OTC plant supplement may be a promising way to relieve anxiety

A new study from the Weizmann Institute of Science has found that a commonly available supplement may be a potential way to treat anxiety, particularly when combined with the antidepressant Prozac. The substance is found naturally in many plant foods, including avocados, though the doses needed to experience anti-anxiety effects are greater than you could get from simply eating these foods.

The promising supplement is called beta-sitosterol and is available to purchase through many supplement companies. The scientists behind this new study were looking for potential compounds that could help treat chronic anxiety problems without the many side effects that come with traditional psychiatric medications.

The researchers followed the lead of a study on mice that was published several years ago, using that hunt for compounds capable of mimicking gene expression found in 'calm' mice versus ones that had anxiety. The genomic database led the researchers to five candidate compounds and they eventually narrowed it down to beta-sitosterol.

This supplement is popularly used to help lower cholesterol levels, but the new study found that — in mice, at least — it may also be able to significantly reduce anxiety levels. As well, mice given this natural supplement weren't observed to have any side effects like you'd find with traditional anti-anxiety medications.

Likewise, the researchers found that beta-sitosterol also worked synergistically with Prozac, a type of SSRI anti-depressant medication. By combining these two substances, the amount of Prozac and beta-sitosterol needed to lower anxiety was reduced when compared to giving either compound on its own. Beta-sitosterol is found in many foods, including nuts like pistachios and almonds, but eating food alone won't offer a high enough dose to have an effect.

The researchers caution that a clinical trial involving the supplement is necessary to determine whether it has similar anti-anxiety effects in humans.