Anxiety can hit you like a ton of bricks, whether in the form of unexpected heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, or even sleepless nights. It’s nice to know that there are natural remedies like good sleep hygiene, mindful meditation, and aromatherapy, but who knew there were also supplements you can take? We rounded up five natural supplements for anxiety that can combat stress and its pesky side effects.
Before you start asking yourself how natural supplements for anxiety can work, remember that Ayurvedic medicine has been around for more than 3000 years, and treatments like Ashwagandha are Ayurvedic-approved. Ashwagandha, an herb in the tomato family, is believed to be one of the most healing herbs. When it comes to anxiety, the supplement (which comes as a tablet, powder, or liquid extract) provides a boost to your nervous system, and it gives your mind a sense of relaxation. It also is believed to increase your energy during the day, and it allows you to get a good night’s sleep, both of which will help you cope with anxiety.
Apparently, this root has been used to calm nerves since the second century AD (it’s also a common ingredient in sleepytime teas). Scientists discovered that the natural supplement increases gamma aminobutyric acid (aka GABA) in the brain in a similar way to prescription anxiety medications like Xanax and Valium. One study found that rats that were given valerian root were able to better cope when put in a stressful situation, suggesting that it may be a great alternative to taking daily anxiety medicines.
Vitamin B Complex
Having a lack of Vitamin B in your system can be the reason you’re experiencing signs of anxiety. It all has to do with the fact that some vitamins—like Vitamin B12—have anxiolytic (or anxiety-reducing) effects. Lo Bosworth opened up to say that she attributes what she called a “60-day panic attack” to a lack of vitamins, one of which was Vitamin B12. (After replenishing her nutrients, Bosworth has said she’s feeling better.) Furthermore, a 2013 study found that a Vitamin B complex supplement was helpful in treating anxiety and depression in 60 adults with depressive disorders.
Psychiatrist Emily Deans, MD, calls magnesium “the original chill pill.” Not only does it stop your brain from releasing stress hormones, but it can also stop them from entering at the blood-brain barrier. Deans says that as long as you have healthy kidney function, about 200 to 350mg of magnesium oxide should do the trick.
You can also choose to supplement your magnesium by eating foods rich in the nutrient, like spinach, black beans, and dark chocolate, or taking an epsom salt bath.
L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea, and in recent years, it’s been extracted and used to treat anxiety (particularly in many Asian countries). The natural supplement works to increase your alpha brain wave activity, GABA, and dopamine to give you a wave of calmness. You usually begin feeling the effects after 30 to 40 minutes upon taking it in pill form, and it generally lasts for about 8 to 10 hours, says James Lake, MD, a psychiatrist and the founder of the International Network of Integrative Mental Health.