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Yerba Mate Tea

 

Mate is a plant. The leaves are used to make medicine.

Mate is used as a stimulant to relieve mental and physical tiredness (fatigue), as well as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). It is also used for heart-related complaints including heart failure, irregular heartbeat, and low blood pressure.

Some people use mate to improve mood and depression; to relieve headache and joint pains; to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs), and bladder and kidney stones; for weight loss; and as a laxative.

In foods, mate is used to make a tea-like beverage, known as maté or Yerba Maté, which is very popular in Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for YERBA MATE are as follows:

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for…

  • Mental function. Early research suggests that drinking a beverage containing yerbe mate does not affect mental performance in healthy females.
  • Diabetes. Early research suggests that drinking yerba mate tea three times daily for 60 days can lower blood sugar in people with diabetes.
  • High lipid (fat) levels in the blood. Early research suggests that drinking tea containing yerba mate three times daily for 40 days can lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol in people with high levels of lipids (fats) in the blood. Also, drinking yerba mate tea appeasr to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol in people with high cholesterol who are also taking statin drugs.
  • Obesity. Early research shows that taking yerba mate by mouth might cause weight loss when used in combination with guarana and damiana.
  • Osteoporosis. Drinking a traditional yerba mate tea daily might reduce the rate of bone loss in postmenopausal women.
  • Prediabetes. Early research suggests that drinking yerba mate tea three times daily for 60 days does not reduce blood sugar before eating in people with prediabetes. However, it might reduce glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C), a measure of average blood sugar.
  • Constipation.
  • Depression.
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs).
  • Heart conditions.
  • Kidney and bladder stones.
  • Mental and physical tiredness (fatigue).
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
  • Fluid retention.
  • Headaches.
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension).
  • Other conditions.

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of yerba mate for these uses.

How does it work?

Mate contains caffeine and other chemicals which stimulate the brain, heart, muscles lining blood vessels, and other parts of the body.

Are there safety concerns?

Yerba mate is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people, when taken by mouth for short periods of time. It contains caffeine, which can cause some side effects such as inability to sleep (insomnia), nervousness and restlessness, stomach upset, nausea and vomiting, increased heart rate and breathing, high blood pressure, headache, ringing in the ears, irregular heartbeats, and other side effects.

When taken in large amounts or for long periods of time, yerba mate is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. It increases the risk of mouth, esophageal, laryngeal, kidney, bladder, and lung cancer. This risk is especially high for people who smoke or drink alcohol.

When taken in very large amounts, yerba mate is LIKELY UNSAFE, due to its caffeine content.

Special precautions & warnings:

Children: Yerba mate is POSSIBLY UNSAFE for children when taken by mouth. Yerba mate is linked with an increased risk of mouth cancer, esophageal cancer, laryngeal cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, and lung cancer.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Yerba mate is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth during pregnancy. One concern is that using yerba mate seems to increase the risk of getting cancer. It’s not known whether that risk is transferred to the developing fetus. Another concern is the caffeine content of yerba mate. Caffeine crosses the placenta and enters the fetus’ bloodstream, producing caffeine levels in the fetus that resemble the caffeine level in the mother. In general, mothers should avoid consuming more than 200 mg of caffeine daily; that’s about 2 cups of coffee or tea. Infants born to mothers who consume a lot of caffeine during pregnancy sometimes show symptoms of caffeine withdrawal after birth. High doses of caffeine have also been linked with miscarriage, premature delivery, and low birth weight. However, researchers studied mothers who drank yerba mate tea during pregnancy and found no strong link between drinking yerba mate and premature delivery or small birth weight. But this study has been criticized because it did not consider the amount of yerba mate or caffeine used by the mothers; it looked only at how often they used yerba mate.

Yerba mate is also POSSIBLY UNSAFE during breast-feeding. It is not known whether the cancer-causing chemicals in yerba mate pass into breast milk, but that is a concern. The caffeine in yerba mate is also a problem. It might cause irritability and increased bowel movements in nursing infants.

Alcoholism: Heavy alcohol use combined with long-term yerba mate use increases the risk of cancer from 3-fold to 7-fold.

Anxiety disorders: The caffeine in yerba mate might make anxiety disorders worse.

Bleeding disorders: Caffeine might slow clotting. As a result, there is a concern that the caffeine in yerba mate might make bleeding disorders worse. But so far, this effect has not been reported in people.

Heart conditions: Caffeine in yerba mate can cause irregular heartbeats in certain people. If you have a heart condition, discuss using yerba mate with your healthcare provider.

Diabetes: Some research suggests that the caffeine in yerba mate may affect the way people with diabetes process sugar and may complicate blood sugar control. There is also some interesting research that suggests caffeine may make the warning symptoms of low blood sugar in people with type 1 diabetes more noticeable. Some studies show that the symptoms of low blood sugar are more intense when they start in the absence of caffeine, but as low blood sugar continues, symptoms are greater with caffeine. This might increase the ability of people with diabetes to detect and treat low blood sugar. However, the downside is that caffeine might actually increase the number of low-sugar episodes. If you have diabetes, talk with your healthcare provider before using yerba mate.

Diarrhea. Yerba mate contains caffeine. The caffeine in yerba mate, especially when taken in large amounts, can worsen diarrhea.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Yerba mate contains caffeine. The caffeine in yerba mate, especially when taken in large amounts, can worsen diarrhea and might worsen symptoms of IBS.

Glaucoma: Using yerba mate increases the pressure inside the eye due to the caffeine it contains. The increase in pressure occurs within 30 minutes and lasts for at least 90 minutes. If you have glaucoma, discuss your use of yerba mate with your healthcare provider.

High blood pressure: The caffeine in yerba mate might increase blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. Consuming 250 mg of caffeine can increase blood pressure in healthy people, but this doesn’t seem to happen in people who use caffeine all the time.

Weak bones (osteoporosis): Some researchers have found that postmenopausal women who drink a liter or more daily of a traditional South American yerba mate tea have higher bone density. However, the caffeine in yerba mate tends to flush calcium out of the body in the urine. This can contribute to weak bones. For this reason, many experts recommend that caffeine intake be limited to less than 300 mg per day (approximately 2-3 cups of yerba mate). Taking extra calcium may help to make up for the calcium that is flushed out.

There are some women who are at special risk for weak bones. These women have an inherited condition that makes it hard for them to use vitamin D properly. Vitamin D works with calcium to build strong bones. These women should be especially careful to limit the amount of caffeine they get from yerba mate as well as other sources.

Smoking: The risk of getting cancer is 3 to 7 times higher in people who smoke and use yerba mate for long periods of time.

Are there interactions with medications?

Major
Do not take this combination.
Amphetamines
Stimulant drugs such as amphetamines speed up the nervous system. By speeding up the nervous system, stimulant medications can make you feel jittery and increase your heart rate. The caffeine in yerba mate might also speed up the nervous system. Taking yerba mate along with stimulant drugs might cause serious problems including increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Avoid taking stimulant drugs along with yerba mate.
Cocaine
Stimulant drugs such as cocaine speed up the nervous system. By speeding up the nervous system, stimulant medications can make you feel jittery and increase your heart rate. The caffeine in yerba mate might also speed up the nervous system. Taking yerba mate along with stimulant drugs might cause serious problems including increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Avoid taking stimulant drugs along with yerba mate.
Ephedrine
Stimulant drugs speed up the nervous system. Caffeine (contained in yerba mate) and ephedrine are both stimulant drugs. Taking caffeine along with ephedrine might cause too much stimulation and sometimes serious side effects and heart problems. Do not take caffeine-containing products and ephedrine at the same time.
Moderate
Be cautious with this combination.
Adenosine (Adenocard)
Yerba mate contains caffeine. The caffeine in yerba mate might block the effects of adenosine (Adenocard). Adenosine (Adenocard) is often used by doctors to do a test on the heart. This test is called a cardiac stress test. Stop consuming yerba mate or other caffeine-containing products at least 24 hours before a cardiac stress test.
Antibiotics (Quinolone antibiotics)
The body breaks down caffeine to get rid of it. Some antibiotics might decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Taking these antibiotics along with yerba mate can increase the risk of side effects including jitteriness, headache, increased heart rate, and other side effects.

