Anxiety supplements are becoming increasingly popular, as research suggests they may help reduce some symptoms experienced by people with anxiety disorders.
Anxiety is a complex condition that often comes along with other mental health conditions, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Prescription medications are often necessary for effective treatment, along with regular treatment to help manage symptoms and decipher their causes. However, there are some supplements you can take on a regular basis to help support good health, restful sleep and stress management.
However, it should be noted that you should avoid taking nutritional supplements without medical supervision, especially if you are already taking medications, as they may interact, leading to adverse reactions.
We spoke to some mental health professionals to learn about supplements that may help treat symptoms of anxiety and if there are any that you should avoid.
Can supplements help treat anxiety?
If you have moderate or apparent anxiety, you may find that nutritional supplements can be a useful tool in managing symptoms. Supplements to support good mental health, sleep, or common deficiencies that have mental health effects can be beneficial, but it is always worth talking to a medical professional before adding them to your diet.
Roxana Ehsany (Opens in a new tab)The nutritionist and national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics explains that supplementation cannot cure anxiety but may help with some symptoms. “Some supplements may help manage symptoms of anxiety, but they must be approved by your doctor first,” she says. “Also know that taking supplements for anxiety doesn’t get to the root cause of your anxiety, so it won’t necessarily help fix it or cure it in the long term, maybe only temporarily.”
Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN
Roxana Ehsani is a board-certified sports dietitian and national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition, Food, and Exercise from Virginia Tech, a Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Pittsburgh and completed her diet internship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
For those taking strong medications such as antipsychotics or benzodiazepines, supplements may cause unwanted side effects, so you should be especially careful to combine supplements with prescribed medications without a doctor’s supervision.
Dr. Deborah Lee, Physician and Writer Dr. Fox Online Pharmacy (Opens in a new tab)He explains that taking nutritional supplements for anxiety can be risky because they are not regulated in the same way as medications. “Many people with symptoms of anxiety will take supplements that they buy themselves online or from a pharmacy. It is difficult to give good advice on supplementation for anxiety because natural products, which include vitamin and mineral supplements, are not regulated in the same way as medications and drugs other.
Having worked for many years on the NHS in the UK, initially as a GP and then as a lead physician for the Integrated Community Sexual Health Service, Dr Deborah Lee now works as a health and medical writer, with a focus on women’s health. She is a menopause specialist.
“There is often very little well-conducted research to support its use. Most studies, if any, are small, short-term studies and frequently conducted in animals. Often, these are not randomized controlled trials with the placebo group.”
A double-blind study in Current Developments in Nutrition (Opens in a new tab) He suggested that a general multivitamin and mineral supplement may have a beneficial effect on young people’s experiences of anxiety symptoms. However, the study needs to be replicated on a larger scale. Eliminating any potential vitamin or mineral deficiencies ensures that the body is functioning at its best, so anyone experiencing symptoms of anxiety should speak to their doctor about blood tests to eliminate the deficiency as the cause.
Chronic magnesium deficiency can negatively affect mental health and our ability to deal with stress. review in Nutrients (Opens in a new tab) The journal found that chronic stress and anxiety deplete the body’s stores of magnesium and that magnesium deficiency can cause an maladaptive stress response. Another review in Nutrients (Opens in a new tab) It is concluded that magnesium supplementation can help treat mild anxiety.
If you think you may have a magnesium deficiency, talk to your doctor before adding a supplement to your diet, as your symptoms may also be indicative of something else.
Ehsani also notes that magnesium supplements have been shown to help treat anxiety. “I think magnesium supplementation is the first thing I think of, because it’s an essential mineral that helps your body relax,” she says. Some people may not consume enough from food, and they can be lost in small amounts through sweat as well. There have been some trials with magnesium supplements on people with anxiety and depression, and they have found that it improved the supplement in those taking it, versus the control group.
Often seen as a natural sleep medicine, a meta-analysis in The Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine (Opens in a new tab) He indicated that valerian could be a useful supplement in managing anxiety and improving sleep. However, due to the unstable nature of the supplement and the variety of dosages available on the shelves, it is unclear how effective it actually is.
In addition, valerian may increase the effectiveness of other sleep medications, including benzodiazepines, and may interact with other supplements, such as St. John’s wort, according to Mayo Clinic (Opens in a new tab).
review in Complementary and alternative medicine journal (Opens in a new tab) It looked at twelve articles evaluating the effectiveness of kava as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). In one trial there was no significant difference between people who took a kava supplement and those who took a placebo, and the review concluded that the current evidence is insufficient to support kava as a complementary treatment for anxiety.
Fish oil supplements can help address fatty acid deficiency in some patients, which can cause symptoms of poor mental health due to the function fatty acids play in brain chemistry, as shown in a review in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience (Opens in a new tab). In addition, the JAMA Network is open (Opens in a new tab) The medical journal conducted a meta-analysis that found that high-dose omega-3s (found in fish oil supplements) may help reduce symptoms of clinical anxiety.
St. John’s wort
St. John’s wort is a fairly well-known home remedy for low mood and anxiety, but it can be somewhat risky to take, especially if you’re taking birth control or antidepressant medication as it can interact with and cross out these medications.
Although there is a review in Systematic Reviews (Opens in a new tab) found St. St. John’s wort can be helpful in treating mild to moderate depression (showing positive results vs. placebo), another review in Journal of Psychopharmacology (Opens in a new tab) It was found that there are many interactions between St. John’s wort and therapeutic drugs. With this in mind, always consult your doctor before adding St. John’s wort to your routine.
Those who live in colder climates are often advised to supplement with vitamin D from October to April due to the low levels of sunlight causing deficiency in many residents. review in Journal of Affective Disorders (Opens in a new tab) It indicates that there is a positive relationship between vitamin D deficiency and mood disorders and that in people with vitamin D deficiency, supplementation positively affects mood. Whereas, vitamin D is one of the Vitamins that boost the immune system It may be beneficial for you to supplement with it to support your overall health, especially in the winter months.
Ehsani adds that vitamin D deficiency is common in the USA. “A vitamin D deficiency can also cause anxiety, so correcting this nutritional deficiency may help calm your anxiety as well,” she says. “42% of Americans are said to be deficient in vitamin D.”
Vitamin B deficiency can cause a number of distressing symptoms, as vitamin B12 in particular is essential for proper brain function. You may feel lethargic, irritable, and confused when you are low on vitamin B12 and other B vitamins.
File meta-analysis Nutrients (Opens in a new tab) The journal found that supplementing with a B-vitamin complex can be especially beneficial for those with low mood disorders and those who are malnourished. While you can take a lot of B vitamins, it is difficult to overdose because it is water soluble and your body is good at getting rid of the excess. As such, this is a fairly safe supplement to take for anxiety and other mood disorders, although it is still recommended to have a blood test and seek medical supervision if you think you may have a vitamin B deficiency.
Chamomile is one of the main ingredients in bedtime tea, and a fairly harmless supplement for most people. Medical advice indicates that it can interact with some medications, especially blood thinners, when taken in large amounts, but a cup of tea a day is unlikely to cause any side effects.
Article in plant medicine (Opens in a new tab) The journal found that over eight weeks of taking chamomile supplements, results were similar to those observed during treatment with conventional anxiolytic drugs. Large-scale studies need to be done to verify this, but a cup of chamomile tea may be a helpful addition to your bedtime routine if you struggle with anxiety.
Aromatherapy can be a useful home remedy for anxiety, with few side effects. A few drops of lavender oil in your bath or water dispenser can help you feel calm. Although it won’t cure your anxiety, it can be a useful part of your routine, especially to help you unwind before bed.
study in Laryngoscopy in investigative otolaryngology (Opens in a new tab) It found that aromatherapy with lavender helped reduce preoperative anxiety in those who attended daily surgery. Although the journal states that more large-scale studies are needed, overall positive results have been promising.
Lavender allergy is rare, but it’s always worth testing any new substances you might want to use for aromatherapy before putting them in your bath water.
Anxiety Supplements: Are There Risks?
It is very important that you speak to your doctor before adding any supplements to your diet, especially if you are taking any medications, as some supplements can interact with prescription medications and contraceptives.
Ehsani recommends working with your doctor when choosing a supplement for anxiety. “There can always be risks when taking any type of supplement, so it is always a good idea to check with your medical provider first before taking anything,” she says. “Some supplements may interact with current medications you are taking or may interact or interfere with your current health condition, and some supplements may not have been tested for quality or safety, so always make sure that one of the supplements you choose to take is approved by your doctor.”
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical advice.