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Avatar universal

5-HTP Question

I've been visiting a doctor who specializes in alternative medicine for my depression and anxiety symptoms  and he prescribed me 5-HTP, some type of antidepressant or mood controller based on natural ingredients.
How effective are natural antidepressants compared to  the chemical synthetic based ones?
9 Responses
Avatar universal
As someone who has been on the D trail for decades I understand the temptaion of supposed alternative treatments.

Could I ask you why they are called "alternative"? Have you thought about that?

The answer is quite simple if you look at it logically. If the substance you refer to or any other natural substabce was succesful or better than andt d's do you really think anyone would take prescribed meds?

Answer? NO.

Summary. No, of course it doesn't work anywhere near as effectively as prescription drugs. It's people flogging substabces because they are not qualified to sell the real meds, anti d's. Can you not see that?

You are asking us for assurance or otherwise and I note the absence of response so far. You are wasting your time, hope and money in my opinion. Go see a real doctor. I note you say you are seeing a doctor who specialises(???) in alternatives.

Sorry but that is not a real doctor at all. He knows better but chooses to flog this stuff to people. Why? Because it's cheap.

I may appear a touch cynical about these treatments. Just a touch.
Avatar universal
I guess I'm curious why you're adverse to taking an FDA approved medication. What makes Alternative Medications seem OK or safer to you?  

Does 5HTP work? In some people, absolutely.
What makes 5HTP different than Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro or one of the millions of other anti depressants on the market? FDA Approval.  
5HTP was originally marketed as L-Tryptophan. It worked for many people. It was a perscription drug. In 1990 the FDA banned all Tryptophan containing products from the market after an outbreak of a blood disease EMS. Tryptophan contained impurities that made it unsafe for consumption.
It has been remarketed and sold as 5-HTP as a supplement in order to get around the FDA ban. It still will work for the same people that L-Tryptophan worked for. It is sold as an herbal supplement or "natural alternative" only because it cannot gain FDA approval. It is no more natural than any other antidepressant. It still contains the impurities. It still could make some people sick.  

It might work for you. You could always try it.
I wouldn't fool myself into thinking it's "safer" or "more natural" though.
It's a perscription medication that worked for many people and was rejected for making people sick. If it doesn't work, don't feel bad about seeing a Dr that can prescribe something FDA approved. There are some wonderful medications out there.
Avatar universal
Thanks, guys.

You're right. 5-HTP does not have any approval of the FDA. However it is not a cheap medicine, at least in my country.
I've been prescribred Amitriptyline for my symptoms by my regular doctor, and it seems to be working well. However, the side effects of Amitriptyline are too scary. One of them is that it can make the symptoms worse.
That's the reason I was looking for alternatives.
I can understand your skepticism about the doctor who specializes in alternative medicine, but if you have health care that ***** like the one in my country, he is the one that most likely can diagnose your illness, instead of constantly prescribring Paracetamol for all your symptoms. Though my regular doctor is better than that, yet he goes not far in further researching the cause.
*Sigh* I remember the times, when the doctor rushed you to the laboratory for even a fever. Thanks to my government, health care ***** big time.
Avatar universal

You say this stuff works for "some people". So who are these "some people"? Do you have evidence of this or is it like a lot of other stuff about depression, rumour and hope.

I have never seen it stated anywhere that even "some people" have got better results than normal, approved A/D's with this drug.

You say what you are taking has scary side effects. Did Becky not list a rather scary side effect of this drug you are talking about yourself?

Can you really be serious about risking your body with that stuff?

Your choice clearly but why would you want to do that? I don't get it.
Avatar universal
I never stated in this topic that this stuff works for some people. And yes, I don't have any evidence of that.

