Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting over 40 million adults. While therapy and medication help many people, more are seeking natural remedies as an alternative or complement. Certain vitamins, minerals, herbs, and supplements may help control anxiety. Here are some of the top science-backed options for finding calm.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids play a critical role in brain health and neurotransmitter production. Low levels of omega-3s are associated with increased anxiety and depression. The best sources are fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines. For a therapeutic dose, take a fish oil supplement providing at least 500-1000 mg combined EPA and DHA per day. If vegetarian, try algae-based omega-3s. ALA from walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds gets converted to EPA and DHA in the body.
Magnesium deficiency is widespread, which can increase anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and irritability. Excellent food sources include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, beans, avocados, yogurt, bananas, and whole grains. Supplementing with 200-400 mg per day of magnesium glycinate, citrate, or threonate may help lower anxiety levels. Don’t exceed the recommended upper limit based on your age and gender.
Vitamin B Complex
B vitamins like folate, B6, B12, and B1 play important roles in neurotransmitter production and nervous system health. Deficiencies can lead to increased stress and anxiety. Take a high-quality B-complex supplement, or eat plenty of lean meat, seafood, eggs, leafy greens, beans, lentils, avocados, and bananas.
Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” D helps regulate mood and immune function. Low levels are linked to depression and impaired brain health. Get your vitamin D from safe sun exposure, fortified foods, and fatty fish. Those at risk for deficiency may require a supplement providing around 2000-4000 IU per day. Have your blood levels tested to personalize your dosage.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in black and green tea. It boosts alpha brain waves to induce a state of relaxed focus and alertness. L-theanine increases serotonin, dopamine and GABA to control excitability. Take 200-400 mg daily for anxiety relief without drowsiness. Combining L-theanine with caffeine is more effective than either alone.
GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) is a neurotransmitter that blocks excitatory signals and calms nervous system activity. Low GABA levels are associated with anxiety disorders. Supplements may raise GABA levels in the brain and control anxiety symptoms. Take 500-1000 mg once or twice daily. Picamilon combines GABA with niacin for enhanced anti-anxiety effects.
5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) boosts serotonin production in the brain. Serotonin is the “feel good” neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation, emotional stability, and sleep. Studies confirm 5-HTP reduces anxiety by increasing serotonin levels. Take 50-200 mg once or twice per day. Allow several weeks to notice the benefits.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb used in Ayurvedic medicine to balance the body and mind. Studies show it lowers cortisol and helps control anxiety and stress-related disorders. Take 300-600 mg per day of a high-quality extract like KSM-66. May interact with thyroid medications, sedatives, or immunosuppressant drugs.
Lemon balm is a calming herb in the mint family. It contains antioxidants and volatile oils that relax tense muscles, relieve anxiety, and improve mood. Studies confirm its mental health benefits. Take 300-500 mg capsules up to three times daily. Should not be combined with sedatives or thyroid medication.
Valerian is a flowering plant that increases GABA levels and serotonin to calm anxious thoughts and promote sleep. Clinical studies support its efficacy for reducing anxiety. Take 300-600 mg of valerian root 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Do not use long term or combine with alcohol, sedatives, or antidepressants.
CBD, or cannabidiol, interacts with receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system involved in mood regulation. High-quality CBD oils derived from hemp may help alleviate anxiety without any “high”. Take 1⁄2 to 1 dropper 1-2 times per day and increase gradually as needed. Avoid CBD products with THC to minimize psychoactive effects.
Research shows a strong gut-brain axis. Optimizing intestinal microbiota may help lower anxiety levels. Take a high-CFU broad-spectrum probiotic with strains like lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Eat probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, and fermented veggies. Manage stress and avoid unnecessary antibiotics when possible.
Sipping herbal teas can be a tasty way to reduce anxiety symptoms. Chamomile, lavender, passionflower, ginger, lemon balm, and valerian have natural sedative properties that promote calmness. Drink 1-3 cups per day of your favorite blend, or try combining herbs. Avoid adding sugar.
While anti-anxiety medications are sometimes necessary, vitamins, minerals, botanicals, and supplements should be explored as a first line treatment for mild to moderate anxiety. A holistic approach combines key nutrients, herbs, lifestyle changes, and stress management practices for optimal results without side effects. Working with a knowledgeable practitioner can help determine the best natural protocols for your individual needs. With consistency and patience, natural remedies can restore a healthy sense of calm.