Brain Health,
Smart Drugs,

#054: L-tryptophan and Your Holiday Brain

November 25, 2014

In Episode #54 – as a special Thanksgiving treat – we’re joined by Gilles Guillemin, Professor at The Australian School of Advanced Medicine at Macquarie University and world leader in research on L-tryptophan and neuroinflammation. Professor Guillemin dispels the turkey-makes-you-sleepy myth that often comes up at this time of year, and explains the actual effects of L-tryptophan and its metabolites on our neurochemistry.

In keeping with the holiday theme, we also delve into some interesting findings on alcohol consumption and its effects on our brain’s impulse control mechanisms, and, on a slightly lighter note, how one can properly refer to a group of turkeys.

Key Terms Mentioned

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Show Notes
  • 00:00:33

    Introduction to Professor Gilles Guillemin and L-tryptophan

  • 00:01:39

    This Week in Neuroscience: Long-Term Effects Of Alcohol Impair Brain's Pathways That Underlie Impulse Control

  • 00:04:38

    Thank-you to Jt Olsen

  • 00:05:17

    New writing on Hypnagogic Harvests of a Sputtering Brain

  • 00:05:58

    The French Paradox

  • 00:06:52

    Mythology of L-tryptophan and Thanksgiving

  • 00:08:46

    What is L-tryptophan?

  • 00:09:28

    The effects of L-tryptophan and 5-HTP on our neurochemistry

  • 00:10:45

    Light exposure and its effects on Serotonin versus Melatonin production

  • 00:12:01

    Resveratrol, Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) and anti-aging

  • 00:12:56

    Differences between consuming tryptophan as a supplement and as part of your diet

  • 00:13:50

    Why would one supplement with 5-HTP over L-tryptophan to regulate mood?

  • 00:14:50

    Difference between chemically synthesized and natural 5-HTP

  • 00:15:37

    Serotonin and quinolinic acid and their effects on depression and suicidal behavior

  • 00:15:45

    Ketamine used as an antidepressant (and Ketamine's physiological downsides)

  • 00:16:30

    L-tryptophan as a biomarker and its use with cancer patients

  • 00:17:15

    Tryptophan metabolites and their role in protecting fetuses from mothers' immune systems

  • 00:19:52

    Daily recommended amounts of tryptophan and how to get it in your diet

  • 00:20:54

    What does the "L" mean in "L-tryptophan"

  • 00:21:37

    Ruthless Listener-Retention Gimmick: What Do You Call A Group Of Turkeys?


  1. john says:

    My favorite is:

    A Murder of Crows may refer to:

    The collective noun for a group of crows

  2. Joe says:

    Just listened to this as I’m looking for something to help me get to sleep easier/faster and tryptophan comes up a lot.

    However, after listening to this, it doesn’t seem to be a good sleep aid?

    Or did I misunderstand?

    Any recommendations for a sleep aid or nootropic?


    1. Michelle Silbernagel says:

      Hi Joe, I actually use L-Tryptophan nightly and find it is beneficial to me. I sleep soundly and deeply. Some people have better luck with 5HTP. Everyone is different. If you decided to try L-Tryptophan, I suggest the Lidtke brand. Good luck!

    2. Madison says:

      I think you heard or read correctly. Several of the experts on SDs episodes, recommend melatonin; none recommend tryptophan. A couple of the scientists explain that it is not the very low dose of tryptophan in Turkey that makes one drowsy, but the large amount of carbohydrates and or alcohol.
      You might search for the episode with dr. Richard Wurtman probably his second episode on melatonin. he clearly lays out why it should be 1 mg or less and it should be time release.
      For the first month, You might Splurge for the “Sleep answer” brand, by healthy directions, the brand now in 2018 endorsed by dr. Workman.
      Dr. Workman and others Make it clear that having any lights (phone, blue light, etc) on, other than maybe a weak Amber light, reduces your melatonin and tends to wake you up.
      I have found that taking it with liquid, yet without food, and without eating anywhere near bedtime, is best. This matches the neuroscientists explanation of other amino acids would compete with melatonin for transport across the brain barrier.

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