While there are a number of medications that act effectively against anxiety, they can only be prescribed by a doctor. Therefore, many wonder what the best over-the-counter medicine for anxiety and stress is?
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to tell as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any natural over-the-counter anxiety medication. Still, that’s not to say over-the-counter medicines don’t have their potential.
Many have found plenty of solace through natural supplements and holistic treatments. The only difficulty is finding which of these options is best for you.
Throughout this article, we’ll take a deeper look at the best over-the-counter medicines for anxiety and stress. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
What are Over-the-Counter Medicines for Anxiety and Stress
Simply put, over-the-counter medicines are forms of medication that don’t require a doctor’s prescription to purchase. In other words, they’re available to anyone 18 or older.
However, due to their availability, they tend to be less effective than prescription medication and psychotherapy. ¹
Therefore, if you struggle with intense anxiety and stress, we recommend seeing a doctor before trying over-the-counter medication. Such medication is usually effective for those who are prescription-resistant or struggle with mild to moderate anxiety and stress.
But again, none have been approved by the FDA. In fact, most only have preliminary research suggesting their effectiveness.
Top 5 Best Over-the-Counter Medicine for Anxiety and Stress
In order to devise our list, we took the 5 strongest natural anxiety medications and determined the best product on the market for said medicines. With that said, you’re likely to come across a number of products concerning each anxiety medication. However, if you plan on buying from another brand, we recommend checking out our criteria list prior to ensure you’re purchasing quality and safe products.
1.) Nature’s Made – Magnesium
- Highly absorbable and gentle on the stomach
- #1 Pharmacist Recommended Vitamin and Supplement Brand
- Subscription service saves you 10%
- No free shipping
- Not vegan-friendly
Consistent studies reveal that most people don’t have enough magnesium in their diets and are struggling with anxiety as a result. ²
With that, research has also revealed magnesium supplements are effective at reducing anxiety. For example, in a 2017 review concerning 18 different studies, it was found that magnesium is effective in relieving: ³
- Anxiety during premenstrual syndrome
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Mild forms of anxiety
- Postpartum anxiety
While there are a number of magnesium supplements on the market, our personal favorite is Nature’s Made. This comes made with 200mg of magnesium glycinate – the type of magnesium often used to stop muscle pain and spasms. Each bottle comes with a 2-month supply.
2.) Gaia Herbs – Ashwagandha
Price: $24.99 – $40.99
- Comes in an effective dosing size
- Gluten-free and vegan-friendly
- Third-party lab results are available
- Free shipping is only available on orders of $49.99 or more
When it comes to over-the-counter medicine for anxiety and stress, ashwagandha has become one of the most popular. Beyond the fact that this natural adaptogen has been found to help control perpetrators of stress, including cortisol, it also aids the body in regulating stress. ⁴
In turn, many are using it to help control stress while also relieving anxiety. And the research shows ashwagandha has powerful properties.
In one study concerning 58 patients, those who took ashwagandha in comparison to a placebo found significant improvement in stress and anxiety. Not to mention, other aspects of their lives were improved upon, such as sleep. ⁵
While there are plenty of ashwagandha supplements on the market, Gaia Herbs are our personal favorite. Each comes with a dose of 350mg of ashwagandha (a standard serving size) and can be purchased in either a 60-count or a 120-count.
3.) Drink Root – Kava
Price: $19.00 – $70.00
- Can be purchased in 3 different sizes
- Allows for premium dehydrated kava juice
- Undergoes strict QC analysis to ensure quality and safety
- No free shipping
Kava kava may be well-known for its sedating effects, but many have utilized the root in treating both anxiety and insomnia. ⁶
This is likely due to the fact that sedation provides a calm feeling and therefore, can temporarily relieve anxiety. However, compared to the other over-the-counter medications for anxiety and stress on this list, kava holds the most potential dangers and risk of addiction. ⁷
For this reason, it’s important to consult a doctor before using kava for anxiety. Especially if you’re already on prescription medication.
Not to mention, you’ll want to ensure the kava you’re purchasing is high-quality. Our favorite is Drink Root’s Instant Connoisseur (premium dehydrated kava juice). This comes with 25 servings of kava and all batches of Drink Root’s product go through strict QC analysis for safety and quality. Furthermore, their website hosts lots of information on how to properly use this product.
4.) Nature’s Way – Valerian Root
Price: $17.99 – $22.99
- Can be purchased in capsule or tincture form
- 1000mg – 1500mg per serving (depending on form)
- Incorporates bio-chelated cold extraction process
- No free shipping
While valerian is mostly used for sleep disorders, it’s sedative qualities have also been found beneficial for anxiety and stress. ⁸ More specifically, it increases the amount of GABA within the body – a regulator for nerve impulses. ⁹
GABA is essential when treating anxiety and many experts have linked low levels of GABA to increased anxiety. ¹⁰
We choose Nature’s Way Valerian Root tincture as our top product due to its accessibility. Each comes with 1000mg of valerian extract and is the perfect option for those who have trouble swallowing capsules. Furthermore, you can always add it to your favorite nighttime teas.
