Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. (Don’t worry, you’re not alone!) If you have an anxiety disorder or you’re experiencing feelings of anxiety, there are lots of options out there to help you find relief.
Working with a therapist or psychiatrist can help determine if prescription medication is right for you, but you can also try using natural supplements for anxiety to relieve your symptoms.
While many supplements are safe to take, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about which ones are best for you!
Supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, so your doc might recommend trusted sites or pharmacies to buy from. Your healthcare provider will also have your medical history, so they can check whether or not something interferes with the medications you’re already taking.
Chances are, growing up you had oranges shoved down your throat every cold and flu season to “build up your immune system.” But there are more vitamins than just vitamin C, and they’re all important to keep your body (and mind) healthy.
Vitamin D is a pesky one because almost everyone doesn’t get enough of it from being outside (thank you working 9-to-5/ quarantine).
Vitamin D is important for maintaining strong bones and teeth and a health immune response, but deficiency is also linked to depression. Depression and anxiety often come together, so it’s important to ensure you’re getting enough Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is found in food like fatty fish (like tuna or salmon), egg yolks, mushrooms, dairy milk and cheese, or you can take Vitamin D in pill form.
The recommended dose for adults for Vitamin D is 600 IU, but be careful not to take too much because Vitamin D toxicity is possible, especially if you get more than 10,000 IU per day.
Studies show that people with depression and/or general anxiety disorder have significantly lower levels of Vitamin A compared to control patients without mental illnesses. What does this mean for you? Get some more Vitamin A!
Vitamin A can be found in lots of foods, including: beef or lamb liver, salmon, bluefin tuna, cooked sweet potatoes, cooked carrots, mango, papaya, or grapefruit.
If you’re vegan, you’ll probably need to take Vitamin A in supplement form to reach the recommended 700 to 900 micrograms daily amount.
There are several B vitamins, called the Vitamin B complex. It’s important to maintain all of them at healthy levels for your mental health.
If you want to knock em all out at once, you can get Vitamin B complex supplements which have the recommended dose of all the B vitamins in one pill. Vitamin B12 deficiency is specifically linked to depression and anxiety, but those who don’t eat meat are also often deficient.
The same study that shows Vitamin A deficiency affects mood also suggests a link between low Vitamin E (another antioxidant) levels and mood.
To get more Vitamin E, you can try eating more foods like: almonds, peanuts, Atlantic salmon, lobster, dried cod, and sunflower seeds. But luckily it’s not really common to be deficient in Vitamin E if you eat a balanced diet.
Studies show that lower-than-normal Vitamin C levels can contribute to anxiety and depression, but even if you aren’t aware you’re low in Vitamin C, you could still benefit from taking it in supplement form.
Vitamin C is found in a lot of foods, from oranges to strawberries to red bell peppers. You can also take Vitamin C in pill form or add it as a powder to your water as an effervescent drink (like Emergen-C). Your body doesn’t store Vitamin C so you need a daily dose.
Vitamins aren’t the only supplements that you can take to prevent or treat anxiety. Many herbal supplements — some you may already be familiar with — have been used to treat anxiety and stress for decades or centuries. If you like tea and/or aromatherapy, this category might be for you!
Chamomile — specifically German chamomile — has been shown in preliminary studies to help with generalized anxiety disorder.
Though you might be used to drinking chamomile tea before bed, those same relaxing properties might help you during periods of anxiety or stress. Chamomile has been considered an important herb since ancient Egyptian times and drinking it in tea isn’t likely to give you serious side effects.
Lavender can be used in many forms. You can drink it as tea, smell it via a diffuser or spray, or rub it into you skin when diluted in a carrier oil or lotion. Its smell alone can be enough to soothe an anxious mind.
Despite its name, lemon balm (aka Melissa, short for Melissa officinalis) is actually related to mint, but it still smells super lemon-y. It was found to be effective at treating anxiety in coronary artery bypass surgery patients. This study also found that lemon balm can help improve sleep.
Lemon balm can be grown at home and dried to make teas. You can also take lemon balm in capsule or tincture forms, but make sure to buy from a reputable and trusted brand.
There haven’t been many studies surrounding valerian use for anxiety, but one study suggests it helped women undergoing a medical procedure feel less anxious.
Valerian root is safe to take for short periods of time, but it could make you sleepy. You should probably avoid taking it in conjunction with alcohol or sedatives because it just might put you to sleep!
St. John’s wort
St. John’s wort is known to be as effective as some pharmaceuticals in treating mild to moderate depression. Since anxiety is closely linked to depression, it can have beneficial effects in treating anxiety as well.
You can take St. John’s wort in many forms, including teas, tinctures, or pills. Make sure to talk to a doctor before taking St. John’s wort as it can affect how your other medications work (like oral birth control pills.)
And be careful! It can also cause serotonin syndrome if you combine it with other medications that stimulate serotonin production.
Last, but certainly not least, are dietary supplements. Some of these are more common than others and the more unknown supplements may be harder to find. Make sure to talk to your healthcare provider about where to buy safe supplements that have been tested by an independent lab.
Magnesium is a super important mineral for the body, regardless of its effects on mental health. Studies show it may be helpful in reducing anxiety, especially for those who menstruate.
Magnesium can be taken as a supplement, but there are tons of foods that are rich in the mineral as well. If you want to introduce more magnesium to your diet, try adding some of these foods: spinach, dark chocolate (yay!), almonds, peanuts, avocados, or edamame.
If you’re not sure what vitamins and minerals your diet is lacking, you might want to take a multivitamin supplement. A 2019 study found that multivitamins that included B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and zinc could help with anxiety in young adults.
There’s a huge range of multivitamins on the market, so it it can help to narrow them down based on ingredients to best suit your needs. If you’re unsure, you can ask your healthcare provider for their recommendation.
Omega-3 fatty acids don’t occur naturally in the body, but they’re important for brain health and can be used to decrease anxiety.
Since you can’t produce omega-3, you can increase your intake of foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids like mackerel, salmon, oysters, seaweed, chia seeds, and walnuts. You can also take fish oil or algae oils as a supplement.
L-theanine is an amino-acid commonly found in tea that studies have found can help reduce stress without making you sleepy. Try drinking some green tea if you’re looking to see if L-theanine is right for you.
Note: There’s less caffeine in green tea than coffee, but even so you might want to opt for caffeine-free tea as caffeine can cause jittery symptoms and sometimes increase anxiety.
5-HTP (also known by a long fancy scientific name) is an amino acid that your body creates to help your body produce serotonin. Low serotonin is associated with depression and anxiety, so it’s really important to support this production.
Some sources suggest that taking 50 to 100 milligrams of 5-HTP between one and three times per day can help reduce feelings of anxiety.
But be aware: If you’re already on a medicine that increases your serotonin levels, like an SSRI, taking 5-HTP could overload your body on the compound and cause serious issues.
There are a lot of options to ease your anxiety from taking multivitamins to drinking tea, but if you’re still struggling, you may want to reach out to your healthcare provider to see if therapy and/or pharmaceuticals could be right for you.
These supplements for anxiety can be another tool in your toolbox to manage your symptoms.