5-HTP - One of the Best Natural Mood Enhancers

5-HTP - One of the Best Natural Mood Enhancers

Boost serotonin and lift your spirits without drugs.

In the ongoing search for the ideal natural, nutritional source of happiness, there is one amino acid that stands above all other mood enhancers. 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), or sometimes called oxitriptan, is a metabolic intermediate involved in the production of serotonin and melatonin. As a precursor to serotonin, the brain's feel-good neurotransmitter responsible for the sense of happiness and mental well-being, low levels are associated with anything from anxiety to insomnia, to depression.

5-HTP supplementation is one of the most well-researched natural approaches to combating depression and raising mood, and has been very popular in Europe for decades. It is produced endogenously in the body, but the problem born out of modern society, with its stresses and dietary insufficiencies, is that it tends to deplete 5-htp, and consequently serotonin. The result is a slew of issues and hence the need for additional sources, Rare in most foods, supplemental 5-HTP is derived from the seeds of the Griffonia Simplicifolia plant, and research shows that it can be very helpful for boosting serotonin production. 

The most exciting thing about 5-HTP is that it seems to have a similar effect as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, or SSRI antidepressants. SSRI's work by increasing serotonin in the brain, so it makes sense that the precursor, 5-HTP, would also be beneficial. Clinical short-term studies have found that it can increase serotonin by up to 540%, and may be equally as effective as standard antidepressant drugs (Byerley WF, Judd LL, Reimherr FW, et al. 5-hydroxytryptophan: a review of its antidepressant efficacy and adverse effects. J Clin Psychopharmacol.)

In one study of 63 people given either 5-HTP or an antidepressant (fluvoxamine, a Prozac type), researchers found that the benefits of the two approaches were equivalent (68 percent supplement to 62 percent drug), but 5-HTP produced faster results, and caused much fewer and less severe side-effects and concomitant problems. Another short-term study of patients receiving 200mg of 5-HTP per day showed a 50% reduction in levels of depression (Costa, Greengard. Advances in Biochemical Pharmacology.)

While most of these studies are admittedly short term, and while there is still a lot of debate about the broad efficacy across physiology, there is sufficient scientific evidence to go with the abundant anecdotal evidence that 5-HTP is a most effective natural alternative to mood enhancement. A complex of 5-HTP, St Johns Wort, tryptophan, and B vitamins can offer a real benefit to sufferers of mood disorders or anxiety. Most importantly, the combination of nutritional mood enhancers and lifetsyle choices like exercise, breathing and meditative techniques, can be as or even more effective than harmful drugs. 

Finally, make sure to add vitamin B6 in concert with 5-HTP to assist in the conversion to serotonin. Or better yet, consider using a precision-formulated supplement with the ideal balances of natural mood enhancers. It is known to be safe in proper use, but anything above 100mg a day can cause side-effects like nausea and cramps in some people, which is why choosing the right balance of ingredients in a mood supplement is critical. There are a few interactions between 5-HTP and some drugs, but even if you are not using any pharmaceuticals, consult your doctor before considering adding it to your regimen, just to be safe. 

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Mood supplement

Poldinger W, Calanchini B, Schwarz W. A functional-dimensional approach to depression: Serotonin deficiency as a target syndrome in a comparison of 5-hydroxytryptophan and fluvoxamine. Psychopathology. 1991. 
Kahn RS, Westenberg HG, Verhoeven WM, et al. Effect of a serotonin precursor and uptake inhibitor in anxiety disorders; a double-blind comparison of 5-hydroxytryptophan, clomipramine and placebo. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 1987.

The opinions expressed in this article are of the author. Content and other information presented on the site are not meant to be medical advice or any substitute for professional advice, counseling, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard professional medical or mental health advice from your physician or other qualified health provider.

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