GABA Relieves Anxiety
Julian Whitaker, MD
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter, relaying information from one nerve cell to another. It is an “inhibitory” neurotransmitter, meaning that in contrast to “excitatory” neurotransmitters, which facilitate the initiation of nerve impulses in neurons, it blocks them. In fact, GABA is your central nervous system’s most abundant inhibitory neurotransmitter.
GABA is active throughout your brain, especially in the limbic system, which is sometimes referred to as your brain’s emotional center, because it is where pleasure, passion, love, hate, fear, and aggression originate. If there’s one area of your brain that needs to find a balance between excitement and inhibition, it’s the limbic system. Whether it’s the euphoria of new love and passion or the black cloud of fear and anxiety, intense emotions arise in the limbic system.
Turns Down Emotional Alarms
Here’s where supplemental GABA comes in. When the limbic system is hyper-excited and anxiety, fear, anger, panic, or other negative emotions get the upper hand, GABA restores balance by occupying the receptor sites that calm things down. It simply turns down the emotional alarm bells. If you’ve ever “taken the edge off” by having a cocktail or popping a tranquilizer, you’ve already experienced what I’m talking about. Both alcohol and benzodiazepines (tranquilizers such as Valium and Xanax) work their magic by attaching to these same receptor sites.
However, benzodiazepines are highly addictive and have a huge abuse potential—and we all know the downside of too much alcohol. Supplemental GABA, on the other hand, is non-addictive, well-tolerated, and has none of the drug side effects such as drowsiness, poor concentration and coordination, or a slowdown in reaction time. Available in capsule or powder form, GABA can be used for chronic or situational anxiety (some people take it before flying or public speaking engagements), as well as insomnia (it makes falling asleep easier).
- To relieve anxiety, take 500-750 mg of GABA as needed, up to three times daily. For insomnia, take 750 mg an hour before bedtime.
Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Copyright 2006. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.