By Dr Theron Hutton MD
Anxiety is a common mental health disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It can cause feelings of worry, stress, and unease, and can interfere with daily activities. While anxiety is typically treated with therapy and medication, some people may also find relief by incorporating supplements into their treatment plan. Here are five supplements that may help with anxiety, along with information on their potential benefits and any potential risks or interactions:
Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat found in fatty fish, such as salmon, as well as in plant sources like flaxseeds and walnuts. Some studies have suggested that omega-3s may have a positive effect on anxiety, although the evidence is mixed. For example, a meta-analysis of 18 studies found that omega-3 supplements may be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms in people with anxiety disorders or other psychiatric conditions (Bloch and Hannestad, 2010). However, other studies have found no significant benefits (Bashiri et al., 2017). Omega-3s are generally considered safe, but they may interact with certain medications and may cause gastrointestinal side effects in some people.
GABA: GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in regulating anxiety and stress. Some supplements contain GABA or GABA-enhancing compounds, and some people use them to try to reduce anxiety. There is limited research on the effectiveness of GABA supplements for anxiety, and the results have been mixed. Some studies have found that GABA supplements may have a calming effect and reduce anxiety (Kim et al., 2016), while others have found no significant benefits (Grahame-Smith and Knott, 1989). GABA supplements are generally considered safe, but they may interact with certain medications and may cause side effects such as dizziness and drowsiness.
L-theanine: L-theanine is an amino acid found in tea leaves that has been shown to have a calming effect. Some studies have suggested that L-theanine supplements may help reduce anxiety and improve sleep (Kimura et al., 2007). However, more research is needed to confirm these findings and to determine the optimal dosage and duration of use. L-theanine is generally considered safe, but it may interact with certain medications and may cause side effects such as digestive issues in some people.
Valerian root: Valerian root is a plant native to Europe and Asia that has been used for centuries to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Some studies have found that valerian root may have a calming effect and may improve sleep quality (Ernst, 2002), but the evidence is mixed. Valerian root is generally considered safe, but it may cause side effects such as dizziness, dry mouth, and upset stomach in some people. It may also interact with certain medications.
Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is an herb native to India that has been used in traditional medicine to treat anxiety and stress. Some studies have found that ashwagandha supplements may reduce anxiety and improve stress response (Chandrasekhar et al., 2012), but more research is needed to confirm these findings. Ashwagandha is generally considered safe, but it may interact with certain medications and may cause side effects such as upset stomach in some people.
It's important to note that supplements are not a substitute for therapy or medication and should not be used as the sole treatment for anxiety. If you're considering using supplements to help with anxiety, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider first to determine if they are safe and appropriate for you.