Best Natural Supplements for Anxiety
If anxiety is weighing you down or winding up, you aren't alone. Approximately 1 in 3 adults and teens in the US will experience an anxiety disorder.
Many supplements can help relieve anxiety and boost your ability to deal with stress, but it can be challenging to sort through the many options. This article answers the question: What are the best natural supplements for anxiety?
What's in this Post
|Anxiety is both emotional and physical|
|Can Supplements Help With My Anxiety?|
|Best supplements for anxiety infographic|
|Ranking the best supplements for anxiety of 2021 (with quick links for supplements)|
|Anxiety Help Books and Recordings|
Anxiety is both emotional and physical
You feel the emotion of anxiety and you feel the physical sensation of being anxious. Your body and mind are connected, and each affects the other: your biochemistry can alter your mood and your mood can alter your biochemistry.
As a therapist, I’ve helped many people overcome anxiety with psychological interventions such as emotion skill-building, getting at the root causes of the individual’s anxiety, relaxation skills training, hypnosis, and other therapeutic approaches. I believe these are important avenues for managing stress.
I have also seen that physical interventions help reduce anxiety and increase stress resilience.
In thinking about whether you should address your anxiety physically or psychologically, it’s not necessarily an either/or thing. I think it’s a both/and thing; addressing anxiety from a psychological perspective and a physical perspective is a great combination that reaps many benefits and boosts both the speed and level of improvement.
Can Supplements Help With My Anxiety?
Supplements for anxiety address the underlying physical causes of anxiety. They can support anti-anxiety pharmaceutical medications or be used on their own.
Unlike prescription meds for anxiety, anxiety supplements tend to be free of side effects. In addition, many also help with depression, and hold other benefits for your body and mind.
Even so, you should consult with your own personal medical professionals to check that supplements don't have negative interactions with medications that you take or are counter-indicated for your particular physical conditions. Pregnant and nursing mothers should be cautious about taking natural remedies--especially herbal supplements.
While anxiety natural remedies don't get the same research attention as anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications, there has been quite a lot of research into how effective various supplements are at reducing anxiety. I dove into the research for my book Feed Your Calm: Anti-Anxiety Anti-Stress Diet and Supplement Tips for Stress Resilience. I won't expound on the research in this article, but if you're interested in the anxiety help hows and whys of particular supplements the book provides lots more information. In this post, I'm just focusing on a top supplements for anxiety list.
Best supplements for anxiety infographic
(I may receive a small commission for sales made through the links on this post but they do not effect your cost. They are placed for your convenience.)
Ranking the best supplements for anxiety of 2021
Magnesium is the first supplement that I think of when working with anxiety clients. Most people are low on it. It's necessary for hundreds of chemical reactions in your body. It's required for dealing with stress and you burn through it when you're dealing with stress.
There are many ways to supplement magnesium: pills, powders, and applications that are absorbed through the skin.
I talk more about the full range of magnesium supplements in this post: Best Forms of Magnesium Supplements for Anxiety, Depression, and More.
Here I'll just list my favorites. They don't include any of the pill or capsule forms of magnesium supplements. I have tried at least 6 different ones myself and all of them make me feel rather nauseous--so I don't recommend them. If you want more info about pill forms, check my magnesium supplements post.
For trans-dermal (through the skin) supplementation: Magnesium chloride flakes to use in a bath or footbath (one cup per foot bath) or Magnesium oil to spray on your skin (about 8 sprays per day on your abdomen, chest, or any other parts of your body.) Both of these are Ancient Minerals brand which I appreciate for their purity.
For oral supplementation: Natural Vitality CALM. It's a powder that you mix with water for an OK tasting drink.
Using magnesium at night is helpful for anxiety and for sleep.
I use all three of these personally. I mix-and-match for what I feel like doing any given day. Some people get itchy when they use the magnesium oil. If that happens, try diluting it half and half with water. Build your way toward higher concentrations. Or focus on the other ways of getting magnesium.
2. Vitamin D3
Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin. It is vitally important for mental health.
It's important to get enough vitamin D. It's also important to not get too much. It is fat soluble. That means that if you take excess in supplement form your body will store it in your fat cells and you'll have too much swimming around your body. (Conversely, water soluble vitamins like C and B will just be eliminated by your body through urine if taken in excess.)
I talk more about all aspects of vitamin D supplementation in this post: Vitamin D3 Benefits for Depression, Anxiety, and More.
There are 2 forms of vitamin D: D2 and D3. D3 is the form that you are looking for in helpful supplements.
Dr. Leslie Korn recommends the following supplementation dosage for adult men and women in her book Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health: A Complete Guide to the Food-Mood Connection:
- 2000–4000 IU/day
I see that most vitamin D supplements come in 5000 IU doses.
If you have vitamin D deficiency, a doctor will likely prescribe higher doses, but be very careful about taking large amounts on your own because of the possibility of overdosing that I mentioned above.
3. Multivitamin for B-complex and Vitamin C
Several B vitamins help to reduce anxiety and increase stress resilience. Vitamin C also helps relieve anxiety and stress.
You can take both of these as separate supplements, but taking a high-quality natural multivitamin is a way to get it all in one pill.
I get into explaining why you want these in natural form in Feed Your Calm. Here I'll just give you a bottom-line example of a supplement that is a good candidate for boosting these vitamins in a form that your body can utilize them.
Garden of Life MyKind Organics is a brand that creates vegan supplements from organic whole foods. They have a line of multivitamins specific to different age groups and genders.
4. Omega-3 Fats, EPA and DHA
Two of the major elements your brain needs to function well are the Omega-3 fats DHA and EPA.
