Over The Counter Anxiety Medication

By: Rob Miller
Fact Checked On: 7-28-2020

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Over The Counter Anxiety Medication Alternatives

Like most people, I suffer from a bit of anxiety here and there.

It’s never usually anything serious, but I have my days.

For random bouts of anxiety, my doctor has prescribed me Ativan to take on an “as needed” basis.

It’s pretty rare that I take it, but when I do it knocks the hell out of any anxiety I may be experienced.

For a little bit at least…

One of the biggest problems with anxiety medications is that they normally end up making your anxiety worse in the short and long-term.

For example, when I take Lorazepam, the anxiety is completely gone for around 24 hours.

However, undoubtedly 12 hours after that I’ll start to see a surge in my anxiety levels, worse than they were before.

This is no way to treat the underlying cause of anxiety…

It’s like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound.

https://www.supplementcritique.com/wp content/uploads/2018/10/band aid bullet
Image credit: Sherwood Forlee

Luckily, there are some OTC options that DO work, and will not skyrocket your anxiety levels when you stop taking it.

The medications and herbal alternatives I’ll be talking about below are all some that I have personally have tested.

While they’re not exactly the best anxiety relieving products on the market, they can help.

And consequentially, you don’t need to jump through hoops (ie a doctor and a prescription) to get them.

I’ve divided up these anxiety alternatives into herbal alternatives and over the counter medications.

Some are only available online, some are only available in stores, and some are available both online and in stores.

I note that at the end of each section.

OTC Anxiety Herbal Alternative #1: Phenibut

I’ve been talking about Phenibut for years at this point, it’s that good.

I’ve used it in conjunction with Extenze to help with sexual libido and power.

I’ve used in it combination with supplements like Optimind to help with focus, concentration, and mental stamina.

And I’ve even used it with pre workout formulas like 4 Gauge to help dial down the anxiety I get from all of the caffeine they pump in the stuff.

What is Phenibut?

According to WebMD, Phenibut is a a chemical similar to a brain chemical called gama-aminobutyric acid (or GABA for short).

It’s actually prescribed as an anti-anxiety drug in Russia, which is where it was first discovered.

So How Does Phenibut Work?

Phenibut works on the GABA receptors in the brain, more specifically the GABA-b receptors.

These are the receptors in the brain that are activated when you drink alcohol or take an anxiety medication like Xanax or Ativan.

Unlike with prescription anxiety drugs, however, Phenibut in large part does not affect motor coordination and function.

That is, at the right doses.

If you take a large dose (1+ grams), it can and will make you tired.

However, at small doses (200 – 700 mg), it will not.

the effects of phenibut in minutes

What it will do is severely diminish your anxiety, as well as:

  • Decrease social anxiety
  • Increase alertness
  • Give you a moderate increase in cognitive processes
  • Increase confidence and pro-social behavior
  • Increase sexual performance and pleasure

How To Take Phenibut

Unlike the other anxiety relief medications below, Phenibut is not so simple to take.

The reason behind this is that doses affect individuals in very different ways.

For example, a 500 mg dose may be just right for you, while it may not do anything for someone else.

When it comes to phenibut for anxiety, it’s all about playing with the dosage.

Take a look at the infographic below to determine the most effective dose for anxiety.

how to take phenibut infographic

Where To Buy Phenibut

Unlike most of the other anxiety medications on this page, you won’t find Phenibut in your local CVS or Walgreens.

In fact, it’s almost strictly sold online.

My preferred vendor for Phenibut is Absorb Your Health, which sells a 50 gram batch for as little as $29.99.

50 Grams will last you a VERY long time if you’re dosing as often as I suggest.

You can pick it up at their website here:  https://www.absorbyourhealth.com/product/phenibut/?ref=4349

Phenibut Warnings

So it may sound like Phenibut is a sort of “wonder medication for anxiety”.

The biggest downside to Phenibut is that you should not take it everyday.

Let me explain why:

Because Phenibut has such a long half-life, it’s effects can last for as much as 2 days.

On that note, the effects also seem to build a tolerance VERY rapidly.

So rapidly that before you know it, you’ll start needing to take a higher dosage just to get the same effect.

Don’t do this…!

Try to limit your dose to just one or two times a week, with at least a 3 – 4 day break in between.

Taking any more than that can result in withdrawal, which is not pleasant.

Use the other over the counter anxiety medications and herbal remedies on this page on the days you don’t use Phenibut.

OTC Anxiety Herbal Alternative #2 – L-Theanine

L-Theanine has been one of my go-to over the counter anxiety remedies for years at this point.

I like to combine 200 mg along with 80 mg of caffeine on days where I’m trying to get a lot of stuff done.

It’s actually been clinically studied and proven effective that way. (Source)

Basically, L-Theanine helps to curb an anxiety you may get from the caffeine.

So How Does It Work?

Well, L-theanine promotes relaxation and can help to induce sleep by influencing 3 processes.

Boosts GABA Production, Increases Serotonin, and Increases Dopamine

The brain is basically comprised of excitatory neurotransmitters, called Glutamate, and inhibitory neurotransmitters, called GABA.

Glutamate production is increased from stimulants, including illegal ones like PCP and Cocaine, and legal ones like Caffeine. (Source)

GABA production is increased by things like alcohol consumption, tranquilizers, and even some foods. (Source)

Research has shown that Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA for short) can help block brain signals that contribute to anxiety. (Source)

L-Theanine has also shown effective at increasing serotonin and dopamine, both of which have an effect on mood and anxiety levels.

Where to buy L-Theanine

Unlike with Phenibut, L-Theanine is freely available over the counter, and often very cheaply.

For example, the average price of Theanine at Walmart hovers somewhere around $25 for a month supply.

Additionally, you can find it at CVS and Walgreens for about the same price.

L-Theanine does not have abuse or addiction potential, so you can take it everyday for all sorts of anxiety, including OCD behavior, Social anxiety, and even panic disorder.

OTC Anxiety Herbal Alternative #3 – Valerian Root

Valerian Root has been around for 100’s of years, and has been shown effective at helping with both improved sleep quality and anxiety issues.

You’ll find Valerian root in several over the counter anxiety medications, including Somnapure, Restalex PM, and Alteril.

How does Valerian Root help with anxiety?

While studies are still limited, it is thought to work by increasing levels of GABA in the brain.

This is similar to most other anxiety-relieving products, although the exact process is still unknown.

The nice thing about Valerien root is, unlike with Phenibut, you can take it everyday without having to worry about any rebound effects.

With that said, the effects are way less pronounced then with Phenibut.

Where To Buy Valerian Root?

You can find Valerian Root practically everywhere.

Amazon sells a 100 count bottle of Natures Way brand Valerian root for as little as $8.

Similarly, you can buy a bag of fresh valerien root to dip in hot water for maximal absorbency.

For example, a 1 lb. bulk bag of cut and sifted valerien sells for just under $17.

Alternatively, you’ll find it in stores like:

  • CVS: Where the average price is around $10.
  • Walgreens: Average price is around $9.
  • Walmart: Where the avg. price is about $7.

If you’re looking for the fastest anxiety-relieving effects, I would recommend getting a tincture of anxiety.

Because of the nature of how you’re supposed to take it, it will kick in way quicker vs. pill form.

Other Honorable OTC Anxiety Medication Herbal Alternative Mentions

While the 3 above work the best for curbing your anxiety, there are a few others I’d like to point out.

They include:


For me, Magnesium seems to be hit or miss.  It actually seems to be more of a muscle relaxer more than anything else.

With that said, there has been plenty of clinical evidence supporting it’s use at helping with anxiety relief.

One study noted inconclusive evidence that Magnesium had any effect on anxiety symptoms.

GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric Acid)

From my personal experience, GABA doesn’t seem to do much to curb anxiety.

With that said, some studies suggest otherwise.  GABA actually plays a critical role in anxiety disorders, and using GABA itself as a supplement has shown some promise.


Kratom (pronounced Kray-Tom) is another OTC alternative.  I’ve talked about Kratom several times on this site before, and specifically have an article which outlines exactly how it works for helping with anxiety.

Click Here to check it out.

OTC Anxiety Medication #1 – ZZZQuil (Diphenhydramine HCL)

I discovered ZZZQuil when I was talking to a buddy of mine who was experienced significant bouts of insomnia.

He was going through a divorce, things were rough at work, and his life was generally a mess.

He said ZZZQuil was an absolute godsend for helping him fall asleep and stay asleep.

Having a bout of insomnia myself, I decided to try it out as well.

The first thing I noticed is that it doesn’t really “knock you out” the way a traditional sleep aid would.

Rather, it seemed to work VERY well at simply relieving my anxiety.

After taking 2 pills, I could almost feel the thoughts and stresses of the day literally escape my mind within 15 min.

Mind you, I would always take the ZZZQuil about 20 min. before lights out.

One particularly stressful day, I decided to take 1 pill of ZZZQuil early afternoon to see if it would have any impact on my anxiety.

And sure as shit, within 30 min. of taking that pill I felt calmer, more relaxed, and most importantly, it didn’t make me super tired.

How Come ZZZQuil Is An Effective OTC Anxiety Alternative?

