5-HTP is associated with the treatment of depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, weight problems, headaches and many other conditions. 5-HTP increases the brain chemical, serotonin. As we age, serotonin levels drop leading to a serotonin deficiency that can have a profound effect on mood and behavior. 5-HTP acts as the precursor of new serotonin production to meet the brains needs. When supplementing with 5-HTP the nerve cells are provided a direct source without having to convert tryptophan or depend on dietary availability.
Tryptophan from dietary sources is metabolized by nerve cells where it is converted into 5-HTP by the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase. 5-HTP is then converted into 5-HT or serotonin. So 5-HTP acts the opposite of SSRI’s like St. John’s Wort or the synthetic drugs prozac and MAO inhibitors. All of these prevent the absorption of serotonin by blocking the re-intake back into the neuron that released and recycled it.
Also cortisol released by the adrenals is a response to daily stress, and can inhibit the conversion of tryptophan into 5-HTP but not 5-HTP into serotonin. 5-HTP is not only important for the serotonin production that keeps us awake during the day, but sertonin is also required by the pineal gland for the production of the hormone, melatonin that puts us to sleep at night. Maintaining adequate serotonin levels, so that age-related deficiencies will not wreak havoc all over the body is vital to overall mental and physical well-being.