“Stress less, live more. Relax your mind with moments of peace.” Feeling stressed often? It can harm your health. Stress hormones, especially cortical, can cause inflammation, weaken your immune system, and increase the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, ongoing stress can harm every aspect of your health, leading to problems like headaches, type 2 diabetes, and anxiety. There are proven ways to reduce stress, like having a healthy diet, regular exercise, enough sleep, and mental health support. Dietary supplements can also be helpful, though they’re not a magic solution. Some people claim that certain supplements can reduce anxiety, improve sleep, and ease depression. It’s important to note that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) don’t regulate supplements like medications. Before taking any supplement, talk to your doctor. Research on herbal supplements for stress is not healthy. Some studies show promise, but they often have small sample sizes. Other studies exclude groups at higher risk of stress symptoms, like women and young adults.

1. May Help: Ashwagandha

This plant, also known as winter cherry and Indian ginseng, has been important in Ayurvedic medicine for many years. According to MedlinePlus Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen, believed to help the body resist diseases and manage stress effects.

Some studies suggest that ashwagandha might help reduce stress and anxiety, as well as improve sleep. One study involved 30 stressed but healthy adults who took 240 mg of ashwagandha extract daily for two months. Another study with 60 stressed but healthy adults tested different ashwagandha doses over eight weeks. The participants who took ashwagandha reported better sleep and less stress compared to those who took a placebo. However, since these studies were small, researchers couldn’t make definitive conclusions about ashwagandha’s effects.

2. May Help: L-Theanine

L-theanine is a kind of amino acid that is in green tea. People think it can help you relax and has other health benefits.
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Research has looked into the anti-stress effects of L-theanine, and studies suggest it might be helpful for reducing stress, improving focus, memory, and verbal ability. In a small study with 30 healthy adults published in October 2019, those who took 200 mg of L-theanine every night for four weeks showed improvement in stress-related areas like sleep problems, depression, and anxiety compared to the placebo group. Another review of nine studies in November 2019 found that taking 200 to 400 mg of L-theanine daily may help lower stress and anxiety, especially in stressful conditions.

3. May Help: Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that helps the body with many processes, like making nerves and muscles work, producing protein, and forming bones.
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Current research suggests that magnesium might be beneficial for individuals experiencing mild anxiety. A review of 18 studies from May 2017 in Nutrients revealed that magnesium supplements could potentially enhance stress and anxiety levels. However, it emphasized that the evidence quality was low, and more research is necessary to confirm magnesium as an effective stress reducer.

Magnesium is present in green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and some fortified breakfast cereals and other foods. However, many people don’t get enough magnesium, as per the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH recommends 310 to 320 mg of magnesium per day for most women and 400 to 420 mg for men, with a supplement limit of 350 mg per day for adults of any gender. If you choose a supplement, the NIH suggests magnesium aspartate, citrate, lactate, or chloride, as they are absorbed better than magnesium oxide or sulfate. Additionally, be aware that some laxatives and antacids contain magnesium, so include that amount when calculating your daily magnesium intake from supplements. 

4. May Help: Melatonin

Melatonin, a hormone made in the pineal gland, is released when it gets dark, helping to keep your internal clock on track and priming your body for sleep, according to the Sleep Foundation.

Melatonin is known for helping people sleep, and it might also decrease anxiety in those preparing for surgery. A review of more than 12 trials with 774 people going through surgery discovered that melatonin could be as effective as a sedative called midazolam in reducing anxiety before surgery. However, researchers mention that most studies didn’t include females, and three studies only involved people over 60. This is an issue because being younger and female is known to independently increase the risk of anxiety. So, it’s not clear how melatonin affects anxiety in other surgery patients. 

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5. May Help: Rhodiola

The plant Rhodiola rosea, also called golden root and arctic root, grows in cold mountains in Europe, Asia, and the Arctic. A study from December 2017 in Current Pharmacology Reports says it has been used as a stress remedy.

A review from January 2018 in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice suggested that rhodiola extract might be helpful in treating stress symptoms and preventing chronic stress and its complications.

In a very small study, eight people with anxiety who took rhodiola reported significant reductions in anxiety, stress, anger, confusion, and depression, along with a notable improvement in mood after 14 days. However, the researchers advise that more research is necessary to confirm if rhodiola caused these effects, as the study involved a very small number of participants. Larger studies are needed to validate the impact of rhodiola on stress and anxiety.

6. May Help: Lemon Balm

Lemon balm, or Melissa officinal’s, is a lemon-scented herb that was commonly found in Europe in the Middle Ages but is now cultivated around the world. Traditionally, it was used as a mild sedative and calming agent, and it is now being researched for its possible anti-anxiety effects. Lemon balm is “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA.
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A study from June 2019 in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine suggests that lemon balm might help reduce anxiety and improve sleep. In this study, 80 people who had coronary artery bypass surgery were followed. Half of them were given 500 mg of lemon balm three times a day, while the other half received a placebo. The group that took lemon balm showed a 49 percent reduction in anxiety and a 54 percent improvement in sleep quality.
Two earlier studies also found that lemon balm could enhance mood in small groups of stressed young adults who were otherwise healthy. In one study, lemon balm was given as an extract in a yogurt snack, while in the other; it was consumed as a beverage.

However, it’s important to note that research on lemon balm and anxiety is still in the early stages, and more studies with larger groups from different healthy populations are required to determine if lemon balm can genuinely improve sleep and anxiety in people. 

7. May Help: Valerian

Also commonly referred to as garden heliotrope or all-heal, valerian, or Valeriana officinal’s, is an herb that grows in Europe, Asia, and North America. It is known for its calming effects and is commonly used as a dietary supplement for insomnia, anxiety, and other conditions, including depression, according to the NCCIH.

The NCCIH says there isn’t enough good research involving people to know if valerian is effective for sleep, anxiety, depression, or menopausal symptoms. However, some early research has been done on this.

A review of 100 studies from May 2018 in Physiotherapy Research found evidence that valerian root extract might calm people with anxiety disorder. The review also suggested that valerian could be useful as a sleep aid, with benefits similar to a common medication for anxiety and insomnia.

In a past study with 64 women undergoing an x-ray procedure (hysterosalpingography), those who took valerian capsules had less anxiety compared to women who took a placebo.

Yet, the current research is limited by small sample sizes, and no studies have tested valerian on healthy populations or for long-term use. More research is needed.

Finally, a Supplement to Avoid: Kava

Kava is a plant that’s native to the South Pacific and is a member of the pepper family. Kava is a supplement made from the roots of the kava plant. People use it to help relax and reduce stress. It’s been used in the South Pacific for a long time during social gatherings and ceremonies.

But, it’s important to be careful with kava because it can cause liver problems in some rare cases. Before trying kava, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor, especially if you have any liver issues or if you’re taking other medications.

Kava is a natural supplement that some people use to feel more relaxed, but it’s crucial to know about possible side effects.

Remember, while supplements can play a positive role in supporting your health, they should be part of an overall healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep. Always prioritize your safety and well-being by seeking professional advice when in doubt.