Gamma-aminobutyric acid calms the brain and can reduce anxiety and help you get to sleep faster.
GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is an essential amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter that calms the brain. It's also been shown to play an important role in our immune and endocrine systems. Low levels of GABA have been linked to anxiety, mood disorders and insomnia.
That's where supplements come in. GABA is often an ingredient in stress-relieving and sleep aids, though it's also available as a standalone supplement. Before we talk about the best GABA supplements, though, a caveat: There's a lot of debate around GABA supplementation and whether it actually works.
The research is varied, spanning decades and still without clinical determination. However, GABA supplements are generally considered safe to take. It's best to speak to your doctor before taking any GABA supplement, to ensure it suits your health needs.
This curated list was determined based on company reputation, ingredients, dosage and customer reviews. The price, quality and form of each supplement were also considered.
Thorne is one of the most respected brands for supplements, thanks to its independent research, high-quality ingredients and simple formulas that you can trust. That's because Thorne goes the extra mile to clinically test its products for effectiveness.
Thorne PharmaGABA includes a natural source of GABA, which is supposed to outperform the synthetic version, according to the clinical research that Thorne references on the website. Though I admit I wish it were easier to find the study to fully investigate, I had to search the site to find citations to the studies; they weren't on the product page. The site also references an unpublished comparison trial that natural GABA increases relaxation, which I thought was a stretch since customers can't access the data from that trial.
That said, there are no fillers in this GABA supplement, and Thorne is transparent about how ingredients are sourced. You can choose from 100 mg and 250 mg dosages.
Things to consider:
Dosage: 250 mg. Take one capsule one to three times daily
Price: $53 for 60 capsules
NOW is one of the most affordable and well-known brands in the supplement industry. It's what I would consider a no-fuss, budget GABA supplement that you can count on. It includes a big dose of 500 mg of GABA and 2 mg of vitamin B-6, 118% of your daily value.
This supplement contains some fillers -- rice flour, silicon dioxide and stearic acid. None of them are surprising or harmful. They are standard for NOW supplements, but it's important to know that it's not pure GABA. You shouldn't choose NOW GABA if you don't want any fillers in your supplements.
The dosage of 500 mg is significantly higher than other brands on the list and may be too much for some. The packaging says to take the capsules with water, juice or on an empty stomach.
Things to consider:
Dosage: 500 mg per capsule. Take one to two capsules per day as needed.
Price: $14 for 200 capsules
If you have difficulty swallowing capsules, you may be looking for a GABA supplement in lozenge form. Lozenges dissolve in your mouth and enter your bloodstream rather than breaking down in your small intestine. This GABA supplement is available in either orange or mint flavors.
In addition to GABA, you also get a decent amount of other supplements as well, including magnesium as magnesium amino acid complex (5 mg), glycine (50 mg), n-acetyl l-tyrosine (25 mg) and taurine (20 mg). N-acetyl l-tyrosine is the precursor to dopamine, the neurotransmitter that helps us feel good. While the extras aren't strictly necessary to make the GABA supplement work, seeing them there is nice.
However, including tyrosine in this product means that if someone on MAO inhibitors (a form of antidepressant) takes it, they may experience spikes in their blood pressure. It's best to avoid this product if you are taking MAO inhibitors.
This GABA supplement has 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with nearly 2,000 reviews, many of which praise the effectiveness of this GABA supplement.
Things to consider:
Dosage: 125 mg. Take one lozenge one to three times daily.
Price: $11 for 60 lozenges
For those who are GABA-deficient and looking for a product with a ton of GABA, consider Pure Encapsulations, with 700 mg of GABA in one capsule. The brand has been around for 30 years and is one of the most trusted supplement brands around.
Unique to Pure Encapsulations, this GABA supplement includes ascorbyl palmitate, a compound made of vitamin C and palmitic acid. Including this compound in the supplement is intended to help the GABA be absorbed into the body faster and more effectively. We don't know for certain if that works, but it makes the Food and Drug Administration list of what is generally considered safe.
The Pure Encapsulations GABA supplement has 4.5 stars on Amazon, with nearly 1,200 reviews. Many say the capsule is easy to swallow, and the product has helped them manage anxiety or fall asleep faster.
Things to consider:
Dosage: 700 mg. Take one capsule daily.
Price: $35 for 120 capsules
Frunutta offers a GABA supplement in a quickly dissolving tablet in a natural cherry flavor. Because you place it under your tongue to dissolve, absorption happens faster and avoids entering the digestive system. Unlike the other options on the list, Frunutta's dosage is lower at only 100 mg. It's great for people who want a no-fuss option that has a low dose of GABA. Or people who want to take GABA to reduce anxiety throughout the day. It allows you to decide when to take them without worrying about getting too much.
Things to consider:
Dosage: 100 mg
Price: $12 for 90 tablets
GABA is a naturally occurring amino acid that functions as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It attaches to nerve receptors in the brain and changes its ability to take in and send signals. Essentially, it calms us down by blocking signals from excitatory messages from getting to the central nervous system.
GABA receptors in the brain are targeted by medications that treat mood disorders, insomnia and epilepsy.
Let me break it down even further: GABA helps calm our nervous system -- which can help calm anxiety, stress and help us sleep. It can help us sleep by slowing brain activity and dropping our heart rate and blood pressure. It's conceptually similar to how alcohol can help you fall asleep; research suggests alcohol can bind to GABA receptors and block signaling.
Here's the thing about GABA supplements: The research varies on what they can precisely do. There isn't a consensus on the effectiveness, how much of the supplement reaches the brain and how long it lasts. There is debate about whether GABA supplements can effectively pass through the blood-brain barrier. Additionally, there isn't significant evidence that GABA supplements can help treat medical conditions.
However, there are signs that it may help you sleep. A small study investigating GABA for insomnia found that those who took 300 mg of GABA an hour before bedtime fell asleep faster and reported better sleep. However, this study was of only 40 people.
GABA that naturally occurs in the brain does help you sleep and reduce anxiety. It's just not yet clear if GABA supplements work in the same way or not.
Again, more research is needed to determine the potential downsides of GABA supplements. According to a safety review from the United States Pharmacopeia, a clinical study of 120 mg per day of GABA for 12 weeks wasn't associated with any side effects. Another study in the review found that higher doses of 5 g or 10 g per day resulted in a burning sensation in the throat that went away after a few minutes.
However, there are common side effects that have been reported. They are as follows:
Some research has found that GABA supplements have the potential to interfere with certain medications and supplements that lower your blood pressure, like folic acid or omega-3 fatty acids. Since GABA supplements also lower your blood pressure, mixing the two could drop it too much.
There's a lot we don't know for sure about GABA supplements. Research is still ongoing. Speak to your doctor and review your prescription medications to determine if a GABA supplement is safe for your health.
The FDA doesn't regulate the supplement market as it does medications. This means there are fewer requirements for manufacturers when producing products. That's why it's important to watch for key factors that can guide you in choosing the best GABA supplement for your needs.
GABA functions in the brain to hinder nerve receptors' ability to receive and send signals, which results in a calming effect for the body. This is most significant in the help of managing anxiety and stress. However, the best GABA supplements can also help you fall asleep faster at night.
GABA supplements help lower blood pressure, a necessary step in treating stress and anxiety. Small studies support the effects of GABA supplements for anxiety on slowing brain waves.
Side effects associated with GABA vary depending on your body and how much you take. However, common side effects include a burning sensation in the throat, drowsiness, digestive troubles and fatigue.
Take GABA supplements on an empty stomach for the best results. If you're taking it to help you sleep, it's best to take your GABA supplement about an hour before you go to sleep.