With all the new treatments becoming available for migraine, it’s easy to forget about some of the older treatments that have helped some people avoid attacks.
Back in the 1960s, researchers began to realize the important connection between migraine and a certain neurotransmitter – serotonin. As the decades went by, there was an increasing interest in the relationship between serotonin and migraine, and finding ways use this knowledge to treat attacks.
Today we know more about the complexity of migraine and migraine attacks. But serotonin remains an important, and at times controversial, component. Low levels of serotonin not only relate to migraine, but other comorbid diseases and disorders, including depression, sleep problems, and other types of chronic pain.
One complimentary treatment has been especially studied as a migraine preventative – 5-hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP.
The body uses 5-HTP naturally in the creation of serotonin. As a supplement, 5-HTP is made from the seeds of griffonia simplicifolia, a climbing shrub native to central and west Africa. 5-HTP supplements have been used to treat a variety of conditions, including depression, fibromyalgia, insomnia, obesity, and sleep disorders.
The use of 5-HTP for migraine and other types of headache remains controversial, because not all clinical trials showed a significant benefit. Also, it seems that very little serotonin increase can be seen in the brain itself.
However, several trials did show that 5-HTP benefited patients, with a lessened need for other medication, lower pain levels, shorter attacks, and fewer attacks. It may be that the increase in serotonin the the body as a whole does benefit patients with migraine in particular.
Taking 5-HTP for Migraine or Headache
Like many supplements, it is best to use 5-HTP as a complimentary preventative treatment. And as with any preventative, it is helpful to try it for at least three months, using a headache diary to measure its effectiveness.
Clinical trials have generally used 400-600mg of 5-HTP daily for adults (20mg per 10lbs/4.5kg of body weight for children).
You should take extra caution with 5-HTP if you have diabetes or high blood pressure. Do NOT take 5-HTP with antidepressants. If you are taking triptans, or other supplements, talk to your doctor.