Boosting Your Happy Brain Chemistry with 5-HTP

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© 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.

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  1. moumou  March 31, 2015

    HI, sorry if my english is not good im tunisian and i d ont practise this language too much.. I suffred from anxiety , depression and insomia for 5 years now. i take at first all medecines from doctor but it only make me feel worse for 2 years. i stopped all medecines for 2 years now but i d ont feel better at all and cant work , cant go outside im all time scared ! Anxiety control my life . i cant live like that . im panicing 24/24. my left hand hurt me all time and most of time my heart too. i start using 5HTP the last seven days. it help me just the two first days for sleeping after it doesnt .having 200 MG every day help me too much to calm my depression but never sleeping ! 5HTP help me to stop my depression im sure i will never stop it because i never feel better like today since years. I WANT TO SLEEP doctor ! should i have more dozes ?? can i have 150 mg just before bed ? shoud i take 300 mg every day or more ? yes when i dont feel well i eat too much sugar and im a smoker! sometimes i go for alcohool to sleep !should i stop sugar and smoking ? even i go for running i hv problem and i stop immediately . i dont care about the side effects if im in a good mood and i sleep properly .THank you

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  March 31, 2015

      First of all, cut out the sugar and alcohol. Limit your carb intake for better health. You could take 0.5mg of melatonin before going to bed to see if it helps. You can also increase the 5 HTP by 50mg each day until you reach some 300-400mg. Nevertheless, it is not a good idea to require such high doses on a regular basis. Ideally, you should try the least amount that will give you a good quality of life. You have to understand that no supplement, including 5 HTP, is a substitute for a good diet that will promote brain and mental health. A carb restricted diet free in gluten is the ideal one for good mental health. I highly encourage you to read “Grain Brain” by neurologist David Perlmutter available on and bookstores both in electronic version and hardcover.

      Speedy recovery!

      • justin  June 19, 2015

        I could not find where to post

        but for me here, I been taking 5 HTP in the past this time it’s not working , I just got 5 HTP I have a book on it, I have been like feeling a bit self critical and internally not angry but upset
        and I have noticed I have been taking carbs complex carbs due to well funds . i do take dalmane 30 mg with 15 mg of Chewable melatonin , my Doc is ok with this , I been on and off now for 15 years on dalmane, I just turned into my 50s and I wake up only 8 hours I used to relax more ugh body aches normal ones my lower back , and I’m very much into meditation , and I work out once in the morning , just lately here my trust level is down , I went to talk to a bad therapist not really helpful, let’s just say I know more tactics to get better then she did and talking alone didn’t do it for me jumping from one subject to the other. such as my thoughts , I’m very involved in things I like yet don’t like routines.

        i took 300 mg this morning , I think it was too much , the bottle is 100 mg each. I know cause I can feel sleepy right away. , I was taking Sam-E 400mg didn’t seem to work anymore, so I’m going back to my list
        of what I used to take 5=HTP before alot of healing, thank God I have experience in meditation
        as a psychic medium i tend to take breaks between the esoteric and the more mainstream simple meditations. and affirmations. , I have had to do alot of research on my own for alot of Doctors didn’t figure out I’m medication resistant or immune , so these softer therapies that did not work when I was much worse I figure can’t help me now that i’m 15 years alot better then back in 1999, There are so many advances made in these years, sorry my typing is happening the same way I’m thinking. 1. do I need to add anything to the 5 HTP ? 2. do you know or have you read 5 HTP by Ray Sahelian. M.D. and if you have do you recommend it ?

      • Gabriela Segura, MD  June 20, 2015

        Hello Justin,

        I read “5-HTP: The Natural Way to Overcome Depression, Obesity, and Insomnia” by Michael Murray and thought it was excellent. I’m familiarized with Ray Sahelian’s research through his newsletter and I think he is a very good researcher. Any effort you make towards understanding your health and this topic will be worth it. Magnesium supplements are always a good idea to take, i.e. magnesium malate or magnesium threonate. I would give that a try and read more about the various topics. If you’re interested in meditation and related phenomena, I suggest you read “Soul Hackers” available here


      • justin  June 19, 2015

        geez I meant Same – 400 mg is what I been taking lately and I switched today to 5 HTP ( correction to other comment.)

  2. Lorna  April 5, 2015

    I have just discovered your site and have found your responses very informative.

    I started taking 5 htp after researching looking for an alternative to prescription drugs for depression and anxiety.

    I have started taking 50 mg last night and again in the AM today and then lunch time and then plan on taking another this evening.

    It seems unclear about what times of the day are best to take it. Do you think taking 50 mg at breakfast, lunch and dinner would be beneficial? Each day I’m planning to increase one of the dosages to 100 mg and then perhaps be on 100 mg three times a day. Does that sound a good dosage? I understand there will be a trial period of adaption to what’s going to work for me and perhaps I may not need 300 mg a day.

    Can 5 htp be taken with Ambien?


    • Gabriela Segura, MD  April 6, 2015

      Before dinner and bedtime sounds better. Keep in mind that dietary changes is the single most beneficial thing you can do. 5 HTP is a band-aid compared to the benefits you can derive from eliminating toxic and inflammatory foods. See “Primal Body, Primal Mind”. Ideally, 5 HTp should be taken without prescription drugs. The absolute contraindication is MAO inhibitors, zolpidem should be acceptable just as long as you understand the risks vs benefits. Best!

      • Charlene Carter  August 4, 2015

        Can I take Neuro 5 htp plus if it expired May 2015

      • Gabriela Segura, MD  August 16, 2015

        Sure, none of the pharmaceuticals and supplements do really expire. They might lose potency, which then, you might need a higher than usual dose. But if it expired in May 15, it could be just as good as new.

  3. moumou  April 7, 2015

    HI again
    im taking 5htp now for 13 days i start with 50 mg every morning , evening and nights it help me very well on the begining but after it work less so i start taking more dosage 100 *3 timess a day . it calm my anxiety for sure but it make my head feel very heavy . every time i move my head is like im moving a sofa or a car ! for my sleeping i have a very light sleep and sleep late as always . its not a problem sleeping late really for me ! all that i want to know is why i heave my brain heavy or it look like a bit headache !most of times i feel my brain very compressed or want to eplose ! i see in forums and internet that valerian plus tea help too much people to sleep ! should i try it ? can i have 5htp during the day and wich dosage and by night valerian tea ??
    THanks moumou

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  April 7, 2015

      You can experiment. For instance, stop 5 HTP. You know when it is time to stop a supplement when it starts giving you opposite symptoms it is supposed to relieve. After a period of time, you can restart again with the lowest dose. Keep in mind that 5 HTP is a bandaid. I cannot stress this enough. For lasting changes, you have to make dietary changes. There is no way around it: remove gluten, GMOs, etc. See Primal Body, Primal Mind by Nora Gedgaudas for crucial info. Hope this helps.

      • Erick  June 22, 2015

        I like to eat bread, I recently switched to whole wheat bread as to avoid gluten. Does whole wheat bread contain gluten?

      • Gabriela Segura, MD  June 22, 2015

        Yes, Erick. It does. The only way to stay away from gluten is to remove ALL grains and derivatives. Basically eat just animal food, vegetables, nuts and some fruits.

      • mike  October 19, 2015

        Im am currently taking concerta xl 36mg.
        Would it be ok to take 5htp aswell ?

      • Gabriela Segura, MD  October 20, 2015

        It should be ok. Stop it if there are side effects though.

  4. Ella  April 9, 2015

    Hi. Thank u for the informative site about 5HTP. I am suffering from PMS and PMDD all my life. i am 35 yrs old a mom of 2 kids. I have good 2 weeks n bad 2 weeks n its cycling n cycling all the time. from the obvulation till the last day of my period, im the most depressed woman in the world. i gotta try this 5 HTP n hope it ll rescue me. Can i take 100mg each, morning lunch n evening during these 2 weeks only n break for my good 2 weeks ? lunch n evening

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  April 10, 2015

      Ella, you can take it at lunch, dinner, bed time. Sees how it goes. Have you heard of progesterone cream? You should check this website:

      Please, do make dietary changes. PMS is something that is dealt with with the paleo diet (grain free) moderately restricted in carbs which have a very inflammatory effect in our reproductive system and our bodies in general. Do check it out.

  5. Evan  April 10, 2015

    I had been taking Trazodone and Remeron for sleep! Both have stopped working for me!
    So the last few weeks I have been taking Natrol 5-HTP 50 mg. and Suntheanine 150 mg.
    They worked fine for a while and then they have stopped working! So at present I am laying
    in bed sometimes 4 – 6 hours before I go to sleep and then get only 2 -3 hours of sleep!
    Why do these meds quit working? I have had sleep problems for years! Every time I get
    it worked out to where I am sleeping again, they stop working and I have to start something
    new! Any ideas? Thanks for your time!

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  April 10, 2015


      There could be multiple factors. Meds are usually not a good idea as they can change your brain chemistry in quite unexpected ways. You can get the same results with breathing exercises (i.e. and dietary changes. Do check Primal Body, Primal Mind by Nora Gedgaudas for life saving insights.

      Supplements are a great aid, but they are always complementary to dietary changes and lifestyle changes. You must sleep in a complete dark room and avoid any electronics an hour before bedtime. Do check some the above resources out. It can change your life. All the best!

  6. Stephen  April 16, 2015

    From what I’ve been told by a doctor, 5-HTP on its own isn’t a good idea, as it can shock the system without other nutrients to support it. I’ve taken 5-HTP before on its own and experienced some side effects. Serosyn is a product that has 5-HTP but other cofactors, so far I’m tolerating this better then 5-HTP on its own. I can’t comment on whether it’s helping any of my issues (insomnia, depression, anxiety), it’s too early to say but I would try a product with the cofactors before consuming 5-HTP on its own.

  7. C  May 4, 2015

    When is the best time to take 5 HTP? I just started 5 days ago taking 100 mg on an empty stomach before breafkast and didn’t really notice a difference in my anxiety/irritability. I added the Vitmain b6 and Magnesium Citrate to it and now I feel sleepy and sluggish. Should I not take all of them together?

    • C  May 4, 2015

      To be more clear, this is what I am taking:
      -100 mg 5 HTP
      -50 mg Vit B6
      -Cal Mag Citrate 1:1 Ratio (1,000 mg calcium, 1,000 mg mag citrate)

      • Gabriela Segura, MD  May 4, 2015

        Generally speaking, 5 HTP enhances a good night sleep, so it is best to take it before bed time. An effect on anxiety and other mood problems will build on time, give it two weeks up to one month. Often 300mg per day is needed. You can add 100mg before dinner time and after 2-4 days, add another 100mg before bedtime.

        It is a matter of experimenting. For some people it works better when taken earlier, for others it is better if they take it before bedtime.

        I would forgo the calcium supplement. If you want good calcium metabolism, you can take magnesium and vitamin K2.

        Keep in mind that the diet is the pillar for any mood enhancing treatment. Supplements are complements and often not necessary when you eat good fats and protein (restricting inflammatory carbs). “Primal Body, Primal Mind” by Nora Gedgaudas is an exc resource on the subject.


  8. ariel  May 7, 2015

    I had been taking 100 mgs before bed for about 3 years and I thought it might be bad to take it that long and felt like it might not be helping as much so I stopped and started st johns wort but I didn’t feel much from St johns so I stopped and am starting 5htp again. Do you think 100mgs of 5htp is good long term? I eat extremely healthy and don’t eat any bread and take a good multi vitamin with a b complex magnesium, fish oil and lemon balm but my anxiety really bothers me still.

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  May 7, 2015

      As long as it helps you, it is okay. But I would look into other measures to relief stress: cutting down on starchy carbs, removing dairy, doing breathing exercises (i.e. The later one is highly recommended.

  9. riley  May 15, 2015

    i was working on my new house in december when i had a horrible chest pain in my upper chest and couldnt breath and went to the emergency room. i had been on pain pills for about 10 years (legally) i took 5 15mg oxycodones a day and my life was pretty perfect i could work and walk around and not be in pain. by lifting to much and using a screwdriver torquing very hard im almost positive i strained a nerve or muscle in my upper chest. i could not lift anything for months, its now aorund the 6th month and im having another issue.

    when this all happened my pain pills immediately started causing panic attacks or more chest pain when i took them. sometimes i could get away with one, but basically i had to cut back to 2.5 pills a day and take them in halfs. it was a trial and error period after about 3 months i healed my upper chest but then the stress and sitting around gave me lower chest pains that i now have everyday.

    i started taking more xanax, i already had it prescribed but was only taking very small .25 doses at a time. i went through specialists and emergency rooms, had all the heart tests and etc and everyone told me im fine. so im narrowing this lower chest pain down to anxiety

    thing is im still in extreme pain, and as stupid as this sounds i want to get back to my normal 5 pain pills a day and 0 anxiety meds if possible. right now i have a hard time breathing when i leave alot of times and i take a anxiety pill and in about a hour it takes the tightness away for about 2 hours. somedays its so bad i cant do anything. and even using a computer alot is impossible it stretches my chest. i still have a hard itme lifting and it seems like as soon as my pain pill wears off i get more anxiety and need to take another anxiety pill. the past 6 months i been trying to figure out the perfect dosage to get rid of this from happening, its all trial and error every single day feels like a heart attack at some point

    so ive tried the vitamin route hoping itll help. i have tons of stress on me also causing the anxiety, i have a dying dog with severe health issues, im living back home with my mother who yells and complains about everything (we are total opposite she yells over 2 dollars and returns all her food and im mellow and avoid conflict at all times) and i have a crippled father and 2 sisters who wont help me with any of this at home

    the vitamins i bought are
    vitamin b complex with c
    vitamin d (twice a week the prescription kind)
    i have a cholesterol pill prevasomething but only take it once in a while because i need to be calm no anxiety or else i get sick on it
    i have glucose drink/candy
    calcium pill

    and i think thats it, my quuestion is i dunno what order to take this in and if i can take certain pills together. also note i do take xanax and oxycodone and i dont like mixing pills. so ive been trying to seperate these pills the entire day and with so many of them its rough. i find myself skipping alot and then alternating and taking them another day. i usually wake up with the vitamin b complex and omega for energy, i use the 5htp at night because of the tiredness unless i take the prevawhatever then i dont mix anything with that. most of these pills say take with food, i gained 10 pounds from being injured 6 months so i try not to eat very much through the day. any suggestions ona routine? im hoping these vitamins help get rid of this anxiety so i can go back out and finish working and be a regular person again. if i do one thing a day my body aches after only 1 or 2 hours of work so living on such a low amount of pain meds sucks. i wanna get rid of this stupid anxiety already. im afraid also the issue might not pass until my dog passes away and i move out away from the ones i love, unfortunately my entire family is heavily stressing me out and even after all these hospital visits none of them will just be normal to help me out

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  May 15, 2015

      Hello Riley,

      Sounds like everything is crumbling around you and within you! It must be awful. I’m so sorry to hear about it. I really don’t know how you want to achieve better health without doing dietary changes and some more research. For instance, cholesterol level is managed when you remove sugar and toxic carbs: gluten, soy, corn, processed food. Cholesterol drugs can be very damaging to your health, but ideally, you should read about it to fully understand how easily you could stop them if you just adjusted what you eat. Supplements are precisely that: supplements as a complement for an anti-inflammatory diet.

      It is very difficult to manage pain and anxiety without removing toxic foods. May I suggest a few articles that will help you get an idea what you can do. This alone could make the whole difference in the long-term. Here is an article with a great list of foods to eat and foods to avoid:

      On lowering cholesterol drugs:

      On pain management:

      DMSO can be very helpful, just be careful when you handle it. Your hands should be clean.

      On stress management, do some breathing exercises:

      You can “pipe breath” in any situation.

      As for supplements, don’t drink glucose drinks! Sugar is absolutely evil! The rest is okay, but I would add magnesium malate, 2-4 capsules per day. You can also do magnesium baths with Epsom Salts or magnesium chloride. That will help you with the pain.

      Be patient with yourself. Things might not go “back to normal”. The toll in our bodies is accumulative. Nevertheless, if you make some lifestyle changes, you might be surprised at the progress you can make.

      • riley  May 19, 2015

        hello thanks for taking the time to reply back with all that info, i will visit the sites when im having one of my more better days. i also made a typo when i wrote glucose drink, i meant to write glucerna shakes (their basically for diabetics but kinda have high calories my dr told me save those for days i do alot of work so it burns the calories off)

        and yes the world is crumbling around me you hit the nail on the head with that. the past 3 days i been having nocturnal panic attacks where i have a panic attack while sleeping and feels like my entire body is being crushed or filled with fluid and im forced to wake up and try to balance it out with xanax.

        its really been quite a nightmare for me. the past 3 days ive forced myself to get up and paint my kitchen to stretch. its been really rough trying to find a balance of trying to breathe. even the days i feel ok, i realize im not ok once i start walking and moving i run out of breathe fast.

        ona positive note my dog has been doing better, thats a whole entire other story that i could get into but hopefully that is one less stress for me to help me balance my brain chemicals out

      • riley  May 19, 2015

        i forgot to mention also in my last post my diet is a bit tricky. i mainly have to eat meats. i have a somewhat odd stomach issue, and i get nautious very easily from all sorts of healthy foods. basically my entire life ive rotated between (fries, steak, pizza, hamburgers, chicken, and a few misc things) anything like vegetables and etc i get nautious from. ive tried alot to go healthy but the closest i can get is making something like homemade ham sandwhiches or healthy yogurt. when i was a kid i had some sort of bad stomach issue and they cut a piece of my stomach out to relieve the pain i was in. i still have no clue what it was i dont remember but my parents do. i also sometimes wake up with a horrific stomach pain that feels like someone stabbing me for 2 hours straight, my dr said my stomach acid drops at the wrong time because of my odd sleep schedule which causes a nightmarish stomach reaction. so unfortunately a healthier diet is a bit harder =(

      • Gabriela Segura, MD  May 19, 2015

        Hey Riley,

        Nothing bad about eating mainly meats. In fact, the ketogenic diet might look like that for a lot of people and it is very healing! Check out:

        However, you need to be choosy about your sources of meat and what carbs you add to them. Fries, pizza, chicken… Not good! Chicken must be organic, unless you want a significant amount of arsenic, hormones and antibiotics in your body. Anything fried or cooked in vegetable oils is probably very toxic. Cooking in butter, coconut oil, or the good old lard is definitely much better. Best!

  10. renee  May 15, 2015

    I am a sufferer of severe pms, or pmdd, I was diagnosed years ago, I have taken everything from paxil, and a few other a anti depressants to progesterone cream to birth control but nothing seems to work, I am looking to take something natural as I do not want to take prescribed meds again, I maintain a healthy diet for the most part and take a daily multi vitamin, two weeks after my period ends I’m fine but the last two weeks before onset it’s unbearable with anxiety, irritability, easily angered, and mood swings, I was wondering if 5-htp would be ok or good to take to calm these things down, and what would be the best dosage. If I took it or something like it could I take it for the last two weeks only of the pms or is it better to take all the time.

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  May 15, 2015

      You could try 5HTP to see if it relieves you. Just make sure you are truly on a healthy diet. Modern dietary guidelines are completely wrong and downright dangerous. In fact, they promote mood problems. See “Primal Body, Primal Mind”by Nora Gedgaudas for some crucial information.

      The suggested dosage in the article works sufficiently well. You can check out for some great breathing and meditation exercises. It will help. Best!

    • riley  May 19, 2015

      i just started 5htp and a few days that i took it it seemed to give me a burst of happiness for about 2 hours. i only take it every once in a while, the bottle says take 2 at night because it does cause drowsiness but ive read others say to take it with food during the day so it works the best. i wouldnt start with 2, try 1 first. and like gab said monitor yourself on it and see how it goes. when ive read up on it some vitamins can end up having a reverse effect. as im a guy though i cant help with the pms problems lol but it sounds like you might benefit with something for the cramps causing uncomfort and edgyness or some good old fashioned alone time, take the time to go to a store and look around or a metropark. somewhere nobody can bug you and you take the stress off

  11. Samantha  June 8, 2015

    Hi, I went to my endocrinologist and he tested my serotonin and it is 500. So i started 5htp while I was on trazodone and urbanol and lexamil, that caused me to go into serotonin syndrome, I left all these medications and i went away, its been 5 weeks ever since. I want to know if its safe for me to start the 5htp again?

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  June 8, 2015

      I would wait 2-3 weeks and start with the lowest dose of 5 HTP. Build up progressively by 50 mg if there are no serotonin syndrome symptoms until you reach the desired dose.

      • Samantha  June 15, 2015

        Thank you for the reply, I took the 5htp on Monday 100mg as i cant get a lower dose. But the problem is by the Tuesday that I took 1 again at night,I could not sleep felt terrible and wired and just weird. Does that mean the 5htp is not for me or working against me and what is the next step? Thank you so much

      • Gabriela Segura, MD  June 15, 2015

        If you can’t get a lower dose, try taking it with food at dinner time, or lunch time.

      • Nick  July 5, 2015

        I just took 5 http 200 mgand felt better immediately. I believe it was what my brain need for me to feel like my old self. Happy no anxiety or depression

  12. mohamed  June 24, 2015

    Hi doctor . i want your opinion please
    im using sertraline 50 mg for 4 weeks now .i think this prescription is a supplement food. in reality this medecines work very well for me . it look like something magic . it help me to hide all my panick attack depression stress but sometimes i feel like my brain will explose . near my ears sometimes i feel a horible pain . im taking only 50 mg every morning. for my sleeping i sleep well but now im on my week number 5 soetimes i cant sleep well !! and i wake up with pain ! how can i sort this pain ? when i d ont sleep well or late next day will be so hard for me ! when im outside in public for one , 2 hours im ok if i stay more i will have a pain in my brain ! so i should back home ! :P
    im sure this sertraline is working well but sometimes i think when i take my tablet at 7 am its not the same as 11 !. when i hv pain morning and i take tablet it will make me feel worse ! any help please ? Thank u too much

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  June 25, 2015

      Hello Mohamed,

      Please keep in mind that this prescription is NOT a supplement food. You can say that for 5 HTP, but not for sertraline which is a pharmaceutical which affects the way neural pathways work in your brain. If it works for you, great. But keep in mind that no drug is a substitute for long-term benefits derived from a brain friendly diet, breathing exercises (, and supplements. See for instance “Why Isn’t My Brain Working?” at

      Consult your doctor on the information leaflet on your package’s drug for more information on its side effects. You can get well with lifestyle changes and if you need the drug, you can be more reassured that you can wean off eventually from it when the time is right without serious withdrawals. My 2 cents”

  13. Keitha  July 11, 2015

    I took 5HTP 50mg. In the am for 14 days and it eorked great! No anxiety no depression. And even lost 8 pds! Ok week 3 eyes wide open almost hurting, insomnia, head ache from ear to ear. Nerve zaps in my neck up then down wired for sound mind racing mind bad thoughts good thoughts sometime maniac even. So bad i had to text myself telling myself its pk its manic it will gp away. So now please will i have side effects from stopping it everyday to every other . still anxiety nerve zaps in center back neck. Im so confused the first 10 days was WONDERFUL PLEASE HELP!

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  July 13, 2015

      I would experiment a couple of things. 50mg per day is too little, so I would stop it altogether to see how you feel. Perhaps you replenished your tank. You get the opposite symptoms the supplement is supposed to heal when it is enough. If things stabilizes, you can always do another couple of weeks on 5 HTP when the time is right. Do make lifestyle changes that promote a good mood, see “Primal Body, Primal Mind” by Nora Gedgaudas.

      If nothing gets better when you stop 5 HTP, you can try increasing the dose to 100mg, see if it works. You can take up to some 300mg per day, always increasing the dose by 50mg. But do remember the dietary and lifestyle changes suggested above. Supplements are complementary and the diet is always the pillar. In fact, I don’t suggest this supplement anymore. Diet takes care of everything much better mood wise. Nothing like a paleo or ketogenic diet for this. Best!

  14. Mara  July 27, 2015

    Stopped working on 3rd day?! :-( After reading “The Mood Cure” I recently started using 5-HTP for ocd, anxiety, depression, brain fog, and constantly feeling overwhelmed (without good reason). Based on the book, I was doing 150mg x2/day. The first couple of days I felt AMAZING! I felt alive for the first time in years! The thing is, by the third day, it stopped working. I’m considering trying to combine it with St. John’s Wort, as it had positive effects on me before 5-HTP (matter of fact, very similar to 5htp, it worked for a week, then stopped). I know there are mixed opinions on combining these, but it seems to work for some people. Based on saliva tests, my serotonin is very low, so maybe some of us need the extra combo. I was just wondering if anyone knew WHY either the 5htp or the sjw would stop working if they were doing so well at first, or how to make it work again?

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  August 16, 2015

      Hello Mara,

      Your experience reminds me that one from those who take DLPA. It works like a charm for a couple of days and then nothing. In that case, they benefit from taking only sporadically for short periods of times. But 5 HTP builds up progressively after a couple of weeks and then you can decide if the dose is right or if you need something else.

      I hope you are implementing the dietary advice in The Mood Cure. What you eat is very important in mood problems!

  15. LeaLou  August 27, 2015

    I am a bipolar sufferer and have been off medication for a long time…and used pot to control my ups and downs..but as I get older…I want to give up smoking and would like to try alternative medicines… what would you suggest…5HTP…Vitamin B’s…St. John’s Wort….a blend of many…or…one…not sure which way to go….please help :/

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  August 27, 2015

      I would suggest you quite pot as it may cause brain changes difficult to address later on. Get the book “The Mood Cure” by Julia Ross to get some ideas of supplements. Also, do the ketogenic diet, it has been used for therapeutical purposes in bipolar disease. See “Ketoadapted” by Maria Emmerich.

  16. JR  September 30, 2015

    Hi Dr. Segura,
    I am planning to purchase this:
    However, I have some reservations after reading the above as there are a lot of mixed results. I’ll be taking it for low moods and symptoms of anxiety. I’m a 19 y/o female and do not plan to consult my GP for this. My GP and I have discussed anxiety medication but I cancelled all the appointments (feeling too anxious). This was over a year ago but my anxiety has worsened and has caused me to become depressed, even suicidal at times. I’m unsure as to what alternatives I could use as I do not want antidepressants/CBT written up on my medical record.
    This in particular stands out to me: “5-HTP on its own isn’t a good idea, as it can shock the system without other nutrients to support it. I’ve taken 5-HTP before on its own and experienced some side effects.” Is there any truth to it? Should I just go speak to my GP about it?

    Many thanks

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  October 1, 2015

      If you want to navigate this on your own, I suggest you read “The UltraMind Solution” by Mark Hyman. It will give you a clear idea of what you can do. People usually recover doing a low carb diet and taking supplements like methylated B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium threonate or other magnesiums, 5 HTP and the like. Supplements don’t shock the system, they support natural pathways. Sometimes GABA is better. If you read The UltraMind Solution, you’ll know which ones will be better for you. Best.

  17. Tom  November 7, 2015

    I’m annoyed that the HTP-5 purchased from Holland & Barrett in the UK is in 50mg tablets and the guidelines say 1-2 per day, do not exceed the dose. I’ve not felt any different, and now it seems I’ve been wasting my money taking this smaller than recommended dose?

    I have tried larger doses but not regularly, over time. So I assume I need to try 300mg a day for several weeks or more, to gauge efficacy for me?

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  November 7, 2015

      It could be. The best thing is to do dietary changes to address “serotonin” imbalances. That will save you a lot of money in the long run. You can check out “The Mood Cure” for a guidance of both diet and supplements and its correct doses. 100mg hardly does it for some people.

