank you if you tackle dietary issues, that is for sure. You can also try vagus nerve stimulation which is very effective for severe depression and anxiety. See for more info! Best of health!

      • Paul  May 13, 2013

        Thank you so much for your information and advice!

    • Eli  January 27, 2015

      They sell extended release now. I use natrol.

  8. Milly  August 26, 2013

    Hello, thank you for this interesting article. I wonder if you may be able to answer a question?

    My boyfriend and I have been taking 5htp for a few months now but only 50mg once a day before bed. I have found they have been particularly good for a proper nights sleeps and for the first time in years I’m not suffering so badly from bloating.

    My boyfriend has found they have been good for anxiety and also his sleeping pattern as he often had a restless nights sleep before. However more so recently he has started to find it increasingly difficult to stay positive and happy and we both feel he may be suffering from depression for multiple reasons. Do you think at such a low dose of 50mg a day he should perhaps take a higher dosage or is this is a sign that he has a full tank?

    We would really appreciate your feedback.

    Thanks so much

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  August 27, 2013

      That is a good question Milly. I think some experimenting is on order. He could stop for a week or so and see if it gets better. In the mean time I would try breathing exercises as it is more effective for depression than any other drug. It also enhances mood brain chemistry in a natural way. Check for more info, the tutorial is available for free on the website.

      If things don’t improve, he could re-introduce the 5 HTP and see how it goes. Perhaps increasing the dose is in order, perhaps not.

      I encourage you both also to check out the role of the diet on mood if you haven’t done so. A good start is “Primal Body, Primal Mind” by Nora Gedgaudas. It is the one thing that makes the whole difference.


  9. eugene  September 3, 2013

    you seem to really like “Primal Body, Primal Mind” by Nora Gedgaudas – any family/friend connection there?

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  September 4, 2013

      Not at all. I have just spent years of years doing research and appreciate when there is one single source that packs it up so simply.

  10. Ian  September 11, 2013

    I have read numerous places online that one must take 5HTP away from meals to avoid nausea…as we have serontonin receptors in out guts..I have taken with food and I get nausea but I am fine if I take it away from food

  11. John  September 18, 2013

    Hi Dr. Segura,
    Thank you very much for your article on 5HTP. I have three questions regarding its use. My girlfriend has suffered from both depression and anxiety for her entire life, she is 32. For the last 4 years, she has been taking 300mg per day of 5HTP and it has helped her immensely. The anxiety and depression have not gone away completely, but they have been greatly reduced, maybe 80% reduction from prior to taking 5HTP (just an estimate). So, my questions are:
    1) Many (but not all) sources on the web say not to take 5HTP indefinitely, for example some say stop after 12 weeks. My girlfriend has tried reducing the dose and even stopped all together, but her symptoms worsen every time within a few weeks. So, is there any reason she can’t just take 300mg per day of 5HTP for the rest of her life, assuming that future attempts to ween from it are similarly unsuccessful?
    2) We do want to have children in the future and we have repeatedly read that 5HTP should not be taken while pregnant or breastfeeding, but nowhere does it tell me why this is so? I am assuming it is because there haven’t been studies done proving it is safe under those conditions. If my girlfriend stops taking 5HTP when she is pregnant and later during breastfeeding, we are worried that her depression and anxiety will worsen significantly. So the question becomes which is worse: the potential danger to the baby of taking 5HTP while pregnant or being severely depressed while pregnant? So my question to you is are you aware of any real danger that could be caused by taking 5HTP while pregnant? From a common sense point of view, I don’t see how my girlfriend having a normalized serotonin level would be bad for our baby’s developing body, so the danger doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
    3) Lastly, my girlfriend takes her 5HTP on an empty stomach because we read several places (including the bottle of the brand we use, which is pure encapsulations) that it is best taken between meals as opposed to with food. I assume that this has something to do with absorption. But she does experience some nausea, so she would prefer to take it with meals. Do you know if taking it with meals would change the effectiveness or have some other negative affect?
    Thanks so much!

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  September 18, 2013

      Hi John,

      From my experience, 5HTP is pretty much harmless, especially if you compare it with Big Pharma’s options! The precautions against it during pregnancy is due to lack of studies as you suspected. Nobody can’t tell you for sure what an extra dose of 5HTP can do to a developing baby.

      It can be taken with meals to reduce side effects, although all these supplements do work better on an empty stomach. A trial of supplementing with meals can be tried to see if still works as it should and with less side effects.

      In the long run, it is best if your girlfriend addresses mood problems through diet and alternative therapies such as breathing exercises which pretty much work best than any antidepressant out there. See for more information. There is a free tutorial online on that website. Then, the 5 HTP can be used as a back-up thing and she can rest knowing that she is doing the best thing for herself and her baby in the long run.

      As for the diet, I like to recommend “Primal Body, Primal Mind” by Nora Gedgaudas because she packs up a lot of info in that book and her area of specialty is precisely mood problems which get diminished in ALL cases when addressing the diet. Both mother and baby will benefit enormously. For an intro into the subject, you can check out these articles from the Health Skeptic:

      9 Steps To Perfect Health – #1: Don’t Eat Toxins

      9 Steps to Perfect Health – #2: Nourish Your Body

      9 Steps to Perfect Health – #3: Eat Real Food

      9 Steps to Perfect Health – #5: Heal Your Gut

      Health begins in the womb – and even before

      The dietary principles apply not only for overall wellness, but for mood problems as well.

      All the best for both of you and the future baby!

  12. Joe  September 28, 2013

    Hi I am taking 1,200mg of 5-Htp a day and I feel sluggish and sleepy. I started taking it one year ago after my divorce and I felt much better and after 6 mo I stopped. Now I am back on it and I feel that is not helping me with my depression and I feel too tired during the day.
    My question is
    Is the dosage too high? Will less make me feel better?
    Now I started taking St Johns wort with it 3,600 mg a day and I don’t feel any difference or change with that.
    I feel apathy and depression and tiredness, I am doing exercise 2-3 times a week and I don’t find any benefit or change from it.
    Any suggestions

    • Joe  September 28, 2013

      Just wanted to add that I’m taking the 5Htp and St Johns Wort at the same time, in addition to adrenal gland supplements. 5HTP I take it 400mg x 3 times a day. at Johns is 1,200 mg x 3 times a day

      • Gabriela Segura, MD  September 29, 2013

        Hello Joe,

        It seems to me that you reached your limit as far as supplementation goes. It might be the case that you need more time if you just only started. Sometimes it takes a couple of weeks or more. I would add breathing exercises because it is known that it helps as much or perhaps even more than anti-depression treatment. See for a free tutorial.

        Also, you might want to check “the Mood Cure” by Julia Ross or “Primal Body, Primal Mind” by Nora Gedgaudas for dietary tips that do make the whole difference when it comes to your mood health.


      • Eli  January 27, 2015

        5htp can induce sleep at very low doses

  13. Margaret  May 15, 2014

    Im going to give 5 HTP for the first time ever this weekend. I have been suffering from suffocation feeling 24/7, day and night for past 16 weeks. No relief except when I get some sleep. Physical tests ruled out anything wrong, all signs point to anxiety. It came out of nowhere and I have tried everything to reverse it with no luck. I ve never had anxiety attacks in my life and I’m now 55 years old.

    Im seeing a therapist for a second time tomorrow but won’t be seeing a meds doctor for another week yet although I really don’t want to get on a med if I can avoid it.

    I know there are no guarantees but is it possible his may work out for me rather than going the anti-depressant route?


    • Gabriela Segura, MD  May 15, 2014

      It is a good idea to have the 5 HTP at hand, you can even take it for a couple of months or so. But other than therapy, do help yourself with breathing exercises. In some series, they are even far superior than any antidepressant. Check out

      Another great tool is the ketogenic diet because it has an anti-anxiety effect. It helps heal hormones, it is brain protective and so forth. See Ketoadapted by Maria Emmerich. I wrote an article about it here:

      Best wishes!

      • Margaret  May 15, 2014

        Thanks so much for your response.

        What is worse is the tightness in chest, soreness in throat. This is on and off throughout the day. I’m just not enjoying life like i should be but I do get out and do things despite all of this. Looking into yoga and mediatation also, get myself a message.

        I will check out the breathing exercises and the ketogenic diet. I am determined to get this problem totally turned around and be back to my old self again. Sixteen weeks of this is ridiculous.

        Thank you so much again!

      • Gabriela Segura, MD  May 15, 2014

        Don’t forget about magnesium too. I’ve seen people reporting as if an elephant came off their chest when they first started taking magnesium:


      • Margaret  May 15, 2014

        Ok. I will pick that up tomorrow. Thanks again!

  14. Paul  May 30, 2014

    Dear Doctor: I love your web site with all the important info. Could you tell be if Inositol can be taken with 5-HPT for OCD? Thank you for any info.


    Paul W

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  May 30, 2014

      Hello Paul. It could be taken, in fact, people often take 5 HTP with other supplements and prescription drugs. MAO inhibitors and 5HTP is a contraindication though. Best!

  15. Ni lar  June 18, 2014

    Hi, I have been reading through your feeds very informative,thank you. But I’m still confused as to whether I am supposed to take 4htp on an empty stomach or with meals. I have started on 100mg Of the Healthy Origins brand, taken fiirst thing in the morning as the instructions say take 1 or 2 preferably on an empty stomach. Problem is I feel like shit after it, very sick like I want to throw up. So when should I take it and how much? Thank you. :-)

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  June 18, 2014

      Yeah, that is the reason I suggest it with meals. It takes time to build up its effect, but side effects are more likely to be bypassed when taken with meals. Supplements like 5 HTP are more effective on an empty stomach, but if it makes you feel yucked after taking it, then it is better to start with meals. After 2 weeks, it should get better.

  16. Sheila  June 25, 2014

    Hello Doctor,

    Been reading through the comments. I was prescribed generic prozac to help w/ sleep as I am post menopause. I took it for 2 days and was majorily confused. So I stopped.

    I then went to a heath fair and there was a lady there who told me about 5-htp. I bought some and have been taking it now for 8 days. Only 2 days of insomina since starting, and I feel calmer, but a little tired. I am using Natures Sunshine and the does is Provides 35 mg of 5-HTP Power per capsule. Provides 3 mg vitamin B6 per capsule. Seems to work better w/ food. I take 2 per day, one after lunch and supper. I saw the brands you recommended. Do you think this brand is okay? Thank you! Sheila

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  June 25, 2014

      That sounds great Sheila. I would look also into magnesium as it helps 5 HTP work better as well. Much healing your way!

  17. kamala  July 27, 2014

    I have been taking 5htp for a week I usually have insomnia and this has way reduced my sleep problems I have been sleeping great but waking up with a stomach nausea. I also think I have been gaining weight everyday since I have taken 5htp. What do you think?

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  July 27, 2014

      You can try it after meals, for instance, dinner time. It has less side effects taken on a full stomach. Make sure you sleep in total darkness. Light can disrupt melatonin even if you don’t see the light with your own eyes (through skin receptors). As for weight, I highly encourage you check out paleo low carb and/or ketogenic diet. I have an entry on it in the main page. It will help you restore your hormones in general.

  18. Cole  August 11, 2014

    Hi Dr. Segura. I have noticed that some health practicioners recommend B vitamin supplementation with 5htp to enhance its effects. I have also read on many forums including advice from some doctors that B6 can cause 5htp to be converted to serotonin in your blood and heart before crossing the blood brain barrier which can be very dangerous for your health. I was taking enzymantic therapy B complex (with 85 mg vitamin b6) with 100mg Time Released 5htp in the morning and I did notice enhanced efffects at first but then several days later I found that perhaps the B complex was actually having a negative effect on the 5htp´s efficacy. Anyways, I have ordered Jarrow Formula´s B-Right B complex (which has less b6 35mg of vitamin b6). I feel like some b6 is needed but perhaps too much is not a good idea? I would like to hear your opinion on this. Thanks

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  August 11, 2014

      I’m aware about that research. You can experiment with Jarrow Formula but ultimately, if you are not doing changes in your diet then the benefits of supplementation will only be temporary or a “band-aid”. You can check out “The Ketogenic diet” on my main page, and/or “Primal Body, Primal Mind” by Nora Gedgaudas for more information.

      Most people come off from these supplements when they change their diet. All the best!

  19. Victor  August 15, 2014

    Dear Gabriela,

    Last week I started for the first time with Solgar 100mg of 5 HTP (magnesium en B6 included) on an empty stomach. The first 5 days it worked terrific, after starting I even felt a little high. Regained tons of energy, felt great, never felt so good before. But then suddenly at day 6 after taking it, it felt it burned a hole in my stomach. Really bad aches when I took food or drinks. I stopped immediately with 5 HTP, and needed the days after omeprazol. Now, a week later my stomach and intestines are still a little weak, still a lot of rumbling. Since two days I tried enteric coated 5 HTP. I take them with meals because of my stomach, but the work less. Have you ever heard of these heavy stomach reactions on 5 HTP? And could the eating of quite some fruit (4 pieces each day) influence the use?

    Last question: in th U.K. they developed a 5 HTP patch.

    Thanks in advance,

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  August 16, 2014

      Hi Victor,

      5 HTP with meals has less side effects. Yes, it can take longer to exert its effects, but easy does it too. After two weeks on 5 HTP, you may notice results. Keep in mind that you can increase the dose, and just as long as you take it with meals, it should be safer.

      Know that 5 HTP is for the most part a supplement that becomes unnecessary with dietary changes. Eating sugar (any fruit is included here) compounds the problem and increases the need of 5 HTP to stabilize the body’s chemistry. In fact, a carb metabolism is the most detrimental health choice made by the population at large. We are arguably far better on a ketogenic diet, see for instance:

      Digestive health is hardly ever achieved with a diet rich in carbs which in turn is rich in anti-nutrients. This is specially the case today as we live in a highly toxic environment full of stress.

      All the best!

      • Victor  August 17, 2014

        Hi Gabriela,

        Thanks a lot for your answers. I have heard of those low carb diets, I might try them, but these diets are always a bit difficult when invited at dinners with friends, etc. And I have to get used to the less-fruit parts of those diets…

        I see that in my last post I didn’t finish the sentence about 5 HTP patches in the UK. Are you famliliar with them? It might help digestive problems concerning oral intake of 5 HTP.


      • Gabriela Segura, MD  August 17, 2014

        Patches may bypass digestive problems. I think it is a worthwhile experiment. If you try it, let me know how it goes! Best!

  20. Michael  September 10, 2014

    Hi, I will make a long story short. I had SEVERE anxiety, panic, fear, then insomnia, then depression, and then adrenal fatigue. Nothing helped, but only made things worse, especially meds. Slowly but surely I started to get better. I did get some benefit from amino acids like 5-htp and Tyrosine, etc… but it wasn’t enough it seemed or it wasn’t doing the job quick enough after 6 months of HIGH doses. So, I started St. John’s Wort but it wasn’t enough. So, I added 5-htp (definately don’t mix SSRI’s, or other antidepressent meds with 5-htp), and don’t try with St. John’s Wort without talking to your doctor. Anyway, the combo is helping. I also found out I was low in magnesium, zinc, b12 and mangnaese. So, I’m supplementing those, (methly-b12 etc…). That has helped. I continue to have good then some lower moments. If I take a drink of my water bottle which has 200mg of 5-htp in it, I perk back up. But, I haven’t felt completely stable and great yet. I’ve had very short moments of feeling great, but it’s not sticking not even with using SJW and 5-htp together. I’m thinking I might need to push the 5-htp to a higher amount. Maybe my MAO enzymes are breaking it down too quickly? I’m also taking Tyrosine about 500mg to 1g, and Mucuna. Mucuna seems to perk me up at times. Just trying to balance Serotonin and Dopamine, etc…

    My question for you is…. I keep having mood dips in the afternoon. Which a lot of people do and they crave and eat carbs/sugars. From what I’ve read, that could be from low Serotonin levels. Since I might still be a bit deficient, I imagine in the afternoons I dip below a threashold lower that most. It feels like a bit like hypoglycemia, I do feel hungry, I’m not really shaking or anything and if I test my blood sugars they are usually normal. So, rather than eating a carb in the afternoon when these dips happen would a shot of 5-htp be a good alternative to boost those serotonin levels?

    I’m thinking of using more 5-htp, but I’m a bit nervous since I’m on St. John’s Wort. But, I know the signs to look out for if I have too much Serotonin. But….

