5-HTP is a compound that is believed to help increase levels of serotonin in your body. This may be beneficial for several conditions, including depression, insomnia, migraines, and more.

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid that your body naturally produces.

Your body uses it to produce serotonin, a chemical messenger that sends signals between your nerve cells (1).

Low serotonin levels are associated with depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, weight gain, and other health problems (2, 3, 4).

Therefore, increasing your body’s production of serotonin may have various benefits.

For this reason, serotonin-producing 5-HTP supplements have become increasingly popular.

Here are 5 potential health benefits of 5-HTP, based on science.

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1. Could aid weight loss by increasing feelings of fullness

5-HTP may increase feelings of fullness, causing you to eat less and lose weight.

Weight loss can increase the production of hormones that make you feel hungry. These feelings of constant hunger can make losing weight unsustainable in the long term (5, 6).

5-HTP may counteract these hunger-inducing hormones, working to suppress appetite and help you lose weight (7).

In one older study, 20 people with diabetes were randomly assigned to receive either 5-HTP or a placebo for 2 weeks. The results showed that those who received 5-HTP consumed approximately 421 fewer calories per day, compared to the placebo group (8).

What’s more, 5-HTP primarily inhibited the intake of calories from carbohydrates, which was associated with better blood sugar control (8).

Many other studies have also found that 5-HTP increased feelings of fullness and aided weight loss in people with overweight or obesity (9, 10).

Moreover, one older animal study found that 5-HTP could reduce excessive food intake due to stress (11).


5-HTP is likely effective at increasing feelings of fullness, which may help you eat less and lose weight.

2. May help with depression by increasing serotonin levels

While the exact cause of depression is largely unknown, some researchers believe that a serotonin imbalance may influence your mood in a way that leads to depression (2).

However, keep in mind that other studies have turned up conflicting findings on the relationship between low serotonin levels and depression (12).

Still, 5-HTP supplements are thought to treat depression by increasing serotonin levels.

For instance, one study in 15 females found that combining 5-HTP with creatine improved symptoms of depression after 8 weeks (13).

Another small study in people with Parkinson’s disease concluded that 5-HTP could help improve symptoms of depression compared to a placebo (14).

However, much of the research suggests that the potential antidepressive effects of 5-HTP are stronger when combined with other substances or antidepressant medications, compared to when they are used alone (13, 15).

Furthermore, according to a recent meta-analysis, there is limited evidence to support the use of 5-HTP for the treatment of depression and more high quality, placebo-controlled studies are needed (16).


5-HTP supplements increase serotonin levels in your body, which could improve symptoms of depression, especially when used in combination with other antidepressant substances or medications. Nonetheless, more research is needed.

3. Could improve symptoms of fibromyalgia

Supplementing with 5-HTP may improve symptoms of fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by muscle and joint pain, as well as extreme tiredness and brain fog, also known as “fibro fog” (17).

There is currently no known cause of fibromyalgia, but low serotonin levels have been associated with the condition (17).

This has led researchers to believe that increasing serotonin levels may benefit people with fibromyalgia (18).

Indeed, early evidence suggests that 5-HTP may improve symptoms of fibromyalgia, including muscle pain, sleep problems, anxiety, and fatigue (19, 20, 21).

However, not enough research has been conducted to draw any clear conclusions about the effectiveness of 5-HTP at improving fibromyalgia symptoms.


5-HTP can boost serotonin levels in your body, which may help relieve some symptoms of fibromyalgia. Nonetheless, more research is needed.

4. Could help reduce migraine frequency

5-HTP is said to help with migraines, which are throbbing headaches that are often accompanied by nausea or disturbed vision.

While their exact cause is debated, some researchers believe that low serotonin levels may play a role (22).

One older study in 124 people compared the ability of 5-HTP and methysergide, a common migraine medication, to prevent migraines (23).

It found that supplementing with 5-HTP daily for 6 months prevented or significantly decreased the number of migraine attacks in 71% of participants (23).

