Is there really a magic bullet for anxiety? Could a simple pill be the answer to your nervous jitteriness? Some anecdotal evidence suggests that it could – for some people.
Humans as a species evolved to eat a diverse menu of foods that were packed full with vitamins and minerals. There was no fast food, no grocery stores and no high fructose corn syrup over evolutionary time. Our foods contained copious amounts of niacin, or vitamin b-3 as most people know it.
Pellagra is a disease caused by severe lack of niacin and tryptophan. Its symptoms are mainly diarrhea, dermatitis and dementia – the three D’s. The recommended dietary intake of niacin (~20 mg) is just enough to stop most people from getting the symptoms of pellagra. But is it enough to keep us healthy and vibrant?
There is not much clinical research being done on niacin’s effect on anxiety – maybe because there is not much money in it. But there is some promising anecdotal evidence for its potency.
Jonathan E. Prousky, Professor at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, presents three case studies the paper “Supplemental Niacinamide Mitigates Anxiety Symptoms: Three Case Reports” .
Case report #1 The first case report involves a young girl who had problems with nervousness, anxiety and excessive worrying. She had roughly two panic attacks per month and was diagnosed with social phobia. She started on a “daily multiple vitamin/mineral preparation, 25 mg of zinc, 100 mg of pyridoxine, 400 mg of magnesium, and 500 mg of niacinamide twice daily”. A month later she reported a small improvement in her anxiety.
She was taken off some of the vitamins, because she didn’t like taking all the pills, but she continued with the multivitamin and zinc. Her dosage of niacinamide was doubled, however, to 1000 mg twice daily. One month later they had another follow up and she could happily report to be completely free of the panic attacks. Some time later the girl reported only taking the niacinamide, and that her anxiety was well under control.
Case report #2 The second case report was about a teacher in her twenties who had been struggling with generalised anxiety disorder for twelve years. When she felt anxious she felt a need to isolate herself from others. She was put on 500 mg niacinamide three times daily, as well as 100 mg 5-htp twice daily.
The dosage was soon after increased to 2500 mg niacinamide a day. 21 days later her anxiety symptoms had gotten better, with only 3 small panic attacks since the last visit. She was then taken off her the medication, but a few days later she called in and said that her anxiety had come back. They agreed to continue with the niacinamide only. One month later she reported that her anxiety was under control.
“I take the niacinamide and I’m fine afterwards.”
She was put on 500 mg of niacinamide three times daily for two days, and then 1000 mg twice daily. Ten days later she reported feeling a little better, but with slight jitteriness related to her father’s sickness. The dosage was then increased to 3000 mg a day. One and a half month later they reduced it down to 2000 mg because she didn’t like the effects on her presence. Prof. Prousky writes that:
“Her anxiety was much improved on this dose and the previous shakiness had completely resolved. In fact, she had not experienced any episodes of shakiness since the last visit.”
How Niacin Can Remove Anxiety
There are several ways in which niacin might be alleviating symptoms of anxiety. It might correct unidentified, or subclinical, pellagra. It could be because of its benzodiazepine-like effects (benzodiazepines are psychoactive compounds that primarily works through its effects on the neurotransmitter GABA). It could also be because of its ability to raise serotonin levels [2,3,4], by diverting the tryptophan to serotonin production.
Dosage of Niacinamide
The recommended dosage for therapeutic effects is 2000-4500 mg per day. There have been reports of liver toxicity with doses of 9000 mg per day, but the symptoms went away when the dosage was lowered.
We tend to focus on how our psychology affects our emotions. This can cause anxious people to judge themselves, and to feel judged, because of their anxiety. But in reality, it is often a chemical imbalance that is causing their anxiety. Niacin, in the form of niacinamide, is cheap, it is safe, and it seems to reduce anxiety and is widely available. In a world filled with depressed and anxious people, there might be a role to play for this little hero of a vitamin.
Vegard Gjerde is one of the two founders of Global Harmony Crew.
Global Harmony Crew helps people uncover their true selves and live a life full of meaning and happiness. Join the crew by subscribing and you will learn about everything from the deep metaphysical questions, to basic steps you can take in your day-to-day life to manifest happiness and fulfillment. You can learn more about how to optimize your brain chemistry from their Udemy course. Follow Global Harmony Crew on Facebook.
 Prousky, J. “Supplemental Niacinamide Mitigates Anxiety Symptoms: Three Case Reports”. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine Vol. 20, No. 3, 2005.
 Chen, Y., Guillemin, G. “Kynurenine Pathway Metabolites in Humans: Disease and Healthy States”. Int J Tryptophan Res. 2009.
 Richard D. et al. “L-Tryptophan: Basic Metabolic Functions, Behavioral Research and Therapeutic Indications”. Int J Tryptophan Res. 2009.
 Viljoen, M et al. “Antidepressants may lead to a decrease in niacin and NAD in patients with poor dietary intake.” Med Hypotheses. 2015.