Tryptophan or L-tryptophan (TRIP-to-fan) is an essential amino acid needed by the body for the manufacture of many important compounds including neurotransmitters like melatonin and serotonin. L-tryptophan is called an “essential” amino acid because the body can’t make it. It must be acquired from food. The 5-HTP form of tryptophan is an intermediate form created during the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin. Neurotransmitters are used for communication within the nervous system itself (brain, spinal cord, and nerves) and between the nervous system and the rest of the body. Imbalances relating to one or more neurotransmitters have been implicated in a wide range of physical and psychological problems including obesity, depression, compulsive behaviors, excessive appetite, sleep and sexual problems. Tryptophan supplements can improve mood, decrease appetite, improve sleep, and possibly reduce some types of craving and binging episodes. According to Webmd “Tryptophan supplements are used to increase levels of neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin, which have a complex relationship to mood, behavior and how we respond to changes in our external and internal environments.” It is this increase which is responsible for tryptophan's benefits and not any property of tryptophan itself. Tryptophan indirectly promotes relaxation, improves sleep quality and, to a variable degree, minimizes carbohydrate cravings and the compulsion some people feel to overeat. For tryptophan, take 500-1500 mg before bed for anxiety, depression, or restlessness.
WebMD. “L-Tryptophan.” WebMD: Health. 2013. Web. 21 March 2013. Challem, Jack. “Amino Acid Primer: The function and health benefits of these key nutrients.” BetterNutrition Feb. 2013: 41-44. Print.