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While everyone has specific life stressors, factors related to job pressure, money, health, and relationships tend to be the most common.
Stress can be acute or chronic and lead to fatigue, headaches, upset stomach, nervousness, and irritability or anger.
Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and good nutrition are some of the best ways to better equip your body to combat stress, but several vitamins and supplements can also help.
Here are the 7 best vitamins and supplements to help you combat stress.
- How to use: A study showed that taking 400 mg of Rhodiola extract daily for 12 weeks improved associated symptoms, including anxiety, exhaustion, and irritability (
- Best used for: Rhodiola may be used to help combat stress and can help fight fatigue, depression, and anxiety.
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), is an herb that grows in regions of Russia and Asia.
It has long been known as an adaptogen, a natural, nontoxic herb that stimulates your body’s stress response system to increase stress resistance (
An 8-week study involving 100 people with chronic fatigue symptoms, such as poor sleep quality and impairments in short-term memory and concentration, found that supplementing with 400 mg of Rhodiola extract daily improved symptoms after just 1 week (
The symptoms continued to decline throughout the study.
- How to use: Melatonin supplements range in dosage from 0.3–10 mg. It’s best to start with the lowest dose possible and work up to a higher dose if necessary (
- Best used for: Melatonin supplements are best used for those who have difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep.
Getting adequate amounts of quality sleep is important for relieving stress.
That said, achieving adequate quality sleep may not be the easiest if you’re under stress, which in turn could worsen its severity.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates your body’s circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle. Levels of the hormone increase in the evening when it’s dark to promote sleep and decrease in the morning when it’s light to promote wakefulness.
In a review of 19 studies involving 1,683 people with primary sleep disorders — those not caused by another condition — melatonin decreased the time it took people to fall asleep, increased total sleep time, and improved overall sleep quality, compared with a placebo (
Another review of 7 studies involving 205 people investigated the effectiveness of melatonin for managing secondary sleep disorders, which are those caused by another condition, such as stress or depression.
The review demonstrated that melatonin decreased the time it took people to fall asleep and increased total sleep time but did not significantly affect sleep quality, compared with a placebo (
Though melatonin is a natural hormone, supplementing with it does not affect your body’s production of it. Melatonin is also non-habit-forming (
While melatonin supplements can be purchased over the counter in the United States, they require a prescription in many other countries.
- How to use: A small study found that supplementing with 3 grams of glycine before bed reduced daytime sleepiness and fatigue following 3 days of sleep deprivation (
- Best used for: Glycine is known to have calming effects and can be helpful for trouble sleeping and trouble focusing.
Glycine is an amino acid that your body uses to create proteins.
Studies suggest that glycine may increase your body’s resistance to stress by encouraging a good night’s rest through its calming effect on the brain and ability to lower your core body temperature (
A lower body temperature promotes sleep and helps you stay asleep during the night.
In one study, 15 people who had complaints about the quality of their sleep and took 3 grams of glycine before bed experienced less fatigue and increased alertness the following day, compared with a placebo (
These effects occurred despite no difference in the time it took to fall asleep or time slept, compared with a placebo, suggesting glycine improved sleep quality.
Glycine is well tolerated, but taking 9 grams on an empty stomach before bed has been associated with minor stomach upset. That said, taking 3 grams is unlikely to cause any side effects (18).
Keep in mind that although studies show that glycine may be helpful for getting better sleep, more research is needed to prove the benefits of the supplement for reducing stress.
- How to use: A study investigating the safety and efficacy of ashwagandha supplements in people with chronic stress noted that taking 600 mg of ashwagandha for 60 days was safe and well tolerated (
- Best used for: Ashwagandha is good for lowering stress levels, elevating mood, and lowering cortisol levels.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an adaptogenic herb native to India, where it has been used in Indian Ayurveda, one of the world’s oldest medicinal systems (
In one study on the stress-relieving effects of ashwagandha, researchers randomized 60 individuals with mild stress to receive 240 mg of a standardized ashwagandha extract or a placebo daily for 60 days (
Compared with the placebo, supplementing with ashwagandha was strongly associated with greater reductions in stress, anxiety, and depression. Ashwagandha was also linked to a 23% reduction in morning levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
What’s more, a review of five studies examining the effects of ashwagandha on anxiety and stress observed that those who supplemented with ashwagandha extract scored better on tests measuring levels of stress, anxiety, and fatigue (
- How to use: One older study showed that taking supplements with 200 mg of l-theanine reduced measures of stress, such as heart rate, in response to performing a mentally stressful task (
- Best used for: L-theanine is a natural component of tea leaves that has been shown to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
L-theanine is an amino acid most commonly found in tea leaves.
These effects were attributed to the synergistic effects of the caffeine and L-theanine in the tea, as each ingredient on its own was found to have a lesser impact.
However, studies suggest that L-theanine by itself may still help relieve stress.
In another study in 34 people, drinking a beverage containing 200 mg of L-theanine and other nutrients lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol in response to a stressful task that involved multitasking (
For comparison, L-theanine comprises 1–2% of the dry weight of leaves, corresponding to 10–20 mg of L-theanine per commercially available tea bag (
That said, drinking tea is unlikely to have any noticeable effect on stress. Nonetheless, many people find the act of drinking tea to be relaxing.
- How to use: In one 12-week study involving 60 people with work-related stress, those taking one of two forms of a vitamin B complex supplement experienced less work-related stress symptoms, including depression, anger, and fatigue, compared with those in the placebo group (
- Best used for: The eight B vitamins, collectively known as B complex vitamins, may improve mood and reduce stress by either lowering homocysteine levels or maintaining healthy levels of this amino acid.
B complex vitamins usually contain all eight B vitamins.
These vitamins play an important role in metabolism by transforming the food you eat into usable energy. B vitamins are also essential for heart and brain health (
Food sources of B vitamins include grains, meats, legumes, eggs, dairy products, and leafy greens.
What’s more, a review of 8 studies involving 1,292 people found that taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement improved several aspects of mood, including stress, anxiety, and energy (
Though the supplement contained several other vitamins and minerals, the study’s authors suggested that supplements containing high doses of B vitamins may be more effective at improving aspects of mood.
Another study observed similar results, suggesting that supplementing with B vitamins as part of a multivitamin and mineral supplement may improve mood and stress by lowering homocysteine levels (
However, it’s unclear whether people who already have low homocysteine levels will experience these same effects.
Vitamin B complex supplements are generally safe when taken within the recommended dosage ranges. However, they may cause harmful side effects like nerve pain when taken in large amounts. Plus, they’re water-soluble, so your body excretes any excess through urine (
Why Is Vitamin B Complex Important, and Where Do I Get It?
- How to use: Kava can be taken in tea, as a capsule, powder, or in liquid form. Its use appears to be safe when taken for 4–8 weeks at a daily dosage of 120–280 mg of kavalactones (
- Best used for: Kava has traditionally been consumed as a ceremonial beverage. Studies suggest that it may alleviate anxiety via its calming effects, but more research is needed.
Kava (Piper methysticum) is a tropical evergreen shrub native to the South Pacific islands (
Its roots have traditionally been used by Pacific Islanders to prepare a ceremonial beverage called kava, or kava kava.
Kava contains active compounds called kavalactones, which have been studied for their stress-reducing properties.
Kavalactones are thought to inhibit the breakdown of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that decreases the activity of your nervous system, producing a calming effect. This can help relieve feelings of anxiety and stress (
Serious side effects like liver damage have been linked to kava supplements, likely due to supplement adulteration or the use of less expensive parts of the kava plant, such as the leaves or stems, instead of the roots (49).
Therefore, if you choose to use kava supplements, choose a reputable brand that has its products independently tested by organizations like NSF International or Underwriters Laboratories (UL), and talk with your doctor or a licensed healthcare professional before use to help ensure safety.
Kava is not a controlled substance in the United States, but several European countries have regulatory measures in place to limit its sale (50).
Many things, such as job, money, health, or relationship factors, can cause stress.
Several vitamins and other supplements have been linked to reduced stress symptoms, including Rhodiola rosea, melatonin, glycine, and ashwagandha.
L-theanine, B complex vitamins, and kava may also help increase your body’s resistance to life’s stressors.
Always talk with your doctor before trying a new supplement, especially if you’re taking other medications, pregnant, or planning to become pregnant.
If stress continues to be a problem in your life, consider speaking with a medical professional or therapist about possible solutions.
Where to buy
If you’re interested in trying one of the suggested supplements above, you can find them locally or online:
Keep in mind that some of these are illegal or only available via prescription outside of the United States.