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Does 5-HTP Help With Anxiety?

Does 5 HTP Help With Anxiety

L-5 Hydroxytryptophan (or 5-HTP for short) is an amino acid that your body uses to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin.

Serotonin impacts every part of your body – from mood to motor skills – so maintaining healthy levels of 5-HTP is linked to mental and physical health.

However, there is still a lot of uncertainty over serotonin’s effects, and does 5 HTP help with anxiety? So, we wrote this article to help clear up some misconceptions.

5-HTP is created by our bodies using tryptophan – an amino acid found in foods such as eggs, seeds, salmon and turkey – and its main role is to produce serotonin.

While this may not sound like much, it’s hard to overstate the benefits of serotonin, as this neurotransmitter helps regulate everything from your anxiety levels to bowel movements.

Low serotonin levels have been associated with anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and various other health problems, so increasing your serotonin levels with 5-HTP could have many health benefits.

Because we cannot get 5-HTP from our diet (only its precursor, tryptophan), you should consider supplements if you’re considering taking 5-HTP for anxiety or any other ailment.

Does 5-HTP Help With Anxiety?

5-HTP is commonly used as an alternative treatment for anxiety instead of (or in addition to) conventional medication and treatment, but how effective is it?

Because 5-HTP increases serotonin levels in the brain – where it helps regulate mood and anxiety – it is widely believed to help relieve anxiety.

Multiple studies and clinical trials show that 5-HTP has anti-anxiety effects, although it’s unclear if these effects are comparable to conventional anti-anxiety medication.

In one double-blind study, over 50% of people with generalized anxiety reported a significant improvement in baseline anxiety when taking 5 HTP for anxiety.

Benefits of 5-HTP

Benifit of 5 HTP

As 5-HTP directly increases your serotonin levels, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that the benefits of 5-HTP are the same as the benefits of serotonin.

As a neurotransmitter, serotonin sends signals between nerve cells throughout the body, regulating various biological functions, so increasing your levels with 5-HTP has lots of benefits, including:

Aiding Weight Loss


Serotonin may help to counteract hunger-inducing hormones that make it more difficult to lose weight, suppressing your appetite and supporting weight loss.

Moreover, some studies show that 5-HTP may reduce excessive food intake due to stress or depression (or ‘stress eating’), so taking 5-HTP for anxiety may also help you lose weight.

Helping with Depression

Helping with Depression

While the biological cause of depression is largely unknown, one explanation is that a serotonin imbalance or deficiency can adversely affect your mood.

Therefore, taking 5-HTP supplements to increase and/or stabilise your serotonin levels could help treat depression, especially when combined with antidepressant medication.

Improving Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Improving Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by chronic pain and fatigue has no known cause, though low serotonin levels are suspected to be a contributing factor.

Early research indicates that increasing serotonin by taking 5 HTP supplements may improve fatigue, muscle pain, and anxiety symptoms, so taking 5 HTP for anxiety may also alleviate fibromyalgia symptoms.

Reducing Migraines

Reducing Migraines

Migraines – throbbing headaches that often cause nausea or disturbed vision – are a common but poorly understood neurological disease, as they affect roughly 12% of people but their exact cause is still debated.

Multiple studies found that daily 5-HTP supplements can prevent or reduce migraine attacks by as much as 70%, making them a potential treatment for people with migraines.

Promoting Restful Sleep

Promoting Restful Sleep

5-HTP produces serotonin which can then be converted into melatonin which helps regulate sleep, meaning that 5-HTP supplements may increase the length and quality of your sleep.

Improving your quality of sleep has a wide variety of health benefits, such as improving your mental health, so taking 5 HTP for anxiety could also help you achieve restful sleep.

How Long Does 5-HTP Take to Work for Anxiety?

As 5-HTP has very few noticeable effects (except for increasing the production of serotonin), it can be difficult to pinpoint how long it takes to see its benefits.

Depending on the dose and how frequently you take supplements, it may be some time before you see the benefits of 5 HTP for anxiety.

