8 Best Nootropics For Anxiety & Stress In 2022

Written on October 6, 2022 by | Reviewed by William Gallagher, MNeuroSci

In this article, I'll look at the 8 best nootropics for anxiety and stress. I'll also cover the potential risks and side effects you may run into and the benefits you can expect.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 6.8 million adults [1]“Facts & Statistics: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA.” Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, … Learn more.

If you're one of the millions of people suffering from anxiety, you know how debilitating it can be. Anxiety can make it hard to concentrate, sleep, and enjoy your life.

It can also lead to physical symptoms like a racing heart, sweating, and trembling.

There are many different treatments for anxiety, including therapy and medication. But some people prefer to treat their anxiety with natural remedies, such as nootropics.

Let's take a look at the 8 best nootropics for anxiety and stress and see how they can help you feel better.

The best nootropics for anxiety and stress, according to scientific evidence, are:

  • Mind Lab Pro
  • Phenibut
  • L-Theanine
  • Rhodiola Rosea
  • Ashwagandha
  • 5-HTP
  • GABA
  • CDP-Choline (Citicoline)

1. Mind Lab Pro

Mind Lab Pro is a comprehensive nootropic blend designed to support optimal brain function. It contains 11 clinically-proven ingredients that work together to improve mood, reduce anxiety and stress, enhance cognitive performance, and promote brain health.

Mind Lab Pro contains Bacopa Monnieri and Lion's Mane Mushroom, which are both shown to be effective in reducing anxiety and improving cognitive function. It also contains Rhodiola Rosea, which has been shown to reduce stress and improve cognitive performance.

Bacopa Monnieri, Lion's Mane Mushroom, and Rhodiola Rosea are all adaptogens, which means they help the body and brain adapt to stress [2]Panossian, Alexander, and Georg Wikman. “Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity.” Current clinical … Learn more.

Mind Lab Pros

  • Contains 11 clinically-proven nootropic ingredients
  • Reduces anxiety and stress
  • Enhances cognitive function
  • Promotes brain health

Mind Lab Pro Cons

  • Can be expensive for people on a budget

Mind Lab Pro in Summary

Mind Lab Pro works by providing the brain with the nutrients it needs to function optimally. It contains 11 clinically-proven ingredients that have been shown to reduce anxiety and stress, enhance cognitive performance, and promote brain health.

2. Phenibut

Phenibut (beta-phenyl-GABA) is a naturally-occurring derivative of the neurotransmitter GABA. It is structurally similar to GABA but has an extra phenyl ring, which allows it to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and bind to GABA receptors.

This binding leads to increased activity of the GABA system, which produces calming and anti-anxiety effects. Phenibut has been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety and stress in both animal and human studies [3]Lapin, I. “Phenibut (beta-phenyl-GABA): a tranquilizer and nootropic drug.” CNS drug reviews vol. 7,4 (2001): 471-81. doi:10.1111/j.1527-3458.2001.tb00211.x.

It is thought to work by increasing the availability of GABA in the brain, leading to decreased cortical excitability and improved stress tolerance. Phenibut also appears to increase levels of BDNF, a protein involved in neuroplasticity and cognitive function.

These effects may explain why Phenibut is effective in reducing anxiety and stress. Phenibut is also effective in people who struggle with insomnia and sleep deprivation.

Phenibut Pros

  • Shown to be effective in reducing anxiety and stress
  • Increases levels of BDNF
  • Crosses the blood-brain barrier
  • Boosts mood
  • Effective in people who suffer from insomnia

Phenibut Cons

  • Can cause withdrawal symptoms if used for long periods of time
  • Can cause drowsiness in high doses
  • Can lead to dependence and tolerance

Phenibut in Summary

Phenibut is a powerful nootropic that can reduce anxiety and stress. It is structurally similar to GABA but has an extra phenyl ring, which allows it to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and bind to GABA receptors.

3. L-Theanine

L-Theanine is a unique amino acid found naturally in green tea leaves. It has been shown to promote relaxation without causing drowsiness.

L-Theanine works by increasing levels of dopamine and GABA, two neurotransmitters that play a role in regulating mood and anxiety. It also reduces the activity of the brain's adrenal system, which is responsible for the body's stress response.

As a result, L-Theanine can help relieve anxiety and stress symptoms. In addition, L-Theanine has also been shown to improve sleep quality and boost cognitive function [4]Rao, Theertham P et al. “In Search of a Safe Natural Sleep Aid.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition vol. 34,5 (2015): 436-47. doi:10.1080/07315724.2014.926153.

Therefore, L-Theanine is an effective natural remedy for anxiety and stress.

L-Theanine Pros

  • Shown to be effective in reducing anxiety and stress
  • Increases levels of dopamine and GABA
  • Reduces the activity of the brain's adrenal system
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Boosts cognitive function

L-Theanine Cons

  • Not as strong as other nootropics like Phenibut

L-Theanine in Summary

L-Theanine is an amino acid that helps to naturally reduce anxiety and stress, improves sleep quality, and enhances cognitive function. It does this by increasing levels of dopamine and GABA while also reducing the activity of the brain's adrenal system.

4. Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea is an adaptogenic herb that grows in cold, mountainous regions of Europe and Asia. Its primary use is to help the body cope with stress and anxiety, but it also benefits cognitive function, energy levels, and physical performance.

Modern scientific research has shown that Rhodiola Rosea can help reduce the stress hormone levels in the body and improve cognitive function and memory.

Rhodiola Rosea is thought to work by inhibiting the activity of an enzyme that is involved in the stress response. Additionally, Rhodiola Rosea appears to increase the neurotransmitters involved in mood, such as serotonin and dopamine.

As a result, Rhodiola Rosea may be an effective natural treatment for anxiety and stress.

Rhodiola Rosea Pros

  • Shown to be effective in reducing anxiety and stress
  • Reduces stress hormone levels
  • Improves cognitive function and memory
  • Inhibits the activity of an enzyme involved in the stress response
  • Increases levels of serotonin and dopamine

Rhodiola Rosea Cons

  • Not as well researched as other nootropics

Rhodiola Rosea in Summary

Rhodiola Rosea is an herbal supplement that's commonly used to improve mood and relieve stress. While the research on its efficacy is mixed, some studies suggest that it is effective in helping reduce anxiety and improve cognitive function.

5. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an herb that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. The active ingredient in ashwagandha, withanolides, has been shown to have various medicinal properties, including anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and immunostimulatory effects.

In recent years, ashwagandha has gained popularity as an herbal remedy for anxiety and stress.

Animal studies have shown that withanolides can help to reduce stress by reducing cortisol levels and improving antioxidant status. Human studies have shown that ashwagandha can help to reduce anxiety and improve stress levels.

One study found that Ashwagandha root extract was just as effective as the prescription medication lorazepam in reducing anxiety symptoms [5]Singh, Narendra et al. “An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda.” African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines : AJTCAM vol. 8,5 Suppl (2011): … Learn more.

Another study found that Ashwagandha effectively reduced stress levels in individuals with a history of chronic stress [6]Choudhary, Dnyanraj et al. “Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment With Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” Journal … Learn more.

These studies suggest that Ashwagandha may be a safe and effective herbal remedy for anxiety and stress.

Ashwagandha Pros

  • Reduces cortisol levels
  • Improves antioxidant status
  • Shown to be effective in reducing anxiety and stress in human studies
  • Safe and well-tolerated

Ashwagandha Cons

  • Not as strong as other nootropics like Phenibut
  • May cause gastrointestinal upset in some people

Ashwagandha in Summary

Ashwagandha is an herbal supplement that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It is thought to be effective in reducing anxiety and stress because it can lower cortisol levels and improve antioxidant status.

6. 5-HTP

5-HTP is a compound that is naturally produced in the body. It is involved in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood, appetite, and sleep.

5-HTP supplements are sometimes used to treat conditions related to low serotonin levels, such as anxiety and depression. Some studies have found that 5-HTP may help to reduce anxiety and improve mood.

However, it is important to note that more research is needed to confirm these effects. 5-HTP supplements are generally considered safe, but they can cause some side effects, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Therefore, speaking with a healthcare provider before taking 5-HTP supplements is important.

5-HTP Pros

  • Involved in the production of serotonin
  • Helps to reduce anxiety and improve mood
  • Considered safe when used as directed

5-HTP Cons

  • Not a good option for people on SSRIs

5-HTP in Summary

5-HTP is a naturally occurring compound that helps to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for influencing mood, hunger, and sleep.

7. GABA

Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in regulating anxiety and stress levels. GABA is produced in the brain and acts on GABA receptors to produce its effects.

When levels of GABA are low, anxious thoughts and feelings can become overwhelming. Supplementing with GABA has been shown to help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.

Research has also shown that GABA can help to reduce stress hormone levels and improve the symptoms of stress-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

While more research is needed to understand the full effects of GABA supplementation, it is clear that this neurotransmitter plays a key role in regulating anxiety and stress.

GABA Pros

  • Reduces anxiety and promotes relaxation
  • Shown to reduce stress hormone levels
  • May improve the symptoms of stress-related disorders

GABA Cons

  • Not as well studied as other nootropics

GABA in Summary

GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate anxiety and stress. Supplementing with GABA has been shown to help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Additionally, GABA has been shown to help reduce stress hormone levels and improve the symptoms of stress-related disorders.

8. CDP-Choline (Citicoline)

CDP-choline (citicoline) is a nootropic substance that occurs naturally in the body. It is involved in the synthesis of phospholipids, which are essential components of cell membranes.

CDP-choline has been shown to increase levels of acetylcholine (ACh), a neurotransmitter that plays a role in memory, attention, and other cognitive processes.

Research has also suggested that citicoline may help to protect the brain from damage caused by stress and anxiety. One study found that citicoline effectively reduced stress-induced cognitive impairment in rats [7]Abdel-Zaher, Ahmed O et al. “Protective effect of citicoline against aluminum-induced cognitive impairments in rats.” Toxicology and industrial health vol. 33,4 (2017): 308-317. … Learn more.

Another study found that citicoline improved mood, reduced anxiety and depression in people with Major Depressive Disorder [8]Roohi-Azizi, Mahtab et al. “Citicoline Combination Therapy for Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” Clinical neuropharmacology vol. 40,1 (2017): 1-5. … Learn more.

These studies suggest that citicoline may help to reduce the negative effects of stress and anxiety on the brain.

CDP-Choline Pros

  • Involved in the synthesis of phospholipids
  • Increases levels of acetylcholine
  • Shown to protect the brain from damage caused by stress

CDP-Choline Cons

  • More research on anxiety and stress is needed to understand the full effects of CDP-choline

CDP-Choline in Summary

CDP-choline (citicoline) is a nootropic that occurs naturally in the body. It is involved in synthesizing phospholipids and has been shown to increase levels of acetylcholine. Additionally, research suggests that citicoline may help protect the brain from damage caused by stress.

What Are the Best Nootropics for Anxiety & Stress?

The best nootropics for anxiety and stress are those that work by increasing levels of GABA or by reducing stress hormone levels.

Additionally, adaptogens that help to protect the brain from damage caused by stress may also be effective.

My list of the best nootropics for anxiety and stress are:

  1. Mind Lab Pro
  2. Phenibut
  3. L-Theanine
  4. Rhodiola Rosea
  5. Ashwagandha
  6. 5-HTP
  7. GABA
  8. CDP-Choline (Citicoline)

This list contains a blend of different nootropics that work in different ways to help reduce anxiety and stress. There are natural nootropics like L-Theanine and Ashwagandha, as well as synthetic nootropics like Phenibut.

How to Choose the Right Nootropic Supplement for Anxiety & Stress?

Choosing the right nootropic supplement for anxiety and stress depends on your individual needs.

If you are looking for a general nootropic that can help with anxiety and stress, I recommend choosing a supplement that contains a blend of different nootropics.

Mind Lab Pro is my top pick for the best all-around nootropic supplement. It contains 11 different nootropics, including L-Theanine, Rhodiola Rosea, and Ashwagandha.

Phenibut is a synthetic nootropic that can effectively reduce anxiety and stress. However, it can also be addictive and should be used with caution.

Additionally, it's important to talk to your doctor before taking any nootropic supplement, especially if you have a history of mental health disorders or take SSRI medications.

