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Natrol® 5-HTP is a naturally occurring plant-derived amino acid that participates in the body’s synthesis of serotonin. Serotonin is the chemical messenger that plays a key role in controlling appetite and enhancing mood.* The end result: the positive attitude needed to help you maintain a positive, healthy outlook and keep your diet goals.*
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
The cause of migraine headache is believed to be related to abnormal serotonin function in blood vessels,1 and 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan, which is converted by the body into serotonin) may affect this abnormality. In one study, 40 people with recurrent migraines received either 5-HTP (200 mg per day) or methysergide (a drug used to prevent migraines) for 40 days. Both compounds reduced the frequency of migraines by about 50%.2 Larger amounts of 5-HTP (600 mg per day) were also found to be as effective as medications for reducing migraine headache attacks in adults in two double-blind trials.3, 4 Migraine attacks were reduced in frequency, severity, and duration in 90% of those taking 400 mg per day of 5-HTP in a double-blind placebo-controlled trial,5 though another trial found no benefit of 5-HTP.6 In another controlled study, 400 mg of dl-5-HTP (another form of 5-HTP) led to reduced consumption of pain-killing drugs and pain scores after one to two months.7 Children who suffered from migraines and had problems sleeping responded well to a daily amount of 5-HTP equal to 20 mg for every 10 pounds of body weight in a controlled trial,8 though an earlier study showed 5-HTP had no better effect than placebo for children with migraines.9
1. Kimball RW, Friedman AP, Vallejo E. Effect of serotonin in migraine patients. Neurology 1960;10:107-11.
2. Sicuteri F. The ingestion of serotonin precursors (L-5-hydroxytryptophan and L-tryptophan) improves migraine headache. Headache 1973;13:19-22.
3. Titus F, Davalos A, Alom J, Codina A. 5-hydroxytryptophan versus methysergide in the prophylaxis of migraine. Eur Neurol 1986;25:327-9.
4. Maissen CP, Ludin HP. Comparison of the effect of 5-hydroxytryptophan and propranolol in the interval treatment of migraine. Schweizerische Medizinische Wochenschrift /Journal Suisse de Medecine 1991;121:1585-90 [in German].
5. De Benedittis G, Massei R. 5-HT precursors in migraine prophylaxis: A double-blind cross-over study with L-5-hydroxytryptophan versus placebo. Clin J Pain 1986;3:123-9.
6. Mathew NT. 5-hydroxytryptophan in the prophylaxis of migraine. Headache 1978;18:111-3.
7. Bono G, Criscuoli M, Martignoni E, et al. Serotonin precursors in migraine prophylaxis. Advances in Neurology 1982;33:357-63.
8. De Giorgis G, Miletto R, Iannuccelli M, et al. Headache in association with sleep disorders in children: A psychodiagnostic evaluation and controlled clinical study ñ L-5-HTP versus placebo. Drugs Exp Clin Res 1987;13:425-33.
9. Santucci M, Cortelli P, Rossi PG, et al. L-5-Hydroxytryptophan versus placebo in childhood migraine prophylaxis: a double-blind crossover study. Cephalalgia 1986;6:155-7.
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) may be helpful for tension-type headaches. A recent double-blind study of adults with chronic tension-type headaches found 300 mg per day of 5-HTP reduced the number of headache days by 36%, but this was not significantly different from the 29% reduction in the placebo group.1 (Headaches often improve significantly even when an inactive [placebo] treatment is given).2 Headache severity was also similarly reduced by either 5-HTP or placebo. In this study, 5-HTP was significantly superior to placebo only in reducing the need for pain-relieving medications during headaches. Previous double-blind research studied 5-HTP in groups of patients suffering from many different types of headache, including some with tension-type headaches. Results from these studies also found substantial, but nonsignificant benefits of 5-HTP compared with placebo using either 400 mg per day in adults3 or 100 mg per day in children.4
1. Ribeiro CAF. L-5-hydroxytryptophan in the prophylaxis of chronic tension-type headache: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Headache 2000;40:451-6.
2. Edmeads J. Placebos and the power of negative thinking. Headache 1984;24:342-3 [editorial].
3. De Benedittis G, Massei R. Serotonin precursors in chronic primary headache. A double-blind cross-over study with L-5-hydroxytrytophan vs. placebo. J Neurosurg Sci 1985;29:239-48.
4. Longo G, Rudoi I, Iannuccelli M, et al. Treatment of essential headache in developmental age with L-5-HTP (cross over double-blind study versus placebo). Pediatr Med Chir 1984;6:241-5. [in Italian].
People with fibromyalgia often have low serotonin levels in their blood.1, 2, 3 Supplementation with 5-HTP may increase serotonin synthesis in these cases. Both preliminary4, 5 and double-blind trials6 have reported that 5-HTP supplementation (100 mg three times per day) relieves some symptoms of fibromyalgia.
1. Fava M, Rosenbaum JF, MacLaughlin R, et al. Neuroendocrine effects of S-adenosyl-L-methionine, a novel putative antidepressant. J Psychiatr Res 1990;24:177-84.
2. Bell KM, Potkin SG, Carreon D, Plon L. S-adenosylmethionine blood levels in major depression: changes with drug treatment. Acta Neurol Scand 1994;154(suppl):15-8.
3. Bell KM, Potkin SG, Carreon D, Plon L. S-adenosylmethionine blood levels in major depression: changes with drug treatment. Acta Neurol Scand 1994;154(suppl):15-8.
4. Puttini PS, Caruso I. Primary fibromyalgia syndrome and 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan: a 90-day open study. J Int Med Res 1992;20:182-9.
