Medically reviewed on July 7, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
Stress is a feeling everyone is likely to experience throughout their life. If left unaddressed, stress can lead to long-term physical and mental ailments. That’s why addressing anxiety, depression, stress, and all other associated feelings is essential to maintaining mental and physical health.
Certain vitamins and supplements can help reduce stress and anxiety—and when paired with other healthy lifestyle habits, the results can be overwhelmingly effective. We’ve compiled a list of the 10 best vitamins and other supplements that may combat or reduce stress and anxiety levels. Be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before taking any new supplements.
Table of Contents
The body needs eight B vitamins to function at its happiest and healthiest. B vitamins like B6 and B12 can help relieve stress, improve cognitive function, and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.
An Oxford study found that balanced B12 levels promote brain health. Those without a B12 deficiency were six times less likely to experience brain shrinkage than those with a deficiency.
How It’s Used: While vitamin B can come from foods such as milk, eggs, chicken, red meat, tuna, avocados, and potatoes, you can also find vitamin B supplements in capsule and powder forms.
Maintaining proper levels of B vitamins through diet is ideal. However, those with vitamin B deficiencies might find it easier to improve their levels through supplements. While it’s difficult to take in too much vitamin B because it’s water-soluble, you may experience side effects like skin flushing, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you’re interested in vitamin B supplements, talk to your healthcare provider about the ideal dosage for you.
Additional Benefits: B vitamins improve brain function, energy levels, and cell metabolism. Increasing your intake of B complex vitamins through food and/or supplements will leave you feeling calm and ready to take on the day by promoting:
Best For: If you’re naturally intaking enough of this vitamin through diet, it’s not always necessary to take vitamin B supplements. However, it’s recommended for those with a deficiency, those who are 50 or older, are pregnant, those who take certain medications, those who follow a vegan diet, or those who have specific chronic conditions.
A 2015 blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled trial found that vitamin C can help combat oxidative stress. While many were aware of this vitamin's ability to stabilize levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, previous studies were lacking evidence until this 2015 trial.
Vitamin C clears the body of excess cortisol, a stress hormone found in the bloodstream, during times of increased tension. The less amount of cortisol in the system, the less likely you are to feel stressed and/or see the physical signs of stress like fatigue, headaches, or high blood pressure.
How It’s Used: Vitamin C is in many common foods like citrus fruits, potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, and spinach. Eating these foods regularly can improve your vitamin C levels. However, vitamin C supplements can be helpful for those with deficiencies and/or strict diets.
Online stores, grocery stores, and pharmacies sell vitamin C supplements. You can take daily capsules or mix vitamin C powders into drinks like water and smoothies.
Additional Benefits: One of the main roles of vitamin C, aside from reducing stress, is its ability to help with the growth, development, and repair of bodily tissues. Those who intake appropriate amounts of vitamin C can benefit from increased immunity, prevention of iron deficiencies through vitamin C’s aid in iron absorption, assistance in managing blood pressure, and improvement in stress levels.
Vitamin D, the vitamin the body soaks in from sunlight, is essential for absorbing calcium and phosphorus and maintaining immune system functions. Vitamin D is also important for the growth and development of teeth and bones.
A 2020 study found that vitamin D influences the reduction of academic stress and in turn reduces additional levels of stress throughout the body. Students in particular may be able to reduce the effects of stress by exposing themselves to sunlight or taking vitamin D supplements, like D3 capsules.
How It’s Used: The most natural way to intake and absorb vitamin D is through diet and exposure to the sun. Milk, certain fortified cereals, fatty fish, and egg yolks are great sources of this key nutrient. Supplements like daily capsules and powders are great alternatives.
While sunlight is one of the best sources of vitamin D, be sure to apply sunscreen and limit sun exposure in excess amounts to avoid damaging your skin.
Additional Benefits: This powerful vitamin can do more for your body than you think. For example, vitamin D:
Vitamin D helps your body function properly, and improved physical health will make it harder for your mind to slipe into periods of anxiety, stress, and depression.
Melatonin, a hormone produced by the brain's pineal gland, helps control sleep patterns. Improved sleep patterns can directly affect mood and energy levels. Studies have found that people experiencing repeated anxiety and depression spells lack quality sleep. Melatonin supplements can be an effective way for those struggling with falling asleep or with staying asleep to regulate their sleep schedule.
How It’s Used: Unlike other vitamins and minerals that help with stress, melatonin is not found in many foods or drinks. However, there are natural ways to encourage the body's production of this hormone, such as:
With increasing awareness of how sleep affects overall health, melatonin supplements have become widely available across the globe. Melatonin supplements come in a variety of forms: capsules, gummies, drinks, and/or powders.
Since sleep has a direct impact on your mood throughout the following day, it’s important to recognize when you’re becoming adjusted to a recommended dosage of melatonin. Taking too much melatonin can negatively disrupt the natural circadian rhythm, leaving you feeling groggy and irritable. While uncommon, you can recognize excess melatonin intake by dizziness, headaches, nausea, stomach cramping, and disorientation.
Additional Benefits: While you may recognize melatonin for its sleep benefits, it can also help:
Ashwagandha, a shrub grown in parts of Asia and Africa, is commonly used as a supplement to reduce stress. Although it’s not a vitamin, we’re including it on the list due to its benefits for reducing stress. Though herbal supplements are uncommon in Western medicine, ashwagandha can help increase energy and reduce inflammation, anxiety, and depression.
This herb works wonders by lowering cortisol levels. Notable healthcare systems like the Cleveland Clinic have voiced approval of ashwagandha’s benefits.
How It’s Used: You can apply ashwagandha topically or take it orally. If you’re using this herb to reduce inflammation, you can mix it into creams or liquids and apply it to the affected area.
Taking ashwagandha supplements or mixing it into drinks like hot tea can deliver benefits like relaxation and stress reduction.
Magnesium is key for improving brain health and reducing stress and anxiety. It blocks stimulating neurotransmitters and binds to relaxing and restful receptors in the brain.
Studies on magnesium in the central nervous system are leading researchers to believe that magnesium deficiencies may be linked to heightened stress levels.
How It’s Used: Magnesium is found in a wide variety of foods like whole grains, nuts, vegetable seeds, potatoes, leafy greens, and fruits. Be aware, however, that increasing your magnesium levels through diet may take a bit longer than with supplements. On the other hand, supplements can increase magnesium levels almost immediately.
Additional Benefits: Like the other minerals, herbs, and vitamins mentioned above, magnesium benefits nearly every bodily function, including:
L-theanine is an amino acid found in green and black tea and certain mushrooms, and can help reduce stress, depression, and sleep problems.
A 2019 study deciphering the impact of L-theanine on stress-related symptoms and cognitive functions in adults found that higher intake of this amino acid leaves adults feeling more relaxed in their daily lives and uniquely stressful situations.
How It’s Used: While L-theanine is from natural substances like green tea, black tea, and mushrooms, it is more commonly taken as a daily capsule supplement.
If you’ve chosen to drink tea for these amino acid benefits, you may find yourself nauseous at times. Other side effects include increased irritability and headaches.
Additional Benefits: L-theanine can do much more than reduce stress levels, including:
Glycine is an amino acid that the body uses to create proteins. Glycine is essential for the body’s synthesis of glutathione, which the cells produce to fight oxidative stress.
Studies suggest that this amino acid can increase resistance to stress by improving sleep. In one study, a group of individuals who complained about poor sleep were given glycine or a placebo before bed and found that those given the glycine saw improvement.
How It’s Used: The body produces glycine naturally, but it’s also consumed through foods like meat, fish, dairy, and legumes. If tests show that you lack optimal levels of glycine, you can take supplements.
Glycine supplements are typically taken once daily. While glycine supplements are generally safe, taking them for long periods can cause an upset stomach.
Additional Benefits: Aside from sleep aid and stress reduction, glycine can benefit multiple areas of the body and can help treat more serious mental conditions like schizophrenia. Additional benefits include:
Rhodiola rosea is a flower grown naturally in the Arctic, European regions, Asia, and North America. A clinical trial observing the effects of this plant on stress levels found that it can help people experiencing stress-related burnout.
While Rhodiola rosea is an herb, it’s also an adaptogen that can help to manage stress and avoid burnout.
How It’s Used: Most people consume Rhodiola rosea through daily supplement capsules. Dosage can vary depending on health, physical stature, and needs. However, it’s safest to consume a 100-to-200-milligram tablet or capsule a day.
Rhodiola rosea doesn’t have serious side effects or precautions; however, that’s not to say they don’t exist. Common side effects include upset stomach, dizziness, drowsiness, and trouble sleeping. If you’re pregnant, nursing, or taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), it’s best to steer clear of this natural supplement.
Additional Benefits: People who’ve used Rhodiola rosea rave about its ability to improve mood. Other benefits include:
Kava is a Pacific shrub that can be consumed by grinding its roots into a powder for brewed teas, liquid forms of medicine, or capsule supplements. This shrub is said to give off pleasant and calming feelings for people that ingest it on a regular basis.
A large study on the effectiveness of kava extract tested 645 individuals experiencing anxiety. After using the Hamilton Anxiety Scale to measure the results, researchers found kava to be effective in reducing stress and anxiety.
How It’s Used: Kava is used as a daily supplement to treat general anxiety. If you’re interested in this shrub's benefits, you can use kava capsules, liquid drops, drinks, or powders. Liquid forms of kava are extremely potent, so it’s important to use only the prescribed amount.
If you consume too much kava, you may experience unwanted side effects like dry skin, yellow skin, nail discoloration, decreased ability to absorb proteins, weight loss, blood in the urine, and/or risk of blood cell disorders.
Additional Benefits: In addition to relieving anxiety, kava root can reduce pain, prevent seizures, and relax muscles.
While vitamins and other supplements can help reduce stress, there are other ways to optimize mental well-being, including:
Remember that what works for one person may not work for another. Therefore, it’s best to test out different stress management techniques and seek support if you continue to experience heightened anxiety, depression, or stress.
Too much stress over time can cause serious mental and physical health concerns, so it’s important to take it seriously. If you’re struggling to manage the amount of stress and anxiety in your life, it’s best to seek guidance from a mental health professional before adding vitamins and supplements to your routine.