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L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP are amino acids sold as nutritional supplements and are used by the body as precursors for the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-hydroxy-tryptamine). Both 5-HTP and L-Tryptophan have been used by body builders as an amino-acid. Trytophan is used to help stabilize mood, as a sleep aid, and by some ecstasy and psychedelic users because they are reputed to both increase the effects of substances as well as easing the comedown and helping stabilize mood the day after.
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L-Tryptophan was banned for sale for human use in the United States by the FDA in 1989 due to association with a debilitating syndrome called Eosinophilia-Myalgia Syndrome (EMS). There is considerable controversy around this topic.
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The Substance:
Tryptophan; L-tryptophan; 5-HTP; 5-hydroxy-tryptophan
The Experience:
No common terms known.
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The primary problem associated with taking tryptophan is stomach upset / nausea, but tryptophan is listed in some medical literature as being associated with serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening adverse drug reaction. The risk of serotonin syndrome from taking moderate doses of supplemental tryptophan is likely to be extremely low, as tryptophan is an important food required for healthy human life.
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  • Tryptophan should not be used in combination with MAOIs because of the risk of unpleasant or dangerous reactions, including serotonin syndrome.
  • Pregnant women should consult their doctor before taking Tryptophan during pregnancy.
  • Some doctors advise against the use of tryptophan-containing supplements for people taking SSRIs such as fluoxetine (Prozac) or paroxetine (Paxil).
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Erowid Basics pages are summaries of data gathered from site visitors, government documents, books, websites, and other resources. We do our best to keep this information correct and up-to-date, but the field is complex and constantly changing. Information should always be verified through multiple sources.