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The Mood Food Connection

The Mood Food Connection

Thursday, August 1st 2002

An African seed Griffonia Simplicifolia which is smaller than a coffee bean, has the potential for big results. Extracts of this seed have been used traditionally in African medicine to inhibit diarrhea, vomiting, constipation and as an aphrodisiac. It has caught the attention of researchers who are interested in its effects on a vitally important nerve transmitter - Serotonin.

Serotonin's actions include being a regulator of smooth muscle function in the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal system. Serotonin is the key to numerous brain functions and numerous central nervous system actions such as regulating mood, sleep and appetite. A decreased level of this neurotransmitter can cause depression, insomnia, obsessive/compulsive disorders, as well as eating disorders leading to obesity or the reverse anorexia/bulimia.


Researchers have observed a link between eating behaviour and mood with neurotransmitters in the brain. Wurtman et al observed obese people eating high carbohydrate foods to make themselves feel better. They traced a route from carbohydrates (starches) which convert to sugar and stimulate the pancreas to release insulin. This raises brain levels of 5-HTP converting it to serotonin creating a feeling of happiness. But this is a high-calorie way of getting your serotonin.

Griffonia acts by providing the body with 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), an amino acid that easily crosses your blood brain barrier and is converted into serotonin in a natural process.


Disruption of serotonin metabolism in the central nervous system has been shown to affect mood. 5-HTP helps to normalise serotonin levels and thereby positively affect mood. In a double-blind study using objective assessments of mood, researchers in Zurich reported significant improvements in mood with 5-HTP. Likewise, in a double-blind, multi-centre study in Germany, researchers reported significant improvements in both objective and self-assessment indices of mood.


Many studies have shown that depletion of serotonin results in insomnia, which is reversed by administration of 5-HTP. Researchers reported that 100 mg of 5-HTP resulted in significant improvement for people who complained of trouble sleeping. Furthermore, serotonin is metabolised to the hormone melatonin, which is known to help regulate the sleep cycle. By increasing serotonin levels with 5-HTP, melatonin levels are also increased.

Reproduced unabridged from the August/September 2002 issue of Health and Herbal News, with the kind permission of Health and Herbs International Ltd.

Footnote from Ideal Health:

The following products assist in Mood Enhancing:

5-HTP Mood Care
Clinical Strength St Johns Wort
L-Glutamine 500mg
L- Phenylalanine
Superior Magnesium
Sleep Support Tart Cherry Concentrate
Ester C 1000mg + Bioflavonoids
Mineral Power
Perika St. John's Wort
AdaptoStress (Rhodiola)

Related health information can be found here:

Calcium Deficiency
Depressed, anxious or unable to sleep? You could be low in the brain chemical serotonin
Do you suffer from muscle cramps, PMS, insomnia or nervousness? Then you could be low in magnesium
Heart Problems
Mineral Power - a supplement high in calcium & magnesium

Related articles can be found here:

Doctors recommend a multi-vitamin a day
Is it really "all in your food"?
Is this the secret weapon against chronic fatigue, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease?
Minerals: Critical for well-being
Mood, sleep, serotonin and 5-HTP

If you need help or advice, you are welcome to email our naturopathic team with your health question.

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered. The information is not intended to be comprehensive or to provide medical advice to you. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.


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