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Depression is one of the most frequent complaints heard by medical professionals - witness the emergence of the so- called Prozac nation. It's right up there with obesity and insomnia.
5-HTP is derived from an African plant, can help alleviate not only depression, obesity and insomnia, but a long list of other complaints as well. Studies suggest that it may have a place in reducing the risk of heart disease.
What It Is:
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is an amino acid that's a metabolite of I-tryptophan. It works as a precursor to serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HTP, an important neurotransmitter in the brain that regulates many functions related to mood, movement, behavior, sleep and appetite. Deficiencies of serotonin may manifest in a number of disturbing symptoms, including aggression, addictive behavior, headaches, pain and depression. 5-HTP has been shown to elevate the serotonin levels of the brain without the side effects associated with drugs.
Where it comes From:
Natural 5-HTP comes from the seed of a legume grown in Mrica, notably in Ghana and surrounding areas of the Ivory Coast. The legume, Griffonia simplicifolia, grows on a tall, bushy vine with pods. Each pod has three seeds and it's the seed that's used to extract 5-HTP. It may be found in tiny amounts in some animal products, but so far, Griffonia is the only known plant source. Synthetic versions of 5-HTP are on the market -- the molecular structure is identical and the biological effects are said to be the same.
How It Works:
After oral consumption, 5-HTP passes through the blood brain barrier into the brain, where it loses a carbon dioxide molecule and gets converted into serotonin. 5-HTP appears to increase dopamine, melatonin, noradrenalin and beta endorphin, brain neurotransmitters and hormones that have an impact on various functions, including learning, recall, mood and sleep. Prozac and other types of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibiting (SSRI) drugs work by increasing the availability of serotonin in the synapses. 5-HTP works by increasing the actual amount of serotonin in the brain.
Serotonin is synthesized in a two-step process that starts with I-tryptophan from dietary sources such as turkey. L-tryptophan is taken up into a cell and converted to 5-HTP, which is then converted to serotonin. L-tryptophan supplements have a history of effective use in the management of various disorders, including depression, anxiety and insomnia.
The manufacture and sale of l-tryptophan has been prohibited in the United States since the late 1980s, when a contaminated batch of I-tryptophan from a Japanese company was linked to a serious condition known as eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS). Even though no adverse effects have been linked to other, uncontaminated batches of I-tryptophan, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not lifted the prohibition. The ban doesn't apply to 5-HTP, which may be even more effective than l-tryptophan.
Why The Body Needs It:
Since 5-HTP isn't found in food, we don't get it in our diets, so it wouldn't be called an essential nutrient. It does have therapeutic applications. It's similar to melatonm, in that we have naturally occurring levels of 5-HTP but the body only produces so much to a certain age. After that time, production and levels of 5-HTP drop off and the body isn't producing it on a regular basis. We do get I-tryptophan in a normal diet and I-tryptophan converts to 5-HTP in the brain.
What It's Good For:
As the precursor to serotonin, 5-HTP has multiple applications. It's most frequently used for insomnia, appetite control and mood enhancement but it has other applications. In the central nervous system (CNS), serotonin plays a role in sleep, appetite, memory, learning, mood, sexual behavior and other functions. Low levels of serotonin are associated with a number of syndromes, including depression, aggression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, addictions, chronic pain, social phobias, premenstrual syndrome, migraines, attention deficit disorder and schizophrenia. By enhancing the supply of serotonin, 5-HTP may work to treat these and other disorders.
What Do Studies Show:
A number of studies have pointed out the efficacy of 5-HTP. Some highlights:
Depression. Trials of patients with moderate to severe depression treated with 5-HTP showed a marked amelioration of depressive symptoms. Compared with antidepressant drugs, 5-HTP is s effective in treating severe depression with fewer side effects.
Anxiety. 5-HTP has been known to reduce anxiety significantly and to treat the symptoms of panic disorder.
Insomnia. Studies have shown that 5-HTP had effects on sleep similar to I-tryptophan, and helped to enhance the quality of sleep. Serotonin appears to affect sleep via its effect on melatonin, the hormone that helps to determine the sleep-wake cycle. 5-HTP may enhance sleep by boosting the production of melatonin.
Weight control. Reduced serotonin levels are associated with food cravings, increased appetite and weight gain. In some clinical trials, obese patients who took 5-HTP lost a significant amount of weight, had a lower intake of carbohydrates and experienced reduced appetite.
Headaches. Drugs typically used to treat migraine headaches work by blocking serotonin receptors in the brain. 5-HTP has been shown to reduce the intensity and duration of headaches. Some studies have suggested that 5-HTP may even prevent migraines.
Heart disease. Some preliminary studies are exploring the link between serotonin levels, depression and heart disease. People who have a history of depressive episodes are four times more likely to have a heart attack than people with no history of serious depression. Additionally, anxiety may increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and excessive stress may increase the likelihood of blood clots. By regulating serotonin levels and alleviating anxiety, stress and depression, 5-HTP may play a role in reducing the risk of heart disease.
How Safe Is It:
5-HTP has been used in large scale clinical trials with no ill effects. Some people may experience mild nausea or feelings of pressure in the abdomen, probably because 5-HTP stimulates the release of histamines in the stomach. These effects are usually transitory and occur only at high doses of 500 mg or more. 5-HTP should not be taken with SSRI drugs like Prozac, Paxil or Zoloft or with other drugs used to treat depression (MAO inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants like Elavil).
