5 HTP has been making its rounds in the nootropic & biohacker community for years now. It’s popular for conditions like anxiety, depression, and insomnia for its ability to boost low serotonin levels. Additionally, due to some of serotonins effects on satiety and appetite, 5 HTP is often used as an appetite suppressant for weight loss.
This intriguing molecule has become a staple in many nootropic formulas for several reasons. Namely, its ability to eliminate the rate-limiting factor of serotonin production, and synergy with other nootropics that work to modulate neurotransmitter production.
What Is 5-HTP?
5 HTP is an amino acid produced in the body that serves as a precursor molecule for serotonin. It’s made from a common dietary amino acid known as tryptophan, which can be found in foods like soy, spinach and shellfish.
This compound is used to increase serotonin levels in the brain, which is a common method of treatment for conditions like depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Other benefits include appetite suppression and for addressing the symptoms of attention deficit disorder (ADD).
What Is Serotonin?
There are several important neurotransmitters in the brain, each with a unique role in higher cognitive function. Serotonin, as one of the main neurotransmitters in the brain, is responsible for transmitting signals between nerve cells. It’s touted to be the main neurotransmitter towards the sensation of well being and happiness which is why low serotonin levels are so closely associated with conditions like depression and anxiety.
Where Does 5 HTP Come From?
As mentioned, 5 HTP is made in the human body from other amino acids, however, it can also come from plant sources like the West African species Griffonia simplicifolia. This species of plant was traditionally used as an aphrodisiac and antibiotic remedy. It was used to treat diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach aches. More recent uses of the plant involve conditions like anxiety, depression, migraine headaches, and insomnia. Most of the supplemental 5 HTP on the market today is derived from this plant.
Another important source of 5 HTP is Mucuna pruriens. This plant has so much naturally occurring serotonin on its leaves that it causes itchiness and discomfort on contact. To no surprise, this plant also contains the amino acid precursors to serotonin, which of course includes 5 HTP. It also contains similar precursor molecules to serotonins opposing neurotransmitter, dopamine, making it useful for conditions involving widespread neurotransmitter dysfunction.
Why 5-HTP Is Added To Nootropic Formulas
5 HTP is a preferred precursor molecule for nootropics over similar molecules like tryptophan for a few reasons. For one, tryptophan has a few different pathways it can take in the body. It can be converted to niacin, or used as a structural element in proteins. If supplemental tryptophan is going through these pathways, it means that it is not getting made into serotonin, which was the initial goal of tryptophan supplementation.
5 HTP on the other hand only has one pathway that it can take, which is conversion to serotonin. Its ability to pass the blood brain barrier, and direct integration into serotonin production makes it especially useful for nootropic supplementation. This ensures that all the 5 HTP supplemented is going towards the manufacture of serotonin.