8 Best Supplements for Anxiety (Plus My Experience)
If you are experiencing anxiety, then you might want to consider lifestyle factors and supplements that can help. This post includes a review of the best supplements for anxiety, plus extra information on nutritional deficiencies, lifestyle tips, and more.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is known in our culture as a feeling of worry, apprehension, and fearfulness. Most people will experience anxious feelings at some point in their lives because it is a natural response to overwhelming or uncertain situations.
Anxiety can be caused by several things. It can occur because of a temporary stressful situation or event. Disturbances in your neurotransmitters can also be the cause of anxiousness.
Anxiety becomes an issue when you feel anxious more than not and it affects your daily life.
According to the DSM-V, the diagnostic manual for psychiatrists, feeling anxious most of the time could mean you have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Of course, only a medical doctor can diagnose you, but you can try to diminish anxious feelings with natural means including the ones mentioned in this article.
8 Supplements That May Help Anxiety
There are several natural supplements and micronutrients that have been reported to help diminish feelings of anxiousness. These supplements are best taken alongside a nutrient-dense diet and balanced lifestyle.
And, of course, you should always consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to your supplement routine.
If you are currently taking any form of prescription medication or you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you must consult a professional to make sure there are no known problems taking supplements to address anxiety.
L-5-hydroxytryptophan, called 5-HTP for short, is a nutritional supplement that converts directly into serotonin. Serotonin regulates a lot of functions in the body, including mood, digestion, and sleep. Serotonin is responsible for a sense of well-being and happiness.
People with anxiety (and depression) can be deficient in serotonin, so taking this supplement can help promote a feeling of happiness and diminish anxious feelings. That’s why 5-HTP is considered one of the best supplements for anxiety.
Check with your doctor, but it is usually recommended the 5-HTP be taken in the late afternoon or evening.
Recommended 5-HTP Supplement:
2. St. John’s Wort
Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s Wort) is an ancient herbal remedy used for everything from malaria treatment, inflammation, depression, and anxiety. It has been used as a treatment for anxiousness since the year 1525.
St. John’s Wort is preferred over anti-depressant drugs in Europe because it is so effective at treating depression and anxiety. Hypericin and hyperforin are the main antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties in St. John’s Wort. They act similarly to serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) by inhibiting serotonin uptake, thereby increasing the concentration of serotonin.
Unlike conventional SSRIs, the hyperforin present in St. John’s Wort actually increases the number of 5-HTP receptors in the brain (this is how it inhibits serotonin uptake.) Increased serotonin promotes happiness and mood regulation.
Be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking St. John’s Wort as it can reduce the effectiveness of hormonal birth control.
Recommended St. John’s Wort Supplement:
Similar to SSRIs, CBD products regulate how your brain synapses function by inhibiting neurotransmitter release. This increases the concentration of serotonin and other neurotransmitters which can promote feelings of relaxation.
Most CBD supplements are available in a dropper form, capsule, or lotion that can be applied topically.
There are plenty of case studies and preclinical research on the use of CBD products for anxiety and depression, but there are no long-term studies. However, the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America) recognizes CBD products as generally safe if you trust the manufacturer’s safety and sourcing regulations.
Many practitioners recommend CBD as one of the best supplements for anxiety. Consult your healthcare provider for the recommended brands and doses.
4. Valerian Root
Valerian root is an herbal supplement commonly used for treating insomnia. It has a mild sedative effect that can help with relieving tension and anxiety. It has been used to treat sleep issues, nervousness, and tension since the 2nd century.
The valerenic acid in valerian root is responsible for modulating GABA-A ( gamma-Aminobutyric acid) receptors. It inhibits enzymes that would otherwise destroy GABA which boosts mood and promotes relaxation.
Valerian root can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression; can improve insomnia. In one study, valerian root was shown to improve anxiety symptoms even more than St. John’s Wort.
Unless you get differing recommendations from your doctor, Valerian Root should only be taken at bedtime since it can cause drowsiness.
Recommended Valerian Root Supplement:
5. Passion Flower
Passion flower is a colorful flower used to treat sleeplessness and anxiety. It’s been used as a mild sedative since the 16th century. The exact active compound in passionflower isn’t easily identified. However, it has been shown to be as effective as benzodiazepines in treating mood disorders like anxiousness.
Recommended Passion Flower Supplement:
6. Kava Kava
Kava kava is a plant traditionally used to treat anxiety, pain, and spasms including menstrual cramps. Kava kava can reduce feelings of anxiety without drowsiness, making it an effective supplement for anxiety.
The kawain and dihydrokawain in Kava kava help reduce anxiousness in various ways. Mostly, they enhance the effectiveness of Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA-A) receptors and inhibit uptake, meaning your brain has a higher concentration of GABA-A available.
