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.
Table of Contents
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]
How to Find the Root Cause
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 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.
You can increase acetylcholine levels in your brain using either Alpha GPC or CDP-Choline (Citicoline).
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.
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.
Recommended CDP-Choline dosage is 250 – 500 mg per day.
L-Tyrosine taken as a nootropic supplement converts into the neurotransmitter dopamine.
The unused dopamine can then convert into the catecholamine neurotransmitters norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and epinephrine (adrenaline).
Epinephrine drives your ‘flight-or-flight’ response. It’s what prompts your reaction to dangerous circumstances, emergency situations, or in stressful situations or environments.
Recommended dosage of L-Tyrosine is 500 mg 2 or 3-times per day.
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
(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.
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.
Some antidepressant drugs relieve anxiety by inhibiting NMDA receptors.[xiii]
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].
Instead, use nootropics that help modulate serotonin and bring it under control.
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.
[ii] Kaur S., Singh R. “ROLE OF DIFFERENT NEUROTRANSMITTERS IN ANXIETY: A SYSTEMIC REVIEW” International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research Projected Impact Factor (2019): 1.230, CiteScore (2017): 0.27 (source)
[iii] Mineur, Y. S., Obayemi, A., Wigestrand, M. B., Fote, G. M., Calarco, C. A., Li, A. M., & Picciotto, M. R. (2013). “Cholinergic signaling in the hippocampus regulates social stress resilience and anxiety- and depression-like behavior.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(9), 3573–3578. (source)
[iv] Kidd P. M. (2005). “Neurodegeneration from mitochondrial insufficiency: nutrients, stem cells, growth factors, and prospects for brain rebuilding using integrative management.” Alternative Medicine Review: a journal of clinical therapeutic, 10(4), 268–293. (source)
[viii] Nutt, D. J., Ballenger, J. C., Sheehan, D., & Wittchen, H. U. (2002). “Generalized anxiety disorder: comorbidity, comparative biology and treatment.” The international journal of neuropsychopharmacology, 5(4), 315–325. (source)
[x] Roberts-Wolfe, D. J., & Kalivas, P. W. (2015). “Glutamate Transporter GLT-1 as a Therapeutic Target for Substance Use Disorders” CNS & neurological disorders drug targets, 14(6), 745–756. (source)
[xii] Marcincakova H., Veronika & Ostatníková, D. (2013). “Monosodium Glutamate Toxic Effects and Their Implications for Human Intake: A Review.” JMED Research. 20135171. 10.5171/2013.608765. (source)
[xiii] Petrie, R. X., Reid, I. C., & Stewart, C. A. (2000). “The N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor, synaptic plasticity, and depressive disorder. A critical review” Pharmacology & therapeutics 87(1), 11–25. (source)
[xiv] Mohamed A.F., Matsumoto K., Tabata K., Takayama H., Kitajima M., Watanabe H. “Effects of Uncaria tomentosa total alkaloid and its components on experimental amnesia in mice: elucidation using the passive avoidance test.” Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 2000 Dec;52(12):1553-61. (source)
[xvi] Gudasheva T.A. et. Al. “The major metabolite of dipeptide piracetam analogue GVS-111 in rat brain and its similarity to endogenous neuropeptide cyclo-L-prolylglycine.” European Journal of Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics. 1997 Jul-Sep;22(3):245-52. (source)
[xvii] Isaacson J.S., Nicoll R. A. “Aniracetam reduces glutamate receptor desensitization and slows the decay of fast excitatory synaptic currents in the hippocampus” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States of America vol. 88, pp. 10936-10940, December 1991 (source)
[xviii] Murphy, D. L., Moya, P. R., Fox, M. A., Rubenstein, L. M., Wendland, J. R., & Timpano, K. R. (2013). “Anxiety and affective disorder comorbidity related to serotonin and other neurotransmitter systems: obsessive-compulsive disorder as an example of overlapping clinical and genetic heterogeneity” Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, 368(1615), 20120435. (source)
[xix] rick, A., Åhs, F., Engman, J., Jonasson, M., Alaie, I., Björkstrand, J., Frans, Ö., Faria, V., Linnman, C., Appel, L., Wahlstedt, K., Lubberink, M., Fredrikson, M., & Furmark, T. (2015). “Serotonin Synthesis and Reuptake in Social Anxiety Disorder: A Positron Emission Tomography Study” JAMA psychiatry, 72(8), 794–802. (source)
[xx] Bhattacharya, S. K., & Ghosal, S. (1998). “Anxiolytic activity of a standardized extract of Bacopa monniera: an experimental study” Phytomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy and phytopharmacology, 5(2), 77–82. (source)
[xxi] Patrick, R. P., & Ames, B. N. (2015). “Vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids control serotonin synthesis and action, part 2: relevance for ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and impulsive behavior” FASEB journal: official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 29(6), 2207–2222. (source)
[xxii] Woelk, H., Arnoldt, K. H., Kieser, M., & Hoerr, R. (2007). “Ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 in generalized anxiety disorder and adjustment disorder with anxious mood: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial” Journal of psychiatric research, 41(6), 472–480. (source)
[xxiii] Lishmanov Iu.B., Trifonova Zh.V., Tsibin A.N., Maslova L.V., Dement’eva L.A. “[Plasma beta-endorphin and stress hormones in stress and adaptation].” – in Russian Biull Eksp Biol Med. 1987 Apr;103(4):422-4. (source)