L-Tryptophan AND 5-HTP, a Comparison
Summer 2014
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By the way, what is the difference between
Tryptophan and 5-HTP?


a)Tryptophan is the essential amino acid from which your body produces 5-HTP, Serotonin and Melatonin and a wide array of structural proteins, enzymes, and other essential biochemicals, including vitamin B3 (niacin).

Tryptophan, as such, cannot be replaced by any other amino acid, herb, vitamin, mineral or prescription chemical. Turkey contains only modest amounts of Tryptophan, and the enormous consumption of carbohydrates at Thanksgiving dinner - dressing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie - has a lot to do with folks falling asleep at the table.

b)Lidtke Tryptophan is manufactured by a fermentation process using non-GMO glucose as a substrate. Many types of everyday foods and beverages are made by fermentation, including yogurt, kefir and wine.

The resulting fermentation product is then separated and purified using specific filtration and re-crystallization procedures. Purification steps are repeated until the purity is as close to 100.0% as possible.

Sometimes the assays are higher than 100.0% when the Tryptophan being produced is superior to the expensive reference standards that are used in the HPLC testing process.

c)Tryptophan is an essential (aromatic) amino acid that must be included in the diet. For this reason, Tryptophan is commonly added to baby formulas and to hospital intravenous solutions, where it clearly is essential for the growth and survival of babies and adults.


a)Because we tend to associate serotonin with mood alone, many are surprised that far more serotonin-producing cells (at least 90%) are located in your digestive system than in your brain. In your GI tract, serotonin is believed to control the peristaltic movements that move food along your intestine.

In either case, whether the cells are in your brain or in your intestine, an enzyme in your serotonin-producing cells changes Tryptophan to 5-HTP, and then later another enzyme changes 5-HTP to serotonin.

Tryptophan > 5-HTP > Serotonin > Melatonin

Your body controls the first step in this pathway with a feedback loop, so the downstream production of serotonin is tightly controlled.

In effect, the enzyme between Tryptophan and 5-HTP acts as a faucet that turns the downstream production of serotonin “on” and “off.” Serotonin needs to stay within a narrow, healthy range, so controls serve a purpose.

By contrast, when you take a capsule of 5-HTP, you bypass this controlling step, and the 5-HTP converts quickly to serotonin. This can be a good thing when you need a more relaxed mood, but whenever you bypass your own biochemical controls, you should be a bit more careful about following the directions on the label.

To recap, 5-HTP is merely a stepping stone in the production of serotonin, and it serves no other purpose.

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d)Tryptophan has long been used by doctors in the United States and Europe to treat a variety of deficiency symptoms, especially physical and emotional symptoms commonly associated with Serotonin Deficiency Syndrome (SDS).

Deficiency symptoms include nervousness, anxiety (stress), sleep disorders such as common sleeplessness, mood disorders such as common depression, and excessive appetite. It should be noted that neither Tryptophan nor 5-HTP should be mixed with several classes of drugs, including MAOI's, Tricyclics, or SSRI's without very careful supervision by an experienced doctor in order to avoid Serotonin Syndrome… a sometimes unpredictable (and potentially dangerous) surge in serotonin when mixing drugs, or when mixing drugs with precursors of serotonin.

The Hunter Serotonin Toxicity Criteria is a set of rules designed to allow doctors to move patients from one of the above drugs to either Tryptophan or 5-HTP safely.

According to dietary research conducted by Dr. Charles I. Jarowski, founding Director of Research and Development at Pfizer, Inc., Tryptophan is the amino acid most commonly lacking in the American diet. The enormous number of prescriptions being written for serotonergic drugs today may or may not bear witness to our faulty diet.

e)Medical doctors often share their guidelines with Lidtke, and the following seems to be a consensus: when recommending Tryptophan as a dietary supplement, medical practitioners typically start low, often one capsule before bedtime, and work up to a prudent level that works best for the patient. Sixty days may be needed for full benefit when a deficiency exists, and supplements seldom exceed 500 mg per 50 lbs of body weight. These guidelines should in no way replace the recommendations of a doctor.

f)Certain other amino acids, especially the aromatic amino acids and branched-chain amino acids, compete with Tryptophan for passage through the blood-brain barrier (BBB).


b)Who needs 5-HTP? Part of our population seems to have trouble producing the enzyme that converts Tryptophan to 5-HTP. If this is, indeed, the case, then you may have few other options than to supplement your diet with 5-HTP.

