The "miracle" of the OTC serotonin booster 5-HTP and my non-motor Parkinson's symptom's

The serotonin-booster 5-HTP, an inexpensive OTC supplement, has been more effective with the non-motor symptoms of my Parkinson's than levadopa has been with my motor symptoms. Recent research suggests that the Parkinson's medical community has been focusing too much on dopamine and that more attention should be paid to the role of serotonin. I explore all of this in today's blog post. For more, see

24 Replies

  • Im very interested but wary of potential interactions. What other meds do you take gleeson?

  • This sounds very good and I agree that we have been very Dopamine orientated. How long have you been taking it? I too am wary of interactions. What does it say on the packet about taking other meds.

    I do however believe that the other areas of the brain need more study. I suppose it is partly because of the overwhelming belief that Parkinson's is a movement disorder and that changes in the physical symptoms are easier to measure than changes on mood.

  • Hi gleeson,

    What PD meds are you taking? I came across this article which recommends avoiding 5-HTP if you take MAOIs and also warns about carbidopa,

    "Like many supplements, 5-HTP has not been extensively studied for long-term use or for interactions with many types of medicines, but it is known that 5-HTP can have major interaction with other medications. Some antidepressant medicines increase serotonin, so taking 5-HTP along with these medicines, can increase serotonin levels too high. Don't take 5-HTP if you take antidepressant medicines including:

    Tricyclics such as amitriptyline, clomipramine and imipramine

    Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine, paroxetine, and sertraline

    Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) such as phenelzine or tranylcypromine.

    Medicines that can have a moderate interaction when combined with 5-HTP include:

    Carbidopa (for treating Parkinson's disease), with serious side effects including rapid speech, anxiety and aggressiveness"

  • Partypants, you are so right in everything you say in this post. BEWARE, before taking 5HTP to boost your Serotonin in your brain. I tried it for three nights only last week and had to stop abruptly as the morning following my third nightly dose I began to sweat profusely so much that I could feel water coming out of my body and trickling to the floor. I have never experienced anything like it before. My doses over the three nights were 50mg, 100mg and 100mg. I believe that I had overloaded my body with too much serotonin which in extreme circumstances can be fatal.

    Gleeson, I admire your trial and error using different medications and nutrients since your diagnosis, but the info you gave in your post does not give sufficient information as to go about introducing 5HTP into your body. I like your blog, but it appears that you are trying to get more PwP to sign up to it whilst giving scant information in this thread. You are a brave, interesting person, but you really should be giving more detail here, so that some desperate person who tries to follow the little that you have written here does not do themselves themselves serious harm.

    In the meantime, I reiterate to anybody who feels inclined to try taking 5HTP to NOT do so, until you get more detailed information from Gleeson on how he went about it!


  • my neurologist warned me too about 5HTP's interaction

  • A problem with 5-HTP for those of us with Parkinson's is that the carbidopa that we already are taking to get levadopa past the blood-brain barrier also does the same thing with 5-HTP. Thus those who don't have PD typically take 200 mg or more with no problem. I've found that I have to stick close to 50 mg a day, which is the lowest pill commercially available. When I experiment with going much beyond that I get spikes in my blood pressure and become euphoric bordering on manic. I suspect I'd be better served if rather than take the full 50 mg at bedtime I spread the serotonin more evenly throughout the day, So I'm experimenting with splitting the 5-HTP pill in half so that I can take 25 mg at bedtime and at 10 am and 2 pm. These also are times when I take my levodopa so it's easy to remember.

    I definitely would not recommend 5-HTP for anyone who's also taking carbidopa and isn't willing to monitor carefully what's happening with his/her blood pressure and other signs of changes' But for me it's been worth it. For a fuller account of my experience with 5=HTP see I'll br posting a fuller report on safety issues with 5-HTP on Monday with much of the post dealing with the warning signs of serotonin syndrome,

  • Gleason

    Thank you for the further information you have given in this post when using 5HPT. I now believe that anybody considering taking this supplement have now been sufficiently warned of the possible danger if not done carefully.

