Best Supplements for Anxiety
Last Updated Dec 2, 2021
While supplements may ease some anxiety symptoms, they aren’t a replacement for traditional care with medications and therapy.
Passionflower and kava supplements seem to offer significant potential to reduce a person’s anxiety. Magnesium-containing supplements and CBD oil also likely help with anxiety.
In all these cases, however, more studies should be conducted to better understand the level of help supplements can provide and how much the placebo effect may play into anxiety reduction.
Top Supplements for Anxiety
These supplements may help to lessen some symptoms of anxiety:
Several trials have suggested that people taking passionflower supplements may see a significant reduction in anxiety with few significant adverse effects.
Some users may experience dry mouth, headache, constipation, or drowsiness, but not to a significant degree if passionflower is taken in small amounts.
Several trials on the efficacy of kava for treating anxiety saw positive results, although a number also saw negligible results when kava was compared to a placebo.
Adverse effects are rare with kava use. Despite some claims that it can cause sexual dysfunction and liver damage, the trials did not show these effects, including when taken in relatively large doses.
Some evidence has suggested magnesium may help users with anxiety, but at least one systemic review has noted that more research on magnesium-containing supplements is needed when compared to the overall larger pool of available information on passionflower and kava.
Of the three trials looked at in that 2010 review, no participants reported adverse reactions to taking magnesium, although they weren’t asked in at least one of the three trials.
Anecdotally, CBD oil is often said to help treat anxiety. Notably, it hasn’t yet been approved by the FDA as an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety medication).
At present, initial evidence seems to support the idea that CBD oil may assist with at least some cases of anxiety and depression. However, it is worth discussing with a doctor before you start taking CBD for that purpose.
The Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) has correctly pointed out some problems with the present understanding of CBD and also noted that quality control on CBD products is often lax.
The Placebo Effect
An important point to note is that some research into the above products showed users seeing a similar reduction in their anxiety through the use of placebo supplements, containing no active ingredient associated with reducing anxiety.
In the case of all the supplements listed, more research should be conducted to test how much the specific substance may or may not impact anxiety and depression. This is applicable even if they’re generally considered safe to use and may be worth trying for people dealing with anxiety.
It’s also worth noting that if a product helps a person’s anxiety, even through the placebo effect, their anxiety level is still reduced. If a product helps a person, is reasonably priced, and has no significant adverse effects on their health, it is reasonable for a person to continue using it. However, this still means the substance should not have health benefits inaccurately attributed to it by the medical community.
Can Vitamins & Minerals Help Anxiety?
A person with a healthy level of nutritional intake will not generally see a significant reduction in their anxiety levels by taking in extra vitamins or minerals through supplements or dietary changes. However, a deficiency in some vitamins and minerals may cause a person to feel increased levels of anxiety.
Some potential deficiencies that might cause a person to feel anxious include insufficient levels of the following:
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B6
Because a diet should contain these vitamins and minerals anyway, it is worth considering trying a diet change if you think you may be deficient in these nutrients. Whole grains and legumes can be a good source of vitamins B1 and B6. Leafy greens, nuts, and meat contain iron and zinc.
You can seek help from a dietician if you are revamping your diet. Note that the title of nutritionist is not protected by any legal standard, meaning anyone can claim to be one without earning science-backed qualifications. However, dietician is a job title protected under U.S. law, so it is generally better to talk to a dietician about making any dietary changes.
You can also likely speak with your primary care physician for some broader advice, even if they don’t specialize in helping people with their dietary needs.
When to Talk to Your Doctor About Anxiety
If a person deals with significant levels of anxiety, taking supplements and making dietary changes will usually not be enough. Anxiety often has deeper causes that require the help of a licensed therapist or similar medical professional to help.
If you deal with anxiety you can’t seem to get control over, talk to your doctor, especially if you feel your anxiety level often damages your quality of life. A doctor can help you access the resources you need to develop a more comprehensive treatment plan. They will likely want you to talk to a therapist and possibly a psychiatrist and can offer referrals.
If a psychiatrist thinks it is an appropriate treatment for you, they may be able to prescribe prescription-grade medications that can help you better control your mood and live a fuller, healthier life. A therapist can help you talk through your anxieties and offer you some psychological tools to deal with them in your day-to-day life.
While supplements and dietary changes may augment your overall treatment plan, they won’t replace traditional care.
Can CBD Help With My Anxiety and Depression? (June 2019). Anxiety & Depression Association of America.
Find Out Which Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies Can Cause Anxiety. The Neuroscience Center.
How to Use CBD to Help Alleviate Anxiety. (June 2022). Forbes.
Nutritional and Herbal Supplements for Anxiety and Anxiety-Related Disorders: Systematic Review. (October 2010). Nutrition Journal.
Placebo Effect in the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety. (June 2019). Frontiers in Psychiatry.
Improvement of Stress Resistance and Quality of Life of Adults with Nervous Restlessness after Treatment with a Passion Flower Dry Extract. (April 2017). Complementary Medicine Research.
Dietary Supplementation to Manage Anxiety and stress: Hope, Hype or Research-Based Evidence? (February 2017). JBI Database of Systemic Reviews and Implementation Reports.