Summertime Serotonin

By Dr. Shellie L. Rosen, PhD, DOM, L.Ac.

Summertime insomnia? Our brains work best when they have a healthy balance of chemicals to perform necessary tasks. Neurotransmitters are the general class of chemicals that work within the brain to signal neurons or nerve cells for a response. Low levels of neurotransmitters within the brain can lead to changes in sleep, mood, or cognition. Serotonin is one such neurotransmitter that, when in scarce supply, can lead to poor brain function leading to several issues with appetite control, wake/sleep cycle regulation, emotional wellbeing, memory, and attention. To boost serotonin, try the seed of the Griffonia simplicifolia plant, which provides the building blocks to create a hearty supply.

Griffonia simplicifolia is native to Central and West Africa, and its seeds carry a bioavailable version of 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), similar to the 5-HTP in the human body. 5-HTP is an intermediate metabolite that helps the body synthesize the amino acid L-tryptophan into serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that facilitates communication between nerve cells.

Serotonin is necessary within the brain and numerous body systems (nervous, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and skeletal). Increased serotonin is helpful for emotional wellbeing and weight management (increased satiety). In addition, increasing serotonin can help migraine sufferers due to its ability to improve nerve cell communications. Serotonin also modulates melatonin synthesis. Melatonin is essential for many physiological processes, mainly sleep and wake cycles. Griffonia simplicifolia or 5-HTP became popular in the west in the 1990s but was well known in Africa for centuries. It supports the brain and memory while enhancing sleep quality and decreasing appetite.

The blood-brain barrier, a collection of semipermeable endothelial cells, allows 5-HTP entry from the bloodstream into the brain. 5-HTP then creates more serotonin within the presynaptic neuron. 5-HTP is not similar to an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) because it does not manipulate the function of serotonin uptake within the synaptic gap. Griffonia simplicifolia or 5-HTP should NOT be used concurrently with SSRI medications or MAO inhibitors. Some individuals may experience gastrointestinal sensitivity after using 5-HTP. Pregnant or lactating women should avoid this product as well. Do not take Griffonia Simplicifolia or 5-HTP if you take medication for epilepsy, scleroderma, or Parkinson’s disease. Since the supplement may increase serum melatonin, it is best to initiate small doses to determine if it causes drowsiness. Consult your healthcare provider when considering any supplement if you are currently taking other medications. This supplement is effective in small doses; begin with 50 mg once per day and increase to no more than 200 mg daily on an empty stomach before meals. Griffonia simplicifolia or 5-HTP supplementation can be an excellent help to those looking for the benefits of increased natural production of serotonin and melatonin. Sunlight extends well into the evening during the summer months, which may disrupt melatonin production and sleep. Perhaps Griffonia simplicifolia or 5-HTP can help restore peaceful balance to your days and nights. Abundant Blessings! Shellie L. Rosen, PhD, DOM, L.Ac.

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