Griffonia (Griffonia simplicifolia) is a shrub belonging to the Fabaceae family, native to central-western Africa and also known as the “African bean”. The griffonia plant has a climbing habit and can reach three meters in height, producing shiny and bright leaves and greenish flowers from which the fruits originate. THE fruits of griffonia they are pods containing seeds that represent the drug of the plant, used in herbal medicine and phytotherapy.
THE seeds of griffonia they contain 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) and are used to treat sleep and mood disorders. The use of griffonia as a natural remedy is however very ancient. This plant is in fact used in African folk medicine, which recommends its leaves and bark for cutaneous applications useful for promoting the healing of skin wounds and the juice of the plant for oral use as a kidney purifier. Traditionally, the decoction of the stem is also used, to always be taken orally, to calm vomiting and for the alleged aphrodisiac action.
The 5-hydroxytryptophan present in the seeds of griffonia is an intermediate metabolic amino acid derivative in the synthesis of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of mood, as well as sleep and rest and appetite. There serotonin it is in turn a precursor of the melatonin, the main hormone involved in regulating the circadian rhythm and the sleep-wake cycle. Thanks to the 5-HPT content, therefore, the seeds of griffonia are attributed relaxing and hypno-inducing properties and are recognized as having a beneficial effect on mood, as well as a possible effect on sexual desire.
Between benefits of griffonia dietary supplements we find to improve mood. The substance responsible for this activity, as we have seen, seems to be 5-hydroxytryptophan, a molecule that forms naturally in our body as an intermediate in the synthesis of serotonin. Introducing more 5-HPT into the body potentially leads to an increase in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved – among other things – in regulating mood. Many natural remedies for mild depression, including for example St. John’s wort or St. John’s wort, owe their effectiveness to their action on serotonin, increasing its synthesis or inhibiting its reuptake at the synaptic level. More serotonin it basically translates into a better mood, but not only that, because serotonin is also involved in the regulation of other body functions such as appetite and rest. Griffonia supplements could therefore also be helpful for those people suffering from hunger pangs, nervous hunger and who cannot control their appetite. This effect can always be useful and especially when following a low calorie diet to lose weight. Finally, increases in serotonin are linked to better well-being in general, to a better tolerance to pain and also to an increase in sexual desire, when for example the decrease in libido is caused by mood disorders.
Another benefit linked to the administration of griffonia concerns sleep. Those who have difficulty falling asleep or sleeping well may benefit from taking griffonia supplements. Serotonin is in fact a precursor of another hormone, melatonin, responsible for regulating the circadian rhythm and sleep-wake rhythms. There melatonin it reaches high levels during the night, which decrease in the morning and then return to higher levels when the sun goes down. These fluctuations allow our body to know what time of day and what season of the year we are, acting as a real internal clock or biological clock. The importance of melatonin for rest justifies its integration to counteract the symptoms related to jet lag and insomnia especially in the elderly, since with the passing of the years the endogenous production of melatonin decreases.
Griffonia-based supplements, taken at the normal dosages indicated on the packaging, do not cause particular side effects. At high or prolonged dosages, or in sensitive people, griffonia intake can lead to gastrointestinal disturbances which include nausea, diarrhea, excess gas in the intestine.
The use of griffonia is contraindicated in people who have allergy to the plant or to one of its components. It is better not to take supplements and griffonia extracts in pregnancy, during lactation and in pediatric age. If you are taking medications or following therapies, it is always advisable to consult your doctor before resorting to griffonia as its intake could interfere with some medicines or natural supplements, including those that act by inhibiting the reuptake or reuptake of serotonin.