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.
How Can Supplements Help Stress?
Managing stress is something best attacked from multiple angles. Yes, exercise helps. Yes, diet helps. And sometimes supplements may help as well.
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 potentially help you manage stress.
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, may help you get to sleep, and get some rest. Stress affects sleep quality, but the reverse is also true; poor sleep can lead to more 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.
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. Some ingredients in certain supplements may also provide a helping hand.
Top 10 Supplements To Consider for Stress
We always insist that you speak with your doctor before taking any products mentioned on this website. Stress is a serious issue and only a certified medical professional is qualified to help you manage it.
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, and it makes a great part of a pre-bedtime routine.
How valerian root may help 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 may help calm anxiety and stress by increasing the amount of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your brain.
Valerian root may 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!
These two valerian root benefits help to improve overall stress management by attacking two key aspects of stress: anxiety/stress itself, and sleep.
How to take valerian root: Valerian root typically comes in capsules, although you can also find it in herbal tea blends. If used for sleep, it’s best to take a dose of valerian root about an hour before bed. 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. Drug interactions are also always possible. Speak with your doctor before taking valerian supplements.
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.
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 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. 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 before taking niacin supplements.
What is L-theanine: L-theanine is an amino acid found naturally in green tea. It may have some relaxation effects, and can be useful for helping 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 benefits, not many people consume it on a regular basis.
How L-theanine may help 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 typically shouldn’t cause drowsiness. Theanine supplements may also help to fight the perception of stress (like a placebo) and help you stay in a more positive mindset.
How to take L-theanine: L-theanine supplements come in pill or capsule form. The dosage of these pills is typically 100-200mg. 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.
The best way to consume L-theanine is by drinking teas that are packed with it.
L-theanine side effects: L-theanine has 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. Some cases in clinical trials reported side effects like headache, dizziness, and GI symptoms. Speak with your doctor before taking l-theanine supplements.
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.
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 may worsen stress and anxiety.
How magnesium may help stress: A magnesium deficiency may magnify feelings of stress and anxiety. A magnesium supplement is designed to potentially help you in avoiding such deficiencies. 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.
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). Magnesium supplements may provide benefits to people who are deficient in it, but won’t be of much help to people who already get enough of it.
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. Speak with your doctor before taking magnesium supplements.
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.
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 may help stress: Melatonin supplements may 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. 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).
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. 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 absolutely not take melatonin during the day, 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 headaches, dizziness, irritability, and short-term feelings of depression. Speak with your doctor before taking melatonin supplements.
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.
How phosphatidylserine may help stress: As mentioned, phosphatidylserine plays a key role in many neural functions. A recent study also found that chronically stressed individuals may benefit from phosphatidylserine. There has been insufficient research on this supplement’s ability to benefit people suffering from occasional stress.
How to take phosphatidylserine: The supplement comes in pill or capsule form, so it’s easy to take.
Phosphatidylserine side effects: Some people have experienced insomnia and upset stomach as a result of taking this product. When starting a new supplement, we recommend speaking with your doctor first before taking phosphatidylserine supplements.
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.
How lemon balm may help stress: Lemon balm works by helping in calming both the body and mind, inducing relaxation and a sense of calmness. It’s useful to take at night, as it may help you get to sleep with its calming effects. It doesn’t aim to 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 have positive effects on stress and anxiety.
How to take lemon balm: Typically, lemon balm comes in capsule form, although it’s also available in herbal tea blends. 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 typically 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. 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. Speak with your doctor before taking lemon balm supplements.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
Caution: GABA may adversely react with any neurally active prescription medication or anti-depressants. Speak with your doctor before taking GABA supplements.
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.
How GABA may help stress: GABA, in supplement form, is used for its relaxation-inducing effects. It may help improve mood but there is insufficient evidence for that.
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.
GABA side effects: Some common side effects include increased heart rate, shortness of breath, tingling, or drowsiness. 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. As we said above, it may interact with other drugs so speak with your doctor before taking GABA supplements.
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. This ancient remedy is relevant as ever in the modern age, and when used properly, can possibly help with stress.
How kava helps reduce anxiety: In clinical trials, kava has been shown to help reduce anxiety. 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.
How to take kava: Kava comes in pill/capsule form, and also in liquid extracts. Dosage is difficult to nail down, as dosages of supplements vary greatly. 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: 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 and speak with your doctor before taking KAVA supplements.
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.
How B vitamin complex helps to reduce stress: In several clinical trials, B vitamin complex supplements have shown great potential in reducing occupational stress levels.
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. Speak with your doctor before taking Vitamin B complex supplements.