  18. Mercyme  November 22, 2015

    Good evening, I hope this message meets you well. This is my first time commenting on a blog,, I have been using Google all day trying to feel better about my situation and thank God your page came up. I need your advice please, I was diagnosed with panic disorder, anxiety and depression in 2006. I am 30 years old now and it’s crazy looking back at how I have been living in shambles all these years. I was prescribed ssri and benzo all this years. In the benzo family, I tried xanax on and off for about 4 years and then switched to valium *up to 30mg * a day which I finally stopped in 2014. During my withdrawal, I was given lexapro which I just stopped 2 weeks ago and my life has been hell. While I was on lexapro, I faced lots of crazy side effects, I thought I was dying everyday, I developed pms which I never had before, acne, the worst was the crazy thoughts in my head and anger rage , I could be someone and just think about doing the dumbest things. This scared the living life out of me ,so I decided to stop ssri and anti depressant for life, forever and ever. Imagine what I went through while I was on this evil drug, now I’m going through withdrawal symptoms, I had brain zaps the first week, thank God it went but now I am crazy woozy feeling in my head, my eyes feels crazy, I can’t even explain, my nerves are get weak on and off. I started 5HTP 100 mg with omega 3, b12, rescue remedy and anxiety soother herbs a few days after I got off ssri. I felt OK, not great but fair compare to how I was on lexapro . 2 days ago, I just felt like I was dying, my head was so head, I just thought my life was finally over. So I took another 100 mg at night but I couldn’t relax, I felt sleepy but I would wake up from my naps with my heart beating fast and I got sensitive to tv sounds and the microwave. I took 200mg of 5htp with b12,omega 3 and magnesium this morning and I’m just hoping it will make me feel better. Please how long do I expect to recover fully ? Any advice will give me a little bit of hope, I just want to be back to life. Thank you

    • Mercyme  November 22, 2015

      I mean my head was so heavy ****

    • Mercyme  November 22, 2015

      I forgot to mention that I do hot yoga everyday for an hour , I have been doing acupuncture every Wednesday for a month now, I drink lots of water, I still eat bread a lot but not a lot of other junk food. I also drink Chinese herbs prescribed by my acupuncturist . I am willing to go all natural and anything to help is what I am searching for.

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  November 23, 2015

      Dear Mercyme,

      After reading your experience and considering all the research and experimenting I’ve done through the years, I would suggest you consider a couple of things: A paleo diet (see the Mood Cure by Julia Ross to learn the reasons why the diet enhances your mood) and iodine therapy. I’m practically amazed to realize how iodine has work to stabilize the mood of so many people and why. I suggest you read these resources:

      Do review the material. I do believe it will help you enormously.

  19. John  November 30, 2015

    Hey doctor Gabriela, hope you can answer this question, I’ve been taking 5-htp for a week for anxiety and sleep problems and noticed change. It was great but I worked out the other day and was WAY more sore than normal and researched that 5htp is linked to EMS eosinophilia myalgia and it scared me and I stopped taking 5htp not sure if 5htp made me that sore and it was contaminated or it had anything to do with the 5htp. Do you have any thoughts on this? Thanks

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  November 30, 2015

      Hello John,

      Eosinophilia myalgia is usually complication of GMO products, not non-GMO 5 HTP. You can double check by getting a blood test, checking for eosinophils. 5 HTP is safe, but only a temporary measure. The root of the problem has to be addressed: dietary, toxicity, lack of nutrients. Best!

  20. John  November 30, 2015

    Okay and also I know you have this approach that 5-htp is very safe but It’s been linked to cardiac fibrosis when 5htp is converted to serotonin in the bloodstream and can’t pass the blood brain barrier and the serotonin remains in the peripheral tissues and activates serotonin receptors on the heart stiffening the ventricles, I think a government study showed the relationship between heart attacks and 5htp. Also with the autoimmune disorder with the esinophils attacking muscle tissue. The supplement has only been out for a little over 10 years I just think we need to learn more about long term effects of this supplement, I love 5-htp but it seems there’s more cons then pros. What do you think?

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  November 30, 2015

      After 20 years studying this field from several different angles, I think 5 HTP is the least of your problems. If you don’t feel safe with it, I would stop it though. There are many different protocols and supplements which help restore health. Dietary changes, detoxifying and dealing with stealth infections are the best “mood cure”.

  21. Jessica  December 9, 2015

    Hi Gabriel,

    Thank you for your generosity and hard work in putting this information out there for people. I was diagnosed Bipolar after what I consider more of a nervous breakdown a few years ago. I was put on all sorts of medications and felt little control over my own body. I finally found a holistic psychiatrist but was driving all the way to kansas from St. Louis to see her. She along with a chiropractor helped me adjust my vitamin intake and adopt a primarily paleo diet which has helped tremendosly. I can’t say enough for all the other posters how important it is to control your blood sugar through limiting carbs and sugar for your mood. I have been off all medication except for Paxil for over 2 years, but am wanting to switch from paxil to 5htp. I know there is a lot of warnings about withdrawl symptoms, but I can’t find a good doctor who is willing to assist with tapering off and transitioning. Can you offer any suggestions?

