There are many supplements that claim to help with anxiety. The process of finding the right one may be a bit of trial and error, but should always be done with a doctor’s help.
“If my patient is considering a supplement, we review the known risks and benefits and then use a database to scan for any known interactions with their current medications,” says Dr. Bauer.
A few common supplements that may help ease anxiety include the following.
An Ayurvedic herb that may work especially well for those with anxiety and insomnia, ashwagandha has been shown to improve sleep and stress resilience. It’s also an herb Dr. Loy recommends.
Recent reviews on the safety and efficacy of ashwagandha for anxiety suggest that while effects are generally positive, study sizes are small. More research on the right amount and length of time ashwagandha must be taken as a replacement for or adjunct to traditional therapies are needed.
L-theanine is a plant-based compound most commonly found in tea leaves. “L-theanine has some positive studies for its effect on sleep initiation, and conflicting studies on anxiety,” says Dr. Shah.
A 2022 review of studies in Pharmacological Research found that compared to groups not receiving L-theanine, the groups taking L-theanine did not see a significant benefit in terms of treatment for anxiety. However, a 2015 study in Journal of the American College of Nutrition does point to L-theanine’s effectiveness in helping to improve sleep quality—so individuals dealing with sleep issues may find this supplement helpful.
Recent clinical studies suggest that magnesium supplementation, when combined with other vitamins like vitamin B6 or zinc, may be a promising treatment for easing anxiety in a range of populations, including stressed adults and people with type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, most Americans are deficient in this mineral and often don’t get enough from their diet.
When it comes to concrete recommendations for magnesium for anxiety across the board, however, more studies need to be done. “Currently, there is limited and inconclusive evidence on magnesium and its role in anxiety,” explains Monique Richard, an integrative dietitian and national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“While there are small studies that hint at the possible benefit of vitamin D in anxiety or depression, the research is still unclear as to whether vitamin D supplementation can relieve symptoms,” says Dr. Loy.
For instance, researchers still need to explore how vitamin D supplementation impacts people of different ages and types of anxiety. Scientists are also evaluating if taking vitamin D with other nutrients, such as vitamin B6 or omega-3 fatty acids, has any efficacy.
A 2022 randomized controlled trial in Human Psychopharmacology randomly assigned 478 young adults who were predominantly female to take lactose tablets, vitamin B6 tablets or vitamin B12 tablets for one month. The group supplementing with a high dose vitamin B6 self-reported a reduced level of anxiety.
However, an earlier review from 2019 found that in general, B vitamins did not have a noticeable effect on anxiety. Taken together, these two pieces of research illustrate the need for more studies around B vitamins and anxiety, especially when it comes to B6.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a plant-based bioactive compound found in the cannabis plant. One of the top reasons people say they use CBD is to help treat self-reported anxiety.
However, scientific evidence regarding CBD’s effects on anxiety is still very limited.
Interestingly, a small 2021 study in Psychopharmacology looked at what might be responsible for the self-reported reputation CBD seems to have when it comes to improving anxiety despite such limited and conflicting scientific support.
Researchers randomly assigned 43 otherwise healthy adults to take CBD-free hemp seed oil in two possible sessions. In the first, they were told it contained CBD (expectancy condition) and the second they were told it did not.
The participants who had the strongest beliefs ahead of the study that CBD can reduce anxiety also reported lowered anxiety when they were expectedly taking a CBD supplement. In this study, scientists effectively confirmed that a “placebo effect” was responsible for the lowered anxiety symptoms, not the CBD.
However, another small study from 2019 found that CBD supplementation did indeed reduce anxiety in 79% of the people involved in the research.
As with many of the other supplements involved in this article, these two conflicting studies show the need for more clinical trials around CBD and anxiety.
Other Supplements for Anxiety
There are many other supplements marketed towards easing anxiety, including:
- Lemon balm
- Kava kava
- Omega 3 fatty acids
That said, “simply seeing it advertised or available on a store shelf does not mean it may be an appropriate option for your individual needs,” says Richard.
To navigate all of the conflicting and confusing messaging around which supplements are safe and effective for anxiety, it’s a good idea to work with a medical provider who has expertise in determining which supplements may be right for you, such as an integrative or functional medicine physician or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN).