Griffonia Simplicifolia -The Plant Responsible for 5-HTP and Sweet Dreams.

Griffonia Simplicifolia -The Plant Responsible for 5-HTP and Sweet Dreams.

The Griffonia Simplicfolia plant is found within the Western and Central regions of Africa. It is acclimatized to growing in conditions close to coastal shores but also deep within the jungle [2]. It is a large shrub like plant that grows thick and fibrous brown branches [1].

Its flowers are long cylindrical and bud between August and October. It also produces a seed, this seed is rich in the active ingredient, 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). In vivo this 5-HTP is a precursor to the neurotransmitter Serotonin.

The whole plant is rich in health containing properties the raw unprocessed seeds contain approximately 6-14% 5-HTP, and the leaves contain 5-HTP and 5-hydroxytryptamine, all of which contribute to the production of Serotonin within the body[2].

How is it used in its native country?

In Native African countries the Griffonia Simplicifolia is used as medicinal source also. The chemicals of the leaf are used to treat coughs, sickness and act as an aphrodisiac. The stems and leaves combined together are used as an antiseptic. Additionally, a powdered extract of the roots of Griffonia Simplicifolia are used to treat sickle cell anemia. Across the continent of Africa it’s not only used to treat humans but livestock such as chickens too[1].

How is it used in the Western world?

The Western world witnessed and copied the use of plant from African culture. We now also use 5-HTP for its medicinal effects. We tend to purchase the powdered plant and process it into nutraceutical supplements to aid ailments such as Insomnia, Depression or ADHD.

How is it processed?

The seeds are sustainably sourced from the native African Countries. It is sustainable due to the shear wealth of plants grown across these parts of Africa. The plant is cut, sorted, cleaned and extracted for its seeds. The seeds are then ground to a white/grey powder containing between 95% and 98% 5-HTP. The most precious and expensive 5-HTP is upwards of 97-98% 5-HTP. Majority of the processed plant is bought by the UK and USA [2].

How does it work and what is its effect?

The seed of Griffonia Simplicifolia is rich in a chemical called 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). 5-HTP is also found in the body, a chemical made from Tryptophan. Tryptophan enters the body via the diet through foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt and red meat. Once absorbed it is converted to 5-HTP which travels to, and through the blood brain barrier to activate the brain. 5-HTP is then converted to active brain neurotransmitter Serotonin, with the help of cofactors Vitamin B6, C, Zinc and Magnesium. Serotonin has many effects in the body, most act therapeutically on the following disorders and diseases:

  • Depression
  • Fibromyalgia
  • ADHD
  • Sleep Disorders: Narcolepsy and Insomnia
  • Migraines
  • Pre-Menstrual Syndrome
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Epilepsy [3,4]

What is the correct dosage?

5-HTP is available from almost all health food stores in varying degrees of strength. A typical singular dose is between 50-200mg taken up to twice a day and never more than 500mg. There is very little research on taking 5-HTP during pregnancy or breastfeeding, so to be safe you are advised not to take 5-HTP in any trimester. If you are thinking of starting to take 5-HTP then please contact your Doctor or practitioner before doing so [5].

Are there any side effects?

Like any drug/supplement/tablet there are side effects but these occur very rarely. Very mild side effects include gas, nausea, heartburn and loss of appetite. Some that are even more rare are nightmares, loss of libido and abdominal cramps. If any side effects occur from taking this supplement you should cease use immediately.

Moreover there is much more serious side effect called Eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS) which is caused by a contaminant called “Peak X” formed from poor extraction and poor quality product. It causes flu-like symptoms, fatigue and can sometimes be fatal. However, this is very rare and is unlikely to happen in a quality product [6].

  1. Brink.M, et-al. (2008). Griffonia Simplicfolia. In: Schmelzer.G, Gurib-Fakim.A Medicinal Plants 1. Netherlands: Backhuys Publishers, CTA. Pg. 314-316.
  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. Nootropic. (2014). 5-HTP. Available:
  4. Birdsall, TC. (1998). 5-Hydroxytryptophan: a clinically-effective serotonin precursor.. Alternative Medicine Review : A Journal of Clinical Therapeutics. 3 (4), Pg. 271-280.
  5. Examine. (2016). 5-HTP. Available:
  6. Tarr Kent,L. (2013). Griffonia Seed Side Effects. Available:
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