Some antibiotics that decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine include ciprofloxacin (Cipro), enoxacin (Penetrex), norfloxacin (Chibroxin, Noroxin), sparfloxacin (Zagam), trovafloxacin (Trovan), and grepafloxacin (Raxar).

Cimetidine (Tagamet)
Yerba mate contains caffeine. The body breaks down caffeine to get rid of it. Cimetidine (Tagamet) can decrease how quickly your body breaks down caffeine. Taking cimetidine (Tagamet) along with yerba mate might increase the chance of caffeine side effects including jitteriness, headache, fast heartbeat, and others.
Clozapine (Clozaril)
The body breaks down clozapine (Clozaril) to get rid of it. The caffeine in yerba mate seems to decrease how quickly the body breaks down clozapine (Clozaril). Taking yerba mate along with clozapine (Clozaril) can increase the effects and side effects of clozapine (Clozaril).
Dipyridamole (Persantine)
Yerba mate contains caffeine. The caffeine in yerba mate might block the effects of dipyridamole (Persantine). Dipyridamole (Persantine) is often used by doctors to do a test on the heart. This test is called a cardiac stress test. Stop consuming yerba mate or other caffeine-containing products at least 24 hours before a cardiac stress test.
Disulfiram (Antabuse)
The body breaks down caffeine to get rid of it. Disulfiram (Antabuse) can decrease how quickly the body gets rid of caffeine. Taking yerba mate (which contains caffeine) along with disulfiram (Antabuse) might increase the effects and side effects of caffeine including jitteriness, hyperactivity, irritability, and others.
Estrogens
The body breaks down caffeine (contained in yerba mate) to get rid of it. Estrogens can decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Decreasing the breakdown of caffeine can cause jitteriness, headache, fast heartbeat, and other side effects. If you take estrogens, limit your caffeine intake.

Some estrogen pills include conjugated equine estrogens (Premarin), ethinyl estradiol, estradiol, and others.

Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
The body breaks down the caffeine in yerba mate to get rid of it. Fluvoxamine (Luvox) can decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Taking yerba mate along with fluvoxamine (Luvox) might cause too much caffeine in the body, and increase the effects and side effects of yerba mate.
Lithium
Your body naturally gets rid of lithium. The caffeine in yerba mate can increase how quickly your body gets rid of lithium. If you take products that contain caffeine and you take lithium, stop taking caffeine products slowly. Stopping yerba mate too quickly can increase the side effects of lithium.
Medications for asthma (Beta-adrenergic agonists)
Yerba mate contains caffeine. Caffeine can stimulate the heart. Some medications for asthma can also stimulate the heart. Taking caffeine with some medications for asthma might cause too much stimulation and cause heart problems.

Some medications for asthma include albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin, Volmax), metaproterenol (Alupent), terbutaline (Bricanyl, Brethine), and isoproterenol (Isuprel).

Medications for depression (MAOIs)
The caffeine in yerba mate can stimulate the body. Some medications used for depression can also stimulate the body. Drinking yerba mate and taking some medications for depression might cause too much stimulation to the body and serious side effects including fast heartbeat, high blood pressure, nervousness, and others could occur.

Some of these medications used for depression include phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and others.

Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
Yerba mate contains caffeine. Caffeine might slow blood clotting. Taking yerba mate along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.

Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.

Nicotine
Stimulant drugs such as nicotine speed up the nervous system. By speeding up the nervous system, stimulant medications can make you feel jittery and increase your heart rate. The caffeine in yerba mate might also speed up the nervous system. Taking yerba mate along with stimulant drugs might cause serious problems including increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Avoid taking stimulant drugs along with yerba mate.
Pentobarbital (Nembutal)
The stimulant effects of the caffeine in yerba mate can block the sleep-producing effects of pentobarbital.
Phenylpropanolamine
Yerba mate contains caffeine. Caffeine can stimulate the body. Phenylpropanolamine can also stimulate the body. Taking yerba mate and phenylpropanolamine together might cause too much stimulation and increase heartbeat and blood pressure and cause nervousness.
Riluzole (Rilutek)
The body breaks down riluzole (Rilutek) to get rid of it. Taking yerba mate can decrease how fast the body breaks down riluzole (Rilutek) and increase the effects and side effects of riluzole.
Stimulant drugs
Stimulant drugs speed up the nervous system. By speeding up the nervous system, stimulant medications can make you feel jittery and speed up your heartbeat. The caffeine in yerba mate can also speed up the nervous system. Consuming yerba mate along with stimulant drugs might cause serious problems including increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Avoid taking stimulant drugs along with yerba mate.

Some stimulant drugs include diethylpropion (Tenuate), epinephrine, phentermine (Ionamin), pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), and many others.

Theophylline
Yerba mate contains caffeine. Caffeine works similarly to theophylline. Caffeine can also decrease how quickly the body gets rid of theophylline. Taking yerba mate along with theophylline might increase the effects and side effects of theophylline.
Verapamil (Calan, Covera, Isoptin, Verelan)
The body breaks down the caffeine in yerba mate to get rid of it. Verapamil (Calan, Covera, Isoptin, Verelan) can decrease how quickly the body gets rid of caffeine. Drinking yerba mate and taking verapamil (Calan, Covera, Isoptin, Verelan) can increase the risk of side effects for caffeine including jitteriness, headache, and an increased heartbeat.
Minor
Be watchful with this combination.
Alcohol
The body breaks down the caffeine in yerba mate to get rid of it. Alcohol can decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Taking yerba mate along with alcohol might cause too much caffeine in the bloodstream and caffeine side effects including jitteriness, headache, and fast heartbeat.
Birth control pills (Contraceptive drugs)
The body breaks down the caffeine in yerba mate to get rid of it. Birth control pills can decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Taking yerba mate along with birth control pills can cause jitteriness, headache, fast heartbeat, and other side effects.

Some birth control pills include ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel (Triphasil), ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone (Ortho-Novum 1/35, Ortho-Novum 7/7/7), and others.

Fluconazole (Diflucan)
Yerba mate contains caffeine. The body breaks down caffeine to get rid of it. Fluconazole (Diflucan) might decrease how quickly the body gets rid of caffeine. This could cause caffeine to stay in the body too long and increase the risk of side effects such as nervousness, anxiety, and insomnia.
Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
Diabetes medications are used to lower blood sugar. Yerba mate contains caffeine. Reports claim that caffeine might increase or decrease blood sugar. Yerba mate might interfere with blood sugar control and decrease the effectiveness of diabetes medications. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.

Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.

