Tryptophan is the natural precursor to 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) in the body. Supplements that offer 5-HTP directly are usually derived from the seed of the Griffonia Simplicifolia plant which is native to West Africa.
The theory was that skipping the Tryptophan metabolism, which is the normal and natural step, and getting 5-HTP directly would improve sleep as 5-HTP then converts to Serotonin and Melatonin. Unfortunately many research studies and anecdotal evidence are now pointing towards the negatives of this approach.
The natural tryptophan metabolic pathway has “pressure release” mechanisms built into it, which are designed to allow the body to deal with over production or over-stimulation, by redirecting excess elsewhere. Because 5-HTP bypasses this system and does not provide any biochemical feedback, flooding the body with perhaps more than it needs, excessive 5-HTP is much more likely to cause negative effects, and in the worst case can lead to “serotonin syndrome.”
5-HTP is also known to often cause severe stomach cramps and nausea as it is often badly tolerated by many people.