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What are Serotonin Supplements?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated May 17, 2024
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Serotonin supplements are comprised of proteins which contain L-tryptophan, which is used by the body to produce the amino acid 5-HTP, or from the plant Griffonia simplicifolia, which contains a natural form of 5-HTP. Both are amino acids which are then used by the body to stimulate the production of serotonin. Synthetic serotonin supplements are still being developed and tested. The naturally derived amino acid supplements are used to help the body produce more serotonin on its own.

Studies have not shown serotonin supplements to be highly effective in all individuals, since they only raise the levels of 5-HTP minimally. Those with a mild imbalance may benefit the most, since they are only lacking in small quantities of serotonin. There are also medications which may help to regulate the release of serotonin, although these are offered by prescription only and are used to treat specific medical conditions.

The safety of serotonin supplements has not been fully established. Although they are more than likely safe for the majority of patients when taken correctly, they should still only be used under the supervision of a doctor or pharmacist. Drug interactions have been reported in patients using common drugs for the treatment of Parkinson's disease. Safety has not been established for use by pregnant or breastfeeding women, so they should not be taken unless absolutely necessary and while under a doctor's care. A link to seizures in children has also be reported, although this seems to primarily affect children with Down Syndrome.

Serotonin supplements can be found online or in certain health food stores. Prices vary based on the quality and quantity of supplements. They may come in capsule or tincture form.

It is important to ask a doctor or another health care professional before taking serotonin supplements. Imbalances in serotonin and other hormones can cause an array of health problems and should not be tampered with without just cause. It should also never be assumed that one has a serotonin imbalance because a wide range of conditions can cause the same symptoms as a deficiency. A proper diagnosis can be made by a doctor.

When using serotonin supplements, especially Griffonia Simplicifolia, it is important to be sure the pills or extracts are designed for human consumption. Untreated products can be dangerous to human health and may contain contaminants or toxins not recommended for consumption. Some Griffonia simplicifolia supplements are sold for personal harvesting of the plant itself and are not recommended for oral use.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By donasmrs — On Jan 28, 2015

@literally45-- 5-HTP is believed to carry risks of heart complications if it increases serotonin levels in the heart. But there really aren't enough studies on this.

I've been using 5-HTP for a few months. It has definitely helped me, I have better mood and less anxiety. I use the lowest effective dose for me. The supplement is in powder form so that I can adjust. So I'm actually taking less than the recommended dose. I've not had any side effects.

I think that these supplements are definitely worth a try. But of course, it's a good idea to watch out for side effects. I wouldn't take these supplements in high doses. They are meant to gently support our system, not treat psychological conditions.

By literally45 — On Jan 27, 2015

@bluedolphin-- I used them for just a few days. I stopped because I did some reading on them and came across several sources which warned about serotonin syndrome and heart problems due to these supplements. I was so afraid that I decided not to take them. Since I used them for a very short time, I don't know if they would have worked. But I highly recommend doing some research on these and also asking your doctor before trying them.

By bluedolphin — On Jan 27, 2015

I've been thinking about serotonin supplements for some time now. I have been suffering from mild anxiety for a few years. I used prescription medications for a while but stopped due to the side effects. Now, I just have anxiety once in a while but when it occurs, it lasts a few days and can put me off balance. I want to treat this naturally if I can, without prescription meds.

Does anyone here serotonin supplements and would you recommend them for me? Do they work and are there side effects?

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