According to Gallup’s annual Global Emotions Report, over 40% of adults worldwide reported experiencing record high stress levels in 2020. That number might be elevated because of the pandemic, but it’s been steadily increasing since 2015. Americans, in particular, have incredibly high levels of stress. And with chronic stress comes problems in nearly every part of your body, dramatically affecting your quality of life.
In times of chronic, low-level stress – or if you’re looking to improve your sleep, which can also help relieve stress and vice versa – you can turn to one of your body’s own best building blocks: GABA. GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is an amino acid and the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in your brain. It’s taken as a supplement for many reasons, with the overarching goal of helping you feel more centered throughout your day. We’ve found the top GABA supplements and tested and reviewed them so you can discover what will help you the most.
If you’re in a hurry, check out our top recommendations for the best GABA supplements below.
PharmaGABA's all-natural ingredients are scientifically backed and have the strongest efficacy.
Thorne’s ingredients are free of gluten, soy, and dairy. They’re trusted by many third party groups like the Mayo Clinic. Choose between two dosage options.
Winner: Thorne PharmaGABA
When it comes to efficacy, we want to know how well the supplement does what it’s supposed to do. We look at the quality of ingredients, safety, how well it’s likely to be used by the body, proper dosage, and delivery method when deciding a supplement’s efficacy. Essentially, does this supplement do what it promises quickly and easily?
Thorne’s PharmaGABA is the gold standard. It’s been used as a GABA supplement in multiple neutral third-party research studies, many of which show positive results. The GABA is made from fermentation using Lactobacillus hilgardii, and Thorne’s website clearly explains where and how the supplement is made. It is on the more expensive side, but its high quality makes that price worth it. PharmaGABA is the only one of our favorite GABA supplements available in two different dosages for those who know they might need a little more help relieving stress.
Winner: Nutricost GABA Powder
When it comes to the value of a supplement, the total cost, cost per unit, and product quality are all important. We consider all three of these traits when deciding what the best GABA supplement is in terms of cost. A bottle of supplements that is low-cost but only contains a week’s worth of capsules isn’t going to give you the best bang for your buck. Nor is a low-cost supplement that’s low-quality and might not work.
Nutricost’s GABA Powder comes in a large tub with its own scoop like a traditional protein powder might. This bucket holds one thousand servings of 500mg pure GABA, with no additives or preservatives necessary. You can get almost three years’ worth of high-strength GABA supplements for $22.95. That’s only about two cents per serving, which is an outstanding value in our book. And, since it’s pure GABA, there are no extraneous ingredients to worry about interfering with your supplemental GABA intake.
Typically, the fewer ingredients in a supplement, the more likely you will have a high concentration of just the vitamin, mineral, or herb you’re looking for. It gets a little more complicated when it comes to GABA supplements since we don’t know if they can truly pass the blood-brain barrier. There are a few other amino acids and vitamins that can help the body create and enhance the effects of GABA, including:
So, when a GABA supplement has any (or multiple) of these ingredients – especially when they’re high-quality – they’re likely to have a ripple effect. Many GABA supplements are great at having pure GABA since it’s easy to make from lactic acid; the supplements that take things a step beyond and introduce some of these additional ingredients to ensure the most comprehensive package are those we consider the best.
Source Naturals’ GABA Calm lozenges not only have 125mg of GABA – an ideal amount based on scientific research studies – but they also contain:
This sublingual lozenge was designed for the best possible GABA uptake. Combining GABA with glycine maximizes the amount of inhibitory action you’ll see. The addition of L-tyrosine improves the level of dopamine, the “happiness chemical” that also assists with focus and concentration, and taurine supports GABA’s calming effects. Source Naturals provides a holistic backdrop for your GABA supplementation without any negative side effects or rocketing your GABA levels sky-high, which increases the risk of side effects.
It’s important to note that, since this supplement contains tyrosine, you should not add it to your daily regimen if you take an MAO inhibitor (a powerful classical antidepressant). Combining tyrosine and an MAOI often leads to a large spike in blood pressure, which can induce a heart attack or stroke.
Winner: Tie between Nutricost GABA Powder and Thorne PharmaGABA
Your brain is one of the most important organs in your body and is surprisingly fragile for being so important. It's critical to care for your brain with sensitivity. You can't be too careful when adding a supplement specifically designed to change your brain and nervous system chemistry. Plus, supplements aren't regulated by the FDA, so there isn't a reliable validation process they have to go through before hitting the shelves.
When we look at the safety of these supplements, we’re checking to make sure that they:
Four of our favorite GABA supplements have robust laboratory compliance and are GMP compliant. Only one outright states that an independent third party tested it: Nutricost's GABA powder. It is a pure, clean powder with strong guarantees and plenty of testing and certifications to ease a worried mind.
However, we’re hesitant to give it our full stamp of approval as the safest GABA supplement because of its powder formation. While they provide an appropriately sized scoop to measure out your servings, it’s considerably harder to consistently give yourself the same amount of GABA even if you’re careful. Other formulations with set dosages, like pills and lozenges, are safer to dose. So while Thorne’s PharmaGABA might not advertise third-party testing, they are used regularly in research studies with transparent information about how they created the GABA in their supplements.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid and the most important inhibitory neurotransmitter in our brain. It’s found in up to 50% of all neurons across the brain, central nervous system, and peripheral nervous system.
Our neurons send information across our brain through action potentials, which are electric charges that zip down a neuron and tell it to open its sodium and potassium channels. All neurons can be adjusted to be either more likely (excitatory) or less likely (inhibitory) to set off an action potential by opening or blocking ion channels. GABA is responsible most of the time when a neuron is inhibited, quieting the amount of information thrown around your brain.
Since GABA inhibits information across your entire brain, this means it has a wide range of effects on all aspects of your life, such as:
Anxiety disorders, epilepsy, and insomnia are common disorders related to having too little GABA in your body. When you have too little, your neurons may fire irregularly, causing seizures. Your brain may also have insufficient receptors to pick up enough GABA, leading to a lack of control in firing rates, often a biological cause of generalized anxiety disorder.
Increasing the amount of GABA in your brain isn’t a new idea. Anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), hypnotic, sedative, and anti-epileptic prescription medications often increase your total GABA to work. Some examples of these medications include, but aren’t limited to:
Alcohol also acts on GABA receptors – and so do some illegal drugs like gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB). These drugs’ influence on GABA receptors often explains many of their behavioral effects like a lack of inhibition and lower perceived stress levels. If it has a sedative or “depressant” effect, there’s a good chance it works by increasing the amount of GABA in your brain.
We can't state enough that you should not take a GABA supplement if you take another medication or recreational drug that influences GABA unless you're under medical supervision. Too much or too little GABA circulating in your brain can lead to lots of problems; your brain also gains tolerance to GABA relatively quickly, which means it stops making as much naturally because you're supplementing it with an outside source. Off-kilter GABA levels can lead to low blood pressure and hypersomnia or daytime sleepiness. It can cause strokes, seizures, and difficulty taking in enough oxygen to meet your cell's needs in extreme cases, leading to death.
If you think that you have an anxiety disorder and want to take a GABA supplement to help improve your symptoms, we recommend doing so under the care of a psychiatrist or other medical professional familiar with psychiatric concerns.
GABA is naturally made by your body from glutamate, the major excitatory neurotransmitter, using vitamin B6. However, you can get GABA from outside sources other than supplements too.
Fermented foods are a great source of dietary GABA; the average person ingests 80 to 120mg of GABA from food sources alone. Specifically, GABA is created as a byproduct from foods that have been fermented with Lactobacillus bacteria. This genus of common probiotics creates large amounts of GABA as a protective feature to maintain their productivity in high-acidity environments. (This also might explain why GABA is so prevalent in the gut; Lactobacillus is one of the most common GI and vaginal bacteria.) These types of fermented foods include non-pickled items like:
Valerian root, a cornerstone ingredient in many calming teas, is also thought to work through similar mechanisms with GABA receptors.
Peripheral GABA is a term that describes places that can be influenced by or that create GABA outside of your brain. There are GABA receptors in your central nervous system (which includes your brain and spine) and your peripheral nervous system (all nerves outside of your central nervous system). While there's still a lot to learn about how GABA works in our bodies, there are a few areas we know GABA directly impacts.
GABA receptors can also be found in your gastrointestinal system, giving a whole new meaning to “gut feeling.” Research suggests that the microbiota found in your gut can influence your mood, cognitive functioning, and behavior, likely through their interactions with GABA receptors. Some bacteria, like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains, can even produce GABA. It’s another reason why your gut microbiome’s health is so important.
If you’re concerned about your GABA levels, you can also test your gut health with one of the best microbiome test kits to see if upping your daily miso, kimchi, or cheese intake could help repair your GABA production at the source.
A recent study looking at supplementary GABA in crabs showed that giving them small amounts of GABA supplements increased their average food intake and improved digestive capacity. This result would likely map over to human GABA supplementation, considering that, while crabs are a very different species biologically, we have similar blood-brain barrier mechanisms and GABA receptor spreads.
We also know that cisgender women who have eating disorders, from binge eating disorder to anorexia nervosa, have lower-than-normal levels of GABA. GABA might work alongside other appetite-related signals to regulate our food intake and influence our perception of taste. While there’s still a lot of research to be done, it’s clear that the GI system has a deeply entangled relationship with GABA.
GABA can also influence many cells throughout your central nervous system. A metabolite of progesterone, a hormone released by the ovaries, acts on GABA receptors; the higher your progesterone level, the higher your GABA functioning works. That’s one of the reasons scientists think that PMS and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) happens.
We’ve known since the 1980s that GABA influences how much human growth hormone (HGH) your body makes and how well it processes it. When you have a deep, restful night of sleep, your body is better at making more HGH during the night. Your sleep quality has a significant impact on how much your exercise impacts your body, and since GABA has a huge influence on your sleep, it makes sense that it would also affect how you make HGH. It can also increase the amount of HGH you have circulating in your body during the day.
A study from 2019 found that when otherwise healthy men supplemented 100mg of GABA into their daily diet from supplements along with whey protein, they increased their muscle mass significantly more than people who just took whey powder. Since HGH builds, repairs, and maintains your muscles, it’s obvious that GABA’s influence on HGH means it can help those hoping to get fit.
Supplemental GABA almost always comes in an ingestible form: a capsule, pill, powder, or oil. When you take a GABA supplement, it gets broken down by your stomach into its chemical form.
We don’t know exactly how it gets into the rest of your body after being dissolved in your stomach. If GABA works like other ingestible supplements, they are either uptaken by GABA receptors in the GI system or are moved into the bloodstream to cross the blood-brain barrier. However, even that explanation gets complicated fast.
In order to protect your brain from outside influences, your body has a highly selective barrier between your blood and central nervous system. This physical barrier in specific blood vessels is called the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier keeps things that don’t need to reach your brain from getting in. It's pretty challenging to pass through unless assisted by a transporter or receptor, which are unique proteins designed to pass one particular kind of molecule up to the brain.
There’s a lot of debate about whether or not GABA passes through the blood-brain barrier (BBB). This means that we don’t really know whether or not GABA works through the brain or central or peripheral nervous system and, to a broader extent, if it really works when taken supplementally.
The FDA and the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) – a guidebook describing all drugs, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals – say that GABA supplements are safe. While the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements, meaning that they can’t be used to treat or cure a medical problem, having a stamp of safety approval from both big organizations is good.
There aren’t clear guidelines around what a safe dose of GABA looks like. The FDA confirms that doses up to 750mg of pharma-GABA (made using a strain of lactic acid bacteria called Lactobacillus hilgardii K-3) are safe to take as a digestible ingredient; USP recommends no more than 125mg of GABA per day for up to 12 weeks. Most supplements come between 100mg and 750mg for a daily dose, which makes sense considering the FDA’s suggested range.
On the other hand, most scientific studies give 100-125mg daily when researching supplemental GABA. Other people say that you can take up to 5g (5,000mg) of GABA without experiencing adverse side effects (though consumers report that side effects start at 1g or less daily). One study gave people up to 18g of GABA and GABA-creating compounds for four days to see what would happen. Though participants experienced breathlessness, burning sensations in their throats, blunted HGH levels, and increased prolactin, none experienced “overdose” symptoms. (We seriously recommend against taking anything close to this much GABA except under medical supervision.)
When it comes to figuring out your ideal dose, know you’ll have to experiment to find the right amount for you. Like all supplements, this should be done under the supervision of a medical professional who will have decent judgment about how much will be the right dose for you.
If you take hypertensive medication for high blood pressure or have low blood pressure, you should be careful about taking GABA supplements. GABA can have hypotensive effects even at low supplemental doses, dropping your blood pressure and slowing your heart rate. No studies have shown any serious harm to people because of this, but low blood pressure can be deadly.
Sometimes, supplemental GABA can make breathing feel difficult. This might feel like tightness in your chest, burning feelings, or overall shortness of breath. Experiencing problems breathing is often a sign you’re taking too much GABA because of how GABA interacts with your peripheral nervous system. For the most part, it goes away quickly but is an important – and somewhat distressing – sign to pay attention to.
It’s generally unsafe to take a GABA supplement if you:
The interaction between GABA supplements and these drugs can be unpleasant at best. No matter what you’re taking, it’s always a good idea to start a new supplement under the direct supervision of a medical professional.
If you’re struggling with mild amounts of chronic stress or sleeplessness and need a bit of a nudge in a calmer direction, a GABA supplement might be the right move for you. For people who struggle with mild anxiety or depression and don’t want to begin an antidepressant just yet, your medical provider might recommend a GABA supplement. However, you should always start a supplement under the eye of a medical provider since there are hundreds of ways that medications and supplements can interact.
Pregnant and lactating people should avoid GABA supplements since GABA has a direct effect on HGH, progesterone, and prolactin levels, which can impact the growth and development of a fetus or infant. Likewise, regular alcohol users, users of depressive illegal drugs like GHB, and those taking anti-epileptic or anxiolytic medication should stay away from GABA supplements to avoid compounding too much GABA in your system.
Best overall, best science, strongest efficacy, tied for safest
Available in two strengths
Commonly used in research studies
Transparent ingredient sourcing
Reasonably dosed without excess ingredients
Not specified to be third-party tested
On the expensive side per serving
Stronger dosage is almost twice the price
Thorne PharmaGABA is the preferred GABA supplement of researchers for a reason. Thorne is remarkably transparent about how they create their GABA using up-to-date scientific research from natural sources without additives, gluten, soy, or dairy. GABA is the only thing in each capsule (aside from magnesium citrate and calcium laurate, which are used to ensure there are no clumps for proper absorption).
The one thing they aren’t entirely clear about is their testing process. While we know that they have partnerships with research groups like the Mayo Clinic and the Hypertension Institute and have tested PharmaGABA in multiple research studies – including those by people who are otherwise uninvolved with Thorne – there’s not any obvious information that PharmaGABA has been quality-tested by a third party. Based on our testing, this isn’t a problem – PharmaGABA works. But for your peace of mind, this is something that Thorne should be doing.
PharmaGABA comes in two doses so you can pick exactly what’s going to work best for you.
Best lozenge, best ingredients
Comes in both peppermint and orange flavors
Contains both GABA and GABA-supporting ingredients
Taken sublingually for best absorption
One of the least expensive options per serving
Cannot be used if you take MAO inhibitors
Lozenge takes a while to dissolve
Difficult to change dose
The Source Naturals lozenge has the best range of well-tested ingredients that provide GABA to your body and give it the building blocks it needs to help the GABA work best in your system. With L-tyrosine to stimulate dopamine production, taurine to boost GABA's calming effects, and glycine to help GABA build strength as an additional inhibitory neurotransmitter, your body will have everything it needs to help you stay calm, maintain focus, and relax into a good night's sleep.
The lozenge comes in two flavors (orange and peppermint) and three sizes (30, 60, and 90 lozenges). While it’s reasonably priced at about $0.17 per serving of 125mg GABA, it’s difficult to change the dose because of the lozenge form. If you want to take more than 250mg of GABA, you might be better off trying a different form to avoid having three or more lozenges dissolving under your tongue at once (or spending too long waiting for them to dissolve one after another).
Easiest to dose
Can dissolve or swallow tablets with equal efficacy
Tablets dissolve quickly for an easy alternative sublingual absorption
50mg tablets make it easy to get a precise dose
Free shipping over $25
Subscribe and save for 10% off all orders
Relatively expensive per serving
Stevia sweetener can be rough on some people’s stomachs
50mg per tablet means taking a lot if you need a large dose
One of the most delicious GABA supplements we tried is Frunutta's. It contains a few more extraneous ingredients than other supplements, including natural cherry flavoring, stevia, and lactose, but this allows it to have so many versatile ingesting options. Very few of these ingredients are habit-forming or “unnatural filler” material. It’s absorbed best when dissolved sublingually, but you can also swallow it like a pill if you’d prefer to be done with it. Stevia can sometimes be rough on a sensitive stomach, so be aware if you have any sensitivities, though even our most sensitive testers experienced no problems with taking it.
One of its most interesting qualities is that each tab is only 50mg of GABA. While this can quickly get inconvenient if you want or need a large dose, it allows for precise manipulation of your dose. You can cut up exactly what you need to the milligram, which isn't possible with many of our other favorites.
Frunutta’s GABA supplement costs $21.99 per box for a one-time order. You can also save 10% if you sign up for their Subscribe and Save program, which delivers a new shipment at a few different intervals:
Interestingly, you can only sign up for a subscription if you purchase your supplements using PayPal.
Best budget option, tied for safest
Bargain price with premium quality
One bucket contains almost three years’ worth of high-potency GABA
Made in a cGMP-compliant, FDA-registered facility
Powder form can be inconvenient and difficult to dose consistently
Easy to take too much
For GABA supplementation, Nutricost's GABA powder is one of the most unique options on the market. It takes a note from a great workout supplement, protein powder, and comes in a large tub with a pre-portioned scoop so you can always pull 500mg of GABA. Of course, much like protein powder, you'll have to mix this into something else to ingest the amino acid. Our testers found that it had no additional taste and that mixing it into a little bit of oil and taken sublingually provided the strongest effects.
Of course, preservation might not be necessary with 1,000 servings in one $22.95 container. The value works out to about $0.02 per serving and considering that some equally strong competitors cost almost a dollar per serving, Nutricost’s GABA powder is a total steal.
It isn't always easy to dose the GABA powder, with some slight inconsistencies with every scoop simply due to human error. You can use a kitchen scale to measure its weight and keep it consistent, but compared to competitors, it takes a few extra seconds to make sure you're taking what you think you are. However, that means you have total flexibility over how much you take. You can truly customize this dosage to your liking and have almost three years' of servings to spare.
Nutricost also has some of the most robust safety precautions, using a cGMP-compliant and FDA-registered facility to make their GABA powder. They are the only GABA supplement on our list that outright states that they were tested by an independent third party that used ISO-accredited labs, going above and beyond to ensure that you’re getting high-quality GABA.
Most cost-effective capsule
Contains vitamin B6 to help create more GABA naturally
Least expensive capsule
Comes in both 100- and 200-capsule sizes
Contains the most filler ingredients of any GABA supplement on our list
Relatively high dose with no way to change or split
NOW’s GABA capsules are a great option if you’re looking for a cost-effective way to get exactly 500mg of GABA with ease. They offer two different sized bottles of the same dose:
For about $0.13 a day, you can take a perfectly portioned capsule with a substantial amount of pure GABA. NOW also adds 2mg of vitamin B6 to every serving to help your body naturally produce more GABA on top of adding some straight to your system. Of course, vitamin B6 isn't the only thing they've added. NOW GABA supplements also have three filler ingredients: rice flour, silicon dioxide, and stearic acid. They aren't bad for you, but if you're looking for totally pure GABA, this isn't it.
Contains L-theanine for added stabilization
Oil spritzing mechanism can be awkward
Most expensive per serving
Contains small amounts of ethanol alcohol
Quicksilver Scientific's GABA + L-Theanine spray has one of the most interesting mechanisms we've seen yet. To take one serving of this GABA + L-Theanine (providing 240mg of GABA and 100mg of L-theanine for calming and stabilizing serotonin support), you'll need to spritz four pumps directly into your mouth from the spout. While it may be awkward at first, Quicksilver Scientific has designed this spray to absorb extremely quickly and effectively. Most of our testers found that they began to experience this spray's calming and focusing effects considerably faster than any other ingestible GABA supplement.
One $35 bottle contains only 25 2mL servings. Considering most other competitors provide 30 to 120 at lower costs, this is one of your most expensive options. However, some may find the easy-to-change dosing structure and quick-hitting elixir worth the cash.
Most cost-effective if you know you’ll need a high dose
No additives or fillers
Includes fat-soluble vitamin C in the form of ascorbyl palmitate
May be too strong for some users
Amount of vitamin C per serving isn’t listed
Pure Encapsulation's GABA supplement might be your best option if you're hoping to mitigate stress that's gone on for too long. They are pretty strong, dosing at 700mg per serving, but they also include vitamin C. While Pure Encapsulations says they use it to increase GABA's absorption, it also provides a bonus immune-boosting kick. Since stress often depletes our immune systems, this added vitamin C can help stave off the cold waiting for you once you feel less stressed.
The ascorbyl palmitate (vitamin C) isn't listed under the traditional supplement facts but instead the final ingredient on the "other ingredients" list. We don't know how much vitamin C is in each serving, but it isn't a lot, so any benefits aren't likely to be great.
At $0.26 or $0.30 for every serving (depending on if you order 60 or 120 capsules, respectively), this product has a middle-of-the-road price. However, if you're interested in having the strongest possible GABA supplement or know you'll need a lot of it, Pure Encapsulations lets you get the best bang for your buck.
Over the past two decades, Innerbody Research has helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions about staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles.
We extensively test each health service or product we review. We try our best to give you, our readers, an unbiased exploration of at-home health options, free of marketing jargon or gimmicks. We evaluate products and services based on their adherence to quality and the latest medical evidence and health standards. We ask ourselves two simple questions: Would we buy the product or service ourselves if it weren’t part of our job? Would we recommend it to family and friends?
Additionally, like all health-related content on this website, this guide was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy.