5-HTP for Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

What We Know About It

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Arief Juwono / Getty Images

5-HTP for Pain, Mood & Neurotransmitter Balance:

5-HTP is directly converted by your body to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Many people with fibromyalgia (FMS) are believed to have low serotonin levels. Research isn't as clear for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or ME/CFS), but many experts believe levels are typically low and recommend 5-HTP supplementation.

Low serotonin is associated with symptoms such as fatigue, disturbed sleep, headaches/migraines, mood disturbances, depression and more. Studies have shown that 5-HTP can help alleviate many of these symptoms in people with FMS. It's not as well researched for ME/CFS, but many doctors and patients say it helps.

5-HTP Dosage:

Recommended 5-HTP dosages vary widely, ranging from 50 to 500 mg a day. The best course of action is to start with a very low dosage and increase it slowly.

If you're taking a drug that alters serotonin levels, be sure to talk to your doctor and/or pharmacist before adding 5-HTP to your treatment regimen. Too much serotonin can lead to a dangerous condition called serotonin syndrome.

Verywell.com's Expert on Alternative Medicine, Cathy Wong, has compiled a helpful list of other possible 5-HTP drug interactions.

5-HTP in Your Diet:

Eating foods containing tryptophan, such as turkey, doesn't significantly increase your 5-HTP levels.

5-HTP supplements are easily absorbed by your body and do pass through the blood-brain barrier, so they're believed to be much more effective than dietary tryptophan.

Side Effects of 5-HTP:

Possible side effects of 5-HTP include nausea, dizziness, and diarrhea. Allergic reactions are possible but rare.

We don't have good safety data on 5-HTP usage during pregnancy or breastfeeding, or in people with liver or kidney disease.

Children with Down's syndrome should not take 5-HTP.

More Supplement & Serotonin Information:


Alternative Medicine Review. 1998 Aug;3(4):271-80. "5-Hydroxytryptophan: a clinically-effective serotonin precursor."

Journal of International Medical Research. 1992 Apr; 20(2):182-9. "Primary fibromyalgia syndrome and 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan: a 90-day open study."

Journal of International Medical Research. 1990 May-Jun;18(3):201-9. "http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2193835?ordinalpos=6&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum"

Rheumatic Diseases Clinics of North America. 2000 Nov;26(4):989-1002. "Neuroendocrine perturbations in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome."