An open-label trial of L-5-hydroxytryptophan in subjects with romantic stress

Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2010;31(5):663-6.


This open-label trial assessed the clinical efficacy of L-5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), a natural serotonin precursor, in nondepressed young subjects with high levels of romantic stress. Since both neurotrophins and serotonin have been linked to human romantic attachment, we sought to investigate the changes in serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels and platelet serotonin content in relation to the changes in romantic stress throughout the study. A total of 15 healthy subjects (11 females and 4 males, mean age: 23.3 ± 2.1 years) who experienced a recent romantic break-up or reported recent romantic problems took part in the study. The participants were treated openly for 6 weeks with L-5-hydroxytryptophan (60 mg Griffonia simplicifolia extract containing 12.8 mg 5-HTP b.i.d., Amorex, Coropharm, Villach, Austria). The subjects were evaluated at baseline, at 3 weeks and at the end of the 6-week trial using an adapted version of the Seiffge-Krenke's Problem Questionnaire. BDNF and platelet serotonin content were determined at baseline, at 3 weeks, and after the completion of the 6-week trial. We observed significant improvements in romantic stress scores from weeks 0 through 3 (p=0.007) but no further significant improvement was evident from weeks 3 through 6 (p=0.19). At 6 weeks, subjects had a significant increase from baseline in both BDNF and platelet serotonin values. Our data suggest that direct modulation of the serotonergic system may have use for the treatment of psychological suffering associated with unreciprocated romantic love.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan / administration & dosage
  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan / pharmacology*
  • Adaptation, Psychological / drug effects*
  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / administration & dosage
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / pharmacology*
  • Austria
  • Blood Platelets / chemistry
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / blood*
  • Courtship / psychology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Stress, Psychological / drug therapy*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Serotonin
  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan