Last Updated on February 23, 2024 by Lindsay Delk, RDN
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 19% of U.S. adults had an anxiety disorder in the past year, and approximately 31% of U.S. adults will experience an anxiety disorder at some time in their lives. While you may know about prescription medications and therapy to treat your anxiety, you may not be aware of how anxiety nootropics, nootropic foods and nutrients, and a nootropic drink can also help ease your anxiety and stress.
This post was written by Lindsay Delk, RDN. It is for informational purposes and is not intended to replace medical advice or instructions given by your healthcare provider.
This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
What Are Nootropics?
Nootropics are substances that enhance brain or cognitive function. They can help improve memory, focus, and/or mood.
They can be natural or synthetic substances and can even include nootropic foods and nootropic drinks. But you often find them in supplement form.
People often use the term adaptogens interchangeably with nootropics. Adaptogens are types of nootropics that help your body adapt to stress. So most of the anxiety nootropics mentioned here are also adaptogens.
Stacking nootropics means using several nootropics at the same time to create a desired result. You may hear this called synergistic pairings.
Some supplement companies promote some nootropic supplements without any evidence to back up their claims. As with all medical and health information, it’s important to get your advice from a trained healthcare provider.
As with any supplement, there is a risk of side effects. And always talk to your doctor before starting a nootropic for anxiety because it can interfere or interact with some medications and each person’s body and health conditions are different.
What Is Anxiety?
Everyday stress is a part of life that can influence our mood, sense of well-being, and overall health. Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life, but chronic high levels of stress and anxiety can lead to physical and mental health problems.
Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental disorders along with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and phobia-related disorders, such as social anxiety disorder.
What Are Symptoms of Anxiety?
The following are the most common symptoms of anxiety:
- Constant feelings of fear, worry, or being overwhelmed
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased heart rate
- Feelings of impending doom
How Does Anxiety Affect You?
Your adrenal glands make cortisol, your main stress hormone. Cortisol plays many important functions, but long-term anxiety or chronic stress can cause your cortisol levels to stay high, which can lead to:
- Trouble sleeping
- Digestion problems
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
Long-term anxiety and anxiety disorders can interfere with your daily activities, including your job, school work, and relationships.
Can Nootropics Help Anxiety?
While you might take nootropics to improve cognitive function (make you smarter), some of them can impact your brain function for better mental health (also known as adaptogens). Nootropics/adaptogens can be one part of your holistic plan for lowering your anxiety and stress. The list below of the best nootropics for anxiety is based on sound clinical research.
The Best Nootropic for Social Anxiety
One type of anxiety is social anxiety. It’s characterized by having a strong persistent fear of social situations, being judged by other people, or being humiliated or rejected. You may avoid places or events where you must interact with people. Fortunately, the following list of the best nootropics for anxiety can also work for social anxiety.
The Best Nootropics for Anxiety
The following are the best nootropics for anxiety based on the available research. Each person is different and responds differently to supplements. You may find that the best nootropic for anxiety for you is different from what works the best for a friend. But these options are a good place to start.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb with roots in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Ashwagandha may be considered the best nootropic for anxiety. Multiple studies have shown that ashwagandha can help treat anxiety, lower stress, and lower cortisol levels. The typical dose in the studies was around 250 to 600 mg of ashwagandha extract per day. This is the ashwagandha supplement I take.
Turmeric is a plant in the ginger family. Research has shown that the active part of turmeric, called curcumin, can help with anxiety and depression. These positive effects were seen with a dose of around 1,000 mg per day. This is the curcumin supplement I recommend.
L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that can cross the blood-brain barrier. Research shows that it can improve your mood and reduce stress and anxiety symptoms. While found in green tea, it is also available as a supplement. Studies show that the effective dose is around 200 to 400 mg per day. This is the L-theanine supplement I take (Notice that it has inositol included. Make sure you factor that in if you take inositol separately).
Rhodiola rosea is an herb that has been used in ancient traditional medicine for many years. When study participants were given 200 mg of Rhodiola rosea twice a day, they reported less anxiety, stress, anger, confusion, and depression and a significant improvement in total mood. This is the rhodiola supplement I take.
Chamomile tea and extract come from the plant’s dried flowers. A review of the research on chamomile shows that it is helpful in easing anxiety and improving quality of sleep. You can enjoy chamomile as a tea or a supplement, and the dose used in studies was around 500 to 1,500 mg per day. This is the chamomile supplement I recommend, and here is a good chamomile tea.
The Best Nootropic Foods and Nutrients for Anxiety
Some nutrients in foods can be considered nootropics because they affect the brain and mood.
There is a strong link between low vitamin-D levels and anxiety symptoms. While your body makes vitamin D by getting sun on your skin and you can get vitamin D from vitamin-D fortified milk and a few other foods, it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone.
In one study, patients given a vitamin D supplement had significant improvement in anxiety symptoms and their serotonin levels increased. Taking 800 to 2,000 IU per day is the appropriate dose for most people, but a blood test to check your vitamin-D levels is the best way to determine your needs. If you need to take a vitamin D supplement, this is the one I recommend.
Oxidative stress may trigger anxiety symptoms. Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant that helps reduce this oxidative stress.
People with anxiety are often deficient in vitamin C, and vitamin C has been shown to reduce anxiety and slow heart rate. A diet rich in vitamin C (citrus fruits, peppers, strawberries, broccoli, potatoes, etc.) or a vitamin C supplement can be one method of treatment for anxiety.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat. A review of the research shows that omega-3 fats can prevent or treat anxiety symptoms.
While it is best to get omega-3 fats from eating plenty of fatty fish, nuts, and seeds, you can also get omega-3 fats from a fish oil supplement (around 1,500 to 2,000 mg per day). This is the omega-3 supplement I take.
Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble B vitamin. One study found that the average intake of vitamin B6 was lower in anxious and depressed people, and the lower the intake of vitamin B6, the higher the chance of anxiety.
A typical dose of vitamin B6 is around 30 to 50 mg per day, and the highest food sources of vitamin B6 are fish, beef, and poultry. If you need a vitamin B6 supplement, this is one I recommend.
Magnesium is a mineral with many functions in your body. But some hormones released during stress can lead to low magnesium levels. And research has found that taking a magnesium supplement can lower stress in people with low magnesium levels and can lower cortisol, a marker of stress.
Magnesium & Vitamin B6: A Synergistic Pairing
In this same study, people with low magnesium and severe or extremely severe stress found greater relief with magnesium and vitamin B6 combined than with magnesium alone. The treatment dose was 300 mg of magnesium and 30 mg of vitamin B6 per day.
The Best Nootropic Drink for Anxiety
The best nootropic drink for anxiety is green tea, primarily because of its L-theanine content. While green and black tea leaves come from the same plant, green tea leaves are preserved immediately after harvest.
Studies have shown that green tea can reduce stress and anxiety. It is also full of antioxidants that can decrease inflammation.
Check out my blog post about Tea for Anxiety.
Other Ways to Cope with Anxiety
Don’t forget to include all of your anxiety and stress management techniques as part of your holistic treatment plan for overall health. These techniques may include prescription medicine, therapy, a Mediterranean dietary pattern, supplements, exercise, and mindfulness meditation among others.
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