Ask Doctor Marty: Stress


Because of the quarantine for the pandemic, the loss of my job, family stress, and a long list of other stressors in my life, I need help! What can I do naturally to help my stress level? You have given me some natural approaches like exercise, music and light therapy, and other helpful ideas to lessen stress. Are there some natural supplements that would help as well?

Dr MartyAnswer:
As our world continues to return to where we were four months ago, we will all start getting back to a more manageable level of stress. But in the meantime, there are lots of supplements that can take the sharp, pointy, painful edges off of stress. Here are some of my favorites:

B-Complex vitamins, like thiamin, riboflavin (also crucial for healthy adrenal glands), vitamin B6 and pantothenic acid all keep the nervous system happy. B12 is also great for stress. B vitamins are water soluble; so, it is important to get a steady diet of these little gems since they are not stored in the body.

Stress not only takes its toll on the nervous system, it is also hard on our adrenal glands. Our adrenal glands cause us to respond to stress with fight or flight reaction. This is the way our bodies were made to respond so that we do not get to be lunch for a lion. But long-term stress beats up our adrenal glands with a continual flow of hormones, like cortisol, that can cause a downward cycle of stress. Vitamin C is more concentrated in the adrenal glands than in any other organ in the body. During times of physical and emotional stress, our bodies use up vitamin C at breakneck speed and weaken the immune system as well. High levels of vitamin C can decrease cortisol levels, lowering stress levels.

Hops, passionflower, valerian, catnip and chamomile are all herbs that soothe the nervous system. I promise you will not start chasing your tail after taking catnip. Valerian sounds like the prescription Valium, but there is no connection.

Magnesium is especially helpful for anxiety, depression, and aggression.

l-theanine is an amino acid at has been shown in clinical trials to decrease the symptoms of schizophrenia according to the Journal of Clinical Psychology. Studies have also shown that ADHD and insomnia have improved with the use of L-theanine.

Even though these supplements can be very helpful in dealing with stress, there is no magic bullet. Nothing works for everyone. If your body is getting enough magnesium from your diet, then supplementing will not help. And to further complicate the matter, everyone needs different levels of nutrients. And your requirements can change from day-to-day, depending on your emotional and physical stress levels at any given time.
Stay well. Chill. This too shall pass.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or prescribe. Seek the advice of a qualified health care professional for advice on any new supplement and potential interactions with any medication you may already be taking.
Marty Kernion, Ph.D. is not a medical doctor. She has a doctorate in Naturopathy. Naturopathy uses natural, gentle ways to bring our bodies back into balance so that they have the God-given ability to heal themselves. She is a retired Professor of herbal medicine and nutrition and has written 39 college-level courses and has published two books on natural approaches to health. She can be reached on for scheduling a class or consultation, or for sending in your questions for this column.