What Are the Benefits of Nootropics for Anxiety & Stress?

anxiety and stress nootropics

Nootropics for anxiety and stress can offer various benefits, including reducing stress hormone levels, increasing levels of GABA, and protecting the brain from damage caused by stress.

Nootropics may also help improve mood, reduce anxiety, and improve cognitive function.

Some of the potential benefits of nootropics for anxiety and stress include:

  • Reducing stress hormone levels: Nootropics that work by reducing cortisol help reduce stress's negative effects on the body.
  • Increasing levels of GABA: Nootropics that work by increasing levels of GABA help to reduce anxiety and improve mood.
  • Protecting the brain from damage caused by stress: Nootropics that help to protect the brain from damage caused by stress may also be effective in reducing anxiety and improving cognitive function.
  • Improving mood: Nootropics that help to improve mood may also help to reduce anxiety.

It's important to note that not all of these benefits have been proven in scientific studies. Additionally, the potential benefits of nootropics may vary depending on the individual and what type of nootropic is taken.

What Are the Side Effects of Nootropics for Anxiety & Stress?

The side effects of nootropics for anxiety and stress vary depending on the type of nootropic taken.

Natural nootropics like L-theanine and Ashwagandha are generally well tolerated and have few side effects.

Synthetic nootropics like Phenibut can cause some side effects, including addiction, withdrawal, and tolerance. Additionally, Phenibut can interact with other drugs and supplements.

5-HTP can cause some side effects, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Additionally, 5-HTP can interact with other drugs and supplements.

That being said, all nootropics' most common side effect is a headache which can be avoided by sticking to the recommended dosage and having a choline source like Alpha GPC or Citicoline on hand.

Do Nootropics Really Work for Anxiety & Stress?

Yes, nootropics can work for anxiety and stress. However, it's important to note that not all nootropics are created equal.

Some nootropics are more effective than others, and some may not be effective at all. Additionally, the potential benefits of nootropics may vary depending on the individual.

Synthetic nootropics like Phenibut are the most powerful and can effectively reduce anxiety and stress. However, they can also be addictive and should be used with caution.

Natural nootropics like L-Theanine, Ashwagandha, and Rhodiola Rosea still work well and are generally well-tolerated with few side effects.

To ensure that you're getting the most effective nootropic for your needs, I recommend choosing a supplement that contains a blend of different nootropics like Mind Lab Pro.

Final Thoughts

So do I think that nootropics are worth taking for anxiety and stress?

Yes, absolutely!

Nootropics have helped me immensely with my anxiety and stress levels, and I firmly believe they can help others as well.

Science also supports the use of nootropics for anxiety and stress, and there are various nootropics that can be effective.

That being said, it's important to remember that not all nootropics are created equal. So make sure to do your research and choose a high-quality supplement. Also, start with a low dose and increase gradually as needed.

If you have any questions about nootropics for anxiety and stress, feel free to reach out to me in private.

References

References
1“Facts & Statistics: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA.” Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics#Facts%20and%20Statistics.
2Panossian, Alexander, and Georg Wikman. “Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity.” Current clinical pharmacology vol. 4,3 (2009): 198-219. doi:10.2174/157488409789375311
3Lapin, I. “Phenibut (beta-phenyl-GABA): a tranquilizer and nootropic drug.” CNS drug reviews vol. 7,4 (2001): 471-81. doi:10.1111/j.1527-3458.2001.tb00211.x
4Rao, Theertham P et al. “In Search of a Safe Natural Sleep Aid.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition vol. 34,5 (2015): 436-47. doi:10.1080/07315724.2014.926153
5Singh, Narendra et al. “An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda.” African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines : AJTCAM vol. 8,5 Suppl (2011): 208-13. doi:10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5S.9
6Choudhary, Dnyanraj et al. “Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment With Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine vol. 22,1 (2017): 96-106. doi:10.1177/2156587216641830
7Abdel-Zaher, Ahmed O et al. “Protective effect of citicoline against aluminum-induced cognitive impairments in rats.” Toxicology and industrial health vol. 33,4 (2017): 308-317. doi:10.1177/0748233716641869
8Roohi-Azizi, Mahtab et al. “Citicoline Combination Therapy for Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” Clinical neuropharmacology vol. 40,1 (2017): 1-5. doi:10.1097/WNF.0000000000000185