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Griffonia simplicifolia

Griffonia simplicifolia is an African shrub and a source of the compound 5-HTP. It has anxiety and appetite-reducing effects.

Our evidence-based analysis on griffonia simplicifolia features 21 unique references to scientific papers.

Research analysis led by and reviewed by the Examine team.
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Research Breakdown on Griffonia simplicifolia

1Sources and Composition


Griffonia Simplicifolia (with the alternate name of Bandeiraea Simplicifolia) is a shrubbery used in African folk medicine where the seeds are used for aphrodisia and antibiotic purposes as well as a remedy for diarrhea, vomiting and stomachache; the leaves are used for the treatment of wounds and the leaf juice for bladder and kidney ailments.[1] More recently, the plant appears to be used in the treatment of anxiety and depression, insomnia, migraine and headache, as well as the regulation of appetite leading to weight reduction in obese patients;[1] all of these effects are said to be due to the 5-HTP content of Griffonia Simplicifolia which many supplements are now standardized for.

Traditional usage of the seeds from Griffonia Simplicifolia are mostly for neural purposes and are closely tied into 5-HTP's known actions. The leaves have been used for purposes currently unexplainable by 5-HTP (which are at low concentrations in the leaves) and likely related to other molecules


  • 5-HTP naturally occurring at 5-10% (seeds), 0.3-1.2% (leaves), and 0.1-0.2% (pods)[2] although up to 20% has been reported to occur naturally;[3] 5-HTP concentration of supplements tends to be standardized

  • A tetrameric lectin, composed of two subunits (A and B) which can form into five different formations (A4 or B4, A3B1 or B3A1 and a balanced A2B2)[4] with A subunits binding to only α-Gal and α-GalNac (N-acetylgalactosamine) sugar moieties while B subunits bind exclusively to α-Gal (Alpha-Galactose)[5][4][6]

  • Another lectin known as Griffonia simplicifolia II with affinity for N-Acetylglucosamine[7][8]

The latter lectin component of Griffonia Simplicifolia seeds and leaves (Griffonia simplicifolia II) is somewhat resistant to proteolysis.[9][10] Additionally, the tetrameric lectin has been noted to bind to mouse endothelial cells in vitro[11] and the B4 tetramer (specific to Alpha-galactose) has been noted to bind to the intestinal wall of guinea pigs.[12] Despite the aforementioned, currently no evidence exists as to whether or not these lectins pose a concern to persons with Celiac disease (despite the wheat lectin, gliadin, and Griffonia simplicifolia II both sharing affinity for N-Acetylglucosamine moieties[13]).

Limited evidence on the constituents of Griffonia Simplicifolia, but the main bioactive is most definitely 5-HTP. Lectins are known to exist in the plant and are mostly used for research purposes (they have high affinity for certain sugars, so using these lectins can isolate the sugars in question)



A study using an oral cavity spray of 5-HTP (via the plant source of Griffonia Simplicifolia) has noted that 7.68mg of 5-HTP via 30.72mg of Griffonia Simplicifolia extract taken five times daily (total daily dose of around 40mg) has confirmed an increase in urinary 5-HIAA (from 3.71+/-1.27mg/24 hours to 8.80+/-4.02mg/24 hours; a 137% increase) relative to baseline, confirming that 5-HTP can be absorbed sublingually.[14] Similar results have been noted elsewhere with this spray, although it should be noted that it is confounded with other herbs (detailed in the appetite subsection).[15]

Appears to be able to be absorbed sublingually when a spray is applied to the oral cavity



In animals, 25-100mg/kg of Griffonia Simplicifolia (20% 5-HTP) was able to reduce food intake of otherwise healthy female rats by approximately 33% (from 60g/100g bodyweight to around 40g) with 25mg/kg of the seed extract being equally effective as 100mg/kg (no dose dependence).[16] This reduction in food intake persisted after 9 days of assessment,[16] and has been noted in male rats following the same protocol.[17]

An extract of Griffonia simplicifolia (10.24mg giving 2.56mg 5-HTP; confounded with Centella asiatica and Taraxacum officinale at 11.7mg and 4.55mg Paulina cupana and 9.75mg Artichoke extract) taken in three hits, five times a day (40mg 5-HTP total), by 20 overweight or obese females (non-depressive and without eating disorders) for 4 weeks has noted an increase in satiety and reduced binge eating tendencies; the increase in satiety was said to account for the improved weight loss results seen in the experimental group when both were given weight loss advice and diets.[14] This spray has been noted elsewhere to increase satiety (and vicariously through that, body weight) over 2 months in a similar demographic of women.[15]

Limited human studies using Griffonia simplicifolia for weight loss, with both studies using an oral spray but being confounded with a variety of herbs (hard to place causation on Griffonia simplicifolia in this instances). 5-HTP itself does appear to be effective in isolation, however, and rodent studies using only Griffonia simplicifolia also note appetite reduction with 25mg/kg of 20% 5-HTP (human dose of 4mg/kg Griffonia)


In rats given a scaled dose of 1-25mg/kg Griffonia simplicifolia (20% 5-HTP) one hour prior to a light-dark box test noted that 10 and 25mg/kg was able to increase time in the light segment (indicative of anxiolysis) while doses of 5-25mg/kg appeared to be anxiolytic in an open field test.[1] The time spent in the light/dark with 10-25mg/kg of Griffonia simplicifolia was similar to the active control of 2mg/kg Diazepam, although Diazepam outperformed on number of crossing and latency time in the dark (suggesting it is more anxiolytic).[1]

May have anti-anxiety effects in rodents, untested in humans at this moment in time


Serotonin agonists are known to interact with Aphrodisiac effects, particularly in females, although not in a universal manner (aphrodisiac or anti-aphrodisiac effects pending on which receptor subset is activated);[18][19] in particular, 5-HT1A activation in the Ventromedial nucleus of the Hypothalamus (VMN) appears to have an anti-aphrodisiac[20] while 2A/2C subsets facilitate aphrodisia.[21]

Serotonin is involved in aphrodisia, but the neurotransmitter per se is involved in a regulatory role; the receptors that belong to serotonin (designated by 5-HTXX) either potentiate or attenuate aphrodisia when activated

25, 50, and 100mg/kg of the seed extract of Griffonia Simplicifolia (20% 5-HTP) in female rats was able to reduce the frequency of lordosis (a bending of the spine and raising of the rear in female rodents is sometimes used as a way to measure aphrodisia and sexual receptiveness) and this reduction was dose dependent acutely yet disappeared after 9 days of consistent treatment; the amount of female rats displaying rejective behaviours also increased in a dose-dependent manner.[16] Although this study noted a reduction in food intake, it is unlikely to explain the observed effects as food intake remained low at 9 days while aphrodisia returned to baseline.[16]

Seemingly opposite effects have been noted in male mice following the same protocol outlined above, where acute administration caused an increase in mounting frequency but over 9 days this aphrodisiac effect appeared to have been attenuated and was no longer any different than baseline.[17]

Two rodent studies have been conducted on Griffonia Simplicifolia and aphrodisia, showing benefit to male rats but antagonistic effects to female rats. It is not currently known if this is due to change or due to a legitimate sex-difference or whether similar effects are noted in humans


  1. ^ a b c d Carnevale G, et al. Anxiolytic-like effect of Griffonia simplicifolia Baill. seed extract in rats. Phytomedicine. (2011)
  2. ^ 5-hydroxy-l-tryptophan, 5-hydroxytryptamine and l-tryptophan-5-hydroxylase in griffonia simplicifolia.
  3. ^ Lemaire PA, Adosraku RK. An HPLC method for the direct assay of the serotonin precursor, 5-hydroxytrophan, in seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia. Phytochem Anal. (2002)
  4. ^ a b Lescar J, et al. Isolectins I-A and I-B of Griffonia (Bandeiraea) simplicifolia. Crystal structure of metal-free GS I-B(4) and molecular basis for metal binding and monosaccharide specificity. J Biol Chem. (2002)
  5. ^ Kirkeby S, Moe D. Binding of Griffonia simplicifolia 1 isolectin B4 (GS1 B4) to alpha-galactose antigens. Immunol Cell Biol. (2001)
  6. ^ Wu AM, et al. Further characterization of the combining sites of Bandeiraea (Griffonia) simplicifolia lectin-I, isolectin A(4). Glycobiology. (1999)
  7. ^ Zhu K, et al. An insecticidal N-acetylglucosamine-specific lectin gene from Griffonia simplicifolia (Leguminosae). Plant Physiol. (1996)
  8. ^ Zhu K, et al. Identification of N-acetylglucosamine binding residues in Griffonia simplicifolia lectin II. FEBS Lett. (1996)
  9. ^ Zhu-Salzman K, et al. Carbohydrate binding and resistance to proteolysis control insecticidal activity of Griffonia simplicifolia lectin II. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. (1998)
  10. ^ Zhu-Salzman K, Salzman RA. Functional mechanics of the plant defensive Griffonia simplicifolia lectin II: resistance to proteolysis is independent of glycoconjugate binding in the insect gut. J Econ Entomol. (2001)
  11. ^ Laitinen L. Griffonia simplicifolia lectins bind specifically to endothelial cells and some epithelial cells in mouse tissues. Histochem J. (1987)
  12. ^ Gebert A, et al. The apical membrane of intestinal brush cells possesses a specialised, but species-specific, composition of glycoconjugates--on-section and in vivo lectin labelling in rats, guinea-pigs and mice. Histochem Cell Biol. (2000)
  13. ^ De Vincenzi M, et al. Agglutinating activity of wheat gliadin peptide fractions in coeliac disease. Toxicology. (1995)
  14. ^ a b Rondanelli M, et al. Relationship between the absorption of 5-hydroxytryptophan from an integrated diet, by means of Griffonia simplicifolia extract, and the effect on satiety in overweight females after oral spray administration. Eat Weight Disord. (2012)
  15. ^ a b Rondanelli M, et al. Satiety and amino-acid profile in overweight women after a new treatment using a natural plant extract sublingual spray formulation. Int J Obes (Lond). (2009)
  16. ^ a b c d Carnevale G, et al. Griffonia simplicifolia negatively affects sexual behavior in female rats. Phytomedicine. (2010)
  17. ^ a b Carnevale G, et al. Influence of Griffonia simplicifolia on male sexual behavior in rats: behavioral and neurochemical study. Phytomedicine. (2011)
  18. ^ Uphouse L. Female gonadal hormones, serotonin, and sexual receptivity. Brain Res Brain Res Rev. (2000)
  19. ^ Mendelson SD. A review and reevaluation of the role of serotonin in the modulation of lordosis behavior in the female rat. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. (1992)
  20. ^ Uphouse L, et al. 5-HT1A receptor antagonists and lordosis behavior. Neuropharmacology. (1996)
  21. ^ Wolf A, Caldarola-Pastuszka M, Uphouse L. Facilitation of female rat lordosis behavior by hypothalamic infusion of 5-HT(2A/2C) receptor agonists. Brain Res. (1998)