Mexiletine (Mexitil)
Yerba mate contains caffeine. The body breaks down caffeine to get rid of it. Mexiletine (Mexitil) can decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Taking Mexiletine (Mexitil) along with yerba mate might increase the caffeine effects and side effects of yerba mate.
Terbinafine (Lamisil)
The body breaks down caffeine (contained in yerba mate) to get rid of it. Terbinafine (Lamisil) can decrease how fast the body gets rid of caffeine and increase the risk of side effects including jitteriness, headache, increased heartbeat, and other effects.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Bitter orange
Do not use yerba mate with bitter orange. The combination might overstimulate the body, resulting in increased blood pressure and heart rate, even in people with normal blood pressure.
Calcium
The caffeine in yerba mate tends to increase the body’s elimination of calcium. If you use a lot of yerba mate, ask your healthcare provider if you should take additional calcium to help make up for the calcium that is lost in the urine.
Creatine
There is some concern that combining caffeine, a chemical found in yerba mate, with ephedra and creatine might increase the risk of serious harmful health effects. One athlete who took 6 grams of creatine monohydrate, 400-600 mg of caffeine, 40-60 mg of ephedra, and a variety of other supplements daily for 6 weeks had a stroke. Caffeine might also decrease creatine’s ability to improve athletic performance.
Ephedra (Ma huang)
Don’t use yerba mate with ephedra. This combination can overstimulate the body and increase the risk of serious life-threatening or disabling conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and seizures. This combination can also cause death.
Herbs and supplements that contain caffeine
Yerba mate contains caffeine. Using it along with other herbs or supplements that also contain caffeine might increase the risk of caffeine-related side effects. Other natural products that contain caffeine include cocoa, coffee, cola nut, black tea, oolong tea, and guarana.
Herbs and supplements that slow blood clotting
Yerba mate might slow blood clotting. Using it along with other herbs or supplements that have this same effect might increase the risk of bruising and bleeding in some people. Some of these herbs include angelica, clove, danshen, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, Panax ginseng, and others.
Magnesium
Yerba mate contains caffeine. The caffeine in yerba mate might increase how much magnesium is released in the urine.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

The appropriate dose of mate depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for mate. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

Other names

Chimarrao, Green Mate, Hervea, Ilex, Ilex paraguariensis, Jesuit’s Brazil Tea, Jesuit’s Tea, Maté, Maté Folium, Paraguay Tea, St. Bartholemew’s Tea, Thé de Saint Barthélémy, Thé des Jésuites, Thé du Brésil, Thé du Paraguay, Yerbamate, Yerba Mate, Yerba Maté.

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

References

  1. Meyer, K. and Ball, P. Psychological and Cardiovascular Effects of Guarana and Yerba Mate: A Comparison with Coffee. Revista Interamericana de Psicologia 2004;38:87-94.
  2. Muccillo Baisch, A. L., Johnston, K. B., and Paganini Stein, F. L. Endothelium-dependent vasorelaxing activity of aqueous extracts of Ilex paraguariensis on mesenteric arterial bed of rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 1998;60:133-139. View abstract.
  3. Vera, Garcia R., Basualdo, I., Peralta, I., de, Herebia M., and Caballero, S. Minerals content of Paraguayan yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis, S.H.). Arch.Latinoam.Nutr. 1997;47:77-80. View abstract.
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How does 5 HTP WORK?

 

What is it?

5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a chemical by-product of the protein building block L-tryptophan. It is also produced commercially from the seeds of an African plant known as Griffonia simplicifolia 5-HTP is used for sleep disorders such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, migraine and tension-type headaches, fibromyalgia, obesity, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), seizure disorder, and Parkinson’s disease..

How effective is it?

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for 5-HTP are as follows:

Possibly effective for…

  • Depression. Some clinical research shows that taking 5-HTP by mouth improve symptoms of depression in some people. Some clinical research shows that taking 5-HTP by mouth might be as beneficial as certain prescription antidepressant drugs for improving depression symptoms. In most studies, 150-800 mg daily of 5-HTP was taken. In some cases, higher doses have been used.

Possibly ineffective for…

  • Down syndrome. Some research shows that giving 5-HTP to infants with Down syndrome might improve muscle and activity. Other research shows that it does not improve muscle or development when taken from infancy until 3-4 years of age. Research also shows that taking 5-HTP along with conventional prescription drugs does improve development, social skills, or language skills.

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for…

  • Alcoholism. Early research shows that taking 5-HTP with D-phenylalanine and L-glutamine for 40 days can reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms. However, taking 5-HTP with carbidopa daily for one year does not seem to help people stop drinking. The effect of 5-HTP alone for alcoholism is not clear.
  • Alzheimer’s disease. Early research suggests that taking 5-HTP by mouth does not help symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Anxiety. Evidence on the effects of 5-HTP for anxiety is unclear. Early research shows that taking 25-150 mg of 5-HTP by mouth daily along with carbidopa seems to reduce anxiety symptoms in people with anxiety disorders. However, other early research shows that taking higher doses of 5-HTP, 225 mg daily or more, seems to make anxiety worse. Also, taking 60 mg of 5-HTP daily through the vein does not reduce anxiety in people with panic disorders.
  • Nervous system disorder (Cerebellar ataxia). Evidence on the use of 5-HTP for cerebellar ataxia is unclear. Early evidence shows that taking 5 mg/kg of 5-HTP daily for 4 months can decrease nervous system dysfunction. However, other research shows that taking 5-HTP daily for up to one year does not improve symptoms of cerebellar ataxia.
  • Fibromyalgia. Early research suggests that taking 100 mg of 5-HTP by mouth three times daily for 30-90 days might improve pain, tenderness, sleep, anxiety, fatigue, and morning stiffness in people with fibromyalgia.
  • Menopausal symptoms. Early research suggests that taking 150 mg of 5-HTP daily for 4 weeks does not reduce hot flashes in postmenopausal women.
  • Migraine headache. Evidence on the effects of 5-HTP for the prevention or treatment of migraines in adults is unclear. Some studies show that taking 5-HTP daily does not reduce migraines, while other studies show that it might be as beneficial as prescription drugs. 5-HTP does not seem to reduce migraines in children.
  • Obesity. Early research suggests that taking 5-HTP might help reduce appetite, caloric intake, and weight in obese people. Other research suggests that using a specific mouth spray containing 5-HTP and other extracts (5-HTP-Nat Exts, Medestea Biotech S.p.a., Torino, Italy) for 4 weeks increases weight loss by about 41% in overweight postmenopausal women.
  • Parkinson’s disease. Early research shows that taking 100-150 mg of 5-HTP by mouth daily with conventional drugs seems to reduce shaking, but these benefits only continue for up to 5 months. Taking larger doses of 5-HTP, 275-1500 mg daily along with carbidopa seems to worsen symptoms.
  • Schizophrenia. Early research suggests that taking 800 mg to 6 grams of 5-HTP daily with carbidopa for 90 days might improve schizophrenia symptoms in some young men.
  • Tension headache. Early research suggests that taking 100 mg of 5-HTP three times daily for 8 weeks does not reduce pain or the length of tension headaches.
  • Heroin withdrawal symptoms. Early research suggests that taking 200 mg of 5-HTP daily for 6 days together with tyrosine, phosphatidylcholine, and L-glutamine, might reduce insomnia and withdrawal symptoms in recovering heroin addicts.
  • Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Insomnia.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
  • Ramsey-Hunt syndrome.
  • Other conditions.

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of 5-HTP for these uses.

 

How does it work?

5-HTP works in the brain and central nervous system by increasing the production of the chemical serotonin. Serotonin can affect sleep, appetite, temperature, sexual behavior, and pain sensation. Since 5-HTP increases the synthesis of serotonin, it is used for several diseases where serotonin is believed to play an important role including depression, insomnia, obesity, and many other conditions.

Are there safety concerns?

5-HTP is POSSIBLY SAFE when taking by mouth appropriately. 5-HTP has been used safely in doses up to 400 mg daily for up to one year. However, some people who have taken it have developed a condition called eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS), a serious condition involving extreme muscle tenderness (myalgia) and blood abnormalities (eosinophilia). Some people think EMS might be caused by an accidental ingredient or contaminant in some 5-HTP products. However, there is not enough scientific evidence to know if EMS is caused by 5-HTP, a contaminant, or some other factor. Until more is known, 5-HTP should be used cautiously.

