L-Tryptophan vs 5-HTP - Which One Is Better?

L-tryptophan vs 5-HTP is something people ask about a lot! Both of these great dietary supplements are converted into the same neurotransmitters (serotonin and melatonin), responsible for promoting a healthy mood and great sleep. You can find L-tryptophan as an amino acid in many food sources. You can only take 5-HTP as a dietary supplement. In this article, we’ll explore the question of L-tryptophan vs 5-HTP. We look at how both of them work, and which supplement is more effective. We’ll also explore safety issues with using both of the supplements together in a stack. Learn more about them here! [caption id=""attachment_1288"" align=""alignright"" width=""640""] L-tryptophan vs 5-HTP is an ongoing question for many people![/caption]

What is L-Tryptophan?

L-Tryptophan is an interesting amino acid with some great properties and benefits. You can find L-Tryptophan in many foods, especially in foods that are high in protein.[1] You can also get L-Tryptophan from protein shakes or from a high-quality dietary supplement. Although L-Tryptophan is available from food, it is not readily found in quantities that are high enough for you to experience its great benefits. This is why we recommend using a high-purity L-Tryptophan supplement. [caption id=""attachment_1295"" align=""alignright"" width=""300""] L-tryptophan helps to boost your mood and may help maintain healthy sleep[/caption] The best L-tryptophan benefits are:
  • Increase in mood
  • Maintaining healthy sleep patterns
  • Energy and appetite suppression[2]
For more information about what L-tryptophan is, please take a read through our interesting product description here.  

What is 5-HTP?

5-HTP is the next molecule in the conversion of L-tryptophan to serotonin and is the direct precursor to serotonin. Your body uses 5-HTP to produce serotonin. It uses serotonin to make melatonin in the pineal gland.[3] Melatonin production is light-sensitive and is directly responsible for regulating sleep patterns. Many people find that 5-HTP has really fast and strong acting effects. The interesting thing about 5-HTP is that it is simply a modified version of L-tryptophan. Your body converts L-tryptophan to 5-HTP using a special enzyme.[4] [caption id=""attachment_1293"" align=""alignright"" width=""300""] 5-HTP helps to support a good mood[/caption] The best 5-HTP benefits are:
  • Strong increase in mood
  • Improves healthy sleeping patterns
  • May provide extra energy and reduce appetite[5]
These have all been conclusively studied by researchers and more evidence is continuing to show how the benefits of 5-HTP work. For more information about what 5-HTP is, please take a read through our article here.  

L-Tryptophan vs 5-HTP

The question of L-tryptophan vs 5-HTP has been going on for a while. Some say that the mood-lifting effect of 5-HTP is more potent than L-tryptophan’s effects. Others say that L-Tryptophan is better at producing better sleep. We will examine this question below:
  1. L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP must both cross the blood-brain barrier to deliver serotonin to your brain. L-Tryptophan has to compete with other amino acids to cross the blood-brain barrier. 5-HTP is better at this and more effective.[6]
[caption id=""attachment_1294"" align=""alignright"" width=""300""] L-tryptophan has to cross through the blood-brain barrier to deliver its effects[/caption]
  1. The conversion of L-tryptophan to 5-HTP is the slowest part of the serotonin pathway (the rate limiting step). This means that when you take L-tryptophan not as much serotonin can be produced as quickly as when you take 5-HTP.[7]
  1. Your body uses Tryptophan in a number of different methods to produce lots of compounds. These include proteins, NAD/NADP, Tryptamine and Niacin (metabolites). However, 5-HTP is only used to produce serotonin and melatonin.
  1. Your body can convert L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP to serotonin in the liver and also in the brain. When L-Tryptophan has to compete with other amino acids to cross the blood-brain barrier, it has more of a chance of being converted to serotonin in your liver. Serotonin made in the liver doesn’t give you the mood-lift effects.[8]
  [caption id=""attachment_1297"" align=""alignright"" width=""290""] Liftmode's L-tryptophan, 98+% purity[/caption] However, one thing to think about when considering L-Tryptophan vs 5-HTP is that, because 5-HTP is so effective, your body may start to build a tolerance to the effects of 5-HTP after a while. This has not yet been shown by researchers, but may theoretically occur after prolonged used of 5-HTP. L-Tryptophan, on the other hand, while more subtle in effects, may be safer and healthier for long-term use. Also, L-Tryptophan supplements have less chance of interacting with medication than 5-HTP.

