Tryptophan for Anxiety and Depression

Tryptophan is an amino acid that exists naturally from foods that we eat. Tryptophan is converted by the body to 5-Hydroxy-Tryptophan (5HTP) then into Serotonin ( Feel Good Neurotransmitter ). Serotonin is then converted to N-Acetyl-serotonin which is finally converted to Melatonin. Melatonin is a substance which promotes relaxation, balancing of mood and normal sleeping patterns. Increasing Tryptophan intake from food or supplementation naturally leads into increased production of Serotonin which promotes the feeling of warmth, calm and happines. The conversion of Tryptophan to Serotonin needs the aid of Vitamin-B6 so make sure that you are also taking adequate amounts of B6.



“The study states that tryptophan can stimulate the proper function of serotonin in the brain” (Sandyk, Reuven. (1992) International Journal of Neuroscience, Volume 67)

“The results indicated that the synthesis of serotonin and melatonin, as well as the innate immune response, can be modulated by oral ingestion of tryptophan.” (Mol Cell Biochem. 2004 Dec;267(1-2):39-46.)

“Available evidence does suggest these substances are better than placebo at alleviating depression. Further studies are needed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of 5-HTP and tryptophan before their widespread use can be recommended.” (Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(1):CD003198)

Dosage and Sources:

Studies suggest that using moderate tryptophan doses for depression of about 1g to 3g daily have shown better results than high doses such as 6 to 9g daily.  Natural sources of trytophan includes cottage cheese, milk, brown ride, peanuts, meat, turkey and soy products.



1. Shaw, DM; Camps, FE; Eccleston, EG. 5-Hydroxytryptamine in the hind-brain of depressive suicides. Br J Psychiatry. 1967 Dec;113(505):1407–1411. [PubMed]
2. Bourne, HR; Bunney, WE, Jr; Colburn, RW; Davis, JM; Davis, JN; Shaw, DM; Coppen, AJ. Noradrenaline, 5-hydroxytryptamine, and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid in hindbrains of suicidal patients. Lancet. 1968 Oct 12;2(7572):805–808. [PubMed]
3. Pare, CM; Yeung, DP; Price, K; Stacey, RS. 5-hydroxytryptamine, noradrenaline, and dopamine in brainstem, hypothalamus, and caudate nucleus of controls and of patients committing suicide by coal-gas poisoning. Lancet. 1969 Jul 19;2(7612):133–135. [PubMed]
4. COPPEN, A; SHAW, DM; FARRELL, JP. Potentiation of the antidepressive effect of a monoamine-oxidase inhibitor by tryptophan. Lancet. 1963 Jan 12;1(7272):79–81. [PubMed]

Last update:  January 16, 2009

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