Despite the fact that over 147 million anti-depressant prescriptions were written by US doctors in 2004 alone, many people opt out. Whether a matter of tolerance, side-effects, or a simple dislike of ‘medicating’ with pharmaceuticals, many individuals suffering with depression are choosing natural supplementation over pharmaceutical medication. One such popular supplement is 5-HTP.
Derived from the seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia, a shrub which is native to West and Central Africa,5-HTP, or 5-Hydroxytryptophan, is a naturally-occurring amino acid, and a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Given its chemical composition, 5-HTP has been shown to increase serotonin levels, the deficit of which is believed to be the leading cause of depression.
Many clinical trials have supported the long-time belief that 5-HTP does, in fact, ease symptoms of depression. The first large-scale clinical trial, conducted in 1972, found that daily oral doses ranging from 50 to 300 mg resulted in significant improvement in 69 percent of study participants. The effects of treatment began to manifest within 2 weeks, and the side effects reported were minimal.
Several other trials have supported this inaugural study. One trial, designed to test the speed of onset when compared to standard antidepressant treatments found that, of the 59 patients with eight different types of depression, 32 patients showed significant improvement within 2 weeks. Standard anti-depressants typically take 4 or more weeks before effects are noted. In this study, 5-HTP was administered in dosages from 150 to 300 mg daily for 3 weeks. Another, similar study found that, after a 2 week treatment of 24 patients hospitalized for depression, 7 showed a marked improvement in symptoms. In addition, the researchers noted a 30 percent increase in 5-HTP levels, leading them to believe that supplementation with 5-HTP was, in fact, effective in raising serotonin levels.
In a 1991, double-blind, multi-center study, conducted to compare the effects of 5-HTP treatment with those of standard SSRI treatments, researchers found that up to week 6 of treatment, patients reported a nearly equivocal efficacy response with a 50 percent improvement. At the end of the study, however, researchers found that the percentage was slightly greater for patients treated with 5-HTP. Apparently, 5-HTP was better tolerated and carried fewer side effects, than the anti-depressant Fluvoxamine.
In the end, I think we can safely assume that 5-HTP is a viable option for those suffering from depression. An added benefit: 5-HTP has also been shown to be an effective treatment for diabetes,migraines headaches, fibromyalgia, insomnia (therefore it can be found in many sleep aids, for instance- melatrol), and weight issues.
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4. Zmilacher K, et al. L-5-hydroxytryptophan alone and in combination with a peripheral decarboxylase inhibitor in the treatment of depression. Neuropsychobiology 1988;20:28-35.
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6. Byerley W, et al. 5-hydroxytryptophan: a review of its antidepressant efficacy and adverse effects. J Clin Psychopharmacol 1987;7:127.
Post by Danielle Grilli: Content Director, rVita.com
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