5.) NuLeaf Naturals – CBD Oil
Price: $19.00 – $249.00
- Full-spectrum CBD extract
- Comes in 5 different sizes
- Third-party lab tested
- No dosage varieties
- Contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
It’s no secret that cannabidiol (CBD) may have a lot of positive benefits without the psychotropic effects associated with marijuana.
In terms of anxiety and stress, research shows that CBD oils may be effective in some individuals. For example, a 2011 study found that when compared to a placebo, 400mg of CBD was able to reduce the weight of stressful situations found in those with social anxiety disorder (SAD). ¹¹
Another study revealed CBD was effective in reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). ¹²
While there are a ton of CBD products on the market, we chose NuLeaf Naturals CBD oil as we found it to be one of the highest-qualities. Each is made using a full-spectrum hemp extract and comes in a dosage of 30mg per serving. Not to mention, all of NuLeaf’s products are regularly tested in a third-party laboratory.
Over-the-Counter Medicine for Anxiety and Stress Buyer’s Guide
Since there are no FDA approved over-the-counter anxiety medications, many are turning to self-reports by others who have found relief. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell how effective these supplements are without trying them for yourself.
Still, there are ways a few ways to go about your research. Since anxiety is such a complex condition, it’s only natural that different over-the-counter medicines work for different people.
With this buyer’s guide, we hope to bring ease to your research and provide you with a better understand of how to find the best natural over-the-counter anxiety medication.
What Type of Anxiety Do You Struggle With?
There are only five major types of anxiety disorders: ¹³
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder (or Social Phobia)
Each has a list of more specific disorders. Chances are you struggle with one of these specific disorders and therefore, require a specific route of treatment.
In turn, it’s in your best interest to receive a proper diagnosis from a medical professional. Through testing and interviews, they will be able to determine exactly what you’re struggling with while also ruling out any other health conditions.
Over-the-Counter Medication Doesn’t Always Work
With both prescription and over-the-counter medication for anxiety and stress, there’s no single cure. Medicines effect everyone differently – therefore, what works for one person may not be effective for another.
For this reason, you’ll likely have to experiment with varying over-the-counter medicines in order to find which combination is best for you.
As you can expect, this should always be done under the supervision of a medical professional to ensure your safety. Not to mention, such a professional will be better able to guide you towards medications that are best suited for your type of anxiety.
You Need Other Forms of Treatment
Whether you’re taking the prescription or over-the-counter route, medication in and of itself cannot cure anxiety. All supplements on our list may be able to reduce anxious feelings as they occur (i.e. an anxiety attack). But none of them address the underlying causes of anxiety.
In order to address those causes, you should consider further forms of treatment:
- Exercise – After being extensively studied, exercise has proven time and time again to have powerful relieving properties in terms of anxiety. This is thanks to endorphins that release when working out and burning away cortisol (a stress hormone). ¹⁴
- Meditation – Alongside breathing exercises, meditation is a great way to identify what’s causing your anxiety and stress and developing positive thought patterns around these negative feelings.
- Psychotherapy – If you’re diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ll likely receive the option for various forms of psychotherapy. We encourage you to take this opportunity! Psychotherapy is a great way to identify negative thought patterns and develop coping mechanisms to overcome them. ¹⁵
- Quit Drugs and Alcohol – It’s common for people with anxiety disorders to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. However, this can lead to further (and potentially life-threatening) complications. ¹⁶
Over-the-counter medicine for anxiety and stress can be effective, but it’s not a final solution. At the end of the day, there is no instant anxiety relief medication available. Instead, overcoming anxiety is a process that will likely take time until you start garnering the full benefits.
Still, you can use over-the-counter medicines as a means of temporarily relieving anxiety. Supplements such as ashwagandha and magnesium can effectively reduce anxiety symptoms while you partake in other holistic activities to improve on your mental situation.
Still have questions about the best over-the-counter medicines for anxiety and stress?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. We’d also love to hear from you if you have any further knowledge to share – whether personal or professional.
¹ Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience: Treatment for anxiety disorders
² National Institutes of Health: Magnesium
³ Nutrients: The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress
⁴ Cureus: Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study
⁵ Medicine (Wolters Kluwer): An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract
⁶ National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health: Kava Health Information – An Overview
⁷ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Hepatic Toxicity Possibly Associated with Kava-Containing Products
⁸ Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine: Valerian Root in Treating Sleep Problems and Associated Disorders—A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
⁹ Anesthesia and Analgesia: The gamma-aminobutyric acidergic effects of valerian and valerenic acid on rat brainstem neuronal activity
¹⁰ Dovepress: Anxiety disorders and GABA neurotransmission: a disturbance of modulation
¹¹ Journal of Psychopharmacology (SAGE): Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety: a preliminary report
¹² frontiers in Neuroscience: Cannabidiol as a Therapeutic Alternative for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: From Bench Research to Confirmation in Human Trials
¹³ The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): What are the five major types of anxiety disorders?
¹⁴ Frontiers in Psychiatry: Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety
¹⁵ Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience: Treatment of anxiety disorders
¹⁶ Depression and Anxiety (Wiley): Self‐medication with alcohol or drugs for mood and anxiety disorders