How To Increase GABA Naturally: A Targeted Guide
Written By Kobi Nathan, Pharm.D., M.Ed., CDP, BCGP, AGSF
Sleep Disorders
March 27, 2023

Gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain and central nervous system. 

It stops the brain from working too hard and makes people feel calm.

This brain chemical is very important for reducing depression, stress, and anxiety. It also promotes restful sleep, controls muscle tone, and supports overall brain health and function.

This article will discuss natural ways to increase GABA levels without prescription drugs.  


Benefits of increased GABA


The brain’s GABA level must be balanced for mental and emotional health. Some of the benefits are:

  • Reduced mental and physical stress.
  • Reduction in muscle tension.
  • Calm, relaxed mood.
  • Reduced symptoms of anxiety.
  • Positive effect on blood pressure.
  • Sleep promotion.


So conversely, low GABA can cause increased anxiety, irritability, and insomnia.

However,  increasing GABA too much can cause drowsiness, increased risk of falls and injuries, and cognitive impairment, just like taking too much of a benzodiazepine

Hence, maintaining ideal GABA levels is crucial for brain and body health.

Before we learn how to increase GABA naturally, we must first understand how GABA interacts with the GABA receptor in our bodies. Click on the video below to learn about the structure and mechanism of the GABA receptor:

How to increase GABA naturally

GABA levels in the brain can be raised naturally in several ways, including dietary sources, lifestyle changes, complementary therapies, and herbal medicines.

Foods that contain GABA 

Certain meals contain high levels of GABA or its amino acid precursors, glutamate and glutamine. 

Incorporating these foods into your diet can help increase GABA naturally without benzodiazepines. 

Some examples include:

  • Whole grains (brown rice, oats, quinoa).
  • Legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans, soybeans).
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds).
  • Bone broths.
  • Slow-cooked poultry and meat.
  • Tomatoes.
  • Mushrooms.
  • Broccoli.
  • Seafood (halibut, mackerel, salmon, sardines, shrimp).
  • Fermented foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir).


Natural GABA supplements


OTC GABA supplementation may help increase the amount of GABA in the brain. Here is a link to several GABA products on Amazon. 

Cannabidiol (CBD) products have also been shown through clinical studies to increase GABA activity. 

CBD binds to the GABA-A subtype receptor, promoting its characteristic calming effect. 

Read my detailed article on the many benefits of CBD and the clinical evidence supporting their safety and efficacy here.

Joy Organics is a highly trustworthy company that only sells top-grade, lab-tested CBD products manufactured in FDA-approved and cGMP facilities.

I use their products myself and continue to enjoy consistent benefits from them. 

You can peruse their product line here. Use the code GA20 for 20% off your entire order! 


Lifestyle Modifications 

Simple changes to your daily routine can also contribute to increased GABA levels naturally.


Regular physical activity can stimulate GABA production in the brain. 

Aerobic exercises, such as running, swimming, cycling, and resistance training, have been shown to elevate GABA levels. 

Strive for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days to enjoy the benefits.

Meditation and Relaxation Techniques 

Engaging in mindfulness, meditation, and other relaxation techniques can help regulate GABA levels in the brain. My article on how anxiety affects mental health addresses these natural remedies.

These practices foster a calm state of mind, boosting GABA production.

Incorporate daily meditation, deep breathing exercises, or progressive muscle relaxation into your routine to promote relaxation and increase GABA levels.


Sufficient sleep is vital for maintaining proper GABA levels. 

Poor or inadequate sleep quality can disrupt GABA production, increasing anxiety and stress. 

Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night and maintain a consistent sleep schedule to support optimal GABA function.

My comprehensive article on insomnia in older adults delves deep into this topic. This article is relevant for young and older adults alike.

Ways To Increase GABA with alternative therapies

In addition to dietary and lifestyle changes, alternative therapies can help increase your GABA levels naturally.


Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine practice, has been demonstrated to elevate GABA levels in the brain. 

This therapy involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate the nervous system and promote relaxation.


Yoga integrates physical postures, breath control, and meditation to foster overall well-being.

Regular yoga can help increase GABA levels by reducing stress and promoting relaxation.


Therapeutic massage can boost GABA production by alleviating stress, enhancing circulation, and fostering relaxation.

In light of this, scheduling regular massage sessions to support optimal GABA levels might be great!


Herbs and Botanicals  

Some herbs and botanicals have been found to increase GABA levels naturally.


Valerian Root

Valerian root is a popular herbal remedy for anxiety and insomnia.

The relationship between valerian root and GABA is based on the herb’s unique composition.

Valerian root contains specific compounds, such as valerenic acid, that interact with GABA receptors in the brain.

By binding to these receptors, valerian root effectively supports the action of GABA, resulting in an overall calming effect on the nervous system.

This interaction contributes to the well-known benefits of valerian root, such as alleviating anxiety and improving sleep.

By naturally increasing GABA levels, valerian root provides a safe and effective means of managing stress, promoting relaxation, and supporting overall mental well-being.


Historically, Passionflower has been used in the Americas and Europe as a natural remedy to alleviate anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and hysteria. 

Today, it continues to be used to address anxiety and sleeplessness.

Researchers think that passionflower functions by elevating GABA levels in the brain.

Research involving individuals with generalized anxiety disorder reveals that passionflower is as effective as the benzodiazepine oxazepam (Serax) in activating GABA.

Although passionflower’s effects manifest slower than oxazepam (day 7 compared to day 4), it causes less interference with job performance.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm, a refreshing and delicious herb, offers various health benefits, including promoting relaxation, calming the nerves, and soothing digestive issues.

Lemon balm boosts GABA by directly working on the GABA-A receptors. 

Certain substances in lemon balm, like rosmarinic acid, attach to these receptors, making GABA more effective.

This causes an increase in GABA’s calming actions, which leads to better relaxation and less anxiety.



In conclusion, naturally increasing GABA levels is an effective approach to managing stress, anxiety, and improving overall well-being.

Incorporating dietary sources, lifestyle changes, alternative therapies, herbs, and botanicals into your routine supports optimal GABA levels, promoting relaxation, mental clarity, and emotional balance.


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