  22. Rosie  December 15, 2015

    Hi Doctor

    So my quedtion is what is HTP ? I started this medication due to thinking I have depression and I dont want to get on depressant. Is this good for depression also I suffer insomnia Its so hard to get to sleep i believe cause of anxiety and depression. How do I take this medication for my problems and will this caused my sleep to get worse? I have felt a little better taking 50 mg in Am (day3) do I need more to get a good night sleep? Please help how do i take this ??

    Thank you

    • Rosie  December 15, 2015

      Oh i forgot i do also take lorazapam and seraquel at night for sleep too.

    • Gabriela Segura, MD  December 16, 2015

      Technically speaking, is not a drug. Considering the drugs you take, that dose might be enough or a little bit more. For immediate and long term benefits, I highly suggest you revise your dietary choices and lifestyle. See “Primal Body, Primal Mind” by Nora Gedgaudas. These are only temporary measures. Tackling the root of the problem will make you more independent of drugs. See also my latest post on iodine, so far, it is the best mood enhancer I’ve encountered:

      • Rosie  December 17, 2015

        I guess im a little confused on the answer, are you saying the dose I take of 5htp is good??

      • Gabriela Segura, MD  December 17, 2015

        You might need to modify the dose, but it seems like a good dose right now.

  23. M a ry  December 17, 2015


    I started this medication about a week now its seems to be doing great for my depression. Is this what this herb does??? I do have sleep issue that might have to do wjth my depression will this herb cure it all and let me peacefully sleep again?? My main question is what is this herb doing to my brain to feel the change in thought and emotions???

  24. Marcelo  December 30, 2015

    Hi, Doctor!

    First of all, I wanna thank you in advance for kindly replying to everyone here – it’s very sweet of you.

    I’m battling Pure O/Depression/Anxiety since my 17’s (Im a 34 old male), by taking everything you can imagine. From Anafranil to Sertraline, always combined to Klonopin. Ups and downs, always, and lots of side-effects, terrible ones as you know – but the “living solo” was even worse. Tried chinese medicine, phytos and etc, but was always back to the meds.

    Last great combination I had, which allowed me to do awesome things, was: Sertraline 50mg, Saint Johns Wort (only 300mg, that made a BIG difference on the stack), 0,5 Klonopin and 3mg Melatonin. Felt like I didnt in YEARS. Then, after 1 year, feeling great, I quit everyhing. Felt fine for 1,5 month, clean, only eating healthy and practicing yoga, the slowly, I woke up in hell. Stood strong for one more month and tried get back to sertraline: my body refused the drug. Tried Anafranil and it did the same. Nothing worked. My doc gave me Trazodone, which put me to sleep and gave headaches… But it did helped a bit.

    No Im coming off the trazodone, only 24mg, taking 900mgs of Saint Johns and only 0,25 Klonopin. Its tough I must say, but I have things to arrive: I ordered 5-HTP, 100mg and L-Tyrosine 500mg.

    So now, my plans:

    AM: Breakfast

    Morning formula: Green Tea 500mg, Ginseng 500, Arginine 500mg, Acid Aspartic (Vit C)
    Saint Johns 450mg
    L-Tyrosine 500mg
    Omega 3

    PM – Lunch:

    Omega 3 + Multivitamin

    Before Bed:

    Saint Johns 450mg
    5-HTP 100mg
    Melatonin 3mg

    I am on the right path? This is what I created after loads of research. Im really trying to go “all natural forever” now.

    Please, correct me or give me suggestions if you wish.

    Thank you so much!


    • Gabriela Segura, MD  December 31, 2015

      Hello Marcelo,

      Looks okay to me. I would use plain ascorbic acid for the vitamin C though. Cutting down on sugar and processed and inflammatory carbs is a must (gluten grains, GMOs). I would do a paleo diet with this plan. Also, do some heavy metal chelation protocol, i.e. DMSA. Heavy metals are infamous for creating all sorts of mood problems. Iodine chelates heavy metals, but the detox process is difficult to navigate.

      Cheers for the excellent effort to reclaim your health. Best!

  25. Mike  January 7, 2016


    My nutrionist has advised starting straight on 400mg 5HTP a day for my insomnia (which has been going on for 2.5 years and now led to anxiety/depression)

    Is this recommended?



    • Gabriela Segura, MD  January 7, 2016

      I’ve heard of people taking 600mg 5HTP. In any case, insomnia treatment is holistic. 5HTP is only a temporary “clutch”. Make sure you’re sleeping in total darkness, don’t use electronics at night, get rid of wifi and use glasses to block out blue lights as soon as the sun starts setting. It sounds like hassle, but it really isn’t when it really works. Best!


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