Seeds from the African plant Griffonia simplicifolia are used to create 5-hydroxytryptophan, marketed as a supplement to boost mood, reduce anxiety and hot flashes, combat obesity and improve sleep. Some people take it for attention deficit disorder, according to Drugs.com. Your body makes 5-HTP from tryptophan. This is an essential amino acid, meaning it must be obtained via food. Your body converts 5-HTP into the mood- and behavior-regulating chemical serotonin, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Supplements derived from Griffonia simplicifolia seeds are meant to raise serotonin levels in your brain. These supplements, however, can have side effects.
Common Side Effects
Many of the side effects of 5-HTP are mild, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. These include gas, nausea, heartburn and a feeling of fullness. You also may have nightmares, stomach cramps or decreased sex drive if you take doses that are greater than 70 mg, according to Dr. Ray Sahelian, a Los Angeles physician and medical writer.
Some 5-HTP supplements may be contaminated with Peak X, which can cause eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome, according to UMMC. EMS is a potentially fatal disorder that affects blood, skin, muscles and organs. The levels of the contaminant, however, are not high enough to lead to symptoms unless you take extremely large doses, according to UMMC. Because of this concern, it's best to seek a reputable manufacturer and take this supplement under a health-care provider's supervision. An outbreak EMS was attributed to Peak X in tryptophan supplements in the late 1980s, leading the FDA to ban tryptophan supplements. A study by K. Klarskov, Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic pinpointed Peak X in some 5-HTP supplements. The study was published in the 1999 journal Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology.
High doses of Griffonia simplicifolia may cause serotonin syndrome. This means you have too much serotonin in your body, and this is a potentially dangerous condition, according to UMMC. Symptoms of this syndrome range from agitation, confusion, headache, sweating, poor coordination and shivering to life-threatening issues including high fever, unconsciousness, seizures and irregular heartbeat. UMMC cautions against using this supplement if you are taking anti-depressants. Seek supervision from a health-care professional if you take tramadol for fibromyalgia or pain control or triptans for migraine headaches.
If you take carbidopa to treat Parkinson's disease, combining it with 5-HTP may cause you to suffer a scleroderma-like illness. In this condition, your skin becomes thick, hard and inflamed, according to UMMC.