[adapted from The Chemistry of Calm]
ps: Be sure to read Part 1 of this series!
pps: some of these natural therapies are not ideal for all types of anxiety. Visit our Calm Section to learn your anxiety subtype and tailor your approach.
5-HTP is the best studied of the “precursor strategies.” That's a strategy where you try to increase production of a neurotransmitter by adding more of the raw materials. 5-HTP is similar to tryptophan (the amino acid that gets converted into serotonin)—5-HTP is the intermediate step in that process. Both are effective ways to boost serotonin levels, but tryptophan is more sedating so I usually reserve that for sleep problems. 5-HTP can also help sleep, but may be used during the daytime as well because it is not usually sedating. Considerable research has shown that 5-HTP can reduce anxiety, both general and panic, as well as improve mood.12
It's often more economical, and generally more effective, to get a product that combines several of these ingredients into a single capsule or powder. We often recommend combination products like Relaxed Mood or Natural Ease rather than piecing things together one nutrient at a time:
Relaxed Mood contains 50 mg of 5-HTP per capsule. It also provides virtually everything your brain needs to make serotonin. It helps calm an anxious mood, may improve sleep, and can reduce nervousness.
Natural Ease has a delivery system that releases 5-HTP slowly and steadily over a period of time.
Adding 5-HTP may be helpful when mood issues are present and there are signs of serotonin deficiency (visit the Calm section for more on that and your subtype). [see side effects below regarding serotonin.]
I usually recommend a starting dose of 50 mg daily, increasing every few days as tolerated. Most people do well with 100-150 mg daily, but the dose may safely go as high as 300 mg per day if needed. It is usually best to take it in 2 or 3 doses throughout the day, but if it is sedating it may all be taken at night. However, a small number of people actually have trouble sleeping from 5-HTP, and should then take it early in the day.
5-HTP may be best absorbed if taken half an hour before meals, and that can also reduce carbohydrate craving for those who have it. But if that is a hassle or causes stomach upset, it is fine to take it with meals.
One of the primary concerns with 5-HTP is getting too much serotonin. The broad use of SSRI’s has really caused this concern and complicates the use of 5-HTP. Too much serotonin creates a condition called “serotonin syndrome,” which can be serious. Like all of the other supplements noted, do not add anything without consulting with your prescribing physician, particularly if you are already taking an SSRI.
Sedation or activation may also be experienced as noted in dosage section above.
*Note: Some of the supplements discussed in this series can cause side effects, but many people tolerate them much better than prescription medications. They are generally considered safe, however, they should not be started without your doctor’s knowledge and supervision. If you are taking medication already, be sure to talk with your doctor before adding any of these items. If you are considering going off medication, remember never to stop your medication suddenly—always consult with your doctor about how to safely taper off any psychiatric medication.
**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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