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Serotonin is a neurotransmitter produced by the brain. It helps elevate mood, promote restful sleep and reduce cravings for carbohydrates. Many antidepressant drugs, such as Prozac and Zoloft, work by increasing the amount of serotonin available to the brain. However, there are more natural ways of enhancing serotonin and one of them is to use a supplement called 5-Hydroxy-tryptophan or 5-HTP for short.
In the brain, the amino acid tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP, which is then converted into serotonin. The amount of serotonin in the brain is directly linked to the level of tryptophan and 5-HTP in the brain. The seeds of a woody shrub in Africa, Griffonia simplicifolia, have been found to contain 5-HTP, so we have a way of naturally increasing serotonin levels using an extract of this plant.
5-HTP supplements increase production of serotonin in the brain, which can have a direct effect on depression, anxiety, insomnia and other mood disorders. 5-HTP has also been found to help some people who are suffering from fibromyalgia and chronic daily headaches. With proper diet and exercise, 5-HTP may help with weight loss by decreasing feelings of hunger. Other potential benefits of 5-HTP supplementation include feelings of relaxation, increased healthy moods and a better night’s sleep.
5-HTP does not have the side effects associated with serotonin altering medications. In a study comparing 5-HTP to Imipramine, an antidepressant drug, 5-HTP performed as well as the drug but did not produce the side effects of dry mouth and tremors commonly associated withImipramine.
The 5-HTP Power formula blends 35 mg. of 5-HTP with three adaptogenic herbs—eleuthero, ashwaganda and suma. It also includes vitamin B6 and zinc, which support the action of 5-HTP. Here is how these other ingredients enhance the action of 5-HTP in 5-HTP Power.
Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus), also known as Siberian ginseng, is a hardy shrub native to Asia that has been used for over 2000 years for relieving fatigue, boosting energy and to help prevent stress induced ailments. It was the first herb identified as an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body adapt to stress. It contains choline, a chemical in the brain responsible for learning and memory retention as well as mental performance, alertness and muscle reflex and coordination.
A powerful antioxidant, Eleuthero helps prevent cellular damage from oxidative stress and has beneficial effects on the adrenal glands and the immune system. The root is a general tonic for anti-aging and overall health that promotes stamina and endurance mentally and physically. It also helps control appetite, digestion and metabolism; normalizes blood pressure and reduces cholesterol; enhances lung function and sexual performance.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years for its rejuvenating properties. The root contains flavonoids that have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-stress and antioxidant properties that enhance the immune system and boost brain functions.
Studies have shown that ashwaganda helps protect brain cells from oxidative stress and damage. It is often recommended by herbalists for libido, fatigue, concentration, memory, general debility, headaches and physical or mental burnout from prescription or illegal drugs.
Suma (Pfaffia paniculata) is a Brazilian herb used as an energy and rejuvenating tonic for centuries. It has a tradition of supporting memory and brain function. This adaptogenic herb normalizes all the body’s functions and increases oxygenation and oxygen efficiency at the cellular level. It is an immune enhancing herb that reduces inflammation and inhibits cancer. It is an anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer herb that helps to balance hormones and increases resistance to stress.
Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin necessary for maintaining a healthy nervous system. B6 helps in the production of neurotransmitters in the brain and nervous system. It is often recommended in the treatment of memory loss and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Zinc is an essential trace mineral critical for neural processes and for regulating communication between nerve cells. Deficiencies have been linked to cognitive impairment. Neuroscientists have done studies showing that zinc can enhance learning in undernourished children. Zinc promotes healthy adrenal and brain functions and will help improve memory and concentration.
For aiding sleep, take 1-2 capsules about one hour before bedtime. For mood and appetite, take 1 capsule three times daily with a meal. If taking a prescription medication, consult a health care practitioner before taking this product.
Cautions: Pregnant or nursing women should seek the advice of a health care practitioner before using this supplement. Do not use this product for more than three months without taking a two-week rest. In doses exceeding 100 mg. 5-HTP may produce nausea and vomiting in some individuals.
The Comprehensive Guide to Nature’s Sunshine Products by Tree of Light.
“Frontiers in Biochemical and Pharmacological Research in Depression,” Costa and Greengard (1984) in Advances in Biochemical Psychopharmacology Vol. 39.
“Double-blind Study of 5-Hydroxy-tryptophan Versus Placebo in the Treatment of Primary Fibromyalgia Syndrome,” Caruso I, et al, in J Int Med Res. 1990.
“Effect of a Serotonin Precursor and Uptake Inhibitor in Anxiety Disorders; a Double-blind Comparison of 5-Hydroxy-tryptophan, Clomipramine and Placebo,” Kahn, RS, et al, in Clin Psychopharmacol, 1987.