The body produces its own supply of 5-HTP from tryptophan, an amino acid
found in high-protein foods such as chicken, fish, beef, and dairy
products. Any healthy diet should include tryptophan-rich sources such as
these. In addition, 5-HTP is available as a supplement; this form of the
compound is extracted from the seeds of the African plant, Griffonia
5-HTP, in addition to the treatment of depression, can be effective in:
Relieving symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)*
Relief From and Prevention of Migraine Headaches*
Reduction of the rate of Heart Disease as a result of Lowering Anxiety
So how effective is 5-HTP? Numerous clinical trials have studied the
efficacy of 5-HTP for treating depression. One compared 5-HTP to the
antidepressant drug fluvoxamine and found 5-HTP to be equally effective.
Researchers used the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale and a self-assessment
scale to gauge the effectiveness of the two medications. Both scales
revealed a gradual reduction in depressive symptoms through time with both
medications. Perhaps the most convincing evidence, however, comes from
scientists who examined research from around the world on the use of 5-HTP
in treating depression. One such researcher, writing in Neuropsychobiology,
sums up the findings this way: "Of the 17 reviewed studies, 13 confirm that
5-HTP has true antidepressant properties."*
The function of Prozac®, Paxil and many other antidepressant drugs, is to
increase the availability of serotonin in certain brain synapses.
Unfortunately, these drugs can produce many unpleasant and dangerous side
effects. Since 5-HTP cannot be patented, drug companies have no interest in
supplying this compound to the public. European countries have been taking
5-HTP for the treatment of insomnia and depression.*
Researchers have clinically investigated 5-HTP in comparison to
antidepressant drugs. The results of the studies were astounding. Using the
standard depression scale, both the drug and 5-HTP groups displayed an
identical reduction in depression. Depressed patients who received 100 mg
of 5-HTP, three times daily, showed at least a 50% improvement in their
symptoms, without any reported side effects. Similar studies with depressed
children demonstrated equal benefit.*
Subsequent studies were performed using 5-HTP for anxiety, panic disorder,
sleep difficulties, and obesity. In his research, R.S. Kahn observed an
obvious decline in anxiety symptoms when supplementing with 5-HTP and
patients with panic disorder noticed a feeling of relief after receiving
5-HTP. Melatonin, which helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle, is a
metabolite of serotonin. Early research studies show that supplementing
with 5-HTP may have positive effects on sleep patterns. In a six week
clinical study with obese patients, those supplemented with 5-HTP were able
to reduce carbohydrate intake, and experienced a feeling of early satiety,
which contributed to significant weight loss.*
The effective dose of 5-HTP appears to be between 50 and 500mg daily. Used
in combination with other antidepressant substances, however, the effective
dose may be even lower. Research shows that some people respond better to
lower doses, so I recommend beginning at the low end of the dose range and
increasing as necessary. Side effects associated with therapeutic doses of
5-HTP are rare. When they do occur, they are usually limited to mild
gastrointestinal complaints. Compare this to the litany of possible side
effects from antidepressant drugs: sedation, fatigue, blurry vision, urine
retention, constipation, palpitations, EKG changes, insomnia, nausea,
vomiting, diarrhea and mild to severe agitation.*
• May Elevate mood in cases of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.
5-HTP appears to increase the brain's serotonin levels, positively
influencing such disorders as depressions that have been linked to low
levels of this brain neurotransmitter. A number of small European studies
offer examples of people with depression who found little relief from
traditional antidepressant drugs yet obtained good results with 5-HTP.*
• May Treat insomnia. Several elements of a good night's sleep appear to be
influenced by 5-HTP. In addition to reducing the amount of time it takes to
nod off, this compound actually may enhance the quality of sleep itself,
increasing both the duration of dream states (REM sleep) and of deep
slumber. In studies, most people who tried 5-HTP also reported feeling more
rested upon awakening.*
• Can promotes weight loss. Some studies indicate that 5-HTP may curb the
appetite when taken before meals. In a recent study of dieting women, those
given 5-HTP reported feeling fuller than those who were given a placebo. In
the end, participants in the 5-HTP group consumed fewer calories overall
and lost more weight than those in the placebo group. Another study
reported increased weight loss among obese patients who took 5-HTP versus
those who were given a placebo; all, however, had been restricted to a
daily diet of 1,200 calories. In addition, because 5-HTP reportedly reduces
cravings for sweets and starches, it may also be of use in helping
diabetics adhere to a healthy diet.*
• Supports and may ease migraine pain. Migraine headaches have been linked
to low serotonin levels. Studies are ongoing to determine if 5-HTP, which
may boost the brain's serotonin levels, can help to reduce the intensity,
frequency, and duration of this extremely painful type of headache.*
• Shown to help support increases tolerance to the pain of Fibromyalgia.
People who suffer from Fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that commonly
causes muscle pain and disabling fatigue, may have low serotonin levels. By
increasing the level of these neurochemicals, 5-HTP may improve pain
tolerance. In a recent Italian study, the 200 Fibromyalgia sufferers who
added 5-HTP to a regimen of conventional antidepressants experienced less
pain than those who took the drugs or 5-HTP alone.*
5-HTP - Has shown to help and may support the Suppressing of Appetite,
Enhancing Sleep, Relieving Anxiety, Relieving symptoms of Seasonal
Effective Disorder, Cognitive Enhancement, Relief From and Prevention of
Migraine Headaches, Reduction of the rate of Heart Disease.*
People from just about every culture on earth have occasionally faced restless, sleepless nights. Fortunately, natural relief is available in just about every corner of the globe, from Valerian root. In addition, the majority of Valerian users report feeling refreshed upon waking – free of drowsiness, and ready to face the day!
Pharmacology and Mechanisms of Action:
Valerian has an affinity for GABAA receptors, likely due to the relatively high GABA content in valerian itself. The amount of GABA present in valerian extract is sufficient to induce the release of GABA in synaptosomes and may also inhibit GABA reuptake.
Other believed mechanisms of action in valerian include inhibition of the catabolism of GABA by valerenolic acid and acetylvalerenolic acid and affinity for the 5-HTA receptor by another constituent of valerian called hydroxypinoresinal.
Due to the herb’s historical use as an anti-convulsant, sedative, migraine treatment and pain reliever, most basic research has been focused on the interaction of valerian constituents with the GABA neurotransmitter. The findings of these studies remain inconclusive. Thus, the true mechanism of action of valerian remains unknown.
History and Composition:
Valerian Officinalis is native to Europe, North America, and the northern part of Asia. Altogether, the genus contains about 150 different species. These are widely distributed throughout the temperate zones. Both the root and the rhizome are highly prized for their healing properties. The major healing components found in the valerian root are valepotrits, valeranic acid, valeranone, valereal. These are all volatile oils that are found only in valerian. Other volatile oils in the root such as pineole, borneol, cineole, carophilene, and azulene are also commonly found in other herbs with healing properties. All of these oils exert anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and nerve-calming effects on the body. In addition, the root contains alkaloids that are known to relieve pain and relax the body. Other ingredients found in the root include rutin, beta-sitosterol, salicylic acid, and choline.1
Valerian can be classified in many different therapeutic categories. It is one of the best nervine herbs for its efficacy in treating disorders of the nervous system and in calming the entire body. Other categories include anodyne (pain reliever), anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antiemetic, carminative (tones, soothes, and stimulates the digestive and elimination systems), sedative, hypnotic, antihypertensive, and antibacterial.
The herb valerian is most effective in treating a wide range of stress conditions such as irritability, depression, fear, anxiety, nervous exhaustion, hysteria, delusions, and nervous tension. It is also indicated for patients who suffer from insomnia. Valerian not only eases the trouble of falling asleep but also improves the quality of sleep during the night.2
After taking valerian, a patient will wake up very rested and alert without the grogginess seen with some over-the-counter sleeping pills. As a pain reliever, the herb is useful for treating tension headaches, migraine headaches, arthritis, and sore muscles.
Valerian has also been found to be effective in a number of nerve disorders. The herb is useful for treating shingles, sciatica, neuralgia, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy. Symptoms suggestive of peripheral neuropathy such as numbness, tingling sensation, pain, and muscle weakness are effectively controlled with the use of valerian. It has also been used to treat attention deficit disorder in adults.
The herb has also found a role in treating a variety of nervous disorders in children. In one German study, an extract of valerian root was given to 120 children with a wide variety of behavioral disorders such as restlessness, sleep disorders, hyperactivity, learning disorders, bed wetting, anxiety, headache, and the habits of thumb sucking and nail-biting. After three weeks of using valerian extract daily, 75 percent of the children showed marked improvement of their conditions without any toxicity or negative side effects.3
In ancient Rome, valerian was used to treat certain heart conditions. Through its positive action on the autonomic nervous system, the herb is effective in treating tachycardia by slowing down the heart at the same time gently increasing its force. It also is effective in regulating arrhythmias. Along with a stabilizing effect on the blood pressure, valerian is an anti- thrombotic that can be used to prevent the formation of blood clots.4
This stabilizing effect is also seen on the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts. Valerian calms the stomach while encouraging the release of digestive enzymes and reducing the pain and discomfort of ulcers. In the colon, the herb alleviates cramps, gas, and diarrhea, and has a soothing effect on the bowel with colitis. Valerian has also proved helpful in the treatment of asthma.
Unlike other sedatives and drugs, valerian has none of the side effects or dependency risk that these have. In addition, there is no synergistic effect when the herb is taken with alcohol. It can also be taken safely along with other prescription drugs. Valerian is used extensively in Europe where it is accepted by orthodox medicine. It is found in many over-the-counter preparations used to treat a variety of nervous disorders. As more practitioners discover the benefits of valerian, its use will increase in The United States as well.
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