The Best Supplements for Anxiety of 2022, According to a Dietitian

We’ve reviewed supplement options that may help relieve stress and anxiety

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Anxiety disorders are complex and their cause is not fully understood. Treatment for anxiety ranges from lifestyle changes, meditation, and cognitive behavioral therapy to prescription medications and supplements. Healthy eating habits, getting enough sleep, exercising, and not smoking have been linked to a lower risk of  anxiety, so that may be a first step for some. That said, lifestyle changes can take time and may not be enough for those with moderate to severe anxiety.

“Vitamins, minerals, and supplements can certainly play a role in helping to manage anxiety (if deemed safe under the advisement of a doctor), but it is important to keep in mind that they alone will not ‘cure’ anxiety,” says Steinberg. 

When considering a supplement, it’s important to understand that some supplements—especially herbal supplements—don’t address the root cause of the anxiety, may interact with certain medications, and, in some cases, should not be taken regularly. If you have anxiety, work with a healthcare provider to develop the best treatment for you, which may or may not include supplements. If you do choose to take a supplement, understand the potential benefits and drawbacks of each supplement type and look for products that are quality tested, safe, and appropriately dosed.

Verywell Mind Approved Supplements for Anxiety

  • Best Ashwagandha: Organic India Ashwagandha is an excellent source of an adaptogen that may help manage anxiety. It’s important to note that ashwagandha may interact with certain medications, so it may not be suitable for some.
  • Best Vitamin D: Nordic Naturals Vitamin D3 gummies provide 1000 IU of vitamin D3 and are NSF Certified for Sport. Vitamin D deficiency may be associated with anxiety, so taking a vitamin D supplement may be beneficial for those who have low vitamin D levels.

Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and which dosage to take.

Is a Supplement Beneficial for Anxiety?

Occasional mild anxiety isn’t always a problem and may not require treatment, but if it’s disturbing your life, we recommend seeking help. “Some common symptoms of anxiety that might indicate a need for treatment include racing, disturbing, and repetitive thoughts, insomnia, and distractibility. Physical symptoms that can go along with panic such as heart racing, shortness of breath, GI upset, muscle tension, and tingling sensations are also signs,” says Emily Steinberg, MD, PC, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Gauri Khurana, MD, MPH, Clinical Instructor at the Yale School of Medicine adds that self-medicating with alcohol, marijuana, food, or other numbing behaviors like binge-watching TV are indications that treatment would be helpful. 

Pharmacotherapy, or prescription medications such as antidepressants, SSRIs, and benzodiazepines, as well as therapy techniques such as CBT are proven treatments for anxiety. CBT is a fantastic long-term option, and medications can work well for some but may come with unwanted side effects for others. Complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) can also be a useful avenue to explore for treating anxiety. These include tools such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, hypnosis, dietary changes, and supplements. 

Supplements may be especially helpful for the following people: 

People with a known nutrient deficiency. Studies have shown that low magnesium and vitamin D is linked to anxiety, and supplements may both improve nutrient status and anxiety symptoms.

People who don’t respond to more traditional therapies. “Those who are not getting an adequate response from more standardized treatments of anxiety using psychotherapy and psychopharmacological approaches or who may not have had good results from medications may opt to try supplements as an alternative or adjunctive treatment for anxiety,” says Steinberg.

People resistant to taking medication. Anxiety medications can have unwanted side effects, making them difficult for some people to take consistently. Supplements may be helpful in reducing some symptoms, especially those that are more mild. “Vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements are often used by patients who are reluctant to try prescription medications and these are often a good first step towards providing some level of relief. For my patients that do not want to continue with prescription medications, I often help them transition to herbal supplements after we have achieved a period of remission” says Khurana. 

People with occasional and mild symptoms. Supplements like ashwagandha have been shown to reduce stress-related anxiety in otherwise healthy people. However, supplements may not be effective for those with more severe anxiety. “In my clinical experience, the best treatment for panic attacks and debilitating anxiety is prescription medication,” says Khurana.