While 5-HTP is considered extremely safe, it has been the subject of some controversy because of its link to l-tryptophan - an unfounded fear, according to manufacturers and suppliers. A peak identified during HPLC tests, subsequently named Peak X bears no resemblance to ethylidenebis - l-L-tryptophan, the contaminant in the I-tryptophan event, according to Sid Shastri, CCN, director of product development at Jarrow Formulas, Inc. in Los Angeles. According to a group of researchers at the Mayo Clinic in a letter printed in Nature Medicine (Sept. 1, 1998), they isolated Peak X and identified it as a compound called 6-hydroxy-l ,2,3,4, 4a,9a-hexahydro-beta-carboline-3carboxylic acid - not the same substance that accounted for the contamination in I-I-tryptophan. Further, ethylidenebis- l-l-tryptophan is a product of microbial fermentation. "5HTP is a product of seed extraction," Shastri said. "It's highly unlikely you'll find a genetically engineered bacteria's product inside
What's the Recommended Dosage?
The typical dose is 50 to 100 mg. per day, based on extrapolations from research. The dosage used in studies ranges from 100 mg to 300 mg., three times per day.
Pregnant or lactating women, people under 18 or anyone taking any kind of anti-depressant medication, including tricyclic anti-depressants, MAO inhibitors and SSRI drugs, should not use 5-HTP.
5-HTP Power works best if taken 3 or more hours after your last protein containing meal or snack. Washing it down with fruit juice gives it a boost. This means one hour before the NEXT meal
Natural Serotonin with 5-HTP
By Morton Walker, D.P.M.
For those suffering from insomnia, alcoholism, premenstrual syndrome, obesity, eating disorders such as bulimia, a new nutraceutica! may offer help.
5-HTP identified by science as 5-hydroxytryptophan, has been found to help with mind based difficulties. Created naturally by one's physiology, 5-HTP derives from protein foods such as meat, fish, dairy products, and certain legumes containing the essential amino acid tryptophan. 5-HTP is utilized by the body to build serotonin for use by the brain, digestive system, blood cells and some other tissues.
Since 1994 5-HTP has been provided in bulk to the American health food industry as a nutritional supplement by three European pharmaceutical companies. It's made from pea size Griffonia simplicifolia grown by a shrub-like tree found in the African countries of Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
The calming, characteristics of these seeds were discovered by the pharmaceutical companies’ researchers who were looking for anti-anxiety alternatives to Valium and Librium. 5-HTP is manufactured synthetically but more expensively in the laboratory.
Any health condition connected with the presence of a reduced serotonin level in the brain will benefit from the ingestion of 5-HTP. Uncovered during the medical research conducted for Prozac, the product has found applications for a variety of medical and psychiatric problems which include overweight and obesity, depression, anxiety disorders, insomnia, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, migraine headaches and others.
As a precursor for serotonin, the medical director of the Psychiatric University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland, Walter Poldinger, MD., says: "When faced with a deficiency of serotonin in the brain, interfering with the inactivation process is perhaps not quite so obvious a solution as direct substitution of what is lacking. If a substitution therapy such as taking serotonin itself is not feasible, why not take the closest precursor crossing the blood-brain barrier and let the brain itself do the finishing step?"
As pointed out by Dr. Poldinger, such is the concept upon which 5-HTP usage in undertaken. It easily crosses the blood-brain barrier. As a result, this product is being applied as partial treatment for Parkinson's disease, myoclonus (twitching), depression, Alzheimer's disease, anxiety disorders, autism, dementia, drug addiction, alcoholism and pain.
Differences Between Tryptophan and 5-HTP
In 1989, tryptophan was removed from the over-the-counter market by the FDA because of a manufacturing contaminant problem. Since its advent, 5-HTP has taken its place. Tryptophan is now available only through compounding phannacies and only on prescription at about 20 times the health foods store price.
It happens that the introduced 5-HTP products are five to ten times more potent than is tryptophan as a sleep inducer. The actions of both nutrients are similar but 50 mg of 5-HIP produces the same anti-insomnia effect as does 500 mg of tryptophan.
Tryptophan and 5-HTP differ in other ways as well. Tryptophan is less absorbed from the intestines than is 5HTP and much of its absorption gets metabolized by liver enzymes. 5-HTP crosses into the blood stream more readily through the gastrointestinal mucosa.
5-HTP easily moves through the blood brain barrier because it's unbound to any carrier protein such as albumin. In a double-blind comparative study of the two nutrients, tryptophan was not as effective an antidepressant as was 5-HTP because of its easier blood brain barrier transfer.
Tryptophan is known to stimulate a mild growth hormone response with some increase in its concentration. In contrast, 5-HTP produces a more dramatic growth honnone response in depressed children. This information was learned from a 1992 clinical study.
In a 1997 clinical study, 5-HTP was shown to cause an increase in luteinizing honnone for women going through the first part of their menstrual cycle. This product may cause a woman to arrive at the ovulation stage more quickly.
NSP 5-HTP Power is a blend of three adaptogenic herbs: eleuthero, ashwaganda and suma along with 5HTP to help the body adjust to changes. It contains vitamin B-6 and zinc which support the act of 5-HTP. Each capsule contains 35 mg of 5-HTP.
5-HTP Power (60 caps)