The Supplements Section
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5-HTP (5-Hydroxy-Tryptophan) Supplements
5-HTP (5-Hydroxy-Tryptophan) is derived from the seed pods of Griffonia simplicifolia, a West African plant, and is a close relative of tryptophan, an amino acid that is necessary for the production of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a key brain chemical that helps establish feelings of calm and well-being. Extensive research has linked serotonin imbalance with depression and anxiety disorders, and proven tryptophan supplementation to be an effective remedy for symptoms associated with these disorders.
Despite tryptophan's proven ability as a treatment for depression, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the retail sale of tryptophan supplements in1989 after a contaminated batch caused a serious condition known as eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS). Since then, numerous clinical studies have demonstrated that 5-HTP not only offers the same benefits as tryptophan, but is actually a more immediate precursor to serotonin than tryptophan.
One clinical trial found that 5-HTP was as effective as the antidepressant drug fluvoxamine, without side effects commonly associated with prescription antidepressant medications, such as fatigue, blurry vision, diminished sex drive, water retention, bulimia, hyperactivity, constipation, palpitations, insomnia, nausea and diarrhea.
Studies have shown that 5-HTP may also be useful for treatment of fibromyalgia treatment, obesity, and migraine headaches. It can also help stimulate the production of melatonin, a natural hormone produced in the body that promotes sleep. People with insomnia or that work irregular shifts may want to try 5-HTP supplements to help them reestablish a regular sleep-wake cycle.
5-HTP supplements are available at local health food stores and most pharmacies in powder, capsule, and extract forms. The usual dose is 300 to 400 milligrams daily. The body requires adequate amounts of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin C, folate, and magnesium to synthesize tryptophan, so be sure to get enough of these nutrients as well. Reported side effects associated with 5-HTP supplementation are rare, and limited to mild stomach upset.
5-HTP may not be appropriate for all types of depression, and has not been found to be effective for treatment of manic depressive disorders. Anyone experiencing severe symptoms of depression should consult a health care practitioner before undertaking treatment with 5-HTP or any other medication.
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