Reducing Stress With Supplements
Stress is unfortunately something that many of us struggle with on a daily basis. Whether stress stems from your job, your home life, your kids, or another source, it can wreak havoc on your life, causing a variety of both mental and physical health problems. If you’re someone who struggles with stress, you know how difficult it can be to keep under control at times.
There are several natural ways to manage stress. Exercise is a big one – performing some sort of exercise on a regular basis can do wonders for your stress levels. Other practices, such as yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises can help, as well. Diet also plays a big role in stress levels. So, the bad news is that stress can cause a lot of problems in your life – the good news is that there are several good ways to help manage stress.
Another good way to reduce stress is to take supplements. The best supplements for reducing stress can help you manage stress effectively, and keep the effects of stress on your life to a minimum. In this guide, we’ll go over the top 10 supplements for stress, including valerian root, niacin, magnesium, kava and more.
How Can Supplements Help Reduce Stress?
Managing stress is something best attacked from multiple angles. Yes, exercise helps. Yes, diet helps. And yes, supplements help. So why not combine all three?
In this guide, we’ll go over all the best supplements for stress in detail. Each of these products offer different benefits, with one overarching goal: to help manage stress. Below, find some of the key benefits of supplements for stress:
- Better stress management
- Reduced stress levels
- Reduced anxiety
- Better sleep quality
- Improved mood
- Improved focus
- Improved energy levels
- Increased productivity
- Improved performance at work & school
- Better overall health
One huge problem with stress is that it can cause trouble sleeping. A lack of restful sleep at night can affect nearly every aspect of your life. Certain supplements, such as melatonin and valerian root, can help you get to sleep faster, and improve the quality of your rest periods. Stress affects sleep quality, but the reverse is also true; poor sleep can lead to more stress. So, by taking these supplements, you can get a better night sleep, thereby reducing your stress levels while reducing the potential for future stress. This may be the most significant of the many benefits of supplements for stress.
Stress can have some very serious long-term effects on your health, both mentally and physically. Chronic stress can lead to depression, anxiety, headaches, weight gain, and even heart disease. The long-term effects of a stressful lifestyle are no joking matter. Ultimately, it’s up to you to manage your stress properly, but good supplements for stress can lend a much-needed helping hand.
Why Should You Consider Supplements?
As anyone who struggles with stress or anxiety on a regular basis can tell you, stress management is no easy task. Even when we do our best to eat healthy, exercise, and practice good stress-reducing activities, stress can still catch up to us and cause a lot of suffering in our lives.
Some downsides of stress are obvious; difficulty focusing, moodiness, etc – while others are less apparent. Stress has actually been called “the silent killer” because of its long-term damaging effects. Combine the immediate, unpleasant effects with the long-term dangers of stress, and it becomes obvious why managing your stress level should be a top priority.
As we already mentioned, stress management can involve a lot of different things – diet, exercise, and therapy to name a few. But chances are, if you’re reading this guide, you’ve already tried those methods!
This is where the top supplements for stress come into play. These products provide an alternate means to help you manage your stress levels. The best supplements for stress can help you reduce those feelings of anxiety and hopelessness, sharpen your focus, get a better night’s sleep, and much more. No, there is no magic pill that will fix everything, but the products recommended here can certainly help!
10 Most Effective Supplements for Reducing Stress
In this guide, we’ll cover our top recommendations for the best stress-reducing supplements, ranging from herbal cures like valerian root and lemon balm to vitamins to melatonin and more! Most of these products have few, if any side effects, so it’s safe to try multiples until you find the one that works for you. We always insist that you speak with your doctor before taking any products mentioned on this website.
1. Valerian Root
What is valerian root: Valerian root, also known by its latin name of valeriana officinalis, is a herbal supplement found in capsule form as well as in teas. As the name suggests, this supplement is derived from the root of the valerian plant. It is commonly used for its relaxation-inducing effects. It is also commonly used to help people get to sleep faster, and it makes a great part of a pre-bedtime routine. This natural, simple plant is one of the best stress supplements out there, and is very gentle on the body.
How valerian root helps reduce stress: Valerian root is one of the top supplements for stress for a number of reasons. The primary benefit for most people is that valerian root can calm anxiety and stress by increasing the amount of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your brain. This natural acid helps regulate nerve cells in the body and calms anxiety. Several commonly used psychotropic drugs, such as Xanax and Valium, work in a similar way by increasing GABA in the brain. Valerian delivers a similar anti-anxiety effect, without the high expense and potential side effects of pharmaceuticals like Xanax.
Valerian root can also help you get to sleep faster, and improve sleep quality. Stress and sleep affect each other greatly – without enough sleep, you’re more prone to stress, and with too much stress, you’ll find it difficult to sleep! Particularly when combined with other sedating herbs, such as lemon balm (also on our list of effective supplements for stress), valerian root can do wonders for your sleep quality and duration.
These two valerian root benefits help to improve overall stress management by attacking two key aspects of stress; reducing anxiety/stress itself, and improving sleep quality. Combined, these two factors can help you better manage your stress and lead a happier, healthier life!
How to take valerian root: Valerian root typically comes in capsules, although you can also find it in herbal tea blends. If used to improve sleep quality, it’s best to take a dose of valerian root about an hour before bed. A standard dose is typically 450mg. For daytime use to reduce stress, a smaller dose of 200-300mg, 1-3 times per day, is ideal. Valerian won’t necessarily make you drowsy if you use it during the day, but it does for some people. If you’re just starting to take valerian, it’s best to take it at night for your first few times to see how it affects you.
Valerian root side effects: Since this is a natural herbal ingredient, many people do not experience any sort of negative side effects. However, some common side effects do occur, and include headache, upset stomach, dry mouth, and daytime drowsiness.
What is niacin: Niacin is a B vitamin, otherwise known as vitamin B3. Niacin is found naturally in plants and animals and is commonly used in multivitamins and other health supplements. Niacin plays many key roles in the human body. It helps in the DNA repair process, aids in the synthesis of steroidal hormones, and plays a part in energy metabolism. It also facilitates vasodilation, which is the process of relaxing muscle tissue in the arteries to increase blood flow and lower blood pressure. It has also been shown to help regulate cholesterol levels in the body.
How niacin helps reduce stress: Niacin made our list of the best supplements for reducing stress for a number of reasons. For one, niacin serves as a sort of natural antidote to adrenaline. Adrenaline is often over-produced during periods of anxiety or stress, which can worsen the problem. Niacin can help to even out that adrenaline, helping you calm down and face the day with more poise.
Niacin’s ability to reduce blood pressure, regulate hormones, increase blood flow, counterbalance excess adrenaline, and promote relaxation all add up to some major anxiety-reducing benefits. Anxiety and stress go hand in hand, and taking a niacin supplement can help you keep your stress levels under control.
How to take niacin: Typically, niacin supplements come in pill or capsule form. They can be taken at any time of the day, and it’s best to not take it on an empty stomach. Also, drugs.com recommends that you take niacin with a glass of cold water, as warmer liquids can lead to an increased chance of side effects. It’s also best to avoid drinking alcohol and hot beverages after taking niacin. As with anything, it’s important to follow proper dosing instructions and to not take too much niacin. See detailed niacin dosage information here.
Niacin side effects: Niacin can cause some minor side effects. The most common is “flushing”, which is a warm/itchy/tingling feeling under the skin – similar to the feeling of blushing. This effect typically happens shortly after taking the supplement, and should go away quickly. It’s also an effect that you’ll get used to over time, and it should go away completely if you continue taking niacin long-term. Other mild side effects, like dizziness, sweating, nausea, and muscle pain may occur. As always, more serious side effects are possible – speak with your doctor if you have concerns.
What is L-theanine: L-theanine is an amino acid found naturally in green tea. It has profound relaxation effects, and is very useful for countering stress. L-theanine is not common in the diet – it’s almost exclusively found in teas from the camellia sinensis family – other than that, you won’t find much theanine in your daily diet. It’s considered a nonessential amino acid, and although it offers tremendous benefits, not many people consume it on a regular basis.
How L-theanine helps reduce stress: Primarily, L-theanine helps to relax the body and mind, without having sedative effects. So, it’s a great way to help manage stress, and you can use it during the day because it won’t cause drowsiness. Theanine supplements may also help to reduce the perception of stress and help you stay in a more positive mindset. Theanine has also been shown to work synergistically with other supplements, including caffeine. Research has shown a combination of 200mg of theanine with 200mg of caffeine promotes significant improvements in cognition and attention.
Many people consider L-theanine a way to “take the edge off”, so to speak. Particularly when used in combination with stimulants, like caffeine, the relaxing-but-not-sedative effects of L-theanine really come into play. Also, while most people drink caffeine on a daily basis, few people know that coffee and caffeinated beverages can actually worsen anxiety and stress symptoms. But when combined with L-theanine, you shouldn’t experience any negative effect from the caffeine, and you can still enjoy that helpful pick-me-up from a cup of coffee, combined with the calming effects of the amino acid supplement.
How to take L-theanine: L-theanine supplements come in pill or capsule form. The dosage is typically 100-200mg, which can be taken 1-3 times a day. Theanine doesn’t necessarily take effect right away, but instead is more of a subtle build-up effect. So, don’t expect to feel super stressed, pop a L-theanine capsule, and immediately feel better. Instead, focus on taking regular doses of this helpful amino acid and you’ll surely notice a positive difference.
As previously noted, many people like to take this supplement alongside caffeine. This is not required, but the two work very synergistically together.
L-theanine side effects: L-theanine has very few known side effects when taken for short periods of time. With that being said, the research on long term side effects of the supplement has yet to be conducted. Rare cases in clinical trials reported side effects like headache, dizziness, and GI symptoms, but again, most people won’t notice any side effects whatsoever.
What is magnesium: Magnesium is a mineral found naturally in some foods, like nuts and leafy green vegetables. Magnesium is an essential dietary mineral, and it plays a role in more than 300 biochemical processes in the body. Most importantly, magnesium plays a key role in supporting energy production, regulating blood glucose levels, supporting the immune system, and regulating stress.
Although it is found in several dietary sources, as well as included in most multivitamins, magnesium deficiency is extremely common. An estimated 57% of Americans do not get adequate magnesium in their diets, and that number is even higher in many other countries. A deficiency in magnesium can cause all sorts of health problems, and can worsen stress and anxiety. The good news is that it’s easy to fix magnesium deficiency by changing your diet or adding a supplement.
How magnesium helps reduce stress: A magnesium deficiency can magnify feelings of stress and anxiety, and worse, stress can actually lead to depleted magnesium stores. So, if you experience stress often, you’re more likely to be deficient in this key mineral; and that deficiency can actually worsen your stress. So, it’s a bit of a vicious cycle, but it’s easy to get on top of by adding a magnesium supplement to your diet.
Magnesium also supports our adrenals, which stress causes to be overworked. And in turn, that strain on the adrenal system puts strain on the energy production system. As you likely know, exercise can be a big help in managing stress, but if you’re tired all the time, you may find it difficult to have enough energy to exercise. Magnesium can help. It can also improve sleep quality, which in turn leads to a more rested state and a better ability to deal with stress.
How to take magnesium: Magnesium comes in pill or capsule form, and it’s also included in many other supplements such as multivitamins, ZMA, etc. However, multivitamins generally don’t contain more than 10-25% of your RDA for magnesium, so they won’t be sufficient enough to cover your daily needs (the RDAs recommend 310-400mg of magnesium per day).
In general, it’s best to take magnesium on it’s own, as it can compete for absorption with other nutrients. Timing is not too important, but splitting up your dose into 2 may be beneficial. As always, don’t take more than the recommended amount!
Magnesium supplements will provide a ton of benefits to people who are deficient in it, but won’t be of much help to people who already get enough of it. But with deficiencies being so commonplace, and magnesium side effects being mild, it’s often worth it to test out these supplements to see if they help you.
Magnesium side effects: For the most part, so long as it’s taken as directed and your dosage doesn’t exceed the RDA, magnesium shouldn’t cause any significant side effects. Some people have reported upset stomach (don’t take magnesium on an empty stomach if you notice stomach upset after taking it), nausea, and diarrhea. As always, more severe side effects can occur in some individuals, and are more likely if you take more than recommended.
What is melatonin: Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that is released in your brain each and every night. It’s commonly referred to as “the sleep hormone”, because it plays a key role in initiating and maintaining deep sleep. Essentially, melatonin makes your body – and mind – feel sleepy and ready for bed. While melatonin is naturally produced in the pineal gland of the brain, it’s possible to “kick start” melatonin production by taking a supplemental form of the hormone.
Melatonin is naturally produced in the body. It takes effect in the evening, causing the body and mind to relax and drift off to sleep. Natural production of melatonin follows closely with your circadian rhythm, with melatonin levels peaking at night. The main thing that triggers your body to start releasing melatonin is a decrease in light. So, naturally, as it gets darker outside, melatonin begins releasing into your system. The problem is that exposure to artificial light may reduce natural melatonin production. That means that watching TV before bed, checking your email before brushing your teeth, or checking Facebook on your phone in bed, can dampen your body’s natural ability to produce and release melatonin. This, in turn, can make it harder to get to sleep and reduce sleep quality.
How melatonin helps reduce stress: Melatonin supplements essentially kick-starts your body’s natural production of the sleep hormone, helping you get a good night’s sleep every night, which can in turn help you deal with stress more effectively. Stress and sleep are very closely linked – if you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to be stressed out. At the same time, if you’re stressed out, you’re more likely to have trouble sleeping.
Melatonin is one of our recommended good supplements for stress because it can help you improve the quality and duration of your sleep every night. Getting adequate rest every evening is vital to managing stress well – and it’s also very important for maintaining good overall health (both mental and physical). If you ever find that you have trouble sleeping, melatonin is an easy, natural, non-habit-forming way to improve your sleep quality.
How to take melatonin: Melatonin supplements typically come in tablet form. A common dosage is 3 mg per serving, although some supplements may be dosed as high as 5 or 10+ mg. We recommend starting with a small serving of 3mg or less, about an hour before bed. If 3mg doesn’t affect you, you can up your dose to 6mg the next night. Take your supplement around 45-60 minutes before bed, and ideally, also avoid artificial light during this period to maximize melatonin production.
Melatonin does cause drowsiness, so it’s really only meant as a pre-bedtime supplement. You should not take melatonin during the day to try to reduce stress, because it will cause you to become drowsy and may upset your natural circadian rhythm.
Melatonin side effects: Some potential side effects of melatonin are headache, dizziness, irritability, and short-term feelings of depression. Most people don’t experience side effects, but some do. The good news is that melatonin is not habit forming, unlike the majority of sleep aids out there. Since it’s a natural hormone produced in the body, you won’t get addicted to taking melatonin supplements or anything like that, although you may develop a tolerance to the hormone.
What is phosphatidylserine: Phosphatidylserine is an amino acid derivative compound that is found naturally in the human brain. It plays a key role in cognitive function, memory, and many other aspects of mental health. Found primarily in the diet in certain types of fish, phosphatidylserine is also available in supplement form nowadays.
This compound is naturally synthesized in the brain, and also absorbed through a healthy diet. However, in supplement form, phosphatidylserine has been found to help reduce ongoing problems with stress.
How phosphatidylserine helps reduce stress: As mentioned, phosphatidylserine plays a key role in many neural functions. A recent study also found that chronically stressed individuals could benefit from taking this supplement on a daily basis. It focused on people suffering from chronic stress, as those people are more prone to changes in brain chemistry that are a direct result of long-term stress. Phosphatidylserine supplements, the study concluded, helped to normalize that brain chemistry, leading to better stress management overall.
There has been insufficient research on this supplement’s ability to benefit people suffering from occasional stress, so for now, we’d recommend it mostly for chronic stress sufferers. The compound has also been shown effective in slowing cognitive decline in old age, so it may be worth taking regardless, particularly if you’re older.
How to take phosphatidylserine: The typical dose of phosphatidylserine is 300mg, split into 3 equal doses of 100mg. The supplement comes in pill or capsule form, so it’s easy to take. Do note that the study discussed above actually used 400mg per day. It’s considered safe to take up to 400mg a day, so you may want to up your dose if you don’t experience any benefit from a 300mg/day dose.
Phosphatidylserine side effects: Phosphatidylserine doesn’t generally cause side effects when taken as directed for up to 6 months. However, some people have experienced insomnia and upset stomach as a result of taking this product. When starting a new supplement, it’s generally best to start with a low dose to see how it affects you.
