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Disclaimer: This content has been produced purely for informational and educational purposes only and is never intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical guidelines including diagnosis, advice, and treatment.  

There has been a growing trend in the use of 5-HTP and GABA over the past few years since both have been found to have significant properties to promote sleep and relaxation. Though their effects are pretty similar, each has its own chemical structure and mechanism of action. This is why many people get confused when it comes to picking between 5-HTP vs GABA. If it sounds similar to you, keep reading till the end to clear your confusion. 

In this article, we’ll be weighing up 5-HTP vs GABA mainly in terms of their mechanism of action and potential benefits according to research findings. But before we get into the difference between 5-HTP and GABA, we’ll first need to understand the basics of 5-HTP and GABA a little more. So, let’s get started.  

Table of contents 

  • What is 5-HTP? 
  • What is GABA? 
  • 5-HTP vs GABA: mechanism of action 
  • 5-HTP vs GABA: potential benefits 
  • Can I take 5-HTP and GABA together? 
  • Final words 

What is 5-HTP?

5-HTP is the abbreviated term for 5-hydroxytryptophan, an amino acid that the human body naturally produces in the process of synthesizing serotonin, a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger that transmits nerve signals across nerves. 

The human body synthesizes serotonin via a large sequence of chemical changes that start with the amino acid L-tryptophan and eventually end in serotonin. 5-HTP is one of the major chemicals produced in the process of transforming L-tryptophan into serotonin, which acts as a precursor for a couple of neurotransmitters including serotonin and melatonin.  

Low levels of serotonin have been linked to a wide range of physical and mental issues such as sleep disorders, obesity, anxiety, and depression. Therefore, health experts are looking for ways to increase the production of serotonin in the body so that these issues can be addressed properly. 

This is the reason why 5-HTP supplements have been widely promoted by clinicians and found increasingly popular over recent years. Since this vital chemical is not found in foods, dietary supplements are considered the only option to get it. For supplementary use, it’s usually derived from an African plant called Griffonia simplicifolia. 

What is GABA? 

GABA is the abbreviated form of gamma-aminobutyric acid, a chemical messenger or neurotransmitter in the brain. It acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning it inhibits or blocks specific signals and slows down the activity of nerve cells to receive and send chemical messages in the brain and across the nervous system. 

The changing levels of GABA and slowed transition of nerve signals have been found to be highly helpful in controlling anxiety and enhancing moods. In essence, GABA helps to reduce hyperactivity and calm down nerve cells associated with stress, anxiety, and fear.    

5-HTP vs GABA: mechanism of action

5-HTP serves as a precursor to the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin plays an important role in regulating moods and promoting the feeling of happiness. It also impacts sleep cycles, pain perception, and appetite. 

While serotonin cannot cross the blood-brain itself, 5-HTP has the capacity to cross it. Therefore, 5-HTP plays an essential role in increasing the concentration of serotonin, which is vital for many bodily functions, especially those related to the central nervous system. 

Moreover, adequate 5-HTP is also important for maintaining and restoring melatonin to its optimal levels, which is vital for a healthy sleep-wake cycle.   

GABA, on the other hand, is one of the most common inhibitory neurotransmitters found in the central nervous system. It inhibits or blocks chemical signals and lessens the stimulation of the nerve cells, leading to a calming effect on the overly anxious nerves. 

5-HTP vs GABA: potential benefits 

Potential benefits of 5-HTP 

  • Can help with preventing and managing depression by improving serotonin levels 
  • Promotes sleep by improving melatonin levels 
  • Lowers the frequency of migraines or other types of headaches 
  • May help alleviate fibromyalgia symptoms such as muscle and bone pain 
  • Aids in weight loss by enhancing feelings of fullness 

Potential benefits of GABA 

  • Improves sleep quality by enabling the nervous system to relax 
  • Helps reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety 
  • May help lower high blood pressure
  • Helps enhance mood and promote brain function 
  • May help improve symptoms of schizophrenia including cognitive impairment and hallucinations  
  • May help with neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and Huntington's disease

Can I take 5-HTP and GABA together? 

A 2016 study in Life Sciences showed that a combination of 5-HTP and GABA has better sleep-promoting effects than the administration of either of the two substances alone. However, there are a lot of dietary supplements available on the market that contain both amino acids. This indicates, that combining both 5-HTP and GABA might be safe in certain situations. 

But it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not a one size fits all solution since every person is unique. Besides, there’s no sufficient evidence available to determine whether they are completely safe on the human body when taken together. 

Therefore, it’s highly important to consult with a qualified naturopathic healthcare provider or nutritionist to determine the safety profile of the 5-HTP and GABA combination for your specific health condition. 


Final words 

When we compare 5-HTP vs GABA, we find that 5-HTP mainly serves as a precursor to neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin and improves their levels, whereas, GABA inhibits the chemical messages in the nervous system and provides a calming effect. Both have various health benefits, especially those that are related to the central nervous system such as sleep, mood, anxiety, depression, and cognitive function. 

It depends on the specific health status and aim of use which one would work better over the other. However, it’s highly recommended to consult with a qualified naturopathic healthcare provider to determine the safety profile and method of use before using any dietary supplements.

Here you can see Vorst’s high-quality natural 5-HTP 100 Mg Capsules 

Important resources:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26921634/
  2. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/5-hydroxytryptophan-5-HTP
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324025
  4. https://www.verywellmind.com/5-HTP-5-hydroxytryptophan-88320
  5. https://nootropicsexpert.com/5-HTP/
  6. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/5-HTP-benefits
  7. https://www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/The-Relationship-Between-Serotonin-and-5-HTP.aspx
  8. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22857-gamma-aminobutyric-acid-gaba
  9. https://thesleepdoctor.com/sleep-aids/gaba/
  10. https://www.verywellhealth.com/gaba-5095143
  11. https://www.everywomanover29.com/blog/sleep-gaba-5-HTP/#:~:text=The%20amino%20acid%20GABA%20raises,melatonin%20to%20help%20you%20sleep.
  12. https://renuerx.com/general-health/the-role-of-gaba-neurotransmitters-in-depression-anxiety/
  13. https://todayspractitioner.com/sleep/sleep-and-relaxation-support-stat/#.Y6KQNVVByEs
  14. https://www.livestrong.com/article/447274-can-5-HTP-gaba-supplements-be-taken-together/