The effectiveness of various supplements is still being explored and is highly individualized, so it’s essential you work closely with a healthcare provider to determine if a supplement is appropriate for you. “Not everyone responds the same to the same supplements.  While one person may get a relaxing effect from a particular adaptogen or from CBD, for a segment of the population the same supplement can have an undesirable stimulating effect instead,” says Sharon Puello MA RD CDN CDCES

It’s also important to note that long-term use of many herbal supplements is not recommended. Most studies testing the effectiveness of herbal supplements are a short duration (around 8 weeks) and we don’t know much about the safety of long-term use.

Who May Not Benefit from Supplements for Anxiety

Supplements may seem benign because they are ‘natural,’ but they can be potent and come with negative or even dangerous side effects for some people. 

People taking certain medications. Many supplements, especially herbal supplements like ashwagandha, l-theanine, and valerian root interact with common medications like thyroid, diabetes, cholesterol, and blood pressure medications, making them less effective or more potent, which can be problematic. Review any supplements you’re considering with a healthcare provider to understand if they are safe and effective to take with other medications.

People with other psychiatric illnesses. “When there are comorbid psychiatric conditions, especially bipolar disorder, some supplements or ingredients in them may precipitate a psychosis or mania. In addition, some psychiatric medications (such as SSRIs like prozac, zoloft, paxil, lexapro and celexa) combined with certain supplements can be dangerous,” says Khurana. 

Pregnant or breastfeeding people. Most supplements are not studied in pregnant breastfeeding people and the safety of supplementing to treat anxiety during this time is not known or understood. 

People with moderate to severe anxiety. Supplements have varying levels of success in treating anxiety symptoms, but in general, they are not enough for more significant debilitating anxiety. “For those with more severe levels of anxiety, supplements can be used as needed, but their level of illness would not be adequately treated with only supplements,” says Khurana.

It’s also important to understand that, unless you are addressing a nutrient deficiency, supplements (like many other therapies) don’t address the root cause of the anxiety. “It’s essential to distinguish between treating anxiety symptoms versus the cause,” says Samantha Gambino, PsyD. Because supplements may not be safe to take long-term, it’s important to determine and ultimately address the underlying reason for anxiety, while developing tools to manage it. 

A Note on CBD

Cannabidiol (CBD) has exploded in popularity in recent years for treating stress and anxiety. Some studies suggest it may help people with social anxiety disorder (SAD) and acute anxiety in specific stressful situations, and there is promise that it may be helpful for general anxiety disorder. However, more research is needed, and it may not be a suitable option for some. The FDA regulations mandate that CBD cannot be marketed or sold as a supplement, therefore, we have not included CBD products in this article.

Best Ashwaganda: ORGANIC INDIA Ashwagandha

Organic India Ashwagandha Herbal Supplement

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • ConsumerLab Approved

  • USDA Organic

  • Budget-friendly

Cons
  • Interacts with common medications

  • Dose may be too high for some

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety in some people. Ashwagandha is believed to impact anxiety through its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as its influence over the GABA receptor, which plays a key role in the regulation of anxiety. Small studies in adults have shown decreases in anxiety, stress, and depression, and improvements in sleep and overall well-being after taking ashwagandha root extract supplements.

However, it’s not a magic bullet, and studies have yet to determine the best dose and frequency as well as the safety of long term use. In addition, some studies have shown it to be ineffective in treating anxiety. It’s also important to note that ashwagandha may interact with diabetes medications, thyroid medications, immunosuppressants, sedatives, and blood pressure lowering medications, so it may not be safe if you take any of these medications. There have also been a small number of case reports of liver damage after two to 12 weeks of taking ashwagandha.

If a healthcare professional has deemed it safe for you to supplement with ashwagandha, we recommend Organic India’s Ashwagandhda, which includes the root and herb of the ashwagandha plant. It’s processed into a powder and then neatly packaged into vegetarian capsules for ease of consumption. It’s ConsumerLab approved, Non-GMO, and Halal. Organic India is also a certified B-corporation. 

The specified dose is two tablets, which provides 800 mg of ashwagandha. Although some research looking into this supplement for anxiety shows benefit at lower doses, the beneficial effect will likely differ from person to person. Work closely with your healthcare provider to determine the best dose for you.

Serving Size: 2 tablets | Organic: Yes | Vegan: Yes | Gluten-free: Yes

Best L-Theanine: Thorne L-Theanine

Pros
  • ConsumerLab approved

  • Research-backed dose

  • Allergy-friendly

Cons
  • Expensive

  • May not be helpful for chronic anxiety

L-theanine is an amino acid found in green and black tea, but the amount in a cup of brewed tea is incredibly low, so some people look to supplements for a larger dose. Some research has show it may reduce acute stress and anxiety and improve sleep quality. A review of nine studies suggests that a dose of 200-400mg may be helpful to reduce anxiety during stressful situations. However, when tested among people with generalized anxiety disorder, high doses of l-theanine did not improve anxiety symptoms, and more research is needed to understand if it is helpful—and at what dose—for those with more chronic anxiety symptoms.

Thorne is a leading supplement brand known for quality and safety, and ConsumerLab confirmed that their l-theanine contains what it says on the label with no harmful contaminants. Thorne’s l-theanine features Suntheanine®, the patented name for the pure form of l-theanine produced by the Japanese company Taiyo, which is the form that is used in many studies. Thorne’s product contains 200 mg of l-theanine, is derived from natural flavors and colors, and is gluten, soy, and dairy free, but it does come at a higher price point than some others on the market.

Anyone taking sedatives (for example, the drug Midazolam) should avoid l-theanine, and it may not be safe for pregnant or breastfeeding people.

Serving Size: 1 tablet | Organic: No | Vegan: Yes | Gluten-free: Yes

Best Valerian Root: GNC Herbal Plus Valerian Root Extract

Pros
  • ConsumerLab top pick

  • Allergy-friendly

Cons
  • Large capsule size

  • Interacts with common medications

Valerian root is an herb that has been used for centuries in teas or tinctures to anecdotally help with nerves, sleep, and stress. Poor sleep can often contribute to heightened anxiety, and two of valerian’s active ingredients have been studied for having a sedative effect and for increasing the amount of GABA, the inhibitory neurotransmitter that produces a calming effect.

While some studies show significant decreases in anxiety with valerian root supplementation, other studies are inconclusive. Of note, one study did find that a high dose of 1,800 mg actually worsened anxiety. The herb is usually tolerated well, but possible side effects include headaches, nausea, and heart palpitations.

In their testing, ConsumerLab found that some of the products they reviewed didn’t contain the amount of valerenic acids that were on the label, did not contain a clinically effective dose, or they were contaminated with lead at a higher amount than may be safe. Therefore, if a healthcare provider recommends you take valerian root, we suggest GNC’s Herbal Plus Valerian Root Extract because ConsumerLab has confirmed that this supplement contains what the label says.

GNC Herbal Plus Valerian Root Extract contains 500 mg valerian root extract, which equals 4 mg valerenic acid. Because it promotes sleep, it’s recommended you take it before bed. The product is made without any of the common allergens, but note that the capsule size is described as “large” and might be difficult for some to swallow.

Due to valerian’s sedative effect, it is not safe to take in combination with sedatives and antihistamines and may interact with statins, some seizure medications, antifungals, and certain antidepressants. Safety has also not been established for pregnancy.

Serving Size: 1 capsule | Organic: No | Vegan: Yes | Gluten-free: Yes

Best Magnesium : Swanson Magnesium Lactate

Pros
  • ConsumerLab approved

  • Contains form of magnesium studied for anxiety

Cons
  • Interacts with some medications

  • May not be effective for those that get enough through diet

Magnesium is involved in nervous system health. Magnesium deficiencies have been found to influence the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA), which is known to be involved in the development of anxiety disorders. Magnesium also influences gut health, which is a major site of neurotransmitter production and regulation. Because of this, it's thought that magnesium supplementation may reduce anxiety symptoms. Research is limited in this area, but initial studies suggest that magnesium supplements may reduce stress and anxiety in people who aren’t getting enough magnesium in their diet (known as hypomagnesemia). It has not been shown to be effective in people who have adequate magnesium status.

Swanson’s Magnesium Lactate uses the form of this mineral most commonly studied and thought to aid in anxiety reduction. Magnesium lactate is lactose-free, contrary to popular thought, and is known to be gentle on the stomach. Each capsule only contains 84 mg of magnesium lactate, which contributes to the recommended 400mg for men and 320mg for women, but may not be enough for some to close nutrient gaps, depending on diet.

If you take bisphosphonates (Fosamax), antibiotics (doxycycline or ciprofloxacin), diuretics (Lasix), or proton pump inhibitors (Nexium), speak with a healthcare provider about magnesium supplementation as magnesium may interact with these medications.

Serving Size: 1 capsule | Organic: No | Vegan: No | Gluten-free: Yes

Best Vitamin D: Nordic Naturals Vitamin D3 Gummies Sport

Nordic Naturals Vitamin D3 Gummies Sport

iHerb

Pros
  • NSF Certified

  • Enjoyable to take

  • Vegetarian friendly

Cons
  • May need to increase dose to correct a deficiency

Much of the population may benefit from taking a vitamin D supplement. Low levels of vitamin D may be associated with depression and anxiety, though more research is needed. Vitamin D deficiencies in the US are common. An estimated 30 percent of the U.S population has a vitamin D deficiency, and many more people have an insufficiency, which is when blood vitamin D levels are <30nmol/L.

While vitamin D is found in some foods, including cod liver oil, sockeye salmon, mushrooms, milk and fortified plant-based milks and cereals, it is not abundant. Our bodies can synthesize vitamin D through our skin from sunlight. But, with the low sun intensity in northern latitudes, especially during cooler months, and the recommendation to wear sunscreen and limit direct sun exposure, many people are at risk of vitamin D deficiencies and may benefit from supplementation.

Nordic Naturals Vitamin D3 gummies provide 1000 IU of vitamin D, which is 125% of your daily needs. Those with a diagnosed vitamin D deficiency may need to take a higher dose, so be sure to consult with a healthcare provider. This supplement is NSF Certified, making it a trusted choice, and it comes in a tasty gummy form, making it a more enjoyable supplement option.

Serving Size: 1 gummy | Organic: No | Vegan: Yes | Gluten-free: Yes

Final Verdict

There is no one supplement that will treat all types of anxiety. The research on the benefits for supplements and anxiety disorders is still preliminary, and whether or not supplements will help is person-dependent. The above supplements may offer promise in reducing anxiety symptoms, especially during acute anxiety episodes. More research is needed to understand both the long term benefits and safety of supplements for treating anxiety.

Supplements that Need More Research

There are supplements recommended for treating anxiety that need to be researched more extensively.

Chamomile Chamomile, which in tea form is often thought to be a calming drink and may offer some anxiety-reducing benefits. Initial studies suggest some promise for chamomile for general anxiety disorder. However, studies are incredibly limited, and findings are inconsistent, so more research is needed to be able to make a product and dose recommendation. Some psychiatrists have found benefit of chamomile in their practice, so it may be that there is use for specific individuals.

GABA. “Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid and neurotransmitter located in the brain that is crucial to serotonin production. It decreases anxiety and panic. However, it is unclear if GABA can cross the blood brain barrier, so it is uncertain if this supplement is actually helpful,” says Khurana. A 2020 systematic review showed no benefit in using GABA supplements for anxiety.

How We Select Supplements

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here

We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products. We prioritize products that are third-party tested and certified by one of three independent, third party certifiers: USP, NSF, or ConsumerLab. 

It's important to note that the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend.

What to Look For

Third-Party Testing

Supplements that are third-party tested are sent to a lab where they are tested to ensure they contain what they say they contain and are not contaminated with specific high-risk, common contaminants. However, it’s important to note:

  1. Third party testing does not test to see if a product is effective or safe for everyone, and it does not ensure the supplement will not interact with other supplements or medications.
  2. Not all third-party testing is created equal. It is not uncommon for supplement companies to pay labs for certificates after conducting minimal to no testing. 
  3. The third party certifications we can trust are: ConsumerLab, NSF, and USP. However, these certifications are difficult to obtain and/or expensive for manufacturers, so many companies choose not to get their products tested by one of these three organizations. 
  4. Sometimes products tested by these three companies are more expensive to try to offset the cost they pay for certification.
  5. Just because a supplement is not tested by one of these three companies, it does not mean it’s a bad product. We recommend doing some research on the reputability of the manufacturer, and calling up the manufacturer and their testing lab to determine their protocols and decide if you feel comfortable consuming the supplement.

Ingredients & Potential Interactions

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included, relative to the recommended daily value of that ingredient. Please bring the supplement label to a healthcare provider to review the different ingredients contained in the supplement and any potential interactions between these ingredients and other supplements and medications you are taking.

As mentioned throughout the article, many supplements marketed for anxiety may interact with certain medications and may potentially lead to dangerous side effects when taken with these medications. Furthermore, be wary of supplement blends marketed for anxiety as they may contain a mix of ingredients. Unless there is research specifically looking at the effects of these combinations of ingredients together, it is unclear what effect their combination will have on the body. Reviewing each ingredient in a blend is also essential to ensure none of them interact with any medications you might be taking. It is important to discuss all current medications and supplements with a healthcare provider.

Anxiety Supplements Dosage

Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and to understand which dosage to take.

The recommended dose for each supplement is discussed above. But the appropriate dose will vary by individual, so it’s important to work closely with your healthcare provider to determine the best dose for you. Upper limits have not been established for herbal supplements, but taking doses higher than the studied amounts is not recommended.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are natural supplements better than prescription medications for treating anxiety?

    “The gold standard of anxiety treatment more traditionally involves psychotherapy (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Psychodynamic Psychotherapy are common approaches) and psychotropic medications ([whether or not they're warranted depends] on the level of severity),” says Steinberg.

    Supplements have not been shown to be as effective as medication in most cases, especially for people with more moderate to severe anxiety. However, for those that either don’t respond to traditional medication or aren’t able to tolerate side effects of those medications, supplements may be a good option either in conjunction with or, in some cases, in place of, medication.

  • What vitamin supplements are good for anxiety?

    It’s been hypothesized that B-vitamins, especially folate, may play a role in treating anxiety—especially among those people that don’t get enough through diet. However, research thus far has not supported these recommendations. Vitamin D shows some promise in reducing anxiety among people who are deficient, but more research is needed to recommend this vitamin as a treatment for anxiety. That said, if you don’t get enough of any vitamin from your diet, a supplement may be helpful to reach adequate nutrient status for optimal health.

  • Should I take herbal supplements for anxiety?

    In short, it depends. It’s essential you work with a mental health professional who is trained in treating anxiety such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist to find the best treatment approach for you. Some people may be able to manage anxiety with lifestyle changes, others may benefit from stronger interventions which can range from meditation and therapy to medications and possibly supplements. However, supplements do come with risks and should be discussed with your healthcare provider before use.

  • Do GABA supplements work for anxiety?

    GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means its main job is to prevent signals of stress, fear, and anxiety from reaching the brain. In other words, it is a calming chemical for the brain and body, and there is a link between GABA and anxiety. However, to-date research doesn’t support taking supplements for anxiety. It’s unclear if GABA supplements can cross the blood-brain barrier, which would be necessary for them to affect anxiety.

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