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So, you’ve decided to improve your wellbeing with the help of supplements.
If you’re here, I’m guessing you’re most interested in supps that are:
- Not too pricey
Am I right?
If that sounds like you, I’ve got excellent news. There are a ton of great supplements that will fit the bill.
Two solid options that you may be aware of are 5-HTP and Ashwagandha. I’m here to help you work out which one is best for you.
In my exhaustive Supplement Comparison Series, I take 2 supplements and compare them on their benefits, side effects, price, and more. Hopefully, by the end of each article, you’ll have a better idea of which one to side with.
5-HTP or Ashwagandha: Which One Should You Take?
You should take 5-HTP if you want to lose weight, reduce depression or improve your sleep. Whereas you should take Ashwagandha if you want to gain muscle, reduce anxiety or increase testosterone.
What is 5-HTP?
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a compound our body makes from tryptophan, which is an amino acid found in foods like eggs, turkey, and salmon.
Our bodies use 5-HTP to produce serotonin – a neurotransmitter which facilitates communication between our nerve cells.
We can’t get 5-HTP from our diet since it’s not in any foods. So, many people supplement with 5-HTP to remove the need to create it from tryptophan, with the aim of increasing serotonin levels.
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) is a herb native to India that’s been used for thousands of years.
And even today, Ashwagandha is taken by many to promote feelings of vitality, calmness, and strength.
It shares the same family of plants as potatoes and tomatoes, known as the Nightshades.
Ashwagandha’s name refers to the phrase the smell of a horse in the ancient Sanskrit language, due to its roots smelling similar to horse sweat.
Benefits of 5-HTP
5-HTP may help reduce migraines
According to research, 5-HTP may help with migraines.
For example in one study, 48 students with migraines took either 5-HTP or a placebo.
The results showed that 5-HTP reduced the frequency of headaches by 70%, while the placebo reduced the frequency by 11%.
Another study of 124 people compared the effects of 5-HTP and methysergide on migraines.
(Methysergide is a commonly prescribed migraine drug by the way.)
According to the results, 71% of the subjects who took 5-HTP had a decrease in headache frequency.
5-HTP may help improve sleep
The serotonin produced from 5-HTP can be converted into melatonin.
Melatonin, aka the sleep hormone, rises in the evening which helps you fall asleep, and decreases in the morning which helps you wake up.
So, 5-HTP may improve sleep by boosting Melatonin levels.
In one study, 18 subjects with sleep disorders took either 5-HTP with GABA (Gabadone), or a placebo.
Interestingly, those who took Gabadone fell asleep quicker, slept for longer, and had a better quality sleep than the placebo takers.
5-HTP may help with weight loss
Many people struggle with weight loss due to feeling hungry all the time.
5-HTP may reduce these hungers pangs, making it easier for you to lose weight. (Source)
In one study, 20 diabetic patients took either 5-HTP or a placebo each day for 2 weeks.
According to the results, those who took 5-HTP consumed 435 less calories per day than those who took the placebo.
5-HTP may help with depression
Depression is one of the most common (and crippling) mental disorders.
It’s difficult to treat since the cause is largely unknown, but some scientists believe it may be caused by a serotonin imbalance. (Source)
If this is the case, then 5-HTP may be a helpful supplement for depression patients.
In one study, 15 women took 5g of Creatine and 100mg of 5-HTP twice daily for 8 weeks.
After the 8 weeks, their depression scores were reduced by 60% on average.
In another study, 60 depression patients took either 5-HTP or fluoxetine each day for 8 weeks.
(Fluoxetine is a commonly prescribed depression medication.)
By the end of the study, 73% of the 5-HTP patients showed improved symptoms of depression.
Benefits of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha may increase muscle size and strength
Strength-boosting herbs often get a bad reputation, but research shows that Ashwagandha may be effective at increasing muscle size and strength.
In one study, 57 people took either 600mg of Ashwagandha or a placebo per day.
The results showed that the Ashwagandha users had greater increases in muscle size, strength, fat loss, and testosterone levels.
Ashwagandha may help improve anxiety
Did you know that over 40 million American adults are affected by anxiety?
If you’re unfortunate enough to be one of those 40 million, then perhaps you should give Ashwagandha a try.
Compared to the placebo takers, the Ashwagandha group had a significant reduction in scores on the “stress test”.
Another study looked at Ashwagandha’s effects on anxiety levels.
After 6 weeks, 88% of those who took Ashwagandha had less anxiety.
Ashwagandha may help lower blood sugar levels
Like many other herbs, Ashwagandha has been shown to lower blood sugar levels.
A study of 12 people looked at Ashwagandha’s effects on blood sugar levels.
After using Ashwagandha for a month, the subjects had a decrease in blood sugar levels comparable to a blood sugar lowering drug.
Ashwagandha may boost testosterone
Many people have lower than ideal testosterone levels these days.
This can be blamed on many things, like increased sugar consumption and poor sleep quality.
But low testosterone levels are no laughing matter – research shows that declining T levels may be to blame for depression in aging men.
So, if you are concerned of declining testosterone levels, then perhaps you should try Ashwagandha as many studies (including this one) have shown its effectiveness at boosting T levels.
5-HTP is normally sold in capsules. For a mid-range supplement, you can expect to pay around $20 for 120 capsules.
Ashwagandha is usually sold in tablets or as a liquid extract.
Typical prices for these are:
- Tablets: $18 for 100
- Liquid extract: $17 for 2oz
5-HTP Side Effects
While 5-HTP is generally considered safe, some people may experience the following side effects:
- Stomach cramps
Also, combining 5-HTP with other medications may increase your serotonin levels to a dangerous amount.
Therefore, please speak to a doctor before taking 5-HTP supplements.
Ashwagandha Side Effects
Ashwagandha supplements are well-tolerated by most healthy adults, but some people may notice mild side effects like:
- Upset stomach
Also, those taking blood sugar medication should speak to a doctor before taking Ashwagandha, due to its effects on blood sugar levels.
The following people should NOT take Ashwagandha:
- Pregnant women
- People with stomach ulcers
- People with high/low blood pressure
- People who’re allergic to Nightshade plants, i.e. Potatoes, Tomatoes, etc.
- People with autoimmune conditions, i.e. Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, etc.
My 5-HTP Recommendation: Toniiq 5-HTP
Pure, high strength, and highly rated.
Toniiq 5-HTP is the bee’s knees.
What I like about it
The 5-HTP used in these capsules is made using an extraction process which ensures 99% purity.
(Most 5-HTP supplements contain 60% or less…)
The purer it is? The more absorbable and bioavailable it is, meaning your body can utilize it better.
I also like the fact that Toniiq are GMP certified, meaning each step of their manufacturing process is analyzed for quality purposes. So, you know that you’re getting a top-quality supplement when you buy from them.
Personally, I’d like to see fewer other ingredients in these capsules.
My Ashwagandha Recommendation: NaturaLife Labs Ashwagandha
High strength? Yep.
High quality? Mhmm.
Fair priced? You betcha.
NaturaLife Labs Ashwagandha gets the gold star.
What I like about it
A quick flick through the reviews shows that this is a trusted Ashwagandha supplement that’s helped many people improve their health.
Also, the inclusion of Black Pepper Extract is a nice addition, as BPE supposedly helps your body absorb Ashwagandha.
And as a bonus, this supplement contains only natural, organic ingredients meaning it’s free from any nasty additives that do you no good.
So, all things considered, this is the perfect supplement if you’re leaning towards Ashwagandha.
If I was to be super picky, it would be that the serving size may be inconvenient for some at 3 capsules per serving.
Can You Take 5-HTP And Ashwagandha Together?
There’s no scientific evidence to suggest that Ashwagandha and 5-HTP taken together cause negative reactions.
Also, some blended calming supplements contain both 5-HTP and Ashwagandha, which suggests that they’re safe to consume together.
That said, we’re all biologically unique, and what’s safe for me isn’t necessarily safe for you. So if you’re unsure, you should always consult a medical doctor.
5-HTP vs Ashwagandha: The Verdict
Thanks a ton for staying to the end of this 5-HTP vs Ashwagandha showdown with me.
Hopefully, you’ve made up your mind and know exactly which one to take.
But for those still on the fence, here’s what I’d recommend:
You might prefer 5-HTP if:
- You feel depressed
- You want to sleep better
- You experience migraines
- You want to consume less calories
You might prefer Ashwagandha if:
- You suffer from anxiety
- You want to gain more muscle
- You want to boost your T levels
Hope this helped.
I’ve been in the fitness and strength training industry for nearly a decade. In that time, I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle, written hundreds of articles, and reviewed dozens of fitness supplements. As for my educational background, I’m a currently studying for my Active IQ Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training.