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Sources of 5-HTP

By Allen Bethea

Your mood, mental alertness, energy level, sleep patterns and mental outlook depend upon sufficient quantities of natural chemical substances called neurotransmitters. Your body makes the neurotransmitter serotonin using 5-Hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, as an ingredient. 5-HTP is itself synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan. While tryptophan is common in plant and animal proteins, dietary sources of 5-HTP are rare. Fortunately, 5-HTP dietary supplements are readily available. Consult your physician before you take any dietary supplements to treat a medical condition.

Griffonia simplicifolia

One natural source of 5-HTP is a small shrub called Griffonia simplicifolia. Also known as Bandeiraea simplicifolia, this plant is found in the West African nations of Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria and Togo. Griffonia is rich in 5-HTP. A 2002 study published in the journal "Phytochemical Analysis" found Griffonia seeds contained 20.83 per cent 5-HTP by weight. A 2010 "Neuroendocrinology Letters" study tested a Griffonia extract supplement on subjects coping with a relationship breakup. Griffonia boosted the subjects' serotonin levels and reduced stress levels.

Mucuna Pruriens

Another natural source of pure 5-HTP is the tropical plant Mucuna pruriens. Mucuna pruriens is also known as velvetbeans, cowhage, cow Itch, itching bean and juckbohne. Mucuna contains many other psychoactive compounds including serotonin, nicotine, dimethyltryptamine and bufotenine. Some of these compounds are hallucinogenic. Mucuna leaves are sometimes smoked and its seeds dried, ground and brewed as a coffee substitute called called Nescafé. Use Mucuna cautiously due to the possible side effects of so many compounds working on the nervous system simultaneously. Talk with your physician before you take Mucuna supplements to increase your 5-HTP intake.

Dietary Tryptophan

Tryptophan is a ubiquitous amino acid found in plants and animals. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid: your body must get the tryptophan it needs from the foods you eat. Good dietary sources of tryptophan include dairy products, fish, lean meats, poultry, peanuts and peanut butter, soy products, turnips, collard greens and sunflower seeds. The Thanksgiving turkey is thought to be so high in tryptophan that it causes drowsiness. In fact, Swiss cheese and roast pork have more tryptophan per gram than turkey.

5-HTP Supplements

Most commercial 5-HTP dietary supplements are made from Griffonia simplicifolia seeds. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not allow dietary supplements to make specific therapeutic claims. Their labeling can say that they help maintain proper serotonin levels, a positive mood, ease anxiety, curb cravings and help you get a good night's sleep. 5-HTP supplement formulas often contain other ingredients that may adversely affect your central nervous system such as Valerian root, St. John's wort, green tea extract, cocoa seed extract and melatonin. Read the labels carefully to avoid potentially harmful side effects.

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