Tryptophan is one of the 10 essential amino acids that the body uses to synthesize the proteins it needs. It's well-known for its role in the production of nervous system messengers, especially those related to relaxation, restfulness, and sleep.


What it is

Tryptophan is an amino acid necessary for normal growth in infants and for nitrogen balance in adults. It is an essential amino acid, which means your body cannot produce it – you must get it from your diet.


What it does

Tryptophan has two important functions. First, a small amount of the tryptophan we get in our diet (about 3%) is converted into niacin (vitamin B3) by the liver. This conversion can help prevent the symptoms associated with niacin deficiency when dietary intake of this vitamin is low. Second, tryptophan serves as a precursor for serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps the body regulate appetite, sleep patterns, and mood. Because of its ability to raise serotonin levels, tryptophan has been used therapeutically in the treatment of a variety of conditions, most notably insomnia, depression, and anxiety.



  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Impatience
  • Impulsiveness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Weight gain or unexplained weight loss
  • Slow growth in children
  • Overeating and/or carbohydrate cravings
  • Poor dream recall
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Obesity
  • Obsessive/compulsive disorder
  • Pain
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Senile dementia
  • Tourette's syndrome



For adult men, the recommended daily intake of tryptophan is 392 mg. For adults females, the recommended daily intake is 322 mg of tryptophan and more for pregnant and lactating women.