When you’re battling anxiety, what you eat matters. Are there vitamins for anxiety that are effective? How about minerals? Herbs? Other Supplements?
I’ve read a LOT of scientific studies testing whether various vitamins for sleep and anxiety work or not.
Check out this list of vitamins for anxiety and read what researchers found. I’ve added minerals, some amino acids, and a few other compounds, too. At the end, I've also included a secret diet hack!
What Vitamins are Good for Anxiety?
The B Vitamins
There are 8 B Vitamins, and they have different functions inside your body.
They’re all water-soluble, so your body doesn’t store them. Rather, you have to replenish them every day because whatever you don’t use gets excreted in your urine.
The 8 B Vitamins are B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12. So let’s find out which ones, if any, have shown to be beneficial for reducing anxiety.
B1 – Thiamine
Thiamine, or Vitamin B1 may reduce anxiety and provide other helpful benefits in people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
A 2011 study tested 9 adults with GAD who also had low thiamine blood levels. They got an injection of 100 mg of Vitamin B1 every day for 2-4 weeks.
At the end of the experiment, the participants had less anxiety, better appetite, reduced fatigue, and also reported a better feeling of well-being. They improved so much, in fact, that they were able to stop taking their anti-anxiety meds.
But why? What does thiamine have to do with anxiety?
Well, your central nervous system (CNS) needs a constant supply of glucose. Thiamine is important in the glucose energy pathways in the CNS. It’s a coenzyme that’s needed to make acetylcholine (ACh), and ACh is needed to make the neurotransmitter norepinephrine (among a lot of other things).
There are a lot of pathways and chemicals involved, but the end result is that thiamine improves mood and helps relieve anxiety symptoms, especially in those who have a naturally-lot thiamine level in their blood.
However, there is a caveat.
Studies show that humans generally cannot absorb more than 2.5 mg in a single dose when you take it orally. So, theoretically, you’d have to take a 2.5-mg dose 40 times a day to get the 100-mg dosage used in the study. HA!
When you get it injected intramuscularly, though, it all gets absorbed, so that’s the most effective way to get it into your bloodstream. Then it can circulate around to all your cells and do its important work.
Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin
Riboflavin may help with anxiety.
A study tested the how well riboflavin reduced anxiety compared to the anti-anxiety drugs diazepam and buspirone. Riboflavin was found to reduce anxiety, but the test was done on mice, not people.
A study that looked at whether the amount of B vitamins (i.e., B2 & B12) in the blood was associated with anxiety and depression in the elderly. The study showed that those with low levels of these B vitamins had a 40-57% higher risk of depression, but no association was found for anxiety. But this doesn’t address whether or not the B vitamins can help relieve anxiety, only that not having enough may not cause anxiety.
Vitamin B3 – Niacin
Niacin has a lot of beneficial uses, but according to my research, reducing anxiety isn’t one of them.
In fact, I did find a study that indicated niacin increased anxiety in people with social-anxiety disorder.
Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic Acid
I found no evidence whatsoever that it has any effect on anxiety.
Vitamin B6 - Pyridoxine and Pyridoxamine
Vitamin B6 may help reduce anxiety.
A study done on rats who had low Magnesium-blood levels tested Vitamin B6 in combination with magnesium to reduce anxiety and/or depression. The combination of Magnesium and B6 supplementation reduced anxiety (and depression) more than just giving them magnesium alone.
A study on 44 adult women who suffered anxiety symptoms with premenstrual symptoms were tested. They were either given magnesium, magnesium with B6, B6 alone, or nothing.
Results showed that those who took 200 mg/day Mg + 50 mg/day vitamin B6 (in combination) every day for one month reduced their anxiety symptoms (i.e., nervous tension, mood swings, irritability, and anxiety).
So, while both of these studies showed a reduction in anxiety with B6, both of them used a combination of B6 with magnesium.
B12 – Cobalamin
I found that B12 is probably not useful in helping anxiety.
