5HTP Overview

5-HTP (5 hydroxy-tryptophan) is a derivative of the amino acid, tryptophan.

5-HTP is also a precursor to serotonin.

A precursor is a substance from which another substance is formed. As 5-HTP sits between tryptophan and serotonin it is known as an intermediate metabolite.

The molecules of 5-HTP are very small and are able to pass from the bloodstream into the brain.

Here they are converted into the neurotransmitter serotonin.

The unabbreviated form of 5-HTP is 5 hydroxy-tryptophan.

5-HTP may also be referred to as:

  • 5-hydroxy L-tryptophan
  • 5-L-Hydroxytryptophan
  • L-5 HTP
  • L-5 hydroxytryptophan
  • Oxitriptan

5-HTP Structural Formula

The structural formula of 5-HTP ( 5 hydroxy-tryptophan) is: C11 H12 N2 O3


5-HTP and Serotonin

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a chemical which transfers messages between neurons (nerve cells) in the brain.

Serotonin regulates various functions including:

  • memory
  • mood
  • sexual behavior
  • sleep

As 5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin, increased levels of 5-HTP are linked to a subsequent rise in serotonin levels.

Low levels of serotonin are associated with:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • insomnia
  • migraines

By raising serotonin levels using a 5-HTP supplement, the negative effects of low serotonin levels can be avoided. Hence, 5-HTP is generally seen as a mood enhancing chemical.

Where is 5-HTP found?

5-HTP is a naturally occurring substance. However, dietary sources of 5-HTP are limited.

As 5-HTP is a derivative of the amino acid l-tryptophan. 5-HTP can be indirectly taken from foods containing l-tryptophan.

Dietary food sources of 5-HTP (through tryptophan) include:

  • poultry - turkey is a significant source
  • red meat
  • dairy products - cheese is a good source of tryptophan
  • peanuts
  • seafood

Griffonia Simplicifolia

The seeds of griffonia simplicifolia, a climbing shrub native to Central and West Africa, is a natural source which contain high levels of 5-HTP.

5-HTP supplements are normally derived from the seeds of griffonia simplicifolia.