A supplement that mends a broken heart
Take a look at what we came across: a supplement, from Austria, called Amorex and on the box it says it helps against a broken heart. In German, of course: "Bei Liebeskummer und Trennungen". Active ingredient: an extract of Griffonia simplificolia.
Griffonia simplicifolia is a plant from West Africa. Each tablet of Amorex, manufactured by Coropharm [coropharm.com], contains 60 mg of an extract made from the seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia.
The seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia – shown above – contain 5-hydroxytryptophan or 5-HTP. 5-Hydroxytryptophan is also found in minute quantities in cherries, bananas, kiwis and is created in the body when the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase converts the amino acid tryptophan. 5-Hydroxytryptophan is a direct precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin.
During a period of depression or long-term negative mood, the concentration of serotonin in the brain is low. Nearly all anti-depressants work by raising the concentration of serotonin. There are studies which show that supplementation with tryptophan or 5-hydroxytryptophan
boost the serotonin concentration in the brains of people suffering from depression and improves their mood. [Asian J Psychiatr. 2013 Feb;6(1):29-34.] [Altern Med Rev. 1998 Aug;3(4):271-80.] So you could speculate that 5-hydroxytryptophan is quite likely to help make a broken heart more bearable.
The makers of Amorex, however, don't base their arguments on speculation, but on a real live study. One that was published in 2010 in Neuro Endocrinology Letters. In that study Italian researchers did an experiment on 15 students, all of whom had been in a relationship that they had not ended or had experienced unrequited love, and were having difficulty dealing with their situation.
The researchers gave the students 2 capsules Amorex every day for 6 weeks. That meant the students took 120 mg Griffonia simplicifolia, containing 25 mg 5-hydroxytryptophan every day.
The researchers got the students to fill out a questionnaire to find out how much romantic stress – i.e. heartbreak – the students were experiencing, before supplementation started, during the supplementation period and at the end of it. The minimum score the students could get was 7, the maximum was 35. The figure below shows that the amount of romantic stress clearly went down during the supplementation period.
During the supplementation period the concentration of 5-HTP in the blood platelets increased, as did the concentration of brain-derived neurotrophic factor [BDNF]. BDNF is a hormone that keeps brain cells in shape and stimulates the formation of new connections between brain cells. BDNF synthesis is reduced in people with depression and anxiety disorders.
There's plenty to criticise about this study. For example, there was no control group. As a result we don't know whether the students wouldn't have recovered from their broken heart just as quickly if they hadn't been given the supplement.
"We believe that these data have at least two important implications", the researchers summarised. "First, these findings expand previous observations implying a potential serotonergic dysfunction in human romantic stress."
"Second, they suggest that direct modulation of the serotonergic system may have use for the treatment of psychological suffering associated with unreciprocated romantic love."
Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2010;31(5):663-6.
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Tryptophan & 5-HTP