Nutrition Market

Supplements for Stress: Natural Ways to Find Relief

Supplements for Stress: Natural Ways to Find Relief

Introduction

Stress is a pervasive issue that affects many people in today’s fast-paced world. While some stress is normal and even beneficial, chronic stress can take a toll on both physical and mental health. Supplements for stress are becoming increasingly popular as part of a holistic approach to stress management.

While no supplement can replace a healthy lifestyle, certain nutrients and herbs may help support the body’s stress response and promote relaxation. Adaptogens like ashwagandha and rhodiola, amino acids like L-theanine, vitamins like B-complex and vitamin D, and minerals like magnesium have shown promise in reducing stress and anxiety symptoms in some studies.

However, it’s important to note that supplements are not a magic solution for stress relief. They should be used cautiously under the guidance of a healthcare professional, as they can interact with medications and cause side effects. Additionally, more research is needed to confirm the long-term efficacy and safety of many stress supplements. Always consult with a qualified practitioner before adding any new supplement to your routine.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an adaptogenic herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to help the body cope with stress. Several studies have investigated the potential stress-relieving effects of ashwagandha supplementation.

Efficacy of Ashwagandha for Stress Relief

A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study by Gopukumar et al. (2021) found that supplementation with 250-600 mg of ashwagandha extract daily for 8 weeks significantly improved stress and sleep quality in 60 healthy adults compared to placebo. Participants reported feeling less stressed and had lower cortisol levels, a marker of stress response.

Another small study by Lopresti & Smith (2021) investigated the effects of 240 mg/day of ashwagandha extract for 2 months in 30 adults with self-reported anxiety. While the ashwagandha group experienced reductions in anxiety, depression, and stress symptoms, the changes were not statistically significant compared to placebo. The researchers noted that larger sample sizes and longer study durations may be needed to detect significant effects.

Safety and Dosage Considerations

Ashwagandha is generally well-tolerated, with few reported side effects in clinical trials. However, some people may experience mild gastrointestinal discomfort, drowsiness, or headaches (Gopukumar et al., 2021). It’s important to follow dosage instructions and not exceed recommended amounts.

More research is needed to establish the long-term safety and efficacy of ashwagandha supplementation for stress relief. Pregnant women, those with autoimmune disorders, and people taking certain medications should avoid ashwagandha unless under medical supervision (Lopresti & Smith, 2021).

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola rosea is another adaptogenic herb that has been traditionally used to enhance the body’s resistance to stress. Several studies have explored the potential stress-relieving properties of rhodiola supplementation.

Efficacy of Rhodiola for Stress Management

A 2022 literature review by Ivanova Stojcheva & Quintela concluded that rhodiola supplementation may help regulate the body’s response to physical and mental stress. The review analysed preclinical and clinical studies, finding that rhodiola’s active compounds, such as salidroside and rosavin, may modulate stress-related pathways and neurotransmitters.

In a small study by Cropley et al. (2015), 400 mg/day of rhodiola extract for 14 days significantly reduced self-reported stress, anxiety, anger, confusion, and depression in 8 people with mild anxiety compared to placebo. The researchers suggested that rhodiola may help improve stress resilience and emotional well-being.

Limitations and Future Research Directions

While these preliminary findings are promising, more research with larger sample sizes and longer durations is needed to validate the stress-relieving effects of rhodiola. Additionally, standardisation of rhodiola extracts and optimal dosing regimens need to be established (Ivanova Stojcheva & Quintela, 2022).

As with any supplement, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional before taking rhodiola, as it may interact with certain medications and cause side effects like dizziness or dry mouth in some people (Cropley et al., 2015).

L-Theanine

L-theanine is a unique amino acid found primarily in tea leaves (Camellia sinensis). It has gained attention for its potential calming and stress-reducing properties.

Efficacy of L-Theanine for Stress and Anxiety

A randomised, placebo-controlled trial by Hidese et al. (2019) investigated the effects of L-theanine on stress-related symptoms in 30 healthy adults. Participants took 200 mg/day of L-theanine or placebo for 4 weeks. The L-theanine group had significantly greater reductions in stress-related symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances, compared to placebo.

