16 Vitamins & Supplements for Stress — Life Extension
Scientifically Reviewed By: Michael A. Smith, MD
Remember those Calgon bubble bath ads? Kids were screaming, dogs were barking, phones were ringing. But behind a closed door, a woman stretched out in a luxurious bubble bath, murmuring, “Take me away!” before slipping deeper into the suds.
If only de-stressing were that easy!
Nowadays, with self-care being so much in the spotlight, you would expect our stress levels to be coming down, but the opposite is true. If bubble baths aren’t doing it for you, could stress relief supplements help? Let’s find out!
How do stress relief supplements work?
Although there is no way to erase stress from your life, there are nutrients that can help you manage it. Some promote stress relief by supporting a calm response and relaxation. Others enhance your mood and attention, or encourage production of your happy hormones. Not only do these nutrients promote a relaxed, worry-free state of mine, they have other health benefits. Lemon balm promotes healthy sleep, L-theanine modulates neurotransmitter signaling, melatonin is a powerful antioxidant, and more.
What are the best vitamins and supplements for stress relief?
Stress has many causes, so what works for one person might not be as effective for another. Taking a quiz to determine your health needs may help. Also, we’ve compiled a list of 16 of the top vitamins and nutrients to help you hush the worries in your head and tame that tension.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that the body uses for over 300 biochemical reactions, and it is vital for heart health, bone health and brain health. Even better, magnesium can help you shrug off stress and wind down those wiggles at bedtime. Magnesium also supports a healthy circadian rhythm, so not only can you fall asleep faster without all those thoughts chasing around in your head, but you can also get a better night’s sleep.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea, a substance well-known for promoting relaxation. Research has found that even when it comes in a form other than a comforting cup of warm liquid, L-theanine can cross the blood-brain barrier and support better mood, better sleep, healthy cognition, and calmness. An L-theanine supplement can help you enjoy the benefits of this calming compound without the caffeine usually present in teas.
Much has been made of ashwagandha in recent years, mainly for its role helping to manage stress. As an adaptogen, it helps maintain balance in your body-including keeping those cortisol stress hormone levels in the healthy range, and out of the constant “flight or fight” mode that stress encourages. Ashwagandha supplements also have been touted for their support of a healthy mind and memory, factors which also help to keep stress at bay.
4. Vitamin D
It’s hard to stress out when you are feeling good, and the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D, can help you get there. This vitamin is made by your body in response to sunlight, and it can trigger the production of dopamine and serotonin-your happy hormones! Studies have shown the link between healthy vitamin D levels and less stress and better mood. Plus, vitamin D is a star player in supporting bone health, cognitive performance, already-healthy blood pressure, immune health, and more. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is common, so supplementing with this health powerhouse is important.
The inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, or gamma aminobutyric acid, is associated with that calming effect that slows us down, so we’re not going, going, going all the time. GABA can help your racing thoughts to turn off. Studies have linked GABA intake with potential beneficial effects on sleep and a healthy stress response.
Doesn’t a great night of sleep feel great? Not only does it help you face the day refreshed, it helps keep your stress levels low. For this reason, melatonin is a 2-for-1 in the stress management department. Studies suggest melatonin can help you manage stress and reduce worry, and it also helps you fall asleep faster and get better-quality sleep-setting you up for success with fewer worries tomorrow. Melatonin doesn’t stop there. It helps support the immune system and protects against oxidative stress.
7. Lemon balm
Available as a supplement, essential oil, or herbal tea, lemon balm contains properties that provide an overall sense of calm and support nervous system health. Lemon balm has been shown in research to help alleviate stress and support healthy sleep, and it is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA. It works by helping to block the breakdown of GABA in the brain, thus keeping that calm feeling going, and promoting relaxation.
8. Vitamin C
Unlike with vitamin D, your body can’t make vitamin C. You have to ingest it, which means eating plenty of lemons, oranges, mushrooms, guava and kale-or getting your vitamin C in capsule, tablet or gummy form. And because it is water-soluble, it is recommended that you ingest it daily. Why should you bother to supplement? Inadequate levels of vitamin C are associated with stress, and several studies suggest that vitamin C supplementation can improve mood and promote a healthy stress response. And since vitamin C tends to come in sweet, fresh fruit form, this is a tasty way to encourage a healthy stress response.
Another foundational supplement, omega-3s deliver a host of health benefits — and studies have found omega-3s can improve stress response in clinical trials. The research suggests that omega-3s can support a healthy mood because they can be transported across the blood-brain barrier and interact with mood-related pathways in your brain. They were also found to maintain already-healthy levels of cortisol, one of your main stress hormones. Want another reason to supplement with omega-3s? This nutrient has been found to support heart health and brain health, and encourage a healthy inflammatory response.
10. Rhodiola rosea
This golden root has been used in traditional medicine for centuries for stress relief. Like ashwagandha, rhodiola is an adaptogen. It has powerful stress-modulating and antioxidant properties and supports physical and mental health. Research shows that rhodiola can support your body’s ability to respond to stress by influencing the release of stress hormones. Rhodiola rosea can be ingested as a tea, but many prefer rhodiola supplements for their more accurate measures.
11. Valerian root
Valeriana officinalis is an herb known for its calming effects, and it has long been used to promote sleep. Research shows valerian root can help support sleep quality and help reduce stress. Studies suggest that valerian root extracts can promote GABA signaling. And more of that calm-inducing neurotransmitter in your system can help you feel more relaxed.
Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid found in the membranes of your brain cells that plays an important role in keeping your mind sharp and your memories fresh. But it isn’t only good for cognitive function. Studies show phosphatidylserine can help maintain healthy cortisol levels — which can help you keep stress at bay.
A warm cup of soothing chamomile herbal tea, often used for sleep, is brimming with beneficial antioxidants, and it promotes a relaxing and restful night’s sleep. Plus, chamomile extract has been demonstrated to reduce stress and improve mood in a variety of studies. So curling up with a warm cup of this herbal scented tea is a great way to wind down at the end of the day, or you can choose to soothe with a chamomile supplement.
The soothing and calming scent of this purple flower is used in aromatherapy, teas, neck pillows, and eye masks for a reason! Just breathing in lavender can help calm worries, and lavender tea can help improve mood and decrease stress, studies have found. Lavender looks and smells great, so this plant is a great way to lower stress levels, no matter how you use it.
Saffron is better known for its flavoring than its ability to promote a healthy stress response, but clinical studies have found this spice, derived from the Crocus sativus flower, is effective in improving mood and keeping worries away. (A saffron supplement can also help you cut back on snacking, since many of us run for the cookie jar when times get tough!)
16. B vitamins
Is there anything B vitamins aren’t good for? The eight B vitamins — including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, biotin, methylcobalamin B12, and more — support healthy energy, brain health and healthy nerve function, protection against oxidation, and more. Studies have also found they help fight stress by helping improve mood. B vitamins are water-soluble, so they aren’t stored in your system. That means replenishing your levels daily, perhaps through a good B-complex vitamin, ensures you get the optimum health benefits.
Are stress supplements safe?
Stress supplements come in many forms, from capsules and gummies to powders and teas. Many have been used in traditional regimens for centuries with few undesirable effects. Others, such as lemon balm, even have a GRAS label from the FDA. However, you should talk to your doctor before any change to your lifestyle, dietary supplements included.
Other anti-stress tips
Stress and worry can dampen even the best of days. You might not be able to change your situation, but you can change your perspective.
Some find the practice of being present through yoga and meditation to be soothing for over-stressed minds. Others prefer to work out their stress through exercise. Not only do they enjoy the physical and mental health benefits it brings, they may benefit from the happy chemicals (endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin) that exercise releases.
And don’t write off that bubble bath for one. It might not be able to take you away from all your troubles, but it may help wash some of that stress down the drain.
- Amsterdam, Jay D. et al. “Putative Antidepressant Effect of Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) Oral Extract in Subjects with Comorbid Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression.” J Altern Complement Med., September 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7488203/
- Anghelescu, Ion-George et al. “Stress management and the role of Rhodiola rosea: a review.” International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice, January 2018, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13651501.2017.1417442
- Bakhtiari-Dovvombaygi, Hossein et al. “Beneficial effects of vitamin D on anxiety and depression-like behaviors induced by unpredictable chronic mild stress by suppression of brain oxidative stress and neuroinflammation in rats.” Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmachol., April 2021, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33106919/
- Bazrafshan, Mohammad-Rafi et al. “The effect of lavender herbal tea on the anxiety and depression of the elderly: A randomized clinical trial.” Complement Ther Med., May 2020, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32444033/
- Borges-Vieira, Jaqueline G et al. “Efficacy of B-vitamins and vitamin D therapy in improving depressive and anxiety disorders: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials.” N Neurosci., February 2020, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35156551/
- Chandrasekhar, K et al. “A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults.” Indian J Psychol Med., July 2012, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23439798/
- Donelli, Davide et al. “Effects of lavender on anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Phytomedicine, December 2019, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31655395/
- Hepsomali, Piril et al. “Effects of Oral Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) Administration on Stress and Sleep in Humans: A Systematic Review.” Front Neurosci., September 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7527439/
- Khare, Arvind et al. “Comparison of Effects of Oral Melatonin with Oral Alprazolam used as a Premedicant in Adult Patients Undergoing Various Surgical Procedures under General Anesthesia: A Prospective Randomized Placebo-Controlled Study. Anesth Essays Res., July 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6157235/
- Konstantinos, Fanaras et al. “The effects of Rhodiola rosea supplementation on depression, anxiety and mood.” Global Psychiatry Archives, 2020, https://globalpsychiatry.co.uk/article_1318.html
- Menon, Vikas et al. “Vitamin D and Depression: A Critical Appraisal of the Evidence and Future Directions.” Indian J Psychol Med., January 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6970300/
- Miller, Kelly. “Phosphatidylserine.” WebMD, May 2021, https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/phosphatidylserine-uses-and-risks
- Moritz, Bettina et al. “The role of vitamin C in stress-related disorders.” J Nutr Biochem., https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32745879/
- Nollet, Mahieu et al. “Sleep deprivation and stress: a reciprocal relationship.” Interface Focus, April 2020, https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsfs.2019.0092
- Ozawa, Hitoshi et al. “Effects of Dietary Food Components on Cognitive Functions in Older Adults.” Nutrients, August 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8398286/
- Pickering, Gisèle et al. “Magnesium Status and Stress: The Vicious Circle Concept Revisited.” Nutrients, November 2020, https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/12/3672
- Williams, Jackson L et al. “The Effects of Green Tea Amino Acid L-Theanine Consumption on the Ability to Manage Stress and Anxiety Levels: a Systematic Review.” Plant Foods Hum Nutr., March 2020, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31758301/
- Schmidt, Katja et al. “A lecithin phosphatidylserine and phosphatidic acid complex (PAS) reduces symptoms of the premenstrual syndrome (PMS): Results of a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial.” Clin Nutr ESPEN, April 2018, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29576358/
- Shinjyo, Noriko et al. “Valerian Root in Treating Sleep Problems and Associated Disorders — A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” J Evid Based Integ, 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7585905/
- Silva, Mariluce Rodrigues Marques et al. “Relationship between vitamin D deficiency and psychophysiological variables: a systematic review of the literature.” Clinics (Sao Paulo), October 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8552952/
- Soltanpour, Alireza et al. “Effects of Melissa officinalis on anxiety and sleep quality in patients undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery: A double-blind randomized placebo controlled trial.” European Journal of Integrative Medicine, June 2019, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1876382018309892
- Su, Kuan-Pin, MD, PhD et al. “Association of Use of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids With Changes in Severity of Anxiety Symptoms.” JAMA Netw Open., September 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6324500/
- Yeung, K Simon et al. “Herbal Medicine for Depression and Anxiety: A Systematic Review with Assessment of Potential Psycho-Oncologic Relevance.” Phytother Res., February 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5938102/
- Young, Lauren M et al. “A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of B Vitamin Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms, Anxiety, and Stress: Effects on Healthy and ‘At-Risk’ Individuals.” Nutrients, September 2019, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31527485/
- “Lemon balm.” Mount Sinai, https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/lemon-balm
- “Valerian.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, October 2020, https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/valerian
Originally published at https://www.lifeextension.com.