The Farming and Extraction of 5-HTP from Griffonia Simplicifolia

5-HTP is a common remedy for sleep disorders among other ailments. It’s a little known fact that 5-HTP is an African seed extraction from the Griffonia Simplicifolia plant. 5-HTP has been used for numerous years as a form of traditional medicine in its native country,

however now it has taken the Western Health world by storm with claims that it can reduce symptoms of Depression, Fibromyalgia, binge eating, migraines and sleep disorders [1].

Where is Griffonia Simplicifolia Grown?

The Griffonia Simplicifolia is found naturally growing along the coasts of West Africa and also some central regions. The plant is very hardy and adaptable as it has the ability to withstand a variety of different climates and environments. It can be found growing in coastal areas with high moisture, sunlight and wind, or in forest areas with high moisture and shade. The mostly densely populated regions are found between Liberia and Gabon. In its native country it is also known as the Kajya, Atooto, and Poopoo.

It belongs to the Genus of Griffonia and the Species of G.Simplicifolia. The plant grows to approximately 2 metres in height and is a climbing shrub. It grows robust and fibrous brown branches, thick green leaves and peculiar pod like ‘flowers’. The plant is most likely to flower in October and mature in February. Contained within these pods are the 5-HTP rich seeds that are black and circular in appearance [2,3].

What is the Farming Process?

At this current time there has been no cultivation of the plant as it is only grown exclusively in particular regions of Africa. Although, many attempts have been made to cultivate it none yet have been successful. This includes failures using seed spreading methods and stem cuttings.

In its native land the plant can grow approximately 144 shrubs to an acre which means on average they will harvest 432kg of Griffonia Simplicifolia for Health produce [4]. However, locals only harvest a very small amount as they don’t use as much as the supplement and health world require. Additionally, they use the whole plant as medicine not just the seeds. They often chew the stems for tooth decay or to create an aphrodisiac effect. They use the leaves to treat constipation and sickness and the leaf sap as eye drops.

The best method of farming and harvesting the Griffonia Simplicifolia is on a 12 week cycle, this allows the plant to release its seeds, propagate, grow, flower and fully mature before its harvest. It also means that at any one point there will be plants at each stage of the process and the natives will never be without the plant to sell or for their own medical uses.

Although, there is no successful examples of scientific cultivation there are a few modern additions to the growth of the plant, this includes the use of insecticides. This helps to build up resistance against native insects and increase plant yield.

How is 5-HTP extracted?

Once the Griffonia Simplicifolia is harvested the seeds must be removed and extracted. The seeds undergo pressing which creates a grey/white or pale brown powder. Typically the seeds are stored for up to 12 months before being placed in a solvent system of equal parts water and methanol. The best conditions for this are a high solvent content and temperature, as this yields the most 5-HTP.

The Griffonia Simplicifolia is the highest natural form of HTP, capable of producing an extract of 95%-98% HTP [5].

One well recognised impurity is the “Peak X” contaminant. This has been linked to the disorder Eosinophilia Myalgia syndrome (EMS), it has flu-like symptoms and can even be fatal. Symptoms also include muscle pain, breathing difficulties and spasms. This is only linked with poor quality 5-HTP products, so please ensure that your supplement is from a high quality source[6].

How does 5-HTP aid health?

5-HTP is linked to a multitude of disorders that are causes my low levels of the neurotransmitter Serotonin. Such as, (Click to read Article) PMSEpilepsy, Fibromyalgia, Sleep disordersParkinson’s diseaseObesityADHD and Migraines [1].

5-HTP is the mid-step in the production of the neurotransmitter Serotonin. Normally, the body would convert dietary Tryptophan into 5-HTP and then to Serotonin. Whereas when taking a 5-HTP it has been shown to naturally boost Serotonin levels[2].

  1. Birdsall, TC. (1988). 5-Hydroxytryptophan: a clinically-effective serotonin precursor.. Alternative Medicine Review : A Journal of Clinical Therapeutics. 3 (4), Pg. 271-280.
  2. Pathak,K. (2010). A review on Griffonia simplicifollia - an ideal herbal antidepressant. International Journal of Pharmacy and Life Sciences. 1 (3), Pg. 174-181.
  3. Asante-Dartey,J. (2012). Griffonia Simplicifolia . Available:
  4. Griffonia Vocanga. (2016). Griffonia Simplicifolia Seeds. Available:
  5. Adotey,J. (2009). Local production of 5-HTP from the seeds of griffonia simplicifolia. Available:
  6. Brewer, S.. (2002). 5-hydroxy-tryptophan. In: Grapevine Publishing Services The Daily Telegraph Encyclopediaof Vitamins, Minerals and Herbal Supplements. . London: Constable & Robinson. Pg. 203-205.
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