James Dixon does the leg work to find out which are the best natural Xanax alternatives – some of which are lifestyle choices, and some that can be obtained through diet and supplementation. He also offers his all-in-one solution…
Xanax serves an often necessary function. It’s a common prescription medication used to treat anxiety related mental health concerns, including anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. Its active ingredient is Alprazolam, a benzodiazepine that was first brought to market in the early eighties, since which time it has gone on to become incredibly popular.
Alprazolam modulates GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, neurotransmission in your central nervous system, or CNS. In doing so, it brings about a sedative, almost hypnotic effect which is very good for moderating and diminishing symptoms of anxiety and stress.
However, there are good reasons that it’s only available with a prescription. As a pretty harsh pharmaceutical, it brings with it a pretty long list of possible side effects and even symptoms of withdrawal. These can include xerostomia (dry mouth), dizziness, digestive discomfort, mood swings and irritability, brain fog, and disinhibition.
It almost isn’t worth these side effects in many cases. It arguably certainly isn’t in less extreme cases of anxiety. For this reason, it may be better to turn to natural Xanax alternatives that don’t give such a strong effect, but which also don’t come with this kind of laundry list of side effects.
There are plenty of natural alternatives to Xanax to choose from, from standalone ingredients to fully mixed, potent nootropic or stress relieving supplements made from dozens of different ingredients.
Quick Verdict: Top Natural Xanax Alternative
Xanax is not for everyone, and with a wide range of potential negative side effects, it is quite rightly a prescription only medication.
Luckily, there are plenty of natural alternatives to Xanax that can bring about similar benefits – without the nasty side effects.
We list the whole range of natural Xanax alternatives, but if you want our no.1 all in one solution then go for Xanapril. It is a dedicated Xanax alternative and uses natural ingredients that are proven to relieve stress and anxiety whilst promote good deep sleep.
Alprazolam plays a key role in moderating GABA in your CNS. An allosteric modulator, it binds to the GABA-A receptor complex to increase the receptor’s affinity for GABA.
When it does this, chloride channels associated with it open up and chloride ions flow across the neuronal membrane, leading to hyper-polarization, or a polar moment. This in turn inhibits further action potential whilst reducing neuron excitability. In short, GABA is an inhibitory neuron. It brings a calming effect to your CNS.
Benzodiazepines like Xanax basically boost GABA’s effective role within your body. This reduces stress and anxiety, allowing for greater calm and relaxation. It is essentially the reverse of caffeine, which works to stimulate the CNS, including increasing symptoms of anxiety, in addition to limiting the effect of adenosine in the brain.
Xanax is a very good medication for treating stress, anxiety, and panic disorders. Benzodiazepines do work very well.
Xanax can also be very effective for treating sleep disorders. It alters your sleep-wake cycles and overall wakefulness by better regulating brainwave activity.
It has been proven to decrease the length of rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep stages by a significant degree, as well as reducing the frequency of REM burst activity. This is where you typically dream. Somewhat paradoxically, it is where your brain shows similar neurophysiology to your waking hours.
The energy you use during the REM stage is proportionate to energy use when awake. Decreasing REM frequency and duration may lead to more deep sleep, which is where you will build most of your energy reserves for the day ahead.
Natural Xanax Alternatives
Xanax is therefore very useful. However, there are two major downsides. Firstly, there is a long list of side effects, as noted above. Secondly, it is only available via prescription. Plenty of us could do with lower stress levels and improved sleep. This doesn’t mean that it’s medically relevant for us to be prescribed something like Xanax.
Happily, there are other places we can look. There are plenty of natural alternatives to Xanax. Do note that they are not as potent as Xanax. This is the trade off for the lack of trade offs, so to speak. In circumnavigating medical entanglement and getting rid of the potential side effects, you are also losing a degree of potency in the benefits themselves. However, this is arguably a small price to pay.
Do also note that supplementation and medication are not the only routes to lower stress and anxiety levels. Non-medication medical interventions are a good route – psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and so on.
Exercise is also good, as are meditation and mindfulness practice.
Decluttering your lifestyle may be necessary and profound. Cutting down on stimulants can also help to lower stress and anxiety levels whilst improving sleep quality. Many of us will benefit from these; we will all benefit from something slightly different.
However, with these in place, there are plenty of natural Xanax alternatives to choose from.
The amino acid l-theanine is always a good place to start. You’ll find it in most leading nootropics for its ability to bring about calm and relaxation.
It’s a non-dietary amino acid that you’ll typically see sourced from green tea (so green tea is a good shout, too, despite its caffeine content.) Theanine won’t be incorporated into proteins like some of the other amino acids you will typically find in your diet. Rather, it will cross the blood-brain barrier, where it will aid brainwave regulation and GABA receptors.
It won’t cause tiredness, nor will it impair your cognitive function, unlike many other relaxation supplements. In fact, it will improve your mental acuity whilst fighting stress – no wonder we see it in nootropic formulae.
The clinical data behind theanine for relaxation and stress reduction are very strong. Doses from 200-400 mg daily have been shown to consistently improve sleep quality and cognitive function whilst significantly reducing symptoms of mental stress.
Ashwagandha vies with l-theanine for the top spot on this list. I have taken it for years for its ability to optimize testosterone levels whilst balancing stress and reducing anxiety. It really is wonderful stuff.
It’s one of the most promising adaptogens going, with plenty of benefits on offer for your health and wellbeing. It contains withanolides, most notably withaferin-A. These are steroidal lactones that serve a few functions in modulating brain chemistry.
Of particular benefit in this context, they modulate pathways involving the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is directly responsible for stress response.
Again, the clinical evidence is robust. Multiple clinical trials have shown that ashwagandha is a fantastic treatment for anxiety and depression, with participants finding upwards of a 50% reduction in their symptoms.
Valerian (valeriana officinalis) is one of the best botanicals for combatting stress and improving sleep quality. It is a long-lived flowering plant whose natural sweet scent has brought people pleasure for centuries in perfumes.
However, we’re not talking about the lovely flowers. We’re talking about the rather pungent, putrid smelling roots whose extract is nevertheless incredibly profound.
Valerian root brings several phytochemicals to the table, all of which bring with them their own unique benefits. We’re particularly looking out for the sesquiterpenoid valerenic acid alongside its natural derivatives like acetoxy valerenic acid and hydroxy valerenic acid). These give it its stress-busting qualities.
Valerian root enhances the interaction between GABA and GABA-A receptors. Valerenic acid and its derivatives have a similar structure to the GABA molecule. As such, they bind readily to subtype-A GABA receptors, acting in a very similar way to Xanax itself.
Valerian root constituents also seem to boost serotonin receptor activity, though we don’t have too clear a picture on this. We don’t know which particular compounds aside from valerenic acid might do this. All we know is that it seems to increase activity in the serotonin receptors, which goes hand in hand with valerian root’s calming, sedative effects.
Plus valerian tea is really quite tasty.
There is less clinical data backing up valerian root’s use in this regard than there is for some of the other items on this list. Much of the evidence is anecdotal and relies on its long history of use in more traditional forms of medicine. The data we do have, whilst robust in itself, is largely based on rodent or in vitro studies.
We all need dietary magnesium for various reasons. It serves plenty of purposes, including bone mineralization, protein formation, muscle contractions, nerve impulse transmission, and maintaining healthy immune function. Magnesium deficits – i.e., taking in less than ideal – have been linked with increased levels of stress and anxiety.
You will typically get plenty of magnesium from green vegetables and some lentils. Modern western diets tend to be a bit short in both, making deficits quite common. This can lead to several side effects, including digestive discomfort (most notably constipation), mental disorders, muscular cramps, chronic dehydration, and, of course, chronic stress.
Overcoming this kind of deficit has proven results in helping you to overcome stress and anxiety, even going so far as working as a solid treatment for panic attacks in those who under-eat magnesium.
You can get magnesium supplements in several formats. Many are well-absorbed. Chelated magnesium is perhaps best – it is both readily absorbed and pretty kind to your digestive system. Try to avoid magnesium oxide, which many supplements use for its low cost. It has pretty poor bioavailability, which means that your body won’t absorb much of it.
Finally, lemon balm, or melissa officinalis, is always a good bet. It’s a herb which works in quite similar ways to valerian root, or at least offers similar properties. Like Ashwagandha, it also seems to offer cognitive benefits in addition.
It’s been used for millennia in traditional Chinese forms of medicine for its ability to promote calm and relaxation. You can take it as an extract (the efficient way) or drink it in tea (the tasty way). I would go with tea, simply because it really is nice. Either way, both have been pretty widely studied for their effects on stress and anxiety symptoms, including attacks and stress-related eating behaviors.
There is by now a fair amount of clinical evidence suggesting that lemon balm acts on GABA in a similar way to valerian root. In so doing, it can reduce symptoms and severity of depression and anxiety by up to a third. It may also help to combat insomnia springing from anxiety whilst also promoting healthy sleep-wake cycles. However, more evidence is needed for these latter claims.
Lemon balm includes caffeic acid and caffeic acid derivatives, most notably ursolic acid and rosmarinic acid. Do note that caffeic acid is in no way related to caffeine, either in its structure or in its mechanisms of action. Rather, it is simply a potent antioxidant shown to reduce inflammation and potentially protect against cancer.
It may also inhibit the enzyme GABA transaminase, which metabolizes GABA to succinate semialdehyde.
There is a strong degree of overlap between natural Xanax alternatives and common nootropic supplements. This is no coincidence. Most nootropic supplements work in some degree by reducing stress levels, acting on GABA to naturally promote lower stress and anxiety levels. This in turn aids clear, healthy cognition and cognitive longevity.
They share many of the same ingredients. For example, it is rare to see a good nootropic that doesn’t contain some form of l-theanine. I would actually hesitate to call a nootropic good if it left l-theanine out.
Common market leaders like NooCube and Mind Lab Pro use it to great effect. You will also often see ashwagandha in common nootropic compounds, though this is unfortunately less of an auto-include – hence I supplement with it directly, with a separate ashwagandha capsule each day.
The nootropics market has to date been a little stale, dominated as it is by three or four admittedly brilliant products (of which NooCube and Mind Lab Pro are excellent examples). It hasn’t really been shaken up in a big way for a few years now, which is an eternity in the supplements world.
That was until recently, when a product called Nooceptin hit our shelves. It’s a nootropic that was conceived of and developed by some of the world’s leading neuroscientists as a way to naturally and healthily improve cognition, enhance memory, and ringfence longer term brain health. It’s made in cGMP certified and FDA approved facilities in the USA, which is always good to see, and is rigorously third party tested, which is a must. And, though it’s priced pretty highly, it’s worth every penny you pay for the quality you receive.
Nooceptin includes some of my favorite nootropic compounds. We’re talking things like lion’s mane extract, dosed at 400 mg, citicoline (another must), dosed at 200 mg, rhodiola rosea and bacopa monnieri, both dosed at 150 mg, panax ginseng extract, dosed at 200 mg, and gingko biloba extract, dosed at 100 mg. Collectively, these will all do everything you would want of a good nootropic and a good natural Xanax alternative, leading to improved cognition and cognitive wellbeing alongside greatly diminished stress and anxiety levels.
Then there is l-theanine, dosed respectably at 200 mg per serving. This will give you the Xanax kick you need without having to worry about any harsh side effects.
The Ultimate Xanax Alternative?
Using a subheading such as ‘The Ultimate Xanax Alternative’ might appear a little strong – and perhaps it is. But there is one supplement on the market that uses all natural ingredients – including many of those I mentioned above (including magnesium, ashwagandha, GABA, Panax Ginseng and Rhodiola Rosea) – and all in really good, effective quantities.
Xanapril is manufactured by SAP Nutrition – the same company behind VyvaMind and Nooceptin – both really high quality nootropics. Xanapril will provide a range of nootropic benefits but is mainly targeted at offering the same relief as Xanax (hence the name).
If you are looking to relieve your anxiety and stress, and want to improve your quality of deep sleep then Xanapril is about as good as it gets in terms of natural supplementation. Try it along with positive tweaks to your lifestyle (meditation, mindfulness, exercise etc.) and you should see results fairly quickly.
You simply take three capsule daily with a big glass of water and away you go. Its quick, easy, completely natural and above all it is impactful. There is no prescription required and if you buy one of the packages here you will save a little too.
For me, it is the best Xanax alternative.
Realistically, if you’re struggling with stress and anxiety and don’t want to look into Xanax, I would urge you to go with a good nootropic supplement.
They will do everything you need them to do, plus improving your cognitive health and wellbeing. This will put you into something of a virtuous cycle, as clearer thinking and improved cognition naturally lead to lower stress levels and improve your ability to deal with stressful situations without becoming overly affected.
This article was written by: James Dixon – SOMA Analytics PT, Nutritionalist & Published Author
James Dixon is one of the key players in the SOMA Analytics’ team. He is a personal trainer and is educated to Masters level. He is a published author and is a keen advocate of high quality nootropic supplements. James enjoys helping others to reach their peak both physically and mentally and believes that expressing his knowledge through his writing is an effective way to positively impact the wellbeing of others on a larger scale.