Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a chemical messenger in the brain that acts as a neurotransmitter. It slows the brain by blocking specific signals in the central nervous system. This has a calming and protective effect on the brain and body.

The brain contains numerous neurotransmitters that either initiate or inhibit specific bodily reactions. GABA relaxes the nervous system by preventing certain signals from being transmitted.

Plants, animals, and microorganisms all contain GABA. It is produced by the human body and found in some foods. Medicines and supplements are designed to improve it.

In this article, we look at how increased GABA levels can affect the brain and body, as well as whether taking GABA supplements can provide the same benefits.

GABA’s Potential Benefits

Some researchersTrusted Source described GABA as a bioactive agent with the following properties in 2020:

  • antidepressant
  • sedative

It is antihypertensive, which means it can lower blood pressure.

  • antidiabetic
  • anticancer
  • immune system booster

According to a 2019 review, GABA has antimicrobial, antiseizure, and antioxidant properties that may aid in the treatment and prevention of conditions such as:

  • diabetes
  • elevated blood pressure
  • insomnia

Increasing GABA levels may have a variety of effects, but it is unclear what they are.

GABA’s Medical Advantages

Some medications contain substances that enhance GABA action. Gabapentin and valproate, for example, indirectly improve GABA action in the body.

Here are a few examples:

Reliable Source:

Valproate can help to regulate mood and prevent seizures.

Gabapentin relieves nerve pain.

Baclofen can be used to treat narcolepsy and reduce muscle spasms.

Benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Xanax, are medications used to treat anxiety, agitation, seizures, and muscle spasms.

According to one study, people suffering from depression may have lower GABA levels in their brain. In such cases, benzodiazepines may be beneficial.

Learn which drugs act as muscle relaxants.

  • Sources of food
  • GABA can be found.
  • Trusted Source for some fermented foods, including:
  • kimchi
  • fish fermented
  • tempeh
  • buffalo milk fermented
  • cassava fermented
  • durian fermented
  • Cheese from Zlatar
  • sourdough
  • Mulberry ale
  • sake
  • yogurt-sake

Other foods where scientists have discovered at least traces of GABA include:

  1. adzuki and soybeans germinating
  2. peas
  3. barley and wheat
  4. red and brown rice
  5. green tomatoes that have matured
  6. Spinach, kale, and broccoli are examples of cruciferous vegetables.
  7. the sweet potato
  8. mushrooms shiitake
  9. chestnuts
  10. Chinese white tea

GABA is classified as “generally recognised as safe” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a supplement and food additive.

Trusted Source GABA may be added to sports drinks and other foods by manufacturers.

Supplements containing GABA

Taking supplements is another way to increase GABA levels.

GABA supplements are manufactured by fermenting

a type of lactic acid bacteria from a reliable source

They are taken to:

alleviate stress and anxiety

sleep better

lower high blood pressure

There is insufficient evidence to suggest that GABA supplements will provide all of the expected benefits. The investigation is ongoing.

GABA Supplements: How to Use Them

Some people take supplements as pills, while others mix them into foods like protein shakes.

Manufacturers make various recommendations.

Regarding how much to take, rely on a reliable source. Anyone thinking about taking GABA supplements should consult their doctor first.

If a person experiences side effects after beginning to take GABA supplements, they should discontinue use and consult with their doctor.

What is the scientific evidence for GABA supplements?

GABA supplement research is ongoing, and it is unclear whether they are beneficial or not.

Some authorities

According to a reliable source, the positive effects people report may be a placebo effect. Others are sceptical that GABA supplements can cross the blood-brain barrier. This means they have little to no effect on the body.

However, some studies have found that taking GABA supplements has a positive effect. These are some examples:

Improved cognitive and task performance abilities

A 2015 study discovered that taking 800 milligrammes (mg) of GABA supplementation per day improved a person’s ability to prioritise and plan actions. Although the study was small, with only 30 healthy volunteers, it demonstrated how GABA supplementation may promote improved thinking.

Stress relief

An older 2012 study discovered that taking 100 mg of GABA daily helped reduce stress caused by mental tasks. The study, like many other GABA-related studies, was small, with only 63 participants.

Muscle building and workout recovery

According to a 2019 research study

Trusted Source asked 21 healthy males to take a whey protein or whey protein plus GABA supplement once a day for 12 weeks.

The participants did the same resistance training exercises twice a week, and the results were measured by the researchers. The researchers discovered that combining whey protein and GABA increased growth hormone levels when compared to whey protein alone.

Despite the fact that this was a small study, the researchers concluded that GABA supplements could help build muscle and aid in workout recovery. They suggested that researchers conduct additional research.

GABA Side Effects

It is critical to follow all instructions when using supplements or medications that mimic or aim to increase GABA.

Side effects of medications

People who take medications that mimic or aim to increase GABA should carefully follow their doctor’s or pharmacist’s instructions.

Taking too much of them, or combining them with alcohol or opioids, can result in central nervous system (CNS) depression. This can cause the body to slow down to the point where the person is unable to breathe. It is potentially fatal.

Learn more about gabapentin’s side effects here.

Side effects of supplements

Clinical studies indicate that taking up to 120 milligrammes (mg) of GABA per day as a supplement for 12 weeks is unlikely to have any negative effects.

People should exercise caution when combining them with other drugs.

When combined with medications for high blood pressure or epilepsy, they may have a greater impact.

Before taking any supplements, people should always consult with a doctor and make sure they know what medications the person is already taking.

Dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA in the same way that medications are. People should only buy from reputable vendors and businesses.


GABA is naturally produced by the body and aids in the promotion of sleep, the relief of anxiety, and the protection of the brain.

Medications that mimic its effect have important applications in epilepsy treatment and pain management.

Supplements are used by some people, but scientists are still investigating the benefits they may provide.

It is best to consult a doctor before using GABA supplements for any condition. They may advise starting with a medically proven treatment. If they agree that GABA supplements should be used, they will advise the individual on how to do so safely.