5-HTP stands for 5-hydroxytryptophan andis a known chemical by-product of the protein building block L-tryptophan. Usually, 5-HTP is synthesized commercially from seeds of a plant native to Africa called Griffoniasimplicifolia. 5-HTP is converted to serotonin in the human body and functions in the central nervous system and brain by escalating the synthesis of the chemical serotonin.

5-hydroxytryptophan elevates serotonin levels in the body and plays a key role in serotonin-related conditions such as anxiety, depression, among other conditions. Serotonin may also affect temperature, pain sensation, and appetite. 5-HTP has many significant effects on the body and can help alleviate fibromyalgia symptoms and Parkinson’s disease.

The chemical also improves the signs of chronic headache, insomnia, and depression. However, 5-HTP comes with some negative impacts on the body, with the most common ones being nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, heartburn, and drowsiness. It would help if you had guidance on the usage of 5-HTP. Moreover, due to the demand for 5-HTP in treatment today, it is vital to know its negative effects. Therefore, this article will focus on the risks and side effects of 5-HTP.



5-HTP is safe for children 12 years and below, taking about 5mg/kg per day. However, the risk is that they may develop the eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome, whichis a serious condition that causes extreme blood abnormalities and muscle tenderness. Sleep terror is a common challenge in children, with between 1 to 6% experiencing these symptoms at some point in their lives.

ADHD is a disorder that causes persistent fear and anxiety, deprives kids of sleep, and may cause fatigue-associated symptoms. The child should be given the right dosage depending on the symptoms and prescriptions of the doctor since overdose can lead to death. Increased serotonin level is dangerous, and you should consult professional specialists before using 5-HTP. Medical advice shows that using 5-HTP from age three to twelve is safe at a child’s prescribed dose.


5-HTP can affect serotonin levels. When undergoing surgery, some drugs administered may affect serotonin. It is therefore recommended not to take 5-HTP two weeks before surgery. Taking 5-HTP pre-surgery can increase serotonin in the brain, leading to serious anxiety, heart problems, and shivering.

Serotonins can affect your entire body. Therefore, you should regulate its levels to prevent the accumulation of excess serotonin that causes negative impacts on your body. Consulting specialists is the best advice you should have. The patients should not take 5-HTP at least two weeks before surgery.

Side Effects

Blood Vessel and Heart Complications

Serotonin makes small blood vessels to be narrower, which can causeblood clotting. Though this narrowing can inhibit bleeding, it might elevate the risk ofhazardous blood clots in some individuals. 5-HTP elevates a chemical found in the brain called serotonin. Meperidine also may escalate serotonin in the brain. Administration of meperidine along with 5-HTP may accrue excess serotonin in the brain. It results in serious side effects like heart problems.  People with high blood pressure or other cardiovascular risk factors must consult the doctor before taking 5-HTP.

Eosinophilia-Myalgia Syndrome

Eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS) is an infection that increases the levels of white blood cells, known as eosinophil, in body tissues. These high levels of white blood cells may result in breathing problems, muscle pain, fatigue, and skin rashes. Severe cases of Eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome might cause death or various organ failures. Taking tryptophan supplements can cause this syndrome hence risks of death. Countable people who took 5-HTP reported symptoms of this syndrome (EMS).

Serotonin Syndrome

When serotonin accumulates in the brain, the condition is called serotonin syndrome, which isdangerous and can lead to death. Serotonin syndrome occurs when you take many serotonin-producing drugs. This condition is characterized by sweating, diarrhea, anxiety, shivering, and confusion.

An individual might develop serotonin syndrome after consuming a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Norepinephrine and serotonin reuptake with 5-HTP or antidepressants can lead to this condition. Therefore, people who take other serotonin drugs or antidepressants should not take 5-HTP.

Allergic Reaction

As it is with any supplement, there is a possibility of an allergic reaction to 5-HTP.  People who experience symptoms of anaphylaxis or severe allergic reaction after taking 5-HTP must seek medical attention. The allergic reaction symptoms are stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhea, swelling of the lips, breathing problem, and abdominal cramps.


An abnormal rise in the level of serotonin in the blood can cause osteoporosis. It is a condition where bones weaken, especially in individuals with other risk factors. Those people with osteoporosis do not experience any symptoms. Usually, the first symptom is a damaged bone following a small injury. An individual having an osteoporosis diagnosis should always seek medical counsel before taking 5-HTP.

Overdose and Toxicity

A higher dosage of 5-HTP elevates the risk of serious side effects, inclusive of organ failure and overdose. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements; this means that there may be a significant distinction in quality and content among brands and batches. This inconsistency elevates the risk of poisoning and overdose. When planning to use this medicine or other supplements, you must seek the counsel of a practitioner who is trained in health supplements.

When using 5-HTP, follow the guidance on the package as directed by the doctor or healthcare provider. Never use this product more than is suggested on the label. Avoid using different forms (liquid, tablets, teas, or tincture) of 5-HTP simultaneously without medical consultation. Using the different formulations of this product accrues the chances of overdose.

Gastrointestinal Complications

People report many gastrointestinal symptoms after taking 5-HTP, including feelings of disturbing fullness, gas, heartburn, rumbling, and sensations in the stomach. Avoid 5-HTP if you are taking other medications with the effect of increasing serotonin levels. Essentially, amino acid tryptophan synthesizes serotonin. Amino acid enters your body via the diet and is mostly located in red meat, nuts, and cheese. Tryptophan insufficiency may result in decreased serotonin levels.


Like other medicinal by-products, 5-HTP contains positive and negative sides. You are advised that before using any medicine, you should beaware of the outcomes. It is best if you consider the symptoms that might be present before using this medicine. People should not be fast in receiving treatment without first knowing their condition. This by-product has negative repercussions if taken for the wrong purpose and in large amounts. For instance, nursing mothers and those under other medication that increases serotonin should avoid 5-HTP.

Charlotte Cremers

MS, University of Tartu Sleep specialist Using the acquired academic and professional experience, I advise patients with various complaints about mental health - depressed mood, nervousness, lack of energy and interest, sleep disorders, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts and anxieties, difficulty concentrating, and stress. In my free time, I love to paint and go on long walks on the beach. One of my latest obsessions is sudoku – a wonderful activity to calm an unease mind.