    You mentioned also about Melatonin. I do have insomnia. My insomnia started out with 0 hours sleep when my anxiety/panic was really bad, due to what felt like adrenaline rushes. Then I had a hard time falling alseep, might sleep 1-2 hours and that was it. Then I would wake up at 2am every single night. Now, I fall asleep, but wake up around 4-5am every morning. I some times can fall back asleep, other times not. Some times I feel wide awake other times I’m sleepy. I wonder if some sort of melatonin dosing, might help? How much, and when? I have 300mcg tabs I can use. SOme times though it seems I feel sedated or more depressed the next day after taking Melatonin, but some times I might feel that way anyway….


  21. divya  September 25, 2014

    I’ve started taking two 400 mg of 5htp in the morning with my breakfast along with mac,vitamin b,vitamin c,spiraling and omega three. is that ok as the bottle says to take two capsules.
    i just need a serotonin boost as its my son s exam interview and id like to be calm confident and composed as i was very nervous and anxious last time.
    also is it ok to have red wine at night if i take 5htp in the morning.
    how soon will i see some sort of result
    thank you so much for taking out time

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  September 26, 2014

      Divya, it can take a couple of weeks to see some results. You can try breathing exercises to stimulate the vagus nerve. Check out for some instructions on how to do it. You can pipe breath before the interview and it will calm you down, but keep you alert. I highly encourage you to check out the paleo or ketogenic diet for better mood. Carbs have loads of anti-nutrients which promote mood and anxiety problems. See “Ketoadapted” by Maria Emmerich. Good luck on the interview!

  22. Luther  October 28, 2014


    I have been taken 5htp for sometime now on and off. My doctor put me on it. Only 100mg a day. It seems that now when I take it I get bad stomach upset and it actually starts making me very anxious and nervous.

    Could it be that my serotonin has build up and I no longer need this. Does it cause any harm?

  23. Eli  January 27, 2015

    I started taking 5-htp er 100 mg and st johns wort 100 mg 2 weeks ago to curb ativan withdrawals as well as substitute them for lithium, lamotrigine, and tegretol. The big pharma drugs messed with my central nervous system. So im using these natural drugs to stabilize me. My concern is I won’t be tapered off completely from ativan for another 2 months or so. The withdrawal effects will be around for 3 – 7 months or more. I want to take these natural drugs short term as recommended. But 2 weeks-2 months might now cut it.Any ideas?????? I am also in process of quitting nicotine and started going to the gym a few days a week I know meditation would help but withdrawals prevent me (restlessness).

  24. rick  January 30, 2015

    I generaly dont have much problems with sleep, but wanted to use this for an appetite suppresent, as i have a sweet tooth mainly in the evening.
    Plus also for anxiety and a bit of ocd
    I started taking 200mg before bed, and started to have broken sleep with strange dreams.
    I also found taking this before bed relaxed me, but also woke my mind a bit if that makes sense.
    I also found that I had tired eyes, and started to get slightly confused(maybe lack of sleep).
    I then stopped taking this product after four days.
    Do you think this would be better for me to take in the morning instead??

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  January 30, 2015

      Or before dinner time, but start with 50mg instead and build up if necessary. You can also try 50mg before going to bed. It seems you took to much for your needs. Best!

      • rick  January 30, 2015

        Ah rite thanx, have to try them again, but lower dose then.
        Thanx again

      • rick  January 31, 2015

        Hi again, you say before dinner time, do you mean straight away before the meal, or maybe half an hour before?
        You recommend taking this at night as well, is this instead of before dinner, or in addition?
        thanx again

      • Gabriela Segura, MD  January 31, 2015

        Rick, these are all experimenting possibilities. Stick to the simplest protocol, with the lowest dose and build up from there. I would start before bed time. If that gives me bad sleep, I would switch to before dinner, half an hour before eating. If my tummy feels unsettled, I would take after meals. You start with the lowest dose and add 50mg every 2 days. If the lowest dose seems to do it, you can stay there. Hope this helps!

  25. Gaycia  March 26, 2015

    I just stated taking 200mg of 5htp and 300 mg of St.John wort and feel great, Is this safe?

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  March 26, 2015

      In my experience, as safe as it gets but never a substitute for how great you will feel on an anti-inflammatory diet. See “Primal Body, Primal Mind” by Nora Gedgaudas or “Ketoadapted” by maria Emmerich for more info.


Add a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.