Lynda Griparic is a nutritionist who has almost 15 years practicing wholesome health. She is particularly knowledgeable about abdominal health. Here are a few foods/supplements  that she suggests can reduce anxiety and stress:

  • Probiotics
    • These make 90% of the serotonin in the body
    • Also useful for depression!
    • Lowers cortisol (a stress hormone)
    • Raises GABA
  • Onion
    • Contains chemicals that make GABA more effective
  • Pu-erh tea
    • Fights chemicals that make the nervous system overexcited
  • Black and green tea
    • Contain l-theanine, which boosts GABA
  • Lemon balm
    • Increases GABA while decreasing cortisol
  • Chamomile
    • Apigenin, one of the cmpounds in chamomile, binds to the GABA receptor
  • Food rich in magnesium
    • Can help, also, insomnia, inflammation, and cognition
  • Food rich in zinc
    • Protects cells from inflammation and cell death
  • Foods rich in tryptophan
    • Leads to serotonin production
  • Saffron
    • Neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory
  • Tumeric
    • Also neuroprotective, promotes plasticity (creation of new brain connections)
  • Vitamin B

Perhaps best known for this purpose is valeriana offcinalis, what we know as…

  • Valerian
    • A recent peer-reviewed study on valerian examined anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects.
      • The study is particularly important because it may reveal why studies of valerian on anxiety in the past did not find it effective.
      •  The goal was to find out what’s responsible for it’s anxiolytic effects.
      • There are a few chemicals in valerian: valerenic acid (VA), acetoxy valerenic acid (AVA), and hydroxy valerenic acid (HVA).
      • More VA, and less AVA, seemed to be the most effective.
      • “Oral administration of a valerian extract (VA: 0.5 mg/kg) with high VA and very low AVA content (12:1) produced a significant anxiolytic activity.”
      • “Adding AVA to this valerian extract abolished the anxiolytic action”
      • This is parobably partly because more AVA might “close the open GABA-A channel and thus limits its action”
        • An open GABA-A channel is a very important part of anxiety-reduction
      • That said, there are probably other psychoactive chemicals in valerian extract (VE) than VA, AVA, and HVA
    • Since VA does not bind to benzodiazepine sites on the GABA receptor, it likely won’t lead to impaired cognition or dementia down the line, as benzodiazepines do
    • Valerian is a plant native to Europe. It’s common use as a medicine dates back generations upon generations. Studies have suggested its benefits in…
    • For those of us afflicted with bipolar disorder, it appears to be the most effective herb in reducing anxiety and insomnia.
    • Some say that it may not have enough clinical trials for anxiety, unlike for insomnia
    • A systematic review found only one study with just valerian studied
      • That study found no significant benefit, but it had a small sample size, and used components of valerian that can easily degrade
    • Another study found it useful for stress-induced insomnia
      • This is not quite clinical anxiety, but “calming” is very close to “anxiolytic” (anxiety-reducing)
    • Valerian was used, in another experiment, to treat anxiety-insomnia
      • Not more effective than placebo
    • “Robust RCTs assessing whole extracts of valerian appropriately administered (e.g. 1 g three times daily) to an adequate sample size are needed to determine if clinical efficacy exists in the treatment of anxiety.”
    • There is mixed evidence for valerian
    • Combined with st. john’s wort, valerian was more effective than valium (diazepam) at dealing with anxiety.

  • Kava
    • Analyzed in a giant meta-analysis and systematic review
      • It was effective for generalized anxiety disorder
      • It was shown to be very effective against anxiety in 11 out of 13 studies examined
    • Overall, kava as “respectable clinical efficacy”
    •  Fewer side effects from anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals
    • Negatively affect on liver appeared only in those who used kava within the last 24 hours, and were reversible. Liver toxicity appears in one in one million people.
    • It hasn’t been shown to negatively interact with pharmaceuticals
  • Skullcap s
    • Studies have yielded positive results, but the methods of these studies weren’t well-done
    • It was effective against anxiety in animals, according to one experiment
    • Another, very-well done study in humans discovered that as the amount of skullcap given went up, tension and anxiety declined
  • Chamomile led to significantly less anxiety in participants with generalized anxiety disorder
  • Gingko also led to a marked reduction in anxiety in those with generalized anxiety disorder
  • As for St John’s wort
  • Passion flower
    • In two studies, was effective against anxiety,one of which found it comparable to oxazepam (a benzodiazepine), with fewer side effects
    • Passionflower, given to patients before anesthesia, has been found to significantly decrease anxiety , also before surgery
  • St John’s Wort (SJW)
    • Two studies, evaluating an anxiety-reducing and anti-panic effects, found significance
    • There is no anxiety-specific study using SJW, but a study using it for depression found anti-depressant effects related to reduced anxiety
  • Lemon Balm
    • Was tested in a very well-done experiment
      • Shortly after taking lemon balm, patients were significantly more calm, and significantly less alert
    • Another well-conducted study gave participants valerian and lemon balm. A low dose led to less anxiety.
    • Using the same combination (lemon balm and valerian), one other study lasting for four weeks and in children with restlessness, found that the children were able to sleep better, and were less restless
      • “Moderate-severe” changed to “absent” or “mild” for most
      • 70.4% of all the children’s restlessness improved
      • Investigators and parents assessed the treatment as “very good”, or “good” (67.7%, 60.5%)
  • California poppy
    • An experiment concluded that it lessened anxiety in animals in a familiar place
    • Animals spending more time light (anti-anxiety)
    • Analysis found that it works similar to pharmaceutical anti-anxiety drugs (benzodiazepines)

Sources: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/valerian, http://www.mindbodygreen.com/, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924977X1100071X