Beat the Moody Blues

Supplements to ease symptoms of stress, boost mood and promote a restful sleep.

By Karen Morse MPH

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Stress comes from many sources: job pressure, money issues, health, relationships, poor nutrition, media overload and sleep deprivation, according to the American Institute of Stress (AIS). The AIS reports that 44 percent of Americans feel more stressed than they did five years ago. And one out of five feel symptoms of extreme stress, which can negatively affect sleep.

In addition, mood disorders such as depression and anxiety lasting 12 months or longer were reported in 9.5 percent of American adults by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Many prescription medications that treat depression, anxiety and related illnesses come with unwanted side effects, but fortunately there are a number of natural solutions to support mood, ease symptoms of stress and anxiety, and lead to better sleep.


With its anti-inflammatory properties, this mineral is involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body, including energy production and nerve and muscle function.

Unfortunately, farming practices today have left soil depleted of many essential vitamins and minerals such as magnesium. According to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, surveys of people in the United States consistently show that intakes of magnesium are lower than the experts recommend.

Without enough of this essential mineral, the body is susceptible to various health-related issues, including anxiety, stress and depression.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adults is between 310 and 420 milligrams, but even the foods highest in magnesium like almonds and spinach only contain about 20 percent of the RDA.

Because of stress-reducing benefits from magnesium supplementation, several studies have also found this key mineral to promote more restful sleep.

B Vitamins

Major depressive disorder (MDD) effects nearly 15 million adults in the U.S., according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. B vitamins produce brain chemicals that influence mood and other brain functions.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study out of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine found that subjects with MDD or a related illness who took a vitamin B–complex supplement, including vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12 and folate, reported greater improvements in both mood and quality of life at the end of the study than subjects who had taken a placebo.

B vitamins are essential for healthy nervous system functioning, including the release of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, that are linked with feelings of happiness.

Adaptogenic Herbs

Adaptogenic herbs, or herbs that help the body adapt to stress-inducing situations, have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for many years. Popular adaptogens with proven benefits include ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus), schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) and rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea).

Studies have found that adaptogens can increase the body’s resistance to stress and support mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, as well as boost immunity and improve symptoms of fatigue.

Because each of the herbs has slightly different benefits, adaptogenic herbal blends are becoming popular supplements. There are no recommended doses of adaptogens, so if you take any prescription medications, it is important to consult with your physician before ingesting herbs to avoid interactions or potential side effects.


Inflammation and oxidative stress are often noted as key contributors to chronic disease conditions, including mood disorders and conditions affecting the brain.

Due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, curcumin has been studied for its ability to boost brain health, including the potential to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

An Iranian study found that women who supplemented with curcumin for four weeks had fewer symptoms of anxiety at the end of the study than subjects who had taken a placebo.

Another study out of Australia showed that curcumin reduced symptoms of both anxiety and depression in subjects who took 1,000 milligrams of the supplement daily for eight weeks.


According to recent research, insomnia may affect up to 40 percent of the population, severely diminishing the sufferers’ health and well-being. Many people shy away from prescription medications for sleep because of the known side effects, so various herbal remedies have been studied as alternative insomnia therapies for treating insomnia.

The root of the valerian herb is known for its ability to promote relaxation and support restful sleep. In a Swedish study published in Pharmacology Biochemistry & Behavior, 89 percent of subjects who took valerian reported improved sleep.

Another study found that when used to treat anxiety, valerian worked just as well as a prescription benzodiazepine.

Study doses for insomnia range from 400 to 900 milligrams taken daily before bed. Recommended doses for anxiety are much lower, between 50 to 100 milligrams up to three times per day.

For any herbal supplement, taking the lowest effective dose is always advised. Follow suggested dose recommendations on the product label, and consult with your doctor if you are taking prescription medications.


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