The secret to ZZZQuil is in the sauce.

The active ingredient in ZZZQuil is a chemical called Diphenhydramine HCL, which is a powerful anti-histamine.

According to Mental Health Daily, “low doses of diphenhydramine acts as an inverse agonist at central and peripheral histamine receptor sites”.

AS a result, users report a drastic lessening of anxiety, and feel calmer and more relaxed.

In fact, one study comparing Diphenhydramine HCL to 0.5 mg and 1 mg of Alprazolam respectively found that it can lower the startle response by as much as 50% when compared to a placebo.

diphenhydramine vs alprazolam for anxiety

When Should You Take ZZZQuil?

In my personal experience, it makes sense to take ZZZQuil at night, several hours before bed.

Since it’s originally intended to help with sleep, there’s a good chance that it will make you….well, tired.

When Should You NOT Take ZZZQuil?

The biggest issues with Benadryl is the fact that it can make you sleepy.

So for example, you wouldn’t want to take Benadryl first thing in the morning and then drive your kids to school.

In fact, you wouldn’t want to drive at ALL after taking diphenhydramine.

Where To Buy Diphenhydramine HCL?

You can find diphenhydramine in over the counter medications like ZZZQuil, Advil PM, and Benadryl. (Source)

They sell it virtually everywhere, including CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, and Rite Aid.

Depending on what size box you get, it can retail for as little as $4.44 for 24 tablets, to as much as $27 for a 4-pack.

Natural Ways To Reduce Anxiety

There are plenty of non-medication ways to relieve your anxiety.

  1. Get Plenty Of Exercise

This one has been mentioned on 1,000’s of other sites, but it bears repeating.

Exercise is, and has always been, one of the best anti-anxiety alternatives available.

There’s no if’s and’s, or buts about it.

It’s been proven both in clinical studies, and from my own personal experience.

In fact, according to the ADAA, even just taking a 10 minute walk has shown to decrease stress and anxiety at insane levels.

We have plenty of exercise resources here on SupplementCritique.com, and you can find all of them on this page.

2.  Meditation

I don’t have too much experience with Meditation, but I’ve done a lot of research on the subject and it appears to be great at relieving anxiety.

One study noted that mindfulness meditation may help to relieve symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and may also help improve stress reactivity.

Another study, which was conducted on persons suffering from a wide range of conditions like depression, cancer, and GAD, showed moderate improvement in anxiety symptoms.

I don’t have a specific mindfulness-meditation program that you should use, but a simple google search will show some near you.

3. Lifestyle Changes

The saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is very true when it comes to anxiety.

There are many causes of anxiety, ranging from:

  • Excessive stimulant consumption
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • An unhealthy diet

The key here is to identify what exactly is causing your anxiety.

Answer the following questions honestly:

“Do you drink alcohol in excess?”

If so, this could be the source of your anxiety.  While it may lessen your anxiety in the short term, it can skyrocket it in the long-term.

Put down the bottle and try some tea with L-theanine to help you wind down after a particularly stressful day.

“Do you smoke cigarettes or use nicotine products?”

While you may think that nicotine is helping you relax, nothing could be further from the truth.

Research has shown that nicotine, the addictive chemical in cigarettes, can actually increase anxiety and tension.

“Do you have a poor diet?”

If the answer is yes, than you’re not alone.

Statistically, an unhealthy diet contributes to 678,000 deaths annually in the US.

Additionally, it has been proven to cause a wide range of health issues, including…you guessed it, and increase in anxiety.

There are plenty of online resources to help with diet, but take a look at our “Big List Of Foods You Can Eat“.

It’s packed with tons of info on the “right” types of foods you should be eating.


Anxiety is no laughing matter.

Millions of Americans suffer from it on a routine basis, and as shown above, there are ways to help relieve that anxiety.

If you’re looking for an effective over the counter anxiety medication, these alternatives can help.

As always, if you have any questions just leave them in the comments section below, or email me here!

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#1 – Phenibut

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#2 – Kratom

#2 - Kratom

Kratom acts as an effective pain reliever AND can also help with anxiety dramatically.

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#3 – Kava Kava

#3 - Kava Kava

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Author: Rob Miller

Supplement Critique

Rob Miller founded SupplementCritique.com over 7 years ago, and has been the chief editor ever since. He has a diploma in Advanced Dietary Supplements Advisor, and worked at GNC for 3 years. He KNOWS supplements, both inside and out. Rob currently resides in Jupiter, FL, with his wife of 4 years.  Learn more about him in his Bio here. Follow him on Twitter , Facebook, LinkedIn, or find him on Google +.

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