Best 6 Nootropics for Anxiety
Stress and undefined anxiety seem to be a hallmark of modern life. We’re designed for explicit threats and to respond to them by either escaping or fighting them. Instead, we end up with general anxiety about more abstract concepts like the economy, potential job loss, political issues and comparing ourselves to others on social media. Lifestyle changes may help, but they may not. Medication is unwise since it can distort your worldview or come with desirable side effects.
Here are the Best 6 Nootropics for Anxiety
1. St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort gets its name for blooming on or around the birthday of John the Baptist. It is often called goat weed, hypericum, hard hay, Barbe de Saint-Jean and Klamath weed. St. John’s Wort has been proven effective for mild to moderate depression in many studies. A more recent application of this nootropic is for anxiety. It has long been used for managing menopausal symptoms, especially in conjunction with black cohosh. It has been ineffective in treating attention deficit disorder.
Our only caveat here is that you should not start taking St. John’s Wort if you’re already taking psychiatric medications, because it is so useful on its own it interacts badly with this class of medication. In fact, it can compound the fatigue and other effects some over the counter cold remedies cause.
Don’t take this herb if breastfeeding or pregnant. Be careful if you’re taking birth control pills since this herb can interfere with their effectiveness. You cannot take this herb if you’re on blood thinners, certain cancer drugs or HIV medications. Consult with your doctor to find out if it is safe to take St. John’s Wort. For example, St. John’s Wort has been tested with limited success in children with depression, but you shouldn’t assume it is safe to give to your children.
If you start taking St. John’s Wort and begin to suffer from agitation, insomnia or worsening anxiety, stop and switch to a different nootropic for anxiety on this list.
Summary: St. John’s Wort is one of the best nootropics for depression and anxiety when you suffer from both if there aren’t other medical reasons preventing you from taking it.
2. Passion Flower
Passion Flower is a nootropic for anxiety native to South America, Central America, and the southeastern United States. This nootropic has been used for attention deficit disorder, anxiety, nervousness, and fibromyalgia. This herb was found to reduce some symptoms of ADHD about as well as a low dose of methylphenidate. It is so safe that passion flower extract is occasionally used as a spice.
Until 1978, passion flower was available as an over-the-counter sedative. Changes to FDA rules regarding reporting of effectiveness caused it to be reclassified as a nootropic.
Passion flower is effective in inducing sleep in large doses and calming anxiety in lighter doses. In fact, studies have found it quite useful in reducing anxiety before operations as well as commonly used nootropics like melatonin. There have been experimental studies finding this herb safe for use in treating anxiety caused by opioid withdrawal. Consumption as a nightly tea is considered safe for a few weeks. Don’t take more than two grams per day. Conversely, this nootropic doesn’t come with the prominent warnings not to take it if pregnant, though, in theory, it isn’t advisable.
This nootropic for anxiety can cause drowsiness and confusion, especially if you’re using alcohol, barbiturates or sleep-aids. Don’t consume passion flower if you’re taking any other sedative. Talk to your doctor before taking this supplement before you’re exposed to anesthesia. However, this is the only nootropic for anxiety on our list that has any research saying it is safe to take in advance of surgery.
Summary: If you’re looking for an ultra-safe nootropic for anxiety, you’ve found it. It won’t treat depression, but it can help if you have ADHD.
Oh, you’re stressed. Sit down and have a cup of chamomile tea. You have heard this advice, but there is an element of truth to it. Chamomile tea has long been used for anxiety and colic. Both German and Roman chamomile species are used as sleep aids and anxiety relief. There is a long-standing body of research on its effectiveness in treating anxiety and stress. It has been shown somewhat effective in treating general anxiety disorder. There is less information on how it handles social anxiety disorder.
You should not take chamomile if you’re allergic to members of the daisy family like ragweed, feverfew, tansy or chrysanthemums. If you aren’t sure if you’d be allergic, just rub the leaves on your skin and see if there’s a raised irritated area that forms in the next 24 hours. For everyone else, chamomile is on the “generally recognized as safe” list unless you’re taking medications that interfere with it.
If you have a bleeding disorder or take blood thinners, you shouldn’t consume chamomile. If pregnant, it raises the risk of miscarriage. Since the herb is similar to estrogen, it can interfere with hormone replacement therapy for women. If you’re already using narcotics, barbiturates or alcohol, the combination of those substances with chamomile can amplify their effects. This herb is not considered suitable for children. Take this herb on a day off to see how you react to it before you try driving under its influence; it can be as bad as marijuana or alcohol in impairing mental function for some people.
Summary: You can consider chamomile one of the best nootropics for anxiety if you have a general anxiety disorder. It is incredibly safe as long as you aren’t one of the few allergic to it or taking drugs that it interferes with.
Valerian or valerian root is another excellent nootropic or herbal remedy for anxiety. There are more than two hundred known species, but when someone is talking about Valerian as an herbal remedy, they usually mean Valeriana officinalis. This herb has been used for sleep problems, neurological problems, headaches, and anxiety. If you want to take it as a sleep aid, it is recommended to be consumed in some form half an hour to two hours before bedtime. Any tea or capsule taken as a sleep aid should be the equivalent of two to three grams of the dried herb. If you’re taking it as an anti-anxiety nootropic, you’d take a lower dose. Then the sedative and tranquilizing effects help you to relax.
While many people use it to gain a sense of calm, there isn’t enough hard data to list this among the recommended social anxiety supplements. However, there are multiple studies that statistically prove that it improves both the ability to sleep and the quality of sleep; this can reduce stress and fatigue, and indirectly, anxiety caused by the efforts to use caffeine and other stimulants to make it through the day when your anxiety and stress make it hard to sleep at night.
Do not take this nootropic if you suffer from liver disease. This herb interacts with MAOI drugs, so you can’t take this if you’re already taking those psychiatric drugs. It can cause complications if you’re taking barbiturates, narcotics, or an over-the-counter sleep aid. One point in favor of Valerian is that it doesn’t seem to be habit forming the way sleep aids can be.
If you want to take this nootropic, try it on an evening when you don’t have to worry about being awake and alert the next day. Know whether it causes dizziness, headache, digestive upset or daytime drowsiness before you try to take it on a regular basis.
Summary: Valerian is one of the best nootropics for anxiety and fatigue if your anxiety keeps you from sleeping at night, leaving you exhausted each day.
5. Kava Kava
Kava Kava is a plant native to the South Pacific. There have been multiple studies showing it to be effective in treating anxiety. A meta-analysis of those studies in 2009 found it to be a safe remedy for general anxiety. This herb has burst onto the scene and is now available in everything from supplements to beverages. And unlike many anti-anxiety drugs, it doesn’t interfere with general problem-solving abilities.
Interestingly, this isn’t just one of the best nootropics for social anxiety. It has been used to elevate mood and create a sense of well-being. It can be taken to aid in sleep. However, given the side effects that can come with kava kava and the number of safer nootropics for insomnia, we cannot recommend it as a sleep aid.
Kava Kava is not recommended if you’re pregnant or nursing. It isn’t considered suitable for children. This nootropic is so effective for treating anxiety that you shouldn’t take it if you’re taking MOAI medications, other anti-depressants and Parkinson’s medications. Do not mix Kava Kava and alcohol.
The United States Food and Drug Administration warned in 2002 that this supplement could cause liver injury. The dosage guidelines were set to state that you shouldn’t consume more than 250 milligrams of this herb in a 24 hour period. Nor should you use Kava Kava if you have liver disease, whether you have hepatitis or cirrhosis of the liver. The liver toxicity concerns actually lead a few countries to ban these supplements. If you take drugs that affect your liver, look at one of the other nootropics for anxiety on our list. If you take this nootropic and start to experience liver symptoms like stomach pain, vomiting, light-colored poop or other issues, stop and consult with your doctor.
Conversely there’s almost no evidence this nootropic causes allergic reactions like others on this list. It may cause sensitivity to sunlight and drowsiness but rarely has these side effects. Do not take kava kava if you’re going to be exposed to anesthesia since it will extend and deepen the effects of the anesthesia.
Because of the potential damage to one’s liver, it isn’t recommended to take this for more than four weeks at a time.
Summary: If you’re concerned about side effects, this is one of the safest nootropics for anxiety on this list as long as you don’t have liver problems.
6. Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola Rosea is a medicinal plant native to Siberia. It is sometimes called arctic root, roseroot or golden root. This herb has been used to treat anxiety, stress, depression, and fatigue. Rhodiola Rosea seems to stimulate dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine activity. It naturally encourages healthy levels of these neurotransmitters and a sense of well-being.
Rhodiola Rosea was found in a recent University of Pennsylvania study to be an effective short-term antidepressant. Studies haven’t seen it particularly effective for mental fatigue, but it can help you sleep at night if taken in mild doses. No studies are showing that it really increases stamina and endurance, though the Vikings took it for such. Instead, it slightly improves athletic performance in endurance exercises.
In the West, this herb is generally available in capsule form. If you’re taking it in a capsule, the maximum recommended dose is 300 milligrams daily. It can occasionally be found in teas. This nootropic hasn’t been studied for safety in children. You should not take it if pregnant or nursing. This nootropic is not recommended if you’re taking anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic or anti-depressant drugs. It can cause drowsiness or impaired thinking if used in combination with these medications. It is not advisable to take Rhodiola Rosea in conjunction with alcohol or caffeine.
Rhodiola Rosea regularly causes drowsiness among users, so it is best used to unwind at the end of the day. It sometimes causes digestive upset or dizziness. In a few cases, it causes trouble sleeping. If you start to suffer from insomnia, stop taking this drug. If you suffer from daytime drowsiness after taking Rhodiola Rosea, stop and switch to a different social anxiety nootropic.
On the upside, there aren’t warnings regarding this drug if you have liver problems or other medical issues. You can take this if you can’t take kava kava. This nootropic for anxiety won’t make your birth control pills or antibiotics ineffective, either.
Summary: This Siberian nootropic for anxiety is somewhat novel to the West but generally safe to take, though you need to avoid it if you suffer side effects.