Griffonia: 13 properties, benefits and contraindications

The Griffonia Simplicifolia Baill, from the Fabaceae family, also called the “African bean” due to its shape.It is a tropical plant that loves the humid climate; it is widespread especially in West Africa, Ghana, Gabon and Ivory Coast where it is used in the kitchen and for its medicinal virtues.It has a woody stem that can reach 3 meters in height, has green flowers and pods (fruits) inside which the seeds are kept, whose color varies from brown to black depending on the degree of maturation achieved.

Griffonia flowers between August and October and fruits are harvested around December.The leaves are used in decoctions and infusions in the popular medicine of the place of belonging, but they are the seeds that are of particular interest in herbal medicine and phytotherapy. It is a young plant because it was discovered by the West only in the 70s.

The 13 benefits of Griffonia

The seeds of griffon ia are rich in 5-HTP, a molecule that has been the subject of much research because it is useful in insomnia, in nervous hunger, in anxiety states, in mild depression, in tension migraine and studies show other results

  1. Griffonia is considered a supplement with properties useful in regulating mood, sleep and appetite.

It is marketed (the seed extract) as a mild antidepressant, slimming and as an aid to insomnia, even with other herbs such as valerian .

  1. Its properties derive largely from an amino acid, 5-HTP or 5-hydroxytryptophan.

This molecule, 5-HTP, is an intermediate in the synthesis of tryptophan, that is, very synthetically: we take tryptophan with food (it is an essential amino acid that is not produced by the body but introduced with food), from the tryptophan it is synthesized 5-HTP which, in turn, synthesizes serotonin. In nature, tryptophan is found in chocolate, oats , bananas, dates, stockfish, soy, pumpkin seeds and Griffonia. Just this component, 5-HTP, can therefore increase the levels of serotonin in the body.

  1. The importance of serotonin

The serotonin is a neurotransmitter that, in those suffering from depression, may have low concentrations and it also seems implicated in disorders such as anxiety and panic. Serotonin (5HT or 5-hydroxytryptamine) is called the good mood hormone. It is present in platelets, plasma and the nervous system, it has a stimulating action on smooth muscles, such as gastrointestinal, an anti-haemorrhagic action and is a chemical mediator of inflammation and transmission of nerve impulses. It is synthesized in the central nervous system and in the gastrointestinal tract.

  1. Effective against depression

Several studies have experimented with griffonia intake in patients with depression and have been effective in the treatment of mild and moderate depression. In an article from the University of Krakow, griffonia appears, together with other plants such as rodhiola, eleuterococcus, crocus sativus (saffron), camelllia sinensis (tea), ginseng etc., as a proven aid in prevention and in the treatment of depression, together with omega-3, anthranilic acid (vitamin L1) and a correct diet ( 1 )

  1. Contributes positively in cases of anxiety

Several studies indicate that griffonia seed extract has an effect similar to anxiolytics.

A study conducted on 15 non-depressed patients showed, after 6 weeks of administration of griffonia seed extract, a platelet increase in serotonin and a decrease in stress assessed on the answers to a questionnaire ( 2 ).
Another study, all Italian (University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and published in 2011) and conducted on rats, concluded that the extract of griffonia simplicifolia seeds exerts an effect similar to anxiolytics, in rats, and suggests the potential usefulness in the treatment of human anxiety ( 3 ).

  1. It gives satiety and calms nervous hunger

The griffonia plant was useful in weight control problems to counteract the feeling of hunger.

An Italian study, to be precise of the Department of Health Sciences, of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Pavia, carried out a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on 20 overweight females in a personalized low-calorie diet. Ten subjects were given placebo while the other 10 were given an integration with Griffonia simplicifolia extract to assess the sensation of appetite and body mass.

In conclusion, the study shows that 5-HTP, present in the Griffonia seed extract and sprayed into the oral cavity is adequately absorbed. In overweight women there was an increase in the feeling of satiety and a decrease in the BMI or Body Mass Index ( 4).

  1. It helps in cases of broken hearts

Again at the University of Pavia ( 5. ) We owe the paternity of a further study on 5-HTP, extracted from Griffonia, to help resolve the sufferings “of the heart”, the “romantic stress” linked to the pains of love for finite relationships . 15 healthy subjects (11 females and 4 males) participated in the study and it was concluded that the administration, for 6 weeks of L-5-hydroxytryptophan, reported a better response of the subjects in the suffering of heart and an increase in serotonin platelet ( 6 ).

  1. Insomnia? No problem

5-HTP is a precursor of serotonin which in turn is a precursor of melatonin, a hormone secreted by the epiphysis or pineal gland, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle and is therefore useful for those suffering from initial insomnia, but which also helps to stimulate the proper functioning of the immune system. It improves the quality of sleep which would become even deeper. On the market there are preparations based on griffonia combined with valerian and / or melatonin.

  1. Positive results found in case of night terror

A study carried out by the Pediatric Center for Sleep Disorders in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at the La Sapienza University of Rome is interesting. The 5-HTP, not extracted from the seeds of griffonia, was administered to 45 children with night terror. Night terror is characterized by a partial awakening from deep sleep with cries, intense agitation, pallor, tachycardia, increased arterial pressure … of which one does not remember when awakening. The study concludes that in 83.9% of the children the disorder no longer appeared, thus demonstrating the effectiveness of the treatment in improving the night terror in the long term.

  1. Relieves menopausal symptoms

Climacteric syndrome is characterized by various symptoms such as hot flushes, frequent nocturnal awakenings, insomnia, irritability. These symptoms do not always appear simultaneously and not in all menopausal women, however the level of hormones causes a change in serotonin levels. By evaluating the properties of the extract of Griffonia seeds on symptoms such as insomnia, but also mild menopausal depression it is possible to think that it can help. Tryptophan, with glycine, resveratrol and vitamin E contained in functional foods, together with an adequate nutraceutical approach, can be useful as a preventive approach. These are the conclusions of an article from the University of Milan (Fabio Parazzini  7 ).

  1. Useful for those suffering from motion sickness

In this study we speak of MS ie motion sickness or motion sicknesswhich consists of a series of disorders that occur as a result of movements or journeys on means of transport such as ships, planes, trains and cars and is caused by excessive stimulation of the vestibular system (ear) when the body is subjected to rapid stresses such as those induced by movement. Its symptoms are various, the most common are dizziness, tiredness and nausea. The efficacy and safety of the Griffonia / magnesium complex administered in a pediatric population was evaluated. The control group showed significantly lower data, referring to the incidence of MS, compared to the second group to which no therapy had been administered. The results, cite the authors of this study conducted by the Second University of Naples,8 ).
Some experiments have been carried out on synthetic 5-HTP, not extracted from the seeds of Griffonia, but are still interesting considering that Griffonia is rich in them.

  1. 5-HTP and tension migraine

5-HTP seems to help in tension headaches. This is the conclusion reached by a randomized double-blind placebo study in 65 patients. After the 2-week treatment there was a significant decrease in the number of days with headache and a decrease in the consumption of analgesics (Department of Pharmacology of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Coimbra in Portugal ( 9 ).

  1. 5-HTP and fibromyalgia

A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the efficacy and tolerability of 5-HTP was conducted in 50 patients with primary fibromyalgia syndrome. All the clinical parameters studied were significantly improved by treatment with 5-HTP and only mild and transient side effects were reported. Surely further studies are needed to correctly define the value of 5-HTP in patients with primary fibromyalgia (Rheumatology Unit of the Sacco Hospital in Milan 10 ). It is important to underline that the research is a starting point for further studies and confirmations, especially when it is not applied to human subjects, double-blind with placebo and on a large sample of This does not detract from the value of the studies, but suggests caution.

Contraindications and warnings before use:

Normally griffonia is well tolerated, but it can give rise to gastric disorders such as nausea, meteorism and heartburn, so DIY is always contraindicated. Medical advice is required in the case of diabetes, hypertension, when taking drugs, in therapy with antidepressants (5-HTP interacts) or anxiolytics, in pregnancy, lactation and for children.

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