Anxiety and Stress: Natural Remedies That Calm The Mind

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From herbal remedies to essential vitamins and minerals, a growing body of research suggests that certain supplements may offer support for mental health. In this article, we’ll learn the science behind these supplements, exploring their benefits in alleviating stress and anxiety. Let’s discover the various ways in which supplements can complement healthy lifestyle practices, offering a holistic approach to mental wellness.

What Is Stress and Anxiety?

Stress and anxiety are common experiences that many people face in their daily lives. Stress is the body’s natural response to challenges or demands, whether they are physical, emotional, or mental. It can stem from various sources, such as work pressure, financial worries, relationship issues, or major life changes. Anxiety, on the other hand, is a feeling of unease, worry, or fear, often about something with an uncertain outcome.

Symptoms of stress and anxiety can manifest in different ways and vary from person to person. Common physical symptoms include headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, and trouble sleeping. Emotionally, persons may feel irritable, overwhelmed, or have difficulty concentrating. Behavioral signs may include avoidance of certain situations, excessive worrying, or changes in appetite.

Several factors can contribute to the development of stress and anxiety. These include genetics, brain chemistry, personality traits, and life experiences. Chronic stressors, such as ongoing financial difficulties or job dissatisfaction, can also play a significant role. Additionally, traumatic events, childhood experiences, or a history of mental health disorders may increase the risk of developing anxiety.

Understanding the symptoms and causes of stress and anxiety is the first step toward managing and alleviating these feelings. Seeking support from friends, family, or mental health professionals can provide valuable resources and strategies for coping with stressors and improving overall health.

What Food and Lifestyle Factors Are Important For Managing Stress and Anxiety?

  • Balanced Diet: Prioritize a diverse range of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins (such as poultry, fish, beans, and legumes), and healthy fats (like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil). These foods provide essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals crucial for brain health and mood regulation. For example, omega-3 fatty acids found in fish can help reduce inflammation in the brain, which is linked to lower levels of anxiety and depression.
  • Limiting Stimulants: Reduce intake of caffeine from sources like coffee, tea, and energy drinks, as well as alcohol. While caffeine can temporarily increase alertness, excessive consumption can lead to jitteriness, increased heart rate, and exacerbate feelings of anxiety. Similarly, alcohol may initially induce feelings of relaxation, but it can disrupt sleep patterns and worsen anxiety symptoms, especially when consumed in large amounts or close to bedtime.
  • Hydration: Stay adequately hydrated throughout the day by drinking water and other hydrating beverages. Dehydration can affect both physical and mental function, contributing to fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating, which can exacerbate stress and anxiety.
  • Regular Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity such as walking, jogging, cycling, yoga, or swimming. Exercise helps reduce levels of stress hormones like cortisol while promoting the release of mood-lifting endorphins. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week to reap the stress-reducing benefits.
  • Adequate Sleep: Establish a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Create a relaxing bedtime routine to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down. Adequate sleep is essential for managing stress and anxiety, as it allows the body and mind to rest, recharge, and process emotions effectively.
  • Stress Management Techniques: Practice stress-reducing activities such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or yoga. These techniques help calm the mind, lower stress levels and promote a sense of relaxation and health. Incorporate these practices into your daily routine, especially during times of increased stress or anxiety.
  • Social Support: Maintain connections with friends, family, and supportive communities. Having a strong support network provides emotional backing, perspective, and reassurance during challenging times. Share your feelings and concerns with trusted persons, and don’t hesitate to seek professional help if needed.
  • Time Management: Develop effective time management skills by prioritizing tasks, setting realistic goals, and breaking larger projects into smaller, manageable steps. Avoid overcommitting yourself and learn to say no when necessary to prevent feeling overwhelmed. By managing your time effectively, you can reduce stress, increase productivity, and enhance your sense of control over life’s demands.

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This article aims to offer valuable insights into which nutritional supplements have undergone scientific study and shown promise in supporting specific health conditions. We break down the research, so you can work with your medical providers to make informed decisions about adding supplements to your health regimen. For personalized advice tailored to your needs, we recommend consulting with a registered dietitian in addition to your primary care provider.

Check with your physician when adding supplements. While supplements are generally safe for most people, do not add nutritional supplements without your physician’s specific approval if you are pregnant or nursing, are undergoing cancer treatment, have a history of organ transplant, liver or kidney disease, or take medications that interact with supplements.

For managing stress and anxiety, certain nutritional supplements may be beneficial as part of a broader stress-reduction strategy that includes a healthy lifestyle, regular physical activity, and possibly psychotherapy or medication. It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any supplement regimen. Here are some commonly recommended supplements for stress and anxiety:

  • B Complex Vitamins (B6, B12, and Folate): These vitamins are essential for the synthesis and regulation of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, all of which are key to mood stability and stress management. They also aid in the metabolism of homocysteine, with high levels associated with stress and mood disturbances. A recent review of the literature stated there is, “generally supportive evidence for the benefits of a high-dose, B-complex multivitamin/mineral supplement in healthy and at-risk populations in terms of physical, mental, and energy outcomes.” [PMID: 34530623]
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These essential fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, are integral to brain cell membranes and neurotransmitter function, modulating key mood regulators like serotonin and dopamine. Their anti-inflammatory effects are crucial as well, as chronic inflammation is linked to mood disorders and can impact brain function. “Case-controlled studies have shown low peripheral omega-3 levels in patients with anxiety disorders. 27,28,29,30,31” [PMC6324500]
  • Magnesium: This mineral is vital for nerve function and helps regulate neurotransmitters, which are crucial for sending messages throughout the brain and body. Magnesium also plays a significant role in the body’s stress-response system, and its deficiency can lead to heightened stress and anxiety. Magnesium (Mg) status is associated with subjective anxiety. Researchers who reviewed the literature found that evidence is suggestive of a beneficial effect of Mg suplementation on subjective anxiety. [PMC5452159] Researchers have proposed the “vicious circle concept”, showing that stress causes higher requirements for magnesium, which causes deficiency, which causes higher stress levels. [PMC7761127]
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D receptors in the brain, particularly in areas linked to depression and anxiety, underscore its role in mood regulation. It is involved in neurotransmitter synthesis and neuroprotection, thereby impacting overall brain health. Researchers studying generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) found that Vitamin D supplementation was effective in reducing anxiety severity by increasing serotonin and decreasing an inflammatory biomarker, neopterin, in GAD patients. [PMID: 31478182] Vitamin D dosages should be adjusted based on your blood level with many clinicians recommending an optimal Vitamin D level of 50-80 ng/ml. Vitamin D labs can be ordered online through the NutriScape Lab Shop (Affiliate Link).
  • Probiotics: The gut microbiome plays a crucial role in the gut-brain axis, a bidirectional communication pathway, influencing mood and stress levels. Probiotics are important for maintaining a healthy gut flora, which in turn is essential for producing mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin. Researchers who reviewed the literature found that studies “suggest that probiotics may improve psychological symptoms associated particularly with anxiety.” [PMID: 32176751]
  • Adaptogens:
    • Rhodiola Rosea: As an adaptogen, Rhodiola helps the body adapt to and resist physical, chemical, and environmental stress. It is believed to influence key neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, and modulate stress hormones, enhancing physical and mental stamina and resilience. [PMID: 29325481]
    • Ashwagandha: Known for reducing cortisol, the stress hormone, Ashwagandha enhances the body’s resilience to both physical and emotional stress. Its adaptogenic properties help balance various body systems impacted by stress. A randomized trial showed that Ashwagandha (500 mg) standardized for 2.5% withanolides with piperine for 60 days (12.5 mg withanolides/day) to alleviate stress and anxiety in healthy persons with mild to moderate symptoms. [PMC10578737]
    • Holy Basil (Tulsi): As an adaptogen, Holy Basil helps the body adapt to stress and promotes mental balance. It’s thought to regulate cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress, and may modulate neurotransmitter levels involved in mood and stress responses. [PMC9524226]
  • Supplements That Increase GABA:
    • GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid): GABA, a naturally occurring neurotransmitter, plays a critical role in reducing neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system. Supplemental GABA is thought to help induce relaxation, reduce anxiety, and promote sleep by directly affecting the central nervous system. [PMC7527439]
    • L-Theanine: Found predominantly in green tea, L-Theanine works by promoting alpha brain waves, which are associated with a state of relaxed alertness. This compound also influences neurotransmitter levels in the brain, including increasing GABA and dopamine, leading to a natural calming effect without drowsiness. It may also reduce the brain’s stress response. A review stated that published data suggests that L-theanine administered at daily doses ranging from 200 to 400 mg reduces anxiety and stress effects in short-term and chronic conditions. [PMID: 31412272]
    • Chamomile: Chamomile contains flavonoids that are believed to have a calming effect on the brain. One of these flavonoids, apigenin, binds to GABA receptors, which may contribute to chamomile’s mild sedative effects, helping to alleviate stress and anxiety. [PMID: 31006899]
    • Passionflower: Similar to Valerian Root and Chamomile, Passionflower increases GABA levels in the brain, promoting relaxation. Its bioactive compounds, including flavonoids and alkaloids, are thought to be responsible for its anxiolytic effects. [PMC7766837]
    • Lemon Balm: This herb contains compounds that may have a calming effect on the brain, possibly by increasing GABA levels, thus reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation. It’s traditionally used in herbal teas and remedies for its soothing effects. [PMID: 34449930]
    • Taurine: This amino acid is thought to exert a calming effect on the nervous system, possibly by acting as an agonist at GABA receptors, similar to GABA itself, and regulating the levels of stress hormones in the body. [PMC10479846] [PMID: 35882818]
    • Lavender: Lavender is renowned for its soothing aroma and is widely used in aromatherapy. The calming effect is attributed to the inhalation of its essential oil components, like linalool and linalyl acetate, which have been shown to have a relaxing effect on the brain and nervous system. Oral lavender supplements also appear to have anxiolytic effects, possibly acting on the GABAergic system, similar to some prescription anxiolytics. [PMID: 31655395]
    • Kava: Kava has kavalactones, compounds that affect the brain similarly to alcohol, providing sedative and anxiolytic effects. It’s thought to modulate GABA receptors, but due to liver toxicity, it should be used with caution and not suitable for everyone. [PMID: 19614563]
    • Valerian Root: Valerian is known for its sedative properties, primarily due to its interaction with GABA receptors in the brain. By increasing GABA levels, it helps to calm the nervous system, making it effective in managing anxiety and promoting restful sleep. [PMC8077445]
    • Magnolia Bark: Common in traditional Chinese medicine, Magnolia bark contains compounds like honokiol and magnolol, which are thought to have anxiolytic and sedative effects. These compounds may interact with the GABAergic system to produce calming effects.
    • Gotu Kola: Gotu Kola is used in Ayurvedic medicine for reducing anxiety and improving mental function. It is believed to enhance central nervous system function, leading to improved mental clarity and reduced anxiety, though the exact mechanisms are not fully understood. [PMID: 20677602]
  • Supplements Affecting Serotonin:
    • 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan): 5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in regulating mood, anxiety, and stress levels. By increasing serotonin production, 5-HTP can have a positive effect on mood, anxiety, and sleep patterns. [PMC7796270]
    • Bacopa Monnieri: Used in Ayurvedic medicine, Bacopa is thought to improve cognitive function and reduce stress and anxiety. It may enhance neurotransmitter levels, including serotonin and acetylcholine, and has antioxidant properties that could impact brain health. [NBK589635]
  • Supplements Affecting Other Neurotransmitters:
    • Saffron: Studies suggest saffron may improve mood and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Its exact mechanism is unclear but could involve the modulation of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain. [PMC9464341]
    • Hops: Best known for their role in beer brewing, hops possess natural sedative properties, likely due to compounds like methylbutenol. These compounds are thought to interact with the central nervous system, promoting relaxation and aiding sleep, which can be beneficial for anxiety and sleep disorders. [PMID: 28742505]
    • CBD (Cannabidiol): CBD, a non-psychoactive compound from cannabis, is being researched for its ability to reduce anxiety by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in regulating mood and stress responses. While CBD shows promise as a treatment for anxiety disorders based on evidence from both animal and human studies, further research is needed to fully understand its effectiveness and safety, especially regarding long-term use and in clinical populations. PMC4604171

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Supplement Safety Information

The mentioned supplements are safe when used as directed and in appropriate doses. A wide array of natural supplements, including B Complex Vitamins (B6, B12, and Folate), Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Magnesium, Vitamin D, Probiotics, Rhodiola Rosea, Ashwagandha, Holy Basil (Tulsi), GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid), L-Theanine, Chamomile, Passionflower, Lemon Balm, Taurine, Lavender, Kava, Valerian Root, Magnolia Bark, Gotu Kola, 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan), Bacopa Monnieri, Saffron, Hops, and CBD (Cannabidiol), have been studied for their ability to alleviate anxiety and stress. Most have a long history of traditional use and have been extensively researched for their safety profiles. Additionally, while these supplements may offer benefits for managing anxiety and stress, they should complement, not replace, conventional treatment approaches, and lifestyle modifications.

Medication Interactions:

  • Levodopa: Interaction with B Complex Vitamins (B6, B12, and Folate): B6 may reduce the effectiveness of levodopa, a medication used to treat Parkinson’s disease, when taken together.
  • Methotrexate: Interaction with B Complex Vitamins (B6, B12, and Folate): High doses of folate may decrease the effectiveness of methotrexate, a medication used to treat certain cancers and autoimmune diseases.
  • Anticoagulants/Antiplatelet drugs: Interaction with Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with blood-thinning medications like warfarin or aspirin.
  • Bisphosphonates: Interaction with Magnesium: Magnesium supplements may decrease the absorption of bisphosphonates, medications used to treat osteoporosis.
  • Thiazide diuretics: Interaction with Vitamin D: Vitamin D may enhance the effects of thiazide diuretics, increasing the risk of hypercalcemia (high levels of calcium in the blood).
  • Immunosuppressants: Interaction with Probiotics: Probiotics may interact with immunosuppressant medications, possibly altering immune function.
  • Antidepressants: Interaction with Rhodiola Rosea: Rhodiola Rosea may interact with antidepressant medications, possibly increasing serotonin levels and leading to serotonin syndrome.
  • Thyroid medications: Interaction with Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha may affect thyroid function and interact with thyroid medications, leading to changes in thyroid hormone levels.
  • Cytochrome P450 (CYP450) enzyme inhibitors: Interaction with CBD (Cannabidiol): CBD may inhibit certain enzymes involved in drug metabolism, which may increasing the levels of medications metabolized by these enzymes.

Supplement Interactions:

  • B Complex Vitamins (B6, B12, and Folate): Magnesium can enhance the absorption of B vitamins, increasing their effectiveness.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids may enhance the absorption of vitamin D, leading to increased levels in the body.
  • Magnesium: High doses of magnesium may interfere with calcium absorption, so it’s important to maintain a balance between these two minerals.
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D metabolism requires magnesium, so ensuring adequate magnesium levels may optimize vitamin D absorption and utilization.
  • Probiotics: Probiotics may be less effective when taken alongside antibiotics, as antibiotics can kill beneficial bacteria in the gut.
  • Rhodiola Rosea: Rhodiola Rosea and Ashwagandha both have adaptogenic properties and may have synergistic effects when taken together, enhancing stress relief.
  • Ashwagandha: Similar to Rhodiola Rosea, Ashwagandha and Rhodiola Rosea may complement each other’s effects on stress and mood regulation.
  • Holy Basil (Tulsi): Holy Basil and GABA supplements may have complementary effects on promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety.
  • GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid): GABA and L-Theanine may have synergistic effects on calming the nervous system and promoting relaxation.
  • L-Theanine: L-Theanine may counteract some of the stimulating effects of caffeine, leading to a more balanced and relaxed state.
  • Chamomile: Chamomile and passionflower both have mild sedative effects and may enhance each other’s calming properties.
  • Passionflower: Passionflower and lemon balm may have complementary effects on promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety.
  • Lemon Balm: Lemon balm and valerian root may enhance each other’s sedative effects, promoting relaxation and better sleep.
  • Valerian Root: Valerian root and kava both have sedative properties and may potentiate each other’s effects on promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety.
  • Kava: Kava and magnolia bark may have synergistic effects on promoting relaxation and reducing stress and anxiety.
  • CBD (Cannabidiol): CBD and 5-HTP may have complementary effects on mood regulation and reducing anxiety.
  • 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan): 5-HTP and bacopa monnieri may have synergistic effects on promoting serotonin production and enhancing mood.
  • Bacopa Monnieri: Bacopa monnieri and saffron may have complementary effects on cognitive function and mood regulation.
  • Saffron: Saffron and hops may have synergistic effects on promoting relaxation and reducing stress and anxiety.

Food First!

Although this article discusses supplements in detail, don’t forget that we are absolutely committed to the “Food First” approach to nutrition. When it comes to your health, the totality of your eating habits far surpasses the impact of individual nutrients or any single supplement you consume. Even though this article doesn’t delve into the broader picture of your overall diet, it’s crucial to keep this element at the forefront of our minds. Your food needs to provide all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals to nourish your body systems down to the cellular level.

Food choices, rather than supplements, are the most critical factors for a healthy gut microbiome. These trillions of tiny inhabitants in your gut affect your brain waves; they orchestrate your immune system. They possess the power to create molecules that can switch genes on or off and are even capable of synthesizing neurotransmitters. Opting for organic foods and steering clear of plastic packaging (including those labeled BPA-free) is a smart move to limit toxin exposure. The sum of all these parts leads to a powerful conclusion: the ultimate key to your health lies in the quality and balance of the food you consume. Supplements are secondary.

What Lab Tests Might Be Helpful In Managing Stress and Anxiety?

Several lab tests can help manage stress and anxiety by providing insights into underlying physiological factors. Here are some tests that may be beneficial:

  • Cortisol Levels: Cortisol is a stress hormone, and abnormalities in its levels can show issues with the body’s stress response system. Testing cortisol levels through blood, saliva, or urine samples can help assess stress levels and adrenal function.
  • Thyroid Function Tests: Thyroid hormones play a role in regulating metabolism and mood. Abnormalities in thyroid function, such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, can contribute to symptoms of anxiety and stress. Blood tests measuring thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), thyroxine (T4), and triiodothyronine (T3) levels can help assess thyroid function.
  • Vitamin D Levels: Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to mood disorders, including anxiety and depression. Blood tests measuring serum vitamin D levels can help identify deficiencies that may contribute to stress and anxiety symptoms.
  • Magnesium Levels: Magnesium is involved in nerve function and stress response regulation. Low magnesium levels have been associated with increased stress and anxiety. Blood tests measuring serum magnesium levels can help assess magnesium status.
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): A CBC test can provide information about red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelet counts, which may show underlying health conditions contributing to stress and anxiety symptoms.
  • Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP): A CMP test measures various markers of metabolic function, including glucose, electrolytes, and kidney and liver function. Abnormalities in these markers can show underlying health issues that may contribute to stress and anxiety.
  • Food Sensitivity Testing: Food sensitivities or intolerances can trigger inflammation in the body, which may exacerbate symptoms of stress and anxiety. Tests such as IgG antibody testing or elimination diets can help identify food triggers contributing to stress.

To Sum It Up

In exploring the health benefits of stress and anxiety supplements, it’s evident that these natural remedies offer a range of advantages for supporting overall health. From promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety to enhancing mood stability and supporting cognitive function, these supplements provide valuable support for managing the challenges of modern life. By incorporating these supplements into your daily routine, you can possibly experience improved stress management, better sleep quality, and enhanced resilience against life’s stressors. With their various mechanisms of action and complementary effects, stress and anxiety supplements offer promising avenues for promoting a calmer, more balanced state of mind.

This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.

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