5-HTP (5-Hydroxy-tryptophan) is decarboxylated to the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-HT) by the enzyme aromatic-L-amino-acid decarboxylase.
5-HTP and L-tryptophan are both important in the synthesis of serotonin. 5-HTP, as a therapeutic supplement, has an advantage over L-tryptophan in that it can cross the blood brain barrier easily.
Some studies related to 5-HTP have been completed which indicate positive potential for 5-HTP in the treatment of depression and possibly anxiety, panic disorder, sleep disorders and weight-control. As a result of these studies, there exists reasonable indication that 5-HTP may not be effective for those who have not already responded well to an SSRI. Additionally, one open study suggests that those experiencing anxious depressive syndrome may see more optimal results from 5-HTP.
Unfortunately, the studies to date are incomplete even if promising for the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Reviews of these studies do indicate potential still remains for 5-HTP in the treatment of depression, though further trials are stressed as necessary before arriving at any firm conclusion. Some caution and diligence should be exhibited regarding 5-HTP barring further study and review.
In recent years 5-HTP has been sold by health food companies as an alternative treatment for depression and mood disorders. Its role as an intermediary in the biosynthesis of serotonin indicates that this chemical may indeed be effective in treating these and other serotonin-related disorders, but there is some debate on the conclusions of the clinical trials which have been carried out using the drug.
5-HTP has also been used as a supplement by users of Ecstasy to help replenish depleted serotonin, thus alleviating the depression and overall mental unsettlement in the days following MDMA usage. MDMA and 5-HTP information and advice
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- Angst J, Woggon B, Schoepf J 1977 Oct "The treatment of depression with L-5-hydroxytryptophan versus imipramine. Results of two open and one double-blind study." Arch Psychiatr Nervenkr. 224(2), 175-86