PMID: 108727Mar 14, 1979

Tryptophan antidepressant 'physiological sedative': fact or fancy?

A J Cooper


Some recent publications relating to the allegedly antidepressive and sedative effects of L-tryptophan the precursor of 5-HT have been reviewed. The evidence to date suggests that the amino acid is as effective as standard tricyclic drugs in alleviating the symptoms of depression, especially those cases presenting with mainly psychomotor retardation, and is synergistic with MAOIs. L-Tryptophan would also appear to be a 'physiological sedative'. This action, however, appears to be related to the time of administration and at present has only been demonstrated at night. when endogenous levels of 5-HT are at their peak. In terms of practical therapeutics L-tryptophan would appear to have greater potential as an 'antidepressant' than as a 'sedative'.


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