GABA, or gamma aminobutyric acid, is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This brain chemical was first discovered in 1950 and since then, researchers have found that this neurotransmitter works to inhibit other neurotransmitters responsible for sensations of anxiety. Scientific studies have shown that individuals with high anxiety levels typically have low GABA brain levels. Thus, anti-anxiety medications typically target GABA and work to increase this chemical. If you wish to naturally increase GABA in your brain, you may do so through the use of herbs and physical activity. However, do not self-treat anxiety without the direct consent of your physician. Before using any of the methods described in this article, discuss their safety and potential side effects with your doctor.
Bring 1 cup of water to a rolling boil. Add 1 tsp. of dried valerian root and allow the tea to steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain and consume up to three times per day. The University of Maryland Medical Center says valerian root might increase the concentration of GABA within your brain. Because of this action, valerian is often prescribed as a natural remedy for anxiety and those affected by insomnia. It might take up to three weeks of consistent use for its effects to be felt.
Consume 150 to 300 mg of kava kava standardized extract one to three times per day. Make sure the extract contains 30 to 70 percent kavalactones, which are this herb's primary active compound. It is suggested that this herb increases the number of attachment sites for GABA in the brain. By creating more attachment sites, it is believed the effects of GABA might be more profound, which results in a mild sedated state. Use extreme caution when supplementing with kava kava, as this herb might have detrimental effects on the liver if consumed in excess. Thus, discuss the use of kava kava with your physician to ensure its safety.
Perform at least 60 minutes of yoga several times per week to support natural GABA production. A study outlined in the "Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine" found a 27 percent increase in GABA levels among yoga practitioners after a 60-minute yoga session when compared against participants who read a book for 60 minutes. The study suggests yoga might increase GABA levels naturally, but further studies are required to determine its true effectiveness.
- Shippensburg University; "Neurotransmitters"; Dr. C. George Boeree
- University of Maryland Medical Center; "Valerian"; Steven Ehrlich; February 2009
- University of Maryland Medical Center; "Kava Kava"; Steven Ehrlich; March 2009
- Natural Herbs Guide: Kava Kava Root, Tea and Extract Benefits
- "Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine"; "Yoga Asana Sessions Increase Brain GABA Levels: A Pilot Study"; C.C. Streeter et al.; May 2007
- Denver Naturopathic Clinic: GABA -- Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid