Guide to Natural Anxiety Relief Ingredients

Dr. Morgan Camp M.D.

IN BRIEF

Here is a comprehensive guide to anxiety relief natural ingredients including: Minerals Herbs Vitamins We can start the list of natural calm ingredients with the easiest and most important; that is the minerals.
Bowl of fresh spinach

Many people with anxiety have been searching for help for a long time. It makes sense – there is no one cure that works for every single person, and each person has a different set of symptoms that are lumped under the term “anxiety” including:

  • Nervousness
  • Apprehension
  • Worry
  • Fear
  • Stress
  • Tension
  • Panic

And these are just a few.  It is now estimated by the Kaiser Research Foundation that in the summer of 2020, up to 30% of all Americans had either anxiety or depression.

There are several options to choose for anxiety treatment, including pharmaceuticals.  However, it is estimated that 10% or less of people with anxiety receive effective treatment.

There are plenty of all-natural ways to bring the body back into balance by reducing anxiety and helping you to enjoy life to the fullest.

The following is a comprehensive guide to anxiety relief natural ingredients including minerals, herbs, and vitamins. Our list of natural calm ingredients begins with the easiest and most important: the minerals.

Magnesium

Magnesium is the one of most necessary stress and anxiety ingredients. It is necessary for over 350 chemical reactions in our body to work properly. Yet, almost all Americans are deficient in it!  Why is everyone lacking this natural ingredient for anxiety? Because there is not enough of it in our food supply due to modern farming practices. 

The consequences of having low magnesium include a long list of potential health issues including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Premenstrual Syndrome
  • Fatigue
  • Hypertension
  • And much more…

This study on Magnesium shows significant improvement in symptoms of depression in just two weeks of taking Magnesium

And this study from 2017 “found a significant association between very low magnesium intake and depression, especially in younger adults.”

This study, also from 2017, suggests that many people with anxiety would benefit from magnesium supplementation. 

Which Foods Are High in Magnesium?

Natural ingredients that contain higher levels of magnesium include:

  • Spinach
  • Chard
  • Many other green leafy vegetables
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Almond butter
  • Dark chocolate
  • Black beans

What Form of Magnesium is Useful as a Natural Cure for Anxiety?​

Magnesium is considered one of the best natural calm ingredients for anxiety by many functional medicine practitioners. Taking the right form of magnesium is very important and cannot be emphasized enough.

There are more effective and less effective forms of Magnesium to take as a natural ingredient for anxiety treatment. Most Magnesium supplements, including the famous “Calm” product, are a form of Magnesium called “Magnesium citrate or mag oxide” that is not absorbed in your intestines. Therefore, it does not help with anxiety as much as other forms of Magnesium may. Magnesium citrate does, however, work well for constipation. Since it is not absorbed in the intestines, it forces your body to release water into the colon to dilute the magnesium, thus producing a loose or watery stool. 

A good form of Magnesium should have two properties:

  1. It should be well absorbed, meaning it must make it into your bloodstream and that means either:
    1. Take the correct form in a capsule or powder. 
    2. Use a topical Magnesium
    3. Use epsom salt baths
  2. For Mood disorders, it is best if Magnesium goes into the brain, crossing the Blood Brain Barrier.  Currently studies are inconclusive on exactly which forms may cross the BBB. It is likely that the following forms work best for this.

Dr. Morgan's Top 3 Magnesium Supplements:

  • Magnesium Glycinate
  • Magnesium Threonate
  • Topical Magnesium including Epsom Salt Baths, Magnesium oil and Magnesium topical. 

Herbs​

Herbs are plants that have certain properties, usually aromatic or flavorful, that are used in cooking or in traditional medicine. Some evidence shows that herbs were being used as medicine as long ago as 60,000 years! So there is a long tradition of using herbs to heal, and the power of herbs goes beyond just their chemical components.  Even some modern medicines, like aspirin and quinine, got their start as herbal remedies. 

The appeal of using herbs as medicine is that they are all natural and they come from the earth. There are many different ways to take them including tinctures, powders, pills, teas, salves, and more. The following are some of the best herbs to use to lower anxiousness, nervousness, and worries. 

Ashwaganda​

Ashwagandha has been used in India for thousands of years and is one of the premiere adaptogenic herbs in the world, meaning it helps those who take it adapt to stress.  Thus, it is considered one of the top natural calm ingredients for anxiety. Most supplements on the market use the root of Ashwagandha and it is one of the most widely used and prescribed medications in Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine. 

Ashwagandha, also known as Withania Somnifera, is an important herb in this tradition because it benefits many body systems, including the immune, neurological, endocrine and reproductive systems.

There have been hundreds of studies on Ashwagandha, and the herb has been shown to:

  • Treat adrenal fatigue and lower stress
  • Support thyroid gland function
  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Improve stamina and endurance
  • Prevent and treat cancer
  • Reduce brain cell death
  • Maintain healthy blood sugar levels
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Boost immune system

Safety:  Ashwagandha is exceptionally safe to use.  It has very few side effects.

Properties in Ayurvedic Medicine:  Ashwagandha is a bit warming, and can therefore exacerbate symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, etc.

Holy Basil/Tulsi​

Tulsi is one of the five incredible natural ingredients for anxiety that we use in Be Serene. It has been revered as a holy plant and herbal supplement in Hindu culture for centuries. It has many health benefits, but one of the main reasons to take Tulsi is to reduce anxiety.

Tulsi is also an adaptogenic herb, meaning it helps to regular your adrenal system, the hormonal system of the body that responds to stress. Animal studies have proven this. Also, as tulsi has been used for millennia in Ayurvedic medicine in India, we can also look to that tradition as confirmation that this herbal remedy is safe and effective for many who try it.

Other uses for Tulsi include:

  • Improves immune system
  • Improves recovery from viral and bacterial infections
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Lowers arthritis symptoms
  • Regulate blood sugar

Safety: Tulsi has no known side effects or adverse reactions. However, as with any supplement, if you have a concerning medical condition, please check with a professional before adding Tulsi to your regimen.

Properties in Ayurvedic Medicine: Tulsi has hot and sharp qualities that help it to stoke digestive fire as well as fight bacteria and viruses.

Mulungu​

The Mulungu plant is native to the Amazon region. Its primary use is as a natural ingredient to relieve anxiety and help with insomnia.

Mulungu functions by binding to your GABA receptors, a function usually performed by GABA, an amino acid. GABA receptors regulate the nervous system and that helps to keep anxiousness in check. As a natural supplement, you can achieve the anxiety relief you need without feeling groggy, out of it, or like if you do not take it you will get sick.

Mulungu also:

  • May prevent epileptic seizures
  • Reduces pain and inflammation
  • Eases symptom of asthma

Safety: There are very few side effects with Mulungu. However, if you have low blood pressure, please check with a healthcare professional before taking it, because it may lower your blood pressure further.  If you are on medications to treat high blood pressure, also consult your physician as you may need to adjust your dosing. 

Schisandra

Schisandra is one of the most commonly used natural calm ingredients in traditional Chinese Medicine. Schisandra has been proven to be an adaptogen, regulating the adrenal system to help you cope better with stress. However, its thousands of years of use in Chinese medicine for the same purpose also prove its worth. Specifically, it helps to regulate noradrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin. Noradrenaline is a major component of what we call “adrenaline” and by regulating adrenaline, many of the symptoms of anxiousness subside quickly.

Schisandra also has many other health benefits including:

  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Improves respiratory ailments
  • May help digestive issues
  • Eases symptoms of premenstrual syndrome

Safety: Schisandra berry is generally safe, but as it is processed in the liver, please consult a healthcare professional before use if you have liver concerns.

Kava

Kava is a root that has been used by traditional cultures of Polynesia for thousands of years as a ceremonial and ritual drink.  It has many interesting properties including: 

  • Anxiolytic (anxiety reducing)
  • Mildly euphoric/intoxicating
  • Increased sociability
  • Mild anesthetic

It is most commonly consumed as a cold beverage made from the root of the kava plant. 

Side Effects: Kava, when used as a natural ingredient for anxiety, has been associated with liver damage and therefore it must be used with caution as some heavy kava users were so injured that they required a liver transplant.  It is also quite intoxicating at high doses and should not be combined with driving or operating heavy machinery. 

Important Note: In traditional Polynesian cultures, the kava root is the only part of the plant consumed.  However, when this plant was introduced into the Western market, some importers disregarded that wisdom of the ancient cultures that had used this for thousands of years and they used the other parts of the plant including the leaves and stems in the formulas.   

This has been discussed in a  report submitted to the Committee of Safety of Medicines of the United Kingdom in April 2002 reports that many of the side effects of kava kava are due to the high concentration of the herb in commercial standardized extracts. The report suggests that kava preparations made according to traditional methods are relatively safe. However, it’s likely that controversy over kava kava will continue and therefore we urge you to consume it with caution. 

Potential Interactions:  It is important not to mix Kava with alcohol otherwise you may be at higher risk for liver damage. 

Vitamins

The next topic in our Guide to Natural Anxiety Relieving Ingredients is vitamins. Many people have taken a multivitamin since childhood without a second thought. However, there are specific vitamins that can be taken as supplements or eaten in food that help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.

Vitamin B6​

Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine is a critical vitamin that is needed for over 140 chemical reactions in our body including the production of all of the essential neurotransmitters including:

Without the proper dose or form of B6, you cannot make the neurotransmitters that you need for optimal brain chemistry, thus producing the following symptoms of B6 Deficiency: 

  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue

Vitamin B6 is water soluble, meaning that you need it regularly in your diet, because it can not be stored in the body for very long (in contrast to fat soluble vitamins which do not need to be taken daily.)

There are two main forms of B6 that you can take in supplement form including pyridoxine and pyridoxal 5′-phosphate or P5P.  P5P is a better stress and anxiety ingredient for certain people as it is activated and ready to work in your body.  Many people with chronic illnesses or certain genetic defects cannot adequately activate B Vitamins and it is therefore recommended to take the P5P form.   

Vitamin B6 is also necessary for optimal functioning of your adrenal glands, which is the gland that helps you manage stress. For this reason, B6 is one of the most critical stress and anxiety ingredients needed for adrenal health and support.

Who is at high risk for B6 deficiency and thus might have a  lack of this critical natural calm ingredient? 

  • Those with high stress
  • Chronic alcohol users
  • Those suffering from chronic fungal and candida infections
  • Those with chronic vaginal yeast infections

Dietary Sources of Vitamin B6:

  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Animal Meats
  • Fish

Vitamin B12​

Vitamin B12 is one of the most critical for optimal brain and mental health. It is estimated by several health organizations that B12 deficiency is one of the most common problems in the world that may affect up to 40% of all adults! Without optimal levels of B12, you may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anemia
  • Forgetfulness
  • Dementia
  • Neuropathy

What is the Best Form of B12 to take? ​

Methylcobalamin is the most bioavailable and easiest to use form of B12 on the market today. Methylcobalamin also acts as what is called a “methyl donor”, which helps to energize numerous chemical reactions in your body. 

How Do I Know if I Have a B12 Deficiency?

You can ask your doctor to order a Serum B12 level for you at any major diagnostic laboratory. For optimal levels, many functional medicine physicians recommend supplementing to maintain blood levels above 500.

Please note:  Once you are regularly taking B12, when you repeat the blood test, your levels will likely be high and that does not necessarily mean that you should lower the dose.  In that case, ask your doctor to also order a homocysteine test for you as that can also help you adjust the level of B12 intake to an ideal homocysteine level of 6-8. 

Who is Most at Risk of Having a B12 Deficiency?

  • Vegans and vegetarians
  • Adults >50 years old
  • Anyone with heartburn or GERD
  • Anyone taking a class of medications called a Proton Pump Inhibitor that blocks the release of stomach acid that is necessary for the absorption of B12 from food.

What Foods Contain B12?

