GABA Supplement information, benefit, side effects, review, does it work for anxiety or stress reduction, what about for sleep? What is the right dosage, better to take with or without food? Are there alternative supplements that work better for anxiety and sleep?
June 24 2014 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

GABA or gamma-aminobutyric acid, discovered in 1950, is the most important and widespread inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Excitation in the brain must be balanced with inhibition. Too much excitation can lead to restlessness, irritability, insomnia, and even seizures. GABA is able to induce relaxation, analgesia, and sleep. Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are known to stimulate GABA receptors, and hence induce relaxation. Several neurological disorders, such as epilepsy, sleep disorders, and Parkinson’s disease are affected by this neurotransmitter. This neurotransmitter is made in the brain from the amino acid glutamate with the aid of vitamin B6. Do these supplements help induce relaxation?
    There are several other products to consider that help with relaxation. These include theanine, passionflower, ashwagandha, 5-HTP, and tryptophan.

Buy GABA supplement, 250 mg each pill - Enzymatic Therapy

Recommendations: One to four GABA capsules once or twice daily on an empty stomach. Alternatives, in terms of stress reduction and tension relief, include passion flower herb, kava herb, tryptophan and 5-HTP supplement.

Supplement Facts:
Amount per Capsule
Gamma-aminobutyric acid 250 mg per pill

If you plan to use this natural neurotransmitter supplement, take it on an empty stomach. I have no reason to suspect it has dependency or addictive potential.
Dosage: Most people require at least 500 mg.

buy GABA supplement pills, Good Night Rx for deeper sleep, Mind Power Rx brain and mood booster, along with passionflower, and other herbs and products useful for relaxation

GABA for anxiety and stress relief
I have come across little human research regarding the use of GABA supplements for anxiety in humans. Some people have noticed better relaxation and sleep when taking more than one or two grams. One gram equals 1,000 milligrams. However, at these dosages, one wonders whether other herbs and nutrients that have relaxation potential may be more cost effective. Good Night Rx is a more effective herbal product for sleep induction and maintenance.

Relaxation and immunity enhancement effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid administration in humans.
Biofactors. 2006.
The effect of orally administrated gamma-aminobutyric acid on relaxation and immunity during stress has been investigated in humans. Two studies were conducted. The first evaluated the effect on brain waves. Electroencephalograms (EEG) were obtained after 3 tests on each volunteer as follows: intake only water, GABA, or L-theanine. After 60 minutes of administration, treatment significantly increases alpha waves and decreases beta waves compared to water or L-theanine. These findings denote that it not only induces relaxation but also reduces anxiety. The second study was conducted to see the role of relaxant and anxiolytic effects on immunity in stressed volunteers. Eight acrophobic subjects were divided into 2 groups. All subjects were crossing a suspended bridge as a stressful stimulus. Immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels in their saliva were monitored during bridge crossing. Placebo group showed marked decrease of their IgA levels, while GABA group showed significantly higher levels. In conclusion, GABA could work effectively as a natural relaxant and its effects could be seen within 1 hour of its administration to induce relaxation and diminish anxiety.

I agree that kava or 5-HTP are probably better for anxiety for most people but can you tell me whether at higher doses and/or more frequent dosing GABA could penetrate the blood-brain barrier and increase intracellular GABA levels significantly?
   Higher doses could well lead to it crossing the blood brain barrier and having relaxation effects, and some people apparently do notice these benefits.

Review and summary
I don't have a strong opinion regarding the effectiveness of GABA supplements. I think the pills may reduce anxiety in some people when used in high doses, or work better when combined with other anti-stress supplements. Other options for anxiety and tension that, in my opinion, are more effective include 5-HTP, tryptophan, valerian herb, kava herb, and passion flower herb and theanine amino acid. For tension relief and better sleep at night, Good Night Rx, a product that has a combination of several nutrients and herbs, works very well for sleep problems.

Mind Power Rx combines a delicate balance of brain circulation agents and neurotransmitter precursors with powerful natural brain chemicals that support:

Memory and Mood
Mental clarity
Concentration 
Alertness and Focus


The herbs in include: Ashwagandha, Bacopa, Fo-Ti, Ginkgo biloba, Ginseng, Mucuna pruriens, Rhodiola, and Reishi. The nutrients and vitamins in Mind Power Rx include Acetyl-l-carnitine, Carnitine, Carnosine nutrient, Choline nutrient, DMAE, Inositol, Methylcobalamin, Pantothenic acid, Tyrosine, and Vinpocetine.

Absorption
GABA is readily and quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, but it has some difficulty in crossing the blood-brain barrier and hence, at its present form sold over the counter, is not a reliable way to relieve anxiety.

GABA side effects, safety, risks
No significant GABA side effects have been reported with the use of this supplement. It appears that this natural pill is safe and has few risks.

Growth hormone effect
Q.
I have found a significant amount of literature on the net saying that taking GABA between 2-5 grams per day leads to significant increases in HGH in the blood stream. I was wondering if this is true, and if so what the risks would be in taking it at such high levels.
   A. Long term risks of high dose intake are unknown, and even if supplements raise hgh levels, we don't know for certain that raising hgh levels is beneficial or harmful in the long run. I doubt this neurotransmitter supplement is an effective way of raising human growth hormone levels over the long run, but I will await the results of more studies.

Q. I am a little concerned with some conflicting reports I have seen on GABA since I have started taking it. On the one hand a at first glance it sounded like a miracle supplement but the claims of increases in growth hormone I was slightly suspicious off, most adverts steal results and quotes from clinical drugs trials report "Increase HGH levels by 550%" etc. When I read the more independent research on it, the doctors say, Yourself included (funnily enough this is not found in the commercial adverts) that GABA as a sport supplement, in powder form cannot transgress easily the brain/blood barrier. Certainly amongst the guys I know taking it nobody taking it seemed to be turning into the hulk over night.

Sleep
Are there any reasons to be cautious about using GABA as a sleep aid? Because it is an essential amino acid, I wonder if there are any potential negative effects of taking these supplements.
   My clinical experience does not indicate this nutrient to have a strong effect on sleep, however it does not appear to have any major negative reactions.

I bought some GABA pills earlier this year based on reading about burning fat. I'm not sure that I've seen any results in that area.  I work our at Curves so I have been losing weight and toning. The one thing I did notice is the relaxation that soothes me to sleep and stay asleep.  I had no idea that this was to be a benefit.  I struggle with sleeping all night.  I take 3 - 750mg capsules each night before bed.  When I am taking it and for several days after I sleep all night.  If I waken I am so relaxed I go right back to sleep. GABA has certainly been a blessing to me!

Weight loss
Is GABA helpful for weight loss?
   I seriously doubt if it helps with appetite control or to lose weight.

I recently read an article on body building that claimed using it in the amount of 5 grams daily will act to reduce body fat. This supplements was praised as the ultimate fat burner. During your research have you discovered it to have any body fat reducing capabilities?
  I have not come across this research with GABA as a fat burner.

Combining with other supplements for anxiety relief
Is it possible for me to take both 5HTP and GABA supplements together daily? Suppose I take them in the safe and recommended dosage, e.g. 5HTP 50mg / day.
    It is not possible to predict in any one individual what reaction, benefit, or adverse effect they will have when combining supplements or medications, but, as a general rule, low dosages of most supplements can be combined without major adverse reactions. GABA and 5HTP, when used in low amounts, do not cause any major bad reactions.

Research studies
Alcohol effects on gamma-aminobutyric acid type A receptors: are extrasynaptic receptors the answer?
Life Sci. 2004.
GABA (A) receptors have long been implicated in mediating at least part of the actions of ethanol in mammalian brain. However, until very recently, reports of the actions of ethanol on recombinant receptors have required very high doses of ethanol and animals lacking receptor subunits shown to be important for ethanol actions in vitro did not support the view that these subunits are crucial in ethanol actions. Recombinant GABA (A) receptors are uniquely sensitive to ethanol, with a dose-response relationship mirroring the well known effects of alcohol consumption on the human brain. Receptors containing the delta subunit are thought to be located extrasynaptically and it will be important to determine if these extrasynaptic GABA (A) receptor subunit combinations mediate low dose alcohol effects in vivo.

Alcohol effect
A role for GABA mechanisms in the motivational effects of alcohol.
Biochem Pharmacol. 2004.
Low doses of ethanol have been hypothesized to act directly via proteins that form ligand-gated receptor channels, such as the gamma-aminobutyric acid receptor complex, to allosterically alter function, particularly in specific brain areas such as those hypothesized to be involved in ethanol reinforcement.

Questions
Is there is any good approach to increase GABA binding with out using benzodiazepines. I have leaned that KAVA has some effect but in same time there is possible problem with liver. What about diet is there any diet approach to increase GABA binding.
   I am not aware of research with diet and the role of diet in influencing GABA receptors although I am certain that different foods will influence the binding or activity of various receptors.

Q. I have read your information page on GABA and was wondering if taking GABA sublingually might have a better chance of crossing the blood-brain barrier than regular pills/powder? Source Naturals makes a sublingual product called GABA Calm, which I have found helpful with anxiety. This sublingual pill also contains Glycine, N-Acetyly l-Tyrosine, Taurine and a small amount of magnesium. If it's unlikely that the mere 100mg of GABA in this product is getting to the brain, could the slight calming effect I feel could be due to the other ingredients? I'm sure there is the possibility that the immediacy of the sublingual form also increases the placebo effect, but I am curious as to your thoughts on this. Thank you and keep up the great work!
   A. I have not tried GABA Calm from Source Naturals so I do not know which of the ingredients is working to create calmness, perhaps the taurine? As to sublingual GABA, it still has to cress the blood brain barrier from the bloodstream, so I am not sure.

I need to find out if I am on an anti-inflammatory, Asacol ( mesalamine ) and I have Crohn's disease, would it be safe to try GABA to see if it will help me relax. I am also on Rivotril ( clonazepam ) at the moment to relaxation but do not feel much better for it.
    There's hardly any research done with the combination of drugs and supplements, so we can't say. In most cases when the dosage of the supplement used is very low, it appears to be safe to take with medications, but there could be exceptions and unexpected reactions when drugs and supplements are combined. Ultimately you need to consult with your health care provider.

Q. I started taking GABA supplements several months ago when a promotion at work resulted in high stress and chronic insomnia. I had tried numerous other herbal sleep aids and nothing helped in the least, but, seemingly, it worked miraculously when I started taking three 750 mg capsules right upon going to bed. And there was yet another dramatic positive effect. I suffer from chronic and constant spasmodic cervical dystonia. After I started using the GABA the symptoms of the dystonia all but completely went away. Interestingly, I had been taking GABA every night for about four months and stopped suddenly about three weeks ago when I went on a backpacking trip. After I returned from the trip I did not begin taking the GABA again, within about a week my level of stress and anxiety had skyrocketed again and the dystonia symptoms returned unabated (though the insomnia has not returned). I've been using both "NOW" and "Source Naturals" brands, buying whichever I could find for the cheapest price, and both seem to have been equally effective. I began taking four of the 750 mg GABA capsules about five days ago now (currently taking the "NOW" brand) and my anxiety level and dystonia symptoms have both calmed significantly once again.
   A. Thanks for sharing this with us. What company brand were you using?

Q. I started taking GABA supplements this past summer because I heard that it can help with stress and mild anxiety; it is also taken by bodybuilders because of its relationship with human growth hormone. I researched it and learned that there is great deal of doubt as to whether orally administered GABA can cross the blood-brain barrier, but I figured it was worth a try. It didn't work for anxiety AT ALL -- but it inexplicably cured what had become a VERY severe, chronic sleepwalking problem (severe to the point where I was sustaining injuries during the night). At the time, I had no idea why that would happen, but since then I've read up quite a bit on the chemistry of sleep. I already knew that sleepwalking occurred during slow-wave delta sleep, but I didn't know that the "chemical signature" of delta sleep was GABA, or that the brain produced human growth hormone during this sleep phase. It seems to me that these things are related, and that there could be some potential there for treatment or research. I'm wondering if you or one of your colleagues could make use of the idea? I have tried contacting some university faculty who specialize in sleep research, but no one seems particularly taken with the idea. I wonder if you could be on the forefront of marketing a sleepwalking cure? I would very much like to see this information help others who are in the same position that I was. By the way, I stopped taking the GABA last month, thinking maybe that I had "gotten over" sleepwalking. About a week later, I woke up with a bath towel inexplicably draped across the couch and a picture taken down off the wall. So I will definitely keep taking it!
   A. This is interesting and we will see if others with a sleep walking problem are helped by a GABA supplement or it just happened to be coincidence in your case. What what the GABA dosage and the brand?
      Q. It is called "GABA 750," GNC brand. It contains 750mg of gamma-aminobutyric acid per capsule. It has no other ingredients aside from gelatin. I usually take 2 a couple hours before bed (around 9:30), and another 2-3 about half an hour before bed. I sometimes take more on those rare occasions when I also take Ambien, a prescription sleep aid that greatly exacerbates my sleepwalking.

Regarding GABA for anxiety treatment. Does this supplement taken orally, follow the same receptor sites that “Zanax or Valerian”? I’ve been taking a formula that has 600mg of GABA in it with passion flower, magnesium and b-6, called “Nutrasleep” by Source Naturals. I’ve been taking it several times a week to treat anxiety and insomnia for recovering from Adrenal fatigue ( I have been on a strict protocol from my naturopathic doctor. I once was on Zanax about 8 years ago and had a very horrible time coming off this. Had to taper off very slowly over several weeks to a month. That is why I will never go on prescribed meds like this again. But, after taking the GABA periodically for over 4 months now, I’m having several nights a week, waking up sweating, anxiety, insomnia, and am wondering it I have built up a tolerance to the GABA and the receptor sites, causing withdrawal effects.
    It is difficult to say when a combination formula is taken that has GABA, passion flower, and other supplements which ingredient or combination is working or causing side effects. I am not familiar with Nutrasleep by Source Naturals. You may consider reading the information on anxiety and supplements helpful for this condition and discuss the options with your doctor. It is also a good idea to take occasional breaks from the regular use of supplements.

I have been having problems with memory and went to a naturopath. He said I was deficient in Citicoline and I also needed Gaba pills. I took Citicoline and right away it made me more alert. Five minutes later I took a Gaba pill and together it caused my heart to beat very rapidly. Now Gaba is known as a relaxation drug or downer and citicoline is like an upper so I thought maybe combined it was causing my heart to beat very fast. I kept taking citicoline and did not take gaba and my heart rate returned to normal. After returning to my naturopath he told me I was still deficient in Gaba so I thought I would take citicoline in the morning since it's an upper and Gaba at night. This seemed to reduce the rapid heart rate. But during the night I had the most violent, horrific nightmares. My heart rate might have still have increased a tad. My question is do you know anything about taking these two products together and what is your opinion?
    I have not prescribed these two supplements together. It is often a good idea to use lower dosages since they may work with fewer side effects.

 I've been recently taken 500mg (Solgar is company of Gaba I take) pills to help me relax during the day as I feel anxiety and little depressed. I haven't really noticed any results of it that will calm me down, but I've just now past day or two taking two a day. I've also been taking Ginkgo Smart to help me concentrate and stay alert does these two pills counter react each other? I take Ginkgo in the moring after I eat breakfast or during lunch on my days off work, and I take Gaba sometime during the day. I also was taken Citalopram for depression does any of these stuff interact each other or benefit each others effect?
   Yes, these medications and supplements could interact with each based on dosage and time of day used.

Thank you for taking such a well-balanced and objective approach to promoting the known benefits of various supplementation. I wanted to share my own experience with with GABA supplementation. I was first introduced to it on the recommendation of a local vitamin and body building supplementation shop 3 years ago. Since then I have taken, not daily, but frequent supplementation of GABA when I wanted deep, restive sleep. My personal findings based on my and other associates that have taken GABA are the following - GABA effect seems to be highly susceptible to individual body / brain chemistry. I have encountered people who can take a 5 gram dose without any effect, and those for whom 2 grams has a noticeable and consistent effect. The majority of people I know experience slightly longer and deeper night-time sleep cycles - reported by them in comparison to their w/o dosage cycle durations. There is generally a post-dosage rush of accelerated breathing, which in cases of extreme sensitivity to GABA is almost like an induced anxiety attack from hyperventilation, only without the rapid breathing and over-oxygenation that causes that condition. This generally is noticed 10 to 15 minutes after supplementation. It seems to be triggered by dosage from the reports I've heard. Long duration dosage (e.g. 2 grams dissolved in a liter of water and consumed over a two hour period) gives no response, while quick ingestion, particularly with higher dosages, always imparts this effect in strength in proportion to the dosage. Various vendors of GABA promote a wide range of claims from feelings of euphoria, reduced fat / growth of lean muscle (most likely to statements of elevated HGH factors), improved immunity, reduced stress and increased sex drive. In my conversations with users I have heard statements of improved sex drive, reduced stress and improved immunity, though I have never heard any one report any of these benefits that didn't also find that GABA increased their ability to sleep longer and deeper which leads me to the subjective hypothesis that these benefits are either auto-suggestive or most likely normal physiological benefits of improved sleep in individuals with existing problems of shortened / disrupted sleep patterns. My personal experience with GABA is both positive and cautionary. I seem to have a susceptibility to GABA. A 2 gram dose of GABA will force a 12 to 14 hour sleep period for me. If I do not sleep at least that long I feel disoriented, sometimes dizzy and off-balance and prone to unconscious / uncontrolled moments of micro-sleep where I can dose off in the middle of activities - like conversation or driving a vehicle. These side effects dissipate over time, but the only sure way to quickly remove them is to return to sleep. Additionally I am prone to 12 to 36 hour periods of what is best described as tendencies towards extroverted socialization. Not a naturally gregarious person, GABA without a second though or hesitation seems to reduce the self-concsiousness or social restraint I normally have in meeting or speaking with strangers. In fact, I am prone to say most anything and feel no reticence in engaging complete strangers in conversation - the fast majority of which are interesting and attentive. I do have a tendency to react aggressively to aggressive behavior and social rudeness (also not my normal personality). For me doses greater than 2 grams have an escalating effect in all susceptibilities. Once, two years ago, I changed brands of GABA and took a double "starting" dose, without looking at the efficacy. Instead of my old brands 2 grams, this single serving delivered 4 grams, effectively giving me a dose of 8 grams of GABA - which I have never repeated. I went to bed at 9:00 pm and my wife tried to wake me at 8:00 a.m. the next morning when I had not yet gotten up for work. This is an honest statement - she could not wake me and just thought I was extremely tired and let me sleep. I awoke a little after 2 in the afternoon. I tried to stand up out of bed, stood up and immediately fell down. I was incapable of walking - I couldn't stand up, I was too dizzy. I had to crawl to the bathroom. I was in bed for 2 full days, barely eating and simply sleeping. On the third day I was able to walk and talk, but the socializing aspects were in high-gear - I had a complete and total disregard for propriety and social custom. Luckily it was Saturday and I didn't need to work. I remember driving down the highway, vacillating from singing to blaring music and alternately screaming at other drivers as I drove my Audi at 130 mph in and out of 55 mph traffic - without any fear or reflection on the rightness of those actions. It just felt good, so I did it. So, in summary I don't know what you'll make of my personal experiences, but they are honest and completely w/o exaggeration. I understand the prevalent research opinion that GABA cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. Analytically I can offer no supportive research to refute that. I can say that based on my experience in ingesting GABA as powder dissolved in a simple water solution in isolation from any other supplements - I experience distinct effects. It could be psychosomatic, but I have taken other supplements that mirror or substantively complement the effects promoted for GABA, but without any noticeable effect to myself. I'm generally very objective in evaluating the effects and benefits of any supplements I take. I'm 52 years old and have been reading and varying strategies of supplementation since I was 21 and had at that time an athletic coach who was also a medical researcher very interested in nutrition and the effects of natural supplementation on health and performance. Glad to discuss further if you are interested. Regardless, I hope these subjective assessments contribute to your survey of GABA effects as collected from other correspondents.