A 2020 systematic review by Williams et al. analysed 9 randomised controlled trials on the effects of L-theanine, either alone or in combination with other compounds, on stress and anxiety in humans. The review concluded that 200-400 mg/day of L-theanine may help reduce stress and anxiety in people exposed to stressful conditions.

Safety and Dosage Considerations

L-theanine is generally well-tolerated, with few reported adverse effects. However, some people may experience minor side effects like headaches or drowsiness (Hidese et al., 2019). It’s important to follow recommended dosages and consult a healthcare professional before use, especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking medications.

More research is needed to determine the optimal dosage and long-term effects of L-theanine supplementation for stress management. Additionally, most studies have been conducted in healthy populations, so the efficacy of L-theanine in individuals with clinical anxiety disorders requires further investigation (Williams et al., 2020).

Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in numerous physiological processes, including nerve and muscle function, energy production, and mood regulation. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to increased stress and anxiety.

Efficacy of Magnesium for Stress and Anxiety

A 2017 systematic review by Boyle et al. analysed 18 studies on the effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety and stress in humans. The review concluded that magnesium supplementation may have a beneficial effect on mild anxiety, but the quality of evidence was poor due to methodological limitations and small sample sizes.

The authors noted that magnesium’s potential anxiolytic effects may be related to its role in regulating neurotransmitters involved in the stress response, such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). However, more high-quality randomised controlled trials are needed to establish the efficacy of magnesium supplementation for stress and anxiety relief.

Safety and Dosage Considerations

Magnesium supplementation is generally safe and well-tolerated when used in appropriate doses. However, excessive magnesium intake can cause adverse effects like diarrhoea, nausea, and abdominal cramping (Boyle et al., 2017). It’s important to follow recommended dosages and consult a healthcare professional, especially if you have kidney disease or are taking medications that interact with magnesium.

The optimal dosage of magnesium for stress and anxiety relief is not well-established. Most studies have used doses ranging from 200-600 mg/day of elemental magnesium (Boyle et al., 2017). More research is needed to determine the most effective dose and form of magnesium supplementation for stress management.

B-Vitamins

B-vitamins, including thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9), and cobalamin (B12), play crucial roles in brain function and mood regulation. Some studies suggest that B-vitamin supplementation may help reduce stress and improve mood.

Efficacy of B-Vitamins for Stress and Mood

A 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis by Young et al. investigated the effects of B-vitamin supplementation on mood and stress in healthy and “at-risk” individuals. The review included 12 randomised controlled trials with a total of 1,070 participants.

The meta-analysis found that B-vitamin supplementation for at least 4 weeks had significant positive effects on stress and mood compared to placebo. The authors suggested that B-vitamins may help reduce stress by lowering homocysteine levels, which have been associated with increased stress and anxiety.

Safety and Dosage Considerations

B-vitamins are water-soluble and generally safe when taken in recommended doses. However, excessive intake of certain B-vitamins, such as niacin and pyridoxine, can cause adverse effects like skin flushing, nausea, and nerve damage (Young et al., 2019). It’s important to follow recommended dosages and consult a healthcare professional, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or are taking medications.

The optimal B-vitamin combination and dosage for stress relief is not well-established. Most studies have used B-vitamin complexes containing various doses of individual B-vitamins (Young et al., 2019). More research is needed to determine the most effective B-vitamin formulation and dosage for stress management.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays important roles in bone health, immune function, and mood regulation. Low vitamin D levels have been associated with increased stress, anxiety, and depression.

Efficacy of Vitamin D for Stress and Mood

A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial by Föcker et al. (2021) investigated the effects of vitamin D supplementation on depressive symptoms and stress reactivity in 110 children and adolescents with vitamin D deficiency. Participants received either 1,600 IU/day of vitamin D3 or placebo for 4 months.

The study found that vitamin D supplementation significantly reduced depressive symptoms and improved stress reactivity compared to placebo. Participants in the vitamin D group had a less prolonged cortisol response to a psychosocial stress test, suggesting improved stress resilience.

Safety and Dosage Considerations

Vitamin D supplementation is generally safe when used in recommended doses. However, excessive vitamin D intake can cause adverse effects like hypercalcemia, kidney stones, and gastrointestinal symptoms (Föcker et al., 2021). It’s important to follow recommended dosages and consult a healthcare professional, especially if you have certain health conditions or are taking medications that interact with vitamin D.

The optimal vitamin D dose for stress and mood benefits may vary depending on individual factors like baseline vitamin D status and sun exposure. Most studies have used doses ranging from 1,000-4,000 IU/day of vitamin D3 (Föcker et al., 2021). More research is needed to establish the efficacy of vitamin D supplementation for stress relief in non-deficient populations and to determine the most effective dosage.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a perennial herb in the mint family that has been traditionally used for its calming and stress-relieving properties. Some preliminary research suggests that lemon balm supplementation may help reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality.

Efficacy of Lemon Balm for Anxiety and Sleep

A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial by Haybar et al. (2019) investigated the effects of lemon balm supplementation on anxiety and sleep quality in 80 people undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery. Participants received either 500 mg of lemon balm extract or placebo three times daily for 8 weeks.

The study found that lemon balm supplementation significantly reduced anxiety and improved sleep quality compared to placebo. The lemon balm group had a 49% reduction in anxiety scores and a 54% improvement in sleep quality scores compared to baseline.

Safety and Dosage Considerations

Lemon balm is generally well-tolerated, with few reported adverse effects. However, some people may experience mild side effects like headache, nausea, or dizziness (Haybar et al., 2019). It’s important to follow recommended dosages and consult a healthcare professional before use, especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking medications.

More research is needed to confirm the anxiety-reducing and sleep-promoting effects of lemon balm in healthy populations and to determine the optimal dosage. Most studies have used doses ranging from 300-1,500 mg/day of lemon balm extract (Haybar et al., 2019). Standardisation of lemon balm extracts and long-term safety data are also lacking.

Supplements to Avoid for Stress Relief

While some supplements may offer potential stress-relieving benefits, others lack efficacy evidence or carry risks of serious adverse effects. One such supplement is kava (Piper methysticum), a plant native to the South Pacific islands.

Kava has been traditionally used for its calming and anxiety-reducing properties. However, a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial by Savage et al. (2019) found no significant differences in anxiety symptoms between kava and placebo after 16 weeks of supplementation in 171 adults with generalised anxiety disorder.

Moreover, kava has been associated with rare but serious side effects like liver toxicity, leading to several countries banning or restricting its sale (Savage et al., 2019). The World Health Organization and the United States Food and Drug Administration have issued warnings about the potential hepatotoxic effects of kava, especially with long-term use or in combination with other substances that affect the liver (Savage et al., 2019).

Given the lack of efficacy evidence and the potential for serious adverse effects, it’s best to avoid kava supplementation for stress relief unless under close medical supervision. Always consult a healthcare professional before taking any supplement, as they can interact with medications and have side effects.

Key Considerations for Stress Supplement Use

When considering supplements for stress relief, it’s important to keep in mind that supplements are not a replacement for a healthy lifestyle and should be used as part of a holistic stress management approach. Here are some key considerations:

Consult a Healthcare Professional

Before starting any supplement regimen, consult a qualified healthcare professional, such as a doctor or registered dietitian. They can help you determine if a supplement is appropriate for your individual needs, assess potential risks and interactions, and recommend safe and effective dosages.

Choose High-Quality Supplements

Look for supplements that have been independently tested for purity and potency by reputable third-party organisations, such as USP, NSF, or ConsumerLab. Be wary of supplements with exaggerated claims or those that promise quick fixes for stress relief.

Follow Recommended Dosages

Always follow the recommended dosages on the supplement label or as advised by your healthcare provider. More is not necessarily better when it comes to supplements, and excessive intake can lead to adverse effects.

Be Aware of Potential Interactions

Supplements can interact with medications, other supplements, and even foods. For example, ashwagandha may interact with thyroid medications, while magnesium can interfere with the absorption of antibiotics (Lopresti & Smith, 2021; Boyle et al., 2017). Always inform your healthcare provider about all the supplements and medications you are taking to avoid potential interactions.

Prioritise a Healthy Lifestyle

While supplements may offer some stress-relieving benefits, they are not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle. Engaging in regular physical activity, practicing stress management techniques like meditation or deep breathing, getting adequate sleep, and eating a balanced diet rich in whole foods are the foundations of effective stress management (Hidese et al., 2019).

Be Patient and Realistic

Supplements for stress relief may not produce immediate or dramatic results. It may take several weeks or months of consistent use to notice any benefits. Additionally, individual responses to supplements can vary widely. What works for one person may not work for another. Be patient and realistic in your expectations, and don’t rely solely on supplements for stress management.

Conclusion

While certain supplements like ashwagandha, rhodiola, L-theanine, magnesium, B-vitamins, vitamin D, and lemon balm show promise for stress relief, more large-scale, long-term human studies are needed to confirm their efficacy and safety. The existing research suggests that these supplements may help reduce stress and anxiety symptoms, but the evidence is limited by small sample sizes, short durations, and lack of standardisation in some cases.

It’s important to remember that supplements are not a magic solution for stress management. They should be used cautiously under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional, as they can interact with medications and cause side effects. Additionally, individual responses to supplements can vary widely, and what works for one person may not work for another.

The foundation of effective stress management is a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, balanced nutrition, adequate sleep, and stress-reducing practices like meditation or deep breathing. While supplements may provide some additional support, they should be used as part of a holistic approach to stress relief. Consulting with a healthcare provider can help you determine if a particular supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and how to use it safely and effectively.

Key Highlights and Actionable Tips

  • Stress can negatively impact every aspect of health, contributing to problems like headaches, type 2 diabetes, and anxiety. A healthy diet, exercise, sleep, and mental health support are proven strategies for stress relief.
  • Dietary supplements may be part of a holistic approach to reducing stress, but no supplement is a magic pill. Robust research on herbal supplements and stress is lacking, with more large, long-term studies needed.
  • Ashwagandha, L-theanine, magnesium, melatonin, rhodiola, lemon balm, and valerian may help reduce stress and anxiety, but the evidence is limited and more research is required.
  • Kava supplements should be avoided due to potential liver damage and lack of evidence for reducing anxiety.
  • Always talk to your doctor before taking any supplement, as they can interact with medications and cause side effects. Look up supplement ingredients in the FDA’s Dietary Supplement Ingredient Directory.

What are some lifestyle changes that can help reduce stress alongside supplements?

Lifestyle changes are the foundation of stress management, and supplements should only be used to complement these strategies. Some effective lifestyle changes include:

  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins
  • Getting regular exercise, which can help reduce stress hormones and boost mood
  • Prioritising quality sleep by establishing a consistent sleep schedule and creating a relaxing bedtime routine
  • Practising stress-reduction techniques like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or tai chi
  • Connecting with others and building a strong support network of friends and family

How can I tell if a stress supplement is high-quality and safe?

When choosing a stress supplement, it’s important to look for products that have been third-party tested for purity and potency. Some reputable third-party testing organisations include USP, NSF International, and ConsumerLab.

Also, check the ingredient list and avoid supplements with artificial additives, fillers, or ingredients you don’t recognise. Stick to supplements with simple, clean ingredients at reasonable dosages.

Finally, always buy supplements from trusted brands and retailers. Be wary of products that make grandiose health claims or seem too good to be true.

Can I take multiple stress supplements at the same time?

It’s generally not recommended to take multiple stress supplements simultaneously, as this can increase the risk of side effects and interactions. Many stress supplements contain similar ingredients, so combining them can lead to excessive dosages.

If you’re considering taking more than one supplement, it’s crucial to talk to your healthcare provider first. They can help you determine if the combination is safe and appropriate for your individual needs.

How long does it typically take for stress supplements to start working?

The time it takes for stress supplements to start working can vary depending on the specific supplement and individual factors like age, weight, and overall health.

Some supplements, like L-theanine, may produce calming effects within 30-40 minutes. Others, like ashwagandha, may take several weeks of consistent use to notice stress-reducing benefits.

It’s important to be patient and give supplements adequate time to work. Follow the recommended dosage on the product label, and don’t exceed the suggested amount without consulting your doctor.

Are there any natural food sources of stress-reducing compounds?

Yes, many foods naturally contain compounds that may help reduce stress and promote relaxation. Some examples include:

  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to lower levels of anxiety and depression.
  • Chamomile tea contains an antioxidant called apigenin that has been shown to promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia.
  • Yogurt and other fermented foods contain probiotics, which may help reduce stress and anxiety by altering the gut microbiome.
  • Dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, which have been associated with improved mood and cognitive function.

Incorporating these foods into a balanced diet may provide natural stress-relieving benefits without the need for supplements.

References

Boyle, N. B., Lawton, C., & Dye, L. (2017). The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety and stress—a systematic review. Nutrients, 9(5), 429. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452159/

Cropley, M., Banks, A. P., & Boyle, J. (2015). The effects of Rhodiola rosea L. extract on anxiety, stress, cognition and other mood symptoms. Phytotherapy Research, 29(12), 1934-1939. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26502953/

Föcker, M., Antel, J., Grasemann, C., Führer, D., Timmesfeld, N., Öztürk, D., … & Hebebrand, J. (2021). Effect of a vitamin D deficiency on depressive symptoms in child and adolescent psychiatric patients–a randomized controlled trial. European Journal of Nutrition, 60(3), 1419-1428. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7692327/

Gopukumar, K., Thanawala, S., Somepalli, V., Rao, T. S., Thamatam, V. B., & Chauhan, S. (2021). Efficacy and safety of Ashwagandha root extract on cognitive functions in healthy, stressed adults: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34858513/

Haybar, H., Javid, A. Z., Haghighizadeh, M. H., Valizadeh, E., Mohaghegh, S. M., & Mohammadzadeh, A. (2019). The effects of Melissa officinalis supplementation on depression, anxiety, stress, and sleep disorder in patients with chronic stable angina. Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, 26, 47-52. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1876382018309892

Hidese, S., Ogawa, S., Ota, M., Ishida, I., Yasukawa, Z., Ozeki, M., & Kunugi, H. (2019). Effects of L-theanine administration on stress-related symptoms and cognitive functions in healthy adults: A randomized controlled trial. Nutrients, 11(10), 2362. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6836118/

Ivanova Stojcheva, M., & Quintela, J. C. (2022). Rhodiola rosea L. as a Source of Adaptogens with Therapeutic Potential for Fatigue-Related Disorders. Pharmaceuticals, 15(6), 742. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9228580/

Lopresti, A. L., & Smith, S. J. (2021). The effects of a patented Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract on stress, anxiety, and depression: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine, 100(37). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2210803321000142

Savage, K., Firth, J., Stough, C., & Sarris, J. (2019). Kava for generalised anxiety disorder: A 16-week double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 53(12), 1216-1216. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0004867419891246

Williams, J. L., Everett, J. M., D’Cunha, N. M., Sergi, D., Georgousopoulou, E. N., Keegan, R. J., … & Naumovski, N. (2020). The effects of green tea amino acid L-theanine consumption on the ability to manage stress and anxiety levels: a systematic review. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 75(1), 12-23. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31758301/

Young, L. M., Pipingas, A., White, D. J., Gauci, S., & Scholey, A. (2019). A systematic review and meta-analysis of B vitamin supplementation on depressive symptoms, anxiety, and stress: effects on healthy and ‘at-risk’individuals. Nutrients, 11(9), 2232. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/9/2232



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Select the fields to be shown. Others will be hidden. Drag and drop to rearrange the order.
  • Image
  • SKU
  • Rating
  • Price
  • Stock
  • Availability
  • Add to cart
  • Description
  • Content
  • Weight
  • Dimensions
  • Additional information
Click outside to hide the comparison bar
Compare
Shopping cart close