5-HTP has been shown in double-blind studies to be a good alternative to prescription antidepressants. To use 5-HTP for depression, most people take between 50 and 500 mg each day. Side effects are typically limited to gastrointestinal upset, which usually disappears after the first few days.This supplement is contraindicated for people taking some types of medications unless under a doctor's care. You may purchase 5-HTP without a prescription in the US, Canada, and the UK.
When 5-HTP is metabolized, it converts into tryptophan. The tryptophan then helps your body produce higher levels of serotonin. The higher levels of serotonin mediate the depression and its symptoms, which may lead to an improvement in your quality of life.
Several clinical studies have verified the antidepressant properties of 5-HTP. Some studies have used the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale and a self-assessment to determine whether fluvoxamine or 5-HTP was more effective. After several weeks, researchers found that both groups of patients showed an overall reduction in depressive symptoms. The difference was that the patients taking 5-HTP for depression tolerated it much better than the patients taking the fluvoxamine. Other studies using different scales have demonstrated similar results.
Holistic doctors may recommend no more than 50 mg a day when you start taking 5-HTP for depression. Many people respond to this low dose, but some feel better with doses as high as 500 mg. It is very important not to take more 5-HTP than necessary because some serious side effects may develop.
Serotonin syndrome may be a potentially life-threatening side effect of 5-HTP. Symptoms include chills, shakiness, confusion, headache, agitation, and diarrhea. It may also cause a rash, headache or nausea, and you may experience vivid dreams or nightmares. Heart valve damage has been noted in some studies as well. Milder symptoms usually disappear several days after starting 5-HTP for depression.
Using 5-HTP for depression is not a solution for everyone. People who are on prescription antidepressants, medication for Parkinson's disease, MAO inhibitors, or antibiotics should not take 5-HTP. In addition, weight-loss drugs, barbiturates, drugs for chemotherapy, tranquilizers, or alcohol should not be combined with 5-HTP. If you decide to self-medicate with this supplement, it is very important to let your doctor know what you are doing, particularly if she suggests that you take any of these contraindicated medications.
Sublingual, spray, regular, and time-released tablets or capsules of 5-HTP may be purchased at local health food stores or markets. They are also available through many online retailers. 5-HTP is most commonly sold in 50 mg, 100 mg, or 200 mg doses.