GABA-A is responsible for relaxation and mood regulation. Kava kava may also enhance dopamine activity in certain doses, causing a slight euphoric effect.
Recommended Kava Kava Supplement:
Withania somnifera, also known as ashwagandha, is a popular adaptogenic herb used to treat anxious feelings and stress. It is an adaptogen, meaning it interacts with your body in a unique way to provide what your body needs.
There are limited studies on ashwagandha, but several have found that the herb significantly reduced feelings of stress and anxiety when compared to placebos.
Recommended Ashwagandha Supplement:
8. Low Dose Lithium
Low dose lithium is a studied treatment for mood disorders, including anxiety. While you may of heard of lithium given in high doses to bipolar patients, low dose lithium is given at much, much lower levels. In fact, it is thought that our ancestors obtained lithium from the groundwater which is now likely depleted.
Lithium is also being studied to help with cognitive decline related to aging or Alzheimer’s, albeit usually at higher doses than the low dose lithium used for anxiety.
Recommended Low Dose Lithium Supplement:
Magnesium is another basic mineral supplement that can help with managing anxiety. Learn more about magnesium supplements.
Recommended Magnesium Supplement:
You may also want to consider probiotics if you are experiencing anxiety. This is because your gut health impacts your mental health! See my article about the best dairy-free probiotics.
FAQs About Anxiety
A poor diet can cause mental health issues. Deficiencies in several nutrients have been linked to anxiety. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of each macronutrient and all of the micronutrients is essential for mental wellbeing. See my recommendations for the best supplements for women.
Anxiety may be treated with conventional pharmaceuticals such as SSRIs and benzodiazepines. Certainly, some people need these medications at times and only you and your doctor can make that decision.
If you choose the natural route, though, you can supplement with herbs and neurotransmitter precursors, assuming it is appropriate for you. These include supplements like 5-HTP, St. John’s Wort, CBD, kava kava, passionflower, valerian root, ashwagandha, magnesium and low dose lithium orotate. This post is meant to help with finding the best supplements for anxiety. But, always consult with a healthcare provider to make sure these are appropriate for you.
Like most mood disorders, anxiety can be treated until it no longer has a harmful effect on your life. It’s best to take a varied approach to treating anxiousness. Treatment will look different for everyone. Many people find that a regular meditation practice helps reduce feelings of anxiety.
For others, meditation can increase feelings of anxiousness because they find it too difficult to clear their mind. Traditional sitting meditation is not the only way to meditate. If you find sitting still too difficult, try yoga, mantras, or guided meditations. Do what feels best for you.
Certain foods may influence your mood negatively and cause anxious feelings. These are some foods you may try eliminating for anxiety:
Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase feelings of restlessness and anxiety.
Simple carbohydrates like sugar and bread can cause your blood sugar to rapidly spike and drop. This resulting low blood sugar can cause anxiety and irritability.
Alcohol is a depressant that can cause anxious feelings, depression, and irritability.
Inflammatory foods in general, like fast foods and sugar, can cause mood issues.
My Anxiety Experience
My own battle with anxiety started in childhood. My parents had their own mental health issues and financial struggles, so my sister and I were left to fend for ourselves. This created a coping method of anxiety and worry to help me get through the world.
By the time I reached my 20s, I was experiencing debilitating panic attacks fueled by anxiety.
Fortunately, I’ve had the benefit of many therapists, research, and functional health practitioners to help me break the cycle of anxiety that started to run my life. It took several years to get my anxiety under control.
The supplements in this article have personally helped me. I haven’t take all of them, but I still take quite a few supplements on a daily basis to help manage anxious thoughts. Learn more about Carrie Forrest.
I truly hope you get some benefit from this article and you can take some of what you’ve learned to your doctor to see if any of these supplements might work for you.
Other Articles That May Be Helpful
- How to Eat Clean (Diet Plan & Tips)
- Can’t Lose Weight No Matter What: 8 Helpful Tips for Women
- MTHFR Diet, Lifestyle, & Supplements
Or, see my entire index of women’s health articles.
More Holistic Health Topics
There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to managing or resolving feeling of anxiousness. As long as the feeling is mild, you can try using natural methods to address it. If it starts to overcome your life, then you should consult a healthcare professional to see if supplements or medication would be best for you.
About the Author: Carrie Forrest has a master’s degree in public health with a specialty in nutrition. She is a top wellness and food blogger with over 10 million annual visitors to her site. Carrie has an incredible story of recovery from chronic illness and is passionate about helping other women transform their health. Send Carrie a message through her contact form.
Note: this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations related to your individual situation.