The 5-HTP preparation that is available commercially is isolated from the seed of an African plant called Griffonia simplicifolia. It is available as an enteric coated tablet, which does not break down until it reaches the intestine.
The recommended starting dose for headaches, weight loss, depression, and fibromyalgia is 50 mg three times daily. It can be taken with food. However, for weight loss it should be taken 20 minutes before eating. If it is not effective after two weeks, the dose may be increased to 100 mg three times daily, but only with the recommendation of a physician. Insomnia is treated with 25 mg (which may be increased to 100 mg after a few days) taken 30-45 minutes before bedtime.
The Mayo Clinic detected, and the U. S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed, the presence of a contaminant (peak X) in 5-HTP produced by six different manufacturers. This contaminant is similar to one found in L-tryptophan, which in 1989 caused the potentially fatal eosinophilia myalgia syndrome (EMS) in some persons. The L-tryptophan supplements were subsequently banned by the FDA. There have been 10 reports of EMS associated with 5-HTP use. The 5-HTP contaminant was not at levels high enough to cause illness. However, taking excessive doses of 5-HTP may lead to toxic levels of peak X.
Long term studies on the safety of 5-HTP use have not been conducted. To be safe, 5-HTP should be considered a short-term remedy.
Pregnant women should not take 5-HTP because there are no clinical studies on the compound's use among this population.
Belinda Rowland, Samuel Uretsky Pharm.D., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,