Vitamin B12 is found as a natural ingredient in many foods including:
  • Animal Protein
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Fish

Folic Acid​

Vitamin B9, also known as folate, folic acid or 5-methylenetetrahydrofolate, is also water-soluble, and one of the 8 B-Vitamins.

Folic Acid is important for the following:

  • Brain Optimization: Folate is necessary for DNA and RNA synthesis, gene expression, amino acid synthesis and metabolism, and myelin synthesis and repair.
  • Neurotransmitters: Folate is necessary for the production of dopamine, epinephrine and serotonin. Without proper levels of these neurotransmitters, mood disorders are certainly more prevalent.
  • Mood: Folate is critical for a good mood.  It is so critical that the FDA has approved a form of folic acid, L-Methylfolate as a prescription antidepressant. The trade name is Deplin and it is available by prescription. 

Folic Acid's Important Role With B12​

These two nutrients work together, therefore it is critical to take folic acid along with B12. In addition to supporting the nervous system, together they also support healthy cell development and may help prevent harmful birth defects if taken during pregnancy.

What Are the Symptoms of Folic Acid Deficiency?​

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anemia
  • Lack of focus, attention deficit symptoms

Advanced Note on Folic Acid:  As you likely know, folic acid is added to cereals, breads, etc to prevent neural tube defects.  However up to 25% of Americans have some variant of genetic mutation called an MTHFR mutation. This is important, as patients with this genetic defect may benefit from a special form of Folic acid called Methyl Folate. If you suspect this, then ask your physician to test you for the MTHFR mutation or you can order it yourself from any number of online labs. 

Vitamin B3​

Vitamin B3 comes in two forms:  Niacin and Niacinamide.

Niacin Vs. Niacinamide

Niacin often causes a “flush” that people find to be uncomfortable or even anxiety provoking. It makes you feel hot and may cause you to turn reddish.

Niacinamide is known as “No Flush Niacin” as it does not cause the aforementioned flushing. 

Niacinamide is a favorite stress and anxiety ingredient as it is much easier to take than Niacin. Though Niacinamide deficiency is not commonly associated with anxiety, there is some evidence to support its use, especially for anxiety related to either alcohol withdrawal or alcohol cravings. In those cases, it is likely one of the best natural calm ingredients for anxiety.

Foods That Are High in Niacin

  • Chicken Breast
  • Tuna
  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Avocado
  • Brown Rice
  • Asparagus
  • Portobello Mushrooms

Niacinamide Use by the Founder of Alcoholics Anonymous to Lower Alcohol Cravings:

One of the most well known researchers and proponents of Niacin as a treatment for mental illness was Dr. Abram Hoffer, MD. He treated many patients with anxiety related disorders using Niacin with great success and he has several books on the subject. 

Interestingly, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous discovered that Niacin was an amazing natural ingredient for stress and anxiety later in his life after meeting Dr. Hoffer. For the last 11 years of his life, he recommended everyone in AA to take Niacin or Niacinamide to lower the relapse rate. 

Dr. Hoffer found that Niacinamide in doses ranging from 500 mg twice a day to 1,000 mg 3 times per day is beneficial for some patients with anxiety, especially patients with anxiety related to alcohol abuse. Many report that taking Niacinamide at high doses of 500-1000mg three times per day lowers the anxiety and depression symptoms that lead them to crave and consume alcohol.

In Conclusion

If you’re looking to lower your anxiousness and nervousness, these are just a few of the herbs, vitamins, and supplements that can help. Keep reading our blog for more tips on how to get ahead of anxiety. And of course, give Be Serene a try. It’s an all-natural combination of five amazing herbal supplements – several of them mentioned in this guide – that can help reduce anxiety and help you feel less stressed. 

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About Dr. Morgan Camp M.D.

Dr. Morgan is an expert in Functional and Integrative Medicine with a Strong Emphasis in stress related illnesses like anxiety and insomnia. In addition to his 20 years of work in Functional Medicine, he has expanded his practice to include work on the deeper aspects of our being that point to the root cause of our illnesses working with Mind Body Wellness, Energy Medicine, and Healing with Consciousness.
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