7. Lemon Balm
What is lemon balm: Lemon balm, known formally as melissa officinalis, is a herbal plant that is often used in herbal teas and supplements. It’s known for its calming, relaxing effects, and is a favorite amongst those seeking an all-natural way to help inspire relaxation. It has mild sedative effects for some people, but they are mellow enough that this herb can be taken during the day. Lemon balm has been used for centuries in traditional medicine from several ancient cultures. It’s positive effects have been proven in many clinical trials, and it’s gentle, all-natural makeup makes it a great product to try.
How lemon balm helps reduce stress: Lemon balm works by calming both the body and mind, inducing relaxation and a sense of calmness. It can be very useful as a daytime supplement, as most people experience just very minor drowsiness from it, if any. But at the same time, it’s useful to take at night, as it can help you get to sleep. In other words, it doesn’t knock you out like melatonin or another sleeping aid, but it puts you in the relaxed, calm state that makes sleep come easier.
Lemon balm has been shown in several studies to calm the mind, increasing relaxation and reducing stress. It also may be useful for enhancing cognitive function, although the clinical results relating to this benefit are less conclusive. Lemon balm also works synergistically with similar relaxation herbs, such as valerian root.
How to take lemon balm: Typically, lemon balm comes in capsule form, although it’s also available in herbal tea blends. For reducing stress, lemon balm capsules are better, as you can fine-tune your dose and take them without having to brew a cup of tea. The typical dose is around 300mg per serving, but this can be taken multiple times a day, if required. In some trials, larger doses of up to 1200mg have been proven very effective, but it’s unclear if this dosage is actually necessary.
As for timing, lemon balm is best taken in split doses throughout the day. Because it does have some mild sedative effects, it’s a good idea to take your first dose at night to see how it affects you. In tea form, lemon balm takes effect fairly fast. A lot of people like to have a nice cup of herbal tea containing lemon balm before heading to bed.
Lemon balm side effects: Lemon balm, being a natural herbal remedy, is considered safe to take and doesn’t cause many side effects. Some people have reported some negative effects like headache, nausea, dizziness and abdominal pain, but these effects are rare. In most clinical trials, testing has not gone on for more than 3 or 4 months, so the more long-term effects of this supplement are somewhat unknown.
8. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
What is gamma-aminobutyric acid: Gamma-aminobutyric acid, otherwise known as simply “GABA”, is a neurotransmitter that inhibits the transmission of nerve impulses in the central nervous system. It works with glutamate, and the two balance each other out in a rather Ying:Yang relationship. Glutamate is considered the “upper” neurotransmitter, while GABA is the “downer”.
GABA is a highly important element in the brain. Essentially, it plays a key role in regulating the depressive neuroactivity in the human brain. In other words, it’s responsible for helping your mind switch from “work mode” to “relaxation mode”. It also plays a role in sedative changes in the brain, which are key to falling asleep at night.
How GABA helps reduce stress: GABA, in supplement form, is used for its relaxation-inducing effects, and to help relieve stress. It has also been shown to help improve mood, which can also lead to less stress in the future. Essentially, it works by blocking brain signals that incite anxiety and stressful feelings, allowing the brain to remain calm and inducing relaxation.
GABA is synthesized naturally in the brain, but some people have low natural GABA levels which can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress. If you are someone who finds it difficult to “shut off” your mind at times, it’s likely that you’re low on GABA. Adding a supplement can help, and can be particularly useful at night when trying to go to sleep. This is just one of the reasons we included GABA on our list of the best supplements for stress.
How to take GABA: Gamma-aminobutyric acid comes in capsule form, so it’s an easy supplement to take. Dosage varies greatly, and no clinical trials have produced a definite idea of the ideal dosage. In supplement form, the dose per capsule typically ranges from 250mg-1000mg. As with anything else, it’s best to start small, see how the supplement affects you, and work your way up, if necessary. On it’s own, GABA typically does not show sedative effects, so it should be fine to take during the day or at night.
GABA side effects: Some common side effects include increased heart rate, shortness of breath, tingling, or drowsiness. Most people do not experience these effects, but some do. Again, this supplement has not been analyzed in many long-term trials, so it’s unclear if additional long-term side effects may be possible.
What is kava: Kava, otherwise known as kava kava or piper methysitcum, is the root of a pepper found naturally in the Pacific Islands. For generations, it has been used as a ceremonial drink by Pacific Islanders. It has significant anxiety-reducing effects.
In several studies, supplemental kava has been shown to offer potent relaxing qualities. This is why we added it to this guide to the best stress supplements. This ancient remedy is relevant as ever in the modern age, and when used properly, can do wonders for your stress and anxiety levels.
How kava helps reduce anxiety: In clinical trials, kava has been shown to elevate mood, induce relaxation, and improve stress management. Kava root contains natural compounds known as kavalactones, which have psychoactive effects on the brain, helping to provide a natural, narcotic-free way to reduce anxiety. Kava may also be useful in treating insomnia, menopausal mood swings, and several other health concerns.
While it’s been used for centuries in native cultures around the world, kava as a supplement is relatively new to the scene. Today it’s considered one of the most effective supplements for stress, but it only hit the shelves in the early ‘90s. Research on long-term effects still needs to be conducted, but for short-term stress relief, kava is a great option.
How to take kava: Kava comes in pill/capsule form, and also in liquid extracts. For the most part, it’s best to stick to the capsules, as the liquid forms are often extracted using harsh chemicals. Dosage is difficult to nail down, as dosages of supplements vary greatly. Typically, you’ll find supplements offer around 250mg per serving, but keep in mind that this amount lists the amount of actual kava root, not the amount of kavalactones (the active ingredient).
It’s best to take kava split up into 2+ doses throughout the day. Most people find it’s best to take it with a meal, to increase absorption and reduce the risk of stomach upset. If you’re taking kava to help with sleep problems, take a dose about an hour before bed. For the most part, kava is not meant to be taken long-term, unless instructed by a doctor. Kava is also sometimes used in herbal tea blends: these might be a better way to start out with kava for some people.
Kava side effects: Although typical side effects are rare, kava has been shown to cause liver damage in some people. Clearly, this is a serious side effect and you’ll want to look into it or speak with your doctor before taking this supplement. Do note that most cases of liver damage caused by keva supplementation have involved patients taking the supplement for extended periods of time. For periods up to a few weeks to a month, the supplement is typically safe – longer than that, and you’ll want to talk to your doctor and monitor for signs of liver damage.
10. Vitamin B Complex
What is vitamin B complex: Vitamin B complex supplements are multivitamins containing several B vitamins. Some contain all eight (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12), while others just contain some of the more key vitamins like B6 and B12.
B vitamins have a whole lot of benefits. Together, they work to help keep our bodies running smoothly. They can improve migraines, maintain healthy hair and skin, help convert food into fuel, and much more. But of course, the most notable B vitamin complex benefit for people reading this guide is it’s ability to reduce stress.
How B vitamin complex helps to reduce stress: In several clinical trials, B vitamin complex supplements have shown great potential in reducing stress levels. Taking a b-vitamin daily helped patients to improve mood by improving the body’s natural production of serotonin and other neurotransmitters. It also helped to reduce levels of homocysteine, a toxic amino acid that can lead to many health issues down the road. B vitamins also play a key role in energy production, and as you likely know, stress is much easier to counter when you’re feeling energized.
How to take B vitamin complex: Since B vitamin complex ingredients vary depending on the product you choose, dosage amounts of individual B vitamins also vary. Because of this, it’s best to simply follow the instructions found on the supplement’s label. Take B vitamins as instructed, with food if possible. Timing is not important.
B vitamin complex side effects: B vitamins are generally fairly mild and don’t cause side effects for most people. With that said, some users have reported headaches, upset stomach, or an unpleasant taste after taking B vitamins. As long as you take this product as instructed and don’t go over the recommended dose, you should be fine.
Thank you for reading our best supplements for stress guide! We hope that you now know more about these products and that you have a better plan for managing your stress. These supplements can provide a wide range of benefits, it’s just a matter of choosing the best option(s) for you.
Simply put, by better managing your stress, you can become a healthier, happier, more productive person. No supplement provides a magic cure to stressful thoughts and feelings, but they can certainly help get you on the right track. Since most of these products don’t have harmful side effects, and are fairly affordable, it may be worth it to try multiple options until you find one that works for you! You can bookmark this page and check back later to stay up to date.