As with any supplement, various factors (such as how much and how often you dose up) can affect the bioavailability of 5-HTP, though taking it with or before a meal can improve absorption.

Even in clinical trial conditions, it seems that the mental benefits of 5-HTP can take weeks to show up, so these supplements seem much better suited to long-term health than quick fixes.

RELATED: Read our article on Top Rated Stress Relief Supplements

5-HTP Dosage for Anxiety and Depression

Because 5-HTP cannot be absorbed through your diet, a supplement is the only way to increase your 5-HTP (and, by extension your serotonin) levels.

However, there is a lot of confusion over the recommended dosage, since government bodies like the NiH don’t issue guidance on dietary supplements.

Fortunately, we can advise on the recommended doses of 5 HTP for anxiety, weight management, and more based on existing studies for these health issues, so here are some guidelines:

  • Weight Loss: 250-300mg, 30 minutes before a meal
  • Mood Improvement: 50-100mg, 3 times a day with meals
  • Fibromyalgia Relief: 100mg, 3-4 times a day with meals
  • Migraines: 100-200mg, 2-3 times a day with meals
  • Sleep: 100-300mg, 30-45 minutes before bed

However, it may take several weeks to notice the benefits of supplementing with

How Long Does 5-HTP Last in Your System?

Because 5-HTP is an amino acid present in all healthy people, it technically lasts forever in your system, whether you regularly take 5 HTP for anxiety or have never touched the stuff.

However, the 5-HTP you absorb from external sources may not last very long at all before it is used in the production of serotonin or purged from your body.

While taking 5-HTP supplements will undoubtedly increase the levels in your body, amino acids cannot be stored for long periods, so any 5-HTP that isn’t used in serotonin production will be purged within days if not hours.

This is why most supplements recommend that you take smaller doses more frequently to keep your 5-HTP levels topped up since 5-HTP does not last long in your system at all.

Are There Any 5-HTP Side Effects?

5-HTP Side Effects

Although side effects are rare, some people may experience nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pain when taking 5-HTP supplements, far from ideal if you’re taking 5-HTP for anxiety.

Fortunately, these side effects are dose-dependent, so you can avoid them by sticking to smaller doses (50-100mg twice daily) before working yourself up to higher doses.

However, high doses of 5-HTP are potentially harmful as they can raise your serotonin to dangerously high levels, putting you at risk of serotonin syndrome or serotonin toxicity.

Furthermore, taking 5-HTP with other medications, like antidepressants or sleep meds can cause potentially dangerous drug interactions, so you should consult a doctor before taking 5-HTP with other medicines.

RELATED: Read our article on What Vitamins Help with Brain Fog?

How To Find the Best 5-HTP Supplements for Anxiety

While lots of brands will happily sell you 5 HTP for anxiety, not all supplement manufacturers are created equal, so here are some tips to help you find the best 5-HTP supplements on the market.

For starters, always choose a trusted supplier (such as a local pharmacy or chain store), and check the label to ensure the supplements have plenty of active ingredients.

Secondly, you should look for Good Manufacturing Practice guarantees and third-party certification from organizations like NSF International, and U.S. Pharmacopeia.

With these criteria, you should be able to find safe and effective supplements in no time.


Stress and anxiety are mainly affected by lifestyle factors (such as a stressful job, etc.), though many supplements can relieve symptoms and even tackle the root causes.

However, it’s important to remember that taking 5 HTP for anxiety can never replace conventional medicine and therapy, so we urge you to seek medical attention if your stress is becoming too much to manage.

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Written and Researched by

SupplementsYouCanTrust is made up of passionate health writers dedicated to providing reliable information on supplements and vitamins. With backgrounds in nutrition, medicine, and research, our team brings a diverse range of perspectives and expertise to the table.
Dr Wasim Khan

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Wasim Khan’s areas of expertise lie in understanding the role of dietary supplements and vitamins in healthcare. His in-depth knowledge allows him to provide comprehensive advice and help you make informed decisions about your nutritional intake and supplement usage.

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