What is 5-HTP?

5-HTP is an essential amino acid that the body uses to produce serotonin. While your body can produce it naturally, there are some ways you can help to facilitate and increase its production.

4 mins read

5-HTP is a chemical by-product of the protein building block L-tryptophan that is naturally produced in the body. It’s short for 5-hydroxytryptophan, so its much shorter abbreviation definitely comes in handy.

5-HTP is often used to help with sleep, symptoms of anxiety, and other conditions, as it is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin.

How Does 5-HTP Work?

L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid that you can get from certain foods, such as milk, oats, chicken, cheese, nuts, and seeds. Tryptophan plays an important role in regulating mood, memory, control of aggression, and a ton of other things. In short, it’s important.

But what does tryptophan have to do with 5-HTP? Tryptophan converts itself into the chemical 5-HTP after being metabolized. From there, this chemical changes into yet another one known as serotonin.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that relays signals between the brain, helping to regulate anxiety, mood, pain sensation, appetite, and much more. Having abnormal levels of serotonin is often associated with depression, insomnia, and many other conditions

In short, 5-HTP is an amino acid that can convert into serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter responsible for a number of important mental and physical processes.

What Can 5-HTP Help With?

Although tryptophan can be found in food, 5-HTP isn’t. With that said, it can be taken directly as a dietary supplement if made from the seeds of an African plant known as Griffonia simplicifolia

Because of its ability to enhance the synthesis of serotonin, it can be used as a remedy for a number of ailments.


There is evidence to suggest that taking 5-HTP by mouth can be effective in reducing the symptoms of mild-to-moderate depressive disorders. It increases the amount of serotonin in the brain in a similar way to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.

SSRIs work to block the reabsorption of serotonin into the neurons. This makes serotonin more readily available to improve transmission between neurons. It is believed that 5-HTP can work in a similar way, as it helps synthesize this important neurotransmitter.

One study in mice found that 5-HTP in conjunction with SSRIs had added benefits in regards to antidepressant therapy. With that said, you shouldn’t take 5-HTP supplements in addition to SSRIs without talking to your doctor first, as too much serotonin in humans can lead to headaches, confusion, and heart problems.


SSRIs are often used as treatments for anxiety as well. While evidence is still limited, research suggests that 5-HTP might be helpful as a therapy for alleviating symptoms of anxiety, as well as other anxious behaviors.


Fibromyalgia is a common condition associated with widespread muscle and joint pain. People with fibromyalgia often have low levels of serotonin, so 5-HTP might work in a similar capacity to SSRIs.

Products that contain 5-HTP might also help alleviate feelings of soreness and tenderness in the muscles, which can also help people with fibromyalgia feel more comfortable overall.


Serotonin can be converted into the hormone melatonin, which plays an important role in regulating sleep. Melatonin levels are naturally supposed to rise in the evening and fall in the morning.

One study found that 5-HTP in combination with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) was able to significantly lessen the amount of time it took to fall asleep. It also showed to increase the duration of sleep and improve its quality.

This suggests that supplementing with 5-HTP before bed may be useful in helping to regulate a more restful and consistent sleep schedule.

Appetite Regulation

Preliminary findings have suggested that 5-HTP may also be evaluated for helping with obesity. Studies suggest that it may help decrease food intake and increase weight loss.

In one study, half of the participants were given a vitamin C supplement and the other half were given 5-HTP supplements. Results showed that individuals supplemented with 5-HTP had a more positive response to protein-rich foods rather than those that were high in calories and carbohydrates. 

More research is needed, but these early findings suggest that 5-HTP may be beneficial in regulating a healthy appetite.

How Much 5-HTP Do I Need?

Everyone’s body is different, and there is also not really enough research to suggest just exactly how much of a single 5-HTP dose should be used to achieve desired effects.

For depression, common dosages exist within the 150-800 mg range, taken daily for two to six weeks. Typically these doses start low and are gradually increased as time progresses and your body has time to adjust.

How Can I Get More 5-HTP?

There are a few different ways you can increase the synthesis of 5-HTP in your body.


Keep in mind that there are no foods that directly contain 5-HTP. However, there are a good amount of foods that contain tryptophan, which is the amino acid that your body uses to make 5-HTP. These include:

  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Turnip
  • Seaweed
  • Collard greens

Increasing your consumption of these may increase the 5-HTP in your body, which can lead to higher levels of serotonin.


5-HTP sourced from Griffonia simplicifolia can be taken directly as an oral supplement. These may come in powders or capsules that can be taken by mouth.

However, 5-HTP can also be combined with other ingredients for a more holistic effect. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a natural extract from the hemp plant that has similar benefits to those of 5-HTP. Smile’s drops and gummies contain 5-HTP and CBD that can help to relax your body and ease into a chiller headspace, reducing feelings of anxiety and stress.

Other Ways To Support Serotonin Production

The right amount of serotonin can really help brighten your mood and just make you feel good all-around. It seems like 5-HTP is a great way to help with this, but what else can be done?


When you exercise, you trigger the release of tryptophan in your blood. This might decrease the amount of other amino acids in your bloodstream, which can allow more tryptophan to reach your brain and convert into serotonin.

Aerobic exercise seems to be most effective, so try going for a brisk walk or doing a few laps in the swimming pool. 

Exercise is also helpful for relieving symptoms of anxiety and stress because it can distract you from the stressful stimuli while also checking your blood pressure and keeping your heart rate in line.

Bright Light

Serotonin levels tend to be lower after winter and higher in the summer, which may explain the occurrence of seasonal affective disorder, or season depression.

Sunshine might help increase levels of serotonin through absorption in the skin. Try getting some natural sunlight by spending at least 10-15 minutes outside each day. You can even try taking your physical activity outdoors to get the best of both worlds.


Physically smiling has shown to improve mood, relieve stress, and alleviate symptoms of depression, similar to the ways that 5-HTP may be able to do the same.

When you smile, your brain releases a number of endorphins including dopamine and serotonin. Each of these are associated with lowering your anxiety and increasing feelings of happiness. You don’t even need to actually feel happy, just try smiling and you might already feel better!

Do Something You Love

If you’re ever feeling like you’re in a fog that you just can’t shake, try stepping back and doing something that makes you feel great. Spend some time with pets, get a nice healthy meal with a friend, or hike on your favorite nature trail.

Doing something uplifting and fun will directly be able to increase your serotonin levels, which might give you a more sustained feeling of happiness throughout the rest of the day. Even after the activity is done, your happiness may persist!

In Conclusion

5-HTP is a chemical form of the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan can be found in certain foods, and when converted to 5-HTP, it may turn into serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating a number of processes such as mood, sleep, and appetite.

Early findings have shown that 5-HTP can be used as a way to alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety, similar to most SSRIs. Additionally, it has shown to possibly be effective in joint pain relief, insomnia, and weight loss.

5-HTP can be harvested from an African plant, and since its uses are so similar to those of CBD, it’s a great accompaniment when used in CBD gummies and oils. While 5-HTP has the potential to boost serotonin, it’s important to also exercise, stay positive, and smile as much as you can.

The benefits of 5-HTP are fairly new, but they’re still astounding. This is why Smile’s CBD incorporates 5-HTP in our gummies and oils to help bring you feelings of overall clarity and improved mood. But that’s just one of many ethically sourced ingredients that go into our final product!


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