Decoding 5-HTP: How Long Does It Really Stay in Your System?

Have you ever wondered how a natural supplement could positively impact your mood and overall well-being? 5-HTP, derived from the Griffonia simplicifolia plant, stands as a beacon in the realm of natural wellness. Not only does it play a crucial role in transforming into serotonin, our brain's mood-regulating neurotransmitter, but it also offers potential benefits in combating depression, regulating sleep, and managing appetite. Dive into the intricate world of 5-HTP and uncover its profound influence on human health.

Key Takeaways

  • 5-HTP is derived from the Griffonia simplicifolia plant and transforms into serotonin.
  • Serotonin plays crucial roles in mood regulation, sleep, appetite, and cognitive functions.
  • The average half-life of 5-HTP is approximately 2.2 hours, allowing rapid metabolism.
  • Some research suggests 5-HTP's potential effectiveness in treating mild-to-moderate depression.
  • High doses of 5-HTP can lead to severe side effects and potential interactions.
  • Before using 5-HTP, always consult a healthcare professional for guidance and safety.

What is 5-HTP?

Photo by Terry Vlisidis on Unsplash

5-HTP, derived from the seeds of the African Griffonia simplicifolia plant, plays an intriguing role in our body's chemistry. To put it simply, the body transforms an amino acid we ingest from certain foods, known as tryptophan, into 5-HTP. This 5-HTP doesn't stop there—it undergoes a fascinating transformation, morphing into serotonin, the brain's key messenger.

Mechanism of Action

How exactly does this transformation occur? When 5-HTP enters our bloodstream, it can cross the blood-brain barrier, where it's then converted into serotonin, a neurotransmitter crucial for mood regulation. This process happens with the help of an enzyme, turning 5-HTP, a simple amino acid derivative, into one of the most critical neurotransmitters in our brain.

Serotonin plays several roles in your body, influencing learning, memory, and happiness as well as regulating body temperature, sleep, sexual behavior, and hunger. Lack of enough serotonin is thought to play a role in depression, anxiety, mania, and other health conditions. This vital neurotransmitter is like a postal service for our neurons, ensuring messages about mood, sleep, and appetite are delivered correctly.

While 5-HTP isn't found directly in our diet, its precursor, tryptophan, is present in several foods like turkey and cheese. However, just gobbling up a cheese sandwich won't give you a serotonin boost. Ingesting foods rich in tryptophan doesn't majorly elevate our 5-HTP levels. This revelation underscores the significance of 5-HTP supplements for many individuals.

According to the World Health Organization, depression affects over 264 million people worldwide. Studies have shown that 5-HTP may be as effective as certain antidepressant drugs in treating mild-to-moderate depression.

How Long Does 5-HTP Stay in Your System?

The half-life of a drug or supplement is the time it takes for the concentration of that substance in the blood to reduce by half. 5-HTP has a relatively short half-life, which means it's metabolized quickly by the body. On average, the half-life of 5-HTP is around 2.2 hours. This means that after consuming a dose, half of the 5-HTP will typically be eliminated from the bloodstream in roughly 2.2 hours.

However, it's important to note that just because 5-HTP is metabolized doesn't mean all its effects or by-products have been removed from the body. It can take several half-lives to fully eliminate a substance. So, while the bulk of 5-HTP might be metabolized within hours, its effects can linger for a longer period, especially if you've been using the supplement regularly.

According to Tim Chisell a former psychology of Culture and Beliefs “5HTP – a couple of weeks is more than enough for there to be no trace of it in your body. It's debatable how much it raises serotonin anyway – there's a lot of individual variation (and other factors), but your seratogenic system will be back to ‘baseline' well before the 17-day mark” 

It is important to have knowledge about taking supplements like 5-HTP, and one crucial factor is understanding how long it takes for 5-HTP to work.

Uses of 5-HTP

Potentially Beneficial for:

Depression – When taken orally, 5-HTP appears to alleviate depression symptoms in certain individuals, potentially offering effects similar to some prescription antidepressant medications.

Likely Ineffective for:

Down Syndrome – Most research indicates that oral 5-HTP supplementation does not enhance muscle strength or developmental progress in children with Down syndrome.

There is ongoing curiosity about the potential applications of 5-HTP for various other purposes; however, there is insufficient trustworthy information available to determine whether it may be beneficial in these cases.

5-HTP side effects

When taken orally: It is likely safe to consume 5-HTP in doses of up to 400 mg per day for a duration of up to one year. Commonly reported adverse effects encompass heartburn, stomach discomfort, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, sexual issues, and muscle problems. However, the use of high doses of 5-HTP, such as 6-10 grams daily, is potentially unsafe, as it has been associated with severe stomach issues and muscle spasms.

It's worth noting that some individuals who have taken 5-HTP have developed a severe medical condition known as eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS). Some speculate that EMS may be linked to accidental contaminants in certain 5-HTP products. Nevertheless, there is insufficient scientific evidence to conclusively establish whether 5-HTP, contaminants, or other factors are responsible for EMS. Therefore, it is advisable to exercise caution when using 5-HTP until more information becomes available. Insufficient reliable information exists to determine the safety of using 5-HTP during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. To err on the side of caution, it is advisable to refrain from its use in such circumstances.

For Children: It is likely safe for children to consume 5-HTP orally at appropriate doses. In children below 12 years of age, 5-HTP appears to be safe when taken at a dosage of up to 5 mg per kilogram of body weight daily for a period of up to 3 years.

Regarding Surgery: 5-HTP has the potential to impact a brain chemical known as serotonin. Certain medications administered during surgical procedures can also influence serotonin levels. Taking 5-HTP before surgery may lead to an excessive buildup of serotonin in the brain, which can result in severe side effects, including heart complications, shivering, and anxiety. Therefore, it is important to advise patients to discontinue the use of 5-HTP at least 2 weeks prior to undergoing surgery.

Interactions with other drugs 

Exercise caution when combining these:

1. Carbidopa (Lodosyn) with 5-HTP:

Both 5-HTP and Carbidopa affect the brain. Using them together can heighten the risk of severe side effects such as rapid speech, anxiety, aggressiveness, and others.

2. Sedative medications (CNS depressants) with 5-HTP:

5-HTP has the potential to induce drowsiness and slow breathing. Certain medications, known as sedatives, can also bring about drowsiness and slowed breathing. Co-administering 5-HTP with sedative medications may lead to breathing difficulties and excessive drowsiness.

3. Serotonergic drugs with 5-HTP:

5-HTP has the capacity to elevate serotonin levels in the brain. Some medications share this effect. Concurrent use of 5-HTP with these medications may result in an excessive increase in serotonin, potentially causing severe side effects such as heart problems, seizures, and vomiting.

5-HTP dosage

Adults typically take 5-HTP in daily doses ranging from 150 to 800 mg. However, it's important to note that extremely high doses of 5-HTP, like 6-10 grams per day, can lead to severe side effects and should be steered clear of. To determine the most suitable dosage for a particular condition, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare provider.


It is highly advisable to initiate a consultation with your healthcare provider and seek their professional guidance and advice before embarking on a regimen of 5-HTP supplementation. Engaging in a thorough consultation with your doctor is a prudent step to ensure that the use of 5-HTP aligns with your specific health needs and that any potential risks or interactions are effectively addressed in a manner tailored to your individual medical history and circumstances. By consulting with your healthcare provider, you can make informed decisions regarding the appropriate use of 5-HTP that are both safe and conducive to your overall well-being.

FAQs about 5-HTP

1. If 5-HTP is metabolized quickly, do I need to take it more frequently?

Expert Answer: Due to its short half-life, some users take 5-HTP in divided doses throughout the day to maintain steady levels. However, it's crucial to follow recommended dosages and consult a healthcare professional before making any changes to your regimen.

2. Are there any side effects to consider with 5-HTP?

Expert Answer: Like any supplement or medication, 5-HTP may have side effects. Some people may experience nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, or even more serious effects like serotonin syndrome, especially if taken in large amounts or combined with other serotonin-boosting medications.

3. Can I combine 5-HTP with other medications?

Expert Answer: It's essential to be cautious. Combining 5-HTP with other drugs, especially those that affect serotonin levels (like SSRIs), can increase the risk of serotonin syndrome—a potentially life-threatening condition. Always consult with a healthcare professional before combining supplements with medications.

4. How long does it take to feel the effects of 5-HTP?

Expert Answer: Most people start to feel the effects of 5-HTP within 30 minutes to 2 hours after ingestion. The duration and intensity can vary based on individual metabolism, the specific issue being addressed, and dosage.


5-HTP represents a bridge between nature's bounty and modern well-being, linking an African plant to the complex realm of human neurochemistry. As we've explored, while its metabolic duration in our body is fleeting, its impacts are potentially far-reaching, touching upon our mood, sleep, and appetite. Yet, as with all supplements, prudence is essential. It's paramount to remember the value of informed choices, always considering individual health nuances and potential interactions with other substances. Consulting healthcare professionals remains the gold standard for ensuring safe utilization. In a world increasingly seeking natural wellness solutions, 5-HTP shines as a promising contender. As science continues to decode its intricacies, we're reminded of nature's potent ability to enhance our health, one molecule at a time.

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