I looked at several studies testing the effectiveness of B12 on anxiety levels, and most studies found no benefit of B12 for anxiety. Here’s a 2012 study and a 2003 study. A 2008 study found a “weak association” between B12 and anxiety
Vitamin C does many amazing things for the body, but does it help reduce anxiety?
Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant. All research I found showed that supplementation with Vitamin C raises the antioxidant levels in the blood but doesn’t reduce anxiety symptoms. Here’s an example of one study.
Vitamin D can help relieve anxiety.
Low levels of Vitamin D in the blood are associated with anxiety symptoms, in both people and mice/rats.
- A study of fibromyalgia patients showed Vitamin D deficiency was correlated with anxiety and depression.
- When researchers took away the Vitamin D receptors in mice, the mice got very anxious.
- An English study found that pregnant women who are low in Vitamin D have kids who are more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder or anxiety later on.
- This 2009 study found that an association between Vitamin D deficiency and anxiety is “likely”.
How much Vitamin D should you take?
It depends on what level of Vitamin D you currently have in your bloodstream. Vitamin D is important for many different bodily functions, so you really should get tested to see what your level is. You should take enough to get your blood level up to at least 40-60 ng/ml.
(Just for reference, when I tested myself, I was at 9 ng/ml! I now take 5000 iu of Vitamin D a day, and my level is now at 58 ng/ml. But I’m not a doctor, so do your own research or talk to your physician. But remember, physicians get almost NO training in nutrition and vitamins, etc).
Grassrootshealth has a project going where you can test your Vitamin D level (at home) regularly and become part of a study group.
If you’re not into that, there are plenty of at-home tests you can order online. Even Amazon offers an easy-to-use, affordable at-home test kit. (Believe me, it’s probably much cheaper than going to the doctor and having it done. When my doctor ordered the test, I was charged $320 for the test, which I had to pay out-of-pocket for).
Vitamin E may possibly have an effect on anxiety.
One study gave vitamin E to pigs who were getting transported (which induces anxiety). Vitamin E decreased the pigs’ heart rates.
One study gave 400 mg/dl doses of Vitamin E to geriatric people for one year. After 2 months, they had less anxiety, and they continued to improve all the way until the end of the one-year study.
I found no evidence that Vitamin A reduces anxiety symptoms. In fact, a study done on rats showed that Vitamin A caused oxidative stress in the brain’s hippocampus (associated with fear) and that it increased anxiety.
Minerals for Anxiety
What about minerals for anxiety? Which ones help?
Calcium may increase anxiety.
One of the ways the body uses calcium is as a gatekeeper for various calcium-transport channels, including cells in the nervous system. When calcium attaches to its bonding site, the calcium-channel opens up, and molecules are free to flow through. If you want to see how that works, here’s an explanation from Khan Academy.
The body naturally seeks to get rid of calcium during periods of stress. When you get stressed, you release more cortisol. Cortisol blocks the body from re-absorbing calcium back into the cells. This means more calcium gets excreted through urine.
Magnesium can reduce anxiety. Having a magnesium deficiency is known to increase anxiety in rats, mice, and people.
- Anxious rats with brain injury (which decreases magnesium levels) were treated with magnesium, and the prevalence of anxiety was reduced by 31%.
- A study on mice showed that lowered magnesium levels caused anxiety.
- Another mouse study showed that supplementation with magnesium reduced anxiety and depression.
Zinc and Copper
A zinc deficiency can cause anxiety, so taking zinc can reduce anxiety symptoms.
Zinc and copper both fight for the same receptor sites. When zinc levels go down, usually copper levels go up.
A 2011 study tested 38 people with anxiety. Initially, they had high levels of copper and low levels of zinc in their blood. Then they were given daily zinc supplements. Their zinc levels went up, and their anxiety went down.
Too much copper can work to increase production of the excitatory neurotransmitters norepinephrine and epinephrine.
Also, too much copper can inhibit the GABA receptors, which work to calm you down. When it’s blocked, you’re not getting the neurotransmitter, GABA. Zinc enhances GABA activity in the brain.
This study showed that people suffering from panic disorder had low zinc levels.
Selenium may help decrease anxiety.
- This study followed 63 HIV-positive adults with anxiety for a year. They were given 200 μ/day of selenium supplements. After 12 months, those who took selenium had less anxiety and more vigor than those in the control group (who didn’t take selenium).
- This study involved giving 50 people 100-mcg selenium supplements daily for 5 weeks. The results showed that the higher their blood level of selenium, the less anxiety and the better their mood was. The lower their selenium levels were, the more depression, anxiety, and tiredness they had.
- Vitamin E and selenium were both administered to geriatric patients for one year. After two months, their anxiety decreased, as well as depression and fatigue.
Iron may help reduce anxiety.
- Low iron levels impair GABA transmission in the brain, leading to more anxiety.
- Also, low iron levels in the hippocampus leads to heightened anxiety.
- A study in African post-partum women showed that iron supplementation led to a 25% decrease in anxiety and depression levels (the women had low iron levels when the study began).
Chromium may play a role in reducing anxiety.
Chromium picolinate is a popular supplement that combines chromium with picolinic acid, which helps the body absorb and use the chromium. Vitamin C and Niacin (B3) also help the body absorb chromium better.
This study done on rats showed that chromium supplementation reduced anxiety and depression. It did it by increasing 5-HT (serotonin receptors) in the brain as well as decreasing levels of corticosterone (like cortisol, the “stress” hormone).
Amino Acids, Herbs, and More
I’ll also mention a few other substances which have been shown to help reduce anxiety symptoms.
L-Lysine, L-arginine, and L-tyrosine
These amino acids may reduce anxiety.
- One study showed that a giving 108 adults L-lysine supplements (2.64 g per day) reduced anxiety. Also, a combination of L-lysine and L-arginine (2.64 g per day) normalized stress responses in people with anxiety and reduced their stress-hormone levels.
- A study tested the effects of 3g/day of L-Lysine and L-arginine on 29 adults with anxiety for 10 days. The result showed lowered anxiety, lowered cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline levels (“stress hormones”), and better skin-test results.
- A study tested the effects of 2g/day of the amino acid tyrosine on the stress levels of 21 military cadets undergoing training. After 5 days, those who took the tyrosine had lower blood pressure, improved memory, and less stress and fatigue.
- A review article found that L-lysine and L-arginine were effective as treatment for anxiety.
Insoitol may reduce anxiety and panic.
Inositol (actually, it’s myo-inositol) is a sugar alcohol mostly found in fruits like oranges, as well as beans, grains, and nuts.
- One study gave 21 people with panic disorder 12 g of inositol a day for 4 weeks. The frequency and severity of panic attacks declined significantly, and those with agoraphobia got much better. Also, there were no major side effects.
- A study indicated that 12-18g/day of inositol may be effective for panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Ginseng may have some effect on reducing anxiety.
The results showed that the ginseng decreased anxiety about the same as the diazepam.
- This study found that ginseng may be effective for reducing anxiety in menopausal women.
Passion flower helps reduce anxiety.
- This study tested the ability of Passion Flower to reduce anxiety in 60 patients about to undergo surgery. The results showed that it was effective in reducing anxiety without causing sedation.
Of course, there are other compounds that have been shown to reduce anxiety, but those are the main ones I wanted to cover here.
As a bonus, I’m going to tell you about a possible diet hack you might employ to help lower anxiety.
An Anti-Anxiety Diet Hack
As I was researching the literature for this article, I came across a very interesting study.
We all know that sugar isn’t good for our bodies – in many ways.
I found this study that wanted to see if removing sugar from the diet and replacing it with honey could stop brain decline that comes with aging.
The study was conducted on rats. They removed all sugar from their diet and used honey instead for a year.
The results showed that the antioxidants in honey reduced age-related brain decline, but the honey-fed rats also showed “significantly less anxiety at all stages of aging compared with those fed sucrose”. Wow!
The honey-fed rats also had better spatial memory than the sugar-fed ones.
So maybe, replacing sugar with honey can reduce anxiety as well as help your brain function and your memory!