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I’m a big fan of both 5-HTP and GABA. But as they’re quite similar, some people may find it hard to choose between them.
Well, if that sounds like you, you’ve come to the right place.
This is exactly why I started this Supplement Comparison Series!
In these articles, I put two supplements up against each other and compare them on their pros, cons, cost, and much more. All so you can make a wiser decision.
In this post, we’ll take a look at 5-HTP vs GABA.
Let’s get go.
What is 5-HTP?
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a compound derived from tryptophan – an amino acid found in foods like eggs, salmon, and turkey.
Our bodies produce serotonin from 5-HTP, which is a neurotransmitter that facilitates communication between nerve cells.
Since 5-HTP isn’t naturally found in foods, we can’t get it from our diet. So, lots of people supplement with 5-HTP to remove the need to create it from tryptophan, with the goal of boosting serotonin levels.
What is GABA?
GABA (Gamma-aminobutryic acid) is an amino acid that’s naturally produced in the brain.
Like serotonin, it works as a neurotransmitter.
GABA’s main purpose is to lower the activity of neurons in the brain and central nervous system, which results in a range of effects on the mind and body, such as:
- Lower stress
- Improved mood
- Improved sleep quality
- Increased feelings of relaxation
Popular anxiety medications like Xanax and Valium work by increasing GABA levels. (Source)
Benefits of 5-HTP
5-HTP may help you lose weight
Lots of people struggle with weight loss due to feeling hungry all the time.
5-HTP may reduce these hunger pains, making weight loss a breeze. (Source)
In one study, 20 people with diabetes took either 5-HTP or a placebo every day for 2 weeks.
The results showed that the 5-HTP takers consumed 435 less calories per day on average than the placebo takers.
5-HTP may improve depression symptoms
Depression is one of the most prevalent (and serious) mental disorders.
It’s hard to treat as the cause is largely unknown, but some researchers think it may be caused by a serotonin imbalance. (Source)
If that’s the case, then 5-HTP may prove to be a useful supplement for depression sufferers.
In one study, 60 people with depression took either 5-HTP or fluoxetine every day for 8 weeks.
(Fluoxetine is a commonly prescribed depression drug.)
After the 8 weeks, 73% of those in the 5-HTP group showed improved symptoms of depression.
5-HTP may help improve sleep
The serotonin made from 5-HTP can be converted to melatonin.
Commonly referred to as the sleep hormone, melatonin levels rise at night which helps you fall asleep and decrease in the morning which helps you wake up.
So, it’s possible 5-HTP improves sleep by increasing melatonin levels.
In one study, 18 people with sleep disorders took either 5-HTP with GABA (Gabadone), or a placebo.
Those who took Gabadone had a longer, better quality sleep than the placebo takers.
They also fell asleep quicker.
5-HTP may help reduce migraines
Research suggests that 5-HTP may help reduce migraines.
For example, a study of 124 people compared the effects of 5-HTP and methysergide on migraines.
(Methysergide is a commonly prescribed migraine medication FYI.)
The results showed that 71% of the people who took 5-HTP had a decrease in headache frequency.
In another study, 48 students with migraines took either 5-HTP or a placebo.
According to the results, 5-HTP reduced the frequency of headaches by 70%, while the placebo reduced the frequency by 11%.
Benefits of GABA
GABA may help reduce stress and anxiety
Here’s a shocking fact for you:
Over 40 million US adults suffer from anxiety.
Well, the good news is that many studies have shown GABA’s effectiveness at lowering stress and anxiety.
For example, one study investigated the effects of GABA on stress levels during a challenging task.
The results showed that GABA reduced the decrease in alpha brain waves, suggesting that it may have lowered the subjects’ stress.
Another study of 13 adults looked at how GABA affects relaxation.
The subjects had increases in alpha brain waves after an hour of taking GABA, which reduced their anxiety and helped them relax.
GABA may help reduce high blood pressure
Research suggests that GABA may help reduce high blood pressure.
For example, a study had subjects with high blood pressure take Chlorella for 12 weeks.
(Chlorella is a type of algae that’s rich in GABA.)
By the end of the study, the subjects’ blood pressure was significantly reduced.
GABA may help improve sleep quality
According to research, people with insomnia have lower GABA levels than the rest of us.
This could be due to the fact GABA helps you wind down, so low GABA activity may cause you to overthink which disrupts sleep.
In one study, 100mg of GABA reduced the time it took for the subjects to fall asleep by 5.3 minutes.
5-HTP is usually sold in capsules. For a medium priced supplement, you can expect to pay around $20 for 120 capsules.
GABA is normally sold as a powder or in capsules.
Standard prices for these are:
- Powder: $20 for 1lb
- Capsules: $22 for 100
5-HTP Side Effects
While 5-HTP is typically safe for most healthy adults, some people may experience the following side effects:
- Stomach cramps
Also, taking 5-HTP alongside other medications may boost your serotonin levels to a dangerous amount.
So, please consult a doctor before taking 5-HTP supplements.
GABA Side Effects
While most people can tolerate GABA supplements with minimal fuss, the following side effects have been reported in some instances:
- Muscle weakness
- Reduced appetite
- Drowsiness and fatigue
My 5-HTP Recommendation: Toniiq 5-HTP
High purity? Check.
Highly rated? Check.
High strength? Check.
Toniiq 5-HTP ticks all the boxes of an epic supplement.
What I like about it
I love the fact that Toniiq are GMP certified.
This basically means their whole manufacturing process is carefully watched for quality purposes. So, you can bet your bottom dollar that you’re getting a top supplement when you buy from them.
Also, the 5-HTP used in these capsules is made using an extraction process which ensures 99% purity.
(To give some perspective, most 5-HTP supplements contain 60% or less…)
The purer it is, the more absorbable and bioavailable it is, meaning your body can use it better.
It would be nice to see Toniiq include fewer other ingredients in these capsules.
My GABA Recommendation: Thorne Research PharmaGABA-100
This beauty is one of the best GABA supplements on the market.
Ideal for those who prefer quality over quantity.
What I like about it
A quick peek at Thorne Research’s quality control process tells you how serious they are at making only the finest quality supplements.
In fact, some of the best supplements I’ve ever taken have been from Thorne Research.
As for the product itself, a great feature is that Thorne Research use PharmaGABA.
This means the GABA’s made naturally with bacteria.
(As opposed to synthetic GABA which is made in a lab from chemicals.)
It’s widely believed that PharmaGABA is more effective than synthetic GABA.
(Nature knows best, right?)
Also, the numerous epic reviews show this is an effective GABA supplement that many people have used and had great results with.
As you probably guessed, PharmaGABA is a bit more expensive than mad-made GABA.
So, those on a budget may want to look elsewhere.
5-HTP vs GABA: The Verdict
Thanks a bunch for sticking to the end of this 5-HTP vs GABA breakdown.
I hope you’ve learned something new and have gained value from it.
If this article has done its job, you should have a pretty clear idea of which one you’re going to take.
But if you’re still undecided, then here’s what I’d go for:
You might prefer 5-HTP if:
- You’re feeling depressed
- You suffer from migraines
- You want to feel less hungry
You might prefer GABA if:
- You suffer from anxiety
- You want to lower your blood pressure
See you in the next one.