Griffonia simplicifolia has historically been used to heal wounds and improve mood disorders, due to its high levels of the serotonin-producing 5-HTP in its seeds. Griffonia simplicifolia can treat other common illnesses, including headaches, gastrointestinal conditions, and sleep disorders. This plant can also be used to decrease hunger cravings.

What is Griffonia simplicifolia?

Griffonia simplicifolia is a small, green shrub found in West Africa that is used in traditional African medicine to treat a wide range of illnesses [R].

Components

The main component of interest in Griffonia simplicifolia is 5-HTP.

Mechanism

The seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia contain high levels of 5-HTP, which is a direct precursor for serotonin and melatonin. 5-HTP is responsible for the mood, weight loss, and sleep benefits of this plant [R].

Health Benefits of Griffonia simplicifolia

1) Griffonia simplicifolia Improves Mood

5-HTP, a core component of Griffonia simplicifolia, is known for its antidepressive effects, improving mood disorders (e.g., depression) by increasing serotonin levels in the brain [R].

5-HTP improved symptoms in a study of 15 women with drug-resistant depression [R].

2)  Griffonia simplicifolia Promotes Sleep

In multiple studies, 5-HTP derived from Griffonia simplicifolia reduced insomnia [R, R].

In a study of 45 children, a low dose (2 mg/kg per day) of 5-HTP at bedtime prevented night terrors in over 80% of the subjects after 6 months [R].

3) Griffonia simplicifolia Increases Feelings of Fullness

In a DB-RCT of 20 women, a Griffonia simplicifolia and 5-HTP spray increased feelings of fullness (satiety) [R].

4) Griffonia simplicifolia Prevents Motion Sickness

Motion sickness is a serotonin-related condition. In a study of 254 children, a Griffonia simplicifolia/magnesium complex (50 mg and 200 mg, respectively) 2x/day reduced motion sickness symptoms [R].

5) Griffonia simplicifolia Reduces Headaches and Migraines

In a study of 374 children with migraine symptoms, Griffonia simplicifolia (50 mg, 2x/day along with other supplements, including tryptophan, vitamin PP, and B6) reduced the number, length, and intensity of headache symptoms [R].

However, while Griffonia simplicifolia was effective, children who received an extract of Ginkgo biloba (ginkgolide B) experienced greater improvement [R].

Another study of 49 people found that a Tanacetum parthenium, Griffonia simplicifolia, and magnesium formulation reduced migraine symptoms, including aura, by 50% [R].

6) Griffonia simplicifolia May Reduce Stress and Anxiety

The leaves of Griffonia simplicifolia are traditionally ground into a tea and used for calming and stress-reducing effects. The seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia also reduced anxiety symptoms in rats [R].

The seeds are used to treat neurological conditions, such as mood disorders (anxiety and depression), insomnia, and migraine headaches [R].

Side Effects

Symptoms range in severity and can include gastrointestinal ulcers, vomiting, and stomach cramps; however, there are few reported cases in humans [R].

In rats, Griffonia simplicifolia reduced sex drive [R, R].

A dog treated with 5-HTP developed serotonin syndrome [R].

Limitations and Caveats

The major limitation associated with Griffonia simplicifolia is the lack of extensive large, controlled studies for evaluating the effectiveness of the supplement in humans. Some of the studies were only conducted with the main ingredient, 5-HTP [R].

The majority of research supporting the positive effects of this plant is over 20 years old or is anecdotal. In addition, many studies involve a small number of subjects or animals [R].

Furthermore, in many studies, Griffonia simplicifolia is often administered with another supplement, which makes it hard to identify if the observed benefits were due to Griffonia simplicifolia alone or not [R, R].

Drug Interactions

Due to the high levels of 5-HTP, individuals taking medications for Parkinson’s disease (e.g., carbidopa) experience severe side effects when taking 5-HTP as a supplement [R].  

Individuals taking SSRIs or MAOIs as antidepressants should avoid Griffonia simplicifolia due to potential side effects caused by increased serotonin levels [R].

Forms of Supplementation

The natural source of Griffonia simplicifolia is the plant itself or prepared extracts [R].

For weight loss studies, the extract was prepared as an oral spray [R].

The main active ingredient, 5-HTP, is also available as a supplement.

Dosage

Most beneficial effects have been at a dose of 100 mg taken orally, 1-2x/day [R].

Studies of children have used lower doses such as 50 mg/day [R].

Reviews

People who took Griffonia simplicifolia or purified 5-HTP had positive results, finding that supplementation helps enhance their mood, appetite, and sleep.

Most people say they take the supplement at bedtime to promote sleep. Some individuals take the supplement with other anti-anxiety medication and/or antidepressants, with positive effects.

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