    Regarding 'partypants' point about interactions with other medications and nutrients, readers only on this thread do not know what other medications you are taking, so they can relate.

    There maybe some other PwP's experimenting with Tryptophane which I believe is a precursor to 5HPT, if so, in your opinion, would they be similarly in danger if they do not take it in smaller increments as you do with 5HPT?

    Thank you.


  • One of my guideposts in writing my blog is to just tell my story and avoid giving advice. I'm frequently appalled by the advice given by the TV doctors and others on the internet that has no scientific basis and only some anecdotal stories. That's why I was hesitant to write the 5-HTP piece but I am intrigued to find out whether others also are happy 5-HTP campers. I try to caution that what works for me may not work for others. I have no experience with Tryptophane,. I know it got a bad rap back in the 1990's and several deaths were attributed to it but apparently that's been remedied. The question about how much of that to take I guess would depend on whether I gets the multiplier effectt from carbidopa that 5-HTP and levadopa do. Since it, like HTP, boosts serotonin, I imagine that's the case, but I'd suggest googling "tryptophane" and "carbidopa"

  • Gleeson

    Further to your posts on this thread in respect of the miracle of 5HPT. Have you considered the effect that food in certain diets have on the neurotransmitter Serotonin?

    For example, some PwP on this website eat a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet, whilst others eat a predominantly carbohydrate diet. If my understanding is correct that the carbohydrate diet allows the body to convert this type of food more easily to the serotonin, then from what part of the food in the Ketogenic diet (high fat) does the same as carbohydrate food? In your opinion, even intuitively, does the type of food we

    PwP eat make a difference to generation of neurotransmitters.



  • Hi Norton -- I'm sure it does. But, for me, I spend enough time keeping track of what my meds are doing (even though I'm now down to only two prescription drugs and two supps). I got caught up in all the diet debates for awhile but decided it was taking too much time and energy. Since most everyone agrees the Mediterranean diet is best for most people, I'm just going with this.

  • Gleeson

    I look forward to reading your post on warning signs of serotonin syndrome on Monday



  • Thank you partypants. Many people will be on those drugs and I think they should think twice before adding this in

  • Hi everyone,

    I've been thinking about this over the w/end and worrying that I've been missing out on the benefits of serotonin.

    Then I remembered that there are other ways to increase serotonin production naturally without having to resort to pills and potions, the one I think most of us know about is : exercise. Also on the list is : sunshine, diet and meditation.

    A quick google about the benefits of exercise re. serotonin unearths this,

    "In the United Kingdom the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which works on behalf of the National Health Service and makes recommendations on treatments according to the best available evidence, has published a guide on the treatment of depression.54 The guide recommends treating mild clinical depression with various strategies, including exercise rather than antidepressants, because the risk–benefit ratio is poor for antidepressant use in patients with mild depression." - see

    I would recommend everyone have a read of the whole article as it also mentions meditation (also associated with increased dopamine levels), sunshine and diet.

    So with this in mind I went out on my bicycle yesterday for about 2.5 hours and despite the fact that my legs were killing me yesterday when I came back I feel a lot better today. The biggest difference I noticed was my balance had greatly improved.

    So yes I believe that serotonin can greatly help with PD symptoms as gleeson states however for those of us who are wary of taking supplements especially because of interactions with our PD meds then we need to be a bit more creative in our serotonin production. And if we can increase our serotonin levels naturally either with exercise, sunshine, meditation or diet then that can only be a good thing.

  • Partypants

    Thank you for an inspirational post. Gleesons post has really got you and me ( hopefully others too) thinking and put it into practice. We are at the right time of the year to start exercising in the outdoors.

    Thank you again.


  • Couldn't agree more. I've cut my pill intake down to two prescribed meds -- my carbidoba-levadopa and a statin -- and two supplements -- 5-HTP and curcumin. (I blogged recently about getting approval to toss my blood pressure meds. There are some benefits to being in your 80's) My favorite and most important time of day is my quiet hour which occurs betweeen 3 and 4 a.m. (whenever I get up for my bathroom visit) which combines a few of my Parkinson's BIG exercises, a couple of core strengthening exercises, some stretches and lots of mindfulness meditation. I envy you and your biking. Giving up most of my car driving wasn't as traumatic as having to give up my biking. The stationary bike in my office has none of the appeal that biking on the C&O canal to the Potamac's Great Falls had.

  • Hello again Gleeson

    I note that you take a statin and recently got rid of your blood pressure tablets. If I may mention diet again, Dr. John McDougall's starch solution diet cures the cholesterol problem that can be the cause of both condition's. Dr. McDougall gives some wonderfull lectures on 'Youtube'. Furthermore, his website has many patients of his who cured such problems using his diet which is vegan. I recommend anybody who are on Statins take time out to search his website, you won't be disappointed.

    Gleeson, I read on your blog sometime ago, that you took Azilect, but you appear not to take it any longer. Is this the case?



  • Hi Norton -- I'll take a look at his website. I gone back and forth with Azilect -- off and on. Can't see it makes much difference and given its cost, I decided to do without.

  • Hello Norton

    I found exactly the same as As you with Azilect, but have to admit there are many others on this site who have found great benefit when taking it.



  • It is about time allopathic doctors, regular MDs, are catching up with natural doctors. Here is a link to a case study and the authors treat PD by balancing dopamine with serotonin levels and replenishing sulfur amino acids (thus replenishing glutathione levels):

  • Very interesting paper. Have you found a doctor who tries this or have any more info?

  • I use fragments of their methodology like the use of both L-dopa derived from Mucuna pruriens with of tyrosine and time of taking these supplents. I have not relied on any doctors for my therapy just reading scientific studies and applying the information. I take a bunch of supplements for a number of reasons and some of them raise serotonin levels.

  • Interesting.

  • FYI, I've added a post on the safety concerns about 5-HTP -- and some concluding thoughts -- Bottom line is that writing and researching these posts has left me more convinced than I was before that something is going on here that deserves more study and more input from others This forum has been very helpful to me in the comments made. The paper that Silvestrov cited is one of the best I've seen on making a case for the use of 5-HTP in dealing with PD.

    BTW, I'm not doing this to drum up business for my blog. I don't make a dime from it. Just the opposite.

  • A cautionary update:

    As these threads get read sometimes years after they are started I thought this information should be added. Gleeson writes a blog - Aging and Parkinson's and Me. He wrote an entry on 5th November. He had twice been admitted to ER and had a BP 207/114. This is some of his entry here and it can be read in full on his blog.

    My Name Is John and I'm a Recovering 5-HTP Addict...

    ... and I've been sober for three days.

    I began this blog after receiving my Parkinson's diagnosis five years ago. I thought I'd discovered in the serotonin-boosting supplement 5-HTP a treatment for the three major non-motor side effects of Parkinson's disease (PD) -- depression, insomnia, and constipation.

    I had successfully used 5-HTP years ago, when I was having lots of trouble with insomnia and depression. So, when I felt those problems returning after my PD diagnosis, I went to my CVS and bought a bottle of 5-HTP pills at the lowest available dose, 50mg. I recalled getting pretty manic when I overdid it years before.

    The results amazed me. The depression, insomnia, constipation... gone. In addition, I was also bursting with creative ideas during my early morning "quiet time."

    ..........Here on the blog, I began a vigorous effort to spread the word about 5-HTP's efficacy in treating those PD symptoms. I was sure others like me would experience similar benefits.

    .........As I had years before, I learned again about 5-HTP's "dark side." This time around, I ended up in my neighborhood hospital's emergency room -- twice -- after taking too much. Even though I was using only half of the 50 mg pill at bedtime, I'd sometimes pop the other half during the day. It didn't take long to learn the lesson -- too much 5-HTP caused scary spikes in my blood pressure... the reason for those trips to the ER..........

    You can read the full story on his blog site.

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