Natural mood-balancing medication may offer alternative to common antidepressants

5-HTPNatural mood-balancing medication such as 5-HTP (5-Hydroxy-Tryptophan) may experience a rise in popularity with new research¹ casting doubt on the appropriateness of some common antidepressants.

Scientists conducting a recent study found that all antidepressants (with the exception of nortriptyline), produced a greater number of adverse events compared with placebo. The research, published in Frontiers in Neurology, looked specifically at lose-dose medication used in the management of chronic pain.

A viable alternative may be natural antidepressants

Some natural antidepressants may still cause side effects, such as stomach upsets in a very small number of users, however most patients report adverse reactions to be less than those from commonly prescribed antidepressants. And this anecdotal evidence is backed up by scientific research. For example a double-blind trial headed by Dr Poldinger at the Basel University of Psychiatry, Switzerland, found that 5-Hydroxy-Tryptophan produced fewer side effects than tricyclic anti-depressant imipramine, and improved symptoms of depression, anxiety and insomnia.²

What is 5-Hydroxy-Tryptophan?

5-Hydroxy-Tryptophan (5-HTP) is a naturally occurring amino acid which is vital for the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical naturally produced by the brain that is responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being; for this reason 5-HTP is commonly used in the treatment of depression. It’s found naturally in milk, meat, potatoes, pumpkin, and some green vegetables, however only in extremely small amounts. Medications are typically made from a substance extracted from the seed pods of a plant indigenous to West Africa, the Griffonia simplicifolia.

Due to its effect in speeding up the brain’s production of serotonin, 5-HTP has also been used in the treatment of cerebellar ataxia, headache, depression, psychiatric disorders, fibromyalgia and weight loss.

What’s the evidence?

Nearly 75{648ff2b140dd79f8b10f01740237e66061b7c0f8b396ba52d99047c684c8722c} of participants in a study conducted by Professor Isamu Sano of the Osaka University Medical School, reported either “complete relief or significant improvement, with no side effects” after 4 weeks of taking 50 to 300mg of 5-HTP per day.³

In a review conducted by the Cochrane Group, researchers reported that “the symptoms of depression decreased when 5-HTP and tryptophan were taken, compared to a placebo (non-drug)”.

And another study conducted by researchers from the Mood Disorders Research Center at the Portland VA Medical Center reported several double-blind studies that found 5-Hydroxy-Tryptophan to be effective in the treatment of non-drug-induced depression.

For more information on 5-Hydroxy-Tryptophan and it’s use in the treatment of mood disorders, contact one of National Custom Compounding’s integrative doctors. They’ll be only too happy to answer your questions.



  1. Riediger C, Schuster T, Barlinn Ket al. Adverse effects of antidepressants for chronic pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Front Neurol 2017; doi: 10.3389/fneur.2017.00307
  2. Poldinger W, Calanchini B and Schwarz W (1991) A functional-dimensional approach to depression: serotonin deficiency and target syndrome in a comparison of 5-hydroxytryptophan and fluvoxamine. Psychopathology 24: 53–81.
  3. von Sano I (1972) L-5-hydroxytryptophan (L-5-HTP) therapie. Folia Psychiatrica et Neurologica Japonica 26:7–17.