I can remember however talking to someone who has quite some knowledge about supplements and she told me she had her doubts about one of the ingredients of 5-HTP

Anyhow, I'd like to learn more about antidepressants, which are the best ones. I'm seriously considering switching, because Amitriptyline has too many side effects. Amitriptyline is made in The Netherlands, by Centrafarm.
Avatar universal
Hey all,

I would like to offer an alternative opinion about the alternative medicines, L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan).

whodunnit said: "of course it doesn't work anywhere near as effectively as prescription drugs. It's people flogging substabces because they are not qualified to sell the real meds, anti d's. Can you not see that? "

This is quite untrue in the case of (hopefully the majority, I don't know the stats on bad vs good suppliers) vendors who provide pure 5-HTP or L-Tryptophan with a genuine interest in their customers well being, and providing a product which is as stated.

When you understand what Tryptophan actually is, the idea of it being a fake med - which presumably must be the inverse of a "real med", is really not the case.

L-Tryptophan is one of the essential amino acids - this is something we cannot produce in the human body, but require in order to live balanced healthy lives. Serotonin and Melatonin, two vital compounds in human brain function, are produced in the body as a result of the metabolism processing L-Tryptophan.

5-HTP is not Tryptophan re-branded. 5-HTP is the result of metabolism of L-Tryptophan.

When it was banned by the FDA, this was the same week that promotion of Prozac began in full swing.


To quote Alexander Shulgin:

- Start of quotation -

"Then, an incident occurred in 1989, at the Showa Denko company in Japan, where a change in the manufacturing procedure produced an impure product. The impurity led directly to a health problem, a condition with a flu-like syndrome called Eosinophilia-Myalgia Syndrome (EMS) which cause some 1500 incidents in the United States, including 38 deaths. The FDA quite rightly removed tryptophan from the market on the 17th of November, 1989 and banned its distribution. The source of the health problem was quite quickly identified, and the production operation was changed back to the original process, and the tryptophan product was again available free of any toxic impurity. This freedom from any impurity was acknowledged by the FDA, but they transferred the toxic aspect of the substance from the impurity contained within it (now no longer present) to the substance itself. The implied declaration was that tryptophan was intrinsically toxic.

The sale of tryptophan as dietary supplements for man is now illegal. Dietary supplements to animal stock feed is OK. Tryptophan is available to hospitals for use in critical situations. Tryptophan is available as a prescription drug. But it is not available in the health food stores and so cannot be explored by the lay researcher. The world of inquiring into the action on normals, schizophrenics, alcoholics, people who are overweight, people who are depressed, is denied both to the private individual and to the clinical researcher. There are commercially available drugs, all approved, that can play the same role. Within four days of the announced ban of tryptophan (after the problem had been resolved and corrected) a broad promotion of Prozac (an antidepressant similar in action to Tryptophan) appeared in Newsweek (March 26, 1990). Prozac is still widely promoted. Tryptophan is still not available to the private individual. Both can play the role of being an effective sedative.

A quotation from the FDA Dietary Supplement Task Force Report, page 2, June 15, 1993, deserves careful reading.

"The [FDA] Task Force considered various issues in its deliberations, including ... what steps are necessary to ensure that the existence of dietary supplements on the market does not act as a disincentive for drug development."
What are dietary supplements? How might they get in the way of pharmaceutical industry creations? Where is the line to be drawn between nature and big business? What plants are there that might serve as health adjuncts? I truly think that we are being had by the powers that be, who are authorized to control our access to medicines. Today we cannot eat ABC because it contains an outlawed drug. Tomorrow we cannot eat DEF because it is suspected of containing an outlawed drug. The day after tomorrow, we cannot eat GHI because it has not been shown to be free of outlawed drugs. And yet, everything in the drug store had its origins somewhere in a botanist's observation or in a chemist's mistake. Where does this oppression stop? When do we say, hold, enough?"

- End of quotation -

The situation is further outlined here:


- Start of quotation -

Just days after the FDA banned tryptophan, the cover of Newsweek announced the arrival of Prozac, a “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor” which became the blockbuster drug of the 90s. Unlike tryptophan, which raised serotonin levels by making more serotonin, Prozac raised serotonin levels by inhibiting the reuptake (recycling) of serotonin. Fortunately for Eli Lilly & Co, tryptophan’s unavailability had created a serotonin vacuum that Prozac could fill. And fill it it did. Prozac’s popularity and profitability were wildly spectacular.

Although Prozac was successful at raising serotonin levels and relieving many of the symptoms of serotonin deficiency, it had a dark side. Reports of suicides, bizarre personality changes and anti-sexual side effects began to emerge. So did reports of Prozac resistance, whereby regular dosage increases were required to maintain effect.

Some of these problems were caused by the unnatural way that Prozac modulated serotonin levels. By interfering with the reuptake, reuse and/or recycling) of serotonin, Prozac actually caused decreases in the cellular stores of serotonin that are needed to maintain increased serotonin levels at the target neurons. In simpler words, Prozac 1)undermined its own action, and thereby 2) created a greater clinical need for its use. This is exactly opposite to the way tryptophan increases serotonin by increasing serotonin stores.

During the following years, other serotonin reuptake inhibitors entered the market. Many did quite well economically. Whether these drugs would have done well faced with open competition from tryptophan will never be known. However, it does seem an improbable and fortuitous coincidence that the FDA eliminated Prozac’s only competition at exactly the right time to facilitate Prozac’s market success.

- End of quotation

Continues on next post >

Avatar universal
Also please read this page, which covers most of these topics in brief, but clear terms:

whodunnit: "Sorry but that is not a real doctor at all. He knows better but chooses to flog this stuff to people. Why? Because it's cheap."

The pharmaceutical industries should look more (in some cases increasingly with Cannabinoid and other psychedelic research this seems to be happening) to nature for inspiration, with the potential for compounds from natural sources to heal in a natural and balanced way.

Here's an example of a trial which involved the combination of Prozac (Fluoxetine) with Tryptophan with success: [SEE NOTE BELOW LINK FOR WARNING]


[NOTE: It is strongly inadvisable to take 5-HTP or Tryptophan in conjunction with SSRIs without consulting your doctor. Most doctors would advise against it due to the potential for developing Serotonin Syndrome due to too much serotonin in the body. This can be a potentially fatal illness.

The trials that need to be done to see how for example, supplements of 5-HTP or Tryptophan used in conjunction with SSRIs such as Prozac might be beneficial, are needed (I don't know of the number of trials or their conclusions). A clear reason against trials might be the fact that there are associated risks of this combination.

This page covers the topic:


A lot of the arguments around use of supplements seem to include the point that these are not fully tested or approved. Unfortunately "approved" compounds like Fluoxetine (Prozac) have had wide reports of terrible side effects. Everything in moderation - well perhaps not everything, but certainly in the case of these compounds, different people will experience different effects. Ensure that anything you buy is pure, and from a reputable supplier.

With regard to the above topic, and as mentioned on the above link, there is evidence that 5-HTP might be more likely to cause Serotonin Syndrome when used with SSRIs than L-Tryptophan in combination with SSRIs. 5-HTP can also cause problems with high blood pressure patients, for example.

L-Tryptophan has to compete with other amino acids in order to cross the blood-brain barrier. Taking L-Tyrosine with L-Tryptophan can help it in this competition. Again all of these considerations should be brought to the attention of your doctor if you feel prescription anti-depressants are not working for you. They all have their benefits and risks, but there is strong evidence that the FDA and pharmaceutical industries have not been working with people's health at the forefront, while quick to outlaw some of the most essential compounds in our bodies!

Robin Brinkler
Avatar universal
Another very interesting excerpt from a documentary about the FDA banning Tryptophan. I'd be interested to read your comments:


Put it this way, they look like fraudsters to me :)

Avatar universal
I was on Effexor an SNRI and it damaged my brain permanatly.  Stick to the 5htp!!!!
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