Our society has glamorized “stress” and “busy,” making us think it’s normal.
A certain degree of “stress” and “anxiety” is indeed normal.
Anxiety is a normal response to a range of different situations. It allows us to be alert to threats and motivate us to react. However, it can impact your mental wellbeing when you feel anxious every day and can’t remember the last time you felt relaxed.
The following article breaks down anxiety and the best nootropics that help anxiety.
What Are The Best Nootropics for Anxiety - Quick Answers
|Mind Lab Pro||The Nootropic Multivitamin||Learn More|
|Magnesium||The most underrated essential mineral for brain health||Learn More|
|Testo Lab Pro||Testosterone support to decrease anxiety||Learn More|
|L-Theanine||The all-natural "chill pill"||Learn More|
|Taurine||Not just for energy drinks||Learn More|
|L-Carnitine||The Red Meat Amino||Learn More|
|Reishi Mushroom||A staple in Eastern medicine||Learn More|
|Ashwagandha||Traditional herb with potent relaxing effects||Learn More|
|Aniracetam||One of the most popular nootropics for focus and mood||Learn More|
|N-acetylcysteine (NAC)||Versatile and effective all-round cognitive supplement||Learn More|
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety can affect you both mentally and physically and can present itself with a variety of symptoms. Common symptoms include:
- Feeling nervous, agitated, and angry
- Feeling powerless
- Having a sense of unexplained impending danger, panic, or doom
- Having an increased heart rate (tachycardia)
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
- Feeling weak or tired
- Struggling to pay attention and focus
- Sleep disturbances
HPA Axis and Stress Response
Physiologically, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis mediates the stress response.1Mary Ann C. Stephens, Ph.D.,Gary Wand, M.D. Stress and the HPA Axis Role of Glucocorticoids in Alcohol Dependence, Alcohol Res. 2012
Anxiety is characterized by a dysregulation of the HPA axis 2Gustavo E. Tafet1 and Charles B. Nemeroff Pharmacological Treatment of Anxiety Disorders: The Role of the HPA Axis, Front. Psychiatry. 2020.
Anxiety disorders are often found as a comorbidity with depression 3Zhiguo WU and Yiru FANG, Comorbidity of depressive and anxiety disorders: challenges in diagnosis and assessment, Shanghai Arch Psychiatry. 2014.
Both anxiety and depression are strictly connected to gut health.
Dopamine and serotonin are both neurotransmitters and are both considered “happy neuro chemicals.” They are related to mood and happiness.
Dopamine and serotonin also play crucial roles in sleep, digestion, pain response, and other bodily functions.
Types of Anxiety
There are several different types of anxiety. Let’s look at the five most common ones.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic Disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
A long-term condition that causes feelings of anxiety and exaggerated worry. These worries regard a wide range of issues and situations rather than one specific event 6Rowa, Karen Antony, Martin M., Generalized anxiety disorder., American Psychological Association. 2008.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
An anxiety disorder where unexpected and intense fear is accompanied by severe physical manifestations such as chest pain, sweat, and palpitations 8Peter P Roy-Byrne , Michelle G Craske, Murray B Stein, Panic disorder, Lancet. 2006.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
An anxiety disorder that develops after exposure to a traumatic event 9Heather A Kirkpatrick, Grant M Heller, Post-traumatic stress disorder: theory and treatment update, Int J Psychiatry Med. 2014.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Common Anxiety Prescriptions Medications
Treatment for anxiety usually consists of psychotherapy and medications. The most common prescription medications for anxiety include:
They work by enhancing the neurotransmitter GABA activity, a chemical in the brain that helps the feeling of calmness.
They also help with sleep disturbances.
Some common benzo’s include:
Antidepressants are also used to treat anxiety, particularly Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).
They work by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin.
This chemical affects mood, sleep, memory, sexual desire, and appetite 12M Berk, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in mixed anxiety-depression, Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 2000.
In comparison to benzodiazepines, they have less risk of developing dependence.
Therefore, they are a good option for chronic anxiety.
However, they take up to 4-5 weeks to begin relieving the symptoms, so they cannot be taken at need 13M Berk, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in mixed anxiety-depression, Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 2000.
Some common SSRI’s include:
Things That Make Anxiety Worse
- Unhealthy diet – a large number of studies have demonstrated that an unbalanced and unhealthy diet can significantly worsen anxiety 14Sophie Dutheil , Kristie T Ota , Eric S Wohleb , Kurt Rasmussen , Ronald S Duman , High-Fat Diet Induced Anxiety and Anhedonia: Impact on Brain Homeostasis and Inflammation, Neuropsychopharmacology. 2016 . Specifically, you should avoid high consumption of processed food containing preservatives, dyes, additives, high sugar, saturated fats, and insufficient Omega 3 intake 15Carla J Santos , Adaliene V M Ferreira , Ana L Oliveira , Marina C Oliveira, Julia S Gomes , Daniele C Aguiar , Carbohydrate-enriched diet predispose to anxiety and depression-like behavior after stress in mice, Nutr Neurosci. 2018 16Elnaz Daneshzad , Seyed-Ali Keshavarz , Mostafa Qorbani , Bagher Larijani , Leila Azadbakht , Association between a low-carbohydrate diet and sleep status, depression, anxiety, and stress score, J Sci Food Agric. 2020.
- Caffeine – Caffeine is a stimulant and should be avoided by those suffering from anxiety. High doses of caffeine are known to induce anxiety symptoms, especially in people who have panic disorder and social anxiety disorder 17Casey E O’Neill , Ryan J Newsom , Jacob Stafford , Talia Scott , Solana Archuleta , Sophia C Levis , Robert L Spencer , Serge Campeau , Ryan K Bachtell , Adolescent caffeine consumption increases adulthood anxiety-related behavior and modifies neuroendocrine signaling, Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2016.
- Alcohol and drugs – if you suffer from anxiety, you should avoid overconsumption of alcohol and consumption of drugs. They can both change the serotonin levels in the brain, which can worsen anxiety 18Justin J Anker , Matt G Kushner, Co-Occurring Alcohol Use Disorder and Anxiety: Bridging Psychiatric, Psychological, and Neurobiological Perspectives, Alcohol Res. 2019 19Florence Vorspan , Wajdi Mehtelli, Gaël Dupuy, Vanessa Bloch, Jean-Pierre Lépine, Anxiety and substance use disorders: co-occurrence and clinical issues, Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2015. Alcohol-induced anxiety can last for several hours or even an entire day.
Holistic Ways to Improve Anxiety
When anxiety becomes a daily struggle, even before turning to medications, there are many things you can do on your own to feel better. For example, you can try one of these holistic, drug-free remedies, from mind-body techniques to calming teas.
Improve your diet
Start with avoiding toxic foods that trigger anxiety. Eat more protein and good quality fats (e.g., red meat, organ meats, choline-rich foods, Omega 3 Rich Foods)
Exercise is a powerful anxiety fighter for many reasons.
It leads to changes in the brain that promote feelings of calm and wellbeing 20Brendon Stubbs , Davy Vancampfort , Simon Rosenbaum , Joseph Firth , Theodore Cosco , Nicola Veronese , Giovanni A Salum , Felipe B Schuch , An examination of the anxiolytic effects of exercise for people with anxiety and stress-related disorders: A meta-analysis, Psychiatry Res. 2017.
Good examples of exercise for anxiety include yoga and strength training.
Both release endorphins, chemicals in your brain that energize your mood and make you feel good (20).
Exercise also doubles as a distraction, allowing you to find some peaceful time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety 21Aaron Kandola , Brendon Stubbs, Exercise and Anxiety, Adv Exp Med Biol. 2020.
Examples of breathing exercises include meditation, alternate nostril breathing, and EFT tapping.
Several clinical studies have shown how mindfulness meditation, for example, is a promising therapeutic strategy for anxiety and can significantly improve stress reactivity 22Sy Atezaz Saeed, Karlene Cunningham, Richard M Bloch, Depression and Anxiety Disorders: Benefits of Exercise, Yoga, and Meditation, Am Fam Physician. 2019.
Chamomille is one of the most commonly used calming tea. For example, more than 150 participants in a clinical study reported that long-term use of chamomille reduced generalized anxiety disorder 23Jun J.MaoaSharon X.XiebJohn R.KeefecIreneSoellerdQing S.LidJay D.Amsterdam, Long-term chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) treatment for generalized anxiety disorder: A randomized clinical trial, Phytomedicine. 2016.
Tulsi, also called Holy Basil, is an Indian medical plant shown to decrease anxiety symptoms in several clinical and preclinical studies 24D Bhattacharyya , T K Sur, U Jana, P K Debnath, Controlled programmed trial of Ocimum sanctum leaf on generalized anxiety disorders, Nepal Med Coll J. 2008 25Manavi Chatterjee , Pinki Verma, Rakesh Maurya, Gautam Palit, Evaluation of ethanol leaf extract of Ocimum sanctum in experimental models of anxiety and depression, Pharm Biol. 2011.
Hibiscus is another calming tea with significant anxiolytic effects 26Cláudia Vanzella, Paula Bianchetti, Sabrina Sbaraini, Samanta Inês Vanzin, Maria Inês Soares Melecchi, Elina Bastos Caramão, and Ionara Rodrigues Siqueira, Antidepressant-like effects of methanol extract of Hibiscus tiliaceus flowers in mice, BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 .
Mind Your Gut Health
Now we know that the connection between gut health and mental health is loud and clear. Looking after the microbes living in your gut can be a great way to keep anxiety symptoms at bay. You can do so using probiotics and/or digestive enzymes.
Probiotics – for example, Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum have both been found to be good probiotics for anxiety and overall brain health 27Michaël Messaoudi,Nicolas Violle,Jean-François Bisson,Didier Desor,Hervé Javelot &Catherine Rougeot, Beneficial psychological effects of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in healthy human volunteers, Gut Microbes. 2011 28Michaël Messaoudi, Robert Lalonde,Nicolas Violle, Hervé Javelot,Didier Desor,Amine Nejdi,Jean-François Bisson,Catherine Rougeot,Matthieu Pichelin,Murielle Cazaubiel,Jean-Marc CazaubielAssessment of psychotropic-like properties of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in rats and human subjects, Cambridge University Press. 2010. You can try MegaSporeBiotic from Microbiome Labs as a complete probiotics supplement.
Digestive Enzymes – life is better when digestion works at its best. For example, a digestive enzyme supplementation, lactase if you are lactose intolerant, improves anxiety 29J Yang , M Fox, Y Cong, H Chu, X Zheng, Y Long, M Fried, N Dai, Lactose intolerance in irritable bowel syndrome patients with diarrhoea: the roles of anxiety, activation of the innate mucosal immune system and visceral sensitivity, Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2014 .
Apollo Wearable – a novel science-backed up wearable device that encourages parasympathetic activity to help you relax and not feel overwhelmed by stress.
Red Light/Infrared Light Therapy – a simple, all-natural modality that harness photobiomodulation to increase energy level and fight anxiety and depression 30Michael R Hamblin, Shining light on the head: Photobiomodulation for brain disorders, BBA Clin. 2016.
The Best Nootropics for Anxiety
The Nootropic Multivitamin
Mind Lab Pro is a preformulated nootropic stack that includes a unique formula of 11 research-backed ingredients.
It works as a whole-brain optimizer that supports overall mental performance. Its combination of powerful nootropics supports a calm mindset and stress management.
The most underrated essential mineral for brain health
One systematic review from 2017 found a significant link between high levels of anxiety and low levels of magnesium 31Neil Bernard Boyle, The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress—A Systematic Review, Nutrients 2017.
Magnesium regulates neurotransmitters in the brain. It primarily affects the hypothalamus, an area of the brain responsible for stress response 32Neil Bernard Boyle , Clare L Lawton, Louise Dye, The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety, Magnes Res. 2016 33Anna E Kirkland , Gabrielle L Sarlo , Kathleen F Holton, The Role of Magnesium in Neurological Disorders, Nutrients. 2018. Magnesium supplementation can, therefore, help ease anxiety symptoms and improve stress management 34Neil Bernard Boyle , Clare L Lawton, Louise Dye, The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety, Magnes Res. 2016 35Anna E Kirkland , Gabrielle L Sarlo , Kathleen F Holton, The Role of Magnesium in Neurological Disorders, Nutrients. 2018
Testosterone support to decrease anxiety
In men, anxiety can be a sign of low testosterone 36Erik J Giltay , Dorien Enter, Frans G Zitman, Brenda W J H Penninx, Johannes van Pelt, Phillip Spinhoven, Karin Roelofs, Salivary testosterone: associations with depression, anxiety disorders, and antidepressant use in a large cohort study, J Psychosom Res. 2012.
Testo Lab Pro is a supplement that contains several minerals, vitamins, herbs extract that enhance the production and the levels of circulating testosterone. This can improve mental clarity, cognitive functions and fixes mood issues such as anxiety.
The all-natural "chill pill"
Studies show that theanine intake can significantly reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as a racing heartbeat and increased secretion of immunoglobulin A in saliva 37Shinsuke Hidese, Shintaro Ogawa, Miho Ota,Ikki Ishida, Zenta Yasukawa, Makoto Ozeki, and Hiroshi Kunugi, Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial, Nutrients. 2019.
Not just for energy drinks
The Red Meat Amino
L-Carnitine is a molecule that provides cells with energy. Recently, L-Carnitine had promising results in a clinical trial evaluating it as a treatment for depression 40Carla Nasca, Benedetta Bigio, Francis S. Lee, Sarah P. Young, Marin M. Kautz, Ashly Albright, James Beasley, David S. Millington, Aleksander A. Mathé, James H. Kocsis, James W. Murrough, Bruce S. McEwen, and Natalie Rasgon, Acetyl-l-carnitine deficiency in patients with major depressive disorder, PNAS August 21, 2018.
Other preclinical studies showed its potential for anxiety as well41Joseph Levine, Zeev Kaplan, Jay W. Pettegrew, Richard J. McClure, Samuel Gershon, Igor Buriakovsky, Hagit Cohen, Effect of intraperitoneal acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) on anxiety-like behaviours in rats, International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. 2005 42Lais Pancotto, Ricieri Mocelin, Matheus Marcon, Ana P. Herrmann, and Angelo Piato, Anxiolytic and anti-stress effects of acute administration of acetyl-L-carnitine in zebrafish, PeerJ. 2018
A staple in Eastern medicine
Reishi Mushrooms are a staple of Eastern medicine.
Also known as Ganoderma lucidum, they grow in various humid locations in Asia.
They are famous for their numerous health benefits, such as immunity booster.
Preliminary studies show that Reishi mushrooms might help cancer survivors with anxiety and depression 43Hong Zhao , Qingyuan Zhang, Ling Zhao, Xu Huang, Jincai Wang, Xinmei Kang, Spore Powder of Ganoderma lucidum Improves Cancer-Related Fatigue in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Endocrine Therapy: A Pilot Clinical Trial, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012
This nootropic could provide the building blocks to make up this deficit.
Traditional herb with potent relaxing effects
Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb used to treat anxiety.
Studies showed that high-concentration Ashwagandha root could improve an individual's resistance to stress.
Overall, consumption of Ashwagandha leads to an enhanced self-assessed quality of life 44K Chandrasekhar , Jyoti Kapoor, Sridhar Anishetty,
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. 2012.
One of the most popular nootropics for focus and mood
Aniracetam is a nootropic with similar effects to caffeine.
Some studies showed decreased anxiety following Aniracetam in rodents (42). However, Aniracetam is not FDA-approved, and more research in humans is needed to assess its potential for anxiety treatment 46Kazuo Nakamura, Aniracetam: its novel therapeutic potential in cerebral dysfunctional disorders based on recent pharmacological discoveries, CNS Drug Rev. 2002.