Stacking L-tryptophan with 5-HTP?

It is possible to combine L-Tryptophan with 5-HTP but you need to use the stack responsibly. Both these compounds increase the levels of serotonin in your brain. Too much serotonin can cause a number of side effects, including the potentially life-threatening serotonin syndrome.[9] You'll need to treat this stack with caution. Also, some people consider L-Tryptophan as being a subtle version of 5-HTP.[10] We’d recommend choosing one of the two instead of using them in a stack.  


[caption id=""attachment_1298"" align=""alignright"" width=""300""] Liftmode's 5-HTP, 98+% pure[/caption] If you’d like to use either 5-HTP or L-tryptophan, please consult with your doctor first if you are taking any prescription medication. It is especially important to talk to your doctor if you’re taking antidepressants or SSRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) SSRIs prevent serotonin from being depleted in your brain, which is how they prevent depression. Please use 5-HTP and L-tryptophan responsibly and stick to the recommended dosages.  


In conclusion, 5-HTP and L-Tryptophan are two great supplements for improving your mood and helping with healthy sleep. Your body converts both of these supplements into serotonin. However, your body must first convert L-tryptophan into 5-HTP before you can use it to make serotonin. To answer the question of L-tryptophan vs 5-HTP, we found that 5-HTP is more effective in delivering high-quality effects and benefits than L-tryptophan. L-tryptophan can be thought of as a milder, more mellow form of 5-HTP with better results for improving sleep. 5-HTP, on the other hand, delivers a potent and effective mood boost but is not as effective at promoting sleep.    

Medical Disclaimer

Not intended to treat, diagnose, or cure any disease or ailment. Please read and fully understand potential adverse effects before using this product. These statements have not been reviewed by the FDA and are not written by a medical professional. Please consult your doctor before using any supplements, especially if you have any medical conditions.


B.Sc. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Researched & written by Tristan and verified by the Liftmode.com Research Team


  [1] 7 Foods That Could Boost Your Serotonin, Written by Healthline Editorial Team Medically Reviewed by Peggy Pletcher, MS, RD, LD, CDE on April 28, 2015 [2] L-Tryptophan: Basic Metabolic Functions, Behavioral Research and Therapeutic Indications, DM Richard et al., Int J Tryptophan Res. 2009; 2: 45–60, Published online 2009 Mar 23. [3] The Pineal Gland and Melatonin, Endocrine Index, Colorado State University notes online, Last updated on March 17, 2003, Author: R. Bowen [4] Serotonin a la carte: supplementation with the serotonin precursor 5-hydroxytryptophan, EH Turner et al., Pharmacol Ther. 2006 Mar;109(3):325-38. Epub 2005 Jul 14. [5] 5-HTP, Examine.com, retrieved on 17 October 2016 [6] 5-HTP efficacy and contraindications, M Hinz, A Stein and T Uncini, Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2012; 8: 323–328, Published online 2012 Jul 19. doi:  10.2147/NDT.S33259 [7] 5-Hydroxytryptophan: a clinically-effective serotonin precursor, TC Birdsall, Altern Med Rev. 1998 Aug;3(4):271-80. [8] The function of serotonin within the liver, Ruddell, Richard G. et al., Journal of Hepatology , Volume 48 , Issue 4 , 666 - 675 [9] Serotonin Syndrome, J Volpi-Abadie et al., Ochsner J. 2013 Winter; 13(4): 533–540 [10] Difference between 5-HTP and L-Tryptophan, Thread on reddit.com, retrieved on October 17, 2016

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