Anxiety supplements are a popular alternative to anxiety medications, and more immediate than therapy or other long term treatments. But there are also thousands of them, as nearly every major natural medicine company seems to have developed their own product for the anxiety market.
There are two problems here. First, studies have rarely found any benefits to most natural anxiety medicines (more on that in a moment). Second, with so many products on the market, it is hard to know which anxiety supplements are likely to work, and which ones aren't.
What is Your Anxiety Score?
Measure the severity of your anxiety and see how your anxiety compares to others statistically by taking our free 7 minute anxiety test. Your score can help determine the best natural treatments.
Warning About Anxiety Supplements
You need to be aware that there isn't as much difference between medication and natural supplements as many will have you believe. The more powerful a natural supplement is, the more likely it is going to have side effects/risks. That is the nature of anything that changes your body chemistry.
You should also know that not all anxiety is treated the same way. Panic attacks, for example, may require a different type of treatment than generalized anxiety. Take my free 7 minute anxiety test to learn more about your own anxiety.
Most Common Anxiety Supplements
The following represent the most common types of anti-anxiety supplements, including information on the likelihood that they have any effect and whether or not they are worth considering. Always talk with your doctor before taking any type of supplement.
Herbal supplements are the most common type of supplement available. It is believed that the right herbs can provide your body with the same medicinal qualities as anxiety medications, but because they're herbal they should cause fewer side effects than prescription medicines and are generally available over the counter. The most common include:
- Kava Kava is by far the most common and most scientifically successful anxiety supplement available. It is one of the only that has received substantial research and compared favorably to common anxiety medications. It is definitely worth considering for your anxiety, but you should note that it is believed to interact with alcohol and other medications, and has been linked to liver damage - especially when taken by those that drink alcohol regularly.
- Passionflower Passionflower is like kava-lite without the alcohol interaction. Passionflower isn't believed to be powerful enough for severe anxiety or even anxiety disorders, but may be useful for those with daily, manageable anxiety levels.
- Valerian Root Valerian root is actually an herb for sleep, but its effects are largely related to relaxation. Currently there is some evidence that valerian root can improve anxiety symptoms, although the benefits are more likely to be physical than mental, and it is probably not as effective on panic attacks.
There are other anxiety herbal supplements available, but almost none have shown much success - if any. Herbs like chamomile and peppermint, though, may be tasty teas and should have no side effects at all so even though it is unlikely they have many benefits, they can still be attempted.
Of the herbs on the list, only kava is believed to work extremely well when taken correctly, but the risk of liver damage and drug interaction causes many people to stay away. Note that most supplement manufacturers do not provide the right method of taking kava.
Kava needs to be taken at a higher dose than most supplements (100 to 300 mgs of kavalactones, according to experts) but is usually provided in capsules of only around 30mg. Similarly, kava is also fat soluble, meaning it must be taken with food.
Keep that in mind when you decide to take kava, as most supplements are simply unlikely to be effective at maximum dosage levels, but the potential health risk will increase if you up your dosage. Most studies do not believe kava has any side effects provided you have a healthy liver and you do not drink alcohol, but the possibility is still there.
Vitamin Supplements and Mineral Supplements
Vitamins and minerals are also a very popular choice for anxiety. We're still dealing with a surprising lack of research. Despite all of the research into vitamins and minerals, very few studies have been conducted on the benefits of supplements on anxiety levels.
While many studies have confirmed that a lack of these vitamins may cause anxiety, it is unclear whether or not a specific vitamin can have anti-anxiety effects. Nevertheless, vitamin supplementation can be very healthy regardless, so it is worth trying with most types of vitamins and minerals. The most common include:
- Magnesium The use of magnesium for anxiety has caught on recently, as studies have shown that millions of people are deficient as a result of magnesium getting stripped from diets. Since magnesium affects nerve health, blood health, and more, there is reason to believe that low magnesium levels may be responsible for some anxiety symptoms - especially with panic disorder.
- GABA - GABA is an amino acid that is believed to help anxiety. It is also a neurotransmitter, and there is strong evidence that there are relaxation benefits to taking GABA. Unfortunately, it is not currently believed that GABA supplements can pass the blood-brain barrier, so it is unlikely to have a strong effect, but there is some reason to believe that GABA related supplements can help with anxiety symptoms.
- All B-Vitamins B12 is the most common, but all B vitamins may have an effect on anxiety. B-vitamins play a strong role in the nervous system, so studies indicate that supplementing B vitamins could also improve anxiety outlook.
- 5-HTP 5-HTP has been a popular amino acid supplement for both anxiety and depression, because it helps synthesize both serotonin and melatonin. While many studies have shown benefits of 5-HTP, most have been poorly completed, so there isn't much evidence supporting or denying the benefits of the supplement.
- Melatonin - Melatonin is a hormone that helps promote sleep, and it is also available as a dietary supplement. Some countries require a prescription before disseminating melatonin. Very few studies have looked at melatonin as a potential tool for anxiety, but it is widely regarded in supplement circles.
There is no right answer for what vitamins will or won't benefit anxiety, because each person's diet is different. But vitamins and minerals are very unlikely to have side effects, so while you should still talk to your doctor before using any vitamin supplement, you can easily consider trying one and seeing if it has any benefits.
Since some people are more prone to low levels of these vitamins than others, whether you find relief is going to be based on your own body chemistry. However, many people are unlikely to see an effect at all, especially if you already have healthy nutrition.
Learn More About Your Anxiety
I strongly encourage you to take my anxiety test now Supplements alone are not the answer, and while they can be helpful, you still need to understand your anxiety more in order to treat it.
Homeopathic supplements are also fairly popular. Homeopathic medicine is natural medicine that believes that harmful minerals - such as venom, arsenic, nicotine, opium, and more - combined with other herbs and hormones can have a beneficial effect on anxiety after they're diluted with water by a considerable amount, to the point where barely a trace of the element remains.
Essentially, homeopathic remedies are usually creams, gels, and liquids where these ingredients have been placed in water and diluted to the point where there is only the smallest amount of the ingredient present, if it is present at all. Homeopathic supporters believe that the water retains the memory of these ingredients and provides their benefits even when the actual ingredient is diluted to the point where it is no longer present.
Unfortunately, there is very little evidence that homeopathic medicine has any effect at all, and most of the beliefs surrounding homeopathy go in direct opposition to modern science. For example, there isn't any evidence that water has a memory, and if it does most water has already touched every element known to man indicating that water itself would already be a cure for anxiety without adding other ingredients.
Nevertheless, homeopathic medicine does not appear to have any risks, so it may be worth trying, especially if you subscribe to the beliefs within homeopathy.
Finding a Long Term Cure
No matter what, it is important that you understand that no supplement should be used as the sole treatment. Supplements, like anxiety drugs, are merely a way to help manage day to day anxiety. As soon as you stop using them (assuming they work), the anxiety comes back almost immediately.
Take my free 7 minute anxiety test right now. It is the best way to get an idea of what long term treatment is right for you, based on the symptoms you fill out in the survey.
What are you waiting for? Start the test here.
Pittler, Max H., and Edzard Ernst. Efficacy of kava extract for treating anxiety: systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of clinical psychopharmacology 20.1 (2000): 84-89.
Akhondzadeh, Shahin, et al. Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: A pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics 26.5 (2002): 363-367.
Saeed, Sy Atezaz, Richard M. Bloch, and Diana J. Antonacci. Herbal and dietary supplements for treatment of anxiety disorders. Am Fam Physician 76.4 (2007): 549-56.