If you are looking for supplements for stress and anxiety relief, you are not alone. There is a rising incidence of stress and anxiety, and the stressful events in 2020 only exacerbated the issue. Because of this, forecasts show the brain and mental health supplement market will grow over the next six years. (1)
However, not all supplements in the brain and mental health market have enough scientific evidence. Popular calming supplements like Rhodiola, cannabidiol (CBD), and valerian are not yet proven to be effective. Choose one of the supplements below that research considers at least possibly effective at relieving stress and anxiety.
Keep in mind, supplements alone will not treat stress and anxiety. Other calming practices should also be included, such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or therapy. If you suffer from mental health issues, see a mental healthcare professional, and do not be afraid to use medication if recommended to you. Medication can interact with supplements, so talk to your provider before taking both at the same time.
Here are the best supplements for stress and anxiety relief:
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine. Adaptogens are herbs and mushrooms considered to aid the body in physiological and psychological stress.
While not all herbs classified as adaptogens improve mental stress, ashwagandha has evidence that it reduces stress. Studies found 240-300mg twice daily for 60 days reduced perceived stress levels by 30-44% and cortisol levels by 22-28%. (2-4)
Surprisingly unrelated to lemons, lemon balm is a lemon-scented herb native to southern Europe, West Asia, and North Africa. Lemon balm has been used for relieving anxiety for centuries due to its calming and sedation effect. Effective doses used in research to treat stress range from 300-600mg per day. (5-6)
Kava is a plant native to the western Pacific Islands, and its name originated from a Polynesian word meaning bitter. In its native area, it is a popular social drink that stimulates relaxation, while Western culture uses it as a supplement for anxiety and stress.
When looking for a Kava supplement, look for one that lists a high standard amount of kavalactones, the effective compound in Kava. A meta-analysis showed 200mg or more of kavalactones per day was effective for relieving anxiety. (7) It is also more effective when taken daily for weeks rather than one-time doses. (8) This supplement, however, should only be taken short-term and should not be taken by those with liver problems or clinical depression due to side effects. (9)
Please note Kava is not a controlled substance in the United States, but other countries have regulatory measures on Kava due to concerns of liver toxicity. These countries include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Norway, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
A native tree to Asia, Ginkgo biloba has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine. It is associated with numerous health claims and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. A clinical study showed taking 480 mg daily for four weeks modestly reduced anxiety symptoms in those with a generalized anxiety disorder or adjustment disorder. (10)
There is some concern that ginkgo leaf extract may increase the risk of bruising and bleeding or cause arrhythmia. Those with bleeding disorders should avoid taking this supplement.
If your stress or anxiety causes you trouble with falling asleep at night, consider melatonin supplementation.
Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain that helps the body regulate sleep. While not directly proven to reduce stress and anxiety, it can help with falling asleep when your mind is keeping you up at night. (9,11-12) Researchers have used supplement doses of 0.3-5 mg daily for up to 9 months. (9,11)
Interested in mindfulness? Try this mindful eating workbook!
1. Bloomberg.com. Global Brain Health Supplements Market to Surpass US$ 13,492.6 Million by 2027, Says Coherent Market Insights (CMI). Published October 1, 2020. Accessed August 28, 2021. Link.
2. Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012;34(3):255-62.
3. Lopresti AL, Smith SJ, Malvi H, Kodgule R. An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(37).
4. Salve J, Pate S, Debnath K, Langade D. Adaptogenic and anxiolytic effects of ashwagandha root extract in healthy adults: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical study. Cureus. 2019;11(12).
5. Kennedy DO, Little W, Scholey AB. Attenuation of laboratory-induced stress in humans after acute administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm). Psychosom Med. 2004 Jul-Aug;66:607-13.
6. Scholey A, et al. Anti-stress effects of lemon balm-containing foods. Nutrients. 3014;6(11):4805-4821.
7. Smith K, Leiras C. The effectiveness and safety of Kava Kava for treating anxiety symptoms: A systematic review and analysis of randomized clinical trials. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2018;33:107-117.
8. Sarris J, Scholey A, Schweitzer I, et al. The acute effects of kava and oxazepam on anxiety, mood, neurocognition; and genetic correlates: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Hum Psychopharmacol 2012;27:262-9.
9. Natural Medicines Database. Accessed August 28. 2021.
10. Woelk H, Arnoldt KH, Kieser M, Hoerr R. Ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 in generalized anxiety disorder and adjustment disorder with anxious mood: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Psychiatr Res 2007;41:472-80.
11. Nagtegaal JE, Laurant MW, Kerkhof GA, et al. Effects of melatonin on the quality of life in patients with delayed sleep phase syndrome. J Psychosom Res 2000;48:45-50.
12. Buscemi N, Vandermeer B, Pandya R, et al. Melatonin for treatment of sleep disorders. Summary, Evidence Report/Technology Assessment #108. (Prepared by the Univ of Alberta Evidence-based Practice Center, under Contract#290-02-0023.) AHRQ Publ #05-E002-2. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality. November 2004.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Further, the products referenced are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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