Can Vitamin C Supplements Help With Anxiety?

With over 19% of American adults reported to have an anxiety disorder, many people are familiar with the chronic feelings of worry and fear that characterize these conditions (via National Alliance on Mental Illness). During the course of everyday life, those with anxiety may experience sweating, a racing heart, upset stomach, or feelings of restlessness, apprehension, or dread, amongst others.

For some individuals, utilizing daily coping techniques such as grounding exercises, physical activity, or breath work may prove helpful in managing anxiety. Others may support their mental health through supplementation with various vitamins or minerals. According to Medical News Today, some studies suggest a link between anxiety relief and use of supplements such as lavender, chamomile, or valerian root.

Vitamin C is another popular supplement often used to support our overall health. As an antioxidant, this nutrient helps prevent cell damage from free radicals, and is a key player in the making of cartilage, blood vessels, muscle, and collagen (via Mayo Clinic). Among its many superpowers, is it possible that vitamin C could help reduce symptoms of anxiety too?

Vitamin C's potential effect on stress hormones

As it turns out, some evidence suggests that vitamin C may deserve to take a seat next to lavender or chamomile when it comes to its ability to reduce anxiety. In a 2015 study published in the Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences (PJBS), 42 high school adolescents were given either 500 milligrams of vitamin C or a placebo every day for two weeks. In addition to assessments of participant anxiety levels using the Beck Anxiety Inventory, measurements of participant blood pressure and plasma concentrations were also taken before and after the study period. The research findings revealed that students who had received vitamin C supplementation had lower anxiety levels than those in the control group.

Early animal research from 1999 suggests that the answer may lie in the relationship between vitamin C and our body's stress hormones. When given 200 milligrams of vitamin C daily, rats who were put under stress for one hour each day over the course of three weeks were shown to have lower levels of stress hormones in their blood. The rats also displayed a reduction in standard bodily stress responses such as weight loss or enlargement of the adrenal glands.

How much vitamin C to take daily

However, not all research points to vitamin C supplementation as an effective means of managing anxiety. Rather, a 2021 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that while vitamin C appeared to improve levels of focus and motivation in young adults, no relationship was observed between the nutrient and mood improvement.

Furthermore, the amounts of vitamin C used in the aforementioned student study, as well as the rat study, were far greater than the recommended daily intake of 75 milligrams for women and 90 milligrams a day for men (via Mayo Clinic), indicating that vitamin C may only be helpful in reducing anxiety when taken in higher-than-average amounts. Unfortunately, taking in too much vitamin C per day can cause unwanted side effects like headache and gastrointestinal upset.

For those who are interested in vitamin C supplementation, be mindful to limit your intake to no more than 2,000 milligrams daily. Alternatively, consider getting a healthy dose of vitamin C from a variety of delicious food sources, including citrus fruits, red peppers, and more.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.