There are many alternative choices for anxiety relief. In future articles we will discuss various herbal and homeopathic modalities. Here, we will be focusing on what some studies have discovered about amino acid therapy for anxiety. You can keep reading, or scroll to the the bottom for the TAKE ACTION points.
Anxiety disorders affect approximately 40 million American adults aged 18 and over, and one in every eight American children are diagnosed with anxiety. It is likely that these numbers are actually higher if we consider that anxiety coexists with so many other mental health conditions such as behavior problems like ADHD or mood imbalance such as depression. Of course, we should also consider the many people who suffer from anxiety and never seek help. Are you one of them? Or, perhaps you did seek help and have tried many prescription drugs to no avail. This article is for you.
There are many alternative choices for anxiety relief. In future articles we will discuss various herbal and homeopathic modalities. Here, we will be focusing what some studies discovered about amino acid therapy for anxiety.
There are many studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of L-Theanine for reduction or relief of anxiety symptoms. One study of the electrical activity of the brain (via EEG) after giving participants only 50 mg of L-theanine and found:
“L-theanine significantly increases activity in the alpha frequency band which indicates that it relaxes the mind without inducing drowsiness.”
Nobre, Rao, and Owen, 2008
Another study in which participants were given 250 mg L-theanine per day concluded “L-theanine administration is safe and has multiple beneficial effects on depressive symptoms, anxiety, sleep disturbance and cognitive impairments in patients with major depressive disorder” – Hidese et al., Acta Neuropsychiatrica, 2017
My husband takes L-theanine with magnesium glycinate. He no longer has trouble with night time anxiety. The addition of L-theanine has enabled him to fall asleep at night and prevents his mind from racing if he wakes up in the middle of the night, enabling him to fall back asleep with ease. It also helps him cope calmly with daily stressors.
We use this L-theanine by Sports Research and the magnesium glycinate from Pure Encapsulations:
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
GABA is a primary inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter in the brain. Although the evidence is conflicted regarding whether or not GABA supplements cross the blood brain barrier, Alkemade et al (2015) postulate ingested GABA may be acting on the brain indirectly via the enteric nervous system (our gut). Alkemade et al (2015) also discuss the possibility that the reason we are not able to establish GABA crossing the blood brain barrier is due to how quickly it is sent back out once it goes in. This idea is based on studies of mice. Mice do have a GABA transporter in their blood brain barrier, and in mice GABA has been shown to “go out” 17 times faster than it “goes in” (Alkemade et al., 2015). Both ideas seem very logical, especially considering all we now know about the gut-brain connection.
“Dietary GABA supplement in clinical studies relieves anxiety and increases alpha brain waves, which are associated with relaxation” – Alramadhan et al., Medical Science Monitor: International Medical Journal of Experimental and Clinical Research, 2012
“GABA could work effectively as a natural relaxant and its effects could be seen within 1 hour of its administration to induce relaxation and diminish anxiety.”
Abdou, A. et al., BioFactors, 2006
In a study which focused on GABA for insomnia, Byun et al (2018) demonstrated that GABA at 300 mg daily produced an anxiolytic (relaxing) effect which resulted in improvement of sleep quality and anxiety/insomnia symptoms as reported by participants.
Dr. Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure, recommends the following dosage:
GABA 100 mg to 500 mg 1 to 3 times per day at or before high stress times. She also recommends avoiding high dose GABA (750 mg) as this may actually worsen anxiety (Ross, 2011).
We love this sublingual lozenge by Source Naturals for quick anxiety relief.
And we have also used this one:
Also, there are some really great choices that combine these relaxing aminos, like this one by Jarrow that combines theanine, GABA, and ashwaganda (a powerful adaptogen herb that also reduces anxiety and helps regulate hormones systemically).:
Anxiety can be truly debilitating. I have cared for many people who needed to take prescribed anxiety medication three to four times per day just to function somewhat normally. Such medications are not without unwanted side effects including drowsiness and poor sleep quality. These studies we have discussed demonstrate a good safety profile for both L-Theanine and GABA. Perhaps many people with anxiety simply have deficiency of these amino acids.
TAKE ACTION points
L-Theanine: In the studies discussed, dosages for participants were:L-Theanine: 50 mg to 250 mg per day
GABA: 100 mg to 500 mg 1 to 3 times per day at or before high stress times or to help with sleep (Ross, 2011).
Make sure that you are getting enough vitamin B6 because vitamin B6 is essential for proper neurotransmitter function in the brain. We like this one because it is the fully active form of B6 called P5P.
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Abdou, A., Hatta, H., Horie, K., Higashiguchi, S., Yokogoshi, H. (2006). Relaxation and immunity enhancement effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration in humans. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16971751
Alkemade, A., Boonstra, E., Colzato, L., Forstmann, B., Kleijn, R., Nieuwenhuis, S. (2015). Neurotransmitters as food supplements: the effects of GABA on brain and behavior. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4594160/
Alramadhan, E., Avila, S., Goldstein, T., Hanna, M., Hanna, M., Weeks, B. (2012). Dietary and botanical anxiolytics. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3560823/
Byun, J., Chung, S., Shin, W., Shin, Y. (2018). Safety and efficacy of gamma-aminobutyric acid from fermented rice germ in patients with insomnia symptoms: A randomized, double-blind trial. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6031986/
Hidese, S., Kunugi, H., Noda, T., Okubo, T., Ota, M., Ozawa, H., & Wakabayashi, C. (2017). Effects of chronic l-theanine administration in patients with major depressive disorder: an open-label study. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27396868
Nobra, A., Owen, G., & Rao, A. (2008). L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18296328
Ross, J. (2011). Eliminating the top causes of insomnia. Retrieved from https://www.juliarosscures.com/eliminating-the-top-causes-of-insomnia/