During life every fifth person suffers from depression. This frequency of the disease is entirely independent of the individual’s standard of living and also the country or the culture prevailing in the country. At present it is estimated that about 8 % of all people are affected by this form of psychosis. Thus, depression is one of the most common and most expensive diseases – following cardiac disease involving the coronary arteries.
Depression may occur in two forms – it may either be manic or bipolar, or it may be unipolar or severe. In manic depression the patient’s mood fluctuates within a few weeks between euphoric and depressive phases, partly also with severe consequences on the individual’s judgment and ability to act. In the second type, namely severe depression, which used to be incorrectly termed «endogenous depression» in the past, the main symptoms are loss of drive, anxiety, a sensation of emptiness, hopelessness, loss of ideas and drive. It is not clear how depression develops in terms of neurophysiology. However, in the last few years it became clear that the neurotransmitters serotonin and noradrenalin play an important role in the emergence of the disease.
In the nerve cells, first tryptamine and then 5–hydroxytryptophan (5 HTP®) are formed from the essential amino acid tryptophane (essential means that the body cannot produce the substance on its own). This results in the accumulation of hydrogen and degradation of carbon, which eventually leads to the formation of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5 HT) serotonin.
A deficiency of serotonin may cause depression, states of anxiety, and aggressiveness. Besides, serotonin plays an important role in the sleep rhythm, appetite, in memory and learning abilities, pain control, and also in inflammatory reactions and bowel peristalsis.
Stress, addictive behavior, overweight, migraine attacks, the pre-menstrual syndrome, and thoughts of suicide are often associated with low serotonin levels.
In the cardiovascular system serotonin influences the contraction of arteries and thus helps to control blood pressure. In the skeletal muscles serotonin dilates the vessels and enhances blood flow.
Another disease associated with a serotonin deficiency is fibromyalgia. It is a complex disease marked by severe muscle pain, fatigue, fever, insomnia, symptoms of an irritable colon, and swollen lymph nodes. The cause is unknown. Women are most commonly affected by this condition.
Several medicines such as anorectic agents, anti-cholesterolemic agents and also certain diets inhibit the formation of serotonin and may trigger symptoms of a serotonin deficiency.
Trials have shown that the administration of 5 HTP®, the precursor substance of serotonin, markedly raises the serotonin level in the body. Unfortunately the typical, rather unbalanced diet in the western world does not contain sufficient quantities of 5 HTP®. The ingestion of food containing tryptophane also does not substantially raise serotonin levels. Serotonin itself cannot be administered because it is degraded in the body before it can unfold its effect.
The pharmaceutical industry realized the significance of serotonin a long time ago. Medications that inhibit the re-uptake of serotonin in the cells, so-called serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are available in the market since a few years. These substances cause serotonin levels to remain high. They are mainly used in antidepressants. Regrettably, many of these medications are associated with significant side effects. Since 5 HTP® cannot be patented, pharmaceutical companies are naturally not interested in marketing this product for commercial purposes.
Depression: Dr. W. Pöldinger from the University Clinic of Psychiatry in Basel was able to show – as early as in 1991 – that 5 HTP® is at least as effective as commonly used antidepressants in the treatment of depression, while causing lesser side effects. 5 HTP® balances mood swings (especially in cases of bipolar depression) and reduces the aggression potential. It also reduces attacks of anxiety.
Migraine: among other factors, migraine is caused by the abnormal function of serotonin in blood vessels. 5 HTP® helps to normalize this functional disorder.
Sleep disorders: in experimental studies 5 HTP® was found to shorten the time to go to sleep by half without disturbing the sleep pattern. Besides, the patient achieves a faster and more concentrated waking state. The reason is the interaction with melatonin which is a metabolic product of serotonin production and is also enhanced by raised serotonin levels.
Appetite and weight loss: 5 HTP® has been shown to reduce appetite. Thus, it may lead to a marked reduction of weight within a relatively short period of time. In contrast to conventional anorectic agents 5 HTP® is very well tolerated and safe.
Cardiovascular disease: due to the fact that 5 HTP® resolves anxiety and inhibits aggression, it has a directly positive effect on the cardiovascular system as it protects the body from an excessive release of adrenalin.
Fibromyalgia: enhancing serotonin levels by the administration of 5 HTP® reduces many symptoms of fibromyalgia including pain, joint stiffness, and sleep disorders.
One capsule contains 25 mg, 50 mg, 100 mg or 200 mg 5 HTP® (5–hydroxytryptophan) in pharmaceutical grade.
Other ingredients: rice flour, magnesium stearate.
Depression: 300 – 400 mg daily
Migraine: 400 – 600 mg daily
Sleep disorders: 100 – 300 mg daily
Fibromyalgia: 300 mg daily
As an anorectic agent: 600 – 900 mg daily
For general enhancement of wellbeing and a balanced mood, 100 – 200 mg should be taken daily.
Very rarely and only after the intake of large quantities, the patient may develop headache, bowel symptoms, insomnia and muscle pain.
Not suited for pregnant and lactating women. Persons taking other antidepressants must consult a doctor before use.
Caution is also advised in case of liver disease, as 5 HTP® may have an undesirably strong effect in this setting.
The substance should be taken together with a carbohydrate-rich snack or with fluid (orange juice).
Protein-rich meals should be avoided after 5 HTP® is taken; this will maximize its absorption in the bloodstream.
To achieve the optimum effect of 5 HTP®, vitamin B3, vitamin C, B6 and magnesium should also be administered. Store in a cool, dry place and keep out of reach of children.