What are Best Nootropics for Anxiety? This post is for you if tried anti-anxiety meds, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, counseling, or psychotherapy. And are looking for a natural nootropic alternative.
Or maybe you tried talking to your doctor about how you feel and didn’t get the help you need.
It may be of little comfort, but did you know there is a 77% chance that your anxiety has been misdiagnosed as some physical problem instead?[i]
Because anxiety often manifests as sweating, trembling, nausea, abdominal problems, dizziness, insomnia, heart palpitations, accelerated heart rate, chest pain, shortness of breath, pins and needles, feeling like your losing control and/or feelings of impending doom.
Instead of dealing with the real cause, maybe you were sent down the wrong path. And are still looking for answers.
Nootropic supplements may help if you’re dealing with a genuine anxiety disorder. The kind of anxiety that has you feeling constantly on-edge and an overwhelming sense of dread.
The type of anxiety where you have difficulty concentrating, you’re irritable or restless to the point you’re avoiding family and friends just to numb yourself from feelings of worry and unrelenting doom.
Here you’ll discover the real cause of your anxiety symptoms. And get some help dealing with how you feel. Concrete steps to take that doesn’t include meditation, yoga, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or psychoanalysis.
The Root Cause of Anxiety Disorders
Something may have happened that triggered the anxiety that has turned your life upside down. But if your feelings of anxiety are hanging on and won’t let go, it’s likely because of the dysfunction of neurochemicals in your brain.[ii]
It could be problems with acetylcholine, dopamine, GABA, glutamate, norepinephrine, or serotonin.
But the challenge is figuring out which neurotransmitter is causing the problem. And why drugs like benzodiazepines, SSRIs, SNRIs, TCAs, and MAOIs are often prescribed for treating anxiety.
How to Find the Root Cause
If you have been using an anti-anxiety drug and experienced some relief in your symptoms, you have a head-start.
Because now you have a clue what could be causing your problem. And it may be easier for you to decide which nootropics to try to help you get better.
First, become familiar with the mechanism of action (or pharmacology) of the med you are using. Wikipedia.org is a good resource for this information.
Simply do a search of Wikipedia for your drug’s generic name. And scroll down to the section “Pharmacology”. Sometimes called the “mechanism of action”.
Once you understand how the drug works in your brain. And which neurotransmitter system it affects. Scroll down the list of nootropic supplements below.
And choose a nootropic that has a similar mechanism of action to the drug you were using. Then follow the dosage recommendations for that supplement and try it to see if you feel any relief.
But if you’ve never tried using a pharmaceutical to treat your anxiety, or have used one that didn’t work, you’ll need to try each nootropic separately.
And by trial and error you’ll work your way down to find the neurotransmitter system that is causing your anxiety.
Start at the beginning of the list below and try the first nootropic for 1 or 2 days. And see how you feel. If you experience relief from your anxiety symptoms, success!
Now you know which neurotransmitter to work with. You can continue using that nootropic as recommended. And look for other natural nootropic adaptogens that work on the same system.
But if the first nootropic you try doesn’t provide any comfort, put it aside. And try the next one for a couple of days again following dosage recommendations.
Go through the list one-by-one until you find a nootropic that helps you and relieves at least some of your anxiety symptoms.
Some of the nootropics on the list below are precursors. Which means it provides the chemical or molecule needed to make a specific neurotransmitter.
And others are adaptogens that affect a specific neurotransmitter system. Usually by modulating how that brain chemical works in your brain.
Let’s get started …
Acetylcholine plays a critical role in learning and memory. And acetylcholine levels are modulated by levels of stress in several regions of your brain.
Acetylcholine levels decline as you get older. You need choline for the production of acetylcholine. Not eating enough foods high in choline can also result in insufficient acetylcholine.
In fact, choline is so vital to cognition and nerve function that, without it, we couldn’t move, think, sleep or remember anything.
Studies show that acetylcholine signaling in your hippocampus regulates social stress resilience and anxiety.[iii]
You can increase acetylcholine levels in your brain using either Alpha GPC or CDP-Choline (Citicoline).
Alpha GPC is a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Alpha GPC naturally occurs in your brain as a byproduct of phosphatidylcholine (PC).
When your brain needs more choline, and the choline floating around in your brain is running low, it breaks down PC from cell membranes. And turns it into Alpha GPC.
Alpha GPC, acetyl L-carnitine (ALCAR), and phosphatidylserine (PS) provide mitochondrial support and conserve growth factor receptors.
DHA (Omega-3) combines with Alpha GPC and PS to form brain cell membranes critical for neuron generation and regeneration.[iv]
Recommended dosage of Alpha GPC is 300 mg 3-times per day.
CDP-Choline is a type of choline that is present in every cell in your body.
Taken as a supplement, it’s then converted to cytidine and choline in your gut. Once it crosses the blood-brain barrier it’s converted back to CDP-Choline.[v] The choline then assists cell membranes and helps create acetylcholine.
CDP-Choline is involved in memory and cognitive functions. And provides energy for the brain to conduct sustained mental effort.
Recommended CDP-Choline dosage is 250 – 500 mg per day.
L-Tyrosine taken as a nootropic supplement converts into the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Dopamine helps control movement in your body, is fundamental to memory, attention and problem solving.
The unused dopamine can then convert into the catecholamine neurotransmitters norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and epinephrine (adrenaline).
Norepinephrine is important for attentiveness, emotions, sleeping, dreaming, and learning.
Epinephrine drives your ‘flight-or-flight’ response. It’s what prompts your reaction to dangerous circumstances, emergency situations, or in stressful situations or environments.
Sleep deprivation and extreme stressors like heat and cold can deplete catecholamine levels. L-Tyrosine restores them to preserve optimal cognition and reduce anxiety.[vi]
Recommended dosage of L-Tyrosine is 500 mg 2 or 3-times per day.
GABA (Gamma-amino butyric acid) is the most abundant inhibitory neurotransmitter in your brain. And known to counterbalance the action of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate.
GABA has long been recognized as the main regulator of anxiety. And the GABA neurotransmitter system is the main target of benzodiazepines and other anxiety related drugs used to treat anxiety disorders.[vii]
When GABA is taken as a nootropic supplement, it binds with the GABAA receptor protein complex, and acts as an agonist: inducing changes in which the permeability of the central pore to chloride ions gets increased.
The resulting chloride flux hyperpolarizes the neuron, leading to a reduction in its excitability. And producing a general inhibitory effect on neuronal activity.[viii]
Recommended dosage of GABA is 250 – 500 mg per day
L-glutamine is a ‘conditionally’ essential amino acid and main precursor for the production of glutamate and GABA in your brain.
(NOTE: Don’t confuse glutamine with glutamate!)
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in your body. And is involved in many of your bodily functions. Including much of the activity in your brain.
But Glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter in your brain.[ix] And the balance of glutamine and glutamate is critical for optimal brain function.
Glutamate plays various important positive roles in your brain including brain development, learning and memory.
And degenerative roles including stroke, traumatic brain injury, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s disease, stress response, and anxiety disorders.
Glutamate mainly acts through ion channel receptors including NMDA receptors, AMPA receptors, and G protein-coupled metabotropic receptors (mGluR1-8).
Glutamate is involved in synaptic release of acetylcholine, adenosine, kappa opioid, GABA, and neuropeptides.[x]
Recent research shows that glutamate dysfunction is involved in fear conditioning, OCD, PTSD, anxiety disorder and social phobia.[xi]
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) which is used as a flavor enhancer has been linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome, and neuron toxicity that can lead to cell death causing stroke, epilepsy, schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).[xii]
Eliminating your anxiety could be as simple as avoiding all foods containing MSG.
When your neurotransmitters, including L-glutamine and glutamate are in balance, you feel motivated, productive, and energetic. And you feel calm and relaxed during downtime.
When L-glutamine levels are low you feel filled with dread, you’re constantly worried, you have racing thoughts, and you’re frequently late and disorganized.
When you are in this L-glutamine slump is when you’re tempted to resort to high carbohydrate foods, and drugs or alcohol to relax.
Recommended dosage of L-Glutamine is 2 – 5 grams per day.
But remember, glutamine and glutamate must be in balance! If you suspect your glutamate levels are too high, you can get it under control by inhibiting its NMDA and AMPA receptors.
Some antidepressant drugs relieve anxiety by inhibiting NMDA receptors.[xiii]
Try the nootropics including Cat’s Claw[xiv], and L-Theanine[xv] for inhibiting NMDA receptors. And Noopept[xvi] and many of the racetams[xvii] which inhibit AMPA receptors.
Keeping glutamate under control and helping to reduce anxiety if your condition is caused by glutamate dysfunction.
Serotonin plays a significant role in the development and persistence of anxiety disorders.
Several studies show that increases in serotonin increases anxiety. And when serotonin decreases you may experience a reduction in the anxiety that’s associated with OCD or PTSD[xviii].
Too much serotonin and excess serotonin signaling has been implicated in social anxiety disorders.[xix]
If you are experiencing any type of anxiety, you should avoid anything that increases serotonin. Do NOT use nootropics like L-Tryptophan or 5-HTP.
Instead, use nootropics that help modulate serotonin and bring it under control.
Bacopa Monnieri helps modulate serotonin and dopamine which produces an anxiolytic effect. Studies show that Bacopa is as effective as the anti-anxiety drug lorazepam in reducing anxiety.[xx]
Vitamin D3 and Omega-3s (EPA & DHA) helps control serotonin synthesis and action. EPA helps inhibit serotonin release and DHA influences serotonin receptors. While Vitamin D3 deficiency can contribute to anxiety. Supplementing with Omega-3s and Vitamin D3 may help reduce anxiety.[xxi]
Ginkgo Biloba acts as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) which helps boost dopamine in your brain. Increasing dopamine can help lower serotonin levels. The result can be a reduction in anxiety.[xxii]
Rhodiola Rosea is an adaptogen that has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Rhodiola enhances stress tolerance and relieves anxiety by modulating key brain neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine and beta-endorphins (opioid neuropeptides).[xxiii]
Nootropics are a viable and potent alternative to many anti-anxiety medications.
But you first need to determine the cause of anxiety in your brain. Use the trial and error method I suggested above and work through the nootropic supplements recommended one-by-one.
But a very strong word of caution – if you are currently using any prescription anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications. Or any medications for that matter. Research each nootropic including side effects and prescription drug interactions before using them.
You can eliminate anxiety once-and-for-all with nootropics. If you do your research. And are willing to experiment until you find the one or two that is right for you.