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Alcohol and Mental Health

7 Science-Backed Supplements for Stress Relief

July 13, 2023
12 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 13, 2023
12 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 13, 2023
12 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 13, 2023
12 min read
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Reframe Content Team
July 13, 2023
12 min read

Let’s face it: life is stressful! From never-ending pressures at work to mile-high to-do lists to our fast-paced modern lifestyle, it’s easy to become stressed out. While it’s normal to feel stressed from time to time, if we’re living in a perpetual state of stress, our health might start to suffer.

Research shows that chronic stress can increase inflammation, reduce immunity, and raise our risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. It can also contribute to insomnia, anxiety, depression, and burnout.

Equipping ourselves with stress-management tools can help. For instance, it’s widely known that things like exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, and eating a healthy diet are beneficial for managing stress.

But there are also different supplements we can turn to for stress relief. There are seven science-backed supplements in particular that have proven to be particularly beneficial for stress management: ashwagandha, L-theanine, magnesium, melatonin, rhodiola, B-complex vitamins, and vitamin D. Let’s explore each one of these.

1. Ashwagandha

Otherwise referred to as “winter cherry” and “Indian ginseng,” ashwagandha is an herb native to India, where it has been used in Indian Ayurveda — one of the world's oldest medicinal systems. It’s an adaptogen, which means it’s believed to help us resist disease and enhance our body’s resilience to physical and mental stress.

For instance, one study noted that supplementing with ashwagandha was strongly associated with greater reductions in stress, anxiety, and depression. It was also linked to a 23 percent reduction in levels of cortisol — one of the major stress hormones. It’s even been linked to improved sleep.

We can take ashwagandha as a pill or capsule. For instance, Klaire Labs Ashwagandha Extract provides 300 mg of ashwagandha extract per 1-capsule serving, and it’s free froofm artificial additives and major allergens.

2. L-theanine

L-theanine is an amino acid most commonly found in tea, especially green tea. Studies have shown that it helps promote relaxation and reduce stress without having any sedative effects. One study noted that people taking 200 mg of L-theanine per day significantly improved depression symptoms, sleep quality, cognitive function, and stress.

Another study found that drinking a beverage containing 200 mg of L-theanine and other nutrients lowered levels of cortisol in response to a stressful multitasking activity.

While we can ingest L-theanine by drinking a cup of tea (green, black, white, and oolong all contain it), to get the amount that has been linked to stress relief, we would have to take it as a supplement. For instance, an effective dose is between 200-600 mg per day in capsule form. A good option might be Pure Encapsulations L-theanine, which contains 400 mg of L-theanine per 2-capsule serving and is vegan-friendly and gluten-free.

3. Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral that our body uses to regulate more than 300 different biochemical reactions, from the functioning of nerves and muscles to the synthesizing of protein and bone.

Research shows that magnesium supplements might be helpful for stress management, particularly for those of us who don’t get enough magnesium in our diet. For instance, one study found that people who took 400 mg of magnesium per day for 90 days had increased heart rate variability — an indicator of stress resilience. Another study found that magnesium supplements may improve stress and anxiety levels.

We can get magnesium naturally from food such as nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, and fish. However, most of us don't get enough of it through our diet alone. The National Institutes of Health recommends 310-320 mg of magnesium per day for women and 400-420 mg for men.

When choosing a magnesium supplement, opt for magnesium aspartate, citrate, lactate, or chloride, which are easier for our body to absorb than magnesium oxide or sulfate.

4. Melatonin

Melatonin is a natural hormone that our brain releases at nighttime to help us sleep. It helps regulate our circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle. Our melatonin levels typically increase in the evening when it’s dark to promote sleep and decrease in the morning when it’s light to promote wakefulness.

Research indicates that because stress is linked to insomnia, supplementing with melatonin may be beneficial. One study in particular found that melatonin helped lower anxiety levels in people who were scheduled for surgery and may be effective as a sedative. Randomized controlled trials have also found that doses as small as 0.5 mg per night can be effective in helping people fall asleep and stay asleep.

Melatonin supplements come in various forms, such as tablets, capsules, and drops. Most come in doses of 1 mg or 5 mg. Opt for the “extended-release” melatonin, which can help us stay asleep throughout the night.

5. Rhodiola

Otherwise known as “golden root” and “arctic root”, the rhodiola rosea plant grows in the cold regions of Russia, Asia, and even the Arctic. Similar to ashwagandha, it’s an adaptogen — a natural, nontoxic herb that stimulates our body’s stress response system to increase stress resilience.

Studies have found that it is an effective remedy for treating stress symptoms and preventing chronic stress. One study found that supplementing with 400 mg of rhodiola per day improved chronic fatigue symptoms, such as poor sleep quality and impairments in short-term memory and concentration. Another small study found that people who were given rhodiola for 14 days reported a significant reduction in anxiety, stress, anger, confusion, and depression.

We can take rhodiola as a liquid extract, capsule, or powder. HUM Nutrition Big Chill might be a good option, as it contains a clinically researched effective dose of 500 mg of rhodiola per serving.

6. B-complex vitamins

B-complex vitamin supplements contain all eight B vitamins, which play an important role in metabolism by transforming the food we eat into usable energy. B vitamins are also vital for heart and brain health.

Research suggests that high doses of B vitamins may improve symptoms of stress, elevating our mood and energy levels, by lowering blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine. High homocysteine levels are linked with stress and an increased risk of several health conditions, such as heart disease, dementia, and colorectal cancer.

Additionally, a systematic review and meta-analysis found that 4 weeks of daily B vitamin supplementation may help significantly decrease stress and improve mood.

There are a number of B-complex supplements out there. Nutrilite Vitamin B Dual Action is a good option, as it offers a slow-release tablet that dissolves over 8 hours and provides us with 125% to 417% of our daily B vitamin needs.

7. Vitamin D

Often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is made in our body after sun exposure. It’s not naturally found in large amounts in many foods, which is why many people are vitamin D deficient — even without realizing it.

One of vitamin D’s main functions is to help our body absorb more calcium. But researchers have found that it’s also involved in reducing inflammation, promoting immune function, and stress reduction. One study found that 50,000 IU of vitamin D every 2 weeks, when paired with either probiotics or omega-3 supplements, helped improve depression, anxiety, and stress.

Experts recommend starting with 1,000 to 2,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day, taken with a meal. However, we should get our vitamin D levels checked by a healthcare professional before taking vitamin D supplements, as excessive amounts of it can be potentially dangerous.

The Bottom Line

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to eliminate all of our stress. But we can learn to manage it, and it’s important to do so for our health. Staying physically acting, getting quality sleep, and eating well can all help. But we can also give our body an extra boost with these 7 science-backed supplements for stress relief.

If you’re overwhelmed with stress and using unhealthy coping mechanisms (such as alcohol) for relief, Reframe can help. We can help you change your relationship with alcohol and equip you with tools for managing stress and developing healthier lifestyle habits.

Lead a Healthy Lifestyle With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

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