Anxiety is highly implicated in a dysregultion in our bodily systems, but the precise mechanism behind the various anxiety disorders are not entirely understood.
The primary inhibitory and suppressive neurotransmitter, GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid), is known to balance the effects of the primary excitatory and stimulatory neurotransmitter glutamate.
Accordingly, we understand that the physiological cause and consequence of anxiety is generated out of an under-activity and insufficiency of the GABA system, and an over-activity and excessivity of the glutamate system.
Many of the pharmaceutical agents used to treat anxiety target the GABA system, reducing brain overactivity, and providing relaxation and relief from stress for the users.
Fortunately, there are a considerable number of natural remedies for anxiety. In this article we will take a look at the very best natural supplements that can be used to modulate the GABA and glutamate systems in order to relieve anxiety and stress.
Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm)
Melissa Officinalis, more commonly known as the Lemon Balm plant, is a herb that has traditionally been used as a natural remedy for anxiety.
It is effective in inducing calmness and may also be mildly sedative. Its effects seem to work synergistically with another plant called Valerian, and both taken together have greater efficacy than either alone.
Lemon Balm works by reducing the rate at which GABA is broken down and metabolised by the body. It contains a compound called rosmarinic acid which is a GABA transaminase inhibitor. [R]
The standard dose is 300mg of an extract standardised to contain 5% rosmarinic acid.
Valeriana Officinalis (Valerian Root)
Valeriana Officinalis, more commonly known as the Valerian plant, is a flowering plant that has traditionally been used for sedative and relaxation purposes. It's primary use today is to reduce stress and to enhance sleep-attainment, and one of the most widely used herbs is Valerian Root for anxiety.
Its effects seem to work synergistically with Lemon Balm, and both taken together produce greater effects than either alone.
Valerian Root extract works via two mechanisms. First, it stimulates the activity of glutamate decarboxylase (which converts glutamate to GABA) and enhances GABA biosynthesis. [R] This mechanism is thought to underlie the synergistic effects it has with Lemon Balm.
Second, Valerian Root extract is a positive modulator of GABA-A receptors and thus enhances GABA-A neurotransmission and signalling. This effect has been largely attributed to a component of Valerian called valerenic acid and is likely the most significant property of the herb.
The standard dose is 300mg of an extract standardised to contain 0.8% valerenic acid.
Passiflora Incarnata (Passion Flower)
Passiflora Incarnata, more commonly known as Passion Flower vine or sometimes the Passion Fruit flower, is a flowering plant that has traditionally been used to treat anxiety and insomnia. It has also been used to relieve hypertension, nervousness, and symptoms of mental stress. It is commonly used in phytotherapy as a mild sedative and anxiolytic.
Passiflora works by binding to GABA-B receptors, enhancing GABA signalling. [R] It may also inhibit the re-uptake of GABA back into the neurons.
The standard dose is 400-800mg of a 10:1 extract.
Scutellaria Baicalensis (Chinese Skullcap)
Scutellaria Baicalensis, more commonly know as Chinese Skullcap, is a flowering plant used in Chinese medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent and for longevity. It also appears to be an effective anxiolytic.
There are three active compounds in Cinese Skullcap that are relevant to anxiety: baicalein, wagonin and K36.
The compounds baicalein and wogonin in Chinese Skullcap are GABA-A receptor agonists. This is thought to underlie some of the anxiolytic effects. [R]
Another compound in the plant, K36, is a potent positive allosteric modulator of the GABAA ligand. This effect enhances GABA signalling considerably. [R]
The standard dose is 500mg of a standard root extract.
Magnolia Officinalis (Magnolia Bark)
Magnolia Officinalis is a plant used in traditional Chinese medicine for its relaxing properties. It has been used to treat both depression and anxiety. The main active compounds in Magnolia Bark extract are honokiol and magnolol.
Both honokiol and manolol are positive allosteric modulators or GABA-A receptors, and enhance the signalling of GABA. [R]
The standard dose for anxiety is 5-10mg total neolignans (honikiol and magnolol).
Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha Root)
Withania Somnifera, more commonly known as Ashwagandha, is an adaptogen used in Ayurvedic medicine that has a wide range of uses; it can significantly reduce cortisol levels, suppress the effects of stress, improve physical performance, and can even aid cancer patients due to its immunosuppressant ability.
Due to it's role as an adaptogen, there are also various other Ashwagandha powder benefits.
It's anxiolytic effects come from its ability to enhance GABA signalling at the GABA-A receptor. [R].
The lowest effective dose is 300mg, though doses up to 2000mg may be worthwhile.
L Theanine is an amino acid that is exclusively found in green tea. It is structurally similar to the neurotransmitter GABA and is known to produce relaxation without sedation.
Interestingly, it has been found to be synergistic with many stimulants, particularly caffeine, to which it can ‘take the edge off’ without diminishing positive effects.
It works by inhibiting glutamate signalling and also blocks the release of glutamate in the synapse. It is the ultimate analogue of GABA for anxiety.
The standard dose is 100-200mg.
Taurine is an organic acid found predominantly in meat products. It is an endogenous brain chemical that regulates inhibitory neurotransmission secondarily to GABA and Glycine.
Specifically, Taurine is a neuromodulator of the GABAergic and Glycinergic signalling systems. It binds to both GABA-A and GABA-B receptos, generating anxiolytic and relaxation effects. [R].
The standard dose is 500-2000mg.
Supplementation of any one of these supplements will produce effects on their own, but to really experience the greatest benefits that brain boosting supplementation can provide, you need to know how to combine specific compounds and reap the benefits of synergy.
There are various ways in which two or more products can produce synergistic effects. Some of these methods have been clinically studied, and some follow logically from the related pharmacology.
One example of this is the synergy between Lemon Balm and Valerian.
Lemon Balm slows down the rate at which GABA is destroyed, while Valerian increases the rate at which GABA is formed.
Passion Flower provides a further synergy with these supplements as it slows down the rate at which GABA is reabsorbed into our neurons.
Another synergy related to GABA is between Ashwagandha and Skullcap and Skullcap and Magnolia.
Skullcap contains GABA agonists (molecules that stimulate GABA receptors), while both Ashwagandha and Magnolia enhance GABA receptor sensitivity, thus increasing the effects of agonists.
Ashwagandha can also enhance the effectiveness of the synergy between Valerian and Lemon Balm by enhancing the effects of the increases in GABA concentrations.
We have found that the most effective combination to enhance the GABA system is between Valerian, Passion Flower, Ashwagandha and Lemon Balm, with L-Theanine to reduce glutamate activity.
Where to Buy
You can find supplements providing individual compounds online quite easily, but when you want to use multiple synergistic compounds at once it can get very expensive.
To avoid this we recommend CALM Juice™.
CALM Juice™ is the ultimate natural supplement for anxiety, providing a synergistic stack of the top compounds at clinically tested dosages. You can find the formula and learn more about CALM Juice™ by following this link