Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health conditions, affecting over 40 million adults in the United States alone. While therapy and medication are effective treatments, many people look to natural and herbal supplements as alternatives or additions to traditional anxiety treatment plans. Some of the most popular supplements touted for reducing anxiety include:
L-theanine – An amino acid found in green and black tea leaves that produces feelings of calmness. Studies show L-theanine increases alpha brain waves which are associated with relaxation. Taking 200-400mg of L-theanine per day is linked to reduced stress and anxiety.
Omega-3 fatty acids – Found in fatty fish like salmon and in supplements, omega-3s are essential fats that help regulate neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin that influence mood and thinking. Getting enough omega-3s supports brain health and can lessen anxiety symptoms.
Ashwagandha – An herb used in Ayurvedic medicine as an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body adapt to stress. Ashwagandha is shown to reduce cortisol levels and balance thyroid hormones. Typical doses range from 450-500mg per day for anxiety relief.
Lemon balm – A mint family herb used for reducing stress and improving sleep. Lemon balm increases GABA activity, a neurotransmitter with anti-anxiety effects. Standardized lemon balm extracts taken in 300-600mg doses are associated with reduced anxiety.
Rhodiola rosea – This adaptogenic herb can help the body cope with mental and physical stress. Rhodiola improves low mood, anxiety, and sleep by regulating stress hormones. Effective dosing is 340-680mg per day of standardized extract.
Chamomile – A popular flowering plant used for its soothing, anti-anxiety benefits. Chamomile contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to GABA receptors in the brain promoting calmness and sleep. Drinking 2-3 cups of chamomile tea per day can ease anxiety.
Valerian root – The root extract of this flowering plant has sedative effects that can reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality. Valerian root boosts GABA activity and levels of neurotransmitters that induce relaxation. Typical doses are 300-900 mg up to three times per day.
Passionflower – An herb traditionally used for anxiety, insomnia, and nervous stomach. Passionflower increases GABA in the brain creating feelings of calm. Daily doses of 500-1000mg of passionflower extract are shown to be as effective as prescription anxiety medications.
Magnesium – An essential mineral that plays a role in GABA activity and regulating the nervous system. Many people are deficient in magnesium, which is linked to increased anxiety. Taking 400-500mg of magnesium glycinate or citrate can reduce anxiety symptoms.
Probiotics – Consuming probiotic foods and supplements helps balance gut bacteria which communicates with the brain via the gut-brain axis. Certain strains like Lactobacillus rhamnosus have anti-anxiety effects and can improve mood.
While many natural supplements show promise for anxiety relief, it’s important to note that their efficacy and safety compared to traditional medications requires more research. Always consult your doctor before trying herbal supplements, especially when taking other medications. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA and quality can vary widely between brands. Starting with low doses and gradually increasing is best to assess how a supplement affects you. Additionally, supplements should complement other lifestyle approaches like a healthy diet, exercise, meditation, therapy and adequate sleep rather than replace conventional treatment.