My Favorite Supplements for Stress Relief

By Shannon Morehouse, MA, CHHCShannonHeadshot

This is my top-choice. Magnesium is a natural relaxant. It relaxes your muscles and your mind.  Because it is a sedative, I recommend taking before bed. It helps combat insomnia; it also helps with headaches. Take an Epsom salt bath; you will get the benefits of YOU time and the magnesium from the salts will not only relax your sore/tired muscles, but also, will seep into your skin and enter your bloodstream quickly. Recommended Dosage: 300-400 mg.

Omega-3 Fish Oil
Our brain is highly reliant on healthy fats to function optimally. Several studies point to fish oil for cognition and relief of depression and anxiety. Omega-3s have been shown to help produce dopamine and serotonin. I recommend Nordic Naturals, Wiley’s Finest, or the Minami brand. A good dosage is around 1,000 mg a day.

Holy Basil
Holy Basil (aka Tulsi) is something I take daily in the form of Organic India’s Tulsi tea…over 20 flavors to choose from! It is an adaptogenic herb that helps reduce cortisol and regulates blood-sugar. If you take it in supplement form, research confirms that 500 mg twice a day is extremely effective at reducing anxiety.

The B vitamins are essential when it comes to reducing stress. These vitamins regulate the nervous system. Because all the B vitamins are effective for boosting energy and reducing stress. I recommend taking it in complex form. Here is a summary of the major B vitamins:

B1 (Thamine):
          B1 can increase energy and improve fuzzy thinking (University of Wales Study)
          Recommended Dosage 50 mg + a day
          Note: Excess carbohydrates deplete B1 levels

B-5 (Pantothenic Acid):
          Mood-enhancing and calming effect by helping in the production of serotonin and reducing secretion of cortiso
          Helpful for fatigued adrenal glands
          Helpful for people with migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome, or trying to curb drinking or smoking
          Helps to convert fat, protein, carbs into energy
          Recommended dosage: 50-250 mg once or twice daily

          Reduces irritability, tension, and anxiety
          B6 works with folate, B12, and tryptophan to make serotonin
          Can reduce PMS symptoms
          Dosage: 50-120 mg, especially helpful when taken in B complex form 

An adaptogenic herb, Rhodiola uniquely prompts a relaxing energetic state. It helps with many coinciding symptoms of depression, such as difficulty concentrating and mental fog. A good dosage to take is 100-400 mg a day.  Because of its energy-prompting properties, it’s best to take Rhodiola in the morning. 

GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid)
GABA is a neurotransmitter in our Central Nervous System. GABA is unique in that it functions in the adult human brain as the primary inhibitor and calmng agent for excitatory neurotransmitters which are firing too rapidly. Some things we do can produce GABA (such as yoga), but many find it to extremely beneficial to supplement GABA-producing lifestyle choices with GABA in supplement form. In fact, this is my top-choice for an “as needed” supplement for many situations: periods of having difficulty sleeping, periods of lacking the ability to concentrate, and also just before your menstrual cycle. It has been referred to as “nature’s valium” because of the calming effect it can exert. Many correlations have been established between low GABA levels and people who have trouble sleeping, those with depression, inability to focus or maintain attention, people with anxiety disorders, drug and alcohol addicts, and those suffering with panic attacks. Many research studies also demonstrate its ability to ease premenstrual moodiness and depression. Studies also show that it balances blood-sugar. Because of GABA’s beneficial calming ability, increasing GABA production results in an improvement in symptoms among those with deficiencies. I recommend taking it in sublingual form as it helps you to absorb it quickly. You can take this in varying dosages; I find that 250 mg in sublingual form works similarly to 750 mg in tablet form.

An adapotogen like Holy Basil and Rhodiola, Ashwaganda helps combat both physiological and psychological stress. An effective dosage is 300-600 mg a day. 

Ignatia is a homeopathic to take when struggling with grief. It is also helpful for nervousness and general moodiness. Dosage: three 30 c pellets every 6 hours. In times of extreme distress, three 200 c pellets every 8 hours. 

Shown to increase levels of GABA and dopamine in the brain, L-Theanine is helpful for those struggling with anxiety. A safe dosage is 200-400 mg a day or you can start by drinking decaffeinated green tea to see if that helps.

B Complex – We Can’t Live without Them


By Carol B. Blair, BS, CNC, DiHom

The B complex family of vitamins is extremely important for the nervous system, and a deficiency of even one can cause malfunction of the nervous system. Of course, they play other roles too because they are essential for all bodily functions from energy production to the formation of healthy red blood cells. The B vitamins are water-soluble so they are not stored in the body and need to be replenished regularly.

Some individuals have difficulty processing the B vitamins, and for those individuals I recommend co-enzymated forms that are more bioavailable. These are not typically found in the average B-complex vitamin, but our knowledgeable staff can help you find one. Food-based Bs are also easy for the body to assimilate.

Here is just a sampling of what the eight B vitamins in a typical B-Complex can do for you:

  • B-1 (thiamine): one of the chief nerve relaxants; required to burn glucose and turn carbs into energy; deficiency can cause an enlarged heart.
  • B-2 (riboflavin): necessary for red blood cell formation and for the metabolism of carbs, fat, and protein; reduces wrinkles around the mouth.
  • B-3 (niacin): helps regulate gene expression, the synthesis of fatty acids, and cholesterol; a severe deficiency causes the 3 Ds–dermatitis, diarrhea, and dementia.
  • B-5 (pantothenic acid): a major stress nutrient; important for fatigued adrenals; converts choline to acetylcholine for proper brain function; reduces insulin resistance.
  • B-6 (pyridoxine): responsible for more enzymatic reactions than any other B vitamin; important for the brain because it aids in proper gene expression, and the synthesis and function of neurotransmitters. Important minerals like zinc and magnesium can’t work without B-6.
  • Folic Acid: helps form new cells; low folic acid causes certain anemias, some forms of restless legs, high homocysteine levels, and neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
  • Biotin: is best known for hair, skin, and nails but it is also necessary for adrenal and thyroid function and balancing blood sugar. Requires vitamin E to work.
  • B-12 (cyanocobalamin): must be converted in the body to the active form methylcobalamin so the latter is the better form. B-12 is necessary for proper cell division, good memory and energy. Methylation is important for detoxification and cancer prevention. B-12 helps reduce homocysteine and helps regulate the sleep cycle. Deficiency is associated with fatigue and poor memory as well as pernicious anemia which is fatal if undetected. This is best taken sublingually in the morning.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what B vitamins can do for you. Food sources include: legumes, nuts, brown rice, egg yolks, dairy, fish, and chicken. If you feel fatigued, depressed, or have a poor memory, I would highly recommend starting with a good B-complex. My favorite is Natur-Tyme’s B-Healthy which contains some co-enzymated forms for better bioavailability. It also has higher amounts of biotin for the hair and extra amounts of pantothenic acid for stressed adrenals.

Stress and Your Health

By Laurel Sterling Prisco, MA, RD, CN

StressedI have read that stress-related issues account for 90% of doctor’s visits per year. Oh my! Now…is anyone TRULY stress-free?? I highly doubt it, but how we choose to manage it plays a huge part. Some people release it in healthy and constructive ways and others do not. Some individuals may internalize their stress, and in these individuals it will eventually manifest in one way or another in their body. For instance, have you ever noticed when you’re stressed out and you suddenly feel an ache (headache, backache, stomach ache, etc.) somewhere in your body?

Stress is not only emotional, but also, it has many physical and chemical effects.

How does the cascade happen?? Well, in the brain, the hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland, which then increases its production of the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). The ACTH signals the adrenals to release the stress hormone cortisol and cortisone; these tend to inhibit white blood cells and suppress the immune system. This entire process initiates a pro- inflammatory cascade of events. This response triggers the body to excrete amino acids, and many minerals/electrolytes. The body ends up becoming deficient in many nutrients and it cannot replace them quick enough!

How do you prevent this cascade from causing such brutal effects?

  • First of all, a high-quality, well-absorbed multi-vitamin should be the basis of your supplemental regime.
  • B-vitamins are crucial in these higher times of stress. They replete the adrenals which use them up at a fast rate. All B vitamins are necessary in the proper functioning of the nervous system. A well-absorbed B-complex like Nature-Tyme’s B-Healthy would be a great recommendation.  Take one in the mid –afternoon with a meal.
  • Magnesium regulates more than 325 enzymes in the body. This mineral is actively involved in enzymes’ energy production, helps synthesize protein, aids in the transmission of nerve signals, and helps relax muscles. It helps to keep adrenal stress hormones under control. Our soil is severely depleted in this mineral, and thus our foods are as well. That is unless the food is organic (Rutgers University study). Start with 300 mg of a citrate or glycinate form at bedtime, and then gradually add 300 mg more in at another point in the day as bowels tolerate.
  • Vitamin C with bioflavonoids is essential to the adrenal gland functioning. Try anywhere from 2-4 g/day in divided doses. Too much of this can cause the bowls to loosen similar to the magnesium; therefore, start with 1 g and then work your way up.
  • Try adaptogenic herbs, which help the body to adapt to various stresses. Ashwaganda assists the adrenals in normalizing stress levels and acts as a sedative and nerve tonic. Holy Basil helps lower cortisol levels and regulates blood sugar. Rhodiola rosea supports the functioning of the adrenal glands and also helps normalize cortisol levels and other stress-related hormones.
  • Relora is a blend of Phellodendron and Magnolia extracts. Researchers discovered a synergistic anti-anxiety effect, as well as, improvement in sleep, and a decrease in sweet cravings.
  • L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that exerts a relaxing, yet non-drowsy effect.
  • PS phosphatidylserine is a natural phospholipid that is an essential component of our cell membranes. It protects against stress and decreases cortisol levels.

There are combination formulas as well like: Stress Assist by Futurebiotics, Adrenal Health by Gaia Herbs, MegaFood’s Adrenal Strength, and others. These formulas coordinate many of these elements into a single formula making the effort to relieve stress a bit easier.


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