Griffonia simplicifolia is an herb commonly used as a weight loss supplement, sleep aid, and antidepressant. Other uses include management of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and pain relief. The beneficial effects are because of the amino acid 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), which is found in the herb's seeds. The compound is extracted from the seeds and taken as a dietary supplement.
The 5-HTP found in Griffonia simplicifolia extract is an important building block of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate appetite and mood. Griffonia extract boosts the production of serotonin and subsequently increases the effect the neurotransmitter has on the body. For this reason, this herb is touted for its versatility.
About 80% of the serotonin produced by the human body is used to regulate intestinal movement. The remainder is synthesized in the central nervous system, where part of it is used to halt the production of dopamine. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that increases appetite, so cutting the release of dopamine also staves off hunger pangs. This is why the herb is often used as an appetite suppressant.
Serotonin can also increase feelings of elatedness, self-worth, and confidence. When 5-HTP is ingested to produce higher levels of the neurotransmitter, these feelings are proportionally magnified. Griffonia simplicifolia extract, therefore, may be used as a natural alternative to antidepressant medications. As with other antidepressants, its clinical applications include insomnia relief; treatment of different types of mood disorder, such as depression and anxiety disorder; and management of ADHD.
Griffonia extract also can be used for pain relief, because serotonin is known to increase feelings of pleasure. The supplement is often used to numb pain and ease migraines. It also can increase tolerance to pain, which makes it very useful for individuals who suffer from chronic pain symptoms.
One significant benefit that this extract has over most commercial medications is that its active ingredient, 5-HTP, occurs naturally. The potential side effects are significantly reduced, compared to chemically derived medications. This makes the supplement a useful alternative, especially for individuals who practice an all-natural lifestyle.
Griffonia simplicifolia is not entirely free of side effects, however. The most commonly reported side effect is nausea, although the sensation often fades after a few days. Supplements containing griffonia extract sometimes also contain caffeine, which might lead to serious problems in low-tolerance individuals. It is highly recommended that anyone using oil from the seeds consult a healthcare professional and be tested for allergies first.