However, there is limited recent research available on the effects of 5-HTP on migraines.


5-HTP may help you have fewer migraines by increasing your serotonin levels. However, research is limited and more high quality, recent studies are needed.

5. May promote sleep by increasing melatonin production

5-HTP produces serotonin, which can be converted into the hormone melatonin.

Melatonin plays an important role in regulating sleep. Its levels begin to rise in the evening to promote sleep and fall in the morning to help wake you up (24).

Therefore, supplementing with 5-HTP may promote sleep by increasing melatonin production in your body.

One 2010 study showed that a combination of 5-HTP and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) significantly reduced the time it took to fall asleep, increased sleep duration, and improved sleep quality (25).

GABA is a chemical messenger that promotes relaxation. Combining it with 5-HTP likely has a synergistic effect (25).

In fact, several animal studies suggest that 5-HTP improves sleep quality and that the effect is greater when combined with GABA (26, 27).

While these results are promising, the lack of human-based studies makes it difficult to recommend 5-HTP for improving sleep quality, especially when it is used in isolation.


5-HTP may promote sleep by increasing melatonin production, an important sleep-regulating hormone.

Possible side effects of 5-HTP

Some people may experience nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain when taking 5-HTP supplements. These side effects are dose-dependent, meaning they get worse when increasing your dose (23).

According to one older review, it’s recommended to start with a dose of 50 milligrams (mg) three times per day with meals. This can be increased up to 100 mg three times per day if needed (28).

For insomnia, starting with a dose of 50 mg and gradually increasing to 100–300 mg per day before bedtime may help minimize side effects (28).

Note that some other medications increase serotonin production. Combining these medications with 5-HTP may cause dangerous serotonin levels in your body. This is called serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition (29).

Medications that may increase your body’s serotonin levels include certain antidepressants, cough medicines, or prescription pain relievers.

Since 5-HTP may also promote sleep, taking it with prescription sedative medications, such as Klonopin, Ativan, or Ambien, may cause too much sleepiness.

Due to the potential for negative interactions with other medications, consult a doctor or pharmacist before taking 5-HTP supplements.


Some people may experience side effects when taking 5-HTP supplements. Talk to a doctor before supplementing with 5-HTP to ensure it’s safe for you.

Dosage and supplement instructions

As a supplement, 5-HTP comes from the seeds of an African shrub known as Griffonia simplicifolia (1).

These supplements are not the same as L-tryptophan supplements, which may also increase serotonin levels.

L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid found in protein-rich foods, such as dairy products, poultry, meat, chickpeas, and soybeans (30).

On the other hand, 5-HTP is present in certain foods, but only in very small amounts (1, 31).

There are no official recommendations on how much 5-HTP you should take. While more high quality, recent research is needed, these are the doses used in various studies (8, 13, 19, 23, 28):

  • Weight management: 250–300 mg, 30 minutes prior to each meal, or 750 mg per day
  • Mood enhancement: 100 mg, twice daily
  • Fibromyalgia symptom relief: 100 mg, 3–4 times per day with meals for at least 2 weeks
  • Migraines: 600 mg per day for at least 6 months
  • Sleep aid: 100–300 mg before bedtime

How much 5-HTP you should take depends on your reason for using it. However, more research is needed to determine more specific dosage recommendations.

The bottom line

Your body converts 5-HTP into serotonin, a substance that regulates appetite, pain sensations, and sleep.

Supplementing with it may help boost your serotonin levels.

Higher serotonin levels may provide many benefits, such as promoting weight loss, improving the symptoms of depression and fibromyalgia, decreasing the frequency of migraine attacks, and helping you sleep better.

Minor side effects have been linked to 5-HTP, but they can be minimized by starting with smaller doses and increasing the dosage gradually.

Given that 5-HTP may negatively interact with several medications, talk to a doctor to ensure it’s safe for you to use.