Researchers find Griffonia supplies holding steady, but information gaps are major concern

Griffonia simplicifolia​ is a climbing vine of the lily family.  It is native to forest habitats in several West African countries, with the largest supplies coming out of Ghana.  The seed pods of the plant are harvested and exported to foreign processors who extract 5-HTP from the seeds.

5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a naturally occurring amino acid that is part of the pathway for the synthesis of the neurotransmitter serotonin.  As such, the ingredient has been used for years in products aimed at mood support, specifically for consumers seeking help with depression or anxiety symptoms.

Demand increasing for ingredient

Demand for the ingredient has increased in the past year, though not as much as have some supplement categories, said Dan Richard, vice president of sales and marketing for supplement manufacturer NOW Health Group.

As perhaps the largest seller of 5-HTP in the US, NOW has seen steady and sustained sales growth of 5-HTP.  Sales in 2021 continue to grow above 2020 levels, so 5-HTP is a fairly large category itself.  Covid-related growth did not jump like Elderberry, Vitamin D or other immune products, but NOW felt a noticeable lift in sales that continues today.  Other mood support supplements such as Ashwagandha, Theanine, St. John’s Wort, and Dopa Mucuna have also bumped up in sales, although hard to tell if that’s part of overall supplement lift or specific to pandemic mood needs,”​ Richard said.

That demand increase comes on top of a rising interest in the ingredient that spans a number of years.  The authors of a recent paper publish online ahead of print in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology​ looked into whether that demand is starting to put an inordinate strain on supplies of raw material, which is still exclusively wildcrafted.

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