I could write an entire book just on this topic alone because there is a lot of conflicting research, as well as side effects, medication interactions, and certain supplements may not be right for everyone.
But instead of overwhelm you with information, I’ve written this article to provide a brief overview of the available anti-anxiety supplements that have some research behind them.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to further your research and decide if a natural supplement or herbal remedy might be something you want to try. But this list is a good starting place.
Supplements & Herbal Remedies That May Be Effective Based On Published Research:
DISCLAIMER: I am not, by any means, endorsing any of the supplements mentioned in this article. It is completely up to you and/or your doctor if you decide to try natural or herbal supplements to treat anxiety.
The information provided here is intended to be used only as a starting place for your own research should you decide to try natural or herbal supplementation.
CAUTION! As with any prescription medication, even natural supplements and herbal remedies have side effects.
They may cause interactions with other medications (including anti-anxiety medications), or they may exacerbate an existing medical condition. They can also be toxic in high doses. Proceed with caution – especially if you are not working with a doctor.
1) Kava (Piper methysticum)
First up is Kava.
Kava extracts have been shown to lower anxiety, and possibly work as effectively as prescription anti-anxiety medications (according to some studies).
However, it can take 5 weeks or so for symptoms to improve.
Kava is also controversial. It is banned in several countries, and there are reports of it damaging the liver, particularly in patients who also consume alcohol.
Kava is not suitable for people with depression, as it can make it worse.
Kava interacts with Xanax (alprazolam), and may compound the sedative effects of this, and other, sedative drugs.
2) Ginko Biloba
Research has shown that taking ginko extracts for up to four weeks can reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Ginko can interact with Xanax (alprazolam), reducing the effectiveness of alprazolam.
Ginko can also interact with BuSpar (buspirone), causing hyperactivity.
3) Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon balm has been shown to reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
Lemon balm has also been shown to reduce stress, while enhancing calmness and awareness in adults when taken in 600 mg doses.
Lemon balm can compound the effects of sedative medications (like Klonopin/clonazepam), so it is not recommended if you are on these medications.
4) Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata)
Research suggests that passionflower can reduce the symptoms of anxiety, and in some cases, as effectively as prescription medications.
5) German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
Research suggest that German chamomile can reduce anxiety and depression in adults when taken daily for 8 weeks (220-1110 mg doses).
But don’t run to the store and buy just any chamomile product. Be sure to get German chamomile (Matricaria recutita), NOT Roman or English Chamomille (Chamaemelum nobile).
German Chamomile may lessen the effectiveness of birth control pills.
Because German chamomile can cause drowsiness, it can heighten the sedative effect of benzodiazapines and sleep aids.
Supplements & Herbal Remedies That Have Insufficient Evidence For Their Effectiveness In Treating Anxiety Disorder:
The following supplements do not have sufficient evidence behind the claims that they reduce anxiety, or that they are effective at treating anxiety disorders:
- Bitter Orange
- California Poppy
- Galphimia Glauca
- Holy Basil (Tulsi)
- St. John’s Wort
Other Supplements That May Support Those Suffering With An Anxiety Disorder:
These supplements do not have a direct effect on anxiety, but they may relieve some of the symptoms caused by anxiety.
Maca Root Powder
Raw maca root powder is made from a root vegetable native to Peru.
Maca has two major benefits for people with anxiety.
First of all, it can boost energy without stimulant effects.
Secondly, it can improve libido and overall feeling of sexual health, which can be negatively impacted by anxiety.
Maca has been shown to alleviate SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction, as well as provide a beneficial effect on libido among those who take SSRI anti-anxiety medications. 1
Another placebo-controlled study showed that participants who took maca reported a significant increase in “sexual well-being” and improvement among adult men with mild erectile dysfunction after 12 weeks of supplementation. 2
Purchasing Maca (and Where To Find It)
You can find Maca at your local health food store, or purchase it online (we get ours on Amazon.com).
Purchase a pure, high-grade raw or gelatinized maca powder, and avoid the supplement pill forms, as you typically need between 1-2 tablespoons of maca powder for it to have the desired effect.
Maca powder is best blended in green smoothies, as the flavor is distinctive, and not necessarily pleasant at doses larger than 1 tablespoon.
The effects of maca become signficantly reduced the longer it is taken, so you may need to cycle off of it for a couple weeks before resuming a maca regimen.
Maca is not suitable for people with thyroid disorders, or who are taking thyroid hormone replacement therapy. It may exacerbate iodine deficiency.
As with any supplement or herbal remedy, check with your doctor or pharmacist if you have a pre-existing medical condition, or if you take prescription medication.
Melatonin doesn’t have a direct effect on anxiety, but it is an effective and safe sleep aid.
Three to five milligrams of melatonin taken by mouth about a half-hour before bedtime helps me sleep – even on nights where my mind is racing.
Don’t take melatonin during the daytime. It seriously only takes about 15 minutes or so for the effects to kick in, and will cause drowsiness that will impair your ability to drive.
Melatonin compounds the effects of sedative medications, so it is not recommended to use melatonin if you are on these types of medications.
Purchasing Melatonin (and Where To Find It)
I have used melatonin supplements on and off for years. What I’ve found is that not all melatonin supplements work the same. While one brand knocks me out within 15-20 minutes, a different brand doesn’t do anything.
I have consistently had good results using Natrol Fast Dissolve 5mg Melatonin, and it’s the one that I prefer.
Tips On Buying & Using Natural Supplements
There is limited or no regulation in the supplement industry, so you should do some research on different brands for potency, tests for chemical/heavy metal contamination, and origin of ingredients.
Just because it’s a natural supplement doesn’t mean that it is safe in large doses. Exceeding the recommended dose can cause nutrient imbalances, toxicity, or other health issues.
If you are taking prescription medications of any kind, be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking a supplement.
If you have a chronic medical condition (besides an anxiety disorder), be sure to check with your doctor before taking any supplement.
If you are pregnant or nursing, do not take supplements or herbal remedies without checking with your doctor or OB.
Natural supplements and herbals should not be given to children unless instructed to do so by a doctor or licensed health practitioner.
More Natural Remedies For Anxiety
Supplements can be a good support for providing some relief for anxiety. If one supplement doesn’t work, try another one.
However, it’s best to make diet and lifestyle changes in addition to using supplements, medications, and/or therapy.
Learn more about all of the natural remedies for anxiety that can help you fight the dread.
1 – Dording, C., Fisher, L., Papakostas, G., Farabaugh, A., Sonawalla, S., Fava, M., & et al. (2008, Fall). A DoubleBlind, Randomized, Pilot Dose-Finding Study of Maca Root (L. Meyenii) for the Management of SSRI-Induced Sexual Dysfunction. CNS Neuroscience & Therapies, 14(3), 182191. doi:10.1111/j.1755-5949.2008.00052.x.
2 – Zenico, T., Cicero, A., Valmorri, L, Mercuriali, M., & Bercovich, E. (2009, April). Subjective effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) extract on well-being and sexual performances in patients with mild erectile dysfunction: a randomised, double-blind clinical trial. Andrologia, 41(2), 95-99. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0272.2008.00892.x.