Other potential side effects of 5-HTP include heartburn, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, sexual problems, and muscle problems.

5-HTP is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in large doses. Doses from 6-10 grams daily have been linked to severe stomach problems and muscle spasms.

Special precautions & warnings:

Children: 5-HTP is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth appropriately. Doses of up to 5 mg/kg daily have been used safely for up to 3 years in infants and children up to 12 years-old. As with adults, there is also concern about the potential for eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS) in children, a serious condition involving extreme muscle tenderness (myalgia) and blood abnormalities (eosinophilia).

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking 5-HTP if you are pregnant or breast feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Surgery: 5-HTP can affect a brain chemical called serotonin. Some drugs administered during surgery can also affect serotonin. Taking 5-HTP before surgery might cause too much serotonin in the brain and can result in serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Tell patients to stop taking 5-HTP at least 2 weeks before surgery.

Are there interactions with medications?

Major
Do not take this combination.
Medications for depression (Antidepressant drugs)
5-HTP increases a brain chemical called serotonin. Some medications for depression also increase serotonin. Taking 5-HTP along with these medications for depression might increase serotonin too much and cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Do not take 5-HTP if you are taking medications for depression.

Some of these medications for depression include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), amitriptyline (Elavil), clomipramine (Anafranil), imipramine (Tofranil), and others.

Medications for depression (MAOIs)
5-HTP increases a chemical in the brain. This chemical is called serotonin. Some medications used for depression also increase serotonin. Taking 5-HTP with these medications used for depression might cause there to be too much serotonin. This could cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety.

Some of these medications used for depression include phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and others.

Moderate
Be cautious with this combination.
Carbidopa (Lodosyn)
5-HTP can affect the brain. Carbidopa (Lodosyn) can also affect the brain. Taking 5-HTP along with carbidopa can increase the risk of serious side effects including rapid speech, anxiety, aggressiveness, and others.
Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, and others)
5-HTP can affect a brain chemical called serotonin. Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, others) can also affect serotonin. Taking 5-HTP along with dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, others) might cause too much serotonin in the brain and can result in serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Do not take 5-HTP if you are taking dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, and others).
Meperidine (Demerol)
5-HTP increases a chemical in the brain called serotonin. Meperidine (Demerol) can also increase serotonin in the brain. Taking 5-HTP along with meperidine (Demerol) might cause too much serotonin in the brain and serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety.
Pentazocine (Talwin)
5-HTP increases a brain chemical called serotonin. Pentazocine (Talwin) also increases serotonin. Taking 5-HTP along with pentazocine (Talwin) might increase serotonin too much. This might cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Do not take 5-HTP if you are taking pentazocine (Talwin).
Sedative medications (CNS depressants)
5-HTP might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Taking 5-HTP along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.

Some sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien), and others.

Tramadol (Ultram)
5-HTP increases a brain chemical called serotonin. Tramadol (Ultram) can also increase serotonin. Taking 5-HTP along with tramadol (Ultram) might cause too much serotonin in the brain and might result in side effects including confusion, shivering, stiff muscles, and others.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Herbs and supplements with sedative properties
5-HTP can cause sleepiness or drowsiness. Using it along with other herbs and supplements that have the same effect might cause too much sleepiness. Some of these herbs and supplements include calamus, California poppy, catnip, hops, Jamaican dogwood, kava, St. John’s wort, skullcap, valerian, yerba mansa, and others.
Herbs and supplements with serotonergic properties
5-HTP increases a brain chemical called serotonin. Taking 5-HTP along with other herbs and supplements that increase serotonin might lead to too much serotonin and cause side effects including heart problems, shivering and anxiety. Other herbs and supplements that increase serotonin levels include Hawaiian baby woodrose, L-tryptophan, S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), and St. John’s wort.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:ADULT

BY MOUTH:

  • For depression: Most commonly, 150-800 mg daily is taken for 2-6 weeks. These doses are sometimes divided up and administered as 50 mg to 100 mg three times a day. Sometimes the dose starts out low and steadily increases every 1-2 weeks until a target dose is reached. Less commonly, higher doses are used. In one study, the dose is steadily increased up to 3 grams per day.

