How do I Use 5-HTP for Anxiety?

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  • Written By: Marsha Strand
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2019
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The chemical by-product 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a naturally occurring amino acid that the body makes from tryptophan, an essential amino acid, and which is commercially produced from the plant Griffonia simplicfolia. One benefit of a 5-HTP dietary supplement is that it elevates serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and behavior in the brain. It is for this reason that some people take 5-HTP for anxiety, a move studies have shown to be both safe and effective.

Taking 5-HTP for anxiety works because the increased serotonin 5-HTP triggers in the brain promotes relaxation, and scientists say there is a role for 5-HTP in managing the stress and anxiety of everyday life. As little as a 50 mg dose of HTP for anxiety has shown to be a beneficial treatment, and that is where many people start. A person not responding to a 50 mg dose of HTP for anxiety may slowly increase the dose to up to 100 mg, three times a day.

Using a higher dose of 5-HTP for anxiety is generally well tolerated by people, but side effects such as nausea and loose stools have been reported. A person taking 5-HTP for anxiety should be aware that it doesn't work overnight, so it's important to give it time to work. Keep the dose at 50 mg for three to six weeks. If symptoms don't improve, slowly increase the dosage by 50 mg every two weeks.


Don't increase the dosage if side effects occur. While it is recommended that you consult a medical professional prior to beginning to take any dietary supplement — this gives the doctor a chance to check the supplement's safety when taken in conjunction with any other medications, prescription or non-prescription, that you may be taking — a medical professional also should be consulted about lingering anxiety and any side effects of 5-HTP. It could be that your feelings of anxiety do not stem from low levels of serotonin, in which case 5-HTP may not be effective.

Dietary supplementation with tryptophan and 5-HTP, which crosses the blood-brain barrier, increases brain serotonin levels and produces anxiolytic, or anti-anxiety effects. Studies also have shown that 5-HTP may be effective in cases when anxiety incites impulsive and risky behavior. There are combination beverages available that combine 5-HTP with valerian, theanine, GABA, and the sleep aid melatonin. When combined with these ingredients, 5-HTP and its effects are significantly enhanced. In a study involving 61 people who tested 5-HTP-combination drinks, 85 percent reported feeling relaxed; 39 of these also describing an increase in focus during the execution of tasks.


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Post 4

The 5-HTP I get is in a green bottle with yellow label at Walmart, it comes in 100mg capsules, Spring Valley is the brand. I open the capsule and dump half the powder on the back of my tongue for a 50mg dose, it doesn't taste very bad and is actually slightly sweet.

Post 3

Does 5-HTP come in 100mg tablets? The ones I've found were all capsules, so you can't break them. And I don't want to start out with 100mg, I want to start out at 50mg.

Post 2

@anamur-- Have you spoken to your doctor about this? I don't think you should replace your medication with a supplement.

5-HTP definitely has benefits for anxiety and depression. It can increase the amount of serotonin circulating in the brain, reducing anxiety symptoms. But it's not a medication and it's not meant to treat any condition.

You have to ask your doctor and if your doctor approves, you have to switch under close supervision. SSRI medications can remain in the system for a long time and it will certainly cause withdrawal effects. Switching to 5-HTP suddenly can cause serious problems for you. You might experience mood changes, anxiety attacks and perhaps even suicidal tendencies because of a chemical imbalance.

Just because something is naturally produced by the body and is called a supplement doesn't mean that it can be taken liberally. You have to be careful with 5-HTP.

Post 1

I've been taking an SSRI (serotonin reuptake inhibitor) for the past two years for anxiety. It works well, but I've been feeling a lot better lately and sometimes I have bad side effects from the medication. So I've been considering slowly withdrawing from it and replacing it with a 5-HTP supplement.

Is this a good idea?

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