Medicinal plants

Griffonia - effects, uses and side effects

Griffonia - effects, uses and side effects

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Griffonia - the African black bean

Griffonia simplicifolia, African black bean in German, is traditionally used by people to create a good mood and boost libido. It is a creeping plant that gets wooded and grows in the rainforests of West and Central Africa. As an aphrodisiac, it is mainly used in Ghana.

Pods form from the green flowers, and when they are ripe, they spill black seeds. It's exactly these beans (seeds) when Griffonia is used - for anxiety such as panic attacks, mood disorders, depression, migraines, disturbed sleep and a lack of serotonin. They also relieve the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Griffonia as a remedy

The seeds are first dried, then ground and extracted with alcohol or cleaned by repeated crystallization. The resulting powder is pressed into tablets.


Black bean contains up to 20% 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). It is an intermediate product of the amino acid tryptophan and a "raw mass" for the messenger serotonin. The body cannot manufacture tryptophan itself.

In young people, the brain and liver form 5-HTP from the amino acid with the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase. However, many people have too little of this substance. This can be due to age or stress. You should then take 5-HTP. The brain can convert this to serotonin.

Bananas and chocolate

Bananas and chocolate, but especially the black bean seeds, contain the substance. In the case of chocolate, this applies above all to black chocolate with a particularly high cocoa content. Black chocolate not only improves mood, it also makes you less fat than chocolate with less cocoa. Edam and Emmental cheese, as well as soybean and wheat germ and cashew nuts also contain a lot of tryptophan.

Prevent food cravings?

The "craving for chocolate" often stems from a lack of serotonin, which in turn leads to a "japp" for carbohydrates and uncontrolled binge eating. Griffonia offers an alternative to prevent this cravings and thus reduce excess weight.

What does serotonin deficiency lead to?

Dysfunctions in the serotonin household can also cause mood disorders. Behavior and perception are also influenced by the so-called happiness hormone. It also affects blood clotting, the regeneration of the liver and pancreas as well as the heart.

A lack of serotonin sometimes leads to depression, anxiety and aggressiveness. The messenger also acts on the sleep rhythm, appetite, memory, learning ability, pain control, bowel activity and inflammation. Low serotonin levels can also be seen in suicide fantasies, stress, obesity, migraines, addictive behavior and premenstrual syndrome.

Consequences of serotonin deficiency

A lack of serotonin also plays a role in other diseases. It helps control blood pressure in the cardiovascular system. In the muscles of the skeleton, the substance expands the vessels and thus increases blood circulation.

Fibromyalgia is a disease with the following symptoms: muscle pain, fatigue, fever, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome and swelling of the lymph nodes. The cause of this disease is not known, but it is associated with a serotonin deficiency.

The Biogena study

The Salzburg doctor Dr. Walter Wührer and other scientists created a study on the use of Griffonia in depressive states, anxiety disorders and stress. They examined whether 5-HTP obtained from African black beans in combination with B vitamins helps.

They researched 69 people with depression, anxiety and extreme stress. One group received Biogena Griffonia50 Serolution for three weeks, the other a placebo. At the beginning and end of the study, the doctors identified depression, anxiety and stress using the DASS questionnaire (depression, anxiety, stress scales).

Griffonia better than placebo

The black bean preparation showed significantly better results than the placebo: for depression by 45% compared to 22% for placebo; in the case of fear 63% versus 34%; when stressed, the Griffonia subjects achieved 50% compared to 39% of those who used the placebo.

Wrong hopes?

To date, there are no valid studies on the speculated effects of Griffonia on obesity, migraines, pain and sleep disorders. In any case, you should not take preparations from the black bean without medical supervision.

Caution should also be exercised in the event of an overdose: if the serotonin level in the brain rises excessively, serotonin syndrome occurs: fever, nausea and vomiting, anxiety, sweating, cramps and heart problems.


Griffonia should not be taken with St. John's wort, antidepressants, sedatives and some pain relievers as it increases their effects. Pregnant women should avoid the preparations.

When taken orally, 5-HTP firstly increases the level of serotonin, secondly the level of other messenger substances such as dopamine, melatonin and norepinephrine.

Side effects of Griffonia

5-HTP can cause side effects. These include nausea, fatigue, stomach, muscle and headache, diarrhea, flatulence and dizziness.

Medicines Act

In the United States and the United Kingdom, black bean supplements are freely available as a dietary supplement. In Germany, 5-hydroxytryptophan falls under the Medicinal Products Act (AMG). Prescription is compulsory.

Attention: The drinks, powder, capsules and tablets obtained from the seeds of the black bean, which serve as food supplements, are prohibited in Germany.

When should you stop taking 5-HTP?

You should stop taking the supplements if you experience tremors and cramps, palpitations and heart problems, vomiting and nausea, rapid breathing, hallucinations and other impaired consciousness.

Who shouldn't take 5-HTP?

5-HTP is not suitable for people with anorexia and low weight. People suffering from gastrointestinal ulcers or who have blood abnormalities should pay attention to whether their blood count changes.

There are no studies for other possible risk groups. Until these are available, 5-hydroxytryptophan is off limits to people with severe liver diseases such as kidney, allergy sufferers and patients with autoimmune diseases. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


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  • Carnevale, Gianluca et al .: "Anxiolytic-like effect of Griffonia simplicifolia Baill. Seed extract in rats", in: Phytomedicine, Volume 18 Issue 10, 2011,
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Video: 5-HTP For Depression (May 2022).