Other names

2-Amino-3-(5-Hydroxy-1H-Indol-3-yl)Propanoic Acid, 5 Hydroxy-Tryptophan, 5 Hydroxy-Tryptophane, 5-Hydroxytryptophan, 5-Hydroxytryptophane, 5-Hydroxy L-Tryptophan, 5-Hydroxy L-Tryptophane, 5-Hydroxy Tryptophan, 5-L-Hydroxytryptophan, L-5 HTP, L-5-Hydroxytryptophan, L-5-Hydroxytryptophane, Oxitriptan.

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

References

  1. Michelson D, Page SW, Casey R, et al. An eosinophilia-myaligia syndrome related disorder associated with exposure to l-5-hydroxytryptophan. J Rheumatol 1994;21:2261-5. View abstract.
  2. Lemaire PA, Adosraku RK. An HPLC method for the direct assay of the serotonin precursor, 5-hydroxytrophan, in seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia. Phytochem Anal 2002;13:333-7.View abstract.
  3. Rondanelli M, Opizzi A, Faliva M, Bucci M, Perna S. Relationship between the absorption of 5-hydroxytryptophan from an integrated diet, by means of Griffonia simplicifolia extract, and the effect on satiety in overweight females after oral spray administration. Eat Weight Disord 2012;17:e22-8. View abstract

Mediterranean Diet May Help Fight Depression

Studies Suggest That a Mediterranean Diet 
Is Associated With Reduced Risk of Depression

People who regularly follow the Mediterranean diet, rich in vegetables, 
fruits, nuts, whole grains and fish, appear less likely to develop depression, 
according to a report in the October issue of Archives of General 
Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
  
The lifetime prevalence of mental disorders has been found to be 
lower in Mediterranean than Northern European countries, according to 
background information in the article. One logical explanation is that the 
diet commonly followed in the region may be protective against depression. 
Previous research has suggested that the monounsaturated fatty acids in 
olive oil which is used abundantly in the Mediterranean diet, may be 
associated with a lower risk of severe depressive symptoms.
  
Researchers from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and 
Clinic of the University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, studied 10,094 
healthy participants who completed an initial questionnaire between 
1999 and 2005. Participants reported their dietary intake on a food 
frequency questionnaire, and the researchers calculated their adherence 
to the Mediterranean diet based on nine key components (high ratio of 
monounsaturated fatty acids to saturated fatty acids; moderate intake
of alcohol and dairy products; low intake of meat; and high intake of 
legumes, fruit and nuts, cereals, vegetables and fish).
  
After a midpoint (median) of 4.4 years of follow-up, 480 new cases 
of depression were identified, including 156 in men and 324 in women.
Individuals who followed the Mediterranean diet most closely had a greater
than 30 percent reduction in the risk of depression than whose who had the 
lowest Mediterranean diet scores. 
  
“The specific mechanisms by which a better adherence to the Mediterranean 
dietary pattern could help to prevent the occurrence of depression are not well 
known,” the authors said. Components of the diet may improve blood vessel 
function, fight inflammation, reduce risk for heart disease and repair oxygen-
related cell damage, all of which may decrease the chances of developing 
depression.
  
“However, the role of the overall dietary pattern may be more important than 
the effect of single components. It is plausible that the synergistic combination 
of a sufficient provision of omega-three fatty acids together with other natural 
unsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants from olive oil and nuts, flavonoids and 
other phytochemicals from fruit and other plant foods and large amounts of 
natural folates and other B vitamins in the overall Mediterranean dietary pattern 
may exert a fair degree of protection against depression,” the authors concluded.

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