5-hydroxytryptophan, more commonly referred to as 5-HTP, aids in the production of serotonin, a brain chemical heavily involved in mood. Because of this action, it might offer similar benefits as antidepressant medications that work to raise serotonin levels. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center reports research has shown it might work as well as conventional drugs to treat depression and other conditions where doctors often prescribe antidepressants. Some dosage guidelines have been established for achieving therapeutic benefit from this supplement but you should consult with your doctor for guidance on an appropriate dosage for your circumstances as well as other aspects of safe usage.
The University of Maryland Medical Center reports health care professionals typically recommend taking 50 mg one to three times daily. The UPMC reports a typical dose might consist of 100 mg to 300 mg three times a day and that once the supplement begins working, you can usually reduce the dosage and still maintain therapeutic benefit. Because a standard dosage can vary widely, the best way to determine the optimal dose for you entails working with your doctor.
Do not use 5-HTP at the same time as antidepressant medications -- the combination could raise serotonin to dangerous levels, which can result in serious effects such as extreme mood changes, rapid fluctuations in heart rhythm and blood pressure and even coma. Dangerously elevated serotonin levels can also result from using 5-HTP at the same time as the pain medication tramadol and triptans, a class of drugs used to treat migraines. Drugs.com reports that in total, this supplement might negatively interact with 73 different types of drugs.
Side effects tend to be mild and transient and might include heartburn, nausea, gas, feeling of fullness and rumbling in the stomach. Rarely, use of this supplement could lead to a serious condition called eosinophilic myalgia syndrome that affects the skin, blood, muscles and organs.
Other Considerations for Use
Do not use 5-HTP if pregnant, nursing or if you have any condition that affects your liver. The UPMC notes this supplement has been studied in children without any negative effects but formal studies evaluating its safety in this population have not been conducted. Do not give 5-HTP to children without talking to your pediatrician.