April 25, 2022 4 min read

5-HTP, short for 5-hydroxytryptophan, is thought to work within the brain and nervous system to regulate crucial cognitive processes. Thanks to modern research, we know that supplementing with 5-HTP may lead to a series of wellness benefits, like decreasing depression, reducing migraine frequency, and even improving sleep. Before you hop on the 5-HTP bandwagon, however, consider one important question–what are the side effects of 5-HTP?

There’s no room for guessing with your daily wellness routine, so we’ll break down everything you need to know about 5-HTP side effects, what to expect, and what to do if adverse reactions arise. Let’s jump in:

Table of Contents
Is 5-HTP Safe?
What are the Side Effects of 5-HTP?
5-HTP Drug Interactions
Is 5-HTP Additive?
Who Shouldn’t Take 5-HTP?
5-HTP Side Effects FAQs

Key Takeaways

  • 5-HTP side effects are rare and almost always mild when 5-HTP is used in the short term.
  • Severe side effects of 5-HTP are often related to poor product quality, so choosing a high-quality manufacturer is of utmost importance.
  • Some people should not take 5-HTP, like those taking certain medications or who have high serotonin levels.
  • Work with a doctor to create a 5-HTP dosing routine that works for you in order to best avoid any possible adverse effects.
A model of 5-HTP's molecular structure that allows it to interact with neuroreceptors in the brain

Is 5-HTP Safe?

5-HTP is generally recognized as safe when used in responsible doses for safe periods of time. Extended use is only considered safe when overseen by a doctor. In most cases, 5-HTP safety boils down to dosage–It is thought to be possibly safe to take 5-HTP in doses of up to 400 mg daily for up to one year.

There are a few side effects that are commonly associated with 5-HTP, though they are mild and usually rare. In many cases, side effects are mostly caused by using a poor quality formula or by improper dosing, which means they can be avoided with responsible use.

Read "5-HTP Dosage" to learn more about how much to take. 

What are the Side Effects of 5-HTP?

In many cases, people can take 5-HTP without any adverse reactions. Some people who have taken 5-HTP have developed a serious health condition called eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome, but this adverse effect was thought to be linked to a contaminant in some 5-HTP products.

In other cases, adverse side effects of 5-HTP are dose-dependent, meaning you may be able to avoid side effects by taking the correct dosage. When taking a high-quality supplement, possible side effects include:

Heartburn

It’s unknown why some people experience heartburn after taking 5-HTP, but it could be because capsules get stuck in the upper digestive tract before dissolving. Taking your 5-HTP with plenty of water or using antacids may help remedy this problem.

Upset Stomach (Nausea, Vomiting, or Diarrhea)

Although side effects are rare in general, nausea and diarrhea are the most common possible side effects of 5-HTP . This is often linked to taking too high of a dose and can be remediated by taking smaller doses. If symptoms persist, discontinue use and consult a doctor.

Drowsiness

Some evidence suggests that 5-HTP may help you sleep better at night, but others report that it makes them feel drowsy during the day. This can be a serious implication if you feel too drowsy to safely operate a vehicle or other machinery. You may be able to medicate these effects by taking 5-HTP at night instead of during the daytime.

Sexual Problems

In some cases, anecdotal reports suggest that 5-HTP has helped ot improve low-libido linked to depression. In other cases, however, people have reported experiencing sexual dysfunction after starting 5-HTP. If this is the case for you, consult your doctor before continuing your 5-HTP dosing routine.

Allergic Reaction

Although it is rare, some people experience an allergy to other ingredients using in some 5-HTP formulations. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include:

  • Swelling of the lips, mouth, and airways
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Skin rashes or hives
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach cramping
  • Bloating
  • Loose stools

Interactions With Other Supplements or Medications

Because 5-HTP can interact with the brain and central nervous system, it has the capacity to interact with certain over the counter and prescription medications. In some cases, it may even have adverse reactions with other supplements, so you should always consult your doctor before using 5-HTP if you take other medications.

We’ll discuss possible drug interactions below:

A person holding a single 5-HTP capsule, which can have interactions with a handful of prescription medications.

5-HTP Drug Interactions

5-HTP’s potential drug interactions have only been evaluated on a limited basis, but experts assume that it may have adverse interactions with the following drugs based on the impact it may have on the body:

  • Carbidopa (Lodosyn)
  • Sedative medications (CNS depressants)
  • Serotonergic drugs, like many antidepressants
  • Some anti-anxiety medications

Is 5-HTP Addictive?

No, 5-HTP is not known to be habit forming and has little potential for abuse.

Who Shouldn’t Take 5-HTP?

In general, 5-HTPis thought to be safe when used in moderate amounts, though extremely large doses (in excess of 3,000 mg per day) could cause severe side effects. Some people may need to avoid taking 5-HTP, however, including those who:

  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Take antidepressants
  • Have liver disease
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have diabetes
  • Have thyroid issues

In some cases, you may still be able to take 5-HTP if you fall into one of the above categories, but you should talk to your doctor before adding 5-HTP to your daily wellness routine. You should also discuss your 5-HTP dosage with your doctor if you take other medications as it may interact with certain pharmaceuticals.

5-HTP Side Effects FAQ

Can you take 5-HTP everyday?

Yes. 5-HTP may need to be taken daily in order to experience optimal benefits.

Can 5-HTP be harmful?

Typically 5-HTP is safe to use in moderate amounts. Taking too much 5-HTP can lead to an increase in serotonin levels, which can result in adverse effects like increased anxiety, shivering, or heart problems.

Is 5-HTP OK to take long term?

5-HTP should only be used long term under a doctor’s guidance. In the long term, usually periods over 6 months, 5-HTP could deplete certain neurotransmitters and cause adverse reactions.

Can you suddenly stop taking 5-HTP?

Its possible that suddenly stopping your 5-HTP dosage can lead to adverse effects, including withdrawal effects like low mood, fatigue, and irritability, but it isn’t common. Always work with a doctor when adjusting your 5-HTP dosing routine.


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