5. Moldofsky H, Warsh JJ. Plasma tryptophan and musculoskeletal pain in non-articular rheumatism (“fibrositis syndrome”). Pain 1978;5:65-71.
6. Caruso I, Sarzi Puttini P, Cazzola M, Azzolini V. Double-blind study of 5-hydroxytryptophan versus placebo in the treatment of primary fibromyalgia syndrome. J Int Med Res 1990;18:201-9.
A related compound that occurs naturally in the body, 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), is also converted into serotonin and might, therefore, be helpful for insomnia. In a double-blind trial of people without insomnia, supplementation with 5-HTP (200 mg at 9:15 p.m. and 400 mg at 11:15 p.m.) increased rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, presumably indicating improved sleep quality.3 In a preliminary trial of people with fibromyalgia, supplementing with 100 mg of 5-HTP three times a day improved sleep quality.4 However, additional research is needed to determine whether 5-HTP is safe and effective for people with insomnia.
In a preliminary study, 5-HTP was also found to be an effective treatment for "sleep terrors,"5 a common problem in children that causes sudden awakening with persistent fear or terror, screaming, sweating, confusion, and increased heart rate.
1. Schneider-Helmert D, Spinweber CL. Evaluation of L-tryptophan for treatment of insomnia: A review. Psychopharmacology (Berlin) 1986;89(1):1-7.
2. Lindsley JG, Hartmann EL, Mitchell W. Selectivity in response to L-tryptophan among insomniac subjects: a preliminary report. Sleep 1983;6:247-56.
3. Wyatt RJ, Zarcone V, Engelman K, et al. Effects of 5-hydroxytryptophan on the sleep of normal human subjects. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol 1971;30:505-9.
4. Puttini PS, Caruso I. Primary fibromyalgia syndrome and 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan: a 90-day open study. J Int Med Res 1992;20:182-9.
5. Bruni O, Ferri R, Miano S, Verrillo E. L-5-Hydroxytryptophan treatment of sleep terrors in children. Eur J Pediatr 2004;163:402-7.
1. Guyton AC, Hall JE. Textbook of Medical Physiology, 9th ed. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 1996.
2. Schneider-Helmert D, Spinweber CL. Evaluation of L-tryptophan for treatment of insomnia: A review. Psychopharmacology (Berlin) 1986;89(1):1-7.
3. Caruso I, Sarzi Puttini P, Cazzola M, Azzolini V. Double-blind study of 5-hydroxytryptophan versus placebo in the treatment of primary fibromyalgia syndrome. J Int Med Res 1990;18:201-9.
4. Soulairac A, Lambinet H. Etudes cliniques de líaction du precurseur de la serotonine le L-5-hydroxy-tryptophane, sur les troubles du sommeil. Schweiz Bundschau Med (PRAXIS) 1998;77(34a):19-23 [in French].
L-tryptophan is the amino acid used by the body to produce serotonin, a chemical messenger important for proper brain function. Supplementation with L-tryptophan has led to improvement in depression in many studies,1, 2 but information is limited about its effect on bipolar disorder. Case reports on two bipolar patients treated with lithium or an antidepressant drug described marked improvements when they were given 12 grams daily of L-tryptophan.3, 4 Two trials using 6 grams of L-tryptophan daily for acute mania in patients with bipolar disorder found little or no improvement,5, 6 but another double-blind, controlled study using 9.6 grams daily reported better results.7
L-tryptophan is converted to 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) before it becomes serotonin in the body. In a controlled trial, 200 mg daily of supplemental 5-HTP had antidepressant effects in bipolar patients, though it was not as effective as lithium.8 In a double-blind trial, patients with bipolar disorder had greater improvement with a combination of 5-HTP at 300 mg daily plus an antidepressant drug than with 5-HTP alone.9
1. Young SN. Behavioral effects of dietary neurotransmitter precursors: basic and clinical aspects. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 1996;20:313-23 [review].
2. Riemann D, Vorderholzer U. Treatment of depression and sleep disorders. Significance of serotonin and L-tryptophan in pathophysiology and therapy. Fortschr Med 1998;116:40-2 [review].
3. Chouinard G, Jones BD, Young SN, Annable L. Potentiation of lithium by tryptophan in a patient with bipolar illness. Am J Psychiatry 1979;136:719-20.
4. Hedaya RJ. Pharmacokinetic factors in the clinical use of tryptophan. J Clin Psychopharmacol 1984;4:347-8.
5. Prange AJ, Wilson IC, Lynn CW, et al. L-tryptophan in mania: contribution to a permissive hypothesis of affective disorders. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1974;30:56-62.
6. Chambers CA, Naylor GJ. A controlled trial of L-tryptophan in mania. Br J Psychiatry 1978;132:555-9.
7. Murphy DL, Maker M, Goodwin FK, et al. L-tryptophan in affective disorders: indoleamine changes and differential clinical effects. Psychopharmacologia 1974;34:11-20.
8. van Praag HM, de Haan S. Chemoprophylaxis of depressions. An attempt to compare lithium with 5-hydroxytryptophan. Acta Psychiatr Scand Suppl 1981;290:191-201.
9. Mendlewicz J, Youdim MB. Antidepressant potentiation of 5-hydroxytryptophan by L-deprenil in affective illness. J Affect Disord 1980;2:137-46.
5-hydroxytryptophan is used by the human body to make serotonin, an important substance for normal nerve and brain function. Serotonin appears to play significant roles in sleep, emotional moods, pain control, inflammation, intestinal peristalsis, and other body functions.1
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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2017.
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