On the other hand, part of our population, perhaps a growing part, is malnourished and lacks the critical dietary cofactors (vitamins and minerals) that help produce and activate critical enzymes. In either case, 5-HTP can be a life-saver. Yet, it should always be remembered that 5-HTP cannot swim upstream. It cannot change back into Tryptophan or correct a Tryptophan deficiency.

c)Lidtke 5-HTP is extracted from an herb, Griffonia simplicifolia, using only water and ethanol (the same type of alcohol found in wine and beer) to squeeze out the 5-HTP. Griffonia principally grows in the Gold Coast region of Africa (Ghana). The plants are not cultivated and tend to grow wild, and the seed pods are hand-picked (wildcrafted). The pods only contain 3 or 4 seeds, about the size of lentils, and they are spread out in a field to dry in the Sun.

Once the seeds of the Griffonia plant are dried, they are shipped to an extraction facility (in Germany or Switzerland or China, for example) where the 5-HTP is extracted and purified. Even during a good year, extraction yields only about 4% pure 5-HTP. Purification and testing add to this cost, hence premium 5-HTP can be fairly expensive.

d)Although 5-HTP is recommended in Europe for many of the same deficiency symptoms as Tryptophan… such as helping to normalize mood, sleep, stress, and appetite… there are many vital functions that 5-HTP cannot perform. Also, unlike the essential amino acids, 5-HTP only occurs in small amounts in our diet and must be taken as a supplement, if needed. The safety of taking large amounts of 5-HTP over the course of many years is still under review.

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These amino acids include Phenylalanine, Tyrosine, Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. For this reason, Tryptophan is most effective when taken with a snack or beverage containing little or no protein. So, low-protein snacks (such as apple sauce) or beverages may facilitate passage of Tryptophan through your BBB.

g)The thorough testing of Tryptophan should include the full battery of tests required by the European Pharmacopeia (EP), including organic volatile impurities (OVI’s), pyrogens, toxic metals, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum, and barium, standard tests for microbiological contaminants, and nonGMO certification. ••


e)Health practitioners commonly recommend between 50 mg and 200 mg of 5-HTP per day when alleviating deficiency symptoms in adults. Large doses of 5-HTP, however, may cause nausea on an empty stomach, so 5-HTP always should be taken with a snack or beverage.

f)The thorough testing of 5-HTP should include a test for Peak X, the full battery of tests required by the European Pharmacopeia (EP), including organic volatile impurities (OVI’s), pyrogens, toxic metals, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum, and barium, standard tests for microbiological contaminants, and non-GMO certification. It pays to use premium-quality ingredients. ••

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a short note on:
Memory Loss

Both Tryptophan and 5-HTP are building blocks of serotonin, so when a scientific breakthrough is made concerning serotonin and neurogenesis (the growth of neurons), it makes sense that consumers of both Tryptophan and 5-HTP should take serious notice.

It is difficult to establish where it got started, but the notion that brains decline with age and never recover was considered gospel even in the 1960’s, and no scientists were willing to risk their career to disagree. Several tried and were ridiculed back into submission.

Having worked in research, I can say that the business of science often is as much about the pursuit of personal status as it is about locating truth. One is always fighting the other.

Nevertheless, the strength of the research linking serotonin levels to the recovery of brain function, including memory and cognition, is so strong that it refuses to be suppressed.

Stem cells are found in the brain just as they are in other parts of the body, and serotonin is instrumental in their conversion to neurons. These neurons then migrate through the white matter to the memory and cognition centers of the brain, such as the hippocampus.

In animal studies, a relatively modest supplementation of Tryptophan or 5-HTP to the diet seems to produce significant, even dramatic improvements in learning and memory and long-term retention.

If you would like to see this topic covered in more detail, please let us know. RS.

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