Q&A: What’s the proper dosage of 5-HTP?

Q: What is the proper 5-HTP dosage?

I just bought a bottle of 100mg 5-HTP to help with my anxiety and depression. The bottle says take 1 up to 2 times daily but ive heard you can take up to 400mg a day. What is the proper dosage of 5-HTP? How long does it take to lose its effect? And should i be taking it with food or on an empty stomach? [source]
A:

Are you taking it for depression primarily? If so, I wouldn’t go above 300 mg/day without talking to a doctor. Some studies say more should be taken for anxiety, but I’d still stick with that as a rule of thumb. Unless you’re tall, hefty, muscled, etc, you’re probably going to be affected just fine by 100-200 mg.

Now, you said you just bought a bottle — 100mg is a big dose to start from nothing. First, try taking one capsule on a day when you don’t have much to do, just in case. Wait two days and make sure there’s no side effects at all. If not, try taking it again, then skip a day and make sure again that you don’t have any weird side effects.

If all’s clear, try 100mg a day for at least a week, and see how it goes for you. I’d stick to 100mg for about two or three weeks just to be sure. So a summary of what I just said…

Day 1: 100mg
Day 2: Nothing
Day 3: Nothing
Day 4: 100 mg
Day 5: Nothing
Day 6-14 minimum: 100 mg

After two weeks of 100 mg/day, you should have a pretty good idea of how it affects you. THEN, you can try upping it to twice a day, or every twelve hours. (9 AM and 9 PM? Find two times that you know you can consistently take it.) That will give you 200 mg/day, and you should probably stick with that for a good couple of weeks to a month.

It takes time to become effective, so try to be patient. Don’t immediately up the dosage if it doesn’t seem to work — all that will do is give you horrible side effects. Unlike conventional medications, where you take more if you don’t feel the effect, natural medications are kind of the opposite. Before taking more, you try taking less, or you examine other factors like the time of day you’re taking it, or you simply wait a couple weeks if you’re just starting something.

Some people like to take it every 8 hours, because it does have a short half-life (the amount of time it stays in your body), and I’ve noticed it too. I take 100 mg/day before bed, and by bedtime the next night, it does feel like it’s worn off a little. If you opt for that, get a bottle of 50 mg capsules, though. 300 mg/day is pretty high if you’re just starting.

You can take it either with food or on an empty stomach — test and see if it makes a big difference for you or not. Some people get a little nausea (the primary side effect of 5-HTP, and only one I’ve noticed), and food can help combat that. Take it in the morning, before bed, or any other time that works, just experiment to see what gives you the most benefit.

Also, you didn’t mention what brand you’re taking. There are some really reputable brands, including Jarrow, Nature’s Way, Nature’s Bounty, Natrol, and Source Naturals. There are also some less reputable brands.

If you take this for 4-6 weeks at 100-200 mg/day and still don’t notice a difference, you’re probably not using a good brand (especially if it’s not one of the ones listed above). Unlike conventional medications, which are pretty similar no matter which brand you take, natural medicine can be wildly effective under one brand and ineffective under another.

Of course, this is all my non-professional advice based on personal experience and research. :)

Hope that helps!

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