Like other aspects of your mental and physical well-being, your mood is a reaction to internal and external factors. Everything from what you digest, like sugar and alcohol, to external events, such as anxiety and stress, cause reactions in your brain which regulate the way you feel—or your mood. The four key neurotransmitters that regulate how you feel are: serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and gamma aminobutyric acid. When operating properly, your nervous system fluctuates due to a natural checks and balance system in the form of inhibitory (calming) and excitatory (stimulating) neurotransmitters. This leads to a natural change in mood throughout the day and night. However, if you have an actual imbalance in these neurotransmitters then you should seek the advice of a medical professional and not follow information on the internet (or this article), or start/stop any medications or supplements without your physician’s consent.
Why Should You Take Mood Enhancing Supplements?
Even if you have a natural balance of neurotransmitters, you will still have shifts in your mood, anxiety & stress levels, and positive moods accompanied by occasional depressed moods. These are all normal parts of life, but in these situations, mood enhancing supplements can be a very effective way to balance and enhance your mood. Mood enhancing supplements work by promoting one or more of the following: mental and physical comfort, positive mood, healthy mental and emotional balance, and enhanced overall well-being. Mood enhancers help you feel your best, which effects all areas of your life by boosting your perception of the world around you.
Which Natural Mood Enhancers Work?
With the many mood enhancing supplements on the market today, it’s important to look at ingredients that have actual scientific studies supporting the claims. Some well-known natural mood enhancers with credible scientific research are:
- Kava Kava — Also known as piper methysticum, which stands for “intoxicating pepper,” Kava is a plant primarily grown in the western Pacific. Kava Kava is commonly used to provide relief for intermittent anxiety and occasional depressed moods, and consumed as a drink by the indigenous people of the Polynesia, including Hawaii, Vanuatu, Melanesia and some parts of Micronesia.
- Phenylalanine — Due to its impact on mood, Phenylalanine has been most widely studied for its mood boosting properties and relief for anxious feelings. Many studies done over the last 50 years show consistent positive results providing strong evidence for the effectiveness of Phenylalanine as a powerful mood enhancer. The body needs Phenylalanine to make dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, neurochemical transmitters which are essential to governing your perceptions of the world around us.
- Asian Ginseng — Asian Ginseng has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years, and today is one of the most common supplements, used for its ability to help with increasing resistance to environmental stress and for improving overall well-being, along with revitalizing energy levels. Today, ginseng is also used for nutritive, restorative, and long-term purposes. Herbalists classify it as an adaptogen, that enhances homeostasis and counteracts negative effects brought on by stressors. Asian ginseng is also known as Korean ginseng and Panax ginseng.
- Gotu Kola Leaf (Centella Asiatic) — Gotu Kola Leaf, a half-moon shaped leaf, is found in tropical, wet areas. The plant has been used for its benefits for thousands of years in Africa, India, and China. Many cultures still use the leaves as an herb in food. Recent studies have found the supplement to have a calming effect which can be beneficial in dealing with occasional anxiety and nervousness. Another way Gotu Kola Leaf can protect the brain and may improve mood, is by reducing the effects of free radicals.
- 5-HTP — 5-HTP, standing for 5-Hydroxytryptophan, is a naturally occurring amino acid. However, the chemical can also be produced from the seeds of an African plant known as Griffonia simplicifolia. 5-HTP increases the production of the chemical serotonin in the brain and central nervous system. The supplement is commonly used for neurotransmitter support and to promote balanced serotonin levels, along with positive mood.
- Oat Bran (Avena Sativa) — Oat bran is an effective mood booster because of its low glycemic index (GI), it slowly releases energy into the bloodstream, which helps keep blood sugar and mood stabilized. Oats also contain the mood-boosting mineral selenium, which can help with promoting balanced brain levels of serotonin and overall well-being. Oat bran is a very versatile supplement used for a variety of aspects, including fatigue, anxious feelings, and excitation and stress.
- St. John’s Wort — St. John’s Wort, scientifically known as Hypericum perforatum, is a flowering plant native to parts of Europe and Asia. The plant has been used for its health benefits for centuries in Europe. Today St. John’s Wort is a very common supplement in the United States. Recent studies have shown the plant to be beneficial in helping occasional depressed moods and other mood disturbances. It has also been used for secondary items, such as occasional fatigue, sleeplessness, and anxious feelings. It is proposed that hypericin helps to elevate the biochemicals in the brain that affect mood, namely dopamine and serotonin, and to reduce adrenal activity.
- L-Tyrosine — L-tyrosine is one of the 20 standard amino acids the body uses to synthesize proteins, and is an amino acid precursor of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine. L-Tyrosine supplements are commonly used to improve mood, energy, and alertness.
- Chamomile — Chamomile is a very common supplement in the United States today. Best known for its use in tea, Chamomile is believed to be one of the oldest known supplements to be used for its numerous health benefits. Today, the plant is used for its natural calming effects. Scientific studies have shown the supplement’s benefits in providing relief for intermittent anxiety and promoting a positive mood.
- Vitamin B6 — Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is important for your overall well-being and function. The body uses Vitamin B6 to make serotonin and norepinephrine, which influence your mood. Vitamin B6 is also required for the synthesis of melatonin, which helps regulate your circadian clock. Aside from supplements, Vitamin B6 is also found in many common foods, including vegetables, milk, cheese, eggs, fish, liver, and meat.