This is an extremely common question we get asked on our best brain supplements page, and a welcome one at that; it is encouraging to see more people turning to natural anti-anxiety supplements rather than going straight to pharmaceuticals.
Natural nootropics can definitely make a huge difference to your anxiety levels. Anxiety and depression can be caused by your environment or specific situations, but severe anxiety and anxiety disorders are often caused by imbalances with your hormones and neurotransmitters (or rather anxiety and depression can be exacerbated by these imbalances in brain chemistry).
That’s why nootropics can be so effective for countering anxiety.
While the best nootropics are best known for enhancing cognitive function in terms of memory and focus, they can also drastically improve mood by suppressing anxiety symptoms as well as the causes of anxiety themselves.
Brain optimization includes optimizing mental health, so the best nootropics – the nootropics that optimize brain function completely – need to be anxiety nootropics too.
In this article, we’ll go through the best nootropics for anxiety in the world right now. We’ll explain how supplements can help with anxiety and depression, as well as what kind of effects anxiety nootropics can have on your mental health. We’ll then give you our recommended nootropic for reducing anxiety.
But first, we need to explore anxiety a little further. Let’s take a look at the causes and risk factors of anxiety, what neurochemistry drives anxiety, and how anxiety nootropics work.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is the term we give to the feeling of acute stress and worry that is not proportionate to your current situation. Feeling extremely panicked when you’re being chased by a grizzly bear is not what a psychologist would call anxiety.
It is certainly not anxiety disorder. But feeling as panicked as you would when being chased by a grizzly bear while talking in front of a small group is anxiety; social anxiety to be exact. Feeling that anxious while sat at home is definitely anxiety; in that case, we’re probably talking generalized anxiety disorder.
In other words, anxiety is when you feel extremely worried, anxious or stressed despite there being no good reason to feel that way. Anxiety is a mental disorder; it is something that you experience, yes, but it is also a diagnosed mental health condition with a diverse set of symptoms, manifestations, and causes.
As we’ve already alluded to, there are actually different types of anxiety.
The five major types of anxiety disorders are:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder (or Social Phobia)
Each type of anxiety has its own specific symptoms and triggers. However, they are all bound by the fact that they produce feelings of intense worry, dread, and anxiousness. Most come with similar physical symptoms too, although panic attacks obviously take the physical effects to the extreme.
Interestingly, each sub-type of anxiety disorder appears to have its own underlying neurochemistry. For instance, while all anxiety disorders respond well to benzodiazepines, some respond to serotonin reuptake inhibitors while others do not, and generalized anxiety disorder seems to respond to agonists of particular serotonin receptor types.
The neurochemistry underlying anxiety is complex; it is still being investigated by researchers as we speak.
What we can say with some confidence though is that most anxiety disorders seem to involve GABA, serotonin, and dopamine pathways.
Different types of anxiety will have different underlying causes and neurochemical signatures, but most will involve glutamate (as glutamate itself and as a precursor to GABA), glutamate receptors, and monoamine neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, etc.) in some way.
Symptoms of Stress & Anxiety
Anxiety is quite easy to spot, given that we all experience anxiety in some form or another at some point in our lives, normally when we are faced with a sudden threat like an incoming car, a heavy financial loss, or a stalling plane engine!
The most common immediate symptoms of anxiety are:
- Elevated heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Restricted feeling in the chest
- Light headedness
- Inability to focus
- Short-term memory loss
Chronic, lingering anxiety can have disastrous consequences for your health over the long-term. People with chronic anxiety are more likely to suffer from every chronic illness you can think of, from heart disease and cancer to depression and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Diseases aside, lasting nxiety can be crippling for your cognitive performance. Peolpe with chronic anxiety disorders tend to exhibit far more rapid onset of cognitive decline than normal. They have worse memories, slower reaction times, and slower decision making times. This could be down to the sleep deprivation that comes with severe and acute stress.
Natural Supplements For Stress & Anxiety
Some plants have a long history of use as anxiolytics (anxiety suppressors) in traditional medicine or popular culture. But whole herbs and plants – whether ground into a paste or drunk as tea – can only ever have so much of an impact on your physiology.
Modern biotechnological advances have, however, opened up a whole new world of possibilities for people looking to enhance their performance and augment their physiology. Today, there are lots of high-spec, extremely potent natural nootropic products capable of simultaneously reducing stress and promoting focus, memory, and mental clarity.
The only problem is finding which substances work in reality. Many supplement manufacturers promote products which promise rapid relief from stress and anxiety. More often than not, these supplements are full of cheap, ineffective herb powders and potentially brain-draining sedatives. Only a small number of high-end, professional nootropic stacks offer genuine stress and anxiety relief without side effects and without hindering cognitive performance.
Let’s take a look at the substances which actually fight anxiety and depression as proven by hard clinical evidence. The substances in this list have all been shown by meta analysis to help treat anxiety disorders, assuage anxiety symptoms, and help with the physical effects of anxiety (high heart rate, hypertension, and related health issues).
Most Effective Nootropics for Stress & Anxiety
It’s time to go through the best natual supplements for reducing stress and anxiety. We have spent a long time trawling through the available scientific research, and these substances have the best supporting evience for use as natural anxiolytics.
Here is a list of the best natural nootropics for stress and anxiety:
- Rhodiola rosea
- Panax Ginseng
- Bacopa monnieri
Let’s go through these nootropics in more detail. In each case, we’ll explain what they do, ho they work, and what we think of the side effect risks.
Ashwagandha is one of the nootropics with a long history of use in traditional medicine, specifically Ayurverdic medicine from India. People have used ashwagandha for centuries as a sleep aid, an anti-anxiety medication, and as a libido booster. We now know that ashwagandha is actually effective in all of these use-cases.
Ashwagandha works by reducing cortisol levels. Cortisol is your body’s stress hormone; it is released when you feel you are in danger, but if you are chronically stressed, your cortisol levels can be chronically elevated. This leads to high blood pressure, fat gain, muscle atrophy, and chronic fatigue – the worst symptoms of chronic stress and anxiety. Studies show that ashwagandha consumption acutely lowers cortisol levels, which in turn lifts the symptoms of acute stress and anxiety.
Rhodiola rosea is what we call an adaptogen. This means it helps to make you less prone to physical and emotional stress. In other words, it makes you more resilient and resistant to the feelings of acute stress and anxiety.
Some recent research has found that rhodiola rosea consumption also mildly stimulates the release of serotonin and dopamine. This could also be part of the explanation as to why rhodiola rosea helps with anxiety. In any case, experience has proven that rhodiola rosea is an extremely reliable and effective nootropic for suppressing anxiety.
L-Tyrosine is an incredible natural nootropic and one particularly useful when you are facing a particularly stressful and grueling period of work or study. We recommend L-Tyrosine for any students, traders, programmers, or business professionals who need to burn the midnight oil and keep a lid on stress while remaining focused.
Tyrosine is a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that creates drive and motivation. Tyrosine supplementation increases dopamine levels. This is why studies have found Tyrosine improves performance in memory tests among people who are placed in intensely distracting or unpleasant situations: extreme cold, sleep deprivation, acute stress, etc. If you want to minimize anxiety while maximizing motivation and cognitive performance, Tyrosine is a must.
Nicotine is usually associated with tobacco, but this nootropic is actually found in smaller amounts in lots of common plants, such as potatoes or eggplants. While it is often assumed that nicotine is in itself dangerous, it is actually a relatively safe drug to use when isolated from tobacco (which is probably the most ridiculously harmful drug you can do).
Nicotine is extremely powerful. Just a few milligrams is enough to instantly sharpen your focus, increase alertness, boost motivation, and calm the nerves. Nicotine works by releasing norepinephrine. This is the body’s “fight or flight” neurotransmitter, although it doesn’t have the same physical effects as cortisol. Norepinephrine makes you mentally prepared for survival scenarios. It enhances every aspect of cognition that might be relevant to survival; reaction times, focus, alertness, decision making, etc. It also acts as an anxiolytic; nicotine triggers the release of dopamine which, as in the case of Tyrosine, reduces anxiety and improves mood.
Magnesium is often overlooked as a supplement because of its ‘basic’ nature. As a simple mineral, many people assume that it cannot possibly have a sizable physiological or mental effect. But it can and does!
Magnesium works by reducing electrical activity in the nervous system. This systemic action makes it a comprehensive anxiolytic. In simple terms, magnesium reduces the amount of electrical activity passing between your neurons. This suppresses the kind of frantic thinking that characterizes panic. The same mechanism makes it a muscle relaxant, which again helps temper the sensation of tension which accompany anxiety, stress and panic attacks.
Magnesium is also effective for lowering blood pressure and slowing heart rate. This is extremely useful, as one of the long term risks associated with anxiety disorder is an increased risk of heart attack due to the stress placed on the heart. Having high blood pressure and a near-permanently elevated heart rate also raises the chances of you having a panic attack. Magnesium can help with all of this.
Most people are generally quite low on magnesium since modern diets contain so few nuts, fresh green vegetables, seeds, and seafood. We recommend everybody supplements with magnesium from time to time to ensure your blood pressure remains in a healthy range and that your sleep is of high quality. If you’re looking to reduce anxiety, then a magnesium supplement should be your first port of call.
L-Theanine is an amino acid. It is found naturally in green tea leaves, black tea leaves, and a few other plants in small quantities. But like L-Tyrosine, L-Theanine is far from a simple nutrient. L-Theanine has some pretty significant nootropic properties relating to stress, anxiety and depression.
Studies show that L-Theanine elevates GABA levels in the brain. This will significantly reduce CNS activity, and by extension, reduce many of the mental and physical effects of anxiety: muscle tightness, restlessness, rapid thought spiraling, intrusive thoughts, etc.
One study found that L-Theanine may inhibit glutamic acid activity, which will also reduce CNS activity in a similar way to GABA. Theanine may help reduce anxiety by modulating the negative effects of caffeine; if you have a high caffeine intake, theanine can help blunt the worst side effects.
One of the main benefits of L-Theanine is that it is very fast-acting. It rapidly crosses the blood brain barrier. Once in the brain it begins to work by raising GABA levels and inhibiting glutamic acid. This makes L-Theanine a fantastic nootropic for social anxiety, panic attacks, and generalized anxiety.
Panax ginseng has long been used as a natural treatment for anxiety and depression in traditional medicine. This “nootropic” does not have notable effects on the mind or cognitive performance like typical nootropics; supplementing with Panax ginseng will now provide significant cognitive enhancements. However, it does have a pronounced effect on mood, wellbeing, and mental health.
Studies have found that Panax ginseng can significantly reduce subjective feelings of anxiety and depression, promote subjective well being, and help people remain in a calm, relaxed, mentally healthy state. Supplementing with Panag ginseng on a daily basis will promote general good mood and help suppress feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety.
Bacopa monnieri is an adaptogen. This means it helps improve you ability to withstand stress. This makes it one of the best long-term guards against anxiety in all its forms. Study after study confirms this; supplementing with Bacopa monnieri on a daily basis not only results in significant improvements in memory function, but it also notably improves subjective well being and reduces reports of anxiousness, depression, and stress.
While the mechanism behind its adaptogenic effects is not fully understood, it is thought that Bacopa supplementation acutely lowers cortisol levels. Suppressing cortisol levels systemically by consistently using Bacopa monnieri can help control generalized or chronic anxiety, as well as lower the risk of panic attacks.
Like all good nootropics, Bacopa monnieri produces lasting changes in the brain. It works primarily by stimulating dendrite branching; in simple terms, Bacopa monnieri makes the branches that connect your neurons grow and proliferate.This makes Bacopa monnieri one o the best nootropics for memory as well as a great supplement for lowering stress.
Citicoline is a phenomenal nootropic. It enhances short-term memory, improves memory retention, sharpens focus, reduces brain fog, and increases mental energy. For many people suffering from anxiety (especialy performance anxiety or social anxiety), Citicoline can be an incredibly beneficial tool.
Citicoline increases levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine carries out the brain’s executive cognitive functions; memory recall, retention and formation; focus and learning; muscle contraction, and speech. By enhancing all of these brai functions, Citiclonline helps eliminate both the causes of, and the side effects of, chronic anxiety.
Why Don’t We Recommen GABA For Anxiety?
You will often see people recommending GABA for social anxiety.
We believe taking GABA itself is a totally ineffective way to combat anxiety.
You see, anxiety is in large part the result of an over-excited central nervous system (CNS). This implicates all of the neurotransmitters involved in both exciting and calming the CNS.
The most important of these are GABA (or gamma-aminobutyric acid) and glutamate.
Glutamate is, by some margin, the most prevalent excitatory neurotransmitter in the CNS, while GABA is the most important inhibitory neurotransmitter. In other words, glutamate fires up the CNS while GABA slams on the brakes.
The other main neurotransmitter systems – serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine – have all been studied in their relation to anxiety, but GABA and glutamate appear to be the best candidates accoridng ot the evidence.
The theory goes that supplementing with GABA applies the brakes to the CNS, calming the mind and the body, and by extension, assuaging the worst symptoms of acute stress.
However, this theory is fundamentally flawed.
While increasing GABA levels in the brain would certainly make you feel less anxious, orally consuming GABA does not reliably lead to increased GABA in the brain.
Almost all of the GABA that is consumed orally is destroyed in the gut. Any GABA that does get digested will likely be used by the enteric nervous system in the gut. Practically none will make it to the brain. Even if it does reach the brain, GABA does not easily cross the blood-brain barrier; the brain ants to keep all the GABA in!
So supplementing with GABA is useless for reducing anxiety.
What To Avoid If You’re Feeling Anxious
If you’re working to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, then the firts thing you should do (before you think about supplements) is to try and eliminate all of the things in your life that make your anxiety so much worse.
Here is a list of things to try and cut down (or ideally cut out) if you’re suffering from chronic anxiety or panic attacks:
- Stimulants like Adderall and Vyvanse
- Stressful situations
These things all make chronic anxiety significantly worse.
So while it may be tempting to make up for your sleepless nights with coffee, this will just make you even more tired, sleep deprived, and anxious in the long-run.
It might also be tempting to medicate your anxiety with alcohol, particularly if you know a shot or two of vodka will calm your nerves before a big presentation. But again, alcohol abuse just makes anxiety stronger and more entrenched over the long term.
Stimulants such as Adderall and Vyvanse will almost certainly make acute anxiety worse, as these drugs are designed to excite the central nervous system. This is the last thing you want if you’re experiencing acute anxiety, as this is largely caused by an over-excited CNS!
The Best Supplement Stack For Stress & Anxiousness
The list above contains the most effective nootropics for anxiety in existence. Each substance has substantial, robust scientific backing from clinical trials, and all of them have excellent safety profiles.
But for those of you who don’t want to source individual ingredients yourself, what is the best pre-made nootropic for anxiety on the market right now?
#1 Top Nootropic For Anxiety: Mind Lab Pro
Mind Lab Pro is truly an exceptional nootropic. It combines several different nootropics which enhance cognitive performance in different ways. Together, they cover learning, focus, memory, and brain health.
On top of that, Mind Lab pro delivers a comprehensive stress and anxiety-suppressing matrix of ingredients. Each serving contains large servings of ultra-bioavailable Tyrosine, Rhodiola rosea, and Theanine. Taken together, these nootropics quickly and effectively reduce the mental and physical feelings of stress and anxiety while promoting good cognitive performance.
The benefits of using Mind Lab Pro include:
- 100% natural, vegan-friendly and plant-based
- Ultra-pure and highly bioavailable ingredients
- Enhances every measure of cognitive performance
- Reduces anxiety nd improves stress resistance over the long-term
- Protcts brain cells from oxidative damage and stress
No other nootropic comes close to delivering thekind of comprehensive stress and mental performance support that you get from Mind Lab Pro. At just under $45 a bottle, you can’t get bettr value for money elsewhere right now.
Where to buy: MindLabPro.com.
More information: Read our detailed review of Mind Lab Pro.
This is not medical advice. It is not intended to represent medical advice. If you are suffering from severe depression or anxiety, it is vital that you get proper medical advice from a qualified medical professional. You may have serious neurochemical imbalances which require prescription pharmaceutical drugs for rectification. Talk to your doctor if you are struggling with any aspect of your mental health. Natural supplements are not regulated by the food and drug administration in the United States. They are not viable alternatives to antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications.