Tryptophan is the first line of defense in depression, alcoholism, cocaine and methamphetamine, migraine, insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, seasonal affective disorder, fibromyalgia, and even chronic pain.


I began using L-tryptophan supplementation in patients with depression and insomnia in the early 1970’s. In the mid ’70’s I presented our results at an annual meeting of the American Society of Contemporary Medicine and Surgery. Our results were so remarkable that a reporter for the NATIONAL ENQUIRER picked up the story and it became a sensational front-page article in that publication. Within 24 hours every health food store in America was sold out!

Within two days the Japanese companies supplying all the (I will use Tryptophan to refer only to the L form). Tryptophan had doubled the wholesale price.

Twelve years later a major distributor of Tryptophan told me his sales had remained double those prior to the article. In 1990, one of the seven or eight companies manufacturing Tryptophan sent out a large batch with some contaminant which led to eosinophilic myalgia, a serious muscle disorder which led to a few deaths. In 1992 Tryptophan was banned by the FDA; an interesting coincidence is that Prozac came on the market two weeks later.

Several years ago Tryptophan was allowed back on the market as a prescription item. AS OF THIS MONTH TRYPTOPHAN IS AVAILABLE WITHOUT PRESCRIPTION! HOORAY!

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, the building block for 5-hydroxy tryptamine, the best-known mood neurochemical, serotonin, the latter of which is the precursor of melatonin. Vitamin B6, B3 and Lithium are co-factors required for optimal production of Tryptophan. In the days before it was banned, Tryptophan was the number one requirement for virtually all my patients, coupled of course with the co-factors. Insomnia, depression, migraine, jet lag were all highly successfully treated with Tryptophan. Incidentally, when Tryptophan alone did not work, the Liss Cranial Electrical Stimulator, Shealy Series, was even more effective than when either was used alone.

Virtually all antidepressants ”suggest” that their effect is upon the serotonin and/or norepinephrine system of the brain. None is as specific as Tryptophan — or as safe! Incidentally high Tryptophan containing foods are turkey, bananas, milk, peanuts and legumes. Absorption of Tryptophan is highly varied and is enhanced by eating the meat, etc, with carbohydrates — thus the sleepy effect after a turkey and mashed potato meal.

Research in the past 20 years continues to emphasize the major role of Tryptophan in mood:

  • A Tryptophan-free meal leads rapidly to depressive symptoms even in ”normal males”
  • Subjects with lowered Tryptophan levels have symptoms similar to methamphetamine abusers and some of the symptoms of opiate abusers
  • T-cell metabolism is modulated by Tryptophan levels
  • Tryptophan depletion leads rapidly to impaired learning and memory
  • Bipolar depressive patients have a genetic TPH gene which limits serotonin biosynthesis.
  • Suicide-prone individuals also have increased TPH gene activity
  • The TPH gene is also prominent in alcoholics
  • Seasonal variations in blood Tryptophan levels account for seasonal variation in suicide rates
  • Tryptophan depletion reverses the benefits of light therapy in SAD
  • Tryptophan depletion aggravates PMS
  • Self-administration of IV cocaine in rats is reduced by dietary Tryptophan
  • Tryptophan depletion blocks morphine analgesia
  • Tryptophan depletion increases anxiety and panic in healthy people
  • Tryptophan depletion reduces non-REM sleep and, increases wakefulness and alters REM


The dosage for Tryptophan is two to six grams. Must be given with 15 to 45 mg of Lithium Orotate and at least 25 mg of B complex. When these do not help significantly, then the SheLi TENS and Shealy RelaxMate II are the treatment of choice.


Tryptophan should NOT be taken with any antidepressant drug or SSRI reuptake migraine drug. That could lead to serotonin syndrome

C. Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D. is the father of holistic medicine. He recommends autogenic focus (the basis of the Biogenics System) as part of your commitment to self-health and regulating your mood in addition to Tryptophan. Register to download your FREE autogenic focus MP3 now.

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