I explain about different types of fats and how they help and hurt your ability to deal with stress in in Feed Your Calm.
Supplementation dosage recommendations (mg/day) for men and women
American Psychiatric Association (20): 1000 EPA+DHA
PDR for Nutritional Supplements (21): 3000 EPA+DHA
The most common source of these Omega-3s is fish oil. Nordic Naturals fish oil is the brand and form that I personally use and recommend to my clients. It is made from deep sea anchovies and sardines, and includes rosemary extract as a preservative.
Nordic Naturals also makes an algae-based omega-3 supplement. It doesn't contain as much EPA and DHA in 2 capsules as their fish oils but it is a vegan option.
Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Supplements
Amount of EPA and DHA
1280 mg Omega-3 per 2 capsules (with 650 mg EPA and 450 mg DHA)
2150 mg Omega-3 per 2 capsules (with 1125 mg EPA and 875 mg DHA)
715 mg Omega-3 per 2 capsules (with 195 mg EPA and 390 mg DHA)
Ashwaghanda is an adaptogen herb. There are many adaptogenic herbs from different parts of the world.
Adaptogens help you feel less anxious by moderating how your body deals with stress. They adapt and they help you adapt. They can serve as a general tonic that helps you feel better overall.
Ashwaghanda is a favorite adaptogen for anxiety and stress relief so it's the one that I'll mention here, but I explain how adaptogens work and list more adaptogens that are known to help reduce anxiety in this post: What Are Adaptogens? How Do Adaptogens Help With Stress and Anxiety?
Here are some adaptogen supplement capsule examples. Follow dosage recommendations made by the manufacturer.
(2 capsules for full strength)
Pros for NutriRise Ashwagandha: organic, includes black pepper for absorption, large amount of active ingredient found in ashwagandha, highly rated on Amazon reviews, satisfaction guarantee
(3 capsules for full strength)
|Pros for NaturaLife Labs Ashwagandha: organic, includes black pepper for absorption, large amount of active ingredient found in ashwagandha, highly rated on Amazon reviews, satisfaction guarantee|
What's going on in your gut impacts your mood. Research has amassed so much positive research about the mental health benefits of particular probiotics that they call them psychobiotics.
I go into which bacteria are important for reducing anxiety and increasing stress resilience and how they help in Feed Your Calm, but here I'll just tell you about my favorite sources of the desired bacteria.
The probiotic above has a 50 billion CFUs (Colony Forming Units) of bacteria. That's a great target number but might be too much if you are new to using probiotics. (If it's too much, you may get gasey.)
You may want to start on a lower dosage. The same brand has a lower dosage option (15 billion CFUs) that has a good blend of psychobiotic bacteria.
L-theanine is very relaxing. It's particularly good for dealing with panic attacks and also to help with anxiety-related sleep issues like insomnia. (For more about how L-theanine helps anxiety, check out this post: The Mental Health Benefits of L-Theanine for Anxiety, Depression, and More.)
Theanine is an amino acid but it isn't found in protein sources like many other amino acids. It's a non-protein amino acid most commonly found in tea (especially green tea).
Some amino acids occur in two forms that are mirror images of each other: L and D. Only the L-forms can be used by your body’s cells. L-theanine is readily available as a supplement in powder, capsule, softgel, chewable, gummy, or liquid form.
Chewable L-theanine is great to have on hand for those times you get a spike in anxiety or a panic attack. You can also take them routinely throughout the day or for sleep. The pill form may be helpful for daily use and sleep but won't give you the fast action of the chewables.
In Prescription for Natural Cures, doctors Mark Stengler, James Balch, and Robin Young Balch recommend:
- 200 to 250 mg of L-theanine twice a day for anxiety
- 200 to 500 mg in one dose a half hour before bed for insomnia
In The Psychiatric Times journal (Nov 2007), Dr. James Lake makes the following suggestions [Note: L-theanine taken in chewable forms may act faster than the capsule forms he is referring to]:
"A calming effect is usually noted within 30 to 40 minutes after L-theanine is taken at doses of 50 to 200 mg, and typically lasts 8 to 10 hours. Moderate anxiety symptoms often improve in patients taking 200 mg once or twice daily. More severe anxiety symptoms may require dosages of 600 to 800 mg/d, taken in divided doses of 100 to 200 mg."
Here are several anti-anxiety L-theanine supplement options including chewable forms:
This chewable has L-theanine plus a couple of additional supplements (inositol and taurine) that have anti-anxiety properties.
One of my clients swears by this brand for panic attacks.
Some Amazon reviews mention people not liking the taste of these.
This has double the dose of the NOW chewables but doesn't have the additional anti-anxiety inositol or taurine. It also doesn't seem to have the objectionable taste that some people mention for the NOW product.
|Sports Reseach Suntheanine 200mg capsules|
8. Nervine herbs
Nervine herbs are herbs that have a relaxing calming effect. Be careful about using these herbs while driving. It would be best to test your reaction to them late in the day in case they cause drowsiness. They are most often used to help with sleep (a common problem for people with anxiety).
Nervine herbs are available in capsule form, liquid extracts, and teas.
I talk lots more about nervine herbs in Feed Your Calm, but here I'll just mention one supplement in this category.
Garden of Life Mykind Organics has an interesting product called Sleep Well that includes several nervine herbs and L-theanine.
Anxiety Help Books and Recordings
I know how overwhelming anxiety can feel because I have dealt with anxiety myself. I learned how to quiet my anxiety and as a counselor, I've helped hundreds of people overcome theirs. Along the way, I've incorporated what I've learned about what helps reduce anxiety and increase the ability to deal with stress into books, workbooks, and recordings.
- Ann Silvers