5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a naturally occurring amino acid within the body, it acts as a precursor to serotonin - much like we need to go to work to earn money, work gets converted into money (well hopefully). 5-HTP is much the same, it is not serotonin itself, but rather signals the body to produce more by default.
Serotonin being one of the main neurotransmitters associated with feeling good and anti-depression.
5-HTP has been used with some success to restore serotonin levels in those deficient in serotonin and has been indicated in improving high levels of body inflammation.
Should I Be Taking It?
This is where it gets a bit tricky, I would not suggest it as a treatment for depression, I would rather you consult with your therapist and doctor before introducing 5-HTP, as it can have contraindications with other medications you are possibly being prescribed.
Depression and other medical conditions aside, 5-HTP may improve mood - not in a stimulatory way like say caffeine for example, but more just a general feeling of contentment.
However, if I was looking at 5-HTP personally, as a recommendation to my clients, it would be specific, and I would be suggesting it as an appetite suppressant. We have solid enough research in this area, that supplementing 5-HTP with meals, leads to greater satiety (feeling of fullness) after a meal, which in turn, but by default, assists me in getting a client to adhere to a set calorie target easier, which improves results.
What Is An Effective Dose?
In the research, a typical effective dose is 300-500mg per day, either taken once as a bolus dose, or distributed evenly throughout the day with meals. My suggestion, if experimenting with it, is to use it with a meal, during the day or evening - whichever is the most problematic time of day for you. For example, if during the day you manage your nutrition well, but feel at night you struggle with adherence, this may be a good time to supplement with 5-HTP.
Now, 300-500mg per day is a pretty hefty dose. Considering NOW Foods 5-HTP comes in 50mg capsules, lower doses may be effective - this would be on a client to client basis, or combined with other synergistic supplements potentially. I would start off low and increase as needed. It is worth noting that according to budget, these types of supplements are “nice to have” rather than some essential make up of your nutrition and supplement strategy. Only you can tell if it's worth the expense at the end of the day.
I have to reiterate, PLEASE DO NOT TAKE 5-HTP alongside any medication prescribed for anti-depression or other cognitive issues unless you have been cleared by your doctor to do so.