Griffonia and 5-HTP

Griffonia and 5-HTP

Griffonia (Griffonia simplicifolia (DC.) Baill.) is a woody climbing shrub native to West Africa and Central Africa. The seeds have been traditionally used as aphrodisiac, antiemetic and antidiarrheic, but also to treat sleep disorders and anxiety. As a curiosity, its flavor reminds of garlic, and thus Griffonia is also present in the culinary sector.

Lately, Griffonia’s seeds have become essential in lots of food supplements for its content in 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP from now on), serotonin precursor, a neurotransmitter involved in neuronal synapsis.

At Regulation level, the one that concerns us, we must evaluate the legal situation both plant and its main phytochemical, 5-HTP.

Griffonia is not considered a novel food according to European authorities, and it can be found in some plant lists from different countries. Therefore, the use of the plant in Spain can only happen by mutual recognition, that permits free circulation of goods through the European Union.

And, what about 5-HTP?

5-HTP can also be called oxitriptan, a drug that used to be sold in Spain to treat depression. However, as all medicines do, had to comply a different Regulation, more comprehensive than that of food supplements.

The European Union classifies 5-HTP as a novel food, meaning that there is no history of consumption inside EU for this food and therefore it is not allowed. For 5-HTP to be approved, a novel food request must be presented proving that it is safe for humans and wait for EFSA to evaluate it and give a response, that can be whether positive or negative.

Overall, the legal situation is ambiguous. On one hand, countries such as Portugal allow the plant Griffonia simplicifolia, if 5-HTP content is limited to 25 mg of 5-HTP per take and 50 mg per day. On the other hand, Spain does not include this substance in their Real Decret and has no regulation for plant usage in food supplements, hence depends on mutual recognition for its commercialization.

We have seen some changes in the Regulation both the plant and the active compound, because of